Fall of Vicksburg

 

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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 1, 1863

This site features our extensive collection of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. Browse through these newspapers, and enjoy the eye-witness illustrations, reports of the war, and commentary by people who saw the events unfold. Unique perspective is available on these priceless pages.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to the page of interest)

 

Capture of Vicksburg

Capture of Vicksburg

New York Riot

New York Riot

Morgan's Raid

Morgan's Ohio Raid

Draft Riots

Draft Riots

Rioting

Rioting

Fall of Vicksburg

Fall of Vicksburg

Vicksburg Levee

Vicksburg Levee

Riots in New York

Riots in New York

New York Draft Riot

New York Draft Riots

Surrender of Vicksburg

Surrender of Vicksburg

Draft Cartoon

Draft Cartoon

 

 

 

 

 

AUGUST 1, 1863.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

487

bequeathing to Lettice Brown, formerly of Moorfield (he had incidentally, as it were, asked her the name of her native place the very morning she took leave of him), the bulk of his fortune, and his house at' Bayswater, with its plate and furniture. The testator stated that all his relations were distant in degree, and in affluent circumstances, and that he made this disposition of his property, he being in sound mind, as a proof of his respect and esteem for the said Lettice Brown, in further testimony of which he left the legacy without limitation or reservation, beyond the necessary legacy duty, which the lawyer took the opportunity to apprise her it was her business to pay.

Letty read the communication three times before she admitted the importance of its contents and laid them to heart; and the first thing she did after she knew that she was an heiress—a great heiress for Letty's antecedents—and that George Ashe was rich and able to lead a life of leisure, and indulge his tastes, was to sit down, with the tears rolling down her cheeks, making them wan in their paleness—and Letty seldom cried—and to pray God that He would enable her and her husband to bear their unexpected and unexampled prosperity. It was not that Letty was narrow-minded, or superstitious, or childish, and so incapable of comprehending riches, but because she fathomed not only their advantages and benefits, but their temptations and trials, both with judgment and sensibility; and the first abrupt contemplation overcame her, sitting there crying and shaking, half with pleasure, half with pain, trying to recall her stiff eccentric benefactor, trying to think of telling George, and of what he would feel and say. Letty was roused by her turtle, accustomed to leave his cage and fly to her shoulder, coming softly to his resting-place, and pressing his silver-gray and cinnamon-brown plumage against her wet cheek, and a touch of a common natural object is a great boon sometimes.

The exultation, the triumph, the delirium of pride and joy were all for George Ashe, when he arrived at last, and was gravely, almost diffidently, informed of the Aladdin's lamp that had been handed in at his door. It was not that George was mercenary, but he had all the vehement impulses which were calm in Letty. There was no end to his brilliant dreams. The poor Colonel's bank-notes and bonds might have had the lustre of Aladdin's charmed stones, the hard, glittering fruit of his unnatural, artificial trees; Bayswater might have been Paradise, considering how the simple fellow, with his poetic imagination, brought to bear on his prosaic luck plans regarding them. It took all the influence of Letty's controlling power to restrain him. She was not without fear at his fever, though it was not in her nature to show her fear. She was a woman who could be modestly silent alike in trepidation and mortification, in pain of body and anguish of mind.

"If I were you, George, I would go to the factory as usual," proposed Letty, earnestly. "People will not believe at first in our fortune; I can scarcely believe in it myself. There may be some obstacle yet of which we are not aware, though the lawyer speaks fair. It is silly to care too much for our neighbors' opinions; but I should not like them to say that we were lifted clean off our feet before we were sure of a higher perch, too," added Letty, with a faint smile, stroking her turtle.

This young woman had a wholesome regard for public opinion, and a tolerable aversion to ridicule. George Ashe had sufficient discretion to enable him to see the merit of Letty's counsel. He compelled himself to attend the factory and keep accounts, while he was exchanging momentous letters with the London lawyer, until Letty herself observed that the effort was so painful, and the oversights and blunders he committed so flagrant and absurd, that she herself freed him from the obligation before he was dismissed in disgust by his employers. Then he wandered about aimlessly, could not resist taking all sorts of people into his confidence, until the rumor spread to circles which had never heard of this humble young couple; then he built castles in the air and pulled them down again, overturned all their old domestic arrangements, and neglected their household rules, until Letty learned by experience that the early days of moneyed consequence are desultory and disagreeable.

