Harlem Railway Affair


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, July 11, 1863

Welcome to our online collection of Harper's Weekly newspapers. Harper's Weekly was the most popular illustrated newspaper of the day, and our online archive will serve as a source of incredible details on the war. Serious students today can gain interesting insights into the important events of the war by diving into this incredible resource.

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


General Meade

General Meade

Harlem Railway

Harlem Railway Affair

Meade Takes Command

General Meade Takes Command


Pirate "Tacony"


Upperville Battle


Confederate Ironclad "Atlanta"

Upperville Battle

Battle of Upperville

Major Kiernan

Major Kiernan

Siege of Vicksburg

Picture of the Siege of Vicksburg

Port Hudson

Pictures of the Siege of Port Hudson

Capture of Atlanta

Capture of the Ironclad "Atlanta"

Drummer Boy

Drummer Boy

Pennsylvania Cartoon

Pennsylvania Cartoon











[JULY 11, 1863.



MAJOR-GENERAL GEORGE G. MEADE, the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, was born of American parents at Barcelona, Spain, in 1815, and is consequently forty-eight years of age. He entered West Point from Pennsylvania in 1831, and entered the Third Artillery in 1835. On 26th October, 1836, he resigned his commission and engaged in private pursuits. In 1842 he was appointed to the United States Topographical Engineers, and with that corps served in Mexico, winning several brevets for bravery and good conduct. At the close of the war he was a Captain.

When the rebellion broke out, and President Lincoln called for three hundred thousand volunteers, the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps was raised, and placed under the charge of General McCall, as division commander, and Generals Reynolds, Meade, and Ord, as brigade commanders. General Meade was then placed in charge of the Second Brigade of that division, and proceeded to organize it at Tennallytown.

When the Army of the Potomac began to move upon Manassas during March, 1862, the division in which General Meade served was attached to the First Corps, then under General McDowell. With him they remained north of the Rappahannock until after the battle of Hanover Station, when they were added to the Army of the Potomac, occupying part of the right wing, with division head-quarters in the vicinity of Mechanicsville.

On the 20th of June, 1862, he took part in the famous battle of Mechanicsville, where General Stonewall Jackson made such a terrific dash upon General McClellan's right wing, and Generals McCall, Reynolds, and others were taken prisoners. His noble conduct and bravery on this occasion were particularly noticed.

The next day he was engaged under General Fitz John Porter in the battle of Gaines's Mill, and was so distinguished that he was nominated for a brevet of Lieutenant-Colonel for distinguished services during that battle. He also took part in some of the subsequent engagements of the seven days' fight.

At the battle of New Market Cross Roads he was severely wounded, but, under skillful treatment, he recovered, and almost immediately returned to the army, where he took command of the division until the return of Generals McCall and Reynolds from captivity in Richmond.

When the rebels invaded Maryland and Pennsylvania, after the defeat of General Pope's army, General Reynolds, who had commanded the division, was then detached to organize the Pennsylvania militia, and General Meade was placed in command of the division of Pennsylvania reserves. He led these troops during the eventful battles of South Mountain and Antietam, and when, at the latter battle, General Hooker was wounded and had to leave the field, General Meade for a short time had charge of the Ninth Army Corps, formerly under General Reno.

After General Burnside had been placed in charge of the Army of the Potomac, General Reynolds, who formerly commanded the Pennsylvania reserves, after the retirement of General McCall, was ordered to command the whole of the First Army Corps, and General Meade was formally placed in command of the division of Pennsylvania reserves. At the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, he greatly distinguished himself, and his division lost very heavily, the brigade commanders and several field officers being placed hors du combat during the attack on the rebel right. The whole loss of the division was 1624, being the greatest division loss during the whole of that disastrous fight.

On the 15th of December, 1862, two days after this eventful battle, he was ordered to command the Fifth Army Corps, formerly under General Fitz John Porter, and more recently under General Butterfield. To enable him properly to hold that position he was appointed by the President a Major-General of volunteers, and was regularly nominated to the United States Senate during January, 863.

During the advance upon Chancellorsville General Meade's corps formed part of the right wing of Hooker's army. The corps started on its march on the 26th day of April, 1863, and arrived at Kelly's Ford on the 28th. The next day it crossed the Rappahannock by that ford and the Rapidan by Ely's Ford. It then pushed on to Chancellorsville, where it arrived on the 30th and engaged the skirmishers of the rebels, taking their rifle-pits and temporary works.

