"Monitor" Poem


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, May 9, 1863

Welcome to our online collection of original Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. This archive serves as a valuable tool for researchers and students of the Civil War. The papers contain unique content which is simply not available anywhere else.

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Louisiana Swamp

Louisiana Swamp

England Warning

Warning to England

Anglo Saxon

Loss of the Steamer "Anglo-Saxon"

Brashear City

Brashear City

New Jersey Cavalry

New Jersey Cavalry

Monitor Poem

Monitor Poem

Hospital Ship

Hospital Ship


The Steamer "Escort"

Runaway Slaves

Runaway Slaves

General Hooker's Staff

General Hooker's Staff

Patent Medicine

Patent Medicine Advertisements

Jeff Davis

Jeff Davis Cartoon





MAY 9, 1863.]



(Previous Page) reached him, he seemed to have a notion that he might as well try to stop Longstreet from following in his footsteps. So Colonel W— marched us along to Thoroughfare Gap, to hold it with his two hundred cavalry against a rebel army corps. After taking more prisoners than we knew what to do with, and finding Longstreet pushing pretty hard at us, W— set us to work like day-laborers blockading the Gap, and a very neat operation we made of it. Indeed, we did it so well that I had hard work to get back myself. That was very pretty, so far; but, unfortunately, our commanders seemed to have forgotten the existence of Hopewell Gap, and that little road between it and Thoroughfare. Wyndham, who generally kept his eyes open, sent me, with a dozen men, to keep an eye upon it; and General Bayard soon after bringing up the rest of the brigade, the Harris Light deployed some skirmishers in that direction. They kept, however, at a respectful distance behind me; for I knew what Wyndham wanted, and had to push on. When I took my post I sent back and got the Harris officer to connect with me tolerably near. Just about sunset their cavalry began to show through the woods in small parties. I sent back word to the General, and prepared for further orders: two of my men being away—one with the Harris, and one having been sent to the Colonel. I suppose the Harris officer forgot to mention to the General my advance party, and did not think of it himself; for, the rebels making a push, he was obliged to fall back a little, without giving me any notification of the fact. So the first thing I knew I saw parties of rebs lying around loose in every direction. As I saw it my heart began to beat 'Libby Prison, Libby Prison, Libby Prison;' and I give you my word it kept on at that tune all the three days. However, I thought that I was not taken yet, and that every day of freedom was so much gain. The boys had all those gray undershirts which the Government served out about that time; so I made them take off and stow away their jackets, informing them that they were Confederate cavalry. I knew that it was dangerous to assume the character of regular troops, so I determined to he a scouting party of partisan rangers, assuming myself the name of an old North Carolina room-mate of mine—Duncan Moore. I would have pushed that night for the Alexandria turnpike, along which Buford and King had been fighting; but the firing had grown more distant toward evening, and I was pretty certain that our men had fallen back toward Manassas Junction. So I had all Jackson's force in my way there, Longstreet's cavalry between me and Warrenton, and I did not know how many other troops between me and the Potomac. Contrary to Shakspeare's theory, I preferred to fly to evils that I knew not of, instead of bearing those that at present surrounded me. You may imagine how I stole through the woods and fields that night, along the base of the mountains, with a sharp lock-out for camp-fires and strolling parties of cavalry. I did not care much for the infantry stragglers, for I knew that they would think it all right, observing us moving along like a patrol; and I think the boys rather enjoyed humbugging them when necessary. They made me out a mighty famous fellow, and looked disgusted and astonished when the men said they had never heard of 'Dunk Moore.' All along, mixed with these stragglers, were parties of wounded from King's engagement; and the only tray I could get some water to drink at one of the wells was by demanding it for some wounded men. I only had one big scare that night though. I could hear a heavy column coming along right by where I had to pass; and in the only cover near by there was a fire burning. I got off my horse, and stole within sight so as not to be observed myself; and I was considerable relieved at finding that they were not even soldiers, but were a party of negroes who had probably been turned out of their quarters by surgeon's orders. I went by very bravely, and struck into the woods in the direction of the Gum-Spring road. We lay very quiet all that day, listening to the guns of Sigel's and M'Dowell's fight with Jackson. We had nothing for our horses, and only a few biscuits for ourselves, for we did not dare to light a fire to make coffee. Toward evening, finding that part of the country rather quiet, I ventured to carry my party on one of the roads. Pretty soon I saw some stacks of hay in a field near by. The horses scented it too, and I did not dare to pass for fear they would take a whinnying fit in some similar case when the sound would be inconvenient. We stole into the woods, and then, dodging along the fence, managed to reach the stacks. and got enough to keep the poor beasts alive. By this time I was out of the direct track of their columns, though within the range of their scouting and foraging parties; and though I had to be perhaps even more watchful, I ventured to push on more steadily than before. What swarms of irregular cavalry I did see!—part of their cavalry regiments. no doubt, but with a style of discipline and manner of march very different from ours. Half the column seemed to be dropping out and galloping up just as it pleased them—riding off to the houses, stopping at the wells, in fact doing just as they chose. These habits made it much more disagreeable to lie in hiding while they passed us; but as they felt no need for advance-guards or flankers so far from an enemy, all I had to do was to choose an uninviting place. Oh! how I longed to have one ride at them sometimes; and I heard the men speculating covetously on the value of some of the horses. That night we crossed the Aldie turnpike and made our way toward the river. I had to turn back from the direction of Chantilly, and got across the Loudon Railroad at Guilford Station, I think. And then I began to feel that I was almost safe, and have that longing to get quite out of danger which I once experienced swimming for my life against the tide. It was the evening of the second day. We had made so many turns that the distance traveled was nearly twice what we had gained. None of us slept very sound, and none of us had much to eat. What was almost as bad, though we had tobacco,

