Mine Explosion During the Siege of Petersburg


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 13, 1864

This site features our extensive collection of Harper's Weekly newspaper. It took us over 20 years to compile collection, and we are proud to make it available online. These old newspapers will enable you to develop a more complete understanding of the Civil War.

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



General McPherson


Slavery Editorial

Petersburg Mine

Petersburg Explosion


Second Pennsylvania

General McPherson

General McPherson

General Howard

General Howard

Sherman Marietta Georgia

Sherman's March into Marietta


Dutch Farmer Cartoon


Siege of Petersburg

Sherman Georgia

Sherman's March Through Georgia







AUGUST 13, 1864.]



(Previous Page) kind, and in every way, is a deep, earnest, permanent conviction of the vital necessity of Union ; and that while their friends defend it in Southern fields they would not shrink from its defense in Northern streets. They should bear in mind that " conservatism". showed its hand in the bloody riots of last year, and that its solemn asseverations of regard for government, and of the fundamental guarantees of civil liberty, are fully illustrated by the light of burning asylums, and in the roaring streets where human beings guilty of dark skins were hunted and massacred, and that these asseverations are valued at their exact worth.

With this experience of " Conservatism," he would be a dull student of history and human nature who was not constantly conscious of the perils and probabilities of a political contest of which " Conservatism" of the New York type is one of the parties—a " Conservatism" which devotes its energies to exciting the jealousy of the State against the nation and the hatred of the most ignorant class of the population, which, in the midst of a civil war involving national existence, declares that the friends of the Government are really responsible for the rebellion, and relying upon the most sordid passions closes its eyes to the permanent welfare to be secured, and points out with speechless horror the vast expenses to be encountered. A " Conservatism" like this, which includes and flatters the most degraded and dangerous population, will put no citizen off his guard. Its existence makes even, good citizen a minute-man. Whether it take the shadowy form of a northwestern conspiracy or appear in the bloody reality of a New York riot, it will not be unanticipated. The masks are stripped off. The friends and the enemies of the rebellion are known. The friends may choose to dare much to prevent the election of Mr. LINCOLN, and to secure the triumph of the conspiracy, and the final shame and ruin of the Union and Government. But if they are desperate, good citizens are firm. The loyal men of the North are not to be bullied either by threats of battle or by bugbears. They have clearly made up their minds to fight the war through, and they will do so wherever the exigency may demand. How can any sensible Copperhead suppose that a people which has done what " the North" has, during the last three years, is so utterly and ludicrously pusillanimous as to yield in the northwest or the northeast the cause which it disputes in ,Virginia and Georgia ?


THE University Convocation of New York is an annual meeting of the Regents of the University, and of the Presidents, heads, and teachers of the various colleges and schools of the State subject to the visitation of the Regents, for the purpose of improving by the comparison of experience, by essays and discussions, the standard and methods of education. The Convocation of this year was but the second. Yet it is clear that it is full of promise, if the interest manifested should annually increase and extend, as it is likely to do. A union of the Regents and of all the collegiate and academic experts of the State makes a force which, for its proper purposes, is irresistible. In the Legislature or before the people it would not easily be withstood by the utmost adroitness of the Lobby or the greatest ingenuity of misrepresentation. Such a body, well organized, ought to secure and maintain the noblest system of public instruction possible.

This year the Convocation approached a subject of the greatest general interest and importance. One of the topics announced for consideration was the value of competitive examinations in preparation for public employment, both military and civil. Mr. HENRY BARNARD, of Hartford, the experienced and accomplished editor of the American Journal of Education, made a stirring and vigorous appeal to the Convocation to take some steps toward the accomplishment of so great an object. President ANDERSON, of the Rochester University, who has recently returned from a collegiate tour in Europe, supported Mr. BARNARD with great force. The practical application of their remarks was to the appointments at West Point and the Naval Academy; and the necessity of some such examination, if we would have those academies of the fullest service, is apparent from the last year's report of the Board of Visitors to West Point.

The facts are that the appointments are made by the Representatives in Congress. They are determined by purely personal or political considerations, without regard to the disposition or fitness of the boy. The entering examination is a farce. Every boy of ten years should be able to pass it or be flogged, said Dr. ANDERSON. Yet, of those who are presented, a large proportion fail in this preliminary examination. Of all who enter not a half graduate, although the intellectual training is not severer than in an excellent female academy, such as Mrs. WILLARD'S, in Troy ; and of those who fail, three-fifths break down in the studies of the first year, which are elementary.