During the fearful contests of the 2d, 3d, and 4th of May General Meade's corps played its part in the same noble manner that had characterized the troops under his special command since the commencement of the war. It bore its part manfully, and in the end covered the retreat of the whole of Hooker's army.


SATURDAY, JULY 11, 1813.



IN the next generation old men in Wall Street will illustrate their precepts to their juniors by reference to the case of Harlem Railway stock in 1863. Many observant readers must have noticed the fluctuations of this lively stock during the past three months. Few of them, however, living out of the city, possess the knowledge that is requisite to understand the principle of these fluctuations. For their benefit, and likewise in order to afford some modern philosopher with an opportunity of "pointing a moral," it may be worth while to place on record the history of the Harlem imbroglio.

When, last winter, it became evident to all discerning observers that a combination of adventurers had bought up a majority of both branches of the Legislature, and that any Broadway Railroad Charter which those schemers might think fit to demand would be duly passed, and would probably be signed in due course by his complaisant Excellency Governor Seymour, a number of tax-payers, opposed to a railroad in Broadway, set their wits to work to ascertain if there were no method of defeating, not the bill before the Legislature, but the Legislature itself.

One of them, some ferreting lawyer, discovered an old Act of the Legislature, passed in 1832, which, after reciting that the city had empowered the Harlem Railroad Company to run city cars down to the foot of "the Park," and that the Company had bound itself to use the privilege, conceded to the Company the exclusive right of running city cars in any street, or streets, or avenues in which the City Council might deem it advisable to have such vehicles.

To understand this Act, it must be borne in mind that, when it was passed, city rail-cars were an experiment, and no one could tell whether the Harlem would not lose money by its large outlay for rails in Fourth Avenue and Bowery. The additional privilege was given to the Harlem stockholders as a sort of bonus to induce them to make the experiment and to risk the outlay.

Twenty years had elapsed since the passage of this Act. In that time, the feasibility and lucrativeness of city rail-cars had been demonstrated. It was clear that if the Common Council could be got to declare that a city railroad was required in Broadway, the Harlem Company would be entitled, under the Act of 1832, to build it, and would enjoy the right to the exclusion of all rival claimants. Upon this foundation the opponents of the Albany scheme for a Broadway Railroad went to work.

The Common Council was sounded, and it was found, as expected, that members were willing to do any thing if "matters were made pleasant." Allusion was made to the passage in the Gospel which states that the laborer is worthy of his hire. If members were to labor they must have their hire.

After some negotiation all difficulties on this score were adjusted. A sum was mutually settled upon—shall we say $100,000, besides an interest of 20,000 shares of Harlem stock? We don't pretend to know exactly.

Suddenly, at 4 P.M. on an unexpected day, both Boards of the Common Council were called together. The uninitiated had no idea why they met. People who were in the secret whispered that before they rose the Harlem Railroad Company would be authorized to lay rails in Broadway. But the event put them to shame. Both Boards adjourned without even alluding to a railroad in Broadway. There were quarters, however, where it was whispered that the Harlem people had not "put up" the money, and Aldermen and Councilmen were too wary to do business on credit.

Next day, at 1 P.M., the Council met again, and this time the Harlem folks were confident of an ordinance. But again an adjournment was carried; and this time, a little bird said that the friends of the Council required the money to be deposited in the hands of a notorious gambling-house keeper—whom the Harlem people would not trust—while the friends of the Harlem were ready to deposit the money with a leading banker, whom the Aldermen would not trust.

There was another brief session that day at 5 P.M., which adjourned to 9 P.M. without making progress. Before nightfall, however, the Harlem operators became aware that delay was dangerous; that the Albany schemers were aroused, and that injunctions had been applied for. Like wise men, they waived their scruples, and the little bird whispered that the money was "put up" in the hands of the gambling-house keeper. At 9 P.M. the Council met. The Sheriff and Deputy-Sheriff were on hand with injunctions obtained by the rascally Albany rogues, who saw their prey escaping them. They served some members, but not a quorum. They served the Clerk of the Aldermen, but that body, knowing that the money had been deposited with their chosen stake-holder, removed the official, and appointed a Clerk pro tem. The Deputy-Sheriffs tried to force their way into the Council Board, but were unceremoniously ejected by the door-keeper, assisted by a chosen party of shoulder-hitters. And so, at half past nine at night, when the tax-payers and parties interested were in sweet unconsciousness, the ordinance was passed granting to the Harlem Company the right to lay rails in Broadway, Fulton, and other streets.