we had no matches, and had been without smoking for two days. Now I felt rather bold; and seeing some pretty girls at a house near the road, I determined to get a light. So I rode up as boldly as could be, and greeting them very politely made known my request. They invited me in, asking the news, and making themselves very agreeable. I told them as much as I had picked up: 'that Jackson had been fighting all around Manassas and Bull Run, but that General Lee had joined him now, and that a great battle was going on, in which our side, as far as I knew, was whipping. That I had been sent up that way to see if the country was all clear, and that Lee intended to march fight over that region to take Washington.' I might even have staid to supper; but on stepping into the house there, sitting at ease as if at home, was a full-fledged rebel cavalry-man, on whom the girl that I thought prettiest appeared to cast an eye of regard. I began to feel that I had stepped into the wrong box; but putting on a careless air, walked to the fire, took up some fire, and lighted my pipe, as if I was so accustomed to such meetings that I did not even notice them. But I found out that I could not possibly wait for supper; that it was essential that I should get to Drainesville that night, so that I might be ready to return and report to General Stuart as soon as possible. The man did not appear to notice any thing out of the way, and I congratulated myself at having got away without trouble. It was just getting dark when I got into Drainesville. It is a wretched little hole, and I had no intention of stopping there; but it would have excited so much observation if I had been seen off the road, that I had to take the risk upon it. And risky enough it looked to see thirty or forty beautiful cavalry horses standing unsaddled, but otherwise ready for service, all along the village street. There was not a house without its party, and there, to my surprise, I noticed the face of my friend of the chimney-corner. I began to feel the walls of the Libby Prison closing around me, even if they might not choose to consider me as a spy, at which notion my neck began to have a very curious sensation around it. However, I thought that I had better put on a bold face. So, riding past him, I suddenly reined up and beckoned to him. 'What officer is in command of this party?' asked I. 'There's no officer along, Sir. We're some of White's men, who have come down to see our friends. The Colonel has parties out on scout farther toward the river, and in toward the fighting; and we got leave to come here while they are in the neighborhood.' 'There are no Yankee scouts about, then, just now? I had heard differently. I am looking after some that I heard of back near Aldie.' 'None has passed here but our own men, until your party, Lieutenant, and I don't think that they can get through. I will tell any of our scouts that I see to keep a sharp look-out for them.' 'Well,' said I, 'I am going down this road until I cone to water and forage. You can say that Captain Moore of the North Carolina Cavalry has passed.' Now I had made a botch of that affair undoubtedly; and had probably set them all watching, when I wanted them particularly to shut their eyes. However, I had to make the best of it, and I pushed on as fast as my jaded horses would let me. The first lane that I came to I turned up, and took my men into a wooded hollow out of view of the road, and near to a quiet little farm-house. We were all exhausted, and were actually getting faint from lack of nourishment. Before we left the regiment there had been little to eat, and since then we had been starving. I suppose that, and the notion that I had done as much damage as could be done, made me reckless; for, leaving my men, I walked straight to the house, entered, and sat down. About the most motherly-looking woman that I ever saw was sitting there by the fire. I watched her face, and something told me that she must still have an affection for the Union. She looked at me, and asked me, 'what I would have?' I boldly told her that I was a Federal officer. Shaking her head, she replied, 'This is no place for you. Their parties are passing up and down all the time. Listen!' —and I could hear the tramp of a company of cavalry moving rapidly along the road. 'I know,' said I, 'that you will not betray us. We have been for more than two days cut off from our army, and are trying to get within our lines. We have had nothing to eat, and have scarcely closed our eyes.' Before I had finished speaking the old lady had a pot on the fire, and had set to work making supper. I found that her husband was suspected by the secessionists, and that he lived a very uneasy life. He had no corn but a little hay, which he gave us for our horses; and we all got a supper which seemed to us the most delightful meal that we had ever eaten. That night, back in the hollow behind the home, we slumbered deeply; and at dawn rose up with hopes revived and ready to dare any thing. As we started off, after paying as well as we could for what we had taken, we lighted upon the old lady's husband. We halted him to his great alarm. He began to think that we must be rebels after all, and besought us to remember the good supper which he had given us in a way that moved our hearts. He was much relieved when he found that we only wanted him to show us a by-road to Falls Church. We began to be certain that there were parties out in chase of us, and see knew that our horses could not stand a race. Very quietly and cautiously we moved on; so much so that we avoided our own outposts, and first struck a picket reserve to our mutual astonishment. I could tell you how I got the party into Washington; how I saw General M'Clellan for the first time, without knowing him; how I was rather free and easy at first, and then very much scared when I found who I was talking to; how he complimented me, and how I got leave to run home for a day or two: but I have been tiresome enough as it is, and can only assure you that a great deal more happened during those three days."

