Prospect of Peace


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, December 3, 1864

This site contains our entire collection of Harper's Weekly newspapers. These papers contain incredible content, and allow the serious student of the war to gain new insights into the key events of the war. The reports were written by eye-witnesses within hours of the events depicted.

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Prospect of Peace

General Birney

Death of General Birney

Wilmington Blockade

Blockade of Wilmington

Pittsburg Tunnel

Pittsburg Tunnel

Fat Soldiers

Fat Soldiers Cartoon




Wilmington, North Carolina

United We Stand

Thanksgiving Day


Martinsburg, Virginia




[DECEMBER 3, 1864.



THE feast of plenty comes once more,

The turkey, king of birds,

The beef, that bursts in every pore

With fatness of the herds,

And bulbous roots, white, golden, red,

And quaking jellies clear,

And lidless pies, with dotted eyes, Crowd and complete the cheer.

The sun has kept its ripening glow, The earth its yielding will,

The fruits have not forgot to grow, The yellow grain to fill;

The rain has fallen from the cloud,

The wind come from the east,

The dew has shared, the blight has spared

Its force to crown the feast.

The grandsire takes the fireward seat, The sire controls the cheer,

The mother rules below where sweet The little ones are near ;

And the tall grandson sits between,

Close to his manhood's prize, Whose spirit seems to float in dreams

Drawn from the children's eyes.

The white head bends : "We thank Thee, Lord, For life, and plenty's boon,

For triumph that shall sheathe the sword In peace and union soon ;

Sustain the poor, the weak, oppressed, The broken-hearted heal,

And through all ways man's cause for praise To Thee, O Lord, reveal !"

Then passes round the flaky breast,

The wish-bone is a prize,

The drumstick rattles out a jest,

With wings the laughter flies;

The mottled beef has stanchest friends

Whom mustard makes not sad, The gravies run for very fun

Down white-bibbed bosoms glad.

The juicy plums are slyly sought

To help the failing taste ;

With double-kerneled nuts are bought

The gifts of thoughtless haste ;

The talk subsides, they pledge the day In glass of home-brewed cheer, The feast is done, the happiest one

Of all the thankful year.

O Father ! hear the grandsire's prayer, And shed from heaven above,

Round feasts that have a vacant chair, The mercy of Thy love;

And if the form that filled it once Be hid 'neath battle-field,

Throw wide the skies to thankful eyes, And bid it be revealed.



THE air is full of rumors of peace. It has been so at intervals from the beginning, and will be so to the end of the war. Nothing was more natural than that after the election the blowers of rumors should take out their longest pipes and blow the largest and most glittering of bubbles. Nothing also was truer than General BUTLER'S remark that, having ascertained how unanimous the country is for war if necessary, it is a good time to ascertain whether it be necessary. It is a good time, because there can be no possible misunderstanding. An invitation to the rebels to lay down their arms could not be misinterpreted now, as it might have been at any other period of the war, as a sign of doubt upon the part of the Government. It would be the indication of conscious power and conscious right. It would be the summons to a doomed fortress to surrender after the irresistible strength of the besiegers had been displayed to the garrison in full view.

The experience of his administration teaches us that we may trust the President to do the right thing in this matter at the right time and in the right way. In whatever he does he will neither compromise the authority of the people nor acknowledge any shadow of right in the theory or fact of the rebellion. Neither will he do any thing impatiently or passionately. There is nothing finer in his whole career than his passionless but unswerving patriotism. There has been no self seeking, and a sagacious independence in all his actions. He has not hesitated to alienate at times all parties of his immediate adherents, whenever his sense of duty demanded it, secure always of the permanent approval of the people. Our history does not furnish his master as a statesman.

It is probable that in his Message there will be a frank expression of his views upon the present aspect of the rebellion, and very possibly a direct appeal to the insurgent section of the country, bidding the rebels to ponder the significance of the election ; to look with their own eyes, not through the illusive words of their leaders, at the actual condition and prospect of the rebellion, assuring them that their loyal fellow citizens have but one wish, and that is to

live peaceably with them under a common Government, and but one determination—that they will do so.

