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Civil War Harper's Weekly, September 20, 1862

Welcome to our archive of original Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. These papers provide a valuable resource for the serious student of the Civil War. The illustrations created by eye-witnesses to the battles and events are an incredible resource for the serious student.

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Union Battle Flag

Union Battle Flag

Color Bearer

Color-Bearer

Invasion of Maryland

Rebel Invasion of Maryland

Defense of Cincinnati

The Defense of Cincinnati

2nd Battle of Bull Run

2nd Battle of Bull Run

General Phil Kearney

General Phil Kearney

General Stevens

General Stevens

Colonel Fletcher Webster

Colonel Fletcher Webster

Buell's Campaign

General Buell's Campaign

Kentucky War Map

Map of Civil War in Kentucky

Second Battle of Bull Run

Second Battle of Bull Run

Buckeye Cartoon

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER 20, 1862.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

599

a year had this man and his family to live on! For this sum the father and son gave all their time in the mill, and the mother and two daughters five days a week in other work. In a free mill worked on the free principle, the father and son alone were worth, and were sure to receive, about sixty pounds, and the two daughters thirty; but then they could be forced to pay out of that what their master chose to exact for obrok and taxes. Many of the serfs are better off, and some are worse. The serfs belonging at one time to the crown are now free, and those possessed by the rich old families have paid five rubles obrok, and done what they pleased with their ground or themselves.

Intelligence reached us one day that something serious had happened among the serfs at a place called the White Village, twenty miles off. I started off to the place in company with my Scotch friend Saunderson, who was then my visitor. The White Village was a village of considerable size, and the houses seemed to have once been of a more comfortable class than any I had seen in those parts. Now it was a most desolate picture of extreme penury and woe; soldiers were in possession of every door; Cossacks patrolled the streets and the adjacent roads, so that but for my friend's clever assistance we should not have been allowed to enter. The steward's house, with all his property and stores, had been burned down, and he himself had been murdered. His family (a wife, a son, and two daughters) could nowhere be found. Some ten peasants were dead, and many were wounded. A gang of serfs in irons, or bound with ropes, followed by screaming women, some with babies in their arms, were leaving the place under an escort of Cossacks, who were jeering the poor wretches and probing them with lances, on their way to the government town prison, whence they would pass ultimately to the Siberian mines, no doubt.

This is the story of the outbreak:

General Obrassoff died and left his widow two estates: this of the White Village, which had come into his possession only a short time before his death, was one: the other was that upon which my friend Saunderson served as superintendent. The lady was a person of a tender heart, who had been well educated, and mixed in the best society. At her husband's death she left the capital and its pleasures, in order to devote herself to the education of her daughter, taking with her a first-rate governess and a little English girl as companion and English tutor. The little English girl, by name Lucy Murray, was fatherless, her mother was unable to educate her, and she was glad to give her companionship to the Russian young lady in exchange for good treatment and an education in Germain, French, and music.

Arrived at the White Village, which she had never seen before, the "generalshe" ("Mrs. General") decided upon living there for a time. While the old family house was being prepared for her reception she staid in a friend's house in the nearest town. The former proprietor of the White Village had been rich, and easy with his serfs. He had possessed several estates of considerable extent lying widely separate from this part of the country, where he had never been but once: in fact, he knew very little of the White Village, except that it was his, and that the steward sent or brought him plenty of excuses for non-payment, but little money. It did not trouble him much, therefore, when the people on the estate passed to the General Obrassoff at cards or dice: he merely remarked (Madame Obrassoff is herself my authority here) that if the General made no more of the pigs than he had made of them, they would not be of much use to him. The General determined, however, to make the estate valuable. It was in the same country as his other property, and would form a large addition to his income if well handled. But soon after he had sent off a new steward with the discharge of the old steward in his pocket, and with orders to repair the house, buy stock, and raise the obrok from ten rubles to thirty, he died. Thus Madame, good, tender-hearted, compassionate Madame Obrassoff ruled in his stead until her child's majority.

