Battle of Arkansas Post

 

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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 7, 1863

This site features all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These newspapers can yield unique insights in the war, as they were created by eye-witnesses to the events depicted. You can watch history unfold before your eyes, week by week.

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

 

David Porter

Porter and McClernand

Wall Street

Wall Street

General Hooker

General Hooker Takes Command

Gun Boats

Gun Boats

Torpedoes

Civil War Torpedoes

Fredericksburg Poem

Battle of Fredericksburg Poem

War Atrocities

Atrocities of War

Fighting Joe Hooker

Fighting Joe Hooker

Monitor Sinking

Monitor "Weehawken" in Storm

Chivalry

Chivalry

Arkansas Post

Battle of Arkansas Post

River Torpedoes

River Torpedoes

Lavinia Warren

P. T. Barnum's "Miss Lavinia Warren

 

 

 

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

[FEBRUARY 7, 1863.

94

OUR HISTORY.

ABROAD in the breeze waves our starry flag,

Beneath its folds toil we.

While other nations their harvests reap,

And some are at play, and some asleep,

We are writing our history.

We write—not one to labor alone,

But thousands hold the pen.

Delicate youth and hoary age

Leave a record upon the page,

Fair women and stalwart men.

 

What does our history speak about,

What story does it tell?

It tells of struggles, of hopes, and fears,

Of heavy losses, and bitter tears

(The world knows the lesson well!);

 

Of gallant deeds to make one thrill,

And perils by land and sea;

Of children leaving their mother's side

To strike one blow, in their childish pride,

For the country of the free.

Oh! scornful world, watching without,
"Stricken of God!" ye say?

Nay, through the cloud as our fathers trod,

We are marching onward to meet our God,

His promise our only stay.

 

What though the sword from its scabbard leap,

And cannon the echoes wake!

Though thousands are falling beside us— Still

We follow boldly, for 'tis His will

That we suffer for Freedom's sake!

O not one star from our flag shall fade!

There our Father bade them be,
And said if we kept them free from stain
They should form forever a golden chain

To bind us to Liberty.

 

And so, though foreign foes would beguile,

And traitorous voices call;

Though armed hosts meet us at every turn,

On bonded knees an oath we have sworn,

That our banner shall never fall!

 

There is hardly a house where every chair

Is filled as it might have been,

Were there no blank sheets in our history,

To be filled ere another year we see—

And faster travels the pen.

 

It matters not, O doubting world!

That our labor be hard or long,

For never by man was a good work wrought

But angels first with the devil fought,

Yet Right will conquer Wrong.

 

Float on in the breeze, thou flag of hope!

Bravely beneath toil we!

While other nations their harvests reap,

With glorious deeds for memory's keep,

We are writing our history,

POOR PHIL!

IT was a mystery to me; why Bob Lyons should fight so shy of Nellie Waterman, the prettiest girl in the place, I couldn't for my life imagine! He had been badly hit at Fredericksburg, and was home on sick-leave; and every day her carriage stopped at Mr. Lyons's door (by-the-way, it was worth the waiting for, to see the foot and ankle that she showed in getting out) with a basket of hot-house fruit, or flowers that she had arranged herself (and she did those things like a French woman), or the last feuilleton, for Lieutenant Lyons. But though Bob could hear her well enough, from the little room at the head of the stairs that he called his den, he never took the smallest notice, except to growl out something very like an oath from under his mustache, or, if in the parlors, to hobble away as fast as possible, for fear of meeting her. The flowers he wouldn't let into his room, but left them to wither in the outer hall; the fruit he gave the children; the books he tossed over to his sisters with a contemptuous grunt. In short, if Nellie Waterman had been the cholera, instead of a handsome, stylish girl, he could hardly have avoided her more persistently, obstinately refusing to give any other reason for his unaccountable conduct than that it was his whim.

Nothing, however, is quite so hard to prison as secrets. Relax your vigilance ever so little, and the things will be on the house-top in spite of you. And so one day out popped Bob's skeleton, like a Jack-in-the-box, and he told me all that was in his heart.

It was in answer to some remark of mine about Nellie Waterman, who had just passed. Bob turned his back squarely to the window, and sent his cigar savagely into the fire.

