King Cotton Poem


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 13, 1864

Welcome to our online collection of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. This collection presents you with a valuable source or original reports and illustrations of the War. Harper's was the prominent source of information for people during the war, and today is popular among collectors and researchers.

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Union Flag

Union Flag

King Cotton

King Cotton Poem



Mobile Siege

Mobile Siege


Sanitary Commission Work

Sannitary Commission

Pictures of the Sanitary Commission


General Meigs


Mobile Blockade











[FEBRUARY 13, 1864.



KING COTTON looks from his window

Toward the westering sun,

And he marks with an anguished horror

That his race is almost run.


His form is thin and shrunken,

His cheek is pale and wan,

And the lines of care on his furrowed brow

Are dread to look upon.


But yesterday a monarch

In the flush of his pomp and pride,

And not content with his own broad lands

He would rule the world beside.


He built him a mighty palace,

With gold from beyond the sea,

And he laid with care the corner-stone,

And he called it Slavery.


He summoned an army with banners

To keep his foes at bay,

And, gazing with pride on his palace walls,

He said, "They shall stand for aye!"


But the palace walls are shrunken,

And partly overthrown,

And the storms of war, in their violence,

Have loosened the corner-stone.


Now Famine stalks through the palace halls

With her gaunt and pallid train;

You can hear the cries of famished men,

As they cry for bread in vain.


The King can see from his palace walls

A land by his pride betrayed—

Thousands of mothers and wives bereft,

Thousands of graves new-made.


And he seems to see in the lowering sky

The shape of a flaming sword,

Whereon he reads with a sinking heart

The anger of the Lord.


God speed the time when the guilty King

Shall be hurled from his blood-stained throne;

And the palace of Wrong shall crumble to dust,

With its boasted corner-stone!


A temple of Freedom shall rise instead

On the desecrated site,

And within its shelter alike shall stand

The black man and the white.




HOW is it that the Sanitary Commission spends so much money? is a question that is constantly asked. It has made nearly half a million by its fairs, and it still cries, More! more! Yes, but it has not made the half-million. The money collected at the great fairs has been entirely at the disposition of the local sanitary authorities, not of the Commission. The Boston fair chose to send fifty thousand dollars to the Commission; and it was well done, as it was truly needed, and will be wisely spent. But while the proceeds of the fairs will be converted into material supplies, there is a large monthly cash outlay which the Commission has to meet, or stop its operations. Distributing supplies is but one part of the work of the Commission; and if all the money raised should be devoted to that purpose more than half its benefits would be destroyed.

A moment's thought will show exactly the point, and Tract No. 78 of the Sanitary issues tells the story plainly. The Sanitary Commission works, as it were, with five hands. It distributes supplies. It inspects camps and field-hospitals by medical men. It inspects general hospitals by the same agents. It organizes special relief with all its agencies, in all its departments; and it keeps an accurate Hospital Directory, so that the situation and condition of five hundred thousand soldiers may be known to their friends throughout the country.

Now this Sanitary inspection may save more lives than hundreds of wagon-loads of supplies. Shall the Inspection be abolished? If not, it can be supported by cash only.

Or the Special Relief, which has lodges and homes all along the Atlantic coast and upon the Mississippi shores—shall it be relinquished? Ask the soldiers. But if it is to be maintained, it can only be with money.

Or the Hospital Directory? It costs very much, but it tells all about the sick and wounded, wherever they may be; and when it was lately a question whether it should be continued, there was such an earnest pressure from the friends of the soldiers every where not to give it up that it was seen to be a necessity of the service, and is continued.

Now, to keep all this machinery going. so essential to the welfare of the soldiers and the happiness of their homes, at least thirty thousand dollars are required every month. It is from the Central Treasury that the money for such expenses is drawn; and it is in this view that, while its branches in the Supply Department may be full to overflowing, the Commission may be hard pushed to continue its operations in the fivefold way which experience and wisdom have demonstrated to be necessary for the complete success of any one department. Besides,

all the agents, and they must be hundreds, in all the departments are paid agents, as they ought to be, both for effectiveness and discipline. There is the system of transportation also, independent of the regular army medical department, which enables succor to be immediate upon the battle-field, and there is the outlay for every form of relief at every battle.