Now what should the rule be ? Evidently that the boy in every district of the most natural aptitude and of the highest scholarly merit

should be appointed. And this could be done if the representative would consent to make his nomination dependent upon the result of an open examination of all such candidates. General SICKLES, when in Congress, four years ago, tried the experiment. He gave his appointment to the boy who stood best at the Free Academy, and this year that boy graduated at the head of his class at West Point.

The discussion was most interesting, and resulted in the passage of resolutions recommending such a course, and instructing the Board of Regents to inform our representatives of the action of the Convocation, and to devise some practicable plan to be submitted to them. The Board, in pursuance of the request, appointed a Committee which will not put the matter to sleep. If the Convocation can thus influence one representative in one State, it will have begun a reform of incalculable advantage to the country. For when it becomes the practice of one State it must inevitably extend to all. The principle once illustrated in the military and naval service, as Mr. SUMNER'S Consular Pupil bill provides for the civil, and we shall have fairly begun the movement which can alone save the Government from the abyss of ignorance and incapacity which will engulf the most righteous theories and the truest principles.


IN alluding to the peace performance at Niagara Falls Mr. GREELEY has said, and it has been repeated by others, that it would have been wiser for the President to have " asked the Confederates to perfect and verify their credentials and then make their proposition." The object of his doing so would have been to allow the rebels to show that they wished nothing short of recognition, or some other equally inadmissible condition.

But Mr. GREELEY must surely see that there would be no end to this business. Every time GEORGE N. SANDERS or Colorado JEWETT chooses to announce that a couple of rebels wish to talk about peace, is the President to say that they have only to get authorized and he will hear them? The President has left no doubt of his position. Whenever an authorized proposition is ready to be made the Government is, and always has been, ready to consider it. Mr. CLAY, and Mr. HOLCOMBE, and Mr. GREELEY knew that perfectly well, and it is folly to imply that the Government hindered their getting authority. If they had really wanted to treat, or had honestly expected any result, does Mr. GREELEY suppose they would have come without authority ?

The President's reply thwarted their plan. It exposed the fact that they were not willing to seek authority to treat for the restoration of the Union and the abandonment of slavery. That is just as evident now as it would have been if they had gone to Washington and proposed a separation and a commercial treaty. The President's honesty, as usual, utterly outwitted diplomacy.


THE appeal of the Copperheads to cowardice, in order to delay and embarrass recruiting, is natural. But it is a great insult to the spirit and the intelligence of Americans. Thus we read in a late newspaper an extract from a letter of a soldier in the Ninth Corps to show how great the loss had been and a little sub-editorial remark to the effect that " fine openings for young men is now defined—Graves on the north bank of the Appomattox."

There is something ludicrous and pitiful in telling Americans who are fighting for every thing that makes their name honorable and their liberties secure that they may get hurt. The rebels, it seems, were told the same thing, and a clerical brother of General LONGSTREET wrote a pamphlet to show how small a chance there is that any individual soldier will be killed. If the apprehension were so general that it was really necessary for such a statement to be made, the condition of the rebel valor would be most promising for the Union cause. And if the Copperhead appeals to cowardice were really likely to prevail, it would be only because we deserved the loss of the liberties which we did not dare to defend.


IN speaking of General BARLOW, whose portrait we published a few weeks since, we said that the men of his division would never forgive his biographer who should omit to record the unwearied service in the hospitals and among the wounded and dying soldiers from the beginning of the war to this day, of his faithful and devoted wife, and that for no woman in the land did more earnest prayers ascend from suffering lips and grateful hearts than for Mrs. General BARLOW. Those prayers no longer avail. On the 27th of July Mrs. BARLOW died in Washington of typhus fever contracted in the military hospital. On the same day her brave husband was driving the enemy from their intrenchments and recapturing some of the guns taken from us last spring. Thus each at the post of duty, the wife dies and the husband makes his life still more illustrious.