On the morning after she had taken possession, and installed herself comfortably in her large wooden house, before she had quite got out of bed the large plot of grass (which served for a lawn in front) was filled with a mass of human beings clad in the most filthy rags, waiting to pay their respects to their new owner: the old "starost" heading the ragamuffins with evident pride and pleasure. English rags are bad, Scotch are worse, and Irish are worse, but Russian rags are beyond all conception. When the lady appeared on the lawn among her "souls," she was perfectly shocked by their wretched appearance; and the starost having marked with cunning satisfaction her aspect of sympathy, advanced first with a "welcome present," a lean goose, and laid it at her feet. He then kissed her feet and the feet of her daughter, and wished that all imaginable blessings might be poured down on their "high-born" heads. He then said that the present he had brought was not fit to give to a stanavoy's clerk far less to such a high-born generalshe, but it was all now left him to give, he was so poor! The rest of the ragged host advanced and followed suit, no one coming empty-handed. Some gave one egg, others a few berries or a bit of black bread, some a jug of kvass or an old paralytic hen; this one brought a starved rabbit, that one a small paper of salt or a few carrots. The speeches delivered on this great occasion by some of the elder peasants were similar to that of the old starost. "High-born lady, we are your humble slaves. Forgive us for having nothing better to offer you. We are poor. Look at us with the golden-eye and have pity. God give you health and long life to live among us. We are poor but obedient. We will all die for you. It is God's truth, lady, we are poor." Many of them shed tears profusely. The kind-hearted woman wept in sympathy, and pitied the degraded beings from the bottom of her heart. How could she exact thirty rubles a year from such people? How could she put a hard steward over them to

grind more out of them? Had this not been already carried too far?

"Starost," she said, "hear me. My husband gave orders before he died that each man should pay thirty rubles obrok. Has the steward told you so, and are you willing to pay it?"

"High-born lady, it is truth. We have been told, but God knows we can not pay it. All we have is not worth thirty rubles each. You have beautiful eyes to look with. See these people. Is it possible that we can pay all this large sum? Ah, lady! have compassion and be an angel, and make the obrok ten rubles as it was before."

"Steward," said the lady, "give me your opinion."

"My lady, honored and obeyed, it is my opinion that all this is a farce got up to deceive you. Don't believe them. They seem poor, but I suspect them to be the reverse. I can not prove it yet, but I soon will. Follow, Madame, your illustrious husband's design, and I shall pledge myself to find the obrok. I have done."

Here the whole body of the peasants, about fifteen hundred, at a secret sign from the starost, surrounded the lady and fell on their knees, howling and crying.

"My children," she said, "I pity you. It is sad to look on you with those rags. I will not ask you to pay what you can not pay, but I must have some obrok, and shall be content with ten rubles each, if it is paid without trouble to me. I wish to be kind and to live among you happily."

The starost crossed himself, and so did the multitude; the starost thanked the lady, and with many bendings and bowings vowed that this sum should be paid by the people, if he made them sell every thing they had. They then parted: the lady rejoicing in having done a deed of mercy; the starost chuckling at the success of his trick: the new steward, finding his occupation gone, gave notice to quit, and so anticipated his dismissal.

Next day, while the generalshe was giving orders in her new house, and the French governess, the daughter, and Lucy Murray were at their first lessons, the cunning old starost and twenty other peasants, clad in good comfortable garments, and looking healthy and well to do, unearthed some thirty or forty very fine young horses of their own breeding and rearing from a secret spot in which they had been hidden, and were soon on their way to the large fair in the government town to sell them for from one thousand to fifteen hundred rubles: the greater part of which money, after being divided, was destined for their secret hoards as soon as it could be turned into hard cash. (Paper has no chance against bullion among the peasants.) The people of this village were to a man dealers, breeders, and rearers of horses, who attended all the fairs for many hundred versts round, and only used their own land and that of the estate for the pasturage. Instead of being poor they were the richest in the district, and none could have paid a higher obrok. But they had never paid much under the old proprietor, and they would not, if cunning could save their pockets, under the new.

The lady remained under her delusion for a year. When the time came for the obrok to be paid in, a scene similar to the first, which had been so successful, was again enacted. The winter had been severe; the summer rains had not come; the rot, or something else, had got among the pigs and poultry; the crops of every thing were nothing; they were all nearly starving; they could not pay any of the ten rubles; her high-born ladyship might come and see for herself; she might take all they had, but the obrok in money they could not pay. (Not a word was said about horses.)

