"Oveto" Runs the Blockade


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, November 15, 1862

Welcome to our online archive of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. These original documents are full of incredible illustrations and eye-witness reports on the war. We have posted this material to help you develop a deeper understanding of this important conflict.

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Rebel Guerrillas




[NOVEMBER 15, 1862.



WE publish herewith an illustration of the REBEL STEAMER "OVETO" RUNNING INTO MOBILE under the fire of the United States steam-sloop Oneida on 4th September ult. We mentioned the circumstance at the time. It turned out that the rebel had only thirteen men on board who were fit for duty at the time. Secretary Welles, deeming that Commander Preble, who was in command of our squadron off Mobile, had been remiss in the execution of his duty, dismissed him from the navy in consequence. From this appeal Commander Preble has appealed to the President in the following letter:


OFF MOBILE, Oct. 10, 1862.

"To the President of the United States:

"SIR,—I do not believe you would do intentional injustice to any one; yet you have done me the most cruel injustice, and dismissed me from a service in which I have passed twenty-seven years of my life, without trial, without a hearing, and on insufficient and incomplete evidence.

"You have assailed my honor, which is dearer to me than life, and you have caused to be proclaimed that I failed to do my utmost to take and capture a vessel of the enemy, and omitted to perform the most ordinary duty of an officer. This sentence and this opinion you have directed to be read to the assembled crews of every vessel in the navy and entered upon the ships' logs.

"I can prove by every officer and man on board this ship, or who was present on the occasion referred to, that I did do my utmost to overtake, capture, or destroy the Oveto at the time referred to, and that, omitting no duty, I performed my whole, entire duty energetically and faithfully, as I have ever done while in the service.

"I demand, therefore, a fair, and full, and instant investigation of all the circumstances before a Court of Inquiry, and, when acquitted, that my innocence shall be proclaimed in the same manner as the sentence of dismissal has been promulgated, end that the record of my disgrace shall, by official order, be expunged from the log-books of the navy.

"As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I ask of you this justice, which I am sure you will grant.

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


   Commander United States Navy."

Together with copy of this appeal, Commander Preble has sent us the following extracts from the evidence of his officers.

Lieutenant Commander Sicard, executive officer, says:

"The ship was prepared for action in season, and when the character of the chase became apparent you did your utmost to capture or destroy her. As far as my observation went you displayed zeal, energy, and anxiety in pursuit of the chase....I can not suggest any precaution you omitted."

Lieutenant Brown says:

"The crew were at quarters and the ship cleared for action in ample season; and when the character of the chase was become apparent you did, in my opinion, do your utmost to overtake, capture, or destroy her. I know of no duty committed to a commanding officer that you omitted on that occasion. So far as I observed you did exhibit energy, zeal, and anxiety in the pursuit to overtake and capture the chase....I can not suggest any precautions that were omitted."

Chief Engineer Dade says:

"In my opinion you cleared your ship for action in the promptest manner, and exhibited the greatest energy, zeal, and anxiety in overtaking and capturing the chase."

Acting-Master F. M. Green says:

"The awnings were furled, decks cleared, and crew called to quarters in ample time for any emergency.... But for his superior speed, which enabled him to draw ahead of us, nothing could have saved him.... Until the Oveto was close to us I felt sure she was one of the number of English steamers-of-war which I have seen inspecting the blockade."

Paymaster Hassler says:

"The energy and zeal with which you began the action, and, so far as my observation extended, continued it, will be always remembered by me....Of vigilance there certainly was no neglect....That the ship was cleared for action I have stated above; and that you did not fail to do your utmost to overtake, capture, or destroy the vessel we were pursuing was evident to myself from your repeated orders for quicker firing and cautions to greater accuracy of aim, as well as to the engineers....I have carefully read the Act approved July 17, 1862, articles 1 and 2, and paragraphs 9 and 10 of article 3, which relate to commanders of vessels, and I can not imagine any duty there enumerated which you failed to perform on that occasion. I do not think more than four shots were fired when, being in the ward-room, I heard you on deck give the order several times to go ahead faster; and, on going out into the steerage country, inquired what was the matter, when one of the engineers told me the engines were doing the best the steam would allow, owing to the recent repairs on the boilers."

