Destruction of the Nashville


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 28, 1863

Welcome to our online collection of Harper's Weekly newspapers. These papers were published during the Civil War, and this archive is now available for your perusal and study. These old papers give new insight about this important conflict.

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Mother's Letter

A Mother's Letter


Copperhead Meetings

Union Jim

Union Jim


The Indianola Affair

Charleston Map

Map of Charleston


Yazoo Pass

George Griswold

George Griswold


Wyndham's Cavalry

Wyndham's Cavalry

Destruction of the Nashville

Destruction of the "Nashville"

Bowery Boys

Bowery Boys






[MARCH 28, 1863.



UNDER arches that the pines make (full of weird and ghostly shadows);

Over gently sloping uplands and through strange deserted vales;

Past the forest in the distance; to the low, far-reaching meadows;

Borne swiftly on the cold breath of the damp northeastern gales;

Half laughing into sunshine, and half sobbing back to rain—

Seeking still, yet ever flying, with a dull and restless tremor,

The next moment all defiance with a fierce sun-tinted glamour,

Undecided if in joy to come or wild resistless pain,

Eddying round us—whirling from us—came the snow-storm at Belle Plain.

Coming thus, and in the balance trembling for one instant, and one only,

Then with sudden fury bursting o'er the camp beneath, it whirled

Around the meagre shelter-tents that decked the hill-side lonely,

And the wind with rage incessant each successive snowflake hurled,

Till the trees grew white like spectres, and old earth was pure again.

This at dusk was, and night's shadows falling dim on field and river

Gave the storm a wilder aspect. To their tents, with chill and shiver,

Each jostling each in eager haste, and filled with fright, amain

Fled the men, with hasty footsteps, from the snow-storm at Belle Plain.

All that long, slow dragging night, the snow so white and pitiless, descended

In strangely eddying circles, flying far and flying near;

And through the sombre day that followed the sullen storm extended

Till the grayish daylight faded; then down fell, more cold and drear,

The dark shades of the second night, and till that wild night's wane

More thickly round the silent camp the snow fell, ever drifting

From before the damp northeast wind, blowing coldly, never shifting,

Till camp and woods were mantled in a robe without a stain,

And every thing lay buried in the snow-storm at Belle Plain.

Thus the wild, fierce storm continued, in its fury unabated,

Till the nights as twain were counted, though the days told only one;

And through the long hours watched we, and so patiently we waited,

With bowed faces toward the east sky, waiting, watching for the sun.

And we sighed to think the sunny South was but a phantom vain,

And we prayed for the old Northland, with its regal icy splendor—

With its hearts so warm and true, so loving and so tender—

Till we conjured up our homes again (oh! wild, bewildered brain!

Crazed men of the Potomac, in the snow-storm at Belle Plain).

Our wild hasheesh-dream dispelling, came that second brilliant morning.

We had watched as for its advent—we had prayed so for its dawn,

That we felt the Bow of Promise the glad eastern sky adorning;

And when the cold hills flushed with light, the cruel storm was gone.

But over camp, and over woods—on field, on hill-side, and in lane—

Over uplands, over meadows:— even under the pine arches—

On every road where patient mule and weary teamster marches—

On every thing, or far or near, that might the pearly gems retain,

Lay, pure and white, the flakes that fell in the snowstorm at Belle Plain.

Thus came it; thus it ended. We who cowered so 'neath its bluster

Look back with a soldier's carelessness, and idly wonder why;

Then, contented with the present, seek the sun, whose undimmed lustre

Shines bright to-day upon us from the overarching sky.

We wait until the roads mend. You watch the Union's throes of pain,

And, sitting there in quiet, most impatiently you wonder

Why to-day from old Virginia booms no loud artillery's thunder.

Ah, weak and questioning heart! you would never ask again,

Could you see us while embargoed by a snow-storm at Belle Plain.


OUR attentive correspondent at Port Royal has furnished us with the sketches which we reproduce on pages 193 and 196, and which relate to the recent performances of our iron-clad fleet in the Ogeechee River.

One of them shows us how the pirate Nashville was destroyed by the iron-clad Monitor Montauk, Captain Worden. The Herald correspondent, after stating that the Nashville showed signs of moving, which induced Captain Worden to steam up toward Fort McAllister, goes on to say:

At five minutes past seven o'clock we let go our anchor about twelve hundred yards below the fort, and veered out fifteen fathoms of cable, and in two minutes thereafter we let slip an 11-inch shell at the object of our aims and desires. There she lay hard and fast, at about twelve hundred yards distant, a good mark, as the sequel will show.