"That was a little different from your first encounter with the rebels at Occoquan, eh, Y— ?" said A—, looking malicious. "You don't tell

that, so I shall do it for you. You see we had seized a big wagon loaded with flour, and had been obliged to leave it in Occoquan. Y— was sent down there to bring it over. The ferry-boat was gone, the water was high, and he did not know how to manage. While he was preparing to go after it, he heard a drum and fife in the village. He dismounted some of his carbineers, placed them along the ridge commanding the ferry, and arranged for a desperate defense. The drum and fife approached, Y—'s heart beat at the awful responsibility of his first combat, and he watched anxiously for the appearance of the enemy. The head of the column appeared around the houses, moving with military dignity. Y— examined them with his spy-glass in the attitude of Wellington at Waterloo. As he was doing so he heard a faint chuckle among his men. He took one more look, and with an expression of extreme disgust ordered his men into the small boats and pulled over to the wagon. His vision of blood and glory had been created by a lot of boys playing soldier."



FOR evermore,

By the Ocean River's soundless shore,

Where the sea-grass points, by bank and bar,

Up through the gloom to the Northern Star,

With its nerves of fibrous iron set

To the sullen throe and strain

With which its stormy fate was met

On the spectral midnight main,

Fathomless under the restless wave,

In its battle-armor dressed,

Like a knight of old in his warrior grave,

The Monitor lies at rest.


The white-winged ships

Glide through the foam above;

And the trembling needle veers and dips

From its ancient, starry love.

A sentinel world its palsied hand

Drops at the voiceless stern command

Of the hulk that erst with its iron will

Bade the startled hearts of men grow still,

And yields to a stronger its old control

Of the mystic forces that guard the pole.


Startling, sublime,

Blotting the records of elder time,

Was the coming day that should break the sleep

Of men who dreamed that the rocking deep

Bore on its bosom no mightier power

Than in their brain was born,

When, in the evening's bodeful hour

Of terror wild,

This youngest child

Of the forge and the anvil, silently

Crossed the verge of the outer sea,

And through the summer midnight's haze,

Half lit by the frigate's dying blaze,

Awaited the awful morn.


Sunrise upon the bay,

And ripples glistening in the slanting ray,

Peaceful as when the fifth day came

Upon a world yet unbelteld by eyes

That held the seeds of flame.

Peace in the azure skies,

And under two dark forms of iron hide,

Fire-hearted, bloody-throated, eager-eyed,

Nearing each other with constricted breath,

Alert, suspicious, wary, still as death.



A sound like the terrible shock of doom;

And a tongue of flame behind the smoke,

That white from the hidden port-hole broke,

In mockery of a flag of peace;

The blow of a thunder-bolt falling in vain,

Hissing off in the gulfing main;

Blow after blow without surcease,

Like the hopeless strokes by the archfiend given

To the angel-guarded walls of heaven;

Till battered, broken, drenched with blood,

Seams open wide to the eager flood,

The ocean monster, stubborn, fierce,

As the treason that gave it birth,

And the wrong that only the sword shall pierce,

Till this is a freeman's earth,

Slunk away to its fever den,

While the Monitor should be,

In the gladdened eyes of God and men,

Crowned King of the Sea.


Its work was done;

The era of iron right begun;

The first great battle fought and won.

Well that the champion ship should be

Enshrined in the heart of the loving sea;

To feel forever her pulses go

Thrilling metallic veins below;

Safe from the weakness of growing age,

The battle's shock, and the whirlwind's rage!