Surgeon Taylor says:

"I cheerfully bear witness, Sir, that on this occasion, as far as my knowledge extends of such matters, you did your utmost to capture or destroy this vessel of the enemy from the moment you recognized her as such, and that the ship was cleared for action in due time—neither did you, in any manner whatever, manifest a want of energy or zeal in your official acts."

Acting-Master Thomas Edwards says:

"In my opinion your ship was prepared and cleared for action in the promptest manner, and, under the circumstances, you left nothing undone that could have been done, and I have every reason to believe you did your utmost to take, capture, or destroy the vessel you were in pursuit of. There is no duty that I could see at the time you omitted; and you showed the greatest energy, zeal, and anxiety to overtake and capture the chase."

Acting-Master Elijah Ross says:

"I consider you did all that could have been done to capture the steamer after discovering she was an enemy."

Captain's Clerk, J. T. Dalton, says:

"I was on the poop with you most of the time, being sent for by you to the engine-room several times to inquire if we could not increase our speed, each time receiving from the engineer on watch the answer—they could do no better. ...When we had rounded to and abandoned the chase you called to the First Lieutenant and asked if there was no way in which we could get in and 'get that fellow' —exhibiting the utmost anxiety to capture and destroy him."

Assistant-Engineers Morrison, M'Murtrie, Fitch, M'Ilvaine, and Brower unite in saying:

"Your energy as displayed on that occasion could certainly not have been questioned by those who were familiar with the circumstances. Every thing was done that could have been done to defeat her intentions, and no exertions were left untried to prevent his entering. The escape of the fleets could not, in our opinion, have been justly attributed to any dereliction of duty on your part while existing circumstances were so favorable to her."

Boatswain Herold, who was aloft, says:

"While they were loosing sails we fired into her, and kept up a continuous fire until she got out of our range. Several of our shot struck her, though she did not slacken her speed for a moment....She continued to gain on us rapidly, and, as we were now very close to the ruined light-house on Sand Island, it being now dark, we wore round and returned to the anchorage."

Midshipman Wood says:

"Captain Preble gave orders to go ahead as fast as possible—heard answer returned from engine-room that 'we were doing our best.'....In fifteen minutes we had increased our elevation from 400 to 1000 yards."


"Oh! for the touch of a vanished hand,

And the sound of a voice that is still!"

I DREAMED last night of an isle of light

Far off in a waveless sea,

And never in Fancy's wildest flight

Came there such dreams to me.

I sailed in a boat like a pearl afloat,

With never a sail nor oar—

A vision so bright ne'er crossed the sight

Of mortal man before.

And at times I thought that I faintly caught

The snatch of a murmured song,

And a strange deep sound encompassed me round

Like the tread of a mighty throng.

Then a land so bright broke on my sight

That my dazzled eyes grew dim;

And the sound of ten thousand harps I heard,

And the tones of a wondrous hymn.

And oh! among the countless throng

That moved on the shining shore

I saw the face of one whom I thought

Had vanished for evermore.

Then I called again that sacred name

That has not left my breath

Since I knelt by the side of an upturned face

In the frozen beauty of Death.

Then all was hushed, and my mad brain rushed

Back to this earth again,

And I woke with a lingering sound in my ears,

That pierced through the gloom of darkening years

And soothed my heart's wild pain.

But oh! when shall I see that waveless sea,

And stand on that shining shore,

And feel the touch of that vanished hand,

And look in those eves once more?


SHE must have hurried to have avoided them, and the stubborn Scotch blood rebelled against that, so Helen Christian kept her leisurely pace and met them just by her own gate. Mary Joceleyn, a girl in mourning, with the look that is called high-bred, and a general air of being unattainable in the very droop of the black plume in her hat, and the sparkle of the jet clasp at her slender waist, passing with a quick, careless bend—her brother Paul, captain in the army, evidently by the interpretation of his shoulder straps, bowing low and glancing back over his shoulder, as they went down the steep road to the river. Nothing very special in such an encounter; yet as the young school-teacher went up the little graveled path, she found that she was trying hard to console something in her mental or moral economy had been hurt and was crying out vigorously. What was it? She stopped to think it over a little before going into the house.

