Rebel Brutality


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, April 30, 1864

You are viewing our online collection of Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These newspapers served as the primary source of information for people during the Civil War era. These rare documents are used today by researchers and historians.

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Rebel Brutality

Rebel Brutality

Grand Ecore

Battle of Pleasant Hill and Grand Ecore

Red River

Red River Expedition

Fort Pillow

Battle of Fort Pillow




Civil War Fair

Fort Pillow Massacre

Ringgold Georgia


Press in the Field




[APRIL 30, 1864




THE arrival of an Austrian Prince to seat himself, under French protection, upon a throne built upon the ruins of the Mexican Republic, is one of the most significant events in the history of this Continent. Somewhat less than fifty years ago the chief Powers in Europe allied themselves against constitutional governments. They enforced their will by arms in Naples and Spain. Great Britain, which, under CASTLEREAGH, at the Congress of Vienna, had gone near to a rea1 betrayal of her own cause, awoke, under GEORGE CANNING, and asserted the rights of constitutional governments. The Holy Alliance, France taking the lead, restored the "grace of God" monarchy in Spain, and proposed to compel the Spanish American colonies to return to their old allegiance to the Spanish crown. CANNING proposed to Mr. Rum, then United States minister in England, to recognize the independence of the colonies, if the United States would join in the recognition. Mr. RUSH had no instructions, but upon being urgently pressed he consented to unite in the declaration and in the next Message of Mr. MONROE the doctrine was laid down by the President, which has been known ever since as the Monroe doctrine; the substance of which is a declaration by the United States that any effort upon the part of any European power or powers to extend their system to any part or portion of this Continent would be regarded as dangerous to our peace and safety. We would not interfere with existing colonies, but an attempt to control the destiny of American States whose independence we had recognized would be considered an unfriendly act.

The reason of this action was evident. The Holy Alliance had assumed the political dictatorship of Europe. They wished to grasp that of the world. They denied the right of constitutional governments, and they had overthrown them by force of arms. They designed to extend the same policy to this hemisphere, and naturally and properly the United States, seated here, and the chief free popular government in the world, declared that it assumed the championship of all the established free governments upon this Continent. Absolutism was triumphant in Europe and threatened America. Europe threw down the gage. America picked it up and replied, " You strike at your peril." This was the Monroe doctrine, the league of Liberty against the Holy Alliance and despotism.

Although never formally allowed, it has been practically recognized by the European Governments, until, under cover of our civil troubles, the declaration of forty years ago and our constant policy have been disregarded. A European army lands in Mexico ; subdues the country ; overthrows the Republic ; establishes an Empire ; and calls and escorts an Austrian Prince to the throne. There upon the United States Congress, pausing in the midst of the fiercest party conflicts in a civil war, unanimously declares that the feeling and purpose of the people have not changed, and that they can not acknowledge a government so established upon this Continent.

If the original declaration of 1824 were wise and necessary, and we can not think any man familiar with the history of that time will deny that it was, its reassertion today is even more necessary, for we are menaced by the exact danger against which it was leveled, The attack of France upon Mexico was made under the conviction that our Government was destroyed. Its occupancy of that country will depend upon our division. And unless it means to retire, the cardinal object of its policy upon this continent must be the destruction of the Union. No European monarch, and least of all Louis NAPOLEON, supposes that if the United States were at peace they would look placidly on at the invasion and conquest of Mexico under the pretenses alleged by France. Louis NAPOLEON comes because we are at war and the moment he is established here, in the person of the Austrian, he becomes, politically, a party to the war. From that moment, and especially after the late resolution of the ,House, it is in every way his interest that we should not succeed.

Meanwhile what is the actual position of our diplomacy upon this question? On the 23d of October the Secretary of State writes that this Government does not consider the Mexican Government, with which it has friendly relations, namely the Republican Government, overthrown; but that it will recognize whatever political action the Mexican people may " freely" take. Whether the progress of the French occupation since November has brought the authorities to regard the Mexican Government as overthrown, we do not know. But whether it is, or is not, it is very clear that the Mexican people, voting for an empire in the presence of a French army sent to impose an empire (for ALMONTE and the priests were in Paris to ask MAXIMILIAN to be emperor before the army left, as appears from the diplomatic correspondence of 1861) are not acting "freely,"

MAXIMILIAN will arrive. He will be enthroned. He will invite diplomatic recognition of his empire. The United States Government will politely defer and delay, or it will gravely decline. Is Louis NAPOLEON likely to fall to sucking his thumbs until our war is over ?

