Before Petersburg


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 27, 1864

This site features an online version of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. Harper's was the most popular newspaper of the Civil War era, and these papers serve as a valuable source of original documentation of the war. We hope you enjoy browsing these old newspapers.

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City Point

City Point

Army Songs

Mobile Bay

Battle Mobile Bay


Before Petersburg

Ezra's Church

Ezra's Church Battle




Cemetery Ridge

Charge on Cemetery Ridge


Ruins of Charleston

Central Park

Central Park

Ezra's Church

Battle of Ezra's Church




[AUGUST 27, 1864.



THE lonely wooden village

Lies far beneath our eyes, The cattle bells are tinkling

Where rocky hills arise ;
There are no fertile meadows,

Nor forests wild and free ; We climb the rugged pathway

And watch the distant sea.

But 'mid the stony mountains

Grow flowers fair and sweet, And tufts of fragrant heart's-ease Are smiling at our feet.

Do they grow in dear New England? I never looked before;

With oaks and silver beeches,

I cared for nothing more.


But now I stoop and gather

The loveliness I see, And every tiny blossom

Brings happiness to me. I forget the noble forests,

The oaks and hazel bowers,

And Mess the rocky mountains

For the beauty of their flowers.

When in the land of sorrow

We climb the weary hill,

We leave the rich green meadows

That were so calm and still; The rocks close in around us,

The air is sharp and cold, We can not help regretting

The summer days of old.

But though the great are taken, Small pleasures still are left;

Stoop down, and we shall gather A blossom in each cleft;

And though our thoughts may wander To lost and lovely bowers,

We bless the rocky mountains

For the beauty of their flowers !


ON our first page and on page 548 we give sketches illustrating General GRANT'S campaign before Petersburg. The scene of the EXPLOSION AT CITY POINT, which occurred August 9, and which is illustrated on our first page, was along the new pine wharf at the main steamboat landing. This wharf was one-third of a mile in length. Back from its edge ten or twelve feet was the large new Government warehouse, also of pine, nearly coextensive in length with the wharf, and answering as a depot for the railroad which conveys supplies to the army. Across the railroad, and at the foot of the hill on which the small town is situated, was a new row of buildings, accommodating the Post, office, Adams's Express office, and the Quarter-master's office. Upon the hill, besides about a dozen houses, were numerous tents for soldiers. On the morning of the explosion three barges, the Major - General Meade, the J. E. Kendrick, and the J. C. Campbell lay close to the wharf. The J. E. Kendrick was loaded with ammunition, and it was on this boat that the mischief was developed from a too careless handling of the ammunition. The 11.30 A.M. train was just about to start out when a stunning shock was heard, and the air was piled thick with the ruinous fragments which in their fall rained down upon the tents and houses on the hill, and upon the heads of passengers on board the train, scattering the ground for a mile around with muskets, shells, bolt-heads, and the ribs of exploded barges. The Kendrick was blown to atoms with the loss of all on board—a dozen or more of souls. The captain was absent. The General Meade and the Campbell were destroyed and sunk with little if any loss of life. The wharf was torn up, the warehouse was destroyed, and the railroad cars shattered, though not irreparably, by the concussion. The row of buildings the other side of the railroad was crushed. The entire loss of property was about two millions. The loss of life was not so large as might have been expected. Upward of 50 were killed, 32 of whom were colored laborers. Besides these nearly a hundred were wounded, a great proportion slightly. It was altogether a melancholy and heart sickening accident.

The illustration on page 548 represents the charge which followed the explosion in front of Petersburg, July 30. This sketch gives also a more detailed outline of the scene of the exploded mine. The heights shown in the picture are those of Cemetery Ridge, and were the points aimed at by our troops. In the fore-ground is the crater formed in the rebel works by the explosion. Here it was that our soldiers were massed for further efforts, while in the mean time troops are hurrying up for support. This was the ground also of the flag of truce, and was literally covered with the fallen.


WE give on page 549 an illustration representing the quarters allotted to the fifty Union prisoners lately imprisoned and held under fire in Charleston. The principal interest connected with this sketch is the disclosure which it makes of the ravaging desolation brought by our fleet upon the city. As many as fifty shells a day are lodged in the city. Buildings on all sides are torn to pieces. General SEYMOUR, one of the officers confined in these quarters, was one of General ANDERSON'S garrison at Fort Sumter when that fort was assaulted by the rebels. He had, therefore, many influential acquaintances there, and in this way became the recipient of many courtesies. On their wit, to Charles-

ton the Federal prisoners were treated with great indignity ; the food given them was poor, and barely sufficient to sustain life. The quarters in which they were confined were at the corner of Broad and Rutledge streets. The sketch is by one of the officers confined. It seem that, although nominally under fire, only one shell canto near them, and that not sufficiently near to do any harm.