A few rods further on the path stopped short, as any prudent and thinking path would be apt to do, when there was only a low, somewhat shaky paling to keep it from running off into the ravine, that between its steep hurry to reach the river, and the getting entangled in a mass of trees and vines, all pushing and shouldering their way out from the stones and dark and damp to the free air, in most disorderly fashion, looked not of the most inviting. Here was an arbor and a chair (which I suppose I may call rustic, as a barrel with the front half cut away and covered with canvas certainly doesn't smack of Roux's) in which Helen sat down.

There was the fair sweep of river, and the two wooded promontories holding a quiet, fairy bay in their little crescent, and so close on her left hand that she could almost have touched it—the hill, against which her little home leaned, already warming with purple and dusky shades as though nature were trying her hand at coloring and foreshadowing to herself the autumn mosaic that was to come—the hill that she loved, because it was lovingly alive with growing, twining, trailing, rustling, chirping, singing life, and amidst storm and mist, and out of morning flush and unutterable evening splendors looked peacefully down on the solemn convocations of woods, and the lower hills surging up toward it, and the bronzed fields, and the broad roads, like a faithful witness for a truth; but she could hear nothing of the tender hill voices now. She was too busy looking across the sudden slope of their own garden-patch, and the sunken road, the rise on the opposite side, and the clump of maples, to a building set on a hill so that it could not be hid, thrown out against the evening sky large and square and dark, that looked as if it could never have relentings over a little white birdsnest of a cottage cowering under a hill, and was in fact the characteristic residence of the aristocratic Joceleyns; looking with eyes that would not have differed very widely in expression had they been glaring at it from under a red cap and across a barricade of paving stones.

Just then came out, not from the hill-side or floating on a spear of thistle-down, but unprosaically from the kitchen door, a fairy of that gentle domestic sort that puts a little leaven of comfort in every body's baking, and fills up the chinks of every one's shortcomings, with as much bustle as the air makes about being breathed in; Alice, the sickly elder mother-sister of the orphan Helen.

She laid a thin hand on her dreaming sister's shoulder.

"Are you looking at the mountains, dear?"

"Doesn't it seem as if they were the very ramparts of the unseen world, and as if that quivering, burning mass of color was just the glory streaming out from the heavenly gates opened wide?"

"I suppose so—I was not thinking."

"Think now, then; it is so beautiful. I don't believe any painter would dare to give us brown and sienna gleams like those thick strewn in that

blue water. See, Helen; it might be the sapphire pavement that the Jewish elders saw under his feet, and that color that lives and burns, and is transparent though massed together, 'the body of the heavens in his clearness.' "

Still Helen looked over at the stone pile that had beaten back the straying sunbeams and dying light, and taken unto itself the shadows, perhaps because of its kind.

"You seem tired; were the children troublesome?" asked her sister after a pause.

"Yes; that is, not very."

"Who was that passing as you came in?"

"Mary and Paul Joceleyn."

"They are fond of the river walk; it is pretty." Helen rose abruptly.

"It is very damp—come in."

"Yes, and you must hurry a little, for I promised Mrs. Simms that you should come there this evening. They have a lint party."

"I don't wish to go."

"Is that your best reason for staying at home? It seems such a shabby one."

"Then it is in keeping with every thing here," burst out Helen. "I am sure we are shabby enough. Just look at your dress and mine!"

"I do, my dear, frequently, and regard them as monuments of art, feminine triumphs over such trifles as time, and the general wear-out-ability of all things human. I assure you, my dear, as you walk about, that dress has quite a distingue air; and hath the merino a voice that it should cry aloud, I am of the piece-day and belonged to great Aunt Martha. My flounce is but a delusion and a snare and a vanity altogether for the better hiding of the piece on the bottom, and I am not a well-to-do and prosperous dress, and don't belong to a person in good circumstances."

