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Civil War Harper's Weekly, December 31, 1864

This site features online versions of all the Harper's Weekly newspapers printed during the Civil War. These papers are an excellent resource for the serious student of the Civil War. The illustrations were made by war correspondents deployed with the troops on the front lines.

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

 

Christmas Morning

Christmas Morning

Arming Slaves

Arming Slaves

Sherman Reaches Savannah

Sherman Reaches Savannah

Destroying Railroads

Troops Destroying Railroads

Jarret's Depot

Battle of Jarret's Station

Army of the Cumberland

Army of the Cumberland

Nesho

Monitor Neosho

Dresses

Civil War Dresses

Burning Railroads

Troops Burning Railroads

Union Christmas Dinner

Abraham Lincoln and the Union Christmas Dinner

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DECEMBER 31, 1864.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

843

Perhaps there is nothing in the world like that first awakening after any sudden sorrow. One has the whole blow over again, and that at an instant before the faculties are fully equal to the shock. Nelly did not wake. Mrs. Buswell sat up shivering on the outside of the bed, piled some blankets over her yet unconscious companion, slipped off and away to kindle the fire and be where again she might know the wild abandonment to tears and cries without disturbing any soul to be her witness, for with time comes reserve. But by-and-by, when, feeling as if such vehement misery were wrong, she bestirred herself once more about the place, every thing seemed made to stab her, All the gathered goods in her pantry cruelly smote the good house-wife's soul; there would be plenty of Christmas-beggars though before noon to divide it with ; she could send her turkey, too, to some mother whose son had come home, some mother whom Heaven had not stripped of every thing, and her heart grew hard and angry. - She took her lonesome cup of tea --for Nelly still slept as she had lain down in her clothes on the outside of the bed and she made it bitter with her tears. Then with the ineffaceable instinct of her kind, she swept and scoured all bright and clean again, as if it were necessary for her to contrast every outside brilliancy with the darkness of her spirit within. There still hung the stocking from the mantle-shelf, filled, as she had said, with all the reminiscences of his boyhood, filled too with dainty nicknacks of Nelly's needle-work, such things as are never vouchsafed to any one's boyhood ; what a happy scene of laughing and caressing she had pictured to herself when he should have taken it down and be emptying its contents on his awkward knees. Now those dead hands would never lighten it ; she had not the heart to take it down herself. Walking to and fro, she went to the window, perhaps attracted by the whistle of the express-train rattling over the bridge ; all was such clear crystal-line weather outside, from such a throne of azure the sun was scattering his golden shafts, such fine and dazzling crust of snow, such white and driven drifts along the fields, all was so pure, so bright, so fresh, and in the midst the glad church bells began to ring out their burden of blessing and rejoicing. Mrs. Buswell turned away and went again into the inner room ; and there, as the prayer-book caught her glance, still open as on yesterday, something bent her knee and her spirit, and she kneeled, repeating the words before her till unable to see them for the fast-falling showers of warm tears anew, she found it in her heart at last to thank God with words of her own that he had taken her darlings from the toils and trials of earth to Himself.

And as she still knelt there, her head bowed upon the page, she heard the outer door open and shut with a quick slam. She paid it no attention. Then the handle of the inner door turned, and there came a foot upon the floor. It was some neighbor to see if she wanted a good turn, she said vaguely to herself but in a moment, as the foot crossed and drew nearer—that a neighbor's step? Never! What had happened ? Was the earth quaking and shaking and rolling away from under her feet ! Had the heavens fallen, and had she caught Frank again, or was it he, the great brown fellow, the stalwart bearded hero of a hundred fights, who had caught her and tossed her in his arms and kissed her face all over from crown to cap-sheaf as if she were the child and not he ? And Mrs. Buswell, all herself again, returned the saucy intruder a round box on the ear for the daring deed, and then kissed the place twenty times to pay for it, so soon as it came her turn for kissing; and as suddenly, to make the round of her alternations complete, burst into tears, such different tears from all the rest she had shed, and wiped them away with his neckerchief. Then something told Frank that mother and son were not alone in the room ; he looked anxiously, uncertainly about; and, under the blankets piled above her, Nelly stirred, moaning gently in her sleep. In a breath he was beside her. " Softly ! softly!" said good Mrs. Buswell, "don't let her be shocked ; be-sides, she had an opiate, and she'll be ill." But in the instant that Frank lingered there above her, his soul in his eyes, the moan ceased, as if his mere presence had charmed it away, the features grew quiet, then changed into calm smiling, and a long sigh of relief parted the lips while the eyelids fluttered and opened and the glance rested on him. Mrs. Buswell shoved him aside, round the corner of the wardrobe.