The instant we fired our first shot the battery fired three guns at us, and in thirty seconds thereafter another one. But we did not pay any attention to them, and left the battery in the hands of the three gallant gun-boats, who threw their shells into it in splendid style.

At eleven minutes past seven fired our 11-inch gun, the shell falling a little over the Nashville. In just five minutes afterward the enemy hit our pilot-house, fair and square, with an 8-inch shot, which broke in two pieces, one falling on the turret top and the other on deck, doing

no damage and producing no unpleasant sensation whatever.

At twenty-two minutes past seven the 15-inch gun was fired with a 10-second shell, which landed quite close to the Nashville. The fort banged away at us, but they did not exhibit such careful gunnery as on previous firings. We paid no kind of notice to the scamps behind the piles of sand, as we were bent on the blowing up of the would-be pirate.

By-the-way, when we went up first we noticed quite a number of persons on her deck; but after two or three firings they wore not to be seen. They had a full head of steam on her boilers, and she was blowing off furiously from her escape-pipe.

At twenty-seven and a half minutes past seven o'clock we fired our 15-inch gun again, with a 10-second shell, which landed plump into the pirate, between her foremast and paddle-box. It exploded beautifully, and there was no doubt in our minds that we should soon see her in flames. This was only our fifth shot, and if the result does not show good gunnery, pray tell me what is to be considered a standard? Acting-Master Pierre Giraud worked both the guns, and his good marksmanship was now established beyond a doubt. From the turret only the masts and smoke-stacks were visible, giving, of course, but a very small mark to fire at.

After firing our eighth round we were obliged to cease firing, so as to see what the fire was doing on board of the Nashville.

To our gratification we were enabled to see a very dense volume of black smoke arising from the forward part of the vessel, and in a couple of minutes thereafter the flames were distinctly visible, forcing their way up, and gradually creeping aft, until they reached nearly to the base of the smoke-stack. The fog was slowly creeping down upon us, threatening to shut out the glorious sight; but it would light up at intervals, showing us in a few minutes a vast sheet of flames, which shot upward far into the smoky canopy above them. It was not long before the smoke-stack guys were burned away, and the huge stack tottered and then fell over on to the port paddle-box, stirring up the glowing embers, which rose and mingled with the darkness above the doomed vessel.

Nothing but night, to give a darkened back-ground to the livid flames, could have added any thing to the grandeur of the scene before us. Our weary watching was now reaping its reward, and our hearts beat with joy and congratulations. Slowly but surely the fire did its work: the rigging caught fire in several places, and torches seemed set, as it were, over a vast funereal pile. We fired occasionally at her until it became evident that we could not add any thing more to her speedy dissolution. At intervals the flames would rush up in a body aft and die out forward, as if the fire king was rushing fore and aft in joy at the freaks in his realms. All this time the fort was firing at us, stopping only when the fog would entirely hide us from view.

At six minutes past eight o'clock we ceased firing, having only fired fourteen times. We waited, watching for about thirty minutes the burning of the steamer, and then up anchor and stood down the river. At this time the Nashville was entirely enveloped in flames, the paddle-boxes were fast crumbling away, and streaks of fire were rapidly making huge crevices in her once graceful hull.

At thirty-five minutes past nine o'clock an explosion took place amidships, throwing up a column of white smoke, which, when its inertia was lost, spread itself out like a huge umbrella. It looked like steam, and quite a number who witnessed it pronounced it to be steam, which escaped from the bursting of her boilers. It probably was the explosion of the 100-pounder rifle gun, from the fact that the outline of the hull was not seriously affected by the explosion.

In ten minutes afterward a terrific explosion took place aft. The fire had reached the magazine, and a spark had, in a flash, set loose the latent power of untold tons. Her hull was not able to withstand a shock like that, and a vast white volume quickly ascended aloft, and spread out until it met a sufficient amount of atmospheric resistance, when it mingled with the smoke from the burning hull. The mainmast was gone, the quarter torn down to the water's edge, and the hull riven into countless fragments. Some little time afterward the foremast fell, and the destruction was complete. Far away over the lowlands the smoke spread itself, as if veiling from their view those who might be watching the annihilation of a vessel once lovely in form, graceful in her motion, and noted for her speed—a vessel built for peaceful uses, but by a band of desperadoes turned into a pirate (a bloodless one). The tide of life was at an ebb, and in a short time she would be but a mass of tangled machinery and charred relics.

