The Pipe Organ at the Boston Music Hall


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, December 12, 1863

We have posted our collection of Harper's Weekly newspapers to this WEB site to enable students to gain a better understanding of the key events of the War. Reading these old papers will take you back in time to a day that the cannons were till firing, and the war was still raging.

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


Civil War Guerrillas


Erie Railway

General Morgan Escape

Escape of John Morgan

Pipe Organ

Boston Music Hall Pipe Organ

Supply Depot

Supply Depot

Running Blockade

Running the Blockade

Boston Music Hall

Boston Music Hall

Rev. Turner

Reverend Turner


Stevenson, Alabama

Pack Mules

Pack Mules

Grant's Map

Map of General Grant's Operations

Columbia Cartoon




DECEMBER 12, 1863.]



(Previous Page) vigilance was maintained. The whole expanse before and around us was scanned continuously with the greatest care. To the blockade runner every thing on the ocean, except the water itself, is suspicious; we would have ran away from a harmless little schooner if only the tops of her masts had been sighted. A glance at the map will show that the Bahama Islands stretch northward from one hundred to one hundred and fifty miles from New Providence. Consequently for that distance we were comparatively safe, provided we kept near enough to the land. It is understood, I believe, to be a canon of international law, that the jurisdiction of every maritime power extends three miles seaward from low-water mark, and her flag protects every vessel within this limit. Therefore, while we were in the neighborhood of these islands all we had to do, if chased, was to get within the three miles of land, and so be in British waters—the same in law, I suppose, as if we were riding in the Hudson or the Thames.

When about two hours under way, and nothing in Nassau was visible, a faint line of smoke was discovered in the sky. Our course was at once changed toward the land, but before another half hour had elapsed we were thrown into the greatest state of alarm by seeing a steamer bear swiftly down upon us, apparently regardless of international law. We got close in to the land, and had serious notions of running on the beach, when to our great (my inexpressible) relief, it was discovered that the highly suspicious craft was nothing less than the Margaret and Jessie, Captain Wilson, of Emily St. Pierre fame, from Charleston, a sister in fact, who on seeing us made for the land with all possible speed. Each had been running from danger apprehended from the other. It was regarded on our vessel as quite a joke immediately afterward, but it was none to me at the time.

There was no regard whatever paid to the cleanliness of the steamer; nay, she was absolutely filthy. Accommodation for passengers there was literally none, as it was not the business of the vessel to carry them. Nearly every available foot of space was occupied with freight of some kind; for, besides the regular manifest, nearly every man, from cook and coal-heaver up to the passengers, had some private venture of his own. I believe I was the only person on board who had nothing but his wardrobe, if I may except a couple of lady passengers, who I do not think had any idea of "paying expenses" by the sale of the contents of their trunks on reaching Dixie. While I and other male passengers were left to shift for ourselves on deck, in a very cramped and uncomfortable way, the accommodation for these ladies was made as ample and agreeable as the circumstances could possibly admit of. Indeed, they had the entire cabin, not occupied with freight, to themselves; for, from the moment I set foot on the deck until I finally left the vessel, I did not go below once. In fact, neither I, nor any of the rest of the passengers, nor any of the officers or crew, except the cook or waiter, was permitted to enter the cabin. As for the captain, I do not think he ever ate or slept during the entire time I saw him on board.

One of the greatest difficulties of the steam blockade runner is the want of a good quality of anthracite coal, such, for instance, as is used by the coasting and inland steamers running to and from New York city—a kind of coal that does not emit from the chimneys any visible smoke. The coal shipped in Nassau is a species of anthracite, but sometimes, when the fires are new, its smoke will be visible. Now, when a steamer is running at the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour, with a gentle breeze abeam, as the sailors say, the smoke from the chimneys will float in the air for many miles, thus frequently betraying to a cruiser or blockader that a steamer of some sort is in her vicinity. Endeavors are made to get a sight at the source of the smoke, and, if successful, a chase ensues, which in a few hours ends in capture or escape. It is of very recent occurrence that the United States steamer Fulton, while on her way to New York, captured the Margaret and Jessie, an old stager in the business. The first that was seen of her was the smoke. She was burning soft coal.

