Treatment of Colored Soldiers


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 15, 1863

This site features the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. The material allows you to examine details of the War not available from modern publications. These newspapers will take you back in time to the days the war was still raging on.

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John Morgan's Raid

Morgan's Raid

Colored Soldiers

Treatment of Colored Soldiers

Martial Law

Martial Law

Seabrook Island

Seabrook Island

Siege of Charleston

Jackson Mississippi

Jackson Mississippi

Colonel Shaw

Colonel Robert Shaw

Capture of Jackson

Capture of Jackson Mississippi

Attack on Charleston

Maryland Campaign

Maryland Campaign

Remington Revolver Cartoon







[AUGUST 15, 1863.



So, Philip, it seems you're offended—

I'll own I've not acted quite right;

But is the occasion sufficient

To stir up your wrath in its might?

If you hadn't appeared so excited,

If you were not so easily teased,

I should never have gone off with Charlie—

But you knew I would do as I pleased!

Great Mogul! am I your Sultana,

To come and to go at command?

How you could imagine I feared you

Is a thing that I don't understand;

If you hadn't assumed le dictateur

With such an imperial air,

I should never have thought of offending—

But your look—it said, "Go if you dare!"

Shall I own that the mirth and the music

Of that night were all lost upon me?
Even Charlie's low tones were unheeded—

All! I thought of one dearer than he!

While you were resolving to cast me

Beyond the confines of your heart,

I sighed in the midst of rejoicing

That you in the scene had no part.

One kind look—my heart would have softened;

One whisper—my tears had burst forth!

But your words in their bitter upbraiding

Ah! they stifled regret at its birth;

And my spirit, all tameless, rose proudly, Indignation gave strength to each nerve:

I knew I was wrong, but, oh, surely,

I'd done nothing such wrath to deserve.

Now, Phillip, you know that I love you,

In spite of the notions you take;

And my poor heart is aching right sadly,

But I don't think 'tis likely to break.

'Tis a pity, I'll own—and reads badly;

But I fear the material's tough—

not going to die, men cher Phillip,

Because—you don't love me enough!

You know you are perfectly killing!

Addie Bell is aware of it too;

She's tender and timid and clinging,

And then—she is dying for you!
If you love her, I'm perfectly willing

To let her slip into my place;

I never had half so much sweetness,

Nor half so much languishing grace.

So, Phillip, you're welcome to dangle

Around that "dear amiable girl;"

You're welcome to praise in my hearing

The tint and the twine of each curl; You're perfectly welcome to whisper

The sweetest of things—when I'm by

I'm content if you find your elysium

In the light of her pretty blue eye.

You can't make me jealous, cher Phillip!

There's no use in trying that game;

You might die of spontaneous combustion—

'Twould be hard to put me in a flame!

So I think you had better consider;

Don't be rash, but come back while you can,

For I think—and am I mistaken?—

That you are a sensible man.


My position at present is trying;

Poor Charlie but lives in my sight—

And that handsome, distinguished Lieutenant

Was very attentive last night!
And Addie told Lou, in a whisper,

She really preferred him to you.

Ah, Phillip, he's terribly handsome,

And his eyes are so tenderly blue!

So you see how the matter stands, Phillip,

'Tisn't Addle with whom you've to deal;

You can't work on me by your trifling—

I can cleverly hide what I feel;

So if you're pretending, you'd better

Be wise, and come back while you can;

For I think—and am I mistaken?

That you are a sensible man.

[Variations in the shape of a shower of tears.]

Come back if you love me, dear Phillip,

I'm willing to own I was wrong!

I give up, for my spirit is broken—

I'm missing you all the day long.

So Phillip, now, won't you consider,

And decide to come back while you can?

For I think—and am I mistaken?

That you are a sensible man.




THOUGH it is not certain that Meade may not at any time attack Lee, or Lee Meade, yet still the presumption is that active operations in the field have ceased for the present along the whole line. Grant has permitted a large number of his troops to go home on furlough. Rosecrans evidently means no further advance at present, and is devoting himself to the work of reconstruction in Tennessee. And there is very little reason to believe that in the present dog days, with matters as they are, either Meade or Lee would gain much by risking another battle. The prospect is that the month of August will be a month of inaction.