Amiable, accomplished, admired, beloved, Mrs. BARLOW from the first has been among the most eminent of the many heroines in this war whose names are not loudly mentioned, but whose memory will be forever fresh in the grateful heart of their friends and country.


GOVERNOR BROWN, of Georgia, has ordered into active military service all the reserve militia between the ages of sixteen and seventeen, and fifty and fifty-five ; also all from seventeen to fifty who are exempt from " Confederate conscription;" and, in fine, all who are able to bear arms ; and all who respond to the call are to seize and carry off as deserters all who do not. Those who resist, of course, will be shot.

How pleasing, in view of this order, to learn from Mr. CLEMENT C. CLAY that if " there be any military autocrat in the North" who can do what the despot Lincoln does, " there is none in the South ;" and that " those who control our armies are the servants of the people, not their masters." That will probably be the opinion of any unfortunate Georgian, who, not wishing to see his family starve, is shot for not obeying his servant, Governor BROWN.


WE know by pleasant experience that there are no more agreeable steamers upon the Sound than those of the old " Stonington Line," as it is still called, although within a few years the dangerous and difficult harbor of Stonington has been avoided, and the steamers stop at Groton, opposite New London, whence the railroad skirts the Sound and Narragansett Bay to Providence and Boston. The boats are strong, spacious, well appointed, and clean. The family accommodations are admirable, especially in regard to communicating state-rooms and private supper-tables. The route winding through the East River to the Sound, and across its pleasantest part to the Thames River, is delightful, and as little exposed as possible. You escape the tedium and discomfort of the angry Point Judith, and are in Boston betimes. The " Stonington Line" has many rivals, but no superiors.



Our military record this week is chiefly concerned with General Grant's unsuccessful assault on Petersburg, Saturday, July 30.

For six weeks preparations had been making for a grand assault on the enemy's lines. The point to be gained was Cermetery Hill, a commanding position both in regard to the other rebel fortifications and the town of Petersburg itself. This hill, on the east side of Petersburg, was about 800 yards distant from our lines. It was approached by regular lines, according to the usual process of a siege. The resistance to be overcome was great, the position being made as strong as possible both by nature and art. In order to break the centre of the rebel lines at this point, a battery of the rebels occupying a salient point was undermined. The mine was 400 feet long, with two galleries constructed from the main passage-way, and was charged with eight tons of powder. To divert Lee's attention to the north side of the James, operations were conducted on a large scale threatening Richmond from General Foster's position at Deep Bottom, three miles from Malvern Hill. General Foster had held a position here for some weeks, his flanks being protected by gun-boats. A bridge stretched across the James at this point to Jones's Neck. Thursday night, the 21st, a second bridge was thrown across, at Strawberry Plains, just below Deep Bottom, and the next morning a few regiments of the Nineteenth Corps crossed to hold the head of the bridge. The enemy became alarmed, and there was considerable skirmishing from the 23d to the 26th, when Grant threw over Hancock's corps and three divisions of cavalry—two under Sheridan and one under Kautz. To make his threat in this direction more formidable, he sent across, on Friday, 400 wagons of the Sixth Corps. This led Lee to plant a force of from 15,000 to 20,000 north of the James. That night the Second Corps recrossed the river, and were ready to co-operate in the assault on Saturday.

Our lines on Saturday morning at 1 o'clock were disposed to suit the contemplated movement. The Ninth Corps held the centre, with the Eighteenth massed in the rear. Warren's (Fifth) corps held the left in support. The signal for the assault was to be the explosion of the mine, at 3 1/2 o'clock, when a cannonade was to be opened from every cannon along the line, and the Ninth Corps was to charge through the gap laid open by the explosion.

If the mine had been exploded at the time set, the disposition and movements of our troops would have been covered in darkness ; but there was a delay, and it was not till after light, at 4 o'clock and 40 minutes, that the signal was given, and the enemy was partially forewarned. The explosion was terrific; the battery (6 guns) was blown up, and a North Carolina regiment, acting as garrison, was buried in the chasm. Then the artillery opened all along the line and the charge was made, Ledlie's Division of Burnside's Corps in the advance. The Second Brigade, Colonel Marshall, led the Division, followed by the First, Colonel W. F. Bartlett, and then by the Third, Colonel Gould. The Fourth Division of the Corps, all negroes, pushed on in the rear of these three brigades. The Fourteenth New York Artillery were the first to enter the breach; seizing two of the rebel guns left in the ruins, these were turned against the enemy. The three assailing columns then pushed up toward the crest of the hill, but were driven back. Then the colored troops pressed up and broke. The rebel artillery slackened, and the enemy made a charge and were themselves repulsed. The assault was then given up.