After the adventure just related we ran along at a fine rate all that day and night, without seeing or being disturbed with any thing. Next day we were out on the broad Atlantic, out of the track of passing vessels. The friendly land we left behind us. All danger for that day was considered at an end, as it was only one chance in a thousand that a Federal vessel would sight us. The only danger now to be considered (which was not much) was in running through the blockading fleet and entering the harbor. I continued in good spirits, and would have felt actually happy had I not been so warm and dirty. It was almost a dead calm. The sea was like glass. The sun was terribly powerful, and the glare from the water made it hot almost beyond endurance. There was no shade whatever. I wandered about, in the limited space allotted to me, with the least possible amount of clothing—in fact, with only trowsers, flannel under-shirt, and slippers. I never perspired so much in my life. The coal dust sometimes rained upon me, and adhered to my face and hands. I became as black and dirty as if at work in the coal-bunkers—possibly dirtier. I consoled myself, however, with the reflection that my fellow-passengers, and in fact nearly every man on board, was in no better condition than myself. The ladies, I am glad to say, never made their appearance on deck.

We had now been nearly sixty hours at sea, and it was quite dark, in fact, very dark. Every man on board felt that the most critical period was approaching, if not actually upon us. Although still quite confident of getting in all safe, I could not resist a feeling of nervous anxiety that had crept over me. The blockading fleet was close to us, or rather, we were close upon it. Perhaps it was all around us. We knew of having just passed one suspicious-looking object. Our rate of speed became slow, then slower still, until at length we were apparently only drifting along. In half an hour, if all went well, the engines would be driven

to their utmost capacity, and we should make a dash for port. Every eye on board was peering anxiously, piercingly into the dark expanse. We were still moving slowly, slowly and silently, but steadily toward our haven of rest and security. There was not a shadow of a light on board, and the darkness of the night could almost be felt. I could not see the mate, who I knew was not ten feet from me on the quarter-deck. All had a terrible interest in our progress, in getting through safely. If captured some would lose all they had in the world, besides being held in captivity for an unknown length of time. Minutes seemed to turn into hours. I, who had no fears of captivity before me, being a foreigner, with my passport secure about my person, became almost breathless with excitement and suspense. My whole soul was, as it were, concentrated in my eyes. I gazed out into the black darkness with such terrible eagerness without seeing any thing, that a chilling, a horrible fear crept over me that I had become blind.

Hark! some one near me whispered. I crawled, feeling my way toward the voice, and on reaching it, found the pilot and chief officers there. A hand close to me pointed outward, and a low voice uttered "Look there." I turned my eyes in the direction indicated, and with a sudden thumping sensation at my heart, barely saw for a second or two a dark mass upon the waters. It was a steamer, and evidently a blockader. My breath became suspended; in another moment we would be run down and buried in the waters, or, at best, we would be captured. I closed my eyes, and tried to cease thinking, but the inevitable crash-collision had penetrated my soul, and my thoughts flew to England and home. As it happened, however, I was much more frightened then than hurt. The officers were cool. The course of our vessel was instantly altered, and in a few moments the black darkness hid us from every thing. Our back was turned on Charleston. We put to sea in order to make the attempt again, a few miles further up, and I breathed more freely at having made such a narrow escape from a blockader. But three glorious black blockade-running hours were thus lost, and our time, and consequently our chances of success were diminished so much. However, the trial had to be renewed, and when the proper time arrived, our bow was again turned toward the land. Again was the same care exercised in passing through the fleet. How agonizingly slow we did move. I became almost mad with impatience, and asked the captain why he did not put on all speed and make a run for it. He whispered that he dared not just then, as the noise created by fast running would have betrayed him. A few minutes more and all would be well. He had scarcely ceased speaking when a hushed alarm was given. I felt its meaning. Hope almost died within me, and I began to feel certain then that there was really a great deal of danger in reaching the Confederacy by sea as well as by land. At that moment I heartily wished myself back in Nassau or New York, or even in Louisville. The cause of the alarm was the same as before. Several, who were on the look-out, saw quite distinctly a steamer. I did not see it that time, because I suppose my eyes were almost past seeing any thing after such long and terrible straining as they had so recently experienced. The same course of conduct was pursued as before. We edged away as well and as quietly as we could, and were, unfortunately, as the sequel proved, successful in getting out to sea again. It was then too late to make another attempt that night, consequently there was nothing left for us to do but stand off and on out of sight until the following evening.

