The Battle of Perryville


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, November 1, 1862

Welcome to our online collection of Harper's Weekly newspapers. This archive has all the Harper's published in the Civil War. This collection has incredible content, to help you develop a more in depth knowledge of this important era of American History.

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Pirate Ship "Alabama"

Bragg and Buell in Kentucky

Bragg and Buell in Kentucky

Writ of Habeas Corpus

Writ of Habeas Corpus

Camp Dick Robinson

Camp Dick Robinson

Battle of Perryville

The Battle of Perryville

Stuart's Cavalry Raid into Maryland

Stuart's Cavalry Raid into Maryland

The Battle of Corinth

John Bull

John Bull Cartoon



Perryville, Kentucky Battle

The Battle of Perryville, Kentucky

Stuart's Cavalry Raid

JEB Stuart's Cavalry Raid

Battle of Corinth

Battle of Corinth



NOVEMBER 1, 1862.]



(Previous Page) poison, which he was directed to throw into the principal wells of the town in which he lived, which injunction he had obeyed. This pretended confession, which he made in the madness caused by intense suffering, was afterward read over to him, and he was made to swear to its truth on the Law. Subsequently, while still insane, he confessed, or was said to have confessed, that he had thrown a portion of the poison into a certain well, and that he had concealed another portion tied up in a piece of rag beneath the stones on the brink. Being taken to this well, and compelled to search among the stones, he, in the presence of the magistrate and other of the municipal authorities, drew out a piece of rag, which on being opened was found to contain a red and black powder mingled together. The mob of Christians then present did thereupon seize a certain renegade Jew, who had departed from the religion of his forefathers, and forcing the magistrate to put a small quantity of the powder into a vessel, they filled it with water and compelled the Jew to swallow it, who was immediately smitten with death and died in great agony within an hour—a most just punishment for his former apostasy. As for Balavignus he was taken back to prison, and subsequently put to death with great cruelty.

On the day following the said discovery of the poison, in the evening, being the eve of the Sabbath, and my wife, Esther, having just kindled the lights, according to the custom of our people, the magistrate of the town of Chillon, attended by his officers, rode up to the door of my dwelling, dismounted, and entered therein. They first seized me, and then bound my arms together behind my back with great cruelty, so that the blood forced its way beneath my nails and dropped from the ends of my fingers to the ground. They next searched every corner of my house, trying by blows and threats to make my wife and daughter, Rebecca, reveal the secret hiding-place in which I kept my poisons. My heart was rent at the sight of the sufferings and indignities they were made to undergo, but I was powerless to help them, and I could only beseech them to bear patiently the trials to which they were subjected. After searching every part of my house, and finding nothing of what they were in search. I was dragged away to prison. The next day the magistrate and other officials came to me in my cell, and read to me the confession of Balavignus, concerning which they put to me many questions. I denied that I had sent any poison to him, or had ever thought of so doing, or that I had ever heard any of our people even speak of such a thing. Finding that I continued firm in my denial, and that I was prepared to swear on the Five Books of Moses that I knew nothing of any plot for poisoning the wells, I was ordered to be racked till I should be tortured into making confession of a falsehood. Four times were my limbs torn asunder by that hellish invention, till I could feel no longer, after which I was left for eleven days on the floor of my dungeon undisturbed. On the twelfth day I was taken from prison to the place of execution, to witness the murder of my countryman, Solomon Chomer, a man of wonderful knowledge, and greatly learned in the philosophy of the Egyptians and Chaldeans. He, too, had been sentenced to die for the same crime with which I was charged, and I was placed near him to be a witness of his sufferings. Together we called on the God of our forefathers for fortitude, and, verily, the patience with which he bore the cruel tortures to which he was subjected could only have been born of insensibility. He was stretched on a wheel, and after his arms and legs had been broken in sundry places by the bar of the executioner, he was unbound and laid on the ground, his body folded back on his legs so that his head rested on his heels. He was again questioned touching the crime with which he was charged, but he gave no answer; whereupon he was laid on the wood which had been prepared for the purpose, the fire was kindled, and his spirit rose with the smoke which ascended from the pile.