Again the trick succeeded. The other estate afforded means of living; this estate might improve with a little patience and kindness; and the kind woman not only forgave the whole year's obrok, but reduced it to five rubles for the next year. "Only remember, starost, this is my last step in that direction. If this five rubles each is not paid in good time, and if you assemble these people again without the money in their hands, I will sell the place and leave you. I will not struggle and fight to get my money. I wish to be kind to you, but I must live, and it is a shame to you that I have to draw all my means from other poor serfs who are perhaps as poor as you."

There is nothing more certain than that if you give a Russian serf an inch he will take an ell. The next year came, and the five rubles did not. The poverty trick was again rehearsed, but this time her high-born ladyship dismissed the people with pain and anger, advertised the estate for sale, and, as she had threatened, sold it. All the horse-dealing "souls" on it, their wives and children, horses, cattle, goods, and chattels, became the property of a certain Gospodin Popoff, who had spent the greater part of his life in official service on a salary of some forty-five or sixty rubles per month, and who had managed to live up to three hundred rubles, and to save money enough to buy the White Village at twenty thousand rubles.

Herr Hansen—the steward whom Madame Obrassoff allowed to leave her—was appointed by Gospodin Popoff; for this steward had kept his eye on the estate ever since, knew more by this time of its capabilities, and felt chagrined at having been outwitted and driven away by the cunning old starost.

His first act indicated what was to be expected now. The venerable old starost, and twenty of the principal peasants, were seized on their first repetition of the poverty farce, and received a very liberal supply of "stick." The stanavoy's men kept the stick going for half a day, and were well paid to lay it on hard: while Herr Hausen smiled complacently. This was the first turning of the tables, and they went on running round from bad to worse. Each serf was served with a demand for three years' arrears of obrok, passport-money, and taxes at a high rate. Failing to pay on the instant, the secret studs of horses, and the more apparent goods of every kind, were appropriated and sold without

the least compunction. The peasants were not allowed to leave the village, but were driven to work on the fields. Having formerly attended to nothing but horse-dealing, they were now almost destitute of the kind of produce necessary to human life. The old and infirm had to chop wood for the steward, the children gathered oak nuts and cut grass in the woods for his cows and pigs; his barns, stables, and store-houses filled as those of the peasants emptied. He became corpulent in substance as they grew lean and gaunt and hungry.

A sum equivalent to the purchase-money of the estate had already been realized; but this was not thought sufficient by Herr Hansen and his principal. They had not yet found any money; and money in hard cash there must be somewhere. Domiciliary visits had been made, the floors of the huts had been dug up, and every place the searchers could think of had been explored without success. At length a Jew—one of those prowling, sharp-featured, wiry little fellows, who carry trinkets, gaudy-colored prints, handkerchiefs, and money, to exchange for corn, flax, feathers, and other peasant produce, at a profit of eight hundred per cent. or so—gave a hint to Herr Hansen for a percentage on the money found. Measures were taken accordingly, and one day these peasants—already shorn to the bone of every thing else—were deprived of their nest-egg. Where it was found, or how much it was, I did not hear, but hard bullion to a considerable amount was transferred to the iron safe in the strong room of the steward's house. The peasants were now poorer a thousand times than they had ever wished the kind generalshe to believe them.

What follows of the story I had partly from the old starost as he lay in his hut dying from a gun-shot wound, and partly from Lucy Murray at an after-time.

One evening four men stood at the end of a hut shaking something in a felt hat. One of them put his hand in and drew; he told the result and the operation was repeated. Then the four separated and took different paths through the village, saying a few words quietly at every door. It was a cold clear night, soon after twilight, and the moon had risen in an almost cloudless sky. Just as the old starost passed the steward's gate he met little Lucy Murray going in.

"How do you do, starost? I hope your health is good. Good-night. I must run to the house."

"Stay, maiden with the golden hair and the laughing eyes, tell me who there is now in yonder house besides the steward and his."

"Madame Obrassoff and her daughter sleep there to-night. You know we came for the last installment of the purchase-money of the estate."

"When do you go?"

"To-morrow morning. We should have gone to-night, but it is late to begin a journey, and the horses want rest. Why do you ask, starost?"