The swinging tide,

Swinging through circles ocean wide,

Shall pause a moment beside the wreck,

Softly slide on the bolted deck,

Wind through the rusting port-holes grim,

Circle the turret's outer rim,

And kiss the cannon's silent lips,

That spoke the decrees of the king of ships;

And then away to the misty shores,

Where the gull is scared by the fisher's oars;

And under the skies where the northern bear

Paces around in the midnight glare;

By Iceland's mountains of frost and snow,

Whose feet are red in the fires below;

By the Empire Isles, eternally

Watching the lilies over the sea;

By the stormy shores of wild Biscay,

And the vine-clad capes of Spain,

To the burning sands that have heard for aye

The clank of the bondman's chain;

And across where the tropic whirlwinds rise

Round the throne of the Western Queen;

Till the waters pause where the Monitor lies,

In the slanting sea-grass green,

And tell of the mist, frost, fire, and sun,

Suspicion, hopes, and fears,

And the growing might of the good begun

Through the never-failing years,

Till they glide at last in a sunny round,

By lands redeemed to hands unbound,

And smile in their happiness silently

As they pass the Monitor under the sea.


WE publish on page 292 two illustrations of GENERAL BANKS'S CAMPAIGN IN LOUISIANA, from sketches by Mr. F. H. Schell. Mr. Schell writes:

"The sketch of Brashear City is appropriate at this time, as it was at this point the majority of General Banks's troops crossed on pontoon bridges in pursuit of the rebels under Sibley, It is the temporary terminus of the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad, and has been held by our troops as an outpost since last summer. The gun-boats shown are the Calhoun, on board of which Commander Buchanan was killed last winter, and which lately succeeded in destroying the Queen of the West; the Diana, lately burned by the rebels, to prevent her falling into our hands; and the Estrella, an English vessel, captured while trying to run the blockade.

"The gun-boat Barrataria, shown in the other sketch, was a popular little craft, built for a sugar-boat to navigate shallow bayous, and converted into a gun-boat since General Banks took command of the Department of the Gulf. While on a reconnoitring expedition up the Amite River recently she ran on a snag, from which it was impossible to extricate her. She was burned to prevent her falling into the hands of the rebs, who kept up a hot fire from ambush all the while she was ashore, but did not succeed in injuring any body."


THIS institution, which we illustrate on page 300, is under the charge of Surgeon George H. Bixby and Dr. Hopkins, and is an untold comfort to our sick or wounded sailors. The sketch shows the main ward, in which are accommodations for over two hundred patients. The Sister is one of those good women whose angelic services have been sung by poets and breathed by grateful convalescents all the world over. The convalescents are placed in a ward for their sole use, where they smoke, read, and generally enjoy themselves. The boat itself, a clean, roomy craft, is under the command of a gallant old sailor.


ON page 301 we illustrate the magnificent exploit of the steamer Escort, in running the rebel blockade between Washington, North Carolina, and Newbern, on 15th. Mr. Forbes, the author of the sketch from which our illustration was taken, writes us as follows:

"NEWBERN, April 17, 1863.

"I herewith send you a sketch of the steamer Escort, Captain Wall, of Philadelphia, passing under a cross-fire from the rebel batteries at Rodman's Point, about four miles below Washington, North Carolina, on the morning of the 15th April, with Major-General Foster on board, determined to run the boat to Newbern at all hazards. From the brave and gallant Captain Wall I have obtained the following account of the affair:

" 'At 5.30 A.M. I left the wharf at Washington, North Carolina, under full head of steam, with Major-General Foster on board, bound to Newbern, North Carolina; at 6 A.M. the rebels opened fire upon me from Rodman's Point, raking the steamer "fore and aft." At 6.30 abreast of Rodman's Battery, about two hundred yards distant, still receiving a tremendous fire from four 12-pounder guns at Rodman's Point and three from Hill's Point, a little above Rodman's Point; and also from sharp-shooters all along the bank. Here my pilot, William Patrick, of North Carolina, was shot dead at my feet—as brave and good a man as ever lived—scattering his blood over the floor and upon my person. At this perilous moment I remembered that a negro on board was something of a pilot. He was sent to me, but being too frightened to be of service, I took the helm myself, and giving my engineer orders to crowd on all steams possible, the steamer dashed through the obstructions, which consisted of four rows of spiles, placed in such a zigzag position than there was no possibility of "dodging," and nothing to do but to dash through and trust a kind Providence with the results. One cannon-shot passed through the General's room, over the foot of his bunk; another, a shell, passed through the kitchen, passing through a boiler on the stove, also through a bale of hay, taking off a negro's arm, and finally landed in the engine-room, where it exploded. Still another shell burst against the pilot-house, shattering it badly, and scattering the splinters about us promiscuously, knocking down Henry Gallop and hitting me, not seriously, in several places. The damages by the shell in the engine-room were as follows: The links connecting the walking-beam badly bent, eccentric rod completely broken, hangers bent, set screws broken, air barrel on steam-pump injured, slide of air-pump broken, and many other slight damages.' "




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