I was being taken back to prison, my heart quaking with fear at the doom that was before me, when one cried "Let us not suffer this Jew to escape us," and another, "Let us throw him in the well he poisoned for us." Then there was a great cry, and much tumult, and I was taken from the officers and dragged to a well outside the town in which the poison had been found and hurled therein—the body of the apostate Jew, which had lain there unburied, being cast down upon me. The water reached above my shoulders when I stood upon my feet, and I was forced to stand on the tips of my toes to keep my mouth above water. Standing thus, with my flesh torn, bruised, and bleeding, heard the planks laid across the top of the well, and stones thrown on these, and then all was silent, and I was left to die an agonizing death. After a while I felt that my feet were sinking deeper in the sand and gravel, and I had to cling to the sides of the well to keep myself from instant death.

I had been in this position several hours when I heard a noise above me as though one were removing the stones, then a voice, which was that of my wife, Esther, calling my name. My heart leaped within me at the sound of her voice, and I answered joyfully, upon which she bade me be of good cheer. Presently she called again, and told me to tie the rope she was letting down about my body. I had much difficulty in doing this, because I was forced to loosen my hold and suffer myself to sink below the water till it forced itself beneath my eyelids. I succeeded at last in tying the cord tightly beneath my armpits, and was then drawn up to the well's mouth, and laid on the grass by my beloved wife and daughter. While I was slowly recovering the use of my limbs, which had been much weakened by the torments I had undergone, they occupied themselves in restoring the planks and stones to their places. When this had been done, we left the spot while it was yet dark, and I hid myself in a tree in a wood near my house, to which place Rebecca brought me food. Our escape to Poland was accomplished with great difficulty and much suffering.



OH! pity those whose lifeless hearts

Have never known a patriot's thrill;

Who, though they have a mind and will,

Lack courage now to act their parts.


Yes, pity them! for where the power

To rouse those feelings that remain,

If Liberty has called in vain

In this their Country's needful hour?


They can not feel (who stand aloof)

That glow of noble, inborn pride

For which men barter all beside,

And give the world their loyal proof.


Yes, pity them! the thronged Broadway,

Where selfishness and fashion meet—

The very stones beneath their feet

Might boast of hearts as well as they.


"WHY not write Dead Soldiers' Letters at once?" says a voice at my elbow.

Only out of respect to the old logical rule requiring the perfect definition of a class to embrace all the individuals composing it. It is a sad truth that too many of these missives that have been wandering about in the mail-bags are the letters, and the last letters—the last written expression of thought or wish—of men who have dared to die for their country. Many of these rough-looking, soiled, and torn envelopes now lying in the Dead-letter Office, after a fruitless journey in search of friends to read their contents, are filled with strange tales of blood and battle, or breathe sentiments that should stir the very soul of patriotism, and fire the heart and nerve the arm of every man who perils his life in the cause of his country's honor. Outside, it is a shapeless and uninviting mass of worn and crumpled envelopes, soiled with the dust and smoke of every camp and battle-field on the continent; within, are the thoughts, wishes, last words, and dying prayers of those who have offered their own lives to save the life of the nation.