"I had as lief see a toad," he said—"rather, for it wouldn't be necessary to be civil to the spotted animal. Do you remember what Jule was reading the other right—something of Ruskin's, I think, about girls with spots of blood on their ball-dresses, and grave-weeds twined in their wreaths? Well, I swear I never see this one without thinking that her dainty hands are red with blood, and that her beautiful bright hair is thick-twisted with the willow that shades Phil Seldon's grave. Poor dear old Phil! he wore her false face over his heart

when he went down. Worthless as he had proved her to be, he could never quite give her up. I had known her from a child, and warned him of his danger, and the only shadow that ever fell on our friendship came between us then. There never was a man more thoroughly infatuated. He thought her pink and white face the incarnation of purity; her downcast looks he took for modesty; and it was useless to tell him that, besides her pretty face, she was simply tight lacing, flounces, and French novels.

"She was, in his idea, womanly perfection—physical, mental, and moral. And she threw him over, of course—flirted with him till she was tired, then dropped him. When he insisted on some reason for this wrecking of his hopes, closed her doors against him by way of answer. He came back looking like a ghost. Could you have seen him, you could scarcely have dreamed that this was our old sunshiny Phil.

"I hate women when I think of it. Leave out my mother and sisters, and all the crinoline and grimacing in the world are not worth his dear old face, though he never looked cheerful after that, unless he was on some specially dangerous service —some risky reconnoitring or picket duty, affording him an excellent chance of being killed. Then he used to light up with a sort of grim satisfaction, because, he told me once, the excitement left him no time to think; adding, mournfully, that he should be dubbed the greatest coward in the regiment could it but be known with what dread he looked forward to his long, sleepless nights, and those listless days when only the ordinary routine was going on.

"We were before Fredericksburg—or rather, the river that separated it from us. Phil had just come back from —, where he had been sent on a secret mission, having also improved his short furlough to come on here, and get himself stabbed to the heart afresh. He had seen Nellie; she had received him coldly at first—scarcely spoken to him, in fact; but relenting by degrees, suffered him to plead his cause again, and raised his hopes only to dash them more fatally to the ground.

"He carne back utterly desperate. We were getting ready for the bombardment, and he threw himself into the preparations with the zeal and spirit of twenty men. Every thing was as peaceful as if Nature was holding her breath to watch us. The sky looked down on us so solemnly that, though I don't know what over put it in my head at such a time, I could think of nothing but that other winter's night when it was bright with angels praising God, and proclaiming peace on earth. The water seemed to hush itself, as if afraid to ripple. In the stillness we could hear the barking of their dogs and the melancholy chiming of the town-clock sounding out the hour while on oar side the only noise was the rumbling of artillery as we got the batteries into position, and the heavy roll of the pontoon trains going down to the river-bank. It sounded like thunder in our ears; but they kept as dead silence as if they were all in an enchanted sleep till our men had pushed off and fairly gotten the bridge under way. Then—

"I don't know whether they suspected what we were at or not, or whether it was a part of their cursed strategy to get as many targets as possible under fire; but when they did at last commence they made sharp work of it, as well they might, since, comfortably stowed away in cellars and houses on the bank, they had only to cut us down at their leisure. Shot and shell from our batteries proved unavailing; the city indeed was fired, but the foxes were not unearthed, and three tithes our brave fellows were beaten back, and brought their dead and wounded up the bank to fill the floors of the Lacy House.

"By this time it was morning, and we had procured a train with solid shot from Aquia; the rebels, who had stopped firing, commenced again, and the light struggling up showed us, as the sulphurous fog cleared away, Fredericksburg burning like a second Moscow. The solid shot plunged through brick and stone like so much paper, but a fresh effort to lay the bridge proved also unavailing, the rebel sharp-shooters dropping our men like so many nine-pins.

"Then it was that Burnside called for volunteers, and that the Seventh Michigan and our regiment (the Nineteenth Massachusetts) responded. As we marched out, Phil came quickly up to Mark Gifford, his brother-in-law, who was at my side.

"'You have a wife and little child to leave,' he said. 'I have none, and never shall. Let me go in your place; wait (as Mark was going to refuse) and hear me. If you are obstinate I will still go; I swear it, even if I swim after the boats; so there will be simply two to mourn for in the homestead if you persist.'

"He was in such desperate earnest, and the time was so short, for the regiment was already moving on, and Mark, never as resolute a man as Phil, was so taken by surprise that he stepped back, and Phil took the place by my side and rushed on with us. As said Captain Ward at Bunker Hill, when we went down that bank I no more dreamed of ever coining alive out of that rain of fire than of going to heaven in Elijah's fiery chariot. As we crouched behind the boats and the piles of lumber the balls came in among us like hailstones. Phil got a slight scratch, and a ball carried off my cap as if it had come expressly for it. Not that we left all the firing to the rebels. We did a little sharp-shooting on our own account, quite respectable in its way, and keeping them about as busy as they kept us, till our guns began to speak again; then we pushed for the boats, got into them pell-mell, and made off. Such a crossing! It wasn't exactly a sail by moonlight, I can tell you. I never imagined such a din possible, unless at the day of judgment. Crack! crack! from those deadly rifles, and our poor fellows dropping at every shot, though lying low as possible in the boats. Our batteries thundering away, waking up the echoes, that rolled back on us as if they were having a battle of their own. I don't believe I ever shall again experience quite such honest astonishment

as I felt on landing with my head still on my shoulders.

