Colonel Fletcher Webster


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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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Colonel Fletcher Webster

Colonel Fletcher Webster

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Second Battle of Bull Run

Buckeye Cartoon




SEPTEMBER 20, 1862.]




(Previous Page) "The accompanying sketch, taken in front of the famous Hygeia Hotel, will give a fair idea of the appearance of the place for several days during the transit of General McClellan's army, with its endless array of infantry and cavalry passing in every direction. In the centre of the picture is that portion of the Hygeia building at present exclusively used as a hotel, the partially-concealed building to the right being a portion of what has been hitherto used as a hospital. In the nearest corner of the latter are the offices of the Provost Marshal and the Medical Director.

"On the left of the picture is seen a portion of the small Roman Catholic Church—the only place of worship at Old Point. Although very small, and nothing but a frame structure, it exhibits considerable architectural skill in the design, especially the interior, which, with its open timber roof, stained glass windows, and tasteful altar furnishings, produces a picturesque and striking effect that one would scarcely expect from so simple an exterior. In the distance, between this church and the Hygeia Hotel, may be discerned a portion of the fort and two of those ominous-looking black tubes with which the ramparts are bristling."


ON this page we publish a portrait of COLONEL FLETCHER WEBSTER, of the Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment, who was lately killed in battle in Virginia. The Twelfth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, which he led, he was mainly instrumental in raising and organizing. The regiment, which has always been known as the Webster regiment, was among the earliest to rally at the first call of the President for three years' volunteers, and for some little time was stationed at Fort Warren, Boston harbor; but after the battle of Bull Run it was sent to Washington, and organized in the Grand Army of the Potomac, in the fifth army corps, then under General Banks. Colonel Webster was the first and only surviving son of the late Hon. Daniel Webster, and was, when he died, the senior Colonel of the First Brigade of the First Division of the army corps of the Army of Virginia, commanded by General Banks. Colonel Webster had always been considered a good officer, but was also remarkable for his quiet, unambitious temper; and although much with his father during his political career, he was never himself a candidate for public station. He was, however, appointed Secretary of Legation to Mr. Caleb Cushing, on the Chinese embassy of 1842, and held a position during the administrations of Presidents Pierce and Buchanan in the Custom-house at Boston. Colonel Webster was about fifty years of age, and leaves a wife and children.

[Entered according to Act of Congress, in the Year 1862, by Harper & Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.]





Printed from the Manuscript and early Proof-sheets purchased by the Proprietors of "Harper's Weekly."


IF Captain Wragge could have looked into Mrs. Lecount's room while he stood on the parade watching the light in her window, he would have seen the housekeeper sitting absorbed in meditation over a worthless little morsel of brown stuff which lay on her toilet-table.

However exasperating to herself the conclusion might be, Mrs. Lecount could not fail to see that she had been thus far met and baffled successfully at every point. What was she to do next? If she sent for Mr. Pendril, when he came to Aldborough (with only a few hours spared from his business at her disposal) what definite course would there be for him to follow? If she showed Mr. Noel Vanstone the original letter from which her note had been copied, he

would apply instantly to the writer for an explanation — would expose the fabricated story by which Mrs. Lecount had succeeded in imposing on Miss Garth; and would in any event still declare, on the evidence of his own eyes, that the test by the marks on the neck had utterly failed. Miss Vanstone the elder, whose unexpected presence at Aldborough might have done wonders—whose voice in the hall at North Shingles, even if she had been admitted no farther, might have reached her sister's ears, and led to instant results—Miss Vanstone the elder was out of the country, and was not likely to return for a month at least. Look as anxiously as Mrs. Lecount might along the course which she had hitherto followed, she failed to see her way through the accumulated obstacles which now barred her advance.

Other women in this position might have waited until circumstances altered and helped them. Mrs. Lecount boldly retraced her steps, and determined to find her way to her end in a new direction. Resigning for the present all further attempt to prove that the false Miss Bygrave was the true Magdalen Vanstone, she resolved to narrow the range of her next efforts, to leave the actual question of Magdalen's identity untouched, and to rest satisfied with convincing her master of this simple fact, that the young lady who was charming him at North Shingles and the disguised woman who had terrified him in Vauxhall Walk were one and the same person.

The means of effecting this new object were, to all appearance, far less easy of attainment than the means of effecting the object which Mrs. Lecount had just resigned. Here no help was to be expected from others—no ostensibly benevolent motives could be put forward as a blind —no appeal could be made to Mr. Pendril or to Miss Garth. Here the housekeeper's only chance of success depended, in the first place, on her being able to effect a stolen entrance into the house; and, in the second place, on her ability to discover whether that memorable alpaca dress from which she had secretly cut the fragment of stuff happened to form part of Miss Bygrave's wardrobe.

Taking the difficulties now before her in their order as they occurred, Mrs. Lecount first resolved to devote the next few days to watching the habits of the inmates of North Shingles from early in the morning to late at night, and to testing the capacity of the one servant in the house to resist the temptation of a bribe. Assuming that results proved successful, and that, either by money or by stratagem, she gained admission to North Shingles (without the knowledge of Mr. Bygrave or his niece), she turned next to the second difficulty of the two—the difficulty of obtaining access to Miss Bygrave's wardrobe.

