Battle of Raccoon Ford


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, October 3, 1863

Welcome to our archive of original Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. Browse through these papers and read incredible details and view impressive illustrations, all created by eye-witnesses to the events. These details are simply not available anywhere else.

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



Battle of Charleston



Battle of Chattanooga

Fort Wagner

Assault on Fort Wagner

Explosion at Fort Moultrie

Harbor Obstruction

Harbor Obstruction


Georgia Battle Map

Battle at Raccoon Ford

Sword Presentation to General Meade

Sword Presentation to General Meade


Russian Frigate Osliaba

Britannia Cartoon

Britannia Cartoon

Battle of Raccoon Ford

Battle of Raccoon Ford




OCTOBER 3, 1863.]



till he is used to them: and when Alfred was relieved of these, his sleep was still driven away by biting insects and barking dogs, two opiates provided in many of these placid Retreats, with a view to the permanence, rather than the comfort, of the lodgers.

On the eighth day Alfred succeeded at last in an object he had steadily pursued for some time: he caught the two see-saw humbugs together.

"Now," said he, "you say he intercepts my letters, and he says it is you who do it. Which is the truth?"

They were staggered, and he followed up his advantage: "Look me in the face, gentlemen," said he. " Can you pretend you do not know I am sane? Ah, you turn your heads away. You can only tell this barefaced lie behind my back. Do you believe in God, and in a judgment to come? Then, if you can not release me, at least don't be such scoundrels as to stop my letters, and so swindle me out of a fair trial, an open, public trial."

The doctor parried with a formula. "Publicity would be the greatest misfortune could befall you. Pray be calm."

Now, an asylum is a place not entirely exempt from prejudices: and one of them is that any sort of appeal to God Almighty is a sign or else forerunner of maniacal excitement.

These philosophers forget that by stopping letters, evading public trials, and, in a word, cutting off all appeals to human justice, they compel the patient to turn his despairing eyes, and lift his despairing voice to Him, whose eye alone can ever really penetrate these dark abodes.

Accordingly the patient who appealed to God above a whisper in Silverton Grove House used to get soothed directly. And the tranquilizing influences employed were morphia, croton oil, or a blister.

The keeper came to Alfred in his room. "Doctor has ordered a blister."

"What for? Send for him directly."

"He is gone."

This way of ordering torture and then coolly going irritated Alfred beyond endurance. Though he knew he should soon be powerless, he showed fight; made his mark as usual on a couple of his zealous attendants; but, not having room to work in, was soon overpowered, hobbled and handcuffed: then they cut off his hair, and put a large blister on the top of his head.

The obstinate brute declined to go mad. They began to respect him for this tenacity of purpose; a decent bedroom was allotted him; his portmanteau and bag were brought him, and he was let walk every day on the lawn with a keeper, only there were no ladders left about, and the trap-door was locked; i. e. the iron gate.

On one of these occasions he heard the gate-keeper whistle three times consecutively; his attendant followed suit, and hurried Alfred into the house, which soon rang with treble signals.

"What is it?" inquired Alfred.

"The visiting justices are in sight: go into your room, please."

"Yes, I'll go," said Alfred, affecting cheerful compliance, and the man ran off.

The whole house was in a furious bustle. All the hobbles, and chains, and instruments of restraint, were hastily collected and bundled out of sight, and clean sheets were being put on many a filthy bed whose occupant had never slept in sheets since he came there, when two justices arrived and were shown into the drawing-room.

During the few minutes they were detained there by Mrs. Archbold, who was mistress of her whole business, quite a new face was put on every thing and every body; ancient cobwebs fell; soap and water explored unwonted territories; the harshest attendants began practicing pleasant looks and kind words on the patients, to get into the way of it, so that it might not come too abrupt and startle the patients visibly under the visitors' eyes: something like actors working up a factitious sentiment at the wing for the public display, or like a race-horse's preliminary canter. Alfred's heart beat with joy inexpressible. He had only to keep calm, and this was his last day at Silverton Grove. The first thing he did was to make a careful toilet.