The loss was very severe considering the troops engaged. The entire loss will probably reach to between 2000 and 3000. General Bartlett and staff were captured, also Colonel Wild.

The rebels lost heavily, in the explosion and in the charge ; we captured about 500.

There is little additional news from General Sherman. On the 26th, Thomas, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, issued a congratulatory order to the army, stating that in the battle of the 20th the total Union loss was 1733, while in front of the Twentieth Corps alone 6000 rebels were put out of combat. The Second Division of Howard's Corps (Newton's Division) repulsed seven separate assaults. In the battle of the 22d the Union loss was 3500 men and 10 pieces of artillery. We captured 3200 prisoners ; the enemy left 2142 dead in front of the Army of the Tennessee alone ; 18 stands of colors and 5000 stands of arms were captured by our troops. In this battle Hardee's Corps got in the rear of M'Pherson's army. M'Pherson was at Sherman's head-quarters when he heard of it, and in riding back was killed. At the time of the attack the Seventeenth Corps was on the left of the railroad, the Fifteenth on the right, with the Sixteenth in reserve. The rebels, flanking Blair, succeeded in capturing a battery on the extreme left. Logan, assuming the command after M'Pherson's death, made a charge and recapture the battery. Our loss here was about 2000; but that of the rebels was much greater, as they were exposed to the artillery of other perilous of the line bearing upon them

from commanding positions. Hardee's Corps had previously occupied Hooker's front.

The battle of the 28th was an assault in force on the Fifteenth Corps, and appears to have resulted in as complete a defeat of the rebels as that of the 22d. Six hundred and forty-two dead rebels were buried by our forces after that battle.


Early finding that Crook was disturbing his prospect of harvests in the Shenandoah, turned back upon hint on the 23d, and fought him a short distance beyond Winchester, with a force which Crook estimated at from 20,000 to 25,000 strong. Crook was defeated, losing nearly 1000 men. Colonel Mulligan was killed. After this the rebels took Martinsburg. Since the capture of this place nothing has occurred of any importance, except the raid of a few hundred cavalry to Chambersburg. This party burned the better portion of the town, destroying over two millions' worth of property. Averill at the latest advices was pursuing these wicked fellows.


IN Egypt, when a death occurred in a family, "the right thing to do" was to send for the doctor. The medical gentlemen of the day had not only the privilege of dosing and scarifying people when alive; but even when dead " vile bodies" had another ordeal to undergo at their hands.

When the doctor came he had to show his skill, not to bring back the dead man or woman to life again, but to adopt every precaution that he or she should do no such thing; or, if he or she did, he or she should be of very little use. The doctor had first to extract the brain through the nostrils with a curved probe, to make the head as empty as possible—supposing the head not to be empty already—and then to put in certain drugs. An incision being made in the side of the corpse, the intestines were drawn out, washed in palm wine, and covered with powdered aromatics. Sometimes they were restored to the body; sometimes deposited in vases and laid in the same tomb. The body itself was filled with powdered myrrh, cassia, and other fragrant substances, and sewn up. This being done, it was kept in natron for seventy days ; then washed and wrapped in linen, of which a thousand yards were occasionally used. Thus prepared it was removed by the relations, placed in a wooden coffin, and, in the case of a wife or husband, retained at home until the time came for the second of the pair to undergo the same process, and then both were deposited together in a vault. A respectable funeral, thus carried out, would cost altogether more than $1000.

The northern peoples of Asia and Europe, in ancient times, exhibit the most curious peculiarities as regards the treatment of the dead. Thus in Thibet, even to this day, dogs are the sepulchres. Here the most complimentary of all burials is to cut the body in pieces and giving these to be eaten by the dogs. The poor have as their only mausoleum the common vagabond dogs of the locality; but the more distinguished defunct are treated with greater ceremony; for in the Lamaseries a number of dogs are kept, and within them the rich Thibetans are buried. Henceforth let no man despise the fate of "going to the dogs."