It is presumed that the laborers, whether worthy or not, received their hire. Besides the cash in hand, which was fairly paid over by their stake-holder, they did well on their purchases of Harlem stock. On the evening on which the ordinance was passed the stock sold at 58; the next day it commanded 70; and it rose steadily from that point to 118.

So large profits overset the reason of the friends of the Common Council. In comparison with the thousands thus made in a day or two, street-cleaning schemes, by which a few hundreds were filched, or the sale of votes at $100

a piece, seemed petty and contemptible. The City Fathers had tasted of the waters of Pactolus, and longed for another draught.

They were not long in doubt. If they could create, could they not also destroy? Could not he who had given likewise take away? As the Herald beautifully remarked, in justifying the transaction afterward from the point of view of an opponent of a Broadway Railroad, what would become of us if a legislative body could not repeal an act passed in error, or under misapprehension? What, indeed!

Some friends of the Common Council waited upon Commodore Vanderbilt, and gravely informed him that they feared a mistake had been made in granting the franchise to the Company of which he is President. They feared the grant would have to be repealed.

What the Commodore's reply was this chronicler is not prepared to state. He believes, however, that in the course of an unusually long and unusually warlike career, the Commodore has never once allowed himself or any concern under his control to be black-mailed. Under these circumstances, the Common Council delegates may possibly not have been met with a spirit of compromise or even Christian forbearance.

One thing they may have been told, and that was that, if they undertook any — rogueries, it might cost them all the money they had previously made by their connection with this affair.

But the City Hall junta, like many other men, are smart in their own sphere, but children out of it. They reasoned that if the passage of the ordinance had put Harlem up from 58 to 118, the repeal of that ordinance would put it down from par to 50. So, in a sweetly innocent way, they "sold Harlem short" all the way from 85—to which point the Commodore had let it drop—to 72.

Now there are 80,000 shares of Harlem. Of these 80,000 the Commodore is supposed to have held 50,000 when this contest commenced, and his confidential friends, knowing the man, may have taken 15,000 more. In charming ignorance of these little facts, the smart schemers of the City Hall sold, for future delivery, at prices ranging from 85 to 72, some 50,000 shares more. Any arithmetician can figure the inevitable result. From 80,000 deduct 65,000, and the balance is 15,000. This was all the stock available for the Common Council deliveries of 50,000. In other words, these smart schemers, these shameless black-mailers, these wretched thieves, who had done so well by passing the grant, and now wanted to do still better by threatening to repeal it, had, in their blind avarice, contracted to deliver 35,000 shares of stock which they could not possibly get except from the very parties whom they were conspiring to rob.

But of this they knew nothing. On 25th, at 5 P.M., extraordinary meetings of the Common Council were held, and both boards went through the farce of repealing the grant to the Harlem Company.

Next morning the Commodore went to work. At an early hour his brokers had orders to take all the Harlem that was offered. From 73 the stock rose steadily, in the face of the ordinance of the Common Council, to 97. Next day it went to 106. A roan who had sold 1000 shares on 25th at 72, found himself a loser on 27th of $17,500. Never did fierce March sun melt snow quicker than did the rise in Harlem dissipate the ill-gotten gains of the City Hall junta. They lost thousands in an hour; each minute cost them hundreds.

With sensations akin to those of a thief when he feels the handcuffs click on his wrists they went to the Commodore to beg for mercy. The veteran received them graciously. He was not aware that he had had any transactions with them. Having an unusually large balance at his banker's he had invested it in Harlem stock, of which he entertained a good opinion. He knew not who had sold the stock he had bought. If the gentlemen present were the sellers, he feared they had parted with valuable property at a low price. For his part he didn't see that he had had, or was likely to have, any dealings with them; and wished them a very good-morning.

Foiled, exasperated, and sickened, the rogues slunk back to Wall Street to find that Harlem had gone up 2 per cent. more while they had been suing for mercy. Nor was loss of money their only sorrow. The public had come to understand the game, and fairly reveled in delight at seeing knaves so beautifully caught. No member of the City Hall party could show himself in public without exciting a roar of laughter.

There is no saying how far things might have gone, and how much money the freak might have cost, had it not occurred to some calm and shrewd observers that it was dangerous to provoke the Common Councilmen too far: that if they were "cleaned out" the result would inevitably be that they would replenish their purses, somehow or other, at the expense of the tax-payers. This suggestion was laid before the Commodore by a disinterested third party.

The victor was disposed to be clement.

"Let matters be placed in statu quo," said he; "and then I will see what I can do with the outstanding contracts."