It was useless, of course, to remain any longer in range of the enemy's guns, and Captain Worden ordered the gun-boats to withdraw from the action and cease firing.

On the way down the river the Montauk narrowly escaped an accident, depicted in our second illustration on page 193. The Herald correspondent thus alludes to it:

While withdrawing from action we passed directly over three torpedoes, one of which exploded directly underneath our boilers, raising the vessel up bodily and slewing her around. The sensation was of course a very peculiar one, and for a time we could not realize that we had been hit by an infernal machine. It started a little leak, but nothing to speak of, as it was repaired in a few minutes.

Our picture on page 196 shows us THE BOMBARDMENT OF FORT M'ALLISTER, which was more intended to test the fighting qualities of the iron-clad gun-boats than to take the fort. The same correspondent of the Herald who witnessed the action from the Montauk thus recounts the affair:

At thirty-five minutes after eight the iron-clads were up at about the following distances from the work: Passaic, 1200 yards; Patapsco, 1600; Nahant, 1900. Here they anchored.

In five minutes afterward the enemy opened with two guns, followed by another in rapid succession, hitting close to the Passaic, when she let slide an 11-inch shell, which fell short of the fort. At fifty-five minutes after eight the Para opened with her 13-inch mortar. The engagement, or rather target practice, now began.

At nine minutes after nine we anchored, having cleared the vessel for action, ready to run up if we were needed.

We had on board Captain Upshur and his clerk and quite a number of the officers of the Sebago, who came on board to witness the scene; and as we lay ahead of all the vessels excepting the iron-clads, our turret top offered excellent facilities for observing the firing.

Our boys were scattered around the decks as passive spectators of an action in which they were very desirous of participating; but as we had done some service before, it was but fair that we should now do some looking on.

The iron-clads fired slowly, gradually getting the range, while the bummers promised to throw in some shells in a short time.

The rebels were busy, and at intervals we could see that they hit the Passaic pretty fairly; of course we could not tell what damage was done, but from our experience we felt confident that they could not harm her much. As the moments flew the practice from the iron-clads became more accurate, the Passaic bearing off the palm for some time, when the Nahant came up to the mark, delivering her shell finely and making some elegant shots. At twenty minutes before eleven o'clock two of her shells landed in the traverses, throwing up the sand to a tremendous height and filling the air with clouds of earth. The crews of the vessels around us gave hearty expressions of their approbation by subdued cheering and loud clapping of their hands.

The rapid fire of the iron-clads caused the rebels to slacken their fire from their three guns and an 11-inch mortar, which they had been working with great spirit.

The wind had now breezed up from the northwest and gradually increased into almost a gale; but it had the good effect to drive away the smoke quickly from their vision.

The Patapsco pitched in her shells, doing some execution in the rear of the work, just skipping the parapet in their flight. Although we kept a minute record of each gun fired on both sides, it would be too voluminous to place within the limited space of our columns. It was bang, bang, smoke, fire, sand; and I guess but few ever saw such a beautiful sight. Secesh stood up to their guns manfully, and their gunnery was by no means meagre.

At times the enemy would not reply for several moments, and when he opened afresh the guns would belch out from a different place. Our shells were doing tremendous execution in the sand, but for some time we thought without damaging any guns. Finally a 15-inch shell from the Nahant exploded under one of the rebel guns, throwing it up into the air quite a distance.

The Nahant's people went to dinner as quietly as if not under the fire of the enemy; and after dinner they came out on deck to take a good look at their target. Secesh tried hard to hit her with their mortar, but did not succeed. The accurate firing of the Nahant elicited the heartiest commendations from the spectators, who were piled upon our turret and on all elevated points of the other vessels.

The outlines of the fort, which early in the morning had presented such regularity, now began to assume an entirely different aspect. Huge holes were clearly discernible, and it did not look like the work we saw in the bright glow of the morning's sun.