The stinginess of relations, and the greed of mad-house proprietors, makes many a patient look ten times madder than he is, by means of dress. Clothes wear out in an asylum, and are not always taken off, though Agriculture has long and justly claimed them for her own. And when it is no longer possible to refuse the Reverend Mad Tom or Mrs. Crazy Jane some new raiment, then consanguineous munificence does not go to Poole or Elise, but oftener to paternal or maternal wardrobes, and even to the ancestral chest, the old oak one, singing:

"Poor things, they are out of the world: what need for them to be in the fashion!" (Formula.)

This arrangement keeps the bump of self-esteem down, especially in women, and so cooperates with many other little arrangements to perpetuate the lodger.

Silverton Grove in particular was supplied with the grotesque in dress from an inexhaustible source; whenever money was sent Baker to buy a patient a suit, he went from his lunacy shop to his pawnbroker's, dived headlong into unredeemed pledges, dressed his patient as gentlemen are dressed to reside in cherry-trees; and pocketed five hundred per cent. on the double transaction. Now Alfred had already observed that many of the patients looked madder than they were—thanks to short trowsers and petticoats, holey gloves, ear-cutting shirt-collars, frilled bosoms, shoes made for, and declined by, the very infantry; coats short in the waist and long in the sleeves, coal-scuttle bonnets, and

grandmaternal caps. So he made his toilet with care, and put his best hat on to hide his shaven crown. He then kept his door ajar, and waited for a chance of speaking to the justices. One soon came; a portly old gentleman, with a rubicund face and honest eye, walked slowly along the corridor, looking as wise as he could, cringed on by Cooper and Dr. Bailey; the latter had arrived post-haste, and Baker had been sent for. Alfred came out, touched his hat respectfully, and begged a private interview with the magistrate. The old gentleman bowed politely, for Alfred's dress, address, and countenance left no suspicion of insanity possible in an unprejudiced mind.

But the Doctor whispered in his ear, "Take care, Sir. Dangerous!"

Now this is one of the most effective of the formulae in a private asylum. How can an inexperienced stranger know for certain that such a statement is a falsehood? and even the just do not love justice—to others—quite so well as they love their own skins. So Squire Tollett very naturally declined a private interview with Alfred; and even drew back a step, and felt uneasy at being so near him. Alfred implored him not to be imposed upon. "An honest man does not whisper," said he. "Do not let him poison your mind against me; on my honor I am as sane as you are, and he knows it. Pray, pray use your own eyes, and ears, Sir, and give yourself a chance of discovering the truth in this strong-hold of lies."

"Don't excite yourself, Mr. Hardie," put in the Doctor, parentally. (Formula.)

"Don't you interrupt me, Doctor; I am as calm as you are. Calmer; for, see, you are pale at this moment; that is with fear that your wickedness in detaining a sane man here is going to be exposed. Oh, Sir," said he, turning to the justice, "fear no violence from me, not even angry words; my misery is too deep for irritation or excitement. I am an Oxford man, Sir, a prize man, an Ireland scholar. But, unfortunately for me, my mother left me ten thousand pounds, and a heart. I love a lady, whose name I will not pollute by mentioning it in this den of thieves. My father is the well-known banker, bankrupt, and cheat, of Barkington. He has wasted his own money, and now covets his neighbor's and his son's. He had me entrapped here on my wedding-day, to get hold of my money, and rob me of her I love. I appeal to you, Sir, to discharge me; or, if you have not so much confidence in your own judgment as to do that, then I demand a commission of lunacy and a public inquiry."

Dr. Bailey said, "That would be a most undesirable exposure, both to yourself and your friends." (Formula.)

"It is only the guilty who fear the light, Sir," was the swift reply.

Mr. Toilet said he thought the patient had a legal right to a commission of lunacy if there was property, and he took note of the application. He then asked Alfred if he had any complaint to make of the food, the beds, or the attendants.

"Sir," said Alfred, "I leave those complaints to the insane ones: with me the gigantic wrong drives out the petty worries. I can not feel my stings for my deep wound."

"Oh, then, you admit you are not treated unkindly here?"

"I admit nothing of the kind, Sir. I merely decline to incumber your memory with petty injuries, when you are good enough to inquire into a monstrous one."