Every where except at Charleston. There, under a tropical sun, and upon the burning sands of sea-islands, a handful of gallant men, led by Gilmore, and ably seconded by our iron-

clad navy, are slowly but surely undermining the rebel strong-hold—the nursery of treason. It is the story of Fort Henry, and Fort Donelson, and Fort Pulaski, and Vicksburg, and Port Hudson over again. Slow but sure approaches; desperate, unsuccessful assaults; a gradual accumulation of power in the shape of men and guns; a steady tightening of the grip round the rebel throat; a dogged Northern tenacity against which Southern fire burns itself out; and at last "unconditional surrender"—such has been the uniform history of all these sieges, and such, we doubt not, will be the history of the siege of Charleston. It is due to the Administration to say that they have never showed any tardiness, on these occasions, in strengthening the hands of the General in command. Troops were forwarded to Grant before Donelson, and again before Vicksburg, as fast as he could use them; Gilmore, at Pulaski, got all the guns he needed as fast as he could place them in position; and now we have reason to believe that the resources of the Government are being strained to the utmost to give him what he wants at Charleston. The capture of Fort Sumter will probably do as much for the science of artillery as that of Pulaski did.

In four or five weeks the other armies will move, and then the word will be, Ho for Mobile, Chattanooga, and Richmond! Now the centre of interest is Charleston.


MR. RICHARD COBDEN, one of the few Englishmen who have not been struck blind by the prospect of securing the carrying trade of the world for British vessels, declared the other day in Parliament that Laird, the ship-builder, is about to launch two more ships of war for the rebels, and that if they got to sea successfully the United States would declare war on England.

We think Mr. Cobden is mistaken in supposing that we are going to war with England at present. The addition of two more vessels to the Anglo-Rebel fleet now afloat will not inflict much injury upon us. We have already suffered about as much as piracy can inflict. Our merchant navy has been practically driven from the seas. The insurance on goods shipped in American bottoms now averages 5 per cent.—a premium which effectually drives our ships out of the market. A large proportion of our finest vessels have been placed under the British flag, and of the remainder the bulk lie idle in port. There are still, of course, a good many American vessels afloat in one sea or other, and five pirates will probably destroy more of them than three could. But the additional risk and damage will not justify Mr. Lincoln in complicating his present embarrassments by a declaration of war against Great Britain. So far as the immediate present is concerned, John Bull can pursue the piratical business in which he is engaged without fear of any other punishment than the scorn and contempt of all honest men.

After we have accomplished the work we have in hand, and re-established the national authority over every foot of the national domain, we shall then seek a reckoning with England. And this is a kind of claim which does not lose by keeping, and is liable to he barred by no statute of limitations. Mr. Cobden was quite right in saying that the United States Government is keeping an exact account of the value of every American ship that is burned by the Anglo-Rebel pirates, with the fixed purpose of presenting the bill to the British Government in due time, and collecting payment thereof. If the present Government or its successor were disposed to neglect this duty, the people would remind them of it. Each separate report of the destruction of an American ship by the British pirates Alabama, Florida, and Georgia; each account of the attentions bestowed upon the rebel officers, and the assistance afforded them by the Governors of British colonies; each malignant lie uttered in Parliament by members of the Government and their supporters; each sneaking quibble employed by Lord Palmerston to excuse the piratical ventures of his countrymen, sinks deep into the memory of every American, and will be treasured up till the day comes for retribution.

The experience of this war has proved that the restraints of municipal law are inadequate to control the mercenary impulses of Englishmen. The Neutrality Act, if carried out in England as it was in this country during the Russian war, would have prevented the departure of a single pirate from British waters. But as Mr. Under-Secretary Layard says, this would have crippled "a a most useful and important branch of British industry," and hence all parties, from the ministers of the crown down to the Liverpool rabble, combined to defeat the object of the law and to render it a mere dead letter. We must have better security hereafter than a municipal law.

This war has also taught us the wisdom of the policy recommended by many of our leading men in 1812, when they urged upon the Government the necessity of seizing Bermuda and Nassau. These nests of pirates, peopled by the illegitimate offspring of buccaneers and mulattoes, are too near our shores to be under any other flag than our own. When the time comes

for our Minister to present his little bill for the ships destroyed by British pirates, the title to these islands will also be placed in suit, and if war comes their fate will be quickly settled.

