Building the New Orleans Levee


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 21, 1863

This site features all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. This collection serves as an invaluable research tool for the serious student of the Civil War, and offers a new perspective on the key elements of the conflict.

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


Union Meeting

Union Meeting

Army Hospital

US Army Hospital

Nashville Destroyed

Destruction of the Nashville

Lake Providence

Lake Providence

New Orleans Levee

Repairing the New Orleans Levee

Building Levee

Building the New Orleans Levee

Gold Panic

Gold Panic


Rappahannock River Cartoon

Wall Street

Wall Street

The "Florda"

The Pirate "Florida" Destroys the Jacob Bell

Levee in New Orleans

Picture of the New Orleans Levee






[MARCH 21, 1863.



A VERY extraordinary exhibition of public feeling took place in New Orleans on Friday the 20th ult., which threw the whole city in the wildest excitement; but was, fortunately, attended with no serious consequences. We illustrate the scene on pages 184 and 185.

It having been publicly announced that a flag-of-truce boat would leave on Friday to convey some 382 paroled prisoners to Baton Rouge, and there exchange them on board a rebel vessel for Port Hudson, an immense concourse of the disloyal portion of the community congregated on the levee to see them go off. The Empire Parish, with the prisoners on board, was lying at the foot of Canal Street, and the Laurel Hill—moored immediately ahead of her—was selected by about 1000 at least, who crowded into and upon every part of her, to see the rebel prisoners and cheer them.

The Empire Parish had been advertised to leave at three o'clock, and it must have been as early as noon that the masses commenced to assemble. By two o'clock the whole levee, in its enormous width and extending all the way from Canal to Julia Street, was one dense sea of human heads; a large proportion of them females wearing secesh badges, and many openly waving little rebel flags—an insult not confined to their sex alone.

Seeing that matters were assuming a disgraceful if not alarming aspect, notice was sent to General Bowen, advising him of the fact, and suggesting the necessity of sending down some troops. The order was at once given, and soon a squad of the Twenty-sixth Massachusetts were on the ground, and a portion of a battery came threading its way through the crowd.

The scene at his moment was grand and exciting. The immense crowds on the levee swaying back by the advance of the soldiery—the Laurel Hill and the Empire Parish both one living mass of human beings cheering vociferously—and the balconies and windows facing the river teeming in every available spot, even to the roofs—the females screaming and waving their handkerchiefs, scarfs, flags, and parasols.

The order being given, the soldiers began to make the crowd move back; a delicate task not easy to effect, as the women were all in front, thus screening the men behind an impassable and invincible barrier of crinoline. The soldiers, however, behaved with perfect order, temper, and decency, making no reply to the insulting taunts from hundreds of the weaker sex, but, holding their muskets horizontally, gently made the crowd fall back. The balconies were also cleared of all their demonstrative occupants, and thus at last the whole mass was grumblingly dispersed, and the Empire Parish had to crawl off quietly in the night without that grand parting scene which the rebels evidently expected, and which the scene in the morning clearly promised. Upon the whole, it was a disgraceful and dangerous exhibition, and one which certainly ought to have been, and could have been, prevented had any ordinary means been used for avoiding its occurrence.


WE publish on page 181 an illustration which represents the work of REPAIRING THE LEVEE AT NEW ORLEANS. Our picture shows a force of four or five hundred workmen, all Union men, employed by direction of the military authorities.

They are building new bulk-heads to protect this portion of the city front from the danger of inundation, threatened by the steady encroachments of the Mississippi, the current sweeping into the sharp curve with great velocity, gradually wearing away and undermining the levee. The new levee, the process of construction of which is shown in the sketch, is probably but temporary, as a new one will be erected against the new bulk-head when the flood has subsided sufficiently to permit it. The large Gothic building in the back-ground is in an unfinished condition. Built for charitable purposes from a fund bequeathed for that object by a citizen of New Orleans named Touro, from whom it derives its name, "Touro Building," it is used at present as the head-quarters of the Fourth Louisiana Native Guard (colored), which regiment is in process of formation.



