A Mother's Letter


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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.



ROUND their camp-fire three soldiers sat;

The night was cold, the wind was blowing,

And, sifting through the barrack's chinks,

The crystal flakes came thickly snowing.


They sat there silent, sad, and stern,

No light but fire-light on their faces,

And yet 'twas plain, howe'er unsaid,

Theirs weren't the most congenial places.


At length Tim Hanson sighed, and muttered,

"It's no use, boys, the ship is sinking;

And as to risk another fight,

It's throwing life away, I'm thinking."


"And so do I," replied Jack Day;

"Our Government don't know what it's doing;

Our generals rather take their ease

Than spoil the mess Secesh is brewing."


"And then, too," Tim rejoined, "and then,

Just think of all the good times waiting—

The sunny rooms, and smiles at home,

And then that glorious evening skating.


"I wouldn't care so much for all,

If every body wasn't croaking;

But much of Northern news we get

Is most decidedly provoking.


"And then the faction bawling peace—

Surely the angels must be weeping,

Who look upon this demon's egg,

And have America in keeping."


"Ah me!" sighed out Dick Jones, "ah me!

There's nothing I can do but shiver,

And think of that last dreadful fight,

When thousands fell, across the river.


"I move we do as some have one,

Obtain our freedom by desertion:

To slip the noose, and foil the guard,

Requires, we know, but slight exertion."


"Agreed! agreed!" cried Tim and Jack:

"The thing would be amazing easy."

"A step!'' hissed Dick: " 'tis well the night,

In taking cold, is taken wheezy."


The door flew open, and there fell,

Just at the feet of Dick, a letter:

"Luck!" cried he; "had you come to-morrow,

You'd only found a broken fetter."


"Come, read it to us now," said Tim;

" 'T may give a fellow strength for running,

Or turn as Copperheads, or something

Amazing smart or wondrous cunning."


" 'Dear son:' yes, boys, I'll read you this;

The letter isn't Jane's, but mother's,

And now just think it's all your own,

And not a bit of it another's.


" 'Dear Dick, we want to see you home,

But not till rebel schemes are crushed,

And discontent and treason here

In glorious victory are hushed.


" 'Wrongs there may be—we know there are;

Bad men command where they should serve;

But all will meet ere long, we trust,

The recompense their acts deserve.


Think not that He, who notes the fall

Of even a sparrow, fails to see

The hardship, pain, and wrongs endured,

And whether patiently, by thee.


" 'Think not that Heaven has no reward,

No rich reward in store, to mete

To him who takes his life, his all,

And lays them at his country's feet.


" 'This is not all of life; and he

Who nobly for his country dies

Shall find promotion when he falls,

And glory when entombed he lies.


" 'Oh! then, my son, go boldly on;

Let no discouragements prevail:

Our cause is God's—His purposes

May linger, but they can not fail.' "


Dick turned away to wipe a tear;

Jack blew the flames a trifle higher;

Tim took his Bible from the shelf,

And drew the table to the fire.


" 'Twas nonsense," Jack remarked, at length,

"That we were talking, boys, together;

Or else we had the blues, no doubt

Engendered by this blowing weather."


" 'Twas only talk—all talk," said Tim;

"Let come what will, I'll never falter;

I'd like an order, though, to swing

Round every Copperhead a halter."


"My mother," murmured Dick; "my mother—

I seem even now to see her sitting,

Her thoughtful face and gentle eye

Bent absently above her knitting.


"Come, boys, we'll sing 'Sweet Home;' but no,

Our patriotic songs are better."

We'll pause; for only God can know

The influence of that mother's letter.

IN the next Number of Harper's Weekly we shall commence the publication of a new Serial Tale, entitled




This Tale will be richly illustrated, and will be continued from week to week till it is completed.




BE the cause what it may, the most careless observer must have noticed, within the past few days, a very decided improvement in public feeling. There is little or no despondency in men's language; people are not downcast and despairing; you do not hear, on every side, as you did a month ago, speculations with regard to the overthrow of the Government, the collapse of the currency, and the recognition of the South. On the contrary, people seem cheerful and hopeful. The old calm confidence in the justice of our cause and in its ultimate triumph is reviving; bets are offered on the capture of Charleston and Vicksburg; we laugh at foreign sympathy with the rebels, instead of getting angry. Altogether the tone of public feeling is much changed within a month, and unquestionably for the better.