"I panted out something of this sort to Phil, who answered with a stern smile and something about the ides of March, only half heard, as we rushed up the bank and after the rebels scampering out of every rifle-pit, and from behind every stone-wall, springing up as if they had been a sort of fungus growth of legs warranted to make good time before Yankee bayonets.

"Most of them escaped, but some either couldn't or wouldn't run. One of these fellows Phil started. A surly brute, just showing his grizzly head out of a cellar door, and evidently meaning to die game. I called out as I saw the man taking deliberate aim at Phil, coming straight to him; but he just turning his head in answer, and showing me the same strained, reckless look that he had worn all that day, went on one step further—got the ball in his heart; for he was dead when I reached him.

"I was on his murderer before he had time to load again, and I think I should have beaten him down as I did then had he been Samson; rage and grief made a giant of me. But, after all, what was his worthless life? It can never comfort those who weep for Phil in the old homestead, whore he lies buried, done to death— poor, loving, generous heart!—by that woman, whom I long, every time I meet her, to call Murderess!"

CAPTURE OF THE POST OF
ARKANSAS.

WE publish on page 81 an illustration of the BOMBARDMENT OF THE POST OF ARKANSAS on the Arkansas River, by Admiral Porter's fleet, on January 11. Our picture is from a sketch transmitted by the correspondent of the Herald, and kindly placed at our disposition. We also give portraits of ADMIRAL PORTER and GENERAL McCLERNAND, the heroes of the affair.

On 10th January the land forces, under the command of General McClernand, and the flotilla, under Admiral Porter, ascended the river, and the former disembarked with a view of surrounding the work. During the night the gun-boats fired a few shots at the work, and next morning, the troops being in position, the work commenced in earnest. The Herald correspondent says:

THE BOMBARDMENT.

It was five minutes past one when the gun-boats Baron De Kalb, Cincinnati, and Louisville, all iron-clads, steamed up to within about three hundred yards of the fort, and opened fire upon it. Just so soon as the gun-boats hove in sight, and before they fired a shot, the fort opened on them. On a sort of sandy beach, by the bend in the river, the rebels had erected several targets, which were to assist them in aiming at the gun-boats. Barricades had also been placed in the river opposite the fort; but the high-water had washed part of them away and left the channel open. The bombardment increased in rapidity as other vessels of the squadron came into position. It took some time to get good range of the casemated guns and the barbette gun on the fort. The Baron DeKalb had orders from the Admiral to fire at the right hand casemate, the Louisville at the middle one, and the Cincinnati at the great 9-inch Dahlgren gun en barbette. In half an hour after the bombardment commenced the casemates were struck by the shell from the gun-boats. When the range was obtained the shells from the gun-boats struck the guns in the fort almost every shot, until every one was silenced and smashed. The Cincinnati fired shrapnell at first and cleared the crew away from the 9-inch Dahlgren gun on the parapet, when the Baron De Kalb broke off the muzzle with a 10-inch shot. The Lexington, light draught, Lieutenant-Commander James W. Shirk, moved up at two o'clock, and with her rifled guns replied to the Parrott rifled guns in the fort, while the Rattler, Lieutenant-Commander Walter Smith, and the Gilde, Lieutenant-Commander Woodworth, threw in shrapnell, and in company with the ram Monarch, Colonel Charles E. Ellet, of the army, commanding, pushed up close to the fort. Each of the gun-boats silenced the gun it was instructed to fire at about time same time. At twenty minutes past two all the heavy smooth bore and rifled guns in the fort were most effectually silenced. The Black Hawk, Lieutenant-Commander K. R. Breese, the Admiral's flag-ship, steamed up and took part in the fight. The Admiral himself, with his secretary, Dr. Heap, was in the little tug which was all the time screaming and dancing about among the gun-boats, directing and superintending the fight.

THE LAND ATTACK.