"Now that is very sensible and considerate," said Mr. Tollett. " will see you, Sir, again before we leave."

With this promise Alfred was obliged to be content. He retired respectfully, and the justice said, "He seems as sane as I am." The Doctor smiled. The justice observed it, and not aware that this smile was a formula, as much so as a prize-fighter's or a ballet-dancer's, began to doubt a little: he reflected a moment, then asked who had signed the certificates.

"Dr. Wycherley for one."

"Dr. Wycherley? that is a great authority."

"One of the greatest in the country, Sir."

"Oh then one would think he must be more or less deranged."

"Dangerously so at times. But in his lucid intervals you never saw a more quiet, gentlemanly creature." (Formula.)

"How sad!"

"Very. He is my most interesting patient (Formula), though terribly violent at times. Would you like to see the medical journal about him?"

"Yes; by-and-by."

The inspection then continued; the inspector admired the clean sheets that covered the beds, all of them dirty, some filthy; and asked the more reasonable patients to speak freely and say if they had any complaint to make. This question being with the usual sagacity of public inspectors put in the presence of Cooper and the Doctor, who stuck to Tollett like wax, the mad people all declared they were very kindly treated: the reason they were so unanimous was this; they knew by experience that, if they told the truth, the justices could not at once remedy their discomforts, whereas the keepers, the very moment the justices left the house, would knock them down, beat them, shake them, strait-jacket them, and starve them: and the Doctor, less merciful, would doctor them. So they shook in their shoes, and vowed they were very comfortable in Silverton Grove.

Thus, in later days, certain Commissioners of Lunacy inspecting Accomb House, extracted nothing from Mrs. Turner but that she was happy and comfortable under the benignant sway of Metcalf the mild—there present. It was only by a miracle the public learned the truth; and miracles are rare.

Meantime, Alfred had a misgiving. The

plausible Doctor had now Squire Tollett's ear, and Tollett was old, and something about him reminded the Oxonian of a trait his friend Horace had detected in old age:

Vel quod res omnes timide gelide que ministrat.

Dilator, spe longus, iners, etc.

He knew there was another justice in the house, but he knew also he should not be allowed to get speech with him, if by cunning or force it could be prevented. He kept his door ajar. Presently nurse Hannah came bustling along with an apronful of things, and let herself into a vacant room hard by. This Hannah was a young woman with a pretty and rather babyish face, diversified by a thick biceps muscle in her arm that a blacksmith need not have blushed for. And I suspect it was this masculine charm, and not her feminine features, that had won her the confidence of Baker and Co., and the respect of his female patients; big or little, excited or not excited, there was not one of them this bicipital baby-face could not pin by the wrists, and twist her helpless into a strong room, or handcuff her unaided in a moment; and she did it too, on slight provocation. Nurse Hannah seldom came into Alfred's part of the house; but, when she did meet him, she generally gave him a kind look in passing; and he had resolved to speak to her, and try if he could touch her conscience, or move her pity. He saw what she was at, but was too politic to detect her openly and irritate her. He drew back a step, and said, softly, "Nurse Hannah! Are you there?"

"Yes, I am here," said she, sharply, and came out of the room hastily; and shut it. "What do you want, Sir?"

Alfred clasped his hands together. "If you are a woman, have pity on me."

She was taken by surprise. "What can I do?" said she, in some agitation. "I am only a servant."

"At least tell me where I can find the Visiting Justice, before the keepers stop me."

"Hush! Speak lower," said Hannah. "You have complained to one, haven't you?"

"Yes. But he seems a feeble old fogy. Where is the other? Oh, pray tell me."

"I mustn't; I mustn't. In the noisy ward. There, run."

And run he did.

Alfred was lucky enough to get safe into the noisy ward without being intercepted, and then he encountered a sunburnt gentleman, under thirty, in a riding-coat, with a hunting-whip in his hand: it was Mr. Vane, a Tory squire and large landowner in the county.

Now, as Alfred entered at one door, Baker himself came in at the other, and they nearly met at Vane. But Alfred saluted him first, and begged respectfully for an interview.