The conditions of peace are to day what they have always been. They are the same for every man and party in every part of the country. They are submission to the laws and acts in pursuance of the Constitution. If any citizen doubts whether the Confiscation act or the Emancipation proclamation are Constitutional, the President has already referred the question to the Supreme Court. As to " terms" in regard to the rebel leaders, the American people will undoubtedly require that, at the least, they shall be forever ineligible as citizens.

Of course the Government of the people must determine when it is satisfied that any State has resumed its proper relations in the Union. It can not be enough that the State says so. It can not be enough that it goes through the forms of an election. The Government will, of necessity, hold every part of the rebel section which it recovers until it is perfectly assured that the national peace would not be endangered by relinquishing it. The insurgent States, for instance, claimed to secede in their sovereign capacity. If in their sovereign capacity they return, the United States Government will naturally inquire whether, in their sovereign capacity, under any pretense whatever, they propose to secede again. So long as the majority of citizens in any State holds to the doctrine of supreme State sovereignty, the peace of the Union is as much threatened by it as Pennsylvania was by LEE'S army. Can the forces of the United States be withdrawn from a State which claims the right of secession at will? And can the existence of such a majority be determined except by a fair vote upon a constitutional amendment, expressly affirming the indestructibility of the Union ?

We shall, however, be spared the present solution of such questions, because whatever the action of our Government in regard to peace, the attitude of the rebels will remain unchanged. While they have any effective military force they will hear only of war. When that force is broken, the anarchy into which the rebel section must surely fall will make the presence of the United States arms a necessity until society can be reconstructed. It is useless, says the President, to jump before you reach the stream. Be ready to leap when you are there. Great questions of policy which perplex us in advance are very apt to present themselves finally in a practicable form. All that we need is to keep certain controlling principles clearly in mind, and as fast as possible adapt our policy to them. Conscious of wishing for honorable peace, and taught by our experience and by reason upon what terms peace can be permanent, we may tranquilly await the opportunity which the rebels alone can furnish.


THE whole system of railroad travel in this country is disgraceful ; and we propose, in this and subsequent articles, to show in what ways it might be improved. We do not rely upon any appeal to the managers of the roads. They may be privately very respectable gentlemen, but as a body they certainly feel no adequate public responsibility as conveyers of passengers; and we look therefore to the people themselves in the Legislatures to apply the needful remedies.

It is understood that the Central Railroad Company—the great Company of the State—is coming to Albany during the next session of the Legislature to ask leave to raise the rates of fare. If it comes, it will come, of course, prepared to carry its point by the usual means. But we hope there will be good sense and courage enough among the legislators to make the grant of power conditional upon the reformation of abuses. That was the way the English people two and three hundred years ago used to treat their kings, and there is no reason why we should be less strict with ours.

There is one good example to this very point. During the last session, we believe, the Central Road applied for some fresh privilege, which was granted. But some thirsty statesman, who may have suffered upon an express train from the want of an innocent coolness in his mouth, procured the insertion of a clause in the bill that in every car of every train there should be a jar of ice water, under a penalty of fifty dollars, and that the suit against the Company might be brought in any county of the State. How the royal board of managers must have laughed !

For they knew, sagacious souls, that the American citizen would go forever parched and panting, in the hottest dog-days, to and from Albany and Buffalo, and die of thirst rather than enter a complaint.

And here is the difficulty in reforming the abuses of railroad travel, and all other, that the people themselves are so pusillanimous. If an omnibus is intended to carry twelve, and a thirteenth man unfairly and selfishly presents himself at the door, there is seldom one of the twelve who dares insist upon the rights of the passengers, and they all conspire to put a premium upon selfishness by suffering the interloper to crowd in. Now it is very clear that if the passengers do not insist upon the rule

the proprietors will not. Ross BROWNE some where says that when he was one of nine guests stowed into one bed together at a Western inn the landlord brought a tenth, and when BROWNE plaintively pleaded that they were tolerably full he was sternly denounced by the host as a haughty and unsocial being. By this time, doubtless, that host is the model president or superintendent of a grand central railroad, offering every inducement for enlightened travelers to prefer it to all other tedious, dangerous, and connection missing routes.