I WAS as unreasonable and undisciplined a girl at twenty as I had been two years before ; and yet I had seen some trouble in those two years, that ought to have schooled my rebellious nature to a quieter endurance of ills which, after all, did not fill nay life to more bitter repletion than many an-other.

Brought up in affluence, I found myself, by the death of my only surviving parent—my father—reduced suddenly to utter penury.

Nobody knew how it had happened, and I never tried to understand. I was too wicked and rebellious, too impatient of the pain and grief so unusual to me, to care to know why I was poor.

I was poor. I, with my luxurious tastes, are dainty fancies, my indolent habits, I had become poor. And when they told me that, at the end of all the grief that I had been through in those days after my father's death, I said, angrily, that what was to become of me God only knew. I had one of those natures that rebel at pain, that resent its approach, and when a great blow falls, instead of yielding to it, meet it with a passionate and unreasoning resistance. The lady principal of the school at which I was when these successive blows fell—the death of are father and the loss of fortune—offered me a situation as teacher of music and drawing in her establishment. In a kind of haughty scorn of the pride that was strong within me, and which such a position—there among my whilom aristocratic school-mates—must so outrage, I accepted the situation, and retained it, through what rack of pain and defiance only my own soul knew, and it is no matter to tell here.

My salary was a stinted one, and my duties, from my very ignorance of what was due me, were made almost unendurably onerous. I had been the haughtiest young chit of them all in my palmy days, and in my lowered estate I received, measure for measure, what I had meted out to others; though I must say for myself that my pride and hauteur had never vented itself on such helplessness as mine was now. I had never taunted the fallen—no, thank God ! never that. My scorn had been for those who were nay equals in worldly position. For them I evinced my preference or dislikes in a reckless way that made me enemies, who openly exulted in what they called my downfall.

I have no wish to dwell upon particulars. School-girl troubles have a bitterness of their own, and school-girls are capable of being as cruel, in their peculiar fashion, as those old Pagans were who tortured the martyrs. Never mind; the end of it all was, that when Philip Warburton sought me out and asked me a second time to be his wife (he had asked me the first time two years before) I said " Yes," scorning myself for saying it, for I did not love him; but I thought any thing would be preferable to the indignity of the position I was in, and I said Yes.

Philip Warburton was a man twice my own age —not a man to act rashly. For reasons of his own he did not offer to marry site at once. He took me away from all that pain and humiliation, and placed me with a lady friend to rest and recover my jaded spirits, he said. Ile committed me to her with many charges that I was to be well taken care of; and at the last, ere he left me, he told me, with a grave kindness that touched me some, that I was to be happy and learn to love him. He saw very plainly that. I did not yet.

Mrs. Lawrence was a widow lady with one son—he away in the army.

I was not patient in those days. I was bitter at the need that had tempted me to accept the charity of Philip Warburton—for so I named it in my scorn—I—living upon the charity of the man I had promised to marry ! Every time I thought of it I writhed; but I was too proud to tell him so, and too cowardly to return to my former position as musical drudge for Madame A   

He wrote often ; I, rarely ; but he never came to see me; and I was thankful for that ; for, far from feeling any grateful tenderness toward this man, who was so patient with nay waywardness, so kind to my need, so delicate of my delicacy, I thought of him only as one who had taken advantage of my position to make himself my tyrant. I constantly contemplated my fetters, and made them galling by hating them.

, Mr. Warburton made a great mistake in supposing that he could win the love of a spirit like mine by loading it with favors. 1 staid gloomily where he had left me ; but I never wore any of the presents he sent me, I never spent any of the money he so lavishly supplied me with. I repaired and altered old dresses, and put his money and his presents away as much out of my sight as possible, and tried to choke myself on the crust I was eating at his expense.

In the end I wrote to Madame A— asking to be taken back. But she did not want me now, and nobody else wanted me that I could discover—nobody that I asked ; so I staid sullenly at Mrs. Lawrence's, eating the bread that Philip Warburton paid for, and growing more bitter and impatient as the weeks wore on till—till Robert Lawrence came suddenly and unexpectedly home from the army on sick leave. The pale, handsome, kind young soldier !

At first I avoided him, as I avoided every body ; though won, in spite of me, by a nameless charm of speech, or look, or manner, I used to watch him secretly wth a kind of wonder at his helplessness, and a secret admiration of his handsome face.