"Certainly, Sir," said Mr. Vane.

"Take care, Sir; he is dangerous," whispered Baker. Instantly Mr. Vane's countenance changed. But this time Alfred overheard the formula, and said, quietly: "Don't believe him, Sir. I am not dangerous; I am as sane as any man in England. Pray examine me, and judge for yourself."

"All, that is his delusion," said Baker. "Come, Mr. Hardie, I allow you great liberties, but you abuse them. You really must not monopolize his Worship with your fancies. Consider, Sir, you are not the only patient he has to examine."

Alfred's heart sank; he turned a look of silent agony on Mr. Vane.

Mr. Vane, either touched by that look, or irritated by Baker's pragmatical interference, or perhaps both, looked that person coolly in the face, and said, sternly: "Hold your tongue, Sir, and let the gentleman speak to me."



ON page 637 we publish an illustration of the RUSSIAN FRIGATE "OSLIABA," now lying in our Bay. This is the first Russian man-of-war-that ever visited the United States, and her advent has created considerable stir. Her officers have been officially invited to accept the hospitalities of the city; and Mrs. Lincoln, General Dix, commanding the Department, and other leading personages have visited her. We condense the following account of the 0sliaba from the Herald report:

The Osliaba is a first-class forty-gun frigate, but does not now mount her full complement of guns. She carries at present thirty-three 8-inch guns (64-pounders), one of which is mounted as a pivot on the forecastle deck. The gun is reinforced with more metal than the other guns, but is of the same calibre.

In regard to the science of naval gunnery, the Russians have adopted what is known in this country as the "Unity Battery;" that is, all the guns in a vessel are of the same calibre, and consequently, in time of action, there is no confusion arising from a variety of cartridges and projectiles.

The rigging and sparring of the Osliaba do not materially differ from vessels of the same class in our own navy. She looks taut and trim, and good seamanship is every where displayed. The ship herself is well built, and looks as if she might stand a deal of hard fighting. Among her various appointments we noticed that she has a beautiful little steam screw launch, which is a very valuable acquisition to the ship. It saves time and much hard work for the men.

The Russian navy has been for some time past in process of reconstruction, rendered necessary by the strides of naval progress, which are so rapid and so different from a few years ago.

The latest data of the naval forces of Russia say she has in the Baltic, Amoor River, White, Caspian, and Black seas, and Lake Ural, one hundred and twenty-two vessels —nine being ships-of-the-line, and thirteen frigates. Together they mount 2246 guns, and are manned by 335 officers, 453 sub-officers, and 20,485 seamen. Before the war with the Allies Russia possessed two squadrons, of about equal power, one stationed in the Black Sea and the other in the Baltic. Each carried about 20,000 seamen, and about half that number of marines and artillerymen, and the aggregate number of guns was between 8000 and 9000. Since the Crimean war Russia has been alive to improvements in her naval force. Mr. Webb, of this city, has built for them one of the finest screw frigates afloat, and they have added largely to their navy by vessels built at their own navy-yards.

The iron-clad excitement in this country aroused Russia, and she is now engaged in building a fleet of iron-clads. In March of this year no less than four million pounds sterling had been appropriated for that purpose.

The personnel of the Russian navy includes sixteen admirals, thirty vice-admirals, thirty-nine rear-admirals, one hundred and eleven first-class captains, ninety-five second-class captains, two hundred and fifty-seven lieutenant-captains, six hundred and seven lieutenants, and three hundred and ninety-six midshipmen. The marine artillery comprises about three hundred officers. The Emperor has a naval staff consisting of two rear-admirals, three lieutenant-captains, a chief and deputy of ordnance, a master of naval artillery, an inspector of naval architects, a chief of marine chancery, and four vice-admirals. The ministry of marine includes a council of ten admirals, a president, and ten clerks.

But to return to the Osliaba. She is manned by four hundred and fifty men and marine artillerymen, who look hearty, and as if when called upon they might be able to do good service for their country. They are a pleasant-looking set, and no doubt will be the lions of our harbor for some days to come.