"Nelly," said she, "we've had a terrible night-mare, you and I. We dreamed Frank was killed, dear that the minister said so. But, thank God! it was only a dream. Here, child, drink this Seltzer water. There ! that's a good girl. Now, do you think you can bear it ? Will you be quiet if I tell you something if I tell you that—"

But Nelly was not listening to a word she said. She was sitting up, supported by one hand, and the dark eyes were peering round the corner of the wardrobe, and in a moment more she had sprung and was in Frank's arms.

I meant to have told you about Mrs. Buswell's Christmas. But somehow it has all turned into what happened the day before Mrs. Buswell's Christmas. As for the Christmas itself, it would have been like all the other Christmases of Christendom, if at every other hearth the grave had given up the dead to make its glory and its grace complete. Nelly and Frank must go to church ; there was no-thing for it but that. Mrs. Buswell must stay at home to cook such a dinner as never table groaned under in that house before; to get out the great copper and boil the plum-pudding in it for with-out you tasted of plum-pudding and mince-pie on Christmas-day, farewell luck for all the year ! to baste that turkey as if it had been a thank-offering. And then when Nelly came home she was to wash the celery, and Frank was to help her ; and it took them more time to do it than it had taken Mrs. Bus-well to dress the whole dinner, and to crack the beautifully segmented oil-nuts into the bargain. And such baskets as she made ready for Frank and Nelly to take round to all the poor folk of their ken. And then in Mrs. Buswell's busy brain an-other plan took life and shape. Why, pray, should

not all their pleasure be completed at once ? Why should not joy come in an avalanche as well as a dribblet ? Why should she not make sure of Nelly for her daughter now orphan Nelly, who had no one but herself to consult in the matter ? Why should not Frank know a brief bit of the comfort of married life and a home of his own before he re-turned to winter-quarters, and hard tack, and hard knocks again ? Why would not Christmas-day do for a wedding-day ? With all of which catechism, finding no satisfactory replies herself, she breathlessly assailed the two, from a burning face, on their return. And it seemed that the same idea had already been broached, and discussed, and pleaded by Frank; and before dinner was brought on he stepped out to secure the same minister who had given consolation to his mother yesterday to give a little to himself and Nelly this afternoon. A gay dinner the three made, with a wooden chair and a plate in it, brought in for tiny little Schwartz, who had gone through the war with Frank, to fill the fourth side of the table. And Frank took down his new stocking and emptied it on the table after dessert, every thing in it reminding him of some history in the past, and insisting, when all that was done, upon helping his mother and Nelly wash up the dishes, making infinitely more work than he gave assistance, keeping them all hanging, till the water was cold and had to be replenished, over the countless recitals he had to tell of breathless dangers, and of the last escape of all, when, being taken prisoner in the desperate engagement, he had broken jail, and, reporting himself, had come North on his promised furlough. And then, if they were not so gay, never was there a happier group than that which quietly sat about the fire, after the clergyman had come and gone, in the red, early sunset the blissful mother beaming on her children, yet with a tender thought for all those sorrowful mothers whose dear ones came back no more, the young husband and wife side by side in the growing shadows. And the fire-light danced on the wall, and the stars came out in the clear, keen heavens, and God's blessing seemed to brood wide winged over the whole earth on that happy Christmas night.  

MY CHRISTMAS:

I'm a physician, and my name is Robert Jervis. Most of the fellows at the club call me Dr. Bob probably because my hair is always short bobbed off, you know.

I have a wife and four innocent children. Doc-tors always have children ; they are not so much of a luxury to them as to serve other people. I call my children innocents, and so they are, though now and then they do play the very deuce with my medicines ; but then that shows a commendable spirit of research and inquiry. Mrs. Jervis says it is mischief. When young Bob one day gave the cat a blue-pill, she went so far as to say that it was a piece of downright cruelty; but I assured her that it was only an experiment illustrating his inclination toward his father's profession, and that, for my part, I didn't care if he physicked all the cats in town if thereby he qualified himself for usefulness in the walks of medicine, which his father so adorned ! I have noticed since then that we have no 'cats in our house ; either my logic or Bob's experiment was successful.