Up to the last of August soldiers' letters, written from camps or head-quarters, and containing no valuable inclosure, when returned from the local post-offices to the Dead-letter Office because they were "not called for," have been destroyed, because they could not, like ordinary letters, be returned to the writers. Armies are always upon the move, and the ten or twelve weeks that must expire between the date of a soldier's letter in camp and its return to Washington as a "dead-letter" render any attempt to place it again in the hands of the writer as impossible as it is useless. The Department having once sent the letter to its place of destination, and advertised it there, has no legal authority to incur further trouble or expense in the matter. Hence the practice that obtained in the opening-room of the Dead-letter Office, of throwing into the waste-basket all "dead-letters" containing no valuable inclosure, which had been written by soldiers from camps or head-quarters. As the war progressed and great battles were fought, consecrating in history such names as Pea Ridge, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Fair Oaks, and Malvern Hill, and marking the boundaries of each field of bloody strife with the tumuli of buried heroes, it came to be noticed that many of the soldiers' letters, written upon the eve or at the close of these fierce struggles for a nation's life, contained matter of the gravest interest to the friends and relatives at home. Some of these lost missives, containing the words of father, brother, son, or husband, who had gone down in the storm of battle, or survived to tell the fate of other martyrs in the holy cause, and which had failed in the first effort to place them in the hands of the persons addressed, were rightly conceived to be of as much importance to the soldiers' friends as the letter inclosing a part of his pay to the wife and little ones at home.

The subject having attracted the attention of Mr. Zevely, the Third Assistant Postmaster-General, who has charge of the Dead-letter Office, and whose hand is as open as his heart is warm in the cause of aiding the soldier in the field and his family at home, he at once determined to have this class of dead-letters examined by a competent clerk, and all that were likely to be of interest or importance again forwarded to the post-offices originally addressed. As the law authorized no additional expense for such an enterprise, one of the clerks volunteered to perform the work out of office-hours; and so a second effort is being made to get these soldiers' letters into the hands of their friends.

An interview with the clerk who spends his evenings and mornings in this work brought me to a knowledge of the enterprise, and I write this sketch with the purpose of bringing the matter to public notice, and thus to aid in getting these lost letters into the hands of those for whom they were intended.

I learn from the gentleman who has charge of the work that four or five hundred letters a day of this class come into the Dead-letter Office. As they are opened, all soldiers' letters containing no valuable inclosure are placed in his hands, and after office-hours he proceeds to examine them, and select such as can be again sent to the local post-offices with some prospect of reaching the parties addressed. Each letter thus re-sent is entered upon a blank form addressed to the postmaster, and charging him to use "all diligence to secure its delivery." This form contains not only the name of the person addressed on the envelope, but the name of the writer and of the place where the letter was dated. This schedule, or catalogue of letters, is to be conspicuously posted for one month, and any letters upon it that are not delivered in that time are to be returned to the Dead-letter Office

at Washington, to be destroyed. The whole thing is a work of grace on the part of the Postmaster-General, there being no charge made for the second transportation of the letters or their delivery at the local post-offices. This being the case, it is proper to add, for the benefit of the Department, and to save people from unnecessary trouble, that it is quite useless to address inquiries to any one in the General Post-office respecting letters of this description. No record is kept of them, and those not re-sent are immediately destroyed. Any one looking for such a letter, known to have been advertised at a local post-office and returned as "dead" to Washington, should watch the posted catalogue of "Soldiers' Letters," which, for the smaller offices, is forwarded at the close of each month, and once a week or fortnight to the large city offices.

With a proper care not to violate the confidence and privacy peculiarly strict in this office, I have been allowed to notice the character of some of these letters. Here is one written by T. F. H., Lieutenant-Colonel Fifth Ohio Cavalry, and very fully and carefully directed, yet it has failed to reach its destination; and lest a second effort should prove as fruitless as the first, I am permitted to make an extract, in the hope that it may reach the eyes of the bereaved parents. The letter is written from Zanesville, Ohio, under date of May 27th, and addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, Baleyville, near Minneapolis, Minnesota, and reads thus:

FRIENDS,—On the evening of Monday, April 7, 1862, about five o'clock, after my regiment had been halted in its pursuit of the fleeing hordes of rebels, I rode slowly around the field, meditating on the result of that bloody action [Shiloh], and observing the effect of the "bolts of war" on the dead bodies which covered the ground. Various were the attitudes and expressions of the fallen heroes; yet as I rode along one smooth-faced lad, whose features were lit up by a smile, so attracted and riveted my attention as to cause me to dismount and examine him. His uniform was neat as an old soldier's, his buttons polished, his person clean, his hair well combed, lying squarely on his back, his face toward the enemy, his wounds in front, from which the last life-drops were slowly ebbing, his hands crossed on his breast, and a peaceful, heavenly smile resting on his marble features. I almost envied his fate as I thought,

"How sleep the brave who sink to rest,
By all their country's wishes blest!

