Battle of Mobile Bay


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 20, 1864

Harper's Weekly newspaper was the most popular illustrated newspaper of the Civil War years. These newspapers were read by millions of Americans across the country during the war, and today are viewed as an invaluable resource for researchers seeking a deeper understanding of the war.

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Before Petersburg

Peace Platform

Mobile Bay

Mobile Bay Battle

Christian Commission

Christian Commission

Ruins of Chambersburg


Petersburg Explosion


Copperhead Cartoon



Parrot Guns


Wounded Soldiers

Cemetery Hill

Cemetery Hill Assault and Explosion

Fort Morgan

Fort Morgan




AUGUST 20, 1864.]

(Previous Page) either great ability or comprehension of the emergency. He has made several noncommittal speeches he has written a letter urging the election in Pennsylvania of the candidate for whose success the rebels were praying ; and he has delivered an oration at West Point, remarkable only for its commonplace platitudes, and for declaring that the war should be prosecuted for the restoration of the Union. He has also published a Defense of his Chickahominy Campaign, the object of which is to show that he was not responsible for its disasters and catastrophes—a point upon which he differs with many leading military men in the country. General McCLELLAN also gained an advantage at Antietam, but did not call up his reserve to secure it, and by giving LEE a day's truce enabled him to withdraw and save his army, thus showing himself to be an eminent disciple of the BUELL school of war.

These are his services. But whether the President be entreated to recall him to the field, or the country be solicited to make him President and Commander-in-chief, he is still but a puppet. Behind him, and controlling his words and acts, are men who are doing and have done what they can to delay the suppression of the rebellion by discouraging the national hope and paralyzing the national endeavors. General McCLELLAN is to be judged by the "cause" and the party which he represents; and whoever urges his recall to service urges the Administration to open Pandora's box.


THERE can be nothing more pitiful than the malevolent eagerness with which certain newspapers deride the colored troops for being no braver than the white troops at Petersburg. Did the unhappy panic at Bull Run, three years ago, prove that white men were cowards ? Did the misfortune of the noble Second Corps, five or six weeks since, which General HANCOCK announced must be retrieved, show that they were poor soldiers ? Or did every sensible man say at once that the reputation of that brave corps was not to be lost by a mishap which might occur to the best corps of the best army in the world ? Upon occasion of the late disaster to General McCOOK'S cavalry—caused by the fact, as reported, that the men were drunk with whisky--is. it sneeringly asserted that if the Government chooses to employ white cavalry, nothing is to be expected but that they will get drunk and be whipped on every occasion ?

Of course not. When we read of McCOOK'S misfortune we remember SHERIDAN'S, and KAUTZ'S, and GRIERSON'S, and AVERILL'S daring and victorious excursions, and we acknowledge with pride and gratitude the valor of our cavalry while we regret every mischance that befalls them. When we heard that the Second Corps had been flanked and had lost prisoners, we recalled their dauntless conduct at Spottsylvania and in the Wilderness, and chafed with them over the temporary shadow that obscured their name. And every sensible and true American citizen, when he reads of the faltering and retreat of the colored troops at Petersburg, recollects Fort Wagner, Olustee, Milliken's Bend, and BALDY SMITH'S charge upon the same ground at Petersburg, and knows that the failure is not the proof of cowardice or incompetency, but is one of the painful events from which the record of no corps and no army can be entirely free.

We have always insisted that colored men should have the same chance of fighting in this war that white men have; and we have always believed that, battle for battle, they would show the same spirit and pluck. Nor has the history of the war, the last assault at Petersburg included, belied our belief. And we may fairly ask whether any class of men—white, black, red, or yellow—whose services had been so grudgingly received and so reluctantly rewarded; who knew that their capture was equivalent to torture, massacre, or slavery, and for whose wrongs retaliation so loudly promised was as yet not inflicted ; who were so maligned, rebuffed, and insulted as the colored men in this country are—we may fairly ask whether any soldiers would have fought more steadfastly and bravely and willingly than the colored troops in the Union army?

The mental and moral condition of those who begrudge fair play to the most unfortunate, but by no means the least meritorious class of our population, is one of the most melancholy phenomena of the times. The want of that fair play has produced the war, and until we concede it the war under some form will continue. The most brutal part of our population, deluded by " Conservative" demagogues, incessantly declare that " niXXers are only fit for slaves." The most intelligent American citizens, and the conscience of all Christian civilization, rejects the foul injustice. It is the conflict of that enlightened sense of equity and right with the ferocious determination of class privilege and prejudice which is reddening our soil every where. Who ever panders to that injustice prolongs the war. Whoever cherishes it postpones the peace which can be permanently established upon Justice only.

