Description of Escaping Slaves


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 21, 1863

We have one of the most extensive private collections of Harper's Weekly newspapers in the country. We love these old newspapers, and have decided to make part of our collection available to the public by creating an online version of the Collection. We hope you enjoy reading these fascinating papers.

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General Tom Thumb

General Tom Thumb

Tom Thumb Wedding

Tom Thumb Wedding

Army of the Potomac

Reorganization of the Army of the Potomac

Escaping Slaves

Description of Escaping Slaves

Fort Hindman Attack

Attack on Fort Hindman


The Montauk

Charleston Fight

Fight Off Charleston

P. T. Barnum

P. T. Barnum Ad

Freed Negroes

Freed Negroes


Beaufort, North Carolina

Fort Hindman

Fort Hindman





FEBRUARY 21, 1863.]



suspicion of coquetry and higher ambition; accused me of pride, and thanked me, all in that quiet, cool way of passionate scorn which he had, for saving his vanity too fatal a blow by my fine reasons of rejection. Because I was rich, he thought, and he was poor; for long before he spoke I knew he hesitated, for very pride, with that feeling. My passion rose too, and I disdained a word more of explanation. To be so judged, and by him! How dare a man ask a woman to marry him when there is any where in his heart the seed of such suspicion?"

Her voice grew vehement again, and again sank to its calmer tone.

"He went away the next morning. I never saw him again. Then you came home with me. Then the war followed. And from this last event, not a day, not an hour have I been free from tormenting anxiety for him. I saw at the very first, in a Northern paper, his name among the volunteers; and any moment—" She stopped, covered her eyes with her hand, and set a white tooth hardly against her lip to crush back the tide of emotion. But all at once she dropped the slight cover, her face full of that expectant look—eager, watchful, listening.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Sara, I can not get rid of that strange feeling —I am haunted. Something unusual is going to happen. I believe I am clairvoyant. It is a trait that the Radefords used to call second-sighted; and in every third generation it appears in one of the descendants."

I drew nearer to her, thrilled at her words. The room was full of ghostly shadows, for the fire burned low, and one dim candle was flaring itself out in a corner.

Looking, about me, I saw to my relief that the heavy inside shutters were closed and barred, and over them drooped, in thick folds, the dark old damask curtains.

As I thought of this safety—hist! what was that that broke the deep stillness?

I glanced at Jessie. She had not moved a thread; it was no fold of her dress that made that sound!

And she had heard too; her lips were parted to still her respiration, her eyes expectant. Neither of us spoke nor stirred.

It came again—a soft, dull sound—a footfall. Something flashed over me. I leaned forward and breathed in the lowest whisper,

"Jetson's ghost, Jessie."

She shook her head for silence more than for a denial; and still waited.

Again, distincter now than before, that footfall, nearer yet, and—there was a hand feeling for the door-latch—the door of the room where we sat. I grasped at Jessie, but she rose, and turned to face whoever might be about to enter. I rose too, feeling strangely excited, but not fear-stricken. The next instant the groping hand had found what it had searched for. There came a cautious click—the door swung open; and upon the threshold there stood the figure of a man in some military uniform.

It was but for a second. What happened then?

I saw Jessie Radeford spring forward. I saw her seize the intruder by the wrist, and draw him into the room. I heard her exclaim, breathlessly, "James! James!"

James Barry! And how came he here?

I know not by what word or question she asked this; but I remember that hesitation which called forth her passionate reply:

"For God's sake—for humanity's sake—do not distrust me again at such an hour, James Barry!" she ejaculated, in suppressed tones. "Do you think I would betray you? Listen. There sleep up stairs Captain Kingston and five other armed men. They are but a detachment of a greater number lying in wait for a suspected force of Federals in this vicinity. I have but to raise my voice and you are their prisoner; but, instead, because I espouse the cause of the North from my heart and soul, I ask you, as one of her soldiers, to trust in me, that I may render aid—the aid that lies in my power. You are a Federal officer, perhaps in command of this force; let me warn you of their—"

He interrupted her with an eager movement.