By fairy hands their knell is rung,

By forms unseen their dirge is sung;

Lo! Honor comes, a pilgrim gray,

To bless the turf that wraps their clay,

And Freedom shall a while repair

To dwell a weeping hermit there!"

I asked the by-standers who that lad was. No one could tell. Hoping to find some mark on his clothing by which I could distinguish him, I unbuttoned his roundabout, and in the breast pocket found a Bible, on the fly-leaf of which was an inscription by his mother to "John Elliott." In the same pocket was a letter from his mother, and one he had written to his uncle, both dabbled with blood. Pleased with getting these data from which to trace his family, I determined to preserve the Bible and letters and send them to you. I have since regretted that I did not examine all his pockets and save whatever may have been in them; but my time was short, and I felt that the Bible he had so faithfully carried would be treasure enough for you, and in the hurry of the moment I did not think to look for any thing else. His remains received decent sepulture that night, and he now sleeps in a soldier's grave.

And now, my dear friends, I would have written to you weeks ago, but was long sick in camp, was sent to Ohio low with fever, and am but just able to begin to sit up. You have doubtless wept over your dead boy. No human sympathy could assuage your grief. Yet He who guides and governs the universe of man and matter, I doubt not, has thrown around you "everlasting arms," and supported your faint, bereft, and bleeding hearts.

After a while, when time shall have healed the wounds that war has inflicted, it will be a heritage of glory for you to reflect that your boy died in the cause of human rights and to save the life of a great nation; and you can with righteous pride boast that he fell in the thickest of the fight, with dead rebels all around him, his face to the foe, and in the "very forefront of the battle."

He died a young hero and martyr in the holy cause of freedom, and Elijah riding up the heavens in a chariot of fire had not a prouder entrance to the Celestial City than your boy. Let your hearts rejoice that there is one more waiting to welcome you back to the "shining shore."

Here is a brief extract from the letter of a surgeon on the Peninsula to a friend at home:

Almost the first one I came to was our poor little friend Dick, the bright-eyed but pale-faced drummer boy, who broke from the warm embrace of his mother and rushed into the wild storm of war at the first call to arms. He was still alive, and able to speak in a low voice. I raised his head and gave him some water. He smiled his thanks, and said, "Doctor, tell mother I wasn't afraid to die. Tell brother Jimmy he can have my pony; and Sis can have all my books; and they mustn't cry about me, for I think I have done right. And take the drum to them; and bury this little flag with me—and that's all!" And that was all; and a moment afterward the spirit of the young hero went up to heaven.

Here is a letter from a wife to her husband in the Peninsular army. It arrived too late, and is on its way back to the writer, with the simple indorsement on the envelope, by an officer of his regiment: "Was killed yesterday in the battle of Malvern Hill."

These are a few examples of what may be found in the "Soldiers' Dead-letters;" and if local post-masters will manifest the same disposition exhibited in the action of the Department at Washington, thousands of these lost epistles will find their way to the rightful owners, and serve to comfort and console many a bereaved and breaking heart.


ON page 689 we give a picture of the little town of PERRYVILLE, KENTUCKY, where McCook fought the rebel army on 8th; and on page 700 a picture of THE BATTLE; both from sketches by our special artist, Mr. H. Mosler. Perryville is a small place of about 500 inhabitants. It is now entirely evacuated by the residents, and several of the houses have been destroyed by the shells. Of the battle a Times correspondent gives the following account:c