For all these purposes ready money is essential. It must be as sure an income as that of any other business, and it must last while the war lasts, or this great mercy must stop. Now the revenue for the work is drawn and can be drawn only from the hearts of the people, for in this case it is the heart that opens the purse. The money given is the Peter's pence of the crusade of humanity in which the nation is engaged. Who wishes it to stop? Who, if he had but twopence, and a son or brother or friend in the war, but would say, "One of them shall be for Peter, whose name this time is Uncle Sam."


THERE is one gross injustice to our soldiers which Congress should not lose a week in correcting, and that is the pay of the colored troops. If colored men are apes, don't enlist them. If the prejudice of race and color is insuperable, yield to it. But why should the American people do an unpardonably mean thing? If we are ashamed to acknowledge the heroism of the colored troops at Milliken's Bend, at Port Hudson, at Fort Wagner—upon every field, in fact, and in every battle where they have been tried—let us at least be manly enough to say to them, "We can not treat you honorably, so go home!"

Man for man, the colored troops at present enlisted are not inferior to any of our soldiers. Whole regiments were recruited under the express statement from Washington that they were to be treated like all other soldiers. Whole regiments, finding that we did not keep our word, have declined to receive any pay whatever, and have respectfully preferred to wait until we were ready to fulfill our promises, meanwhile performing cheerfully the most incessant and onerous duties. How long would any regiment of white men, however brave and loyal, which had been enlisted like the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts (colored), under the promise of thirteen dollars a month and three dollars and a half for clothing, remain quiet under a monthly payment of seven dollars and three additional for clothing? And who would blame them for demanding the fulfillment of the contract or a release from service?

Do we at this moment need all the stalwart arms we can gather to the national cause or not? Is this a time when we can wisely disband the fifty or sixty thousand colored soldiers already in the service? And is there one Senator or Representative in Congress, excepting Fernando Wood's men, who does not know that the people wish the colored troops to be paid equally with all others? "I suppose my body will stop a bullet as well as another," said a colored soldier with bitter sarcasm.

The prejudice from which this injustice springs is part of the foul fruit of slavery. What is called an instinctive antipathy is merely the feeling inevitably associated with the color of an enslaved race. If the Thracians had been of a blue complexion, the Romans would have declared that they had an instinctive antipathy to blue men. For why should not a Frenchman or an Englishman have it toward the black race as well as we? "How did you feel," naively asked a gentleman, at a dinner-table in this city, of an Englishman who had been describing a visit to the West Indies, "when you found yourself sitting at table between two colored men?" "They were gentlemen," was the answer, and I felt as I do at this moment."

But the point for every honest man to ponder is this: We invited the colored men to fight for us: they have shown themselves brave, clever, and obedient, and we refuse to pay them what we pay other soldiers. Not to speak again of the sheer breach of faith and wanton injustice of such conduct, a distinction like this, even if it were honorably made, tends to maintain a feeling of caste which would be fatal to the army. All that we ask is fair play for every man who will risk his life for the country; and against foul play, whether with Americans, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Irishmen, or Germans, whether with white, black, or red men, we shall not fail to protest as earnestly and persistently as we can.


THERE are two policies of the restoration of the Union. One is that of the Copperheads, and the other that of the Administration and the Union men of the country. The first proposes that whenever the rebel leaders lay down their arms and take the oath to the Constitution the National armies shall be disbanded. The other proposes that, until the country has received some satisfactory proof that the rebellion is destroyed, and not merely smothered, it shall hold the rebel district by arms.