But the correspondence with the lawyer was very plain sailing.

Colonel Annesley's will was undoubtedly formal and legal—not a question but the old soldier had died in his sound mind, and no opposition would be made by his cousins, whatever their private feelings. Mr. and Mrs. Ashe, whose most obedient servant the lawyer was, literally and figuratively had only to go up to London and take possession.

Letty drew a long breath; her husband was not ruined by a false expectation; now she might honestly accept the congratulations poured upon her by a crowd of strangers, suddenly and not insincerely grown friendly. Their hearts were warmed by the liberality of fortune to the Ashes: who knew but his and her turn might come next? Now Letty might make use of that letter of credit at the banker's, the responsibility of whose possession had impressed her so seriously; and Letty went out and was as foolish as any other dear woman, committed the enormity of buying a ten-pound shawl for herself and a flowing dressing-gown for George Ashe. Letty had a fancy for expensive shawls, and an innocent, ancient ambition to see George in a flowing dressing-gown; she had dreamed many a quaint dream of him in her working days, attired in the slippered ease and old-fashioned majestic gown and student's cap in the portraits of the poets, whose works he picked up at book-stalls, before she had the least acquaintance with these great men and their worries and troubles.

That shawl and that dressing-gown happened to be nearly the sole luxuries of her fortune on which Letty put her hands.

The zealous lawyer pressed on Mr. and Mrs. Ashe to come up to town and satisfy themselves with regard to their legacy; he even hinted at their immediately occupying the house at Bayswater,

and seeing something of the season. Letty recoiled in horror from this extravagance, considering their late position; but when she urged fresh delay and consideration, woman-like, exaggerating her caution till it verged on cowardice, George Ashe proposed to go up to town alone and receive and invest their funds. Letty objected hastily and strongly to this solitary expedition, and instanced that, with a very little more time and trouble, she could accompany him. It would not do. George was affronted, restive, unmanageable, and he was quite ready to throw out hints that Letty was looking upon herself as an heiress, was wishing to act upon her heiressship, to establish her independence of him, or at least to imply his subordination to her.

Letty was really wounded. It was the first unjust, ungenerous treatment she had experienced from George Ashe. The fact was he was rapidly getting captious and overbearing. It was as if the golden mist of his imagination was converted into clouds of dim smoke, blinding and confounding him. He was a fine fellow, but he could not stand his sudden rise in the world; his temper and principles were tottering under it.

Letty settled with herself that it was better George Ashe should go up to London alone. There was delicacy in this, and there was a little stubbornness. Any way it was the first parting between those who had been made one flesh; and it had not been without previous roots of bitterness and seeds of disunion. You may feel for poor Letty, with her womanly sentiments all the more swelling in her throat and tightening her breast, because it was a strong heart which gave them birth.

Letty knew what loneliness was after she had succeeded to her fortune, and was left alone in the manufacturing town. Her husband was up in that London, whose vastness and unebbing tide of humanity oppressed her even to think of. The fortune he claimed appeared a drop in the bucket of its millions, and yet that drop so lured him that it divided him effectually from her, from what looked now the peaceful, happy days of their past, and from all they had so cheerfully anticipated in the hopeful struggles of their future. Surely human nature should have been above such fluctuations, such oblivion!

Letty knew what it was to grow haggard in her matronly beauty, and heart-weary as one of the chosen few, the favorites of Fortune, to whom the envy of the world was mockery in the canker at the root of the prosperity, while they covered over the sore with decent reticence. There were gossiping, suspicious eyes upon her too; but Letty had not even required to hear in her travels the story of the lioness without the tongue. Yet the poor Colonel had meant to crown her with his favor; and Letty would no more reproach his ghost with framing for her a crown of thorns than she would fling away her turtle because its meek, tenderly-prolonged cooings contrasted broadly with those proud, brief letters from London.