"Listen, daughter of the English, and let my words go into your heart and remain there. Tell the generalshe from her old starost, who loves her and hers, though he has often deceived her, that she assist—do you hear me say must?—leave that house in less than an hour. God dooms it, and all in it, to destruction. Now tell her soon and secretly; but as you value her life and your own tell it to none other but her. Go, and remember my words. Good-by, English child, and may God give you happiness!"

So the starost passed on with the Russian fiery cross.

In about an hour after this groups of men in noiseless felt boots went their way to the church front. Each of these men was armed with only one weapon, but it was a deadly one opposed to any thing but fire-arms: the tapore, or Russian short-axe. With this the Russian peasant can hew down trees, cut them into pieces and slabs, build houses, make windows or picture-frames, sharpen and mend pens or pencils, kill a wolf or a bear, make tables and chairs, cleave his enemy's head from the crown to the neck. These men met at the church, each with his tapore stuck in his belt and resting on his hip. As each group approached the church every individual turned his body so as to face the holy emblems, images, and saints, the position of which he well knew, and with more than ordinary devotion bowed and crossed himself.

The starost lifted up his voice: "Brothers, many words, little deeds. Are you all ready and all willing?"

Each man drew from his back the tapore, flourished it over his head, and answered: "Ready!" "That is well. We cast lots whether it should be to-night, and the answer was 'Yes;' we cast again, and the answer was, 'All.' Follow me, then."

The body of men moved on, and, but for the slight crisping under their felt boots, they moved like noiseless phantoms. They were in number about five hundred. Half-way between the church and the steward's gate a carriage drove up; they opened to let it pass, and looked in. Madame Obrassoff, her daughter, and Lucy, pale as spectres, and quaking in every limb, sat inside. Every man of the murderous band uncovered his head and bowed. The old starost said, "Go in peace, kind woman and innocent girls. Thank God! They have heard my words." He little knew that Herr Hausen's two daughters and his wife were concealed in the bottom of the lumbering vehicle. Lucy had warned not only Madame Obrassoff but the steward and his family. His son, a young man of eighteen, had stepped out on the instant, mounted a fleet horse, and galloped to the nearest town for soldiers.

Thus was the steward left alone to meet the storm he had raised. Most tyrants are cowards, and Herr Hansen did not belie the statement. When the hatchets began to beat at his doors and windows he became at last convinced (for he had until then derided the idea) that he had raised a demon he could never lay. He fled for refuge to some wretched hiding-place, as if any place in that great house could hide him from those who were

now seeking his blood. His own domestics, all of them serfs to the village, joining the assailants, soon hunted him down and dragged him to the door, when he was commanded to give up the money he had robbed them of. With trembling limbs and pallid cheeks he obeyed, yielded his keys, and begged on his knees for mercy. In the most abject fear and cowardly despair he offered them all he possessed, promised forgiveness, and that he would reduce the obrok—any thing, every thing, for his life. But mercy he had never shown, and mercy they did not show him. The axes of fifty men glittered in the cold moonlight and descended on his head. Then, when he was chopped to pieces, began the work of destruction. The wines and spirits found in the house added drunken madness to the madness of ignorant despairing vengeance, and morning found the revolted serfs dancing wildly about the dying embers of what had lately been the steward's house, offices, stables, and store-rooms. No thought of consequences entered their benighted heads. They had recovered the lost money and a great deal more; they had feasted to satiety on the rich stores of the steward; best of all, they had killed their enemy as they would kill a wolf. But consequences were not slow to come. A cry of "Soldiers!" was raised. Surprised, they ran this way to be met by a volley of musketry, and they ran that way to meet another volley. Dead and wounded fell like rotten sheep. The tapores were thrown down, the peasants fell on their knees screaming for mercy, and surrendered at discretion.

THE SECOND BATTLE OF BULL
RUN.

ON pages 600 and 601 we publish an illustration of the SECOND BATTLE OF BULL RUN, fought on 30th August, from a sketch by our special artist, Mr. Davenport, who was with General Sigel throughout the battle. The following description from a Tribune correspondent, who was also present, will explain the picture. The time was about noon, when Sigel was throwing out regiments to his left to prevent the rebels outflanking him:

In the order of battle for the day Heintzelman commanded the right, Porter and Sigel the centre, and McDowell the left. At 10 Heintzelman advanced skirmishers into the wood on the right of the battle-field of the day before, and found it only held by a few troublesome bushwhackers. Driving them back, large numbers of wounded were got off and passed to the rear.