At thirty-two minutes past three P.M. the Nahant withdrew from the action, having accomplished all she desired to do in the way of exercising her guns' crews and lubricating her working gear. At fifty-five minutes past three P.M. the Patapsco followed, and the Passaic some little time afterward. They all dropped down the river, the rebels firing very rapidly at them as they quietly went away from the fort.

They hit the Passaic several times, landing a 10-inch shot on the top of her turret, whole and uninjured. They also hit her fair and square on her deck with an 11-inch mortar shell, which, strange to say, did not do any material damage, except, of course, fracturing the armor. It struck between the beams. I begin to think you can not injure our iron-clads in any manner possible. She was hit thirty-three times, and I have the same old story to write —"Nobody hurt, and no damage done." I could not have been made to believe that these vessels could withstand shot, shell, and torpedoes, used in every conceivable manner, until I saw with my own eyes the results. It is wonderful and strange.

We can not forbear quoting this correspondent with regard to the sensations experienced by persons in an iron-clad when she is hit. He says:

About half past eight o'clock our pilot-house was hit a

tremendous blow by a shot. Your correspondent was at the instant of impact on one knee writing a paragraph in his note-book. The shock was somewhat severe, and afterward he found that the shot struck close to his head.

It unbalanced me, and I tumbled over against the side of the narrow pilot-house, when, to my surprise, I was struck by a piece of iron bolt with the nut attached (weighing about one pound), first on the shoulder and then on the knee. Some of the other bolts were knocked out. The iron was, no doubt, of an inferior quality, and had they been of the same character as those in the turret, such an event would not have taken place. In view of such an accident, and suffering from the shock, I left the pilot-house.

The sensation below decks was far different than that which I had experienced in the pilot-house on Tuesday last for four hours and a half and the two hours of to-day.

The sound of our own guns was more acute and unpleasant, and well it might be, when it is taken into consideration that the whole volume of sound from the discharge of each gun passed directly over and within a few inches of our heads, and the concussion passing into the system through the brain by the top of the head. I can not say that it was painful, but it was far from pleasant, and, in addition to this, you were scarcely ever able to hear the word of command when the guns were fired. To hear the officer say, "Are you ready?"—"Fire!" takes off much of the unpleasantness of the shock; but below you do not have that warning.

It was just six minutes past eleven o'clock. I was standing in the ward-room, and in conversation with Dr. Brayton, when a most terrific blow was struck upon our deck plating directly over my head. I was driven with much force into a chair, and my whole muscular system seemed for about two minutes perfectly paralyzed. I was faint, and could scarcely obtain my breath. I never experienced such an unpleasant sensation in the whole course of my life. It was a heavy shock to my whole system. In fact it exceeded my experience in the pilot-house, and I thought I done wrong in quitting it. And while absorbed in such thoughts slam! came another such a shot, but, fortunately for me at least, about six feet away from where the first one struck. Weak as I was this again gave me a shock, and I was forced to say, "That was the unkindest cut of all." I soon recovered from the intense pain I suffered, and resumed my notes, but was continually in apprehension of having the dose repeated. Fortunately, however, it was not.


AS MANY former Pupils of the NAZARETH HALL BOARDING SCHOOL are in the U. States Army and Navy, filling various positions in the different departments thereof, and as we have already heard of the death of several—in hospital and on the battle-fiield—we hereby request all persons who are aware that any of our Graduates have thus fallen, to give or send all information they possess, of time, place, and manner of death, to the Agents of our Institution, the Messrs. A. Binninger & Co., Nos. 92 and 94 Liberty Street, New York, or the Messrs. Jordan & Brother, No. 209 N. Third Street, Philadelphia, or to the


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All Articles for Soldiers at Baltimore, Washington, Hilton Head, Newborn, and all places occupied by Union troops, should be sent, at half rates, by HARNDEN'S EXPRESS, No. 74 Broadway. Sutlers charged low rates.

$75 A MONTH! I want to hire Agents in every county at $75 a month, expenses paid, to sell my new cheap Family Sewing Machines.   Address,

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There are no losses due and unpaid; no claims in dispute.


















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JAMES W. G. CLEMENTS, M.D., Medical Examiner, at the office daily from 12 to 1 1/2 o'clock, P.M.


J. B. GATES, General Agent; JAMES STEWART, HENRY PERRY, ALBERT O. WILLCOX, A. WHITNEY, Local Agents in the City of New York and vicinity.

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