The change can be ascribed to no particular event. We have won no battles, conquered no territory, occupied no new strategic point. Our armies, under Rosecrans, Hunter, Hooker, Banks, and Grant, are about where they were a month or six weeks ago. The rebels, so far as we know, confront them as steadily, as defiantly as ever. Some almost unintelligible operations are going on in the West, by which we are expected to achieve substantial successes. But it is safe to say that the Yazoo expedition and the Lake Providence canal scheme are not in the least comprehended by the public at large, and have nothing to do with the increase of general cheerfulness.

Rather must we ascribe that increase, in the first place, to a natural reaction from the despondency which overwhelmed us after the defeats at Fredericksburg and Vicksburg. Those disasters, exaggerated by popular indignation and party spite, filled the public mind with dismay, and when, on their heels, traitors at the North and West threatened to divide the loyal States, and to organize a party "in favor of a vigorous prosecution of peace" on a pro-slavery basis, the hearts of loyal men sank within them, and gloom overspread the whole republic. Fortunately the spirits of the Anglo-Saxon are too elastic to remain long depressed A few weeks convinced us that the armies led by Hooker and Grant, though beaten, were as full of fight as ever; and a further brief period developed the equally important fact that the Copperhead traitors had no followers to speak of, and that the masses of the Northern Democracy were heartily loyal to their country. These two discoveries dispelled, in great part, the apprehensions which had saddened the public during the month of January, and laid the foundation for restored confidence.

Many minor causes have contributed to the same result. It is not too much to say that the emphatic indorsement, by such sterling democrats as John Van Buren and James T. Brady, of the recent legislation in Congress, has demolished at a blow the factious opposition which was being organized for the purpose of preventing the Government from prosecuting the war. If these men approve, who shall cavil? In like manner, the recent inquiry which has arisen in Europe for American securities has raised their value in the eyes of our own people. If these foreigners, who know so little about our country, and whose newspaper and political guides so systematically traduce us, are willing to lend their money to the United States Government, what Northern man shall be base enough to question its solvency? Nor have the recent demonstrations of sympathy in England been without their effect in strengthening the back-bone of the timid here. These Englishmen of the middle classes seem to have no doubt of our ultimate success. Shall they have more faith than we?

Meanwhile waifs and estrays of news from the South tend to encourage the belief that the Jeff Davis despotism is tottering to its fall. Gold is worth 350 in Richmond, which implies an utter want of confidence in the revolutionary paper. Were gold worth 350 here, we could not carry on the war for sixty days. At Mobile, according to their own newspapers, people are starving to death. A committee of the rebel Congress has been appointed to inquire into the causes of the alarming scarcity of food, and it is understood

that it ascribes the fact to the failure of the crops. But a Charleston paper more justly charges the disaster upon the reckless manner in which the conscription act has been carried out. Jeff Davis has been so determined upon military success that he has not left labor enough on the plantations to raise food. A bitter feeling of discontent and insubordination seems to be cropping out in various parts of the South, and the indications justify the belief that a decided Northern victory would at once be followed by counter-revolutionary movements in favor of the Union in several of the insurrectionary States.

All these matters have had their share in strengthening confidence and cheering men's spirits at the North. But the principal cause of the improvement in public feeling has been, we doubt not, that abiding confidence in the tenacity and perseverance of our race with which every one of us is imbued. Like our fathers, the English, we are slow to fight, and most egregious blunderers at the art of war. But, like them, when we do fight, we are terribly in earnest, and fight on, through good and evil fortune, "never knowing when we are whipped," never relaxing our efforts in consequence of partial successes or partial defeats, never doubting in our own strong hearts of our ultimate success, and never for an instant calling off the dogs of war until the object for which we fight has been thoroughly accomplished.