THERE had been a grand gala in the little town of Wilton, the like of which had not been known in years. It had created more talk than camp-meeting or the county fair; had fluttered more fair damsels, and given more zest to gossip than even training-day inspired; for it had been a ball given by the Wiltons of Wilton. All little towns have their great houses, but none invoked more veneration than the old Wilton manor. It was something set apart from even the common gaze, hidden in dense foliage, surrounded by a park which retained the familiar aspect of one yet owned by English Wiltons, and within its sacred precincts few villagers ever strayed. Of course all this reserve and dignity was not maintained without some loss of familiar friendliness. Invidious criticisms were often indulged in; covetousness and envy created wider distance than Wilton hauteur; and as small matters are the natural aliment of small minds, great faults were made of little flaws. There were only three occupants of the great house after all, and no young ladies to make it, as it might have been, the centre of hospitality and gayety. Mr. Wilton, pere, had made his fortune in China—was a cold, proud, intelligent, sensible man; his wife, an invalid, sweet-tempered and gentle; the son, Ray, a combination of both, with more beauty than is thought to be a man's share. Yet these three people were of far more account than

all Wilton put together, just because they happened to be very wealthy.

Snubbed or pitied, envied or hated, none of the Wilton invitations were refused for the grand ball, and every one, after it, coincided in declaring that nothing could have been finer.

The house itself was very plain but spacious; great airy rooms and wide piazzas, somewhat bizarre from their curious quantity of Chinese furniture and ornaments; every room lighted, and the profusion of shrubs and flowers made a garden of it to the bewildered eyes of Wiltonia. Of course there had been music and dancing, and, spite of the awe which awkward country swains could not but feel in the presence of those whom their own fancy had so bedight, every one was put at ease by the graceful suavity of Ray Wilton. He had, as I have said, the attributes of both parents, but in manner an art of his own.

Hardly had the memory of the ball faded before there came another sensation, quite as unusual and even more exciting. Ray Wilton was engaged to be married—not to some bewitching city belle, not even to the pretty blonde Lily Davis, whose father was Mr. Wilton's richest tenant—but to that plain, strange, silent creature, Marian Woodward, old Mr. Woodward the clergyman's daughter.

"You don't say so!"

"Yes I do. Don't you remember her at the party, in a black silk dress as stiff as a poker?"

"Aunt Sally, not that Miss Woodward!"

"What a fuss you are all making!" put in a new voice. "Marian's a sight smarter than most girls. She reads her father's Greek and Hebrew Bible, and she can jabber French like a 'parly voo.' "

"But Ray Wilton's such a handsome man."

"Handsome is that handsome does; what makes him better than other men?"

"But she's so ugly."

"To those who like nothing but pink and white. I say she's an elegant—"

"Oh, oh!" from a chorus of voices.

"Why don't you let me go on? She is right handsome. She's got great black eyes, and white teeth, and she's as straight as a rush."

"And she'll put on more airs than ever now."

"You needn't judge others by yourself, Betsy Jane. Marian Woodward's no fool. You'll all go down on your knees before her if she ever is Mrs. Wilton; so you'd better change your habit of talking of people. Good-day."

"I guess Hetty expects to make the wedding-dress, for she is dreadful tart this morning."

"Oh no, she and Marian always were cronies. Well, well, I wonder what will happen next!"

That which did next happen was the death of old Mr. Woodward, hardly to the surprise of any, though greatly to the affliction of Marian, whose life, since she was sixteen till now her twenty-first year, had been devoted to her loving, venerable father. What had first attracted Ray Wilton toward Marian was the strong and tender attachment between her and her father it was so chivalric, if the term can be thus used; so graceful, yet so warm and faithful that he had been led by it to admire first, and afterward to love: for to know Marian thoroughly was to love her. His courtship had been short and ardent; Marian, won fairly, yielded without coyness. She had a woman's natural preference for gallantry and manly bearing, and a very childlike trust and faith in those she loved. She was not in the least exalted at the idea of becoming a Wilton, nor flattered that both Mr. and Mrs. Wilton already received her with sincere expressions of regard—though village gossip avowed quite the contrary.