"Stay!" he exclaimed. "You have espoused the Federal cause. You wish to aid it. You have now a signal opportunity. Captain Kingston and his men will see you before they depart. Engage them in conversation—a conversation which you will assist me to hear from some unsuspected covert. They will readily disclose their whereabouts, their number, their plan of attack upon us. This is the only way whereby you can aid the Federal cause which you love. Will you do it?"

Her womanly heart shrank a moment; but presently a fire shone in her eyes. Her voice was firm and resolute.

"Yes. I will do it—for the Federal cause which I love!" she emphasized.

"I should not be likely to misinterpret your motive," he said, hastily, but more sadly this time than proudly.

Then we heard how he came there. A fugitive had given him information a few days before of the proximity of the enemy; had told him of the haunted house—as Cedar Glen was known in that region—as a guide-post to the neighborhood. Captain Barry had seized upon this as a fortunate circumstance, and upon several occasions had made that uncanny "east wing," which the negro had fully described, a hiding-place and a point of observation. Knowing the house to be occupied for a long time, only in some remote kitchen corner, by two old domestics, he had sometimes taken a pleasure in exploring the strange mysteries of the ancient apartments.

He hoped Miss Radeford would pardon the liberty; and even then the love that tore and rent this proud heart burst out in the bitter grace of his manlier and his voice, as he bowed his stately head before her.

But Jessie felt only the irony; and, with a shade of wrong upon her face, she turned to the subject of his concealment.

There was an old mirror of polished eteel, ornamented

with deep framings of dark wood, which reached from the ceiling to the quaint table standing under it. Behind this a panel-door slid, and communicated with a press that had once been used, but was now empty.

"Quite a Castle of Otranto," remarked Captain Barry, as he surveyed this refuge, hidden only for convenience' sake.

And his voice had the old music in it now, in its half jesting tone—the old music, that brought those summer days, the cliffs, and the sea so vividly to view. I did not wonder that Jessie trembled as she heard.

The night, by this time, had worn on far toward morning. In a short time the early breakfast, at which we were to play such strange parts, would summon the guests from their slumbers.

As we turned to leave the room to prepare ourselves in something more fitting for breakfast than our evening silks, Captain Barry too turned. A change had come over his face. Its hardness had vanished; and he held out his hand, with these words:

"Miss Radeford, before you go, let me say how much I appreciate the true spirit and courage that enables you to do this. Let me say that I no longer distrust you; that the woman who, under these circumstances, can prove such loyalty and faith, wins for herself all faith in the best, purest of motives, however she may act. In looking back upon the past now, I can, in simple justice, only consider myself unfortunate in not awakening the same emotions that I felt myself."

I was glad that he had done her even partial justice at last; and as I saw them part, she never giving sign of her suffering, I followed her up the stairs to our room, resolved what I would do. They should never part thus.

But, as we stood in the chamber, I could see that her spirits had risen by his words. She stood there arraying herself in her bright merino morning-gown, a flush of excitement on her cheek, a kindling fire in her eyes.

"I feel like a French woman," she said; "a French woman in the days of Richelieu. I hope I may be as wise and far-seeing as they were."

I never doubted her capacity, I told her; and there I stole away. I was cold, I explained to her, and as I had finished dressing first I would not wait for her.

I went straight back to the parlor, where Captain Barry was waiting, and before I left the room again he knew how he had misunderstood. He knew for what noble charge, what sacred responsibility she had left him free. The strong fellow actually groaned at his injustice. "Will she ever forgive me?" he exclaimed, huskily.

And he was for having me beseech her to come to hire at once; but I showed him how much wiser it would be to wait until she had performed the part which had been assigned her for the interview that was coming. Wiser not to startle her with any fresh surprises.

A while later, in that same room, gracious, graceful, and piquante, a slim, dark girl presided at a wide and well-supplied table.

