Commentary on General Burnside


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 14, 1863

Harper's Weekly was the most popular newspaper published during the Civil War. We have acquired a complete run of these newspapers, and have posted them on this WEB site for your enjoyment. These amazing papers allow you to really drill down and develop new perspective on the war.

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Union Soldier

Only One Man Killed Today Poem

Burnside Commentary

Commentary on General Burnside

Atlantic Sea-Board

Atlantic Sea-Board Map

Battle Bayou Teche

Battle of Bayou Teche

Daniel Butterfield

General Daniel Butterfield

General Butterfield Biography

Jim Crow

Jim Crow

Savannah Scenes

Scenes Around Savannah, Georgia

Bayou Teche, Louisiana

Bayou Teche


Battle of Murfreesboro

Crossing the Rappahannock

Crossing the Rappahannock River



FEBRUARY 14, 1863.]



(Previous Page) charge her heart yearns toward all her scholars, both maid and matron, and she has written, under the name of "A Talk with my Pupils," a truly admirable volume of simple, sensible, thoughtful, and friendly suggestions for the life of women.

Mrs. Sedgwick's great experience and practical wisdom enable her to appreciate perfectly the proper scope of such a work, and she has made herself, in her book, the friend of many more than her pupils. In fact, she keeps in its pages the most delightful school for all of us, old grizzled Loungers of both sexes, as well as the tender and docile youth around us. The book is a charming Family Manual. It understands the value of the little things which make the great differences in life, and is so a home philosophy of good morals and manners. It is as gently didactic as such a work can be, and its discourse is so enlivened by anecdotes drawn from experience that it runs no risk of rejection as a dry ethical essay; while it is so penetrated with human sympathy as the true secret of really fine manners that it will not be mistaken for a treatise upon etiquette.

Doubtless, as its pages are read in those many happy homes by the husband and father, he will no longer wonder why the solemn Berkshire hills are so pleasantly remembered, while he will gladly acknowledge, what is so often forgotten, the tender, sagacious, thoughtful influence which, in moulding the girl, modeled the wife and mother.


MY DEAR JOHN,—As we parted you said that if any more arbitrary arrests were made, the State of New York would be redder with blood than ever Virginia was. Now you are a sensible man, and we can therefore talk together as partisans could not.

By arbitrary arrests you mean the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. That the power of suspension is granted by the Constitution you will not deny. That, in the absence of Congress, it may be necessary to suspend it, in certain cases, you will agree. That the proper person to do it is the President you will allow. That, if Congress justifies him in the suspension, the only powers that hold the right are satisfied you must concede. Then you say that the State of New York is not in rebellion, nor is it invaded, and therefore the writ can not be suspended here. The reply is, that the writ is not suspended generally in the State, but that the privilege of certain citizens of the United States resident here, to the writ, is suspended on the just ground of national necessity.

Neither you nor any man who is anxious that the Government of the United States shall prevail at every hazard has felt his rights in danger from any arbitrary exercise of power. That that exercise has been always discreet no man will affirm; but that such power must exist he will not deny. Nor will he contend that the complaint of its exercise during this war has been founded upon an honest fear of the overthrow of the guarantees of liberty; for we all know that the complaint has been merely a party cry.

When James Second sent Jeffreys butchering through the west of England the English people justly complained of the peril of their rights. But when William Third suspended the writ of habeas corpus, in the recess of Parliament, the same people thanked him for defending their liberties. No English historian denies that the Parliament in the struggle with Charles First exceeded the constitutional limits of its power. The Parliament itself did not deny it. For the question of the rebellion was whether the King should destroy the Constitution, or whether the Parliament should assume powers to save the Constitution. The result was that the British Constitution was unconstitutionally saved. Fortunately our President is not obliged to transcend his constitutional powers to save the Government, and he has not transcended them. But if he had, and the people saw that the step was honestly taken and meant to save the nation, they would not fail to applaud and indemnify him.

This rebellion is an effort to overthrow by force the Government of the United States. That Government is recreant if, under the war power which would be implied if it were not expressed in the Constitution, it does not use every means, including emancipation, to conquer the rebels. But the Government can not take any course which the people do not approve. If, therefore, the people do not approve the emancipation order, suspension of the privilege of the writ in any case, or they are not willing to take those steps to secure victory, and if, because of their opposition, they destroy the earnest national purpose of success, they directly conspire for national ruin. In other words, they are resigned to their own destruction. When you and other grave, moderate men see that the party malignity which calls itself "conservatism" has brought you to the brink of the dilemma of anarchy, or the faithful support of the most radical war measures for the national existence and civil order, you will regret that you had not earlier seen the alternative. Let us hope, dear John, that it will not then be too late.