Shall we, then, make war upon France? asks an impatient reader. But the question rather is, whether France will make war upon us. Is it likely, in view of the recent vote of the House and of public sentiment upon the subject, that France will remain in Mexico unchallenged by us? If the probability is that she will not, is Louis NAPOLEON likely to wait until we are better able to oppose him ?

It is unfortunate that Mr. CORWIN'S treaty was not approved in the summer of 1861; but much may be forgiven to our total inexperience and incredulity. We thought we had our hands full at home. There are many who think so now, and who therefore advise that the Mexican question should be supposed not to exist. But it is too practical a question to be evaded. It is not whether we have not our hands full now, but whether they will not be fuller when MAXIMILIAN arrives. The ostrich is not the symbol of wisdom. Sooner or later we must decide the question whether the Monroe doctrine shall be maintained or abandoned. If the moment for decision has not yet arrived, and if we mean to decide wisely when it comes, we must consider meanwhile how we ought to decide.


THE opening of the campaign by the rebels shows the spirit in which it is to be conducted. The massacre of the black soldiers at Fort Pillow; the burning of the Quarter-master of the Thirteenth Tennessee Regiment ; the ferocious tone of the rebel papers ; the brutal mutilation of Colonel DAHLGREN'S body, are all indications that in their fierce extremity the men who have been so long barbarized by Slavery have virtually raised the black flag, and propose to dash themselves with the fury of despair upon the stalwart Union armies.

The immediate consequence of this will be the most terrible fighting. The loyal Union soldiers in Virginia and the West who read the accounts of rebel inhumanity will settle themselves more grimly to their work. The true men at the North, as they see more clearly the spirit and scope of the rebellion, will dismiss minor differences and concentrate their energies upon the support and supply of the armies. The plain declaration of the rebels that they count upon the aid of Copperheads and Peace men at the North, will but confirm the conviction and the knowledge of all thoughtful citizens. That they are the recognized accessories of the rebels will remove the doubts that any man may have entertained of the necessity of the summary measures which the authorities have occasionally taken.

Every month simplifies the contest. It is between the haughty aristocracy of the South allied to the Northern Copperheads, who, to help that aristocracy, try to excite discontent and trouble among ourselves, and the great body of the American people in the free States. Every Northern Copperhead and Peace man is a pander to the party at the South, which is fighting for the principle that capital ought to own labor, and that laboring men of every color and nationality ought to be slaves and treated like cattle. Men like ANDREWS, who led the rioters last summer; like FERNANDO WOOD, who is constantly talking about " the laboring classes," and who carried the taxes of the city of New York nearly to nine millions like HARRIS and POWELL in Congress, who delight in being the owners of men and women, are the champions of a system which would degrade and imbrute every laboring man in the country. If they could have their way they would make peace with JEFFERSON DAVIS and his faction upon DAVIS'S own terms. What do laboring men think they would gain by a peace which would enable a Virginian to sell his slaves in New York ? For the war will end either by opening every State in the Union to the free immigration of free laborers, or by the establishment of a system in which the laboring men of the North of every color and race will be treated exactly as the black laborers of the South have been. The demagogues, the Copperheads, and Peace men will say that it was not so before the war. But every intelligent man in the land knows that the war was made by the slaveholders upon the country because their effort to accomplish this result was resisted. And the present leaders of the Peace men were the most conspicuous abettors of that effort.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the rebels openly confess these leaders to be their friends. Do they not know that if they can get to Maryland Mr. HARRIS, for instance, will not oppose them ? He prays that we may not succeed. Do they not know that he will heartily welcome them ? Yes, they know it, and we know it. The war as it progresses clears our eyes and strengthens our hearts and hands. Every such incident as the massacre at Fort Pillow reveals more plainly the true spirit of this rebellion, and the true character of the Northern sympathy with it.


WITH the fine tact of simple honesty the President, in his little speech at the opening of the Fair in Baltimore, said exactly what we all wished to hear. The massacre at Fort Pillow had raised the question in every mind, does the United States mean to allow its soldiers to be butchered in cold blood ? The President replies, that whoever is good enough to fight for us is good enough to be protected by us ; and that in this case, when the facts are substantiated, there shall be retaliation. In what way we can retaliate it is not easy to say. There is no evidence from Richmond, and there will be none, that FORREST'S murders differ from those of QUANTRILL. On the other hand, we must not forget that the same papers which brought the President's speech promising retaliation brought us also the return of the rebel General in Florida, containing, for the relief of friends at home, the names and injuries of our wounded men in his hands, and that the list included the colored soldiers of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts regiments.

