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Civil War Harper's Weekly, April 18, 1863

This site makes all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil war available on line for your study and research. These newspapers offer in depth reporting on the War by eye-witnesses to all the events.

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Vicksburg Blockade

Vicksburg Blockade

Robert Browning Poem

Robert Browning Poem

Richmond Riot

Richmond Riot

Army of the Potomac

Army of the Potomac Headquarters

Army Mail

Army Mail



Harbor Defense

Port Hudson

Battle of Port Hudson



Bombardment of Port Hudson

Bombardment of Port Hudson









[APRIL 18, 1863.





WE publish on this page a picture of a new TORPEDO lately picked up in the Mississippi by the Essex. The New Orleans Era thus describes it:

We have before noticed the fact that the iron-clad Essex has been engaged in picking up torpedoes and other civilized inventions for blowing up our gun-boats in the Mississippi. We have information that another of these infernal machines has just been discovered and safely taken out of the water above Baton Rouge.

This torpedo is said to have been quite different from any of the others taken up. It was made to drift with the current, and was attached to a log, with a bale of cotton placed in a conspicuous position, for the supposed purpose of attracting the attention of the gun-boats. It was so contrived that it would, on being touched, explode by means of machinery, something similar to the works of a clock. A hammer was fixed to strike the fuse, setting fire to the powder, of which there was about 250 pounds.

This torpedo is now on board of one of our war vessels, where it is an object of curiosity, not unmixed with contempt, to our sailors, who do not recognize it as at all in the regular line of fair stand-up, give-and-take naval fighting.


STRETCHED at full length before the most magnificent of all the fires, with a pleasant sense of warmth diffusing itself from the soles of the feet along the whole person, a party of us (the First New Jersey Cavalry) lay with a lazy enjoyment of the heat, and a feeling of satisfaction with our supper. Each was drawing upon his pipe, and exhaling a cloud of fragrant smoke, except the chief proprietor of the establishment, the Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment. I do not think that there can be found a pleasanter fellow for a companion during the long evening lounge around a camp-fire than B—. Though never out of the United States, he has been, Hibernianly speaking, a great deal in them, and has anecdotes associated with almost every place which becomes prominent in connection with the present war. But what I enjoy the most is to set him talking about some of his adventures since he has been with us, and extract all those details which are not obtainable in a second-hand report. As he seems to enjoy the revival in his memory of these former scenes as much as we do to whom they are fresh, it is no difficult task to start him on a narration.

The talk began by some remark upon the character of the country around us, which our regiment had scouted in the spring preceding. There was a little difference of opinion about the bend in the river, and whether our picket line there might not be improved. Captain G— thought that it might, and appealed to the Colonel. "I think not," was the reply. "I had to study the shore there pretty closely last spring to find a place where I could cross, and the pickets now cover, as far as possible, every practicable ferry. Unless we had more men I could not suggest any improvement."

"Why," said L—, "what were you looking for a crossing here for? W— never meant to take Richmond on his own hook, just as he went at Jackson's army afterward at Harrisonburg, did he?"

"No; this was a little affair of my own, when we bagged a party of rebel couriers and brought in some horses—among others that nice pair of Bailey Peyton mares that I had last summer."

" I remember hearing something about that when I rejoined near Seddon's; but we were all off on detached service just then, and I never heard the particulars of the affair, nor knew where it took place. How did you manage to get to them without their taking wing?"

"It is rather a long story for a man to tell about himself," responded B—.

" No matter," I put in; "we are all smokers, and will be very grateful if you will take our share of the talk out of our mouths. So begin at the beginning, and we will take the story, as an artist

might now take you, at full length." The Colonel stretched himself into a comfortable position, and began:

"You all know how the contrabands began to flock in to us as soon as we came down from Falmouth to Port Conway. It was a sort of second Exodus, slightly differing from the first, especially as to color and smell. They managed to get to us, not only from down the neck, but also from across the river—one party bringing in valuable horses, and the others tolerably good information. So we welcomed them all, and sent them on toward the North Pole rejoicing. One of the fellows from the other side, Humphrey, who was with Colonel W— for some time afterward, seemed to have come off rather against his will. I got into a talk with him, and found out that his master lived about ten or twelve miles back from the river. He might have been staying there to this time, perhaps, if the neighbors had not taken the alarm at losing so many of their servants. They had arranged with the rebel general, therefore, to assemble themselves and bring all their slaves to a certain place, where a small cavalry post had been established. The general was to send a force to guard them until they got within his lines, when they were to be taken to work on the Richmond fortifications, or else sold South. This kind of plan always gets wind in some way, and many of the negroes took the alarm. Among others Humphrey very sensibly concluded that, if he had to leave home, he would prefer himself to decide the direction of his journey; and he consequently stole off by night, escaping across the river to us. Now his casual allusion to this post stuck fast in my mind, and I managed to make him describe it to me. From what he said I judged that it did not connect with any others in the neighborhood, but was there merely for purposes of observation. So it was just possible that I might steal upon them, catch most of them, and be back before there could be time for a force to come down upon us in turn. I began to hunger after the capture, and asked Humphrey whether he could guide a party through the country at night to the house where they staid. The darkey's face lit up with unexpected intelligence and animation at the question; and when he declared not only his ability but his willingness to do so, I felt that I could rely on him. I went straight up to the house and spoke to the Colonel. It was when head-quarters were at Powhatan Hill. I believe that W— was sorry that he was not a captain instead of regimental commander. If he had been he would certainly have tried to take the affair out of my hands. As it was, he gave me plenty of counsel and warning, but consented to my taking a party of volunteers and crossing the river that night. It rained hard enough at nightfall to quell the courage of a good many of those who were willing enough in the afternoon; and I thought it darker than it had ever seemed before as our little party stole quietly out of camp before tattoo, and felt our way down to the river. In a leaky boat, two at a time, we managed to cross, the noise of the skiff in the water sounding to our ears all the time as if it must be audible at least five miles; and just as taps blew, dismissing the rest of the regiment to bed, we started to leave it, perhaps forever. We had, of course, left spurs and sabres behind on such an expedition; but all of my men had their revolvers and carbines. We were seventeen whites, and had three negroes as guides. Humphrey led the advance, I following immediately, and only keeping him in sight from his wearing a light-colored linsey coat. How it happened that some of the men did not get lost in the darkness I can not understand; for I did not hear a whisper sometimes for miles together, and only rarely the splash of a footfall in a puddle, indicating that the boys were keeping closely in my rear. I believe that, with their present recklessness, some of them would have straggled; but danger was then new to them, and they were nervously alive to every risk. As we were plodding along through heavy fields, over plantation-roads, and across by-paths,

feeling very anxiously and to a slight degree scared —at least I did—the party whom we were going to surprise was much more agreeably occupied. They were all young men of the neighborhood, who had gone in a body from a local cavalry company into the Confederate service. So they were rather petted and made much of by the families around, especially by the young ladies. The sergeant had been particularly attracted by a daughter of Dr. Golding, the gentleman at whose place the party was posted; but whether that was the cause or the effect of his selecting that locality I am unable to tell. The afternoon of our march he had told the young lady that he was going to ride down and take a look at the Yankees, laughingly making her commandant of the post during his absence. She assumed at least all the authority appropriate to the dignity, commanding him to report at a certain hour, or suffer the pains and penalties due to disobedience. The delinquent sergeant was half an hour behind his time. After enduring a severe reprimand he was placed in arrest and close confinement within the parlor, and sentenced to suffer whist, singing, and supper until the proper authority should permit his release. His imprisonment was lightened, however, by the society of the lady herself, her friends, and a select detail from his squad. In spite of the storm without, all was bright and gay within; and a good many small jokes were made about the Yankees, ten miles off across the river. At last, as the hands of the clock drew round toward twelve, the merry party broke up, the last words of Miss Golding being a jocular warning to take care or the Yankees would catch them. It was answered by a defiant laugh, and the sergeant retired with his men to their quarters in an adjoining office. There was a formal watch kept; but, at such a distance from the enemy, the young men had grown very careless. A man was placed on a hill a little distance off, another outside the house itself, and their horses were picketed somewhere within their reach. On this occasion the pleasure of the evening probably made the reliefs oblivious of their duty, and that at the very critical moment. Certain it is that the guard outside the door came in and lay down without any one taking his place, and the outpost, after staying beyond his hour, came in to see why he was not relieved.