It lacked an hour or two of dawn when we came to a halt. Time then passed so slowly that I thought the sun would never rise again. At length, however, he did appear, and we could see each other again. Such haggard, anxious-looking faces I never saw before. All of them had been on the same if not a greater rack of excitement and anxiety than I had been. We tried to comfort each other, but with very sorry results. As for the officers, there was nothing unusual in their appearance. They had gone through such scenes before, and had been successful notwithstanding. There was some comfort in looking at them.

When light had fairly broken over the face of the ocean the horizon was carefully scanned with telescopes. I watched the pilot, and felt secure as long as his glass was kept moving. Apparently his observations were satisfactory, as he was just about to hand his instrument over to some one waiting, when all at once his gaze became fixed and steady. I turned my own field-glass in the direction he was looking, and with a beating heart saw the masts and smoke-pipe of a large steamer. It was a Federal cruiser. Apparently she saw us quite as soon as we did her, for she made chase almost immediately.

Our captain had a good deal of confidence in the speed of his vessel; consequently, when the chase began, he deliberately allowed the pursuer to get within four miles' distance, when she could be distinctly seen. It was deemed necessary to ascertain just how fast she could go, as it was fair to presume that she was doing her very best while in pursuit. I did not like the experiment at all, but it was soon found that we could travel, easily, at least three knots an hour faster than she could. Our minds were, therefore, soon at ease about being captured in a run by "such a tub as that." It was not our object to run clean away, because we might have gone so far off as to preclude us from running in that night, and the captain was determined on making the attempt. Only a moderate rate of speed was therefore maintained, so as to give hope to our pursuer, and draw her away a reasonable distance from the vicinity of our harbor, and thus decrease the danger of running in. This was managed admirably; for when it was considered that we had gone nearly far enough, our speed was increased, and we very soon ran out of sight. We then doubled back toward the place where the chase commenced.

Night again covered us with her mantle, and we bowled along finely, anticipating no further trouble about getting in. We had effectually disposed of one stumbling-block in our way—the frigate that had chased us. My spirits began to revive. Nothing now seemed to be in the way of a prosperous voyage. On approaching the vicinity of where the blockading fleet ought to have been our speed was decreased, until we were apparently merely drifting along. At length the word was passed to "drive ahead." We flew through the water. Fort Sumter, according to some, was clearly visible, when thump, thud, thud was heard and felt by every soul on board, and the engines ceased to work. My first thought was that the entire machinery had fallen through the bottom, and that we would sink the next minute. It was not quite so bad as that, but it might as well have been, so far as the result was concerned. A short examination proved that some vital part of the machinery had got broken or twisted. I did not know which, neither did I care. The fact that such an accident had occurred was enough. The wind had risen to a gale, and we were pitching and tossing on the rough waters, utterly helpless. I became utterly indifferent to my fate, and lay down in the quietest corner of the deck and slept soundly. Meantime every available band had been called down to the engine-room. The work to do was entered into desperately and quickly, so that in a few hours the damage was patched up, and we were again in motion. There was time even then to get in, if the machinery would only stand to us. Vain hope for those who entertained one! For once on this voyage I was not disappointed. We had not made over two miles when the wounded part of the engine gave way, and we were again brought to a dead halt when within half an hour's sail from port. Instant effort was however made to repair somehow and get going again; but the damage proved to be greater than at the first accident. It was the work of hours, and daylight would be upon us before she could possibly have been put in motion.

Daylight did come, very much too quickly, and we were laboring heavily and helplessly on the then very rough sea. Our only hope was that the wind had driven us many miles away from the fleet; and it did. But as soon as we could see around us we beheld, not five miles distant, our pursuer of the day before, returning from what she had considered a fruitless chase.