One day he caught one of these looks, and laughs laugh-


ed, coloring though. I colored too, and left his vicinity at once.

I tried to be more careful after that, but the same curious fascination drew my eyes toward him when I thought they could with any safety venture that way.

The long hours of convalescence must have dragged heavily to him, but his face never lost its serenity ; I could but notice what a contrast he was to me in my sullen discontent.

Gradually he won me somewhat out of my pride and reserve, and I talked with him. Sometimes I read to him; and then as he got able to go out in the garden and yard, his mother being busy with indoor duties, I went with hint.

Mrs. Lawrence scented at first pleased we were both amused; and I dare say it was a relief to her to see any softer expression take the place of the gloom and discontent that had so long answered in my face to all her efforts after my comfort and happiness.

Robert Lawrence did for me what no one else ever had done—he found my heart, and in some manner peculiar to himself made it for the first time cone scious of its own ingratitude. We were very happy together for a while—happy as two children, and as innocent in our pleasure in each other. He knew as well as I that I was the promised wife of Philip Warburton.

In my present strangely-descended happiness I rarely thought of my fetters now, and he—I think he never thought of them unpleasantly either.

But gradually I noticed a strange discomposure in Mrs. Lawrence's manner,when I was with Robert. She was a nervous, excitable woman, with a fancy for small, transparent scheming that any body could see through; but I was long in understanding what her strange uneasiness about Robert and myself meant.

I think lie understood first, long first ; for he began, or I fancied it, to somehow avoid me a little. In some inexplicable way our walks and chats, our readings, were strangely broken in upon.

In my impatience and wonder I finally asked him what it meant.

We were sitting, for the first time in many days, alone in the summer-house in the lower part of the garden. He gave me a strange look when I asked him that—a strange, steadfast look, before which my eyelids drooped, and I felt the startled blood glow in my cheek, and something that was sweet to pain stirred in my heart, and thrilled every pulse of my being.

He had not spoken, he had not answered my question ; he did not need. But presently he said, in a low voice,

" Shall we go up to the house, Frances ?"

I scarcely understood him, but when he rose I rose also, and we went slowly up to the house, my eyes downcast, and his—sometimes—sometimes upon my face.

He went in, or I supposed he did. I remained outside, reluctant to enter, lest something should jar upon the fond sweetness of the thoughts that were moving me, and which were so new, so tender, that I shrank involuntarily from meeting Mrs. Lawrence's uneasy eyes.

She had seen us, however, come in from the gar-den, and she came out instantly, and stood beside me. Preoccupied as I was, I could but see that she was agitated—very much so.

Presently she put her arm round me and drew site to her.

"My dear child," she said, abruptly, "Robert likes you very much, don't he ?"

" Yes, I think he does," I said, my heart sinking indefinably, as it always did when she spoke of him in that tone of vague anxiety,

"And you like him?”

"Yes, I like him."

"Very much?"

"Very much."

She strained me closer and kissed me. "Don't dear, don't like him so much, I don't want you to; don't, don't dear," and taking her arms from round me, she wrung her hands together in a strange, ex-cited fashion.

"Why not? why may I not like him ? What do von mean?" I asked, cold chills creeping over me.

"There, don't be angry, don't be vexed with me, I don't want to vex any body, but I don't want you to like Robert too much."

" Wh not?"

She sighed, long and heavily, " He might die, you know."

I felt like choking ; I clung to the pillar by me. I understood her in part—Robert must die to me. She meant that, no matter why; he was not for me ; nothing was for site.

"Don't, don't look so,". Mrs. Lawrence said, anxiously, putting out her hand and holding my dress. I pulled away from her, nervously.

" Don't talk to me," I said, "I'm not angry; you are right, quite right; I don't blame you, but don't talk to me."   

She turned partly away from me, in a vague, uncertain way, "I mean right, I mean right," she said, piteously.

"Yes, yes, I know," I said; "go in, please, let me be alone; you are quite right, but I want to be alone."

"You won't tell Robert I have said any thing, will you?" and she was clinging to my dress again.

With a sudden impetuous movement I tore it front her hand, and ran down the walk into the garden. I did not stop or look behind me till I reached the summer-house, and darting within threw myself upon my knees before the seat upon which I had sat in such strange happiness with Robert only a little before. How happy we had been ! How kind he had always been to me, shrinking away from me of late, but he loved me, and I loved hint!

I knew it then. 1 stood face to face with the fact —the holy, tender, cruel fact—for what was I that I should dare to love him or suffer him to love me, what but the promised wife of another man ? A man whom I hated, but whose promised wife I was all the same.

"Frances !"

I shivered from head to foot, but bent my face lower.