You have heard of a man going straight to destruction. George Ashe went far to it, without turning to look behind him. He fell from his naturally lofty principles and high standard in an incredibly, mournfully, humiliatingly short space of time. I suppose it was in the mystery of evil. The young man was green—green in his rare rise in life; and there were gray-beards who thought it no shame to rob and to fool him. There are thieves for men to fall among in other localities than that between Jerusalem and Jericho. There are men of business to excuse themselves for making their own of their client, though it should be by subduing and deteriorating those notorious geese, natural geniuses. There are men of wit who reckon "spoons" fair game in society, however the "spoons" may be battered in the process. In this case there were no friends to interfere, to render the conquest less complete. Letty heard of George Ashe's wild purchases and injurious excesses, and wrung her hands and reproached herself that she had not gone with him or followed him to that London which, she said to herself, in an agony of defense of the culprit, was drunk with its own snares and sins. Why had she been so selfish, so mad, in her pride? and now it was too late, when he only regarded her entreaties to laugh at them and despise them, and to forbid her joining him. Poor, great-hearted, devoted Letty, as if a woman's husband could ever, except in an extraordinary case, be treated with profit as her baby.

Months have passed, and Letty sat alone one night, comfortless, in her little sitting-room, which looked mean even in her own eyes nowadays, pondering on her cares. A ring came to the bell—and surely Letty should know that ring—but alas! she had undergone so many false starts that she dared not trust her heart. She went to the door, trembling, opened it, recognized her husband, and fell upon his breast. She had him again, and she clung to him, without another thought. She brought him into the parlor, still clasping his arm, though he returned her caress mechanically, and only spoke to her by a muttered greeting. It was autumn and stormy weather, and he looked miserably cold and knocked up. She lit a fire for him, kneeling down and puffing at the match in the laid wood with all her might, drew his chair before it, and brought him her own tea and toast, till something better could be prepared for him. She did not ask him why he had come without announcing his arrival; why he had traveled in a summer coat, and without wrap or luggage, like an adventurer, or a man flying from his enemies. She put away every thought but that of his presence, and built herself up in it till her eyes shone like stars, and her cheeks bloomed like blush-roses. He saw it, and rose up with a bitter cry: "Letty, I have brought you back nothing. I have wasted it all. I have only brought back my miserable self."

"You have brought back yourself, George," repeated Letty, in her quiet accents of deep, strong fidelity, in which there was full forgiveness, and under which there throbbed and thrilled such hidden pulses of fondness as only beat in such strong

and faithful beings. "You have brought back yourself; and what could you bring to me like yourself? We will be as we were before, George, How gladly we will forget what has come between, except as a warning of evils to be avoided forever!'

I am glad that Letty was not repaid by signal ingratitude and a recurrence of the offense. George Ashe was not such an ingrate. He was filled with the forbidden fruit of his folly, and found his teeth too much set on edge for him to crave to bite the apple of knowledge again. He had no relapse, though he could not escape a rebound. The sweet-natured, enthusiastic man had taken leaven into his composition which leavened the whole lump. He had been to a school where he was not only instructed but inoculated in coldness, skepticism, and sarcasm.

George Ashe had spent an incredible amount of worldly substance, but he was not so penniless as, in his despair, he had represented himself. From the fragments of Letty's legacy enough was saved to buy a small farm to maintain the couple. Letty and George went to that little farm with its pretty northern name of the Hollens, and there practiced, with economy, being yeomen, pastoral poets and patriarchs. Well, what would you have? It would have been a great independence to them once on a day; and at least one of them knew both how to be abased and how to abound, and the hardest feat of all, how to curb high-vaulting imaginations within their old narrow bounds. There the Ashes were cordially visited by the Bridgewaters and other friends; and there they lived to secure the regard of their world, though not in the same degree. He was a wonderful fellow, no doubt, well educated at last, even accomplished, liberal, friendly; but he was uncertain, a little morbid, self-conscious, crotchety. And Letty was such a noble-hearted woman, he was so well off with her, as he was thoroughly aware in every respect; she was so tranquil in her comparative exaltation, so serene under her losses, so unpretendingly exact and honorable in all her duties, so genial in her quiet way, with such a lovable inclination to plants and animals and other people's children besides her own. People said she was a born lady, that mistress of the Hollens. That was small praise: say rather hers was a strong, pure heart, early anchored in still, profound faith in goodness and God.

THE FALL OF VICKSBURG.

WE devote several pages this week to the surrender of Vicksburg—the most important event, in some respects, of the whole war.