Yes, there she was, in good condition, and we utterly helpless, a mere hulk, pitching and tossing—now on the top of a huge wave, and next groaning in the trough of the sea. What could we have done? Nothing, except to quietly surrender, scuttle, or blow up our ship. I preferred the first, as running away was impossible. In a very short space of time our enemy bore down upon us, apparently so swiftly that my ideas regarding her speed underwent considerable modification from the day previous. When within about a quarter of a mile of us she hove to; a boat full of armed men was quickly lowered into the boiling sea, and in five minutes reached our side. Just before this boat got to our steamer one was lowered by some of our crew, into which our lady passengers were placed, and into which I smuggled myself. I had had enough of my steamer, and was very anxious to make a change as quickly as possible. On reaching the frigate it was with great difficulty that the ladies were transferred to the landing-stage, owing to the violent tossing of the little boat and the rolling of the big one, but as soon as it was accomplished the rest of us were peremptorily ordered to return to our own vessel. I, however, had no idea of going back if I could possibly avoid it; and watching my opportunity jumped on the staging, and in a few seconds my small boat was a hundred yards off. They could not help taking me in then, and when I reached the deck I must have been a pitiable object to look at. I was hungry, very dirty, more than half drowned, and not half clad. On informing the officers that I was merely a passenger and a foreigner I was taken into the ward-room (the officers' quarters), and furnished with all the material to look and feel like a gentleman again. To be once more clean, clothed, in comfortable quarters, and agreeable society, was certainly a luxury; but my disappointment was very bitter, nevertheless, at finding myself at last under the protecting guns of the Federal Government, instead of being at that time in Charleston, as I had anticipated.

It may be as well to mention here as elsewhere that, had we not met with the accident to our machinery, it was ascertained that, from our position, there was nothing in the way to prevent us from going directly into port on the night previous to our capture; but the most mortifying discovery was in learning that the steamer we had twice encountered on the first night of our attempt to run in, was not a blockader, but, like ourselves, a blockade runner. She had run away from us, as we did from her, but having met with no other accident she went in safely early on the following night. Had we only known each other, both would have been in Charleston, without any hindrance, in less than three days from Nassau! Such accidents, which are incident to the trade, have occurred, and will occur frequently, much to the profit of the blockading fleet. It might be asked why the runners did not have signals by which they could recognize each other. Indeed, I asked that very question myself while in Nassau. The answer was simple and conclusive. A signal, to be good for any thing, must be addressed to the eye or ear—say a colored light, a series of lights, or a gun, and a watchful blockader can see or hear these quite as readily as a runner. No, each runner is and must be a sort of Ishmael, going on the principle that if his own hand is not against every man every man's hand is against him.

The boarding party from the frigate took possession of every thing and every body as soon as it reached the deck, and the officer in command, as soon as he ascertained the cause of so easy a capture, had the engine fires put out, and as thorough

examination of her hold made as circumstances would permit. He was much relieved to find that there was no unusual quantity of water making; in fact, that the captured vessel was not scuttled. A great deal had to be done in the way of transferring crew, passengers, clothes-bags, and other things to the captor, and the communication between the two was rapid and frequent. A fresh boat's crew had, however, to be sent nearly each trip, because the returning men were, almost to a man, exceedingly jolly—much to the surprise, at first, of some of the naval officers. Many, in fact nearly all of the crew of our steamer, had their ventures, or part of them, in rum and whisky, which was stowed away in every available corner or hiding-place; consequently, when the jolly tars got on board, their brethren of the sea had, I suppose, a friendly feeling for them. There was a tap at their elbows on deck and below—any where, every where, except directly in the face of the officer. Those who were inclined got all they wanted, and more than was actually good for them. These incidents were, however, soon over. The capture was made complete, a crew put on board, and she was taken in tow. I then vividly realized that I was a prisoner.

I remained in the frigate some eight or ten days on the "Station," and must say that during that time I was treated with very great kindness; and when orders came to have us all transferred to a Government vessel going North with the prize, I parted from my kind messmates in the ward-room with regret.