But if public opinion has justified a stronger policy from the beginning —if the criminally stupid promises of McCLELLAN and HALLECK to protect slavery and to repel the negroes coming to our lines had never been made, we should not now be confronted with this question, because the rebels would never have dared to massacre our soldiers after surrender. But yet to be deterred from retaliation from fear of still further crimes upon the part of the rebels is simple inhumanity. Let us either at once release every colored soldier and the officers of their regiments from duty, or make the enemy feel that they are our soldiers. It is very sad that rebel prisoners of war should be shot for the crimes of FORREST. But it is very sad, no less, that soldiers fighting for our flag have been buried alive after surrendering, and it is still sadder that such barbarities should he encouraged by refraining from retaliation. Do we mean to allow Mr. JEFFERSON DAVIS, or this man FORREST, or QUANTRILL, to dictate who shall, and who shall not, fight for the American flag? The massacre at Fort Pillow is a direct challenge to our Government to prove whether it is in earnest or not in emancipating slaves and employing colored troops. There should be no possibility of mistake in the reply. Let the action of the Government be as prompt and terrible as it will be final. Then the battles of this campaign will begin with the clear conviction upon the part of the rebels that we mean what we say ; and that the flag will protect to the last, and by every means of war, including retaliation of blood, every soldier who fights for us beneath it.


IN his speech in the Senate in favor of human slavery, Mr. POWELL of Kentucky had a great deal to say about the freedom of the press and of speech. He was haranguing in favor of a system which denies and annihilates every kind of liberty whatever, and intentionally degrades and imbrutes human nature, and the Senator exclaimed, " Before God, I shall advise the people every where, rather than submit to the degradation of having free speech, a free press, and free ballot taken from them, to strike the usurpers to the ground !" Will it be believed that the man who says this boastfully declares that he is a slaveholder—that he not only takes free speech, a free press, and free ballot from those of the people whom he claims as his property, but deprives them of their personal liberty, buys then, sells them, sells their children; holds them fast in a system by which they are regarded as cattle—and then stands up in the Senate of the United States and declares that milder usurpers than he ought to be struck to the ground ? Mr. POWELL seems to be prepared to take the first steps in that road which led his late colleague, BRECKINRIDGE, from his seat in the Senate of the United States to the camp of the rebels.

Nor is this all. But that the miserable subterfuge of this slaveholding Senator, bewailing the loss of free speech, might be made perfectly transparent, Senator HARLAN quietly read from the record of the first session of the Thirty-sixth Congress that, upon his proposition to allow freedom of speech and of the press on the question of Slavery and all other subjects--a right expressly guaranteed by the Constitution—Mr. POWELL voted nay. Of course he did, and he would vote nay today, if a proposition were gravely made to allow the same free speech in New York. Mr. POWELL'S reply to this crushing citation of Mr. HARLAN'S was that free speech in the Slave States would make the slaves rebel. Very well. Were his own words not warm in his mouth that rather than submit to the degradation of having free speech taken away lie would advise striking the usurpers to the ground ? and does he not see the exquisite absurdity of gravely confessing in a republic that you have an institution which is too dangerous to discuss ?

Mr. POWELL's speech was only an expiring gasp of the hydra in whose folds our liberties have been suffocated for thirty years. But we all owe Mr. HARLAN the heartiest thanks for his neat extinguisher.


SEVERAL recent articles in the Tribune upon the pictures in the Fair Gallery and elsewhere lay an imperative hand upon all the fine laurel wreaths which we easy-going "gentlemen of the press" have been so industriously weaving for the heads of our friends the painters, and cast them upon the ground. Naturally there is much excitement, both among the artists and the critics ; and we are glad of it, for the discussion is sure to lead us all to reflect a little more carefully what a picture ought to be. It was impossible that we should not feel in this country, sooner or later, the influence of the spirit known as Pre-Raphaelitism, of the originality of RUSKIN'S criticisms, and of the curious fidelity and detailed care of the modern French and Belgian schools. The progress of that influence has been for some time evident upon the walls of our exhibitions and now it appears, fully ripe and ready for the contest, in the articles of which we speak. Their attack blazes all along the line. The critic plays at bowls with the pates of the luckless artists from which he strips the crowns. And yet he has so positive a conviction, and so clear an understanding of what he means and what he likes and dislikes, that we congratulate our art and our artists and ourselves, the spectators, upon the vitality of interest which such criticisms evince. For whether our art be mannered, conventional, and false, or not, certainly our criticism has often enough been weak, unintelligent, and flat, and as little independent or sincere as an ordinary book-notice.