Your dutiful



FROM the first appearance of General Burnside in this war as Colonel of the First Rhode Island Regiment and Acting Brigadier at Bull Run, through his brilliant Carolina campaign, to his withdrawal from the Army of the Potomac, his career has been so manly, so simple, and so heroic, that no General has awakened a more affectionate regard in the popular heart. He has held himself aloof from all cliques of designing men speculating upon the possibility of using him as a Presidential candidate. There has been no question of his bravery, his energy, and his celerity in the field, qualities essential to an invading army. Upon the loftiness, purity, and earnestness of purpose no suspicion has been breathed. He has issued no foolish addresses. In the hour of reverse he has neither thrown the

blame upon the Government nor suffered others to do so, but cheerfully assumed all the responsibility that must necessarily belong to the General in command; in every position bearing himself as the most modest and loyal citizen, the daring and skillful soldier, and the frank and generous man,

In the wild vortex of contemporary events it is impossible to know the exact or even relative truth. We are compelled to see much that we can not explain, and which vehement partisan speculations do not help to elucidate. It is, however, an accepted law that in war every General must be judged by his success. For the want of that success, although it may show no want of essential power, but be merely the consequence of uncontrollable circumstances, Fremont, McClellan, McDowell, Pope, and Burnside have disappeared from the stage of war. Political intrigues keep McClellan in a publicity which it would be unkind to suppose that he desires. Fortunately for their usefulness no such intrigues have as yet formed about the other Generals.

Whether or not General Burnside takes another command or remains withdrawn for the present from the public eye, the public heart will follow him with admiration, sympathy, and gratitude. His are the qualities of which the noblest citizens and the purest men are made: which, if shared by every General in the service, would soon end distraction, intrigue, and jealousy, and give us the victory.


A MAN being asked, as he lay sunning himself on the grass, what was the height of his ambition, replied, "To marry a rich widow with a bad cough."

"When the sky falls we shall catch larks," said an old gentleman, quoting a well-known proverb. "Certainly," said a wag beside him; "but in my opinion our young men have no need to wait for that event; they have too many 'larks' already."

AND SO FORTH.—There is a young man in the United States army, who was born July 4, at 4 o'clock P.M., at No. 44, in a street in Boston, 1844, a 4th child, has 4 names, enlisted into the Newton company, which has joined the 4th battalion, 44th regiment, 4th company, and on the 4th or September was appointed 4th corporal, and is now gone forth to defend his country.

If all the world were pudding,

And all the sea were sauce,

And all the trees were almonds, stuck Around it and across;

If such a change should happen,

Why—then beyond all question—

Oh! decry me! there just would be

A lot of indigestion!

When a man is indisposed with the gout, it makes him indisposed to go-out.

"I'll let you off easy this time," as the horse said when he threw his rider into the mud.

Your wife can not have been too dearly won, if you and she are dearly one.

Parties at a dead lock should extricate themselves with a skeleton key.

Dryden says, that, "If a straw can tickle a man, it is to him an instrument of happiness." Tickle his nose with it and see.

The man who was hemmed in by a crowd has been troubled with a stitch in his side ever since.

The man who took every body's eye must have a lot of them.

In navigating the sea of life, carefully avoid the breakers—"especially the heart-breakers," says old Growler.

At a woman's convention, a gentleman remarked that a woman was the most wicked thing in creation. "Sir," was the indignant reply of one of the ladies, "woman was made from man, and if one rib is so wicked, what must the whole body be?"

SCARED INDIVIDUAL, DODGING INFURIATED BULL BEHIND A TREE. "You ungrateful beast, you! You wouldn't toss a consistent vegetarian, who never ate beef in his life, would you? Is that the return you make?"

Dean Swift said of an apothecary, that his business was to pour drugs, of which he knew but little, into a body, of which he knew less.

To keep water from coming in—Don't pay the water-rate.

The first ingredient in conversation is truth, the next good sense, the thirst good-humor, and the fourth wit.

INTERESTING TO "PARTIES IN DIFFICULTIES.''—EVERY six hours out of the twenty-four is quarter day.

The earth is exceedingly dirty, but the sea is very tidy.

A MORMON DEFINITION.—A spare rib—A second wife.

The best adhesive label you can put on luggage is to stick to it yourself.

When is a vessel smaller than a bonnet?—When she's cap-sized. (The author has since had his head shaved.)

IRON-ICAL Man.—An "old file" is preferable to an "old screw."


Why would a sixth sense be a bore?

Because it would be a nuisance (new sense).