The following is a list of the officers of the ship:


Lieutenants—Sirtoff, Avinoff, Ermolaioff, Valitzky, De Livron, Palmgren, Eremeioff.

Sub-Lieutenants—Amossoff, Kasherinioff, Feodossieff.

Midshipmen—Gromdstrom, Milonkoff, Browtzin, Elchaninoff, Tudeer, Stramiloff.

Lieutenant of Artillery—Bogdanoff.

Surgeons—Hryntzevitch, Holst.


Second Master—Trapesnekoff.


Engineers —Policarpoff, Tihanoff, Teteshoff, Ivanoff, Murray.


WE devote pages 632, 633, and 636 to the Army of the Potomac. Mr. Waud, the author of the sketches which we reproduce, writes:

"CULPEPPER, Friday, September 18.

"Your artist was the only person connected with newspapers permitted to go upon the recent advance to the Rapidan. An order of General Meade's sent all the reporters back. It was a very wet and uncomfortable trip part of the time. I did not get dry for two days; and was shot at into the bargain, at Raccoon Ford, where I unconsciously left the cover and became a target for about twenty of the sharpshooters. Luckily I was not touched; but I did some tall riding to get out of the way. We have doubts here whether we shall advance further. Meade keeps his own counsel; but the general idea is against moving further on this line.


"On Sunday, September 13, 1863, soon after our troops advanced from the Rappahannock, they became engaged with the enemy. Skirmishing on toward Culpepper, that place was captured after a short engagement, General Custer, by a brilliant charge up hill, taking three of the rebels' guns. We came very near capturing a railroad train, with, it is said, Stuart or Hampton aboard. About four miles from Culpepper the fighting ceased for the night, but early in the morning the advance was pushed to the Rapidan, and at this river the rebels prepared with infantry and guns in earthworks to resist our further progress. General Buford made an attack to unmask their force at Raccoon Ford, while another cavalry division was doing the same at Somerville Ford; since which time shelling and sharp-shooting has been constantly kept up on the river banks. General Custer charged right up a hill to the enemy's battery, taking three guns and a number of artillerymen.

"General Gregg's division was very hotly engaged at the point shown in the sketch. The rebels threw their shot and shell with great precision, dismounting some of the General's escort, and badly wounding some of the gunners in Butler's battery of light twelves before they were defeated. Butler's and Wollaston's are the only horse batteries of light twelves in the service. Both did good service. Wollaston's battery is shown in the view of Raccoon Ford.

"The signal station on Pony Mountain was built by our officers with Pope last year. It was occupied by the signal officers in advance of our lines in the recent engagement."

On page 636 we illustrate


Mr. Waud writes: " Sword presentations, during the occupation of Mexico by our troops, were reduced to a system, the present being quite a secondary matter, its on, object the bountiful collation and attendant spree for which it afforded an excuse. Field-officers gave swords to their generals, the line-officers did the same for the field, and the rank and file for the line. In the latter case the opening of a barrel of whisky was considered the right thing. It is on record, indeed, that one gentleman did actually invite all his friends—no small assemblage—to an affair of this kind, when, in a neat speech detailing his manifold virtues and good qualities, he presented himself there and then with a handsome sword, and farther, did return thanks in a most feeling manner for the same!

"With no desire to draw any comparison between the above and the presentation made to General Meade, which was a well-deserved compliment to one of our best officers, it may not be out of place to ask why so much money—the sum variously stated from fifteen hundred to twenty-two hundred dollars—should be spent upon a sword which it is not likely the General will wear? A neatly-inscribed sword worth fifty dollars, and the balance of the money in gold eagles, would be a much more sensible present. However, the affair passed off to the satisfaction of all concerned, and General Meade's was a very good and appropriate speech. Colonel Roberts, of the Reserves, also made a speech abounding in rich humor touching the refreshment question. Of the other speakers, it can be said that they had a tendency to reduce the occasion to the complexion of a political caucus. The grounds were nicely decorated with triumphal arches and evergreen bowers, and lighted with Chinese lanterns in the evening. The sword is richly carved and embossed, the sheath inlaid with enamel and diamonds, the hilt rich and heavy with gold and garnets, or rubies."




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