On page 481 will be found two pictures illustrating

THE NEGOTIATIONS FOR SURRENDER.

Mr. Davis writes:

"HEAD-QUARTERS MAJOR-GENERAL McPHERSON,

July 3, 1863.

"The eyes of the gallant men in the rifle-pits in front of the Division of General A. J. Smith have been gladdened by the long-expected flag of truce that is, we hope, to close this eventful siege.

"The officers, General Bowen and Colonel Montgomery, were received by the 'officer of the day' for the Division, Captain Joseph H. Green, of the Twenty-third Wisconsin Regiment, and by him conducted to the head-quarters of General Burbridge, Captain Green having first taken the precaution to blindfold the officers. At the quarters of General Burbridge, the General, who has been quite ill for some days, received them, with an apology for his inability to rise from his couch. The handkerchiefs were soon removed, and the message of which they were bearers was sent to General Grant, who returned word that he would meet General Pemberton at three o'clock in the afternoon, when the officers took their departure, blindfolded as before, walking out to the lines.

"At three o'clock this afternoon the meeting of Generals Grant and Pemberton took place near the rebel work Fort Hill.

"After a conference of some two hours, in the most quiet and courteous mariner, the two officers parted with a hand-shake that seemed most friendly.

"Quietly seated upon the grassy slope near the rebel works, one could only look with the greatest interest upon the scene.

"Meantime a conference was being had near by by Generals McPherson and Smith and General Bowen and Colonel Montgomery, the officers of the Generals' staffs being en groupe."

On pages 488 and 489 will be found

"THE SURRENDER OF VICKSBURG.

"HEAD-QUARTERS OF MAJOR-GENERAL M'PHERSON,

July 4, 1863.

"This morning at ten o'clock the army under Lieutenant-General Pemberton marched out of their works and stacked arms and colors.

"So close were our saps to the rebel works that in many instances the arms were stacked in our trenches. The scene sketched shows the key to the rebel position—Fort Hill, with which the readers of the 'Journal of Civilization' must by this time be rather familiar.

"While the arms were being stacked General Grant with his staff rode past to enter the city; while upon the parapet of Fort Hill stood Pemberton, Hebert, Taylor, and other officers. It is, of course, impossible to show more than a small portion of the act of surrender, as each regiment stacked arms in front of the position they had held so gallantly during the siege, the works extending for nearly nine miles."

On page 492 we give

"ARRIVAL OF THE NAVAL FORCE, UNDER ADMIRAL PORTER, AT THE VICKSBURG LEVEE ON THE MORNING OF THE FOURTH OF JULY.

"HEAD-QUARTERS OF MAJOR-GENERAL M'PHERSON,

July 4, 1863.

"The exceeding picturesqueness of the scene, together with the natural interest attached to the movements of our gallant navy, made the arrival of the fleet one of the most gala incidents of the day.

"The sturdy iron-clads, trimmed from stem to stern with the many fluttering pennants and signal-flags of the code, the Jack-tars in their prettiest togs—white—and the jubilant crowd on the levee, whose noisy greeting was only equaled by the p-a-c-k-like explosion of the unshotted guns that told noisily off the stated amount of thunder due the anniversary of our country's birth.

"And yet, sketching the scene, the thought came—Oh! could I but portray the heat! The pencil can not; words may. 'Twas very hot."

On page 492 we give

"MAJOR-GENERAL JAMES B. McPHERSON AND HIS ENGINEER OFFICERS.

"No officer has won for himself more golden opinions during this brilliant campaign than General McPherson. He is a cool and daring soldier in battle, a courteous gentleman in camp; as an engineer he is unsurpassed.

"The works constructed by his corps are pronounced by the army 'the most complete and satisfactory of the line.'

"Each day he is in the trenches with the soldier, not a single thing escapes his notice—commendation or disapproval. He is the pride of the corps that he commands.

"He has under him two able engineers, Captains Hickenlooper and Merritt. Captain H., being Chief-Engineer of the Corps, is represented at the right hand of my sketch. He is a native of the Buckeye State, and was, previous to the rebellion, City Surveyor of Cincinnati, where he raised a battery of artillery that has gained for itself a deserved reputation. Captain Merritt, a New Yorker by birth, was at the commencement of the rebellion a civil engineer of some reputation. Being in Iowa he recruited a Company in that State for the 'Engineer Regiments of the West.' He has served mostly upon detached service—in the construction and reconstruction of military railroads. I may say a word of this officer's coolness in emergency:

"His post being in the advance trench in charge of working parties, he is continually the target for sharp-shooters. A few days since a lighted shell, thrown by the 'rebels' into the trench among the working party, was picked up by him and thrown to explode among its senders."