It's pretty, it's useful in various ways,

Though by it men often shorten their days;

Take one letter from it, and then 'twill appear

What young men are fond of every day in the year; Take two letters from it, and then without doubt

You will be what remains if you can't find it out. Glass—lass—ass.

Why is a nail far in like an old man? Because it is infirm (in firm).

What regiment was Adam in?

The Buffs.


ON Wednesday, January 28, us the Senate, the Post-Office Committee reported back the bill establishing a postal money order system, with a recommendation that it do not pass. Senator Clark, of New Hampshire, offered a preamble reciting the turbulent acts of Senator Saulsbury, of Delaware, on 27th, and a resolution that he be

expelled from the Senate. The resolution was laid over under the rules. A resolution was adopted instructing the Military Committee to inquire into the propriety of extending such relief as circumstances may require, and inquire into the case of Mr. Thomas, known as "Zarvona, the French lady," of Maryland, now a prisoner of war at Fort Lafayette, and who, as represented, has been confined in a dungeon of that fortress since June last, and is now hopelessly insane by reason of his sufferings. The President was requested to transmit to the Senate all orders issued by the Secretaries of War and Treasury in regard to a general prohibition to export arms and munitions from the United States to the Mexican Republic, and any orders relative to the exportation of articles contraband of war for the use of the French army. The bill making appropriations for pensions for invalid soldiers was passed. The Army Appropriation bill was also passed. The Consular and Diplomatic Appropriation bill was discussed, and after an executive session the Senate adjourned. —In the House, the question of arming the negroes was brought up on a motion to refer the bills authorizing the employment of black soldiers to the Committee on Military Affairs. The opposition attempted to defeat the bills, and thereupon commenced a series of parliamentary manoeuvres on both sides, which continued until two o'clock in the morning, without any result as regards the legislation of the House.

On Thursday, 29th, in the Senate, Senator Saulsbury, of Delaware, made an apology for his recent violent and disorderly conduct, and the resolution expelling him from the Senate was for the time withdrawn. The resolution concerning Commodore Vanderbilt, Commodore Van Brunt, and others, for alleged negligence in reference to the vessels of the Banks expedition was discussed, but no vote taken. The bill appropriating money to aid in the emancipation of the slaves in Missouri was taken up, and debated until the adjournment.—The House was engaged in debating the bill for arming negroes.

On Friday, 30th, in the Senate, a communication from the President, recommending a vote of thanks to Commodore David R. Porter, for his gallantry in the affair at Arkansas Post, was referred to the Naval Committee. The resolution censuring the parties engaged In fitting out the vessels of the Banks expedition was discussed for some time and then laid aside. The new Senator from Illinois, Hon. W. A. Richardson, was qualified and took his seat. The debate on the proposition to furnish pecuniary aid for the emancipation of slaves in Missouri was then resumed, and finally, on motion of Senator Harris, the bill was recommitted to the Judiciary Committee. After an executive session the Senate adjourned.—In the House, a joint resolution for the appointment of Commissioners to revise and codify the laws was reported, as was also a bill to prevent collisions at sea. A bill making appropriations for fortifications was reported by the Ways and Means Committee. A resolution was adopted that the General-in-Chief inform the House whether paroles have been granted to any rebel officers captured by the army of the United States since the proclamation of Jefferson Davis refusing paroles or exchanges to captured Union officers. The remainder of the session was devoted to debate on the bill authorizing the employment of negroes as soldiers.

On Saturday, 31st, in the Senate, the Naval Committee reported back the joint resolution tendering the thanks of Congress to Commander John L. Worden for good conduct in the conflict between the Monitor and the Merrimac. The resolution was adopted. The same committee reported back the joint resolution tendering the thanks of Congress to Commodores James L. Lardner, Charles H. Davis, J. H. Dahlgren, Stephen C. Rowan, David D. Porter, and S. H. Stringham, with an amendment striking out the name of Commodore Lardner, not for any thing derogatory to him, but because of the rule to give no thanks except to one in command of an expedition or having a separate command. The amendment was agreed to and the resolution adopted. The bill to encourage enlistments, and providing for enrolling and drafting the militia, was reported back by the Military Committee. The resolution calling for information relative to the exportation of arms, etc., to Mexico for the use of the French was adopted. The Consular and Diplomatic Appropriation bill was passed. The Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Appropriation bill was then taken up and discussed until the adjournment.—The session of the House was taken up with debate on the bill authorizing the organization of negroes as soldiers.