There surely is nothing surly in insisting upon obvious rights; and it is only fair that the Legislatures should try to help people help themselves in the matter of comfort and safety in travel.

The general railway massacre that is taking place in the country is certainly the business of somebody ; and of whom can it be so much the interest as the public themselves ? The travel was never so great ; the trains never so full ; and every body departs upon his journey with a vague fear that it may be his last. It is true, as we said two or three weeks ago, that the proportion of lives lost to the whole number of travelers is not large. But when it could and ought to be smaller, there is no wisdom in suggesting that it might be larger. Indeed it is very rapidly becoming larger ; and the loss of life upon our railroads during the last twelvemonth is very much greater than in any recent year. Last week, upon the old line of the Central Railroad, near Auburn, the mail passenger train, thundering around a curve at the rate of thirty five miles an hour, encountered a freight train rushing toward it upon the same track. The collision was frightful. The locomotives were lifted upon end, and every seat in the passenger cars was torn up, and scarcely a passenger escaped without injury, while the engineer and firemen were killed.

Now, for such a deplorable event somebody is to blame. It is said that the guilty person in this instance is the engineer of the freight train, who ran out of time. But if every engineer on the Central Road knew that if he ran out of time, under any excuse whatever, he would inevitably lose his place and be disgraced, whether any disaster followed or not, there would be no running out of time, and the slaughter that we have described would not have occurred. The probability is that the" engineer of the freight train has before run out of his time, and has not been rebuked. The penalty of running out of time, if no accident ensues, should be as severe as it can lawfully be made. The punishment of so doing, when loss of life results, should be that of murder.

When the Central Road appears at the bar of the House we hope New York will make a beginning in providing for the safety and comfort of the public. Next week we shall resume the subject with some practical suggestions.


THE inevitable question of the rebellion at length openly confronts the rebels. What shall be done with the slaves ? Shall they be sent into the field to fight for the " Confederacy," or shall they be kept to digging ? and if they fight shall they be free ?

The whole logic of the Southern system has broken down. The Southern leaders have insisted for many a year that the " peculiar institution" was also divine ; and their Northern allies have lustily echoed the great and refreshing truth that, Canaan having been cursed, every colored baby was intended by divine beneficence to be sold like a sucking pig.

We have been listening now for many years to the noble doctrine that the system of slavery in our Southern States was God's appointment for the African race, and for all admixture of the European and American races with the African; that to question its benefit or beauty was to blaspheme God and his laws, and to presume to be wiser than the heavenly intelligence. Nor this alone. Not only was the system divine, but the slaves were happier than any peasantry in the world. They were comfortably cared for in sickness and age. They had no anxieties, no responsibilities. They danced to the banjo under the peaceful palmetto, and, if we only knew it, the name of happiness was Slavery in the Southern States. Travelers from foreign lands went from plantation to plantation and found the life idyllic. Dainty ladies went from New York to pass winters with their planting friends, and returned with the rosiest romances of the felicity of Dinah and Sambo in their cunning little cabins. Every thing was lovely in the world except the dark and dreadful theory of the right of every man to himself and his own labor. Every body who did not own slaves was tolerable if he only wished that he owned some. But whoever denounced Slavery as a wrong to human nature, and an inevitable peril to the country, he was an awful monster in human form, he was the opposite of " a gentleman" he was an abolitionist.

To defend and perpetuate the divine institution it was made the head of the corner of the new nation of " the South." We were to see beyond all cavil that the only security of Liberty was slavery, the only foundation of Democracy was despotism, the only Right was Wrong. Unhappily, in the process of proving it, it becomes.

pretty clear that the proof will fail unless the slaves are summoned to the field. But they must be stimulated to fight, and the inspiration is to be the "boon of freedom." In other words, the structure can not be raised without knocking away the corner stone! And the whole ghastly lie from which this infamous rebellion springs stands revealed.