On pages 488 and 489 we give

"VICKSBURG FROM THE RIDGE BATTERIES.

"HEAD-QUARTERS OF MAJOR-GENERAL M'PHERSON,

July 4, 1863.

"Until this time, for obvious reasons, it has not been possible to obtain a satisfactory sketch of this Gibraltar of the South.

"The present sketch gives a comprehensive view of the city, river, and fortifications. In the foreground are grouped the prisoners, whose condition is any thing but enviable, one poor fellow shivering with a chill; and the thermometer, if one were to be had, would certainly show a temperature of at least purgatorial heat. While sketching I was joined by a brave man, Lieutenant Vernay, of General McPherson's staff. 'Ah!' quoth he, 'how we watched each flash from this monster gun as we, in frail transports, steamed past through the storm of hurtling iron.' Vernay had volunteered, and in running the batteries never left the hurricane-deck of the boat he commanded. A word of the guns in these batteries. They are cast rough, and mounted, as the technical phrase is, with the skin on, which adds to their strength about 15 per cent."

Of the rebel works at Vicksburg a Herald correspondent, who carefully examined the place after the surrender, writes as follows:

The question has often been asked, "How long could Vicksburg have held out if its provisions had not become exhausted?" This is readily answered now that we have examined the ground and condition of their works, and the fact is this: One week's further operations and the city would have been obliged to surrender, in consequence of the murderous fire (which every day grew more severe) which our batteries and sharp-shooters were continually hurling against the fated city.

A few of the reasons for this assertion may be succinctly stated. Aside from the fact of the scarcity of percussion caps, which, for the sake of better showing our position, we will suppose were abundant, the configuration of the ground within the rebel works was poorly adapted to defense, and afforded no position for a second line. Between the outer line of works and the city there is but a single ravine. From the woks—Fort Hill particularly—the slope to the bottom of the ravine was gradual, and presented remarkable opportunities of pouring into the enemy a superlatively sanguinary fire. The ascent of the slope on the other side was equally as exposed, though the fire could not be so sweeping as upon the retreat from the works to the ravine. Once driven across this ravine, the enemy would be even more exposed than at first; for not only would our land-batteries have a fair sweep from the landward side, but the gun-boats could be brought to bear upon the position from the rear. This would be a predicament for the enemy the realization of which could never be endured for a day.

In viewing the rebel fortifications their defects are evident even to the untutored in the eminent science of military defenses. There seems to be no system about them, but merely a collection of ditches and raised earth. The idea suggested to a person viewing them is that the engineers for the construction of the defenses of Vicksburg went to work in the most easy manner, physically, to themselves. It appears as if a detail were made, and each man alternately presented with a spade and a pick, and ordered to disperse, and, in the language of the West, "pitch in" wherever they thought proper, being careful always to give hills and prominent positions the preference.

From the looks of the works this is the way in which Vicksburg was fortified. There is no system, no consecutive chain of positions, no interlacing of works, upon which depends the fortified strength of a place. Another observable feature in the rebel woks was the lack of gabions, which in all field fortifications are deemed almost indispensable. In the enemy's works there were none.

It would be unnecessary to say further in summing up that a great lack of engineering skill on the part of the enemy was displayed upon the defenses of Vicksburg. This fact is indubitable to one who has seen them, and must certainly occur to those who have carefully perused the above statement, which is based upon observation.

In conversation with several rebel privates I elicited as sections to the effect that we had not yet all the large guns which had been used in the defense of Vicksburg. I inquired what had become of them. They were not prone to tell; but one more incautious than the rest inadvertently said they were buried. I asked no further questions, for if this be a fact, as I have since learned it to be, the whereabouts of the interred instruments of war will soon be found by marks of fresh earth or by information. Certainly the entombed terrifiers will be exhumed and restored to service in a more rational cause than the one in which their former proprietors used them.


 

 

 

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