WHEN this war broke out the leading organs of British and other European opinion declared that the contest would speedily come to an end if the capitalists of Europe refused to lend their means to the combatants. In Europe, and especially in England, the notion prevailed that there was no money here, and that the prosecution of enterprises, peaceful or belligerent, depended on the supply of funds from abroad.

A similar notion obtained in this country also. In Wall Street, when a railway or a canal or a steamship line was projected, the first question mooted was, will the bonds or the stock sell in England? It was commonly believed that we had no capital in this country, and that the development of our resources was dependent on the supply of money from foreign parts.

We have now been at war nearly two years, and until within a couple of months our Government has not obtained a dollar from abroad. During that period our people have absorbed, paid for, and hold, 1st, about $70,000,000 of long 6 per cent. bonds; 2d, about $160,000,000 of 7.30 notes; and 3d, some $175,000,000' of one year 6 per cent. debt certificates—in all, over $400,000,000 of Government securities, exclusive of legal tender currency. In other words, the people of the United States have in the course of eighteen months taken and paid for as many Government stocks as all Europe took from us from 1853 to 1861. Nor is this all. While our people were absorbing these Government securities, the foolish capitalists of Europe, deluded by the London Times and other leading organs of foreign opinion into believing that this country was on the verge of absolute ruin, were selling all the American securities they held, and our people were absorbing them. Over $200,000,000 of American stocks—Federal, State, County, City, and Railway—came here for sale between New Year 1861 and New Year 1863, and all found a market.

Yet this vast flood of old and new securities has led to no decline in prices. All the 6 per cent. and 7.30 securities of the United States Government are above par. All railway bonds in good repute sell at a substantial premium.

The inference is irresistible—this country is much richer than was ever supposed. The notion that we were dependent on Europe for capital is exploded. It is doubtful whether any European nation could have absorbed as large an amount of funded securities as our people have absorbed in the past eighteen months. The United States—whose wealth in proximate and ultimate resources has never been questioned—has developed during the present struggle a wealth in actual and immediate money means far beyond any thing that any one had ever dared to expect, and, in all probability, beyond any thing which the richest foreign nation in the world could hope to surpass.



THE Lounger continues his extracts from the Diary of which he spoke last week, and which, he is glad to know, is not without interest and significance to many readers. The writer of the Diary, in a private note to the Lounger, insists upon a careful avoidance of every thing that may not with propriety be published, confiding entirely, however, in the discretion of the editor.

The other evening, at a little party at —'s, the conversation lurched gradually upon the inevitable topic. Every body talked about the war, and every body avoided the colored man as long as possible. But at length Triptolemus remarked, in his lofty and rather insolent manner, to Cato:

"Well, well ; now let us finish up the war, and save the Union without any further allusion to our sable brethren."

There was a momentary pause; then Cato dryly said, "If we had let the negro alone, he would always have let us alone. We began it."

Triptolemus replied, tartly, "I don't see it."

"If you don't like pumpkins," answered Cato, "you had better not plant pumpkin-seed. If we don't want negroes at every turn, why were they brought? They, at least, are not responsible for being here."

"Pshaw!" retorted Triptolemus; "I am sick of the inevitable Samba. I have been at the South, Cato; I have seen the blacks, and I know that they are fit only for slaves."

"Possibly," answered Cato. "But I have been at the South too, and I have seen the whites, and I know that they are not fit for masters."

Triptolemus dropped the conversation.

Jones met John Bull, who dined at his Consul's in honor of the Prince's marriage.

"Was the public report of the feast correct?" asked Jones.


"Then you had a cold dinner, eh?"

"Cold? Bless my soul, what d'ye mean? Cold? It was jolly—jolly!"

"But I never knew any thing quite so cool as the way in which the President's health was proposed."

"Why, bless my soul, what d'ye mean?"

"Mean? Why, Bull, look here. You are all living and trading in this country, protected by its laws. Its Government, to which your Consul owes his exequatur, is menaced by a rebellion. You dine in its chief city. You toast your Queen. All right. You toast your Prince. All right. You toast the Danish Consul, with a splendid flourish for Denmark. All right. Then, with a kindly pity, with a sublime condescension, you pat this country upon the back: 'You poor devil! you're gone to pot, of course; but it won't quite do to say nothing about you. Here, gentlemen, fill up! Society has some disagreeable duties. We are in the United States. 'Tis a fine country. Pity 'tis so distracted. But I do not wish to be too hard upon it. I can not forego giving you the President of the United States!'