Soon after the funeral Marian, to save herself future pain, undertook to arrange her father's effects, and among his papers found one which, as she read, drove the blood from her cheek and set her heart palpitating with unknown fear. It contained a revelation so painful and extraordinary that, for a moment, she could not collect her scattered wits. In the room where she was sitting—her father's study—was a bright wood fire; great logs of glowing hickory, hissing and crackling on top, at bottom a bed of soft, feathery ashes: one moment she glanced at the fire, in another the paper she held in her hand was curling up in its smoke; but again, in a second, she had snatched it from the flame and held it again in her possession, scorched and blackened, as was also her hand.

Slowly the day passed away, and still she sat silently before the fire with this crumpled, scorched paper in her hand: evening came, and with it Ray Wilton, who found her in the same position, pale, stern, and tearless. She gave him the paper to read, and watched him as he too grew pale over its contents. When he had finished he essayed to draw her toward him; but the embrace was refused: she drew away with apparent effort, but very firmly.

"There can be no more of this, Ray. You are free again. Shall we say good-by now?"

"You are not in earnest, Marian?"

"Quite so."

"This may not be true; and even if it were, you know I love you, Marian."

"I am saving you an awkward necessity: it would have to come sooner or later."

He was pacing the floor excitedly, head down, stroking his long mustache, half thinking she was right — struggling between, as he thought, love and honor; but the two are never divided. There had never been a blot on the Wilton escutcheon. Could he be the one to blend the bar sinister on so fair a shield?

"I have thought it all out, Ray; looked at it in all lights. Let me beg you not to shake my resolve."

She was very cool and calm: so much so that he was nearly deceived, and felt like bursting out in bitter reproaches. But she had come to him, and put her hand softly in his. His quick pressure thrilled her with pain; for the tender white skin was more burned than in her greater pain she had been conscious of. Again he remonstrated. She was immovable, and half in anger half in sorrow he left her. That whole night she walked her bedroom floor, her burned hand stinging, her broken heart

numb. In the morning she was gone, no one knew whither—not even the old servants who had charge of the rectory; and all Wilton said that Ray had jilted Marian, for he too went away to Europe.


In a tiny parlor of a little cottage, on a lane leading from the Wilton highway, sat a woman sewing one cold winter evening. It was not yet evening either in the strict Northern sense; for it was not dark, and the pale gleam of gold that was fast being gathered up in the deep shades of purple showed that the sun was but just going down behind those little western hills over which swept down a chilly breeze.

Faster than the needle went in and out of its work came the low refrain of words set to rhyme—not a song, though the voice of itself was nearly music, just a quiet chanting of some old poem, rich in English melody—interrupted by the entrance of a brisk little personage, who came in at this moment with "How d'ye do, Marian? I just stopped in for a minute. I left the bread in the oven too, so I can't stay long. I thought you must be lonesome. No one but me, you know, ever thinks of coming to see you. People all think you don't like them."

"I rather fear the reverse is more correct, Miss Hetty: they don't like me."

"Well, it may be; we're all plain country folk, and you're so dreadful learned, we're kind of afraid of you."

"Women who live all alone, and are not school madams, are generally believed to be witches. I suppose I should have been arrested long ago, if I had lived in old colonial times."

"Or thrown in the river, when, if you hadn't sunk and drowned, you'd surely been hung as a genuine Jezebel. Ha, ha! Well, but don't you want to hear some news?"

"Of course I do; I am not inhuman, Miss Hetty."

"It's not very pleasant: they say there's small-pox at the house on the hill."