We have very little apprehension of war with Great Britain. If we put down the rebellion, and then, with a large army and a large fleet of iron-clads to support our claims, demand the indemnity to which we are entitled, and the material guarantees which our safety requires, in the shape of a cession of Nassau and Bermuda, and the independence of Canada, John Bull will bluster mightily, but he will yield at last. He never fights except for dollars. Greed of gain drove him into the piratical business, and greed of gain will make him eat dirt when we are able to lay our hand on his throat. Had he believed for a moment that the United States would succeed in this war, he would never have allowed a pirate to sail; when he finds that we have succeeded, he will be as humble as he is now arrogant; and with many declarations of his abiding regard for his good customers in the United States will pay his little bill with a grimace, inwardly groaning over his own stupidity at having formed so blundering a calculation of the future of the American War.



THE Government of the United States, after sagacious deliberation and taught by events, has perfected a policy for the suppression of the rebellion which seeks its overthrow. That policy is war, with the use of all the measures that a state of war may render necessary. It makes war under the Constitution, which simply grants the power, leaving the method to the exigency of circumstances. The Constitution does not prescribe making war by an army or navy, by killing people or maiming them, by confiscation acts or emancipation of slaves. The Constitution authorizes the Government to make war, and the Government is to select the means at its discretion. But that there may be no doubt that every means whatever may be used in prosecution of war, the Constitution expressly declares that, when the public safety requires it, the writ of habeas corpus, the most sacred security of the most fundamental right, that of personal liberty, may be suspended.

In pursuance of this authority the Government has adopted and proclaimed its policy. It consists of war by sea and land; of measures of confiscation, conscription, and emancipation. It is a policy adopted after long reflection, after a universal public debate. Every part of the loyal country, through its orators, papers, public meetings, representatives, and senators, has discussed the question. The President, a singularly dispassionate man, straining patience almost beyond a virtue, conscious that to the strongest friends of the policy which seemed to him wisest and most necessary he must always seem slow and half-hearted, after holding the hands of his impetuous lieutenants, and delaying and pondering long, at last confirmed the policy which not only wages war most earnestly and effectively, but which also causes the war itself to destroy the root of the war.

This policy was matured and adopted in the full consciousness that it would not conciliate the rebels in arms, and would afford their friends in the loyal States a central point for their incoherent and furious declamation. The declaration of any policy whatever must have had the same effect. For so long as the war was not radical, so long as it was a matter of mere fighting in the field, the rebels could continue it until they saw that they were worsted, and then they could give it up, and reunite with their late political friends with whom they had chosen to quarrel, in order that they might have a chance to fight. If they found by experience that they could not yet destroy the Union and the Government by force, they would return and sap its foundations from within a little longer before striking another armed blow at it. We should have spent thousands of costly lives, millions of dollars, and have made the Government as expensive as a monarchy. Then the rebels would have said, "We return to our allegiance;" and Toombs, Slidell, Yancey, Mason, Wigfall, Hunter, and Davis, either in person or by proxy, would have returned to their old plotting, taught by experience that their Northern allies were truer to party than to country, and could therefore be used to good purpose; and taught further how to make their next blow surer.

The policy of the Government has entirely ruined this scheme. It is a policy which declares that some permanent and adequate blessing to the country shall be purchased by the great outlay for the war; that the precious lives of the noblest youth shall not be lost in vain; and that over their graves Davis and Company shall not step smilingly back to Washington to have another trial of craft when that of muscle shall have failed. It is a policy which exasperates the friends of the rebels at the North, so that they gnash their teeth with rage. It is a policy which leads them to play with fire. They nominate Vallandigham, an open rebel, but not armed, because he can better serve the rebellion without arms, for Governor of a loyal, free State. They smile at a fierce riot of the worst criminals, burning, pillaging, and massacring, as a "movement of the people," and a "great popular uprising." They hear with satisfaction that they can not conceal of the misfortune of their country, and refuse to the last to believe the victories of the national flag. It is a policy at which the rebels tremble, and which thoroughly unmasks their allies at the North.