AMONG the many eccentricities which have been displayed in will making the two following instances are noticeable. Mr. Gilbert, well known as an English writer on the banking system, left a large sum of money to be invested as follows: first, in the erection of a monument to himself; secondly, in the circulation of his works ; and, thirdly, in the circulation of his likeness among his business acquaintances. Another English gentleman, Mr. Hartley, founder of the Hartley Institute at Southampton, directed in his will that a room in that building should be devoted solely and exclusively to the preservation of his mother's wardrobe and furniture. And there are to be seen today the articles used by an English merchant's wife of a century ago—bonnets, dresses, shoes, tapestry, fans, drawers, china, chairs, etc., making altogether a most singular collection.

THE whale was not pursued by the ancients; five hundred years ago whales abounded in every sea. The great demand for oil and whalebone of late years, however, has caused such destruction of whales that they are disappearing from numerous parts of the ocean. They were once numerous in the Mediterranean, but are now no longer so. They live on soft gelatinous mollusks in which the sea abounds, which must have increased enormously, owing to the destruction of whales. It is to the increase of these small organisms that the phosphorescence of the Mediterranean Sea is attributed.

THE late King of Wurtemburg announced in his will that nothing was more annoying to him during his life than ceremonies and etiquette, and that he does not wish to be visited with them after his death. He therefore begged that his body might not be laid out in state and buried with grand solemnities: "those who know me will find this natural, and the curious must pardon me for having robbed them of the pleasure of gaping at empty ceremonies." He desired that his body might leave the palace at night with a few attendants, and be buried on the Rothenberg, the time being so chosen that the procession should arrive there with the first rays of the sun.

THE mass of the Russian population is clothed at a very small expense. Cotton trowsers tucked into high boots of half dressed leather, a cotton shirt, and a sheep skin coat, a coarse camlet caftan bound round with a sash, constitute the whole outward man of the moojik, whose entire equipment may cost about ten rubles (thirty shillings), the sheep-skin being the most expensive article. Ten shillings would buy a common, female costume, which consists of a sarafan (or long petticoat), held by straps which pass above the arms, a chemise with sleeves extending nearly to the elbow, a kerchief over the head, a pair of shoes, and sometimes stockings, but more frequently strips of cotton or linen cloth Wrapped round the leg and foot;. for outdoor wear a quilted jacket is added to these, and when circumstances will permit, a salope or long cIoak in the German fashion.

IN Lower Saxony the young girls gather sprigs of St. John's wort on the eve of St. John, and secretly suspend them on the walls of their chambers, with certain mysterious ceremonies. The state of the plant on the following morning indicates their future lot. If fresh and undrooping, it foretells a prosperous marriage; if fading and dying, the reverse. The plant is influenced by the condition in which it is placed, and those who have damp walls are the more likely to have prosperous marriages than those whose walls are as dry as they should be.

IN Paris there are said to he sixty thousand persons who wake in the morning without knowing whether they will have any thing to eat during the day.

HOUSEWIVES in northern England prevent the loss of heat when their tea is brewing by putting over it a kind of cap made of woolen, which they call a "cosy." The use of this especially where, as in hard water places, the tea needs a good time to brew, is very beneficial. The tea is thus kept twenty degrees warmer.

WOMEN are more like flowers than we think. In their dress and adornment they express their nature, as the flowers do in their petals and colors. Some women are like the modest daisies and violets--they never look or feel better than when dressed in a morning wrapper. Others are not themselves unless they can flame out in gorgeous dyes, like the tulip or bush rose. Who has not seen women just like white lilies? We know several double marigolds and poppies. There are women fit only for velvets, like the dahlias; others are graceful and airy, like azaleas. Now and then you see hollyhocks and sunflowers. When women are free to dress as they like, uncontrolled by others, and not limited by their circumstances, they do not fail to express their true characters, dress becomes a form of expression very genuine and useful.

A NEW spider has been discovered at the Ararat diggings, Australia. It is about half the size of the common tarantula, and is banded longitudinally with alternate stripes of very dark green and gray. The back is furnished with a kind of shell, to which there are fifty entrances, from which young spiders may be seen leaving and again returning after a short stay outside.




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