"At the Wiltons'?"

Miss Hetty nodded her head, eying Marian askance.

"Who has it?"

"Well, I'll tell you all I know. Some weeks ago Ray came home sick, and no one knew what was the matter with him. Dr. Martin said it was bilious fever, when all at once a sign was put up at the great gate informing people that there was small-pox there; and they say Mrs. Wilton can not get a nurse for love nor money, and they're goin' to send to the city for one."

There was no reply, and presently Marian asked some other commonplace question, which in a remote way reminded Miss Hefty that the bread in the oven might burn if she did not hurry home; and so Marian was left alone. Years had come and gone since the day Marian had last seen Ray Wilton, and it was not without a pang of sorrow that she thought of his bright handsome face, now perhaps made hideous by disease. She had weaned herself from other thoughts, from useless regrets. The Past had been buried without blame, without repining; but its work had been to make her a lonely, solitary creature, without ties of kindred or society. Her religion was that described in the first chapter and twenty-seventh verse of St. James, that which she strove to possess. In no other way was she known in the homes of other people. As the light waned, and she could not sew, thought became more and more restive, till at last she rose under its impulse, lighted a candle, and went to her bedroom, from which she emerged in bonnet and cloak.

The evening, though chilly, was a tranquil one; stars were just peeping out, as swiftly over the meadows Marian sped along, thinking of that line in "Evangeline" where the stars are spoken of as the "forget-me-nots of the angels." She reached the village shortly, and lifted a brass knocker, on which was most portentously graven the name of Dr. Martin. The Doctor was in, was just going to tea, but condescended to listen to Marian's errand. "Are you afraid too?" was his reply to her question, but meeting no response, took her into his office. Quickly her arm was bared, and she was vaccinated. Without waiting to know whether it was prudent to venture near contagion at once, she hurried up the long hill which led to the Wilton manor-house.

Stiller, graver than ever, it seemed to hold itself aloof in the solemn darkness of the night with the fearful illness under its roof; and the servant who led her in warned her that no one ventured so far. She silently dismissed the subject, and asked to see Mrs. Wilton, who, in her invalid state, was unusually nervous and alarmed.

Coolly and quietly she announced her wish with so much decision and earnestness, that, after a short consultation with her husband, Mrs. Wilton acceded to her request. It was simply that she might, as she was able, do all she could for their son Ray. And so once more they met. He in high delirium, unconscious, often uttering her name; she risking her life for the love she bore him. Once she did, indeed, peer into the mirror, wondering what her face would be should it be pitted and scarred with this fearful scourge and smiled to see how thin, and white, and hollow-eyed she had become in her nightly vigils. The act was hardly one of vanity.

With the first decided symptom of recovery Marian would have left Ray, almost unconscious of the unwearying care she had bestowed upon him; and again would she have taken flight, for more than ever did she dread village gossip—more than all would she avoid the thanks which would be thought her due. But suddenly one day Ray opened up conscious eyes, and with something of Wilton hauteur bade her come to his bedside.

For a moment or two he devoured her with his great eyes—the one fine feature of his face unharmed. He looked at her as wistfully as a hungry beggar gazes at good things beyond his reach.

"I wonder you do not run off again, Marian.

Do you know what I have been doing these three years?"


"Cursing my cowardice for giving in to you that night."

"You could not help it."

"Indeed I could; to tell the truth I was shocked and hurt, and confounded family pride made a fool of me."

"Hush, hush!"

"And now I suppose you would scorn to touch me with your finger tips."

"Do stop, Ray." And already she had stooped and put her arms about him, pride and resolution flung to the winds.

"You will take back all you said, Marian?" was put, with a touch of the sweet grace of old.

"No, Ray." Again she rose erect.


"Not till I have made a name for myself; won something from fame which fortune has denied me."

He caught at the half promise.

"What proud words! But I may hope then?"

She stooped again, left the sweet fragrance of her breath on his lips, and was gone.