For instance, we advance into Georgia. The rebel army, let us suppose, surrenders. The people take the oath. A provisional Governor

is appointed by the National authority, and he orders an election. Who shall vote? "Why, of course," cry the Copperheads, "those who are voters under the State Constitution!" Very well. The election is held, and a tool of Stephens or of Toombs, or Robert Toombs himself, is elected Governor. What will you do? Shall the Government order General Grant to evacuate Georgia? Is the State restored to the Union and peace secured? Or if in Mississippi Jefferson Davis—under another name, but equally false to the Government—is elected Governor according to the forms of the State Constitution, is he to be recognized and the troops withdrawn?

No citizen of the United States acts so absurdly in his smallest private matters. Does any body suppose that collectively those citizens will play the fool? Have they been sending their sons and brothers to be murdered for nothing? Do they mean to put a premium upon treason and rebellion? If the Constitution did not enable them to settle the question as it should be settled, their common sense would supersede the Constitution. The Copperhead theory of the Constitution is simply that of the rebels. It is, in their view, an instrument to prevent the maintenance of the United States Government, and to secure the success of rebellion. All the dreary twaddle about the sovereignty of States is but an echo of Calhoun's theory, which was expressly devised to cover disunion and destroy the National supremacy.

The plan which already commends itself to public approval is that of the Administration. It proposes first to occupy the rebel States by force of the national arms; then to appoint a provisional governor, who may order an election. By what authority? By that of the United States. And the same authority—not the State Constitution—will decree when, where, and under what conditions, that election shall be held. If it result in the election of men who conform to these conditions, they become the rightful government of the State, because they represent the people of the State who are loyal to the United States. If these people are but a tenth of the inhabitants, and can not enforce their authority upon the rest, the United States Government helps them by force of arms, as it is bound to do by the Constitution. When that loyal State authority shall inform the Government of the United States that it is able to maintain itself the national force will be withdrawn.

Now the paramount condition of the election must be the oath against slavery, and this for two reasons, First, because the only sensible hope of quiet lies in the release of the people of the South from the control of a slaveholding aristocracy; and, second, because the overthrow of the system is the end to political intrigue at the North based upon slavery. There is no doubt whatever that so long as that absurd contradiction of the American principle, and conscience, and policy endures, just so long the peace of the country will be threatened. Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, a Southerner, a slaveholder, a Democrat, expresses the sense of the American people in saying: "Slavery has been the destroying element which tried to put down the Government, and the Government should put it down immediately and forever."


SENATOR WILSON has done well in withdrawing his resolutions for the expulsion of Senator Garrett Davis. The letter of Mr. Davis declares that he meant only a legitimate Parliamentary opposition to the measures of the Government, and there is no reason for doubting his sincerity. He is a man who inspires more sympathy than indignation, because his temper is so furious and ungovernable that every time he speaks upon public affairs he becomes a melancholy spectacle, and he has lived through three years of the war without comprehending in the least degree either its cause or its inevitable consequence. The speeches and resolutions of such a gentleman must be patiently endured, like those of Mr. Roebuck in the British Parliament, or of the Copperhead orators in our own House of Representatives.

Mr. Garrett Davis is a statesman who believes that if a few secessionists and a few abolitionists had been hung four or five years ago there would have been no trouble. That civil wars are always the conflict of ideas and not of men, he does not perceive. He undoubtedly thinks that if Martin Luther had been quietly poisoned there would have been no Protestant Reformation, and if only Patrick Henry had been throttled, the American revolution would have been avoided. But all such men are fruit, they are not trees. So long as the trees last the fruit will be generated. Every form of injustice, of despotism, of tyranny, will forever produce enemies. You may shoot John Hampden, but you have not wounded civil Liberty. You may strike Charles Sumner into silence, but the barbarism of slavery will still be denounced. On the other hand, you may hang Jefferson Davis, but slavery will breed Davises of every kind as long as it lasts.

If Senator Davis were a younger man he might at last comprehend these simple truths of human nature and of history. But if, as Confucius said, a man never changes his habits after

he is forty years old, how much less can a politician be expected to change his views after he is seventy