"Frances !"

It was Robert. He sat down upon the seat and put his hand upon my bowed head, not speaking for some moments, but I could feel his hand tremble.

"Won't you talk to me, Frances?" he said, finally. " I want to talk to you."

I did not move, I did not answer him, I could not. It seemed to me I could not lift my face to him, the shamed face that would tell him so much, only to tell him in vain, for I was the promised wife of a man whose fetters his very charity to me (and I set my teeth as I thought of it) had bound in such a manner that I could not loose them with-out utter degradation.

"Frances," ht said again, and his voice smote me with its pain, "you must talk to me, or at least hear me, since it has come to this—since I know—yes I do—that you love me. You start--I feel you thrill under my hand—but you do not, you can not deny it. It is true, then ?"

Ile paused, and I could hear him breathe, the panting breath of strong excitement.

"If you had not, if may own pain had been all, I would have gone away and never spoken. But now I must. There is no law in heaven or earth that ought to make you the wife of any other man than me. I tell you plainly, Frances, that I will not submit to any such law ; I will not suffer you to do so. Promise me that you will not suffer your-self."

I did not answer him—I could not. Scornfully as I had promised myself to Philip Warburton, I had done so solemnly, and with the full intention of abiding by my promise. I had never thought of swerving from it. Even when I had contemplated running away from what I called his charity, I had not thought of recalling my promise to marry him. I bad considered myself indeed as much bound to him as though the marriage vows had been spoken, and God knows how innocently I had come to give another the love that belonged of right to him alone.

I trembled then, kneeling under the pressure of Robert's hand. I trembled at the thought of telling him all this. I felt that the mood in which he was would burst stormily upon me if I told him that.

"Frances, child, how you have frightened me !" It was Mrs. Lawrence, with a quiver of anxiety in her tone—anxiety beyond what her words ex-pressed. She stepped quickly toward, and took hold of me. I had risen instantly at sound of her voice. Robert's hand had fallen front my head to my hand. He held my fingers in a firm, close clasp, not yielding me even to his mother.

"Let her go in, Robert. She is ill, I am sure," Mrs. Lawrence said.

"I do not hinder her, mother. She can go if she chooses."

But he did not loose my band.

" You will come in with me, won't you ?" Mrs. Lawrence said, beseechingly. "Come in, Frances."

" Will you go or stay ?" Robert said, bending to look at me, and his hand clasped mine almost fiercely.

I made a faint effort to release my hand. I could not speak. He resisted the movement an instant, then his clasp fell heavily away from mine, and scarce knowing what I did, I suffered his mother to lead me away toward the house.

She took me to her own room, seated me, and closed the door.

" 1)o you want to know," she said, speaking rapidly and excitedly, " why you can not, why you must not love Robert ?"

I looked at her like one in a dream without answering. I was so full of other thoughts, so haunted by those tones, those looks of Robert's stern yet loving eyes.

"This is why," she went on: "long ago Philip Warburton loved me—me—do you hear ? and more truly, I believe in my soul, than he does you now. I wronged him, as woman can most wrong man, and he never forgave use till the day he brought you to me. Then he said that if I kept you safe for ]him—if I taught you to love him, he could for-give me the wound that twenty-two years had not vet healed. Do you think then that I will ever suffer son of' mine to defraud him of his second love as I did of his first ? Ah, woe is me ! Why did Robert come home?"

I understood her; but it had not needed that.

" Be at peace, Mrs. Lawrence," I said, iii a low voice; "I have promised to marry Mr. Warburton."

" Do you expect to keep that promise?" she asked, in a milder tone.

" I do."

"May I tell Robert so ?"

I hesitated. But what matter? Why should I shrink? I had brought this fate upon myself. I saw no way of escape from it. Why should she not tell Robert ?

"Tell him any thing you like, Mrs. Lawrence," I said, almost passionately. The old, vehement rebelliousness against pain was rising within me.

"May I tell him that you did not wish him to address you again on this subject? May I tell him front you that it would be quite useless to do so ?"

"Tell him what you like," I said, impatiently. "Why do you torture me with it?"

She was a strange woman. Whether to kill any ever so faint hope that I might have, or to try me, no matter why; but she said, looking steadily at ate, and smoothing the folds of her silk dress with her white hand,

"You remember that beautiful girl who was here last week--Rose Gilbert? Robert liked her once. I think, when be finds he can not hope for you, be will like her still. She adores him any one can .see. I shall advise him to marry Rose Gilbert if she will have him, and the sooner the better !"

She went away and left me.

Did she think he would marry Rose Gilbert be-cause she advised him to do so?




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