The first gun from the fleet was the signal for the soldiers to move, and Morgan and Sherman immediately pushed forward their men, and were met by a fierce fire from the rebel works. The Herald correspondent thus describes the crisis and end of the fight:

The troops in front were now sharply engaging the rebels in their works, while our artillery, and their field-pieces behind the breast-work near the fort, were blazing away at each other with great rapidity. In one instance the rebels galloped the horses up to the parapet with a gun, and when the horses wheeled with it, in order that it might be placed in position, our infantry fire killed all the horses in the traces, and the artillerists scampered off in an instant and left their gun. At a shot from one of our Parrott guns, which knocked one of the timbers from the breast-work, at least a hundred rebels ran away from behind the intrenchment into the bastioned fort. Our caissons were now coming from the front for ammunition. At ten minutes past three most of Morgan's men were in line, and the remainder were forming in columns in the rear. In five minutes more they were advancing with vigor. Sharp musketry and artillery firing was kept up all the time. At twenty minutes past three a heavy column of Morgan's men was seen moving up to the left of the line; near the river bank. It was at first supposed that it might be a storming column rushing on the works at a double-quick, for it is well known that when Morgan moves, he moves with vigor; but the next we knew the advancing column, enveloped in clouds of smoke, had halted. It was not a storming column. It was a body that was moving quickly to the front to extend the advancing line.

The time now was fifteen minutes past three. The fight was quite severe on both sides. Although the heavy guns in the fort were silenced, the field-pieces and the infantry behind the parapet with great determination continued to resist our vigorous advance. Our line extended from the river on the left round in front of the fort, and to the bayou on the right. The engagement was general along its whole extent. Morgan sent word that his left was advancing steadily, and, as the gun-boats commanded the river, he had sent for Lindsay's brigade to return from the other side.

It was now nearly four o'clock. The Admiral's flag-ship was coming close to the bank, and, with the other gun-boats, was pouring shot into the fort; Lindsay's brigade, across the river, was also firing into the works, while Morgan's and Sherman's men were advancing fast in front. The white flag was seen in several places on the parapet; enthusiastic cheers arose from our troops in front; the firing ceased; the rebels rose from behind the breast-work; and our troops rushed wildly forward, with flags flying; and many could not resist the rush behind, which pushed

them into and over the intrenchments. The fort had surrendered.

TAKING POSSESSION.

He adds:

The moment the lieutenant in the tree had reported the cheering along the line and had concluded with "I believe the fort has surrendered," General McClernand and staff dashed off, and were soon in the enemy's intrenchments, surrounded by thousands of the men. When the flag was shown on the river side the jolly Jack Tars had jumped ashore and were soon in the fort, followed by Admiral Porter and a number of his officers. Colonel Dunnington, commander of the fort, surrendered his sword to the Admiral in person. General Churchill, commander of the forces, soon appeared with his staff, and surrendered himself and hit troops to General McClernand. "I am sorry to meet you under such circumstances," said General McClernand; "but your men fought bravely today in defending the fort." General Churchill replied, that for himself he had not intended to surrender; that there was treachery somewhere on his lines; that he had ridden to the left with his staff, and on hearing the cheering supposed it was the cheering of his men, but on riding back into the fort had found our troops just taking possession. He said that in the morning he had issued orders to the troops that they must die in the ditches in preference to surrendering the Post. It is certain that the enemy could no longer successfully resist, and also that white flags were shown on the parapets in several places at the same time. Some of the soldiers told me that General Churchill had ordered the surrender. General Churchill told me that he did not; but, on the contrary, that the place was surrendered by traitors on his lines. It may be that the soldiers, seeing that further resistance was useless, concluded to abandon the defense. One thing is certain, there was great unanimity among the rebels in the surrender.

POST OF ARKANSAS.

He thus describes the place:

Post of Arkansas is the oldest settlement in the State. Nearly two centuries ago there was a Spanish town in the immediate vicinity, and I believe a small Spanish fort. It is situated on the right bank as you ascend the Arkansas River, about fifty miles from its mouth, and one hundred and seventeen miles from Little Rock, the capital of the State. It was settled in 1685 by the Acadian French, and was the trading-post for furs from the surrounding country. From the high point on which the fort is constructed down to the Mississippi River the land along the course of the Arkansas overflows during the winter and the spring. There is now no town at Post of Arkansas, only a few stores, and then at intervals for a dozen miles along the river bank an occasional house.

The fort is a regular, square-bastioned work, one hundred yards exterior side, with a deep ditch some fifteen feet wide, and a parapet eighteen feet high. A number of killed and wounded were lying in the ditches when we entered, and many sick soldiers in the hospital. All the heavy guns were broken by our shot, and were lying about in fragments on the ground. Ammunition captured by the rebels in the steamboat Blue Wing, a large amount of war materials and supplies of various kinds, and about five thousand prisoners have fallen into our hands by this brilliant achievement of our arms.