The more thoughtful among those who are committed by party-spirit and jealousy to foster

ing the unmanly refusal to allow the black race fair play in this country must sometimes clearly see the hopelessness of their cause. They know as well as we that their profession of seeking the real interest of that race is a self-delusion. They know that the word slavery expresses some form of injustice, disguise it as they may and they are consequently aware that they are fighting against the human heart, against the instinct of civilization, and against the peace of the world. In such a contest, however they may prolong it, they are doomed to defeat and ignominy. They know, as we all do, that General GREENE in commending the valor of the colored troops in the revolutionary battle of Rhode Island is a more humane and ennobling figure to our imaginations than he would have been had he sneered at them as unfit for soldiers because they were "niXXers." For that is not the spirit which makes honorable men or great nations. We, too, are passing into history. And in our children's eyes which will seem nobler, the men who died bravely fighting upon the slopes of Wagner and Petersburg, and on the plains of Olustee and Milliken's Bend, or those who contemptuously cried as they read the story of the last Petersburg assault, "Pshaw ! niXXers never will make soldiers."


WE gave last week in these columns a perfectly simple description of the new loan and its advantages. Yet to many plain people all over the country all financial matters are mysteries, yet mysteries which a little explanation will readily remove. We suggest, therefore, to our friends every where, and especially in remote and quiet country districts, that they call meetings of the neighborhood to talk over the loan, to show its direct and vital importance, to point out its peculiar value as an investment, and to explain to every man what to do in order that the United States may get his fifty or five hundred dollars. There are thousands and thousands of people every where who would gladly lend to the Government if they only knew how. The active men in every village and hamlet and country neighborhood, who are, used to practical financial details, might form themselves into committees to secure the subscriptions. At least the matter is worthy of their consideration.

The rebel sympathizers, foreign and domestic, already assert that the debt will be repudiated. That the disciples, allies, and well-wishers of the famous Mississippi repudiator, JEFFERSON DAVIS, and of a " Confederacy" which has repudiated all Northern debts, should say so is not strange. But loyal citizens will easily see that the debt is simply the pledge of the people to themselves of all their property. Every citizen is consequently interested in the payment of the debt—first, in his honor as a debtor ; and then in his interest as a creditor.

Loans and arms are the right and left hands of the nation in this war ; and while every body can not bear arms, there are very few who can not lend money. To subscribe to the loan or to go to the field are therefore equally patriotic services ; and the former is a service which many a woman who has laid by her earnings can and would willingly render.


WE have received a letter from "D," in the Western army, inclosing the lines upon McPHERSON death, of which the writer says, "they have the merit of being felt if nothing more," He kindly adds in another part of his letter, " Allow me to congratulate you upon the wide and healthy influence you are exerting through the columns of the Weekly in our army. No reading matter that comes to us 'cords' so completely with our feelings in these days of battle as your ringing editorials. We fight from belief in such a thing as patriotism and love of country and if our leaders at home shape the institutions of the country so as to make it more worthy of loving, they will increase our devotion in fighting for it."

Our correspondent subjoins the following authentic particulars in regard to General McPHERSON'S death :

The morning of July 22d the Army of the Tennessee was in line of battle two miles east of Atlanta, crossing the Augusta Railroad, facing west, with the Seventeenth Corps on the extreme left. Anticipating an attack upon his left flank, General McPHERSON ordered the Sixteenth Corps, under General DODGE, to form on the left of the Seventeenth, running the line southeast. While this movement was being executed the rebels made their first assault. The right of the Sixteenth Corps had not been completed to connect with the left of the Seventeenth, and a column of the enemy penetrated to our rear.

General McPHERSON, in riding along the line of the Sixteenth Corps, was vociferously cheered by all the troops, and particularly by the Second Brigade, Second Division. He bowed his acknowledgments with his usual genial smile. A few moments afterward, in crossing to the line of the Seventeenth Corps, he came upon the force that had turned their left flank, and receiving a volley of musketry, he was struck by a bullet, which passed through his right lung, shattered the spine, and produced almost instant death. The Second Brigade was ordered to charge, recapture a battery of the Seventeenth Corps, and recover the General's body. Lieutenant-Colonel CLARK, General McPHERSON'S Adjutant-General, rode forward with the brigade, and excited the men to a frenzy by his appeals to them to avenge McPHERSON. They rushed forward with a low cry, swept the rebels from the field like chaff, recaptured the guns, while Lieutenant-Colonel STRONG and Captain BUELL, of General McPHERSON staff, went forward with an ambulance, under the guidance of Private REYNOLDS, of the Fifteenth Iowa Regiment, and brought off the body.