There are some people in my line who never take time to enjoy a holiday. I'm not one of that sort. I believe Christmas, for instance, was meant for me as much as for other men, and I try always to enjoy it in a rational way. And that brings me to my story.

One year ago I had a memorable Christmas experience. Rather, I had a memorable Christmas-eve. Sitting in my cozy parlor, with my wife at my elbow, chatting with her of the morrow, there came a sudden ring of the door-bell, sharp, quick, decisive. Who was sick now?

Biddy thrust in her head at the door :

"Mrs. Jones's little boy, Sir, says his sister's very sick, and you're wanted to come right over, Sir."

Who was Mrs. Jones? I had a tolerably large circle of acquaintance.. I knew any quantity of Smiths, a host of Browns, but not a single Jones. And what if I did? Was I bound to leave my comfortable nest on Christmas-eve to serve a family I had never heard of to administer rhubarb and ipecac to some youngster needing, more than any thing else, perhaps, to be let alone? There, right before me, hanging in a row, were four stockings representing four pairs of little feet now snugly ensconced under coverlet and blanket stockings which wife and I had promised ourselves all sorts of amusement and satisfaction in filling in the name of Santa Claus. Must I abandon that pleasure, and plunge out into the driving snow, maybe on a fool's errand ? Couldn't I have one night to myself?

" Please, Sir, the lad says his sister's very sick, and won't you come right away ?"

It was Biddy's voice, and it roused me to the actual " situation." Perhaps my little girls would have a merrier Christmas, I thought to myself, if I answered this call of the little stranger.

I went.

It was a cold, dismal, barren place to which the thinly-clad, shivering boy led me. An old, rambling house, with broken windows, creaking doors, and cold and want every where. Nor was that the worst. In the one main room into which the whole family appeared to be crowded, a drunken, ragged wretch lay in a heavy sleep upon the floor, while over the little bed a pale, wan-faced woman leaned with despair in her eyes, thre half clothed children, with hunger in their faces, hitching her skirts, clamoring for bread. And on the little bed, moaning and gasping, lay a child with a sweet a face as ever angel wore a child whose little life seemed nearly ended.

It was a pronounced case of scarlet miter, the scourge of childhood. The disease seemed to have been running its coarse rapidly a few hours must decide the fate of the sufferer. I was not slow in meeting the emergency, employing all my skill, feeling the time to be short. Meanwhile the mo

ther cried and prayed by turns, the children crouching around her.

" God be merciful!" she said, again and again; sometimes adding, " Save her, doctor, save her !"

Then, after a while, winning her gradually from herself, she told me her story ; how, once a happy household, intemperance in the husband and father had brought them to want and misery ; how already one child had gone to Potter's Field because of hunger unsatisfied; how Tom, the oldest boy, was at sea, but was expected home every day.

"He wrote that he'd be here on Christmas, Sir, and that he'd bring his pockets full of presents for the children. They've all been dreaming about it ever since ; and Mary that's the name of the sick one, Sir, and she's his favorite talks about him in her"

"Why don't he come ?" It was a weak voice that spoke, the sufferer was delirious again. " He promised one a doll, and I'm tired of waiting. Won't you tell him to hurry?" Then, a moment after, " Did you hear the angel, mother ? It was a bright angel, and sang so very sweetly, `Come with me, come with me, Mary !' I want to go, mother. But what will Tom say? He'll want to kiss me ; and who'll take care of the doll?" For a moment all was still. Then we heard,

"Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep."

I'm an old doctor, and I'm used to strange scenes, but that was too much for me. As for the mother, she tell right down in a paroxysm of grief, and all the shivering little ones cried as if their hearts would break. Only the drunken brute in the corner was unmoved.

"Oh, if Tom was only here," at last the mother moaned, "maybe he could do something for her!"

" Only God can help her now," I answered. What would the fellows at the club have thought if they had heard me say that? I, the hard-shell, impervious Dr. Bob ! Presently I added,

" She has suffered for want of nourishment, Mrs. Jones, but that may prove a blessing in the end. It will leave the fever less to prey upon. But she is very sick, Mrs. Jones."