The rebels propose to free the slaves if they will fight. But what "boon" can freedom be to Sambo and Dinah, who are so delightfully content in the cunning cabin ? The rebellion is to preserve the cabin. Why then hope to stimulate the happy peasants to fight by promising them that the system for whose protection they are to take arms, and which secures their happiness, is to be destroyed as their reward? Logic requires DAVIS and the other slave drivers to say, " Here, boys! God, you know, made you to be slaves, and we are fighting to keep you so. But the fight is a little hard. We are not altogether successful. So just turn to, take a brisk part in the fight for the perpetuity of slavery ; and as you are all so happy and contented, and as it is the intention of Providence that you shall be slaves, we promise you if you will only fight bravely you shall be more slaves than ever. We will not fly in the face of Providence. Where you have had only one child sold you shall have all your children put up on the block; and where you have been paddled " and pickled between the shoulders only, you shall be whaled over the whole back. Fall in, boys ; and strike home against the enemies who wish to oppose God and set you free."

If Slavery be, as the rebels and their Northern friends have so persistently assured us, the true and Christian disposition of the negro, why do DAVIS and his associates presume to outrage Christianity and thwart the divine purpose by promising the negro his liberty, if he will fight? We generally promise rewards not penalties to those whom we wish to win.

The whole debate, the proposition to give the slave who will fight the " boon of freedom," shows that the rebels know, with all the rest of mankind, that their system is inhuman and infamous. When they wish to make the slave a man they promise him his liberty, because they know that liberty is his birthright, and that they have deprived him of it. Out of their own mouths they are condemned. Their own action is the justification of every American citizen who has contended that, as Slavery was a fatal and increasing wrong, it was the necessary foe of national peace.

The rebel brethren are not harmonious upon the question. Some of the newspapers point out the absurd inconsistency of implying that Slavery can be wrong. But the official language of DAVIS is enough. If they intend to continue the war, they must arm the slaves. They know, as we do, that the slaves perfectly understand the war. They know, as we do, that if they are armed, they will have their liberty. They make, therefore, a grace of necessity ; and in the hopeless effort to save a point of shallow pride they renounce the great object of their rebellion, and by their own act give the victory to the nation and civilization.


IN his speech at the Astor House the other evening the Governor elect, Mr. FENTON, said: " With your counsel and co-operation, and with the counsel and co-operation of the loyal. people throughout the State (which I hope embraces the large mass of all the citizens), I intend that New York hereafter shall occupy no hesitating or equivocal position."

To that sentiment every faithful citizen will say, Amen ! For the State of New York has too long been a base of disloyal sympathy, and so long as the present Governor was in office the rebel leaders had a right to hope that some thing might " turn up" to their advantage.

The reason of this confidence upon their part was that Governor SEYMOUR belongs to the state sovereignty school, which is the excuse of the rebellion. Whoever has carefully read and considered his speeches sees very soon that their studied apology for the rebellion, their unconcealed sympathy for the rebels, and steady hostility to the national cause are the result of a fierceness of party-spirit, which is made ludicrous by the attempt to make it appear calm and impartial, and of an adhesion to the fatal absurdity of state sovereignty, which makes the Union impossible.

Descended from New England ancestry, Governor SEYMOUR'S monomania is hatred of New England. Incessantly dubbed statesman by a clique of his party, he has administered the Government of the State of New York for two years in such a way as to excite the hopes of every domestic rebel and foreign enemy of the country; and his defeat, no less than the election of Mr. LINCOLN, will be accepted by Europe as an expression of the fixed resolution of the American people to make no terms with rebellion. Two years ago, upon his accession to office, his first message was looked for in Europe with scarcely less interest than that of the President; for he was regarded as the Magnus Apollo of the peace party which was to humble the United States by submission to separation or to rebel terms of Union. It was a disappointment (Next Page)




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