Thus chattered our good Helen, all unconscious of the vision of drooping plume and sparkling clasp, dainty-broidered handkerchief and trim boot, and their meaning, that was haunting Helen, who in her turn despised herself for paltriness of feeling, and never dreamed that these were but the bubbles on the surface telling of an unsuspected love, and unacknowledged pride doing battle in the depths of her heart.

Sudden glamour had robbed home of its grace—that was all she knew, making every thing to her coarse and mean, even herself. And here came in the true reason of her disinclination for Mrs. Simms and her lint-party, lest she should meet Paul and his sister, and, by comparison, be humbled in her own eyes and his. But despite reluctance she went, for mild Alice was a very Ahasuerus when she thought duty involved, though the face that bent over her basket in the corner was as sober as it was fair. She knew when the Joceleyns came—she heard Paul's voice in the hall, and felt, even in the little room where she sat apart, the flutter in the parlor atmosphere, as Mary Joceleyn rose a full moon on the horizon of Mrs. Simms and company, and in the light of her approval dimpled and glanced the ripples of every one's talk, save the one little Jacobin in her lonely corner.

Amidst the buzzing and chattering Paul, however, was restless—he missed something, and at last slipped out to look for it, found it, as he had half expected, sitting in a quiet that was good to look at, after the parlor flouncing and giggling, with a face cool and veiled in expression indeed, but with wondrous possibilities of depths of light and sweetness that might shine out from under golden-brown lashes, or soften the curves of the mobile mouth; no dimples or bright look for him just then, however, only a somewhat ungracious sweep of the black skirt when she found that he would sit close by her, and a crisp "Good-evening."

"You are retired in your tastes."

"I can work better. The tongue always wins in a race with the fingers."

"Is that a hint to me? Well, I will be good and not talk, only give me something to do."

Helen coolly handed him a bit of linen and went on without a word. Paul bit his lip, looked at the square morsel, turned it round, glanced again at the smileless face near him, pulled out a thread spitefully and broke it, raged inwardly, finally burst out in speech.

"What have I done now?"

"Broken a great many threads apparently."

"Helen, you are— Well, what is it?"

The last half of the sentence being addressed to his sister, who stood coolly scanning them from the door with a look that emphatically denied any other recognition of Helen than as a lint-pulling machine, that was occupying valuable Joceleyn time.

"Paul" (with a slight tinge of impatience sounding sharply through the polite resignation of her tone), "won't you please come to the front-room? You are wanted there."

"I really—"

"But, Paul—" beckoning him into the shadow of the hall for a whispered conference. Scarcely was he there when Helen, who was weary, head, fingers, and heart, went at once for hood and shawl, and slipped out without opposition, for, as she said to herself in bitterness of heart, "No one missed her."

She walked fast along the blank, starless road, trying to think her triumph sweet, for just then it seemed to her a most Jephthah-like victory; but fast as she walked some one followed her at even quicker pace, came close behind her, and heard her crying softly to herself, and taking her arm slipped it under his, holding the hand fast in his own. Helen looked up at the tall figure beside her in the dim light, and began to tremble a little.

"Captain Joceleyn!"

"Even so, the military person from whom you ran away, and who pursues his enemies as professionally bound."

"I did not—"

"Hush, Helen! It is time for us to be in earnest. I have something to tell you, only I can not say it out here in the gloom and damp. May I come in when we reach your home?"

Helen's "Certainly" was very faint indeed, and then they walked on to the little door in utter silence.

With true girlish inconsistency she had hoped that Alice might be up, and by her presence prevent her hearing what she most wished; but the fire-light was the only thing stirring in the pure, fragrant little room, that, half in shadow, looked all manner of sweet possibilities of fairy hauntings. Alice had left a sofa drawn up by the bright hearth, and there Paul seated himself by the side of Helen, watching her quietly as she threw off her hood and loosened her cloak, the deft white fingers trembling so that it was hard to undo the ribbon at her throat.