But while we heartily rejoice at the unconventional spirit of these criticisms, and can easily see that their sharpness springs from the mental strain of a conscientious resolution to do something which is known to be disagreeable, yet we by no means agree with all their verdicts. The philosophy set forth by the critic is that Truth is the end of art, and not " a something called beauty." Yet, not to reply that in art it is a fair question whether Truth is not necessarily Beanty—or, as GOETHE says, whether every true work of art must not necessarily please, whatever the character of the subject may be—we admit that Truth should be the end, and that pictures are good in the degree that they are truthful. But is there any other criterion of this truth than individual experience? Can it be so inevitable, palpable, and universal as to justify a tremendous vociferation of any individual judgment as of necessity the true judgment?

For instance, the critic defends a picture, by Mr. FARRER, of An Hour after Sunset in time Catskills. against the jeers and mirth of the crowd which its peculiarity attracts; and he adds that our other painters have so befogged our minds with falsehood that we can not recognize a true and faithful work when we see it. Now what is the substance of this remark ? Surely it is nothing more than this, that nature appears to Mr. FARRER in one way, and to Mr. KENSETT, for instance, in another; and that the critic sees it with Mr. FARRER and not with Mr. KENSETT. But on what ground is it asserted that Mr. KENSETT does not see it as he represents it ; in other words, that his picture is a falsehood? The critic says, " I have observed Nature, and this is the way she looks under this aspect." Mr. KENSETT says, " I have observed Nature and studied for many years her various effects, and this is not the way she looks to me under this aspect ; and Mr. FARRER'S picture is therefore false and ideal." Will the critic reply that it is not a matter of opinion, because the facts of Nature are so and not otherwise? But how is any man to know what is the fact except by reference to his own experience? Thus he merely completes the circle and ends where he began.

Is it not true that Nature looks very differently to differrent men? By what right does one man turn upon another and say, "I see Nature as she really appears and you do not, consequently this picture is true and that is false." Criticism of pictures does not admit of such absolutism. RUSKIN ran a tilt at CLAUDE. He might as well have decried the love of roses. "Those trees, why, they are flocks of sheep, they are not foliage," says RUSKIN. "Yes, and I neither know nor care whether they are oaks, chestnuts, or pines, while I breathe Arcadia," is the inevitable reply.

The artist can but represent Nature as he sees her. Whether his interpretation is correct, who shall say ? There is no other test than its acceptance by the general assent of mankind. Do not answer that popularity is no test because TUPPER goes to the one hundred and seventeenth edition, and BROWNING sticks fast at the first; for this is SHAKESPEARE'S birthday, and the greatest of poets is the most renowned. There may be the truth represented in poetry in other ways than BROWNING'S. TENNYSON is popular. Is he less a poet? The truth of nature may be told in other pictures than those of the Pre-Raphaelites, of the modern Frenchmen, or the Belgians, fine and faithful as they are. It certainly does not follow that Mr. KENSETT is not a sincere artist because Mr. FARRER is, any more than that ADDISON'S style is bad because CARLYLE'S is good. Does our friend the critic recall the little picture of FLECHER'S in the Fair Gallery, the supper of the French Guard (we do not remember the exact title)? How carefully studied! How exquisitely and even subtly rendered! How it conveys the same moral, although in so different a manner, with the Goat Revel of BEARD'S, which, instead of securing to us too indecent to mention, is not without a startling strain of Rabelaisque satire and warning.

Or look at HENNESSY''S Mother by the Cradle, in the National Academy Exhibition; how tender! how sincere ! how careful ! And yet is the various landscape works of Mr. KENSETT we find no less sincerity, fidelity, and care. Last evening the New Jersey heights toward Morristown were banked in solid purple against the "orange sunset waning slow," and it was not difficult to understand Mr. FARRER'S picture. Today the same hills float and glimmer in sunny haze, and KENSETT is justified. Last night the mazourkas of CHOPIN filled the moonlight with the vague figures of "dear dead women" in Venetian palaces. This morning it is Mourir (Next Page)




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