The hand that poured the coffee was steady. The voice that asked those marvelously well-chosen questions, or laughed in response to some bright sally, was clear, firm, and even gay; not a note rung falsely. And the manner had its accustomed nonchalance, its careless, even play, from the low chiding of that lazy, blundering dim, who waited upon us, to the coquettish glance at the steel mirror, which reflected a knot of ribbon awry that her dextrous touch brought into order.

It was marvelous, this cool control, this matchless ease, with such a secret under all.

I, too, thought of French women as I saw her now; dark, fascinating, distracting women, who had sat at the tables of princes, with gay smiles and brilliant jests, while beneath their silken boddices throbbed hearts that held the secrets of a kingdom.

To me the moments seemed leaden-weighted. To her who sat opposite me time appeared to have lost its value. Her spirits actually rose as the seconds ticked audibly past from the old clock upon the mantle. It was the fine sense of the diplomatiste when he sees the success of his finesse. Once I feared that this subtle elation might overdo the nice point of success. Vain fear. To the last—to the very end, when at the door she stood nodding and smiling adieu, it was the same careless, thoughtless gayety; and as they rode down the avenue she leaned against the door-way, beating a little foot upon the stone, and humming a little tune, while she gazed across the hills.

But when the last rider disappeared, like a mask all gayety, all childish thoughtlessness fell from her face as she turned to re-enter the room where another interview awaited her.

For myself, I fled to my chamber. That interview was not for me.

Later a voice, her voice, called me. "Sara, come down!"

I went, and I saw at once that I had done wisely in my revelation. There was peace between them, and love and faith which no more doubts would ever shake.

There was a soft light in Jessie's eyes as she said, simply, "Captain Barry is going, Sara, and he wishes to bid you 'good-bv.'"

"To bid you good-by and God bless you, Sara Chester!"

I knew what he meant. I had done wisely.

Then in the next moment he had kissed us both—her last, holding her in lingering arms, and saying:

"I will wait for you all my life if need be, Jessie." And then he was gone.

But they had not to wait so long. There was a crisis coming indeed. Neither of us felt it. She was wrapped in the present. I was dulled by the past excitement from any hope or foreboding. That night she sat gazing dreamily from the window when I saw her face whiten. She called me to look.

A fierce rider was coming at headlong speed down the western range of hills.

What did it mean? She thought of him. I could have counted the strokes of her heart as those hoofs rang on the road and nearer up the avenue. We neither of us looked now until he stood before us.

A messenger from the Radefords! I breathed easier.

But something had happened! She saw it in the man's bearing. Ah, there was a letter. She seized it, tore it open. A grave look passed into her face, but it chased all horror away. It was solemn news, but not what she feared. I took the sheet from her hand and read it. "Uncle Rush" was dead. A sudden but easy death—one of those swift spasms of the heart which stop its beat forever.

It was all a whirl of excitement following this. We went up to town, and there, amidst preparations for the funeral, came tidings of the capture of Captain Kingston and a detachment of the —ths by a force of Federals.

Thank Heaven that was safely over!

Then, at the last, that crowning fate. Those children for whom she had sacrificed so much were left without further prevision of guardianship. To their grateful sister fell the welcome charge.

What was to keep us now in this land of bondage? Noticing but rashness, and we were not rash; we had learned too long the lesson of caution for that.

And one day we found ourselves in far New England—in free New England, for which we had yearned.

And later still, on another day, there was a happy reunion. The ghost of Cedar Glen appeared to us, not in surprise as on that strange night, but heralded by joyful letters.

And again I heard a voice full of manly emotion say, "God bless you, Sara Chester!" And I pray God's blessing upon them—upon James Barry and his wife Jessie—and to all men and women who believe in the cause of God and humanity.


FUN, I fancy, must be one of the original elements, though I doubt if it be accredited by school-men, for even in the grim game of war, amidst forced marches, half rations, shivering night rounds, massacres called battles, and the deaths of those we love, turns up occasionally such a joke as my going to Wilson's Creek.

