Copperhead Poem


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, September 5, 1863

Harper's Weekly was the most read newspaper of the Civil War era. To help you develop a better understanding of the War, we have posted our complete collection of the paper to this WEB site. We are hopeful that you find this resource useful in your research and study.

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Mosby's Raiders

Mosby Raid

Copperhead Poem

Sioux War

Sioux Indian War

Morris Island

Pictures of Morris Island

Lawrence Atrocities

Quantrill's Atrocities in Lawrence Kansas

Mosby's Guerrillas

Mosby's Guerrillas

Draft Resumes in New York

Draft Resumes

Resumption of the Draft

William Quantrill's Raid of Lawrence Kansas

Cavalry Skirmish

Cavalry Skirmish

Attack on Fort Wagner

Attack on Fort Wagner

Draft Riot Cartoon

Draft Riot Cartoon





[SEPTEMBER 5, 1863.



Go look upon the battle-field,

Where shot and shell fly fast—

Where Freedom's stirring battle-cry

Is heard upon the blast:

Go where the lifted sabres flash

And fall on traitor crests,

Where Southern bayonets are dim

With blood from Northern breasts:

Go search amid the loyal ranks

Among the glorious dead—

Among them all you will not find

A single Copperhead.

Go search the gun-boat's bloody deck
When the dread conflict's done;

The traitor's banner in the dust,

And silenced every gun;

While o'er the hard-won rampart floats

Our flag, yet oh! what pain,

'Neath that dear flag since morning light How many have been slain!

Among the heroes of the fight,
The living and the dead—

Go search among them—there is not

A single Copperhead.

Go search the crowded hospital,

Where ghastly wounds are seen,

Which tell through what a struggle fierce Those noble men have been;

But look upon their faces, lo!

They smile through all their pain;

The scars they bear were nobly won—

Their honor has no stain.

Soft hands are minist'ring—kind words

Are heard around each bed;

Some soothe, some suffer, all are true—

There is no Copperhead.

Go where the look can scarce conceal

The treason of the heart,

And where the tongue would willingly Defend the traitor's part;

Where Seymour, Wood, and Voorhees are Deemed patriotic men:

Go where they wish Vallandigham Were safely back again:

Go where desertion is no crime—

Where loyalty is dead

Where sad disaster gives no pain; There is the Copperhead.

Go where foul scorn is heaped upon

Our noble boys, who go

To stand a wall of fire between

Us and our traitor foe:

Go where bold Grant's revilers are—

Where Burnside is defamed;

Where Banks and Butler—noble names!—

In scorn alone are named:

Go where true patriotic pride,

Honor, and Truth are dead—

Where our success brings but despair; There is the Copperhead.




WE were months ago forewarned that several powerful iron-clad steamers were building in Great Britain for the rebels. There was every antecedent reason for believing the statement. There is nothing which English manufacturers will not make and English merchants will not sell for money. The obscene idols of the Hindoos are a regular article of manufacture in Birmingham, and if a new car of Juggernaut were wanted it would be got up in Liverpool—for a consideration—on the shortest notice. The cotton-loan, so confidingly taken by British capitalists, placed a large amount of funds in the hands of the rebel agents, and every body knew precisely for what purposes these were to be used. We are now assured upon competent authority that three of these vessels are nearly ready for sea. One of them was a fortnight ago in the Graving Dock at Liverpool, fully plated, with almost all of her machinery on board; another had just been launched at Birkenhead, and a third at Glasgow. It was a matter of perfect notoriety for what service these were designed, yet no step was taken to interfere with their construction; and there is not the slightest reason to suppose that any practical obstacle will be thrown in the way of their sailing. Iron-plated and furnished with gun-turrets and rams, as they are, the British Government will have no means of knowing that they are intended for vessels of war; they may be designed for commerce. Or, if they are vessels of war, they may have been built for the King of Dahomey, the Viceroy of Egypt, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg, or any other peaceful potentate: certainly not, "as far as Government has any official information," for the so-called Confederate States. Or, even if built for the purpose of making war upon the United States, it is very doubtful whether Her Majesty's Government could interfere with the lawful business of her subjects: and surely the building of ships

is a very lawful business. We have nothing to look for from the good faith of the British Government.