The following is a copy of the Order issued by General' BLAIR, complimenting Private REYNOLDS:




During the bloody battle of the 22d inst., in which this corps was engaged, Private GEORGE J. REYNOLDS, D Company, Fifteenth Iowa Infantry Volunteers, was, while in the performance of his duty on the skirmish line, severely wounded in the arm. In attempting to evade capture he came to the spot where the late beloved and gallant commander of the army, Major-General M'PHERSON, was lying mortally wounded. Forgetting all considerations of self, Private REYNOLDS clung to his old commander, and amidst the roar of battle and storm of bullets, administered to the wants of his gallant chief, quenching his dying thirst, and affording him such comfort as lay in his power. After General M'PHERSON had breathed his last, Private REYNOLDS was chiefly instrumental in recovering his body, going with two of his staff officers, pointing out the body, and assisting in putting it in an ambulance under a heavy fire from the enemy, while his wound was still uncared for.

The noble and devoted conduct of this soldier can not be too highly praised, and is commended to the consideration of the officers and men of this command.

In consideration of this gallantry, and noble, unselfish devotion, the "Gold Medal of Honor" will be conferred upon Private GEORGE J. REYNOLDS, Company D, Fifteenth Iowa Infantry Volunteers, in front of his command.

This order will be read at the head of every Regiment, Battery, and Detachment of this corps.

By Command of Major-General FRANK P. BLAIR. (Signed) Lieutenant-Colonel J. ALEXANDER, Assistant Adjutant-General.



SINCE the assault made against the enemy's lines before Petersburg, July 30, nothing of importance has transpired in General Grant's army. A truce was allowed by the rebels August 3, to bring off our wounded and dead. The portion of the rebel defenses assaulted on the 30th was assigned to General Mahone. The injury done by the explosion of the mine has been repaired. The exact number of our losses in the assault is set at 5640. On the 6th inst. the rebels exploded a mine in front of the Eighteenth Corps. It was followed by an assault in the afternoon, which was repulsed. Colonel Steadman, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division, Eighteenth Corps, was killed by a stray shot from his own comrades in the confusion which followed the explosion in the morning.

From General Sherman there is little additional news. The three battles fought on the 20th, 22d, and 28th of July it is estimated have cost Hood's army 25,000 men, while our own loss has been not half of that. The Atlanta Appeal of July 24 says that at the rate of fighting since Hood took command the rebel army would be annihilated in just three weeks. This was before the battle of the 28th, in which the rebels lost five or six thousand mien. Major-General O. O. Howard has succeeded M'Pherson in the command of the Army of the Tennessee. This appointment has unfortunately led to the resignation of Hooker, who has come to the East.

We have the details of the battle of the 28th. On the 22d the Army of the Tennessee, consisting of the three corps lately under McPherson, threatened Atlanta from the east at Decatur. On the morning of the 28th this army was transferred from this position to the extreme right, moving to within a short distance of the Macon road on the west of the city, the only railroad communication then left to the rebels. While this was transpiring Schofield, then holding the left, was attacked, having orders to refuse. A general skirmish was kept up along Sherman's lines, however, and the commanding officers had orders to take advantage of any weak point which offered in the enemy's position. In the movement from Decatur Logan's (Fifteenth) Corps had the advance, taking up a position between the railroad leading to Macon and that to Chattanooga. Dodge's (Sixteenth) followed on his left, then Blair's Seventeenth. On Logan's extreme right Jeff C. Davis's division of the Fourteenth Corps was to take its position, but by mistaken orders failed to do as, As soon as Howard's army got into position, and had built temporary breast-works, Stewart's rebel corps, numbering 20,000 attacked him furiously with infantry and artillery. Loring's division of this rebel force, with a brigade of cavalry under Martin, attempted to flank Howard, by dashing across an open field into a patch of woods on his right, and almost succeeded. This rebel column was, however, repulsed by Logan. This was at two o'clock P.M.. The battle lasted till five, no artillery being used by Howard, and very little by Stewart. Our forces had the advantage, as the enemy was wholly unprotected. Logan lost about 1500 men.

Sherman's position at last advices was such that he invested the city on the north and west especially, having it in his power to throw a large force forward to the west or east as he might choose. The Fourteenth Corps rested on the Chattanooga Railroad, three miles north of the city.

On the 26th of July General Stoneman, with between three and four thousand men, commanded by General M'Cook, set out on an expedition against the Macon Road. Eighteen miles of the road were destroyed, and a large wagon-train going from Atlanta was captured. M'Cook's men, partaking too freely

of whisky taken on the train, were attacked on their return by a superior force under General Ransom, and more than half of the entire command was captured, Gen. Stoneman included. M'Cook made his escape. Many large fires have recently taken place in Atlanta.