Per se, it was hardly a laughing matter, for the rebels keep good watch, and have always a rope or a bullet ready for the unlucky scouts that they catch napping; but the General was urgent to know something more of their position, and however risky I felt it to be, I couldn't disgrace my branch of the profession by backing down, specially as all the other fellows were so kindly afraid of robbing me of the "glory" of the expedition.

How to go was, however, an open question, for they are near-sighted rascals, those rebels, and shallow devices won't go down with them; besides, for some reason or other, I had gotten into a sort of panic, and could think of nothing but the delights of being strung up amidst the jeers of a parcel of rebels; and though I don't think I am much more of a coward than men on the average, to start in that frame of mind on an undertaking requiring all a man's wit and nerve, was simply going to certain death; while to make matters worse, I could no more scare up a disguise or an excuse than if that sort of ware had been entirely out of market.

At last Sue Scott, who is in my confidence, and is going to be my—but never mind that—got vexed at seeing me hesitating there like a girl, and said, sharply,

"Why, George, if you haven't the heart to go like a nun, go like a woman, but go somehow."

And the careless speech struck me as a spark does a train of gunpowder, and in ten minutes I had it all planned, and was getting as fast as I could for laughing into a riding dress of Sue's, who, luckily for me, is on an ample pattern, broad in the shoulders, and as tall as I within an inch.

The fun of the thing had driven all thoughts of panic out of my head, and what with Aunt Rhoda's red and white, used, as she solemnly averred, only in painting maps, my short hair turned under at the back in a net, with braids (Aunt Rhoda's again, preserved, she says, as specimens of the vanity and wickedness of New York), fastened on either side of my face, and the whole surmounted by a pork-pie hat with a drooping plume, and one of those misty little things that Sue calls a veil, I think my own mother would hardly have recognized me.

It is true I had a somewhat awkward way of tripping myself in my long skirt, and that Sue insisted that my face was an impudent libel on the modesty of the sex; but I intended not to dismount if possible, and had full faith that the women (the patriotic ones, at least) would forgive me; and with a letter addressed in Sue's handwriting to a supposed brother in Price's army, and a revolver in the bosom of my riding-dress, I started off just after dusk, perched up, woman fashion, on a side-saddle, and allowed to draw about one breath in three by that diabolical instrument of torture called a corset. In fact, since that ride, it is a question with me whether the whole dress wasn't originally a penance devised for some feminine sinner of rank, and ignorantly copied by the sex as the mode; for it pinches you in at the waist, and half throttles you at the neck, and pinches you at the wrists; and their boots stop just where they ought to go on; and the wretched little hats won't stay on; and the veil half blinds you; and— However, there is some old proverb about not abusing the bridge that carries you safely over, and so I will go on with my story.

I reached Wilson's Creek without incident of any kind, and the pickets were civil enough to the pork-pie and riding-skirt, which was about all that they saw in the dim light; while the pork-pie, on its part, conducted itself with becoming reserve, saying no more to the guards than was proper in a young lady of discretion, but using its eyes diligently

on the way to the nearest officer—not a wary veteran, but, as Fortune (who, like every thin, feminine, is generally kind to impudence) would have it, a gay young fellow of twenty-one, handsome as a girl, and much more attentive to the red and white, and Aunt Rhoda's shining braids, seen through the veil, than to the probabilities of my story.

He took the letter carelessly.

"Joseph Lose Berne. Your brother, you say? Do you know his regiment?"

"I inn not sure, but I think it is the —th," naming one that I was sure was posted at a distance.

"And you don't know the company? Well, I will try and find him. Why not wait till we can see if he is near the lines."

"Oh, impossible! they will miss me." "They?"

"My family are Unionists; and have discarded my brother. I slipped away secretly, and must get back before I am missed."

"Why go back at all?"

The riding-dress drew itself up indignantly.

"Good-evening, Sir!"

Stop one moment!" he cried, following me. "Pray forgive me! but if you only knew how rare such visits are, and how like angels' visits they seem! You must permit me at least to ride back with you—a part of the way. You are too precious to be left to the mercy of the first straggler that may meet you."