When the enterprise was undertaken, it was supposed that these vessels could inflict damage upon us compared with which that inflicted by the Alabama and the Florida are nothing. Our blockading fleets could be destroyed, and our great cities laid in ashes. There was nothing, it was said, which could prevent one of these vessels from steaming in broad daylight into the harbor of New York, and repeating upon a larger scale the exploits of the Merrimac in Hampton Roads. And so far as our fortifications is concerned this is perfectly true. But recent events have shown that we have at our disposal means of rendering our harbors perfectly secure from attack from these vessels. That protection is to be found in our "Monitors." Put to a service for which they were never designed, the severity of the trial to which they have been exposed has demonstrated their perfect availability for harbor defense. The vessels which bore almost unharmed the fire of the hundreds of guns of the Charleston forts can bid defiance to the fire of any vessel that floats. The guns whose first shot disabled the Atlanta may be relied upon for doing a like service to any other vessel, under the far more favorable circumstances in which they will be brought into play.

The harbor of New York can not be entered except through channel of less than one-third of a mile in width. To pass a single Monitor quietly moored in mid-channel a hostile vessel must sail, broadside on, within an eighth of a mile from the muzzles of those terrible guns looking grimly out from that almost intangible and wholly invulnerable tower. The Monitor itself would need no manoeuvring. She might lie at rest, the revolution of the tower always keeping her guns trained upon the enemy. Or if by miracle the enemy should pass her, she would hoist anchor and steam alongside of her antagonist, delivering her fire against her broadsides. Long before the enemy could pass the miles between the Narrows and the city she would lie a mass of harmless iron on the bottom of the harbor.

In building so many Monitors, and arming them with such heavy ordnance, our Government was working wiser than it knew. It will be only when they shall have prevented or repelled an attack upon our commercial metropolis that we shall appreciate the true significance of Timby's revolving turrets, Ericsson's raft-like hulls, and Dahlgren's heavy guns, combined into one harmonious whole. The wise Greek saw that the true protection of Athens lay in her "wooden walls." The true defense of our city lies in our iron walls. The month of September is the time fixed upon for the departure of the rebel iron-clads from the British ports. We trust that long before they can threaten us a sufficient number of the Monitors will be released from their present work in the South to enable our Government to station several of them in each of our great harbors.

The true peril to us from the rebel iron-clads lies not in the danger of an attack upon our cities, but in their power of destroying our blockading fleet. To obviate this the two or three ports yet in the hands of the rebels must be captured. This done the blockaders may be withdrawn until we can have disposed of the vessels with which our British friends have so inopportunely furnished our enemies. From present appearances we may infer that they will not "see their way" to add to these favors. Meanwhile we owe them something, which we shall most likely be able to pay in due time. The "common barrator" of nations will be untrue to all her historical antecedents if she remains long without a European war on her hands. And then we shall remember some things which she would like us to forget.


THE correspondence between many persons in the Free States and Jefferson Davis, before the rebellion, is a most valuable addition to the interior history of the war. It is another link in the chain of evidence that the rebel leaders believed the sentiment of patriotism and loyalty to law to be so utterly destroyed that they could easily take possession of the Government upon their own terms. The plan was for the Slave States to withdraw—to leave chaos behind, and compel the North, torn by domestic strife, to crave admission into the new confederacy. Then, as Mr. Hunter remarked, New England could be left out altogether, or admitted as a single State.

It was in this view that certain papers recommended the Montgomery Constitution as superior to that of 1787. It was with this intention that private meetings were held in the city of New York, among those who are now notorious Copperheads, to secure the co-operation of the "conservatism" of the North with the "secessionism" of the South, knowing, as they knew very well, that "abolitionism" could not be counted upon for deliberate treason. It was this conviction which explains the equanimity of the gentlemen of property who hastened to take possession of Mr. Russell upon his arrival in this country, and told him that the revolution was virtually accomplished. It was this that explains such letters as that written by Mr. Barlow, of New York, to a slave Senator, during the

secession movement, warning him against any overt attack upon the Government. The feeling which inspired such letters governed Jeff Davis in refusing to seize Washington when it was at the mercy of five hundred men. The confident expectation of all these persons and correspondents of Davis, who are now either rebels or Copperheads, was that the Government of the United States would tumble down as that of Louis Philippe did in France, and that an immediate reconstruction would follow, upon conditions to be dictated by the Seceders and ratified by the "Conservatives," in which class were included all Democrats of every hue, the conservative Republicans, and the mass of timid citizens, who were held to be the vast majority in a community of traders.