Accordingly at 1 P.M., on 29th, the Aldermen met. The following is the official report of their action as printed in the Herald:


This Board met at one o'clock P.M. yesterday, President Walsh in the chair.

At a former meeting of the Board a resolution was passed rescinding the grant made to the Harlem Railroad Company which permitted them to extend their line through Broadway.

Alderman Farley now moved to reconsider that action, and to refer the matter to the Committee on Railroads. City Inspector Boole (honorary member of the Board) was in favor of Alderman Farley's motion, and could give many reasons why the matter should be referred. They should act legally. The Board had passed a resolution giving the Company the charter. It is true they have not put down any rails, and that they were not liable for any damage; but the Harlem Company have purchased all the rails necessary; and the Common Council, having granted the charter, should be very cautious before they violated their agreement.

Alderman Hardy did not think that the Common Council could rescind their grant to the Company; they were bound by every feeling of good faith to maintain their grant, and for that reason he voted at the last meeting against the resolution to rescind it.

Alderman Jeremiah asked if this grant was to be perpetual.

Alderman Hardy answered that it was perpetual, and the Board, if they had had any objection, should have considered the matter before they granted permission for the extension of the railroad. He believed that they could not violate their first action in the case.

The previous action of the Board was accordingly reconsidered, and the whole matter referred to the Committee on Railroads (i. e., the tomb of the Capulets).

So the Aldermen ate the leek. Reporters say they grinned in a ghastly manner over it. The Councilmen may possibly he spared the ignominy of a direct square back down, as, without the concurrence of the Aldermen, their action goes for nothing.

But every one understands that both branches of the Common Council deliberately attempted to black-mail the Harlem Railroad Company; that they were foiled, and severely punished in purse and prestige; and that finally, to save themselves from utter ruin, they acknowledged themselves black-mailers, and ate dirt in the face of the people.

After this let no man complain of the pede claudo of Justice.



JEFFERSON Davis has evidently been persuaded to try a policy which he has always disapproved. He has been constantly and. bitterly assailed by a party among the rebels for persisting in a policy of defense instead of offense. At the time of his inauguration under an umbrella in Richmond he declared that the rebellion had been trying to defend too extensive a border, and that the truly wise course was a retirement from such outstretched lines.

That this policy was the best for the success of an insurrection like his is undoubtedly true. "Let us alone," is the most captivating cry the rebels can utter, for it provokes the reply from foreign powers, "Why not?" and conciliates sympathy in advance. Besides, in a sparely-settled country such a policy concentrates strength, binds the population together, and inspires them with the consciousness that they are fighting upon their own soil for their own homes. To take the offensive and advance, is to risk their communications, to expose their rear, to unite their enemy, and to arouse an overwhelming population to fly to arms and to deploy most effectively all their immense resources. It is to take from themselves and give to the enemy the heroic inspiration that springs from actual invasion.

The party which favors this policy has at length prevailed. Nor is their success in procuring its adoption surprising. For, notwithstanding the partial success of the rebel armies in the field, the rebel cause itself did not prosper. The stringency of the blockade; the passivity of Europe; the adaptation of trade to the less of cotton; the acquiescence of the loyal States is in long war; their prosperity while it raged; the steady ripening of public sentiment in the matter of conscription and emancipation; the constant improvement in military skill and invention; and the gradual but sure reduction of the area of the rebellion, have at length made it palpable to the rebel chiefs that their only hope of prolonging the struggle lies in adopting a policy of offense. And they have opened their offensive campaign all along the line from Portland to Pittsburg.

The movement is not to lie deprecated by us. It is the surest test they could have applied to the loyalty of the land. It reveals the situation to us and to the world plainly. It puts us to the trial of our veracity. It proves our patriotism. It strips off masks and silences rhetoric. It says to us, "If you mean fight, fight." And who does not wish to know exactly where we stand? Who is not glad that now we shall see whether we mean what we say, and what doubtless we sincerely think we mean? If it affect the whole country with paralysis instead of indignant inspiration, we shall know that we are conquered. If it brings the whole loyal land to its feet, demanding that the Government of the United States shall summon every United States citizen to arms, and to see that he is drilled every week, it will do what we believe it will, and secure a unity such as we have not had, and a peace such as good men pray for.


The invasion of Pennsylvania is mortifying. A march of the rebels upon Philadelphia would be disastrous. But it will not be without its advantages, if it teaches us that we call make war only in a warlike way. Every lesson that we have (Next Page)




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