"A whole year's faithful work folded in this short compass."

She turned the book from side to side, from top to bottom; opened the title-page, where, in small, clear type her own initials stood on guard, glinting at her, but never deigning to acknowledge her salutation. Then another and another page went over, and thoughts which had haunted her brain rang their musical, undying strains out from the white gleaming paper.

"A year's hard work, two years since I have seen Ray. I am tired, weary of striving; I want rest and peace, and my heart aches with its loneliness."

This the proud woman whose name had been heralded as possessing the Promethean fire, whom suitors stood off from for fear of her haughty disdain; who, buckling on the armor of one who battles, had let all lesser things go, had studied, and striven, and accomplished, where the many fail and the few are successful.

She went on with her reverie. "The first taste was sweet, but fame for women is apt to prove like the apples of Sodom. Let me see what the people say;" and drawing the newspaper her publisher had sent her, in which was a long and just critique of her work, she read. Its justice pleased her, the praise was discriminate, its fault-finding aroused no enmity, it was calm and lucid, she could profit by it. Then she turned over the paper idly, came to the advertisements, smiled at the puffs of her book in huge capitals, came to the marriage announcements, and read: "In Florence, at the United States Consulate, Ray Wilton—" She read no more, a blurring sense of indistinctness banished sight, her brain whirled, and she fell over in her chair quite senseless. When she recovered she crushed the newspaper in a drawer, rang her bell, and threw herself on her bed. Her maid came in alarm, went at once for a physician, who forbade her rising in a week or more or incur the penalty —brain fever. She was in the city alone, and refusing all guests; yet every day, though as yet spring gave no sign of approach, came a bunch of blue violets wrapped lovingly round with geranium leaves. In all her wretchedness and pain those little flowers seemed to whisper tender pity—the soft, faint, delicate perfume breathed of a balm which God lets Nature bestow.

Yet health came not; the blow had fallen so heavily. One day the kind doctor begged her to reveal her sorrow, for he saw the mind was suffering more than the body. Her woman's nature shrank from an avowal. Then he asked her to let him bring to visit her the friend whose faithfulness the flowers evinced. The consent was given languidly, when to her absolute horror appeared Ray Wilton.

She was sitting in a huge chair near the window as he entered. So thin and haggard was she that he almost recoiled aghast. But Marian rose and greeted him as she would have done a stranger. Their cold salutations over, the physician withdrew, when Ray, who had at first been repulsed by her coldness, rushed to Marian and clasped her in his arms. In vain she spoke; she was too feeble to resist; but he did not listen.

"My poor, darling Marian, how could you be so heartless as to keep me away so long, and you so ill, so wretched—you who sacrificed every thing for me in my illness, who would have given your life to have saved mine—"

"Ray, I can not bear this. Tell me at once, are you married?"

"My Marian! I—a Wilton—sworn to you all my life—a traitor to my vows!"

"But look—" She tottered to the desk in which she had crushed the newspaper so fatal to her peace, and gave it to him.

In place of proud indignation came a look of gentlest pity; his eyes filled in spite of himself.

"My dearest Marian, this is my father's wedding. Mamma died the month after he went away, and, as you see, this reads 'Ray Wilton, Senior, to Maude Vernon Harcourt'—an old, faded English belle, who but takes my father on sufferance. She will not even come to this country, so Wilton is to be your abiding-place should you choose it."

Then Marian remembered how she had fainted before reading the whole, and how, in her utter heart-weariness, it had only seemed a just retribution for her pride and ambition.

So Wilton Manor won a young mistress, who brought to it new laurels, fresh and green; but to her husband Marian was always and only the sweet, simple-hearted, loving woman she had been in old Mr. Woodward's rectory—not her father's home; for in the paper found in Mr. Woodward's library she had discovered herself to be destitute legally of that parental relation. No one, however, save Ray Wilton, knows that to this day; and (Next Page)




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