The tacit collusion with Davis and his confederates of those gentlemen in the city of New York who are now notorious Copperheads has been long in evidence. That of similar persons in other parts of the country is now proved by the correspondence which Davis is either so weak or so wily a conspirator as not to have destroyed. And it is not surprising that he believed his task would be both rapidly and easily accomplished. He and his confederates had labored long and hard to corrupt the conscience and common sense of the country, and they had every reason to suppose that they had the proof of general assent to national dishonor and ruin. That history and human nature should not have warned them to beware is again not surprising, for among the leading rebels and Copperheads there is not a single man of great intellectual grasp or moral perception. Mr. Douglas, who was unquestionably the ablest man of their political fraternity, saw from the beginning the hopelessness of their plot, or he would have been at the head of it. The desertion of a leader like Douglas for leaders like Davis, Wood, Toombs, Vallandigham, and Slidell, was a fatal error for any party which aimed at peaceful subversion of the Government. But it is not surprising that these men did not see it. They believed only in political chicane. They scorned principle. They repudiated all ideas except that men would under all circumstances be governed by a selfish desire of quiet; and they were very sure that the mass of people at the North hated something which rebels called then, and Copperheads call now, Abolitionism, more than they loved their country or its government. Like all boastfully "practical men" they omitted common sense in their calculations. They saw trade, corruption, servility, and craven fear, but they did not see human nature. With the correspondent in Michigan they thought the "surmon" of the Reverend Van Dyke, of Brooklyn, a marvelous production, but the writing on the human heart and conscience was nonsensical scribbling.

Let Davis and his friends learn the lesson which this correspondence teaches. They have found that the Copperheads did not then represent the spirit and intention of the people. They do not represent them now. They are the desperate, wrecked, struggling men who would willingly capsize the boat. But let Davis remember that they are overboard.


WE had not heard of our "Conservative" friends since they elected Mr. Seymour last autumn until the riots in New York, during which a merchant wrote to a friend in another city: "The Conservatives have had the upper hand here for a day or two, but we hope to have them under by to-morrow night." It was a strictly correct statement, because, of course, every man among the rioters who voted last autumn voted for the "Conservative" ticket; and if the mob had been polled at the moment of destroying the Orphan Asylum it would have declared itself unanimously for the "Conservative" platform.

Suppressed in New York "Conservatism" has raised its head in Rochester, and proposes to arrange for the next Presidential election. Its resolutions set forth by declaring its total want of sympathy with "secession, abolitionism, or nativism of any kind." General Leslie Coombs, whose name is not conspicuous for unconditional patriotism, is reported to have manipulated and "modified" the resolutions. Probably General Leslie Coombs and his "Conservative" friends, who were ardent supporters of the eminent patriot, and enforcer-of-the-laws, John Bell, at the last election, propose to furnish another candidate of the same kind of "fidelity to the Government" as Mr. Bell. Our "Conservative" friends, who eschew "secession and abolitionism," have possibly forgotten a little fable of which we beg respectfully to remind them.

A company of bats once found themselves in broad daylight in disagreeable proximity to two whirring millstones grinding corn. "What a confounded clatter!" cried they. "Why don't the stones stop and let us have some peace? We want to be quiet." But the stones whirred as noisily as ever. The poor bats, bumping and fluttering wildly between them, at last cried in chorus, "We wish it to be understood that we are not responsible for this din. We declare to all the world that we have, have had, and will have nothing whatever to do with either of these stones, and we protest against such great, loud, gritty things." But while they were still crying and fluttering they fell against the inexorable stones and were ground to powder in an instant. "Poor little bats," said the eagle who had overheard them, "they did not know that it is only by the whirring of millstones that corn is ground into food."


THERE is a way of speaking of the Conscription Act as if it were something monstrous and tyrannical. This strain was a favorite one in Mr. Fernando Wood's rhetoric before he came to the wise conclusion that if there were to be a war it must be conducted upon warlike principles. But a very few words will show exactly the character and intent of the act.