She had ventured but one look at his face, and had seen then how thoroughly he was in earnest; for he had her at last, this shy, changeful, elfish, teasing thing, alone and within his very grasp—so close that his breath stirred the knot of ribbon in her hair, and she was neither perverse nor defiant, but shrinking and mutely imploring, and his were no weak fingers through which opportunity might slip.

He commenced coolly enough.

"I don't know as I told you, Helen. I am going back to-morrow afternoon."

"Going back!"

"To the army. I am quite well, and, I think, am needed."

Helen sat mute, only (though it might have been the deceitful light) he fancied that he caught a sudden tremor of the downcast lashes. In vain she tried for an answer—voice and words would not come at her bidding—all the pain and anger of that evening and the desolation of the future were upon her; her eyes were filling fast with tears, her cheeks burned with sudden fever, sobs swelled in her throat. She tried to turn away, but he would not suffer it, but held her close, bending down to look into the very depths of her eyes.

"My darling child! I had begun to fear that you really did not love me. I am so rejoiced. I think now I shall be worth two in battle."

Helen struggled to free herself, not with girlish timidity, but with determination—pushed him quite away, looking toward, but not at him, as he sat, grieved and amazed, saying, in a voice not in the least like her own,

"I do love you, Paul, but this must be the end —this is all."


"Yes. It is quite hopeless; so it will be best never to speak of it again."

"Why hopeless? You will wait for me, and, if God spares me, will be my little wife?"



"I am quite in earnest. I think I love you well enough, Paul, to die for you; but I could never live for you as the poor girl raised by you against the opposition of your family, and owing rather a life-long debt than love to you. Spare your arguments" (as he was about eagerly to interrupt). "You have surprised my love into confession, but my self-respect is like a rock; you can not shake it."

"Self-respect! You mean pride, to which, in comparison, Moloch was merciful."

"Call it what you will; I am firm in it."

"But you shall not be; I swear it. What! I love you with truth and passion and honor, and for a lifetime, and you let me go on day by day and weave the love and the hope of you in with every pulse of my life, to tell me at the end that you have a love indeed, but so frost-bitten with pride that it shall profit neither you nor me!"

"The Christians are a stubborn race," answered Helen, pale and cool. "If it comes to a contest of wills—"

"Yours will be overborne. Not because I am a despot, but because I have truth and right with me, as sooner or later you shall acknowledge; for be it one year, or two, or three, you will one day fling your pride in the dust, where it should be, and listen only to your love, cold and calculating as you are now."

With which he left her.

"Cold and calculating!" that was his good-night; his adieu also, for he made no further effort to see her; but having thus firmly and finally vindicated dignity, and the much-vaunted "self-respect," it is to be presumed that Helen, notwithstanding, was quite happy, though it was a kind of happiness on which she grew thin and spiritless; and Alice sadly noted that her only interest now was at reading-paper-time, perhaps because therein were often chronicled the doings of a certain Captain Joceleyn, who was a veritable Sir Launcelot, and was continually volunteering for desperate services, anxious, apparently, to be rid of life as fast as possible.

Truth was, she was always dreaming about the sounding of a certain step on the walk, and the appearing of a bronzed face and a uniform in the door, though why I can hardly tell, as, by her own showing, such appearance must have been hopeless; and at last the dream was fulfilled. She heard the step, caught the gleam of an epaulet, heard a voice not altogether familiar ask for Miss Christian, and rushed out to meet—a stranger.

She shrank back dismayed.

"I think there is some mistake."

"Not if you are Miss Christian—Miss Helen Christian; that is the name on this package that I promised to bring you."

He was holding out to her a little parcel, tied, sealed, and addressed to herself. She knew the handwriting, she knew also when and why parcels like that were sent. There was a ring—she had seen it often enough before—a cornelian shield bearing the Joceleyn arms, and a note, clearly written and brief enough:

"Though in life you would have none of me, yet now perhaps you will wear my ring in remembrance; and when you look at it, believe that I loved you so well that, had I lived, you must have learned in time (hard as you are) to love me as well as you now love yourself."

She read it through once and again. Her face wore a strained, ghastly look, it is true; but then it was hard to breathe. She was not very sorry, after all—how could she be, when she could not even feel? So she simply said,




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