On Monday, February 2, in the Senate, a communication was received from the President of the Smithsonian Institution, suggesting that George E. Badger, of North Carolina, ought no longer to be a member of the Board of Regents, as he had not attended any of the meetings, and was, moreover, in the rebel army. The petition of Madison Y. Johnson was presented, setting forth that he was arrested in August last by order of the Secretary of War, and imprisoned until the 13th of September, and that no reason was ever assigned for the arrest or discharge. Senator Richardson moved for a select committee to inquire into the facts, but the petition was laid on the table by a vote of 22 against 16. The Judiciary Committee reported back the bill granting pecuniary aid to Missouri in emancipating slaves. The Paymaster General was directed to inform the Senate what payments, if any, were made to the army up to the 31st of August, and, if none were made, what was the reason for such non-payment. The bill making appropriations for executive, legislative, and judicial expenses was passed, and the Senate adjourned.—In the House, the Senate's amendments to the Army Appropriation bill, with the exception of $5000 for the survey of the Minnesota River and the Red River of the North, were concurred in. The Senate's amendments to the Consular and Diplomatic Appropriation bill were also concurred in. The Senate bill amendatory of the act for the collection of direct taxes in insurrectionary districts was passed. The debate on the bill authorizing the President to employ negroes as soldiers was then resumed. After an animated discussion the bill was passed by a vote of 85 against 55, and the House adjourned.

On Tuesday, 3d, in the Senate, the credentials of Hon. Reverdy Johnson, Senator elect from Maryland, were presented. The Post-office Appropriation bill was passed. The bill to establish a national currency secured by United States stocks was postponed for one week. A bill stopping the pay of unemployed army officers was introduced and referred to the Military Committee. Senator M'Dougall moved to take up his resolutions relative to the French invasion of Mexico. Senator Sumner, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, opposed the proposition; but the motion was agreed to by a vote of 29 against 16, Senator M'Dougall then addressed the Senate at considerable length on the subject. Senator Sumner also spoke, and concluded his remarks by moving to lay the resolutions on the table. Without coming to a vote the Senate went into executive session, and subsequently adjourned.—In the House, the Committee on Elections reported favorably on the credentials of Messrs. Flanders and Halm, members from the First and Second districts of Louisiana. The Bankrupt bill was then taken up, and, after some explanation, Mr. Kellogg, of Illinois, moved to lay it on the table, which was agreed to by a vote of 60 against 53. The Military Committee reported back the bill providing for the enlargement of the New York and Michigan and Illinois canals, with amendments, and the subject was referred to the Committee of the Whole. A bill was reported authorizing the construction of a submarine telegraph from Fort McHenry to Galveston, touching at various points on the coast. A motion to lay the bill on the table was lost by a vote of 46 against 68, and pending the question on its passage the House adjourned.


A dispatch to the Richmond Inquirer, dated Charleston, January 31, says:

This morning the gun-boats Palmetto State, Captain Rutledge, and Chicora, Captain Tucker, accompanied by three small steamers—the General Clinch, Etiwan, and Chesterfield—all under the command of Commodore Ingraham, made an attack on the blockaders, and succeeded in sinking two and crippling a third.

The engagement commenced at 4 o'clock.

The Palmetto State, with Commodore Ingraham on board, opened fire upon the Federal gun-boat Mercedita, carrying 11 guns and 158 men, which was soon sunk in five fathoms of water. Her commander, Captain Stellwagen, with a boat's crew, came on board and surrendered. One shot pierced her boiler, going clear through. Captain Stellwagen and crew were paroled by Commodore Ingraham.

Captain Tucker, of the Chicora, reports sinking another Federal gun-boat and the disabling of the steamship Quaker City. The latter was set on fire by the Chicora, and hauled down her flag to surrender, but afterward managed to escape, using only one wheel. She was very seriously damaged.

The number of the blockading fleet outside at the time of the attack was thirteen, with two first-class frigate; the Susquehanna and Canandaigua.

The Federal loss was very severe. It was a complete success on our part, with not a man hurt.

Our gun-boats were not even struck.

All the blockaders have disappeared. There is not one to be seen within five miles with the strongest kind of glasses. Our boats are now returning to Charleston.

The following is the official dispatch:


I went out last night. This vessel struck the Mercedita, when she sent a boat on board and surrendered. The officers and crew were paroled. Captain Tucker thinks he sunk one vessel and set another on fire, when she struck her flag. The blockading fleet had gone to southward and eastward out of sight.   D. N. INGRAHAM,

Flag-Officer Commanding.


The following proclamation was forthwith published:



At about five o'clock this morning the Confederate States naval force on this station attacked the United States blockading fleet off the harbor of the city of Charleston, and sunk, dispersed, or drove off and out of sight for the time the entire hostile fleet.