"Now, having described the situation of the enemy, I shall go back to the history of my own party. We had left camp at about eight o'clock, and hour after hour marched slowly on under the guidance of the negroes, unable of ourselves to tell the direction in which we were traveling. We became more and more cautious and watchful as we advanced, though we had not heard a sound of life around us. Suddenly the guide stopped, taking a crouching attitude. We all found ourselves involuntarily doing the same, though I suppose each was half unconscious that his neighbor was doing so. Presently I could hear footsteps advancing along the path. As we did not wish to meet any one, we of course stole aside as noiselessly as possible, and yielded the right of way. There were about half a dozen persons in the party, but I could not tell whether they were negroes or a patrol. Whoever they were we escaped their notice, and at once resumed our course. At last we emerged from a wooded hollow, and saw the vague outline of a building in a little denser black than the sky behind it. 'All in dar,' whispered Humphrey, pointing to a particular part of the house. 'Is there any fence or hedge between here and there?' I inquired, 'or is the track clear?' 'Right up dar, straight up, maussa,' he responded, so excited that I believe he did not comprehend the question. 'Does the door open into a room or into a passage?' was my next question. 'Right in dar, maussa; you jump right on 'em,' was his answer, as he kept still pointing to the place. So I posted my men, and then my orderly and I headed two parties in a rush for the opposite sides of the building. Just as I had got to the top of my speed I felt a violent blow upon my chest which almost staggered me. I put out my hand and touched a picket fence. With one leap I was over it, and at the door. My men were delayed by trying to climb the fence slowly. Just as I touched the door it was opened from within, and I was face to face with a gray back. Before I could even say Surrender! he had sprung back, run along the passage, and dashed through a side door. For a moment I was bewildered by finding the passage where I expected the room, but recovering myself I followed in time to see him making for a pile of arms. 'Surrender!' shouted I; and without my really meaning it my pistol went off. He spun round, saying, 'You have shot me, Sir;' but I did not have time to attend to him, for all around the room were his comrades lying down. I sprang at the nearest, had my knee on him, my breast on another, and my pistol at the head of a third at the same instant. Just then my men got round to the window, and seeing me apparently struggling with numbers, let fly a couple of shots. Unfortunately both were fatal, one man being killed, and another mortally wounded. My man only had a bullet through his arm. Of course the rebels immediately surrendered, and we found that the party consisted of seven. The wounded man was a nephew of Dr. Golding, and had been one of the party in the parlor. I immediately sent a message to Dr. Golding requesting him to come and attend upon his wounded nephew. At the same moment a series of most piercing shrieks rang out from the main building, each woman doing screaming enough for six. I sent a second envoy to the Doctor, informing him that if he did not come at once I should have to bring him, together with a polite request for the cessation of that very loud and disagreeable noise. Both messages were effectual. We had the arm of the slightly wounded prisoner dressed at once; and while some of my men found and saddled the horses of the party, the rest of us assisted in ministering to young Broadus, who, as a short inspection proved, was dying. It was the first time that we had looked upon the results of our work, and it made us very melancholy to contemplate

the agony of that fine young fellow. Some of my men almost cried. But we did not have time to yield to any sentiments of pity or sorrow. We were ten miles from the river, with an active enemy not so very far off. So, guarding our five prisoners, and bringing off their five horses, we started on our return along the self-same road. We moved, though, much faster on the way back, the cause of which you may perhaps comprehend; and as we mounted the hill commanding the river we heard the cheerful notes of our bugles sounding out reveille. There in the clear dawn we could catch sight of some of our men waiting anxiously by the boat. It soon came across to us, and swimming the horses, we made our way into camp, feeling very proud of our expedition and its fruits.—And now, who is going with me to visit the pickets?"


THERE is a storm gathering yonder over the Beacon Hill; the air is heavy with thunder. Surely, Richard, it were better even now to let your journey rest until to-morrow."