ADMIRAL PORTER.

The following sketch of Admiral Porter, who commanded the gun-boat attack, will remind the reader who he is:

ACTING REAR-ADMIRAL DAVID D. PORTER, the Commander of the Mississippi Flotilla, is the son of the famous Commodore David Porter of the Essex, and was born about the year 1814. In 1829 he entered the navy as midshipman on board the Constellation, and served six years on that ship and the United States. In 1835 he passed his examination, and served six years as passed midshipman on the Coast Survey. In 1841 he was commissioned a lieutenant, and served with that rank on board the Congress for four years. After a brief period of service at the Observatory at Washington he was placed on active duty under Commodore Tattnall in the Gulf of Mexico, and took a leading part in the imlvial operations of the Mexican war. In 1849 he was allowed to take command of one of the Pacific Mail Company's steamers, and remained several years in the service of that Company. While he commanded one of the California steam-ships—the Crescent City—he performed an exploit which attracted no little attention at the time. In consequence of the Black Warrior affair the Spanish Government had refused to permit any United States vessels to enter the port of Havana. Running under the shotted guns of Moro Castle he was ordered to halt. He promptly replied that he carried the United States flag and the United States mails, and, by the Eternal, he would go in; and he did, the Habaneros fearing to fire upon him. He said afterward that he intended firing his six-pounder at them once, in defiance, after which he would haul down his flag.

At the beginning of the year 1861 he was under orders to join the Coast survey on the Pacific, but, fortunately, had not left when the rebellion broke out. His name at this time stood number six on the list of lieutenants. The resignation of several naval traitors left room fur his advancement, and the "Naval Register" for August 31, 1861, places him number seventy-seven on the list of commanders. He was placed in command of the steam sloop of war Powhatan, a vessel of about twenty-five hundred tons, and armed with eleven guns. After doing blockading duty for some time, he left that ship to take special charge of the mortar expedition. The active part he took in the reduction of the forts below New Orleans will make his name ever memorable in connection with the mortar fleet, or "bummers," as the sailors term them. After the capture of New Orleans he, with his fleet, went. up the Mississippi River, and was engaged in several affairs on that river, including that of Vicksburg. From that place he was ordered to the James River, and returned in the Octorara. When off Charleston, on his way to Fortress Monroe, he fell in with and captured the Anglo-rebel steamer Tubal Cain. He was then appointed to the supreme control of all the naval forces on the Mississippi River, with the rank of Acting Rear-Admiral. The force under his orders, in vessels, guns, and men, is larger than has ever heretofore been under the command of any United States naval officer. His squadron is distinct in every way from that of Admiral Farragut, who still commands the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron.

The capture of the Post of Arkansas is the first exploit performed by the Admiral in his new command. We may hope that it will be the precursor of many others.

Admiral Porter is a man of wiry, muscular frame, handsome feature, of medium height, and, a few years ago, universally admitted to be the strongest man in the navy. He is about forty-five years old, and exhibits but few marks of age. He is married to a sister of Captain C. P. Patterson, formerly of San Francisco, by whom he has several children. He is most truly "a worthy son of a worthy sire." He belongs to a family of naval patriots; for besides the subject of this sketch, there are in the navy H. B. Porter, acting midshipman, appointed from New York, November 29, 1859; T. K. Porter, master, appointed from Tennessee, May 20, 1852; William C. B. S. Porter, lieutenant, appointed from the District of Columbia, March 25, 1849; and William D. Porter, Commodore, appointed from Massachusetts, January 1, 1823. The last-named commanded the Essex gun-boat on the Tennessee River, and fought the rebel ram it Arkansas on the Mississippi River. Major-General Fitz-John Porter is a cousin of the subject of our sketch, adding another hero to the family.

MAJOR-GENERAL McCLERNAND.

MAJOR-GENERAL JOHN A. McCLERNAND is a lawyer by profession, and has figured prominently as a leading Democratic politician from Illinois. He was a leader of the Douglas Democrats, and did battle for them valiantly at Charleston. At the outbreak of the war he took sides manfully for the Union, and shortly afterward was nominated a Brigadier-General of Volunteers. In the Belmont fight he manifested that he possessed very good military capacity, and during his administration of military affairs at Cairo he secured the good-will of the men under his command. In the reconnoissance in the rear of Columbus, during the advance upon Fort Henry, and at the grand battle before Fort Donelson, General McClernand manifested (Next Page)


 

 

 

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