Such fools as we make of ourselves with women! We are only equaled by the fools who believe us. Not that I said so to him; on the contrary—Sue Scott forgive me!—but I am afraid that her riding-dress encouraged him—that her snowy gauntlet lay uneesistingly in the tender clasp into which he took it; in short, that while he was so politely showing me all that I most wished to see, I didn't conduct myself quite as she would have done under the circumstances: else how could he have dared, while pathetically urging me to a correspondence, to steal his arm about my waist, as (I blush to say—that is, I would blush, if I could, for having forgotten to do so then) he did, enforcing his arguments with an occasional tender squeeze. I am aware that I deserve the sentence of' death at the hands of a feminine jury, and that it was due to my costume to have made a show of virtuous indignation; but when, apropos of our correspondence, he was so exceedingly kind and minute in his details of their future movements, I really hadn't the heart to stop him.

It was cruel in me, however, when he, at parting, prayed for a lock of my hair, to give him one of Aunt Rhoda's braids, after a feint of cutting it off, neatly rolled up in a small round parcel. He placed it gallantly over his heart, and went away rejoicing; but I am afraid that the first examination of his artificial treasure changed his joy into wrath only equaling that of Aunt Rhoda's, who mourned for her braid like Rachel, and who, I fear, will never forgive me my journey to Wilson's Creek. The General, however, got the desired information, as my gallant friend had unconsciously afforded me every facility for so doing, and I have made my peace with Sue, who pouted a little on first hearing the story. I have sent also to New York for another pair of artificial braids; and as for the rebel officer, it only serves him right. Let him learn in future how to treat unprotected females.


ON page 117 we illustrate THE DEPARTURE OF THE GREAT SOUTHERN EXPEDITION FROM FORT MACON, NORTH CAROLINA, from a sketch by a volunteer correspondent, who writes as follows:

FORT MACON, January 24, 1863.

Accompanying this note you will find a sketch of a large fleet which has been for some time past fitting out here to go we know not where, but suspect it is Charleston; we are now in ignorance, but perhaps ere this reaches you all will have known its destination, and its success or failure. Many of our principal steamers are engaged in conveying the troops; the gun-boats and Monitors left last Saturday, but I suppose they will co-operate with the troops now leaving. The view is taken from Morehead City railroad landing; the depot and part of the railroad are prominent on the left; part of it regiment are on the platform this side of the depot, and stragglers are to be seen here and theta engaged in different occupations, the most noticeable at the time being that of cooking; sailing boats, a large schooner (the masts only are visible), and a steamboat (tho Freeborn, which obtained I believe a reputation for running the Potomac blockade), lie at the wharf; the foreground is marshy grass, so common in the Southern harbors. I have drawn the vessels as they appeared.

Fort Macon can be seen between the shipping, most of which having received their complement of troops are anchored off the fort, making them quite small from the point from which the sketch was taken. The Guide, Cahawba, Convoy, New England, Expounder, ship J. Morton, and numerous propellers and side-wheelers are in the number.


THOUGH the President's proclamation of freedom has been so often compared to the Pope's Bull against the comet, it seems to be producing some substantial fruits. We publish on page 116 an illustration of CONTRABANDS COMING INTO NEWBERN, NORTH CAROLINA, from a sketch sent us by an amateur, who writes as follows:

NEWBERN, NORTH CAROLINA, January 26, 1863.

I inclose a sketch of a very interesting procession which came to Newbern from "up country" a few days ago. It is the first-fruits of the glorious emancipation proclamation in this vicinity, and as such you may deem it worthy of engraving in your illustrated Weekly.

On our late expedition into Greene and Onslow Counties our company (Company C, Fifty-first Massachusetts Regiment) was out on picket duty the night before our return to Newbern, when an old slave came in to us in a drenching rain; and on being informed that he and his friends could come to Newbern with us, he left, and soon the contrabands began to come in, with mule teams, oxen, and in every imaginable style. When morning came we had 120 slaves ready to start with their little all, happy in the thought that their days of bondage were over. They said that it was known far and wide that the President has declared the slaves free.




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