A few days more and the harbor of New York was reached. We, the prisoners, were all transferred to another ship near the Navy-yard, and I was huddled in among the entire crew and passengers. I was called for on the third day of my captivity, and informed, after a very brief examination, that I was free to go where I pleased, provided I gave my parole to appear at the Commissioners' Court on Friday, and on other days when requested. I cheerfully accepted the conditions, bade adieu to my late companions, who were less fortunate, and soon found myself again comfortably settled in a hotel, almost a freeman.

It has now evidently become more dangerous to reach the Confederacy than ever before. My desire, however, has grown upon me to reach there notwithstanding all I have gone through. I can not wait until the Federal forces get possession of my town, though that may happen any day. I can not even await the next trip of the steamer Corsica, as she sailed only three days ago, and she will not sail again for nearly four weeks. There is a schooner up and nearly loaded for Bermuda, and I have very serious notions of taking passage in her, and trying my fortune from that island. At all events I shall sail either for there or Nassau before the week is out, and fervently hope that I shall have "better luck next time."


WE publish on page 788 an illustration (taken from the photograph in the possession of the artists, Gustave Herter & Brother, of this city) of the great Boston organ, regarding which public curiosity has been so excited.

Our space will not permit us to give more than extracts from the most reliable authors, describing the instrument itself with its house and the different parts; but these will be sufficient, with the illustration, to convey a just idea of the grand proportions of this truly wonderful achievement in mechanism and art. The originator of the great work has justly earned the first place in the history of the great organs. We extract from Professor Holmes's fine tribute to him:

It is mainly to the persistent labors of a single individual that our community is indebted for the privilege it now enjoys in possessing an instrument of the supreme order such as make cities illustrious by their presence. That which is on the lips of all can wrong no personal susceptibilities to tell in print; and when we say that Boston owes the great organ chiefly to the personal efforts of Dr. J. Baxter Upham, the statement is only for the information of distant readers.

The result of two voyages to Europe, undertaken by Dr. Upham expressly for the purpose of examining the most famous organs and organ-factories of Germany, Holland, France, Switzerland, and Great Britain, was the contract with Freidrich Walcker of Ludwigsberg, Kingdom of Wurtemberg (to whom Europe is indebted for the noblest specimens of these instruments), for building the great instrument that was so enthusiastically looked upon and listened to on the night of November 2.

The following description will be read with interest:

The great organ is a choir of nearly 6000 vocal throats. Its largest wind-pipes are 32 feet in length, and a man can crawl through them. Its finest tubes are too small for a baby's whistle. Eighty-nine stops produce the various changes and combinations of which its immense orchestra is capable, from the purest solo of a singing nun to the loudest chorus, in which all its groups of voices have their part in the full flow of its harmonies. Four manuals, or hand key-boards, and two pedals, or foot key-boards command these several systems—the solo organ, the choir organ, the swell organ, the great organ, and the piano-forte organ. Twelve pairs of bellows, moved by water-power derived from the Cochituate reservoir, furnish the breath which pours itself forth in music. Those beautiful effects, for which the organ is incomparable, the crescendo and diminuendo, the gradal rise of sound from the lowest murmur to the loudest blast, and the dying fall by which it steals gently back into silence, the dissolving views, so to speak, of harmony, are not only provided for in the swell organ, but may be obtained by special adjustments from the several systems of pipes and from the entire instrument. In absolute power and compass the Music Hall organ ranks among the three or four mightiest instruments ever built. In the perfection of all its parts, and in its whole arrangements, it challenges comparison with any the world can show. We take our stand, we will suppose, in the upper balcony, near the Apollo, and confront the organ. We see what we have been accustomed to hear called, in our familiarity with smaller instruments, the case of the organ.

An instrument which in itself combines eighty or ninety instruments (stops, registers) though all their compass with nearly six thousand pipes or voices, with all the mechanism for reaching, breathing through, and sounding each or all of these at will, for blending them in chords, combining then in larger groups or choirs, contrasting them in pitch, etc., with all its curious contrivances for lightening the touch, swelling and diminishing the sound, rolling up a mountainous crescendo of stop upon stop, from a single softest one to the full force of them all; such an instrument is not to be put into a case, but, being built up (Next Page




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