The nation is engaged in a tremendous struggle

to save its life. The struggle can be maintained in one way only, namely by armies. In the salvation of the country and Government every citizen is equally interested, and the duty of each is the same. Upon all sides the Government hears and has heard, with few exceptions, the expression of the most unswerving devotion and the strongest resolution to subdue the rebellion by arms. It therefore says to the loyal people of the country: "We hear you, and we believe you. We take you at your word, and we will arrange a plan by which every man can give his personal aid in securing victory. All fighting men shall be enrolled and held subject to active duty, with such exceptions as careful and humane consideration may prescribe."

That is the spirit of the Conscription Act. It assumes that the people are willing to save themselves at any cost and risk. If Congress had not believed that, and therefore assumed it, it should have frankly confessed that we were conquered, and have proposed submission to the victors. But not believing that we were conquered it would not say so. If Congress were mistaken, the mistake will appear in resistance to the conscription. If we are conquered, our defeat will be shown by refusal to obey the call of necessity and duty. But if we are resolved that civil order, a just government, and a great nation shall be preserved, every man will gladly go and do wherever and whatever the lawful authorities may require.


THE address of General Dix upon occasion of the draft in the city of New York is worthy of the man who, as Secretary of the Treasury, ordered the man who pulled down the United States flag to be shot upon the spot. Its calm and judicious exposition both of the particular facts and of the general principle of the draft make it a document to be preserved and pondered. The law, he says, under which the draft is made is founded on the principle that every citizen who enjoys the protection of the Government may be summoned in seasons of great public danger to take up arms for the common defense. No political society can exist unless this principle is acknowledged, and there is no civilized country in which it is not recognized. The permission to furnish a substitute or to purchase exemption is designed to provide for cases of hardship, and if either provision were stricken out those cases would be multiplied.

In regard to riots General Dix says most truly, that the only security of those who have little more than life and the labor of their own hands to protect lies in the supremacy of the law. And this truth applies especially to us, for our Government is the will of the people. In countries where the law is the will of one man, or of one class, it is conceivable that it may come to bear so unjustly upon other classes as to leave them sometimes no hope of redress but in forcible resistance. But that can not be the case with us.

General Dix's record in this war has been most honorable. His course has been quiet, consistent, and firm. His experience in Baltimore has taught him the subterfuges of the Northern allies of the rebellion, and revealed to him the radical nature of the contest. His appointment to the Department of the East was conclusive evidence of the discretion and determination of the Government.


THERE is a plausible objection made to emancipation as a necessary result of the war, upon the ground that slavery is a State institution, and to destroy it by the national will is to invade the rights of States, which nobody wishes to see overthrown.

But, without urging the right of any imperiled people to suspend any law and every right for the sake of the common safety, it is plain that such emancipation does not limit any State right, except in declaring that no State can be allowed to maintain any system which constantly menaces the national peace. There can be no right to hold slaves, whatever the State law may be, any more than there can be any right to put insane persons to death, although the State law might allow it. The power of a majority to declare that any thing may be done, and to do it, may be undeniable; but no power can beget the right to do wrong. The corroding vice of Douglas's famous squatter-sovereignty dogma was that it empowered brute force and the vote of a majority to dispose of natural rights, which are inalienable.

Slavery is a wrong recognized and sustained by State law. Its necessary development presently brings the whole nation into mortal danger. Now, omitting altogether the constitutional right to destroy it as a measure of public safety, a nation which had succeeded in suppressing the rebellion and averting the danger might obviously do whatever was necessary to avoid a recurrence of precisely the same peril. Nor could any State complain of its injured rights. No State can have a right to threaten the nation. A man upon a steamer may have matches in his state-room and keep a light burning, and his room is his castle; but he has no right to stow a keg of gunpowder under his berth. Now that we have practically discovered that slavery is gunpowder, we shall be guilty of suicide if we permit ourselves to be blown up.


WHEN the war began we certainly did our share of boasting. But the rebels are better Gascons than we. We reduced our adjectives when we found that the task was stubborn. But the rebel rhetoric rises with disaster. Just now, when the prospect of the rebellion is not promising, the celebrated last ditch is incessantly brought forward. "Let Sumter fall," cry the rebel papers—"Charleston shall be defended street by street, and house by house, and at last it shall be blown up, and the invader welcomed to smoking ruins." If it should be it would be one of those catastrophes to which (Next Page)




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