Just then a strong step was heard in the passage. " It's Tom ! it's Tom !"

It was Tom a strong, noble, brown faced boy, still on the sunny side of twenty, with a frank, open look, that won you in a moment.

"Mother!" " Tom!" and they were folded in a close embrace.

Then looking around resting his glance for a second only on the sleeping sot he seemed to comprehend at once all the misery of the hour and the place. At the sight of Mary's face, lying on the rumpled pillow, I saw him start, while the shadow of a great fear seemed to settle upon him.

" Have I come home to find death here before me?"

He turned to me imploringly.

" Death is every where," I answered; " but while there is life there is hope."

" And I had my trunk full of gifts for the darling!"

" Has Tom come ? Why don't you hurry home, Tom ? It is getting dark, and I want to kiss you before I go to sleep !"

Poor Tom ! There was no welcome in the voice he longed to hear—no recognition only weary complaint. Would she indeed go away into the dark, leaving no good-by behind for the brother come home from the seas?

The hours slipped on. Crouching down in a corner the children fell asleep. The mother, worn and exhausted, laid her head on Tom's broad shoulders and wept herself into unconsciousness. So, sitting silently, he and I watched beside the bed. At intervals the sick one murmured his name in her delirium ; .and I could hear Lim whispering to him-self, "Spare spare her, Lord!" So the night passed on.

Just as the dawn touched the roofs, standing over the little sufferer, I saw her eyes open with a calm, natural look, and presently heard the word,

"Mother ?"

Thank God! She was safe. The crisis Lad passed. She would live.

" Tom is here," I said, bending my lips close to hers.

Oh the glad look that came into her eyes as, obedient to my call, he bowed his head over her pillow ! From the very borders of the River of Death she had come back to greet the dear wanderer, sighing and praying for her return.

At the breakfast-table, on Christmas morning, I told the story of the night to my happy household. I think young Bob was astonished at seeing tears in my eyes; but I couldn't recite my narrative without feeling more tenderly than was my wont. Mrs. Dr. Bob cried like a booby ; and, for that mat-ter, so did all the rest. But very soon it was clear sky again in our faces. Then I made a suggestion.

Not long after, that suggestion being concurred in by the family conference, a procession filed out from time kitchen of Dr. Robert Jervis, No. 2019 Grand Street, and marched courageously toward 6J Dark Lane. At the head of said procession marched Dr. Bob himself, bearing a hoge basket of provisions; behind him came Mrs. Dr. Bob with another basket, heaped with clean linen and dainties adapted to the palate of an invalid, while still behind marched all the little Jervises, each loaded with a basket, pail, or package, Biddy bringing up the rear with a turkey " browned to a turn." Down Grand Street, up Dark Lane, straight to the door of the Jones's, the procession marched; through the door it pressed unfalteringly, each basket being finally placed on the plain table where Mrs. Jones's weary head was leaning, with Tom's hand smoothing her matted hair. Then, while the junior Jervises marched homeward again, we unpacked our I stores, spread a bountiful repast, and summoning all to partake, ourselves "served at table" the poor n o her crying and eating by turns, while Torn saluted each mouthful with a smile and a blessing on the donors.

Then Tom's Christmas presents were distributed

—Mrs.. Dr. Bob read a psalm from an old Bible which Mrs. Jones produced from her pocket; Tom said a word of prayer; and we went home—home to our happy children, with hearts full of joy and thanksgiving to the Father of us all.

That was my last and my happiest Christmas; and I have not told my story in vain if it has suggested to any that there is nothing which gives so sweet a flavor to our own Christmas cheer as a kind action done for any of God's poor, in the name of Him whose birth was like the rising of a great Hope to a world astray.

THE ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND.