If the servant proved corruptible, all obstacles in this direction might be considered as removed beforehand. But if the servant proved honest, the new problem was no easy one to solve.

Long and careful consideration of the question led the housekeeper at last to the bold resolution of obtaining an interview—if the servant failed her—with Mrs. Bygrave herself. What was the true cause of this lady's mysterious seclusion? Was she a person of the strictest and the most inconvenient integrity? or a person who could not be depended on to preserve a secret? or a person who was as artful as Mr. Bygrave himself, and who was kept in reserve to forward the object of some new deception which was yet to come? In the first two cases Mrs. Lecount could trust in her own powers of dissimulation, and in the results which they might achieve. In the last case (if no other end was

gained) it might be of vital importance to her to discover an enemy hidden in the dark. In any event, she determined to run the risk. Of the three chances in her favor on which she had reckoned at the outset of the struggle — the chance of entrapping Magdalen by word of mouth, the chance of entrapping her by the help of her friends, and the chance of entrapping her by means of Mrs. Bygrave—two had been tried, and two had failed. The third remained to be tested yet, and the third might succeed.

So the captain's enemy plotted against him in the privacy of her own chamber, while the captain watched the light in her window from the beach outside.


Before breakfast the next morning Captain Wragge posted the forged letter to Zurich with his own hand. He went back to North Shingles with his mind not quite decided on the course to take with Mrs. Lecount during the all-important interval of the next ten days.

Greatly to his surprise, his doubts on this point were abruptly decided, on his return to the house, by Magdalen herself.

He found her waiting for him in the room where the breakfast was laid. She was walking restlessly to and fro, with her head drooping on her bosom, and her hair hanging disordered over her shoulders. The moment she looked up, on his entrance, the captain felt the fear which Mrs. Wragge had felt before him—the fear that her mind would be struck prostrate again, as it

had been struck once already, when Frank's letter reached her in Vauxhall Walk.

"Is he coming again to-day?" she asked, pushing away from her the chair which Captain Wragge offered, with such violence that she threw it on the floor.

"Yes," said the captain, wisely answering her in the fewest words. "He is coining at two o'clock."

"Take me away!" she exclaimed, tossing her hair back wildly from her face. "Take me away before he comes. I can't get over the horror of marrying him while I am in this hateful place; take me somewhere where I can forget it, or I shall go mad! Give me two days' rest—two days out of sight of that horrible sea—two days out of prison in this horrible house—two days any where in the wide world, away from Aldborough. I'll come back with you! I'll go through with it to the end! Only give me two days' escape from that man and every thing belonging to him! Do you hear, you villain?" she cried, seizing his arm, and shaking it in it frenzy of passion—"I have been tortured enough —I can bear it no longer!"

There was but one way of quieting her, and the captain instantly took it.

"If you will try to control yourself," he said, "you shall leave Aldborough in an hour's time." She dropped his arm, and leaned back heavily against the wall behind her.

"I'll try," she answered, struggling for breath, but looking at him less wildly. "You sha'n't complain of me, if I can help it." She attempted confusedly to take her handkerchief from her apron pocket, and failed to find it. The captain took it out for her. Her eyes softened, and she drew her breath more freely as she received the handkerchief from him. "You are a kinder man than I thought you were," she said; "I am sorry I spoke so passionately to you just now —I am very, very sorry." The tears stole into her eyes, and she offered him her hand with the native grace and gentleness of happier days. "Be friends with me again," she said, pleadingly. "I'm only a girl, Captain Wragge—I'm only a girl!"

He took her hand in silence, patted it for a moment, and then opened the door for her to go back to her own room again. There was genuine regret in his face as he showed her that trifling attention. He was a vagabond and a cheat; he had lived a mean, shuffling, degraded life; but he was human, and she had found her way to the lost sympathies in him which not even the self-profanation of a swindler's existence could wholly destroy. "Damn the breakfast!" he said, when the servant came in for her orders. "Go to the inn directly, and say I want a carriage and pair at the door in an hour's time." He went out into the passage, still chafing under a sense of mental disturbance which was new to him, and shouted to his wife more fiercely than ever: "Pack up what we want for a week's absence, and be ready in half an hour!" Having issued those directions, he returned to the breakfast-room, and looked at the half-spread table with an impatient wonder at his disinclination to do justice to his own meal. "She has rubbed off the edge of my appetite," he said to himself, with a forced laugh. " I'll try a cigar, and a turn in the fresh air."

If he had been twenty years younger those remedies might have failed him. But where is the man to be found whose internal policy succumbs to revolution when that man is on the wrong side of fifty? Exercise and change of place gave the captain back into the possession of himself. He recovered the lost sense of the flavor of his cigar, and recalled his wandering attention to the question of his approaching absence from Aldborough. A few minutes' consideration satisfied his mind that Magdalen's outbreak had forced him to take the course of all


Colonel Fletcher Webster




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