General Hunter has been superseded by General Sheridan in the Department of Washington and the Shenandoah. The rebels have appeared in large force at various points along the Potomac, and it has seemed to many that Early was contemplating a movement on Wheeling, and thence into Ohio. What seems most probable is that all the movements for the past few weeks have been diversions to cover their main object, which is to secure the harvests of the Shenandoah. This is no evidence, however, that they will not in future, and perhaps very soon, attempt an invasion of the Northern States in greater force than hitherto. General Grant visited Hunter at his head-quarters near Monocacy Junction July 5. General Averill had, at the latest reports, fought M'Causland and Bradley Johnson at Moorfield, defeating them and taking 500 prisoners.


The prisoners on both sides which have been held under fire at Charleston were exchanged on the 4th inst. An effort is being made by the rebel authorities to make Charleston the future exchange point for all prisoners of war.

The United States steamer Fulton arrived at this port, August 9, from Port Royal, having on board the fifty-five released officers whom the rebels had held imprisoned in Charleston under our fire. The retaliatory measure adopted by the Government was perfectly successful. The exchange was carried on in the most satisfactory manner. The rebel officers, fifty in number, never having been fairly exposed to the fire from the rebel forts, were on the 3d conveyed in the Cosmopolitan to a point off Sullivan's Island, where they were met by another vessel, the Chesterfield, having on board the Federal officers. Having crossed the bar in the Cosmopolitan on their return, the Federal officers were invited to dine with Major-General Sickles on board the Admiral, an invitation which most of them accepted. We shall give next week a very interesting sketch of the head-quarters assigned to our officers during their stay in Charleston. It will convey to our readers some idea of the desolation which has visited that once proud and prosperous city.

The most cheering news of the week is that which comes to us from the Gulf. On Friday, August 5, Admiral Farragut with his fleet attacked the defenses of Mobile and the rebel fleet in Mobile Bay. The report is from the rebel General Maury. He states that on the 5th Admiral Farragut with seventeen vessels—fourteen gun-boats and three Monitors—passed Fort Morgan. The Monitor Tecumseh was sunk by the guns of the fort. The rebel ram Tennessee surrendered after a desperate engagement, in which Admiral Buchanan lost his leg and was taken prisoner. Another rebel steamer, the Selma, was captured. Still another, the Gaines, was beached. The Federal fleet had approached the city. We give herewith a MAP showing Mobile Bay, the City, and its defenses. The numbers on the map indicate the depth of water in various parts of the channel.

It is believed that there are over 3000 bushwhackers on the north side of the Missouri River. If this be true, the task of killing or expelling such a formidable body of thieves and murderers will be a huge one. The last heard of Anderson's gang, who are reported to have done the damage on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, they were at Middle Grove, Monroe County, and were supposed to be pushing on toward Charlton County. Five hundred Federal cavalry are in pursuit of them.



IT appears from advices which have been coming by every mail from Havana lately that Maximilian's empire is not peacefully recognized by the Liberals. Thus by the news of the 23d of July we hear that the Imperialists have been attacked about three miles from San Martin by a force of about 500 Juarists. Maximilian has granted an amnesty to all prisoners whose offenses were strictly political; this, however, does not extend to parties in armed opposition.


On July 18 a deputation of factory operatives representing Manchester, Stockport, Preston, Oldham, Macclesfield, and other English manufacturing towns, waited by appointment upon Earl Russell at the Foreign Office for the purpose of presenting to his lordship a petition for the intervention of the British Government in the American war, signed by 'upward of 90,000 persons engaged in the cotton manufacture. The plea was made to rest, first, on the suffering of the petitioners from the war; and, secondly, the hopelessness of the attempt on the part of the North to subdue the Southern States. Moreover, the deputation begged to submit "that in the opinion of the vast majority of the people of the cotton districts, the Southern States, as well by superior force of arms as by the manifestation of the highest capacity for self-government, had entitled themselves to recognition as an independent Power."

After listening to the deputation, his lordship expressed his admiration at the conduct of the operatives, his sympathy with them in their unavoidable sufferings, and his earnest desire that the time would speedily arrive when the Government might, with good effect, offer to mediate between the contending parties.

A meeting composed of eminent men of all parties was held at Geneva July 9. Enthusiastic speeches were made, giving moral support and encouragement to the American Union in its war against slavery. An address was drawn up to be sent to the people of the United States. This address recognizes a federal unity as at the basis of the American Constitution. It refers back to similar periods of intestine strife in her Helvetian history, and it concludes with the following sentiment: " The struggle has commenced between the two principles--Liberty and Slavery. The consignee of victory must be the abolition of slavery forever and every where. Hail Liberty! Hail Republic of the United States!" To this address Secretary Seward has made an appropriate reply.


Mobile Bay Map




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