"You think it distracted, do you? And how about the navy you are building for the distracting party? I wonder, Bull, if the excellent gentleman who, upon such an occasion, 'could not forego' proposing the most obvious and commonplace honor to the President, has a long memory about this same matter of privateering? I wonder if he remembers under what circumstances his predecessor vacated the British Consulate? Perhaps you have yourself forgotten. Well, his predecessor charged, during the Crimean War, that one of the most conspicuous and honorable merchants of New York was fitting out privateers for the Russian Government. The merchant thereupon, at an open meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, or upon 'Change, declared that no honorable American merchant would engage in such business. The matter did not rest. It was an insult to the mercantile community. It was carried up to the authorities. The exequatur was revoked, and the British Government requested to name an agent who would respect the fair fame of the community to which he was accredited. Countries differ, John. Do you think it would be an aspersion upon the honor of the British merchant to suggest that he was extensively engaged in privateering upon American commerce? And don't you think it an edifying spectacle, that of a commercial agent of his in the United States unable to 'forego' giving the health of the President?"

"Yes, yes," replied Bull; "that is the way with you Americans. You're too sensitive to live in this world. Your nerves are too easily touched."

"John," said Jones, "if our consul had said, at a dinner in London, that although he thought Englishmen were egregious zanies to pay the Prince of Wales half a million of dollars a year, but that, notwithstanding, he could not forego giving the health of the Queen—"

"By Jove, Sir, but you forget! The loyalty of a true Briton—"

"Yes, Sir, and by Jove you forget! The loyalty of a true American, who honors the representative of the national authority, is not a less noble and generous feeling than any thing you call loyalty. You needn't drink the President's health if you don't wish to. But in this country, Sir, if it be drunk at all, it must be with the same respect that we always show to your Queen; for the President represents the nation as the Queen does. Understand that the next time you marry a prince."

Jones went off and left Bull stammering.

Dined at —'s. Some one said that Vallandigham ought to be sent to Fort Lafayette. The Doctor smiled. "Sent to Fort Lafayette? Why, I have no doubt Vallandigham is in the pay of the Government. He is of more service to us than an iron-clad. Vallandigham is a domestic Monitor. He is worth an occasional victory; for when we are not beating the enemy in the field he is scattering it at home. No, no; let us keep Fort Lafayette for those who hurt us."


IN making his proposition to Parliament that half a million dollars should be annually paid to the Prince of Wales for his onerous services to the British nation, Lord Palmerston alluded to some of the other inestimable privileges enjoyed by Britons; and he congratulated his fellow-countrymen upon being free from an Oriental despotism upon the one hand, and upon the other from both the mob law and the governmental tyranny of a republic.

The Oriental despotisms must answer for themselves. But when my Lord says a republic he means the United States. Now the ferocity of our mob rule, and the gloomy rigors of our tyrannical Government at this moment, are known to all mankind. The English subjects now in New York are witnesses of our melancholy condition. But when the noble Lord speaks of Britain as free from mobs and legal rigors, he conveniently forgets to remember the history of his country. The mob is a British institution. A hundred and fifty years ago the Duke of Newcastle kept a mob in pay to suppress Tory tumults. In 1779, as my Lord Palmerston will remember, if he chooses, the Gordon rioters had possession of London, and the kingdom was barely saved from civil war. In 1797 the Scotch riots upon the militia act will not have escaped his memory. The fearful famine mobs in 1800 in Birmingham and London; the manufacturing mobs in 1812; the peace mobs of 1816; incidents familiar to the most superficial knowledge of British history, are all mobs with which the republic, whose mob rule Lord Palmerston so deprecates, has nothing to offer in comparison.

Still more striking is his Lordship's lapse of memory in respect to the rigors of the Government in time of war, at which, as exhibited in this country, his Lordship shrugs his Lordship's shoulders. Surely he has not forgotten that in 1794, when (Next Page)




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