The tall, bronzed knight, standing booted and spurred, with his hand upon his horse's mane, turned to look with a merry smile in the fair, anxious face of the lady by his side.

"And if the storm should come, do you think, my sweet wife, that Dick Courthope has never ridden through wind and rain before, or that, for fear of a wetting, I could break my pledge to meet Philip Orme this night in Chester? No, no. Only let me find you watching for me here at noon tomorrow, with those same pink cheeks and bright eyes, and I shall reck little whether I ride in sunshine or in shower. So now, dear one, farewell! and may God bless you!" and springing into the saddle, the good knight waved a last adieu, and trotted away down the long avenue.

His young wife's blue eyes followed his retreating figure with a wistful gaze until he halted at the great iron gates, and passing through, was hidden from her view; then slowly turning, she remounted the stone steps that led up to the door of Ashurst Manor-house. The gloomy red-brick walls seemed to frown upon her as she entered, the stained-glass window in the hall threw a purple tint upon her face, and made it almost ghastly, and the oak floor gave back a hollow echo to her tread. Just then a door at the further end of the hall was softly opened, and Marston, the old butler, advanced toward her. Old he was in service, for he had lived for more than thirty years at Ashurst Manor, at first the page and play-fellow, then the confidential servant and the friend of his master, Sir Richard; yet not old in years, for he was under fifty, his black hair was still untouched with gray, and there were few wrinkles in his hard, keen face. He stopped near Lady Courthope, glanced quickly at her, hesitated a moment, and then said, in a respectful but constrained tone: "Surely, my lady, Sir Richard will not ride to Chester on such a day as this?"

The lady looked up as though surprised at his addressing her. "Yes," she said, "he has just started. He laughs at the weather; but I—"

"There will be little cause to laugh if the storm comes, if the river is swollen!" Marston exclaimed, abruptly. "You will see him back yet, my lady, ere night."

"Nay, he must needs be in Chester this evening," Lady Courthope made answer, as, stifling a sigh, she passed on to the drawing-room.

The butler looked after her. "She would have us believe she cares for him, forsooth! He believes it. He has only eyes and thoughts for her; old friends, old times, are all forgotten now. Once he would have told me about this Chester journey; but now that waxen doll hears all his plans, and hardly deigns to speak of them to me. But I have learned all I cared to know—Sir Richard must be in Chester this night."

In the long, low drawing-room the twilight had already set in, though it was but four o'clock on a November afternoon; the huge fire had burned low, and the heap of glowing fagots shed a weird light on the mirrors and pictures on the walls, while the high-backed chairs and carved tables cast strange, uncouth shadows all around, as the lady made her way to the cushioned window-seat, and gazed out on the stormy sky. "He rides fast; his horse is sure-footed; the distance is not great," she murmured to herself. "Why is this dread upon me, this terrible foreboding of some coming evil?" She looked back into the darkening room, and started as a half-burned log fell with a crash upon the hearth. A longing came over her to hear again her husband's blithe voice, to see his fond glance, to have him there beside her; and then gradually her thoughts wandered away from this sombre old mansion to another, far away at Kensington, alive with gay young voices, smiling faces, and here her voice, her face had, only eight months since, been the gayest and the brightest; for she had been a cherished daughter of that house until Sir Richard Courthope wooed and won her, and brought her here to be the mistress of his Cheshire home. Tenderly she recalled the young brothers and sisters, the loving parents of her happy maiden days, and wondered if they yet missed her, and might perhaps be speaking of her even then; till all at once her fancy took another turn, and she felt as though her fond remembrances were treason to the absent husband, who was far dearer to her than any of that merry party. She would shake off this strange sadness which had crept upon her. With a sudden impulse she sprang up, stirred the glowing embers into a blaze, and sitting down beside her harpsichord, began a low, soft air; then her mood changed, and the full notes of some martial tune rang out into the room. Once she paused when Marston entered, bearing the tall, silver candlesticks; and as the music died away she heard the beating of the rain against the casement, and the howling of the wind among the trees. A minute she listened, then her fingers touched the keys again. "The storm has come, my lady." It was

Torpedo Mechanism




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