Therefore we, the undersigned, commanders respectively of the Confederate States naval and land forces in this quarter, do hereby formally declare the blockade by the United States of the said city of Charleston, South Carolina, to be raised by a superior force of the Confederate States from and after this 31st day of January, A.D., 1863.




Flag-Officer commanding Naval Forces in South Carolina. Official: THOMAS JOURDAN, Chief of Staff.

A Charleston dispatch, dated 1st February, says: Yesterday afternoon General Beauregard placed a steamer at the disposal of the foreign consuls to see for themselves that no blockade existed.

The French and Spanish Consuls, accompanied by General Ripley, accepted the invitation. The British Consul, with the Commander of the British war steamer Petrel, had previously gone five miles beyond the usual anchorage of the blockaders and could see nothing of them with glasses.

Late in the evening four blockaders reappeared, keeping far out. This evening a large number of blockaders are in sight, but keep steam up, evidently ready to run.


A special dispatch from Cairo says that information has been received that General McClernand's forces have landed on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River, five miles below the mouth of the Yazoo, and in full view of the city of Vicksburg. Two brigades were engaged when the informant left in opening the famous "cut off" of General Williams, which is to make Vicksburg no longer a river city. General Grant has left Memphis for below with one division. The river was quite full at Vicksburg at last accounts. The rebels are evidently posted as to our movements, for the Petersburg Express of the 26th, says, in a dispatch from Vicksburg: "We have trust-worthy intelligence from above that the great Yankee flotilla, consisting of sixty gun-boats and transports, has passed Greenville, Mississippi, coming down. We are ready."


The iron-clad Montauk seems to have had a fight with the rebel battery M'Allister, in the Ogeechee River, under cover of which the Nashville is lying. No reliable accounts of the affair have come to hand. The Richmond and Savannah papers say that the Montauk came up to the fort in fine style, and that she was the only boat engaged. Their shell and shot were broken to pieces as they struck her sides, but her turret was so badly injured that she had to haul off. The other in the mean time remained below a bend of the river, entirely out of the action. On the other hand, the Navy Department received a dispatch on 3d from Fortress Monroe, stating that there is no truth in the report that the Montauk was disabled; that Commander Worden lay under the enemy's guns for four hours, and that their shot had no more effect upon his vessel than hail-stones.


General Corcoran had a brilliant action with the rebel chief, Roger A. Pryor, on the night of the 29th, and completely defeated him. The conflict took place at a point

ten miles from Suffolk, and the battle opened by an artillery duel by moonlight. After two hours' firing the rebel artillery began to slacken, when General Corcoran ordered a charge of his infantry and cavalry. The enemy fell back before our troops for two miles, and there made another stand, and the fight was continued for over seven hours. General Corcoran had a narrow escape from a shell which burst directly in front of him. Our loss was about one hundred and four.


It is stated, upon the authority of the Richmond Whig, that the British steamer Princess Royal was surrounded and captured by a fleet of Union gun-boats while attempting to run the blockade into Charleston, on Thursday, with a valuable cargo from Halifax. She had on board 600 barrels of powder, 2 Armstrong guns, a large lot of machinery, 880 bales of sheet-iron, 1 steam bakery. 144 bales of hardware, 95 cases of boots, 229 bags of coffee, 500 boxes of tin, and other valuables. A party of English workmen, skilled in the manufacture of projectiles, were captured with the vessel.


Major-General Banks is still in New Orleans. He has reiterated General Butler's order taxing certain rebel merchants for the support of the poor; has cautioned the public against offering insults to the soldiers, and in several acts has indicated a vigorous administration. Jacob Barker has appealed to him several times for permission to revive the Advocate, but General Banks, it is said, will not permit the publication of that rebel sheet again.


The report of the rebel Secretary of the Treasury shows the condition of the enemy's finances. The receipts for the year 1862 were $457,855,704, and the expenditures $416,971,735, leaving a balance of over $41,000. The expenses for the War Department was $340,000,000, and for the Navy $20,000,000.



A LETTER, has been transmitted by the Emperor Napoleon to General Forey, Commander-in-Chief of the French army in Mexico, in which his Majesty explains very freely and fully the objects and scope of the expedition to that country, both present and prospective. This most significant document has been officially submitted to the French Legislature. In it the Emperor says: "In the present state of the civilization of the world the prosperity of America is not a matter of indifference to Europe, for it is she who feeds our manufactories and gives life to our commerce. We have an interest in this—that the republic of the United States be powerful and prosperous; but we have none in this—that she should seize possession of all the Mexican Gulf, dominate from thence the Antilles, as well as South America, and be the sole dispenser of the products of the New World."




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