When McCook and Rousseau appeared before the town they found the immense forces of the enemy most advantageously posted to meet them. The rebels were posted on a long range of hills, extending in a crescent form from north to west, the termini of the crescent being almost due north and due west, with its inner centre precisely northwest. This semicircular range of hills formed their advance, and on these hills the rebel generals exhorted their soldiers to dye their colors deep in the blood of the enemy rather than surrender them. These hills are about a mile and a half from Perryville. Behind this range of hills, and between them and the Big Spring, there are two other high hills, along the left base of which is a cornfield,

and along the right base the tortuous course of the Spring, to the right of which is the extensive and finely-shaded woodland forming their camping grounds. Running off through the corn-field, and angling a little south of west, beyond the western terminus of the advance crescent, there is a strong stone fence, behind which the enemy posted a part of the infantry. Under the brow of the semicircular range of hills the rebel batteries were placed in admirable position, sustained by their infantry—who could fire with destructive effect, and then screen themselves behind the hills and among the grass and weeds. In front of the enemy's right there is a narrow valley of meadow-land, after descending which you come into a skirt-woods. Facing the enemy's centre there was a cornfield, which extended, a little broken, for several hundred yards back to the woods. Facing the stone fence is a stretch of waste land, gently sloping parallel with the fence to the woods. Behind the fence there is heavy timber. The rebels were commanded by their chosen and favorite generals. Bragg was on the field in person, and assumed general command. Buckner led the centre, Hardee the right, and Polk the left wing. General Cheatham had the reserve, while General Brown and a host of other Brigadiers cheered and led on their commands. This General Brown is the same Colonel Brown who commanded the Third Tennessee Regiment at Fort Donelson, and who, with Buckner, surrendered, and served a term at Fort Warren. Since his exchange he has received a Brigadier-General's commission. He is, I believe, a nephew of Niel S. Brown, of Tennessee. So much for the position of the enemy. Now let us look at our own.

The approach of Gilbert's Corps, with McCook, Rosseau, and Mitchell, was well known to the rebels. Our men had made forced marches through heat and dust, over a rough road, and through a country utterly destitute of water. Their arrival in the morning was hailed by a shell from the enemy's battery. Notwithstanding the formidable array before us, and notwithstanding the advantages of position the enemy had, our men prepared for action. Harris's battery was planted on our left, Loomis's on the right, with Parson's and Simonton's between the two. McCook was chief in command on the field, and Rouseau second. General Jackson, with his brigade, was posted on the left, Rousseau in the centre, while the right was led by General Mitchell. We opened upon the rebels at 1 o'clock P.M., on the 8th. The most sanguinary battle of the war commenced. The enemy opened all their batteries upon us. Soon the whole rebel artillery let their guns loose upon us. The hills shook to their base, as one livid sheet of flame poured across them. Shell would whiz through the air, fall at the point of their aim and burst, dealing death all around. Solid shot went screaming across the field, cutting great gaps through the ranks. Mingling with the terrific roar of cannon, now the shrill hiss of grape and canister, thinning out the troops—literally moving them down, and piling them in mangled swaths over the field and across the hills. Next come the crash of musketry, quick, loud, and incessant. The noise of three guns blended with that of the artillery in tumultuous roar. Never, perhaps, was there a battle fought at so short a range, and never were fires so murderous and destructive. The battle commenced at 1 o'clock and had reached its height at 3. For an hour now it was it succession of advances and repulses, first one side advancing and then falling back before their infuriated pursuers. On the right a desperate attempt was made to flank the reinforcing columns of M'Cook, which was for a time partially successful, some of the new regiments wavering and staggering under the galling cross-fires poured upon them. The scene was terrific. Dense smoke rolled all over the field, while the hills were literally enveloped in sheets of fire. The thunder of cannon and the crash of musketry can be compared to nothing I have ever heard. The simultaneous falling and splitting of a thousand forest trees might perhaps be something like it.