I rode in with these skirmishers as far as I deemed prudent. At any rate I got upon ground where the corpses attested the fighting of the day before. First I came upon bodies in blue. These were our fallen. Then there were those in blue mingled with others in gray and nondescript. That ground had been fought over. A little further they were all blue and nondescript. And there the bodies were thickest. Upon ground that I judged to be not over half an acre I counted seventy-nine bodies, dead and wounded. Advancing further still, I saw a Union soldier seized, not ten rods from me, and carried off by bushwhackers. I retired (in good order), satisfied that the enemy's loss exceeded our own. At 2 o'clock, by the movements of troops from right to left, I inferred that the positions of the enemy had been found in that direction. By this time our line was different from that of the day before. Our right was further advanced, our left withdrawn, so that we fronted almost to the south. At Bull Run, a year ago, we faced exactly south.

At 3 o'clock General Stevens attacked at the right, and soon after General Butterfield at the left. The enemy's shells seemed equally distributed along the whole line, and at each point of attack he met us with musketry.

I was at General Sigel's head-quarters. That general was certain the enemy intended to turn one or the other of our flanks, and said we must ascertain which, or the result was at the best doubtful; for his scouts had just reported that Lee, with the entire remainder of the rebel army, had come up and assumed command. The scouts were correct. On Saturday we fought the whole rebel army.

Posting myself in the centre, within view of both portions of the field where infantry were engaged, I could not determine which had the best of it. Evidently but few troops were engaged, and I surmised that we were fighting merely to learn where lay the enemy's main force. At length our force at the right was driven back, and I thought General Pope had been outgeneraled when he moved men at an earlier part of the day from right to left.

A quarter of an hour later I wished he had moved a still greater proportion to the left. I have heard the musketry of the best contested battles fought in Virginia, and I say unhesitatingly that the fire which broke out at the left and up to the centre was by far the heaviest of any. Talk of volleys, and rolls, and crashes! It was all these continually accumulating, piling upon each other in mighty swelling volume—the wrestle of rushing tornadoes such as chaos may have known. From my position it seemed that artillery played from each of the cardinal points upon the devoted centre where I knew men were struggling. I could not see them struggling. The smoke of gunpowder prevented that, but I knew they were there, and I trembled for the result. A few minutes later Schurz, who was in reserve, was ordered to the left. Before he could get fairly into position McDowell and Porter were irretrievably broken. Their soldiers fought like brave men; if moments be reckoned by their intensity, they fought long, as they surely did fight well. I doubt not they piled the ground with rebel slain, as Halleck sings of Moslem slain by Bozzari's band. I believe there can not be a man who heard or participated in that awful tragedy but counts the hour between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 o'clock the severest fighting he ever knew. It was all at one point. Along the right half of the line the combatants seemed to desist in amazement at the struggle there. By half after five it was apparent that we were beaten—outflanked by a concentration upon the left. Wagoners and stragglers about the hospitals scented the retreat, and soon trains of the former and streams of the latter could be seen making for the Bull Run bridges and fords. McDowell's and Porter's corps retired in comparative order. I use this term not as a mild but false paraphrase for driven back, but because it covers the actual fact in the case.

I do not think there was a brigade that could not, as it came from the field, show its distinct regiments, or rather a nucleus of each regiment to whose standard ere it had marched a mile its scattered men gathered. Still there were several thousands hurrying pell-mell in advance of them toward Centreville, crowding the stone bridge and wading the stream. A dozen long wagon trains centred there, but there was little confusion among them, no desertion of wagons, but simply a jam, where each desired and pushed to be first. They were thus cool, notwithstanding a few shell burst among them. All this time the right was firm, and only at the calm discretion of its generals. Unaccountably to me at the time, so soon as we fell back from the left the musketry almost entirely ceased. We were pursued by shells only. It is probable that the enemy dared not advance lest Heintzelman and Sigel should fall upon his flank as he should pass by them. Sigel had not had his fight out, nor had Heintzelman, and the enemy was hardly in condition for another battle immediately. It is possible, also, that Banks's corps was nearing the field—he was known to be at Manassas early in the day—and they may have seen his advance and been afraid. It was all done in two hours.


 

 

  

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