Meanwhile, under this policy, the Government of the United States has its hand upon the throat of this rebellion, and foresees a future of peace and

compensation for the war. The policy does not unite the North, indeed, and no policy could. Had another been adopted, the North would still have been divided. A timorous and superficial policy, while it might have propitiated desperate political partisans, who would have seen in the fear and weakness of the Government the promise of their own success, would have arrayed against that Government a party formidable for its intelligence, earnestness, and force. In making war upon the rebels the Government was obliged, therefore, to make its choice between two parties at the North. It must have relied either upon those who wished the rebellion absolutely and forever destroyed by every power of war, or upon those who wished to give the rebels a chance to do by intrigue what they might fail to achieve by force. The Government has made its choice. It has preferred Joseph Holt to Clement Vallandigham, and to free slaves rather than to return them. It has chosen to believe in its own majesty and resources, and in the great doctrine of human liberty which it was founded to illustrate and enlarge, and to believe in itself and in that principle as soberly, resolutely, and religiously as the rebellion believes in the annihilation of human rights, which it was established to obtain. The enemies of that Government, and therefore of the people, are rebels and Copperheads. What the Copperheads say the rebels applaud. What the rebels do the Copperheads cheer. The friends of that Government are all thoughtful, patriotic citizens, who wish that this war shall make any similar war impossible, and who, knowing what caused the war, are resolved that the cause shall cease to exist. If these citizens are, as we have no doubt, the vast majority of the people of this country, the Government will be saved and permanent peace established, although the process may be long. If, on the other hand, the Copperheads and rebels are most numerous and powerful, then, either by force of arms or by political combination, the Government, as made and interpreted by its framers, and understood by every true American to-day, will be overthrown, and another, although possibly called by the same name—a system of which the corner-stone is injustice, and not equal rights, will be precariously established upon its ruins.


AFTER the assault upon Fort Wagner there was the usual meeting of officers from both sides to negotiate for the care of the wounded and the exchange of prisoners. The Government officer said to the rebel agent that the officers and men of the colored regiments were to be treated like all others. The rebel agent replied that that was a question for the consideration of his superiors.

That may be, but it is no question for the Government of the United States. Not only do its articles of war provide for the case of foul play upon the part of the enemy, but its honor is inextricably associated with the enforcement of those articles; and the Government is bound to be especially alert in the case of these prisoners, because they are peculiarly exposed. It must take nothing for granted but the ill-faith of the rebels. Their spirit is sufficiently shown by the amusing indignation they express at our employment of colored soldiers, and the poor insult they intended for Colonel Shaw of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth, in burying him under a score of his own men. Where else could he be so nobly and fitly buried? With those devoted soldiers of his and of the country, and for them and the country, he faced that storm of rebel fire, and died smiling. Where should he be buried but with them? On all the soil of South Carolina there is no spot so holy and prophetic as that grave. But the malice of the rebels is not less, and their spirit is apparent; and that the officers and soldiers of the colored regiments will be treated as honorable prisoners is a hopeless expectation.

We invited these men to fight for us. We did not give them an equal pay with other soldiers; we did not allot to them the offices of honor; we adjured them by a flag whose protection we doubtfully concede to them; we required, in a word, of these men, whom our prejudices have hitherto kept at every conceivable disadvantage, the qualities that only the proudest and most self-dependent people show, and we promised them but a very uncertain reward for all their fighting. Yet there is not a man who has dispassionately studied the subject, who does not know that for many a year we must maintain a colored army, and that that very fact furnishes a solution of some of the most perplexing questions of the war. The experiment has begun. The discipline, endurance, and fiery heroism of these troops are already established. The charge of the Second Louisiana at Port Hudson, and of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts at Fort Wagner, are magnificent for their steadiness, impetuosity, and dauntless courage. Were we as single-hearted as these soldiers our difficulties would disappear.

Now then is the time to show every colored man in the land whether we are in earnest, or whether he would be simply a fool to fight for a flag which does not protect him. How can a solitary man of that race, except the few sublimely heroic, enlist, until he knows the fate of his brethren captured at Wagner? Or how can we ask any man whatsoever to imperil his life for us, without promising him equal fair play with every other? The Government can not evade the question. Already the rebel journals declare that if the colored prisoners are treated as prisoners of war, the rebellion may be as well abandoned at once. And the rebel Congress have long since doomed every officer of our colored regiments to the gallows, and every soldier to the slave pen.

It will, of course, be difficult for the Government to ascertain the fate of these unfortunate men. But it should not suffer itself to be cozened by the rebels. It should at once demand from the rebel ringleaders an explicit guarantee of the same treatment that all our soldiers in their hands receive, and the rebels should be apprised that an instant (Next Page)




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