NASHVILLE, the present head-quarters of the Army of the Cumberland, is situated on the south bank of the Cumbeland River, which, in this section of its course, runs nearly east and west. The " Rock City," as it is called, had before the war a population of from fifteen to twenty thousand. Its site consists of an entire rock, and at various heights is elevated from 70 to 175 feet above the river. Upon the highest point, Capitol Hill, the State House is built. As soon as the State authorities had carried the State over to secession the Common Council appropriated seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars to build a residence for President Davis, as an inducement to remove the rebel capital from Richmond to their city. As a consequence of the fall of Fort Donelson Nashville was evacuated by the rebels February 17, 1862. Fort Donelson had been captured on the previous day, which was Sunday. Early that morning Governor HARRIS had received from FLOYD the most flattering news : according to the dispatch GRANT'S army had been defeated, and the siege of the fort had been raised. The inhabitants were assembled in the churches, and were giving thanks for a great victory when the whole city was thrown into a tumult by the appearance of the excited Governor galloping through the streets proclaiming that Donelson had fallen, and that GRANT was coming to Nashville. The confusion was indescribable ; and in the disorder gangs of plunderers, taking advantage of the panic of the citizens, had every thing their own way. It was not until a week after that BUELL'S advance entered the city and took possession. Governor ANDREW JOHNSON soon after arrived and assumed control of the State as military Governor.

In September, 1862, the city was threatened by General BRAGG'S advance, but the Army of the Ohio, under General BUELL, having been concentrated there, BRAGG slipped by and moved on Louisville. This necessitated the removal of the Federal army to the latter point, General THOMAS being left behind at Nashville. BRECKINRIDGE and FORREST then attempted the siege of the city, while BRAGG was manoeuvring against BUELL. The rebels attacked November 5, but were repulsed.

The largest of the defensive works about Nashville is Fort Negley, named after General JAMES S. NEGLEY, who conducted the defense against BRECKINRIDGE. At its right is Fort Morton. Farther south, and connected with the former two, is Fort Confiscation. The Capitol is protected by a strong work, or system of works, called Fort Andrew Johnson. South of the city, and covering the approaches on the Hardin, the Hillsboro, and the Granny White pikes, is Fort Houston. Fort Gillem, on the west, commands the approaches by the river roads. There are strong works also on the north.

After the battle of Franklin, November 30, General THOMAS concentrated his army in the defenses south of Nashville. HOOD followed, and partially invested the city, his flanks resting on the Cumberland River. HOOD chose the most inopportune time for operating against the city. It was the season when the river was full, and our gun boats could with facility patrol the line of the river.

An attempt was made, however, to blockade the river below Nashville, which was partially successful. Maintaining this blockade they would have been able to cut off THOMAS'S supply boats from the lower fleet. As the supply-boat Magnet was down the river on the way to the lower fleet, December 3, she was tired upon by a rebel battery on the south bank, seventeen miles below Nashville. She received two shots through her cabin, one of them killing a female colored servant. Captain FITCH ordered down the gun-boats , Carondolet and Neosho, with several tin clads, to dislodge the battery. These boats failed to discover the rebels, and the Magnet was towed back with them. On the 6th the Neosho was ordered to convey twenty-three transports down the river. The rebels opened fire upon her from the same battery as before. The fire was severe, and splintered up the temporary wooden cabins. An hour and thirty minutes' fighting having failed to dislodge the rebels the boat withdrew up the river to get in better fighting trim, and, returning, fought the batteries till night, and then proceeded back to Nashville.

On the 15th General THOMAS assumed the offensive against HOOD. His line from west to east ran thus WILSON'S cavalry, A. J. SMIITH, WOOD, STEEDMAN. SCHIOFIELD'S corps was in reserve. Early in the morning the artillery opened fiercely from all the forts and batteries. Then STEEDMAN advanced and drove in the enemy's right and attacked heavily. This attack was intended merely as a demonstration, while the heaviest blow was hanging over the rebel left and centre. Toward noon SMITH and WOOD became engaged. HOOD held a strong position on the southern approaches to the city. WOOD attacked the works on the Granny White pike near the rebel centre, and after considerable resistance carried them, and secured the entire line in his front. Our batteries were moved forward and planted on the commanding positions gained, SMITH corps on WOOD'S right in the mean time engaging the rebel left. In the afternoon SCHOFIELD came in on SMITH'S right. At the same time the whole line advanced. It was not long before the rebels opposite WOOD, SMITH, and SCHOFIELD began to give way, falling back from hill to hill. This gave us a position between the rebels and the river on their left flank, which was now being rolled up on their centre. (Next Page)


 

 

  

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