Henry Sleeper


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, July 9, 1864

During the Civil War, people on the home front relied on Harper's Weekly for news of the War. The paper was the most popular newspaper of the day, and was distributed across the country. Today, it is popular with students and researchers seeking a better understanding of the important people and issues in the war.

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Henry Sleeper

Lincoln Nomination

Lincoln Nomination

Virginia Campaign

Virginia Campaign


General Hays


Grant in Virginia

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Military Telegraph

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Wilcox's Landing

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Democrat Cartoon






VOL. VIII.—No. 393.]



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the Year 1864, by Harper & Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.


CAPTAIN J. HENRY SLEEPER, who commands the Tenth Massachusetts Battery (and whose Portrait we here give, together with a sketch of the Battery), is a Bostonian by birth, the son of Hon. JACOB SLEEPER, a well-known citizen, and one of the members of the Governor's Council with General BANKS and Mr. ANDREW. Captain SLEEPER is twenty-three years of age, and has been in the army from the beginning of the war. He entered the service as First Lieutenant in the Fifth Massachusetts infantry, one of the first regiments to respond to the call for troops, and won praise from his superiors for coolness and bravery in the first battle of Bull Run. When his time was out he returned home, but almost immediately joined Captain PORTER's First Massachusetts Light Battery as Lieutenant. With this battery he made the entire Peninsular Campaign, and was noticed every where for dashing bravery, skill as an artilerist, and coolness under fire.

When new batteries were to be raised, he was called by Governor ANDREW, on the recommendation of the division and corps generals under whom he had served, to assume command of the TENTH MASSACHUSETTS BATTERY. This battery was largely recruited from among the hardy seamen of Marblehead, Lynn, and other small ports of the State; and sailors are famous as artillerists. He drilled his battery carefully and constantly, and when it came into active service it gained at once a reputation for activity and brilliancy of execution.

In the present campaign SLEEPER'S battery has served with the fighting division of the fighting corps of the Army of the Potomac, BIRNEY'S Division of HANCOCK'S Corps. It was one of the very few batteries which would not be denied even in the Wilderness battles, but managed by sheer hard work and determination to take part in these terrible actions, when most of the artillery could not be brought to bear on account of the dense woods. By its conduct then and ever since, the battery has gained the sobriquet from the corps of " the saucy battery." The Times correspondent writes of it the following incident of the great fight at Cold Harbor:

"About nightfall a desperate charge was made by the rebels upon our extreme left, where a number of batteries of the Second Corps were in position. In front of these guns, and below their level, was an open field. Rather more than half-way across this space ran our line of breastworks—at this point not more than one hundred yards from those held by the enemy. Every thing was perfectly quiet, mutual respect for each other's fire preventing unnecessary exposure. Suddenly a perfectly devilish volley of musketry was delivered from their works, accompanied


by the dismal howling which in Dixie, has superseded honest cheering, and out they came piling over the breast-works, and for a short time having things just as they wanted them. Their success was very short-lived, for in a moment SLEEPER'S Tenth Massachusetts Battery, ADAMS'S Rhode Island Battery, Sixth Maine Battery, and other's, were pouring canister into them in so effective a manner that they were forced to protect themselves in front of our breast-works, from which, later in the evening, they were expelled. They must have lost more than a thousand in this forlorn hope' of a charge." .

The New York Evening Post, copying this account, added :

"The Tenth Massachusetts Battery, commanded by Captain J. HENRY SLEEPER, is one of the best in the service. It has been engaged seventeen times since our army crossed the Rapidan, and was one of a very few batteries which managed to get into the fight of Thursday and Friday at the Wilderness. It has come to be called the 'saucy battery' in HANCOCK'S Corps, of which it is part. A private note from an officer of the battery, dated last Thursday, says: 'Our battery lies two hundred and fifty yards in advance of any other battery on this line, and this position it has held—with the enemy about one hundred and seventy yards in front—for five days, against two night and three day assaults.'"

Captain SLEEPER is but an example of what qualities the events of the war have developed in many of our young men of wealth. The only son of wealthy parents, before the war broke out he bade fair to lead a life of mere enjoyment. But when the sons of Massachusetts were called to arms, he at once devoted himself to the service of his country. He soon showed that he possessed the qualities needed in a commanding officer. His battery has been repeatedly mentioned in general orders, not only for its conduct under fire but also for its constant good order and efficiency.


GENERAL ALEXANDER HAYS; who was killed in one of the first battles of the present campaign in Virginia, was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, about the year 1823, and entered the United States Military Academy at West Point during the year 1840. He graduated on the 30th of June, 1841, standing No. 20 in his class. He was a class-mate with his corps commander, General HANCOCK, and also with General PLEASANTON. On the 1st of July, 1844, he was appointed a brevet Second Lieutenant of the Fourth United States Infantry ; and on the 18th of June, 1846, was fully commissioned a Second Lieutenant of the Eighth Infantry. He fought during, the Mexican war, and was brevetted from May 9, 1846, first Lieutenant for gallantry, etc., at the battles of Resaca de la Palma and Palo Alto. On (Next Page)


Henry Sleeper
Sleeper's Battery

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