Harris's Battery which, as stated, was posted on our right, poured grape and canister into the ranks of the advancing rebels, and literally paved the slope with their dead bodies. Yet, on and on came these fierce rebels, over heaps of dead of their own, to within forty yards of that death-dealing battery. Again and again would they recoil with decimated ranks from the terrible machines of death. Determined yet to take that battery, they charged down the slope and through the hollow, diagonally across, from toward the centre, and there one of the regiments supporting it fell into confusion. Still the battery maintained its ground, right in the face of fearful odds; and again the rebels were driven back with fearful slaughter. Parson's Battery, to the right of Harris's, in the mean time had been dealing destruction in the ranks of the foe. The enemy, in overwhelming numbers, and with determined exasperation, closed in upon this battery and succeeded in capturing it. They subsequently spiked the guns and cut the wagon-wheels to pieces. In taking this battery the rebels lost fearfully, our men fighting like heroes against their superior advance. In the early part of the action, General James S. Jackson was killed. He was coolly giving some order on the left. He and General Rousseau had been in conversation. Rousseau tuned toward the centre, and Jackson deliberately lighted a cigar; just as he had lighted it, a ball from the enemy struck him, killing him almost instantly. Jackson was a member of the National Congress from the Second District of Kentucky. He resigned his seat to draw his sword for Constitutional liberty. The nation mourns no truer patriot; the army no braver soldier. About this time, also, Colonel Terrell, one of the bravest and most skillful officers of the service, fell mortally wounded, while engaged in pointing a battery under fire of the enemy. The First Wisconsin, Colonel Starksweather, had engaged the First Tennessee rebel regiment on the left, and warm work was going on. The ground was sharply and gallantly contested for hours, with apparently no decisive results, the fire of the First Wisconsin thinning the ranks of the enemy at every round.

The Twenty-third Indiana, toward the centre, covered itself with honors. Their flag was planted near the centre of the field, and the regiment was raked by the crescent-shaped batteries and cross-fires from the rebels. Their ammunition gave out, and they heroically threw themselves upon their faces, the balls of the enemy passing over them in a perfect shower. This regiment suffered severely, one-third of its men being killed or disabled. Their flag was riddled into strings and shreds, and its staff splintered by the enemy's bullets. Yet they kept it waving, and preserve its torn fragments as a memorial of their bravery upon that bloody day. McCook and Rousseau boor pronounced this a much more hotly-contested fight, and the fires much severer than they were at any time at Shiloh. The Twenty-third Indiana was now happily relieved. Further to the right the immortal Tenth Ohio, of the Seventeenth Brigade, under Colonel Lytle, who was Acting Brigadier, stood their ground firmly for hours in a perfect rain-storm of shot and shell. At length their leader, the high-souled and heroic Lytle, fell dangerously wounded. The Tenth Ohio was now withdrawn. The battery of Captain Loomis, which had all day piled the enemy in heaps, was now threatened by the enemy, who were throwing their dense columns forward with a view of surrounding and capturing it. The battery was withdrawn toward the wood, but continued to hurl its leaden death-messages at the enemy. A part of Gilbert's command now came superbly into action on the left, driving the enemy before them, though suffering heavily from the fire poured upon them from the stone fence. General Webster was in the mean time killed, as was also Colonel Jouett, of the Fifteenth Kentucky. The first advantage gained by the enemy in the centre was by one of those acts of perfidy which they have never been slow to exhibit. A rebel Colonel, with National uniform on, advanced along to the centre, where the brave Indianians were exposed, and shouted, "Hurrah for the old Hoosier boys!" He was met as a comrade, and by deception the rebels were permitted to advance to within a few yards of our men. A most unexpected and murderous fire was poured upon us from two sides, without our regiment even returning it. The Indiana boys. were of course stunned and thrown into temporary confusion. The battle having raged fiercely now for five hours, and the men being exhausted with slaughter, just as night began to conceal the field of death and of blood, the combatants ceased their awful work. Our troops fell back a short distance under cover of the woods, worn and exhausted with their hot day's work. A portion of the rebels held possession of the larger part of the battle-field. We had but twelve thousand troops on the field, which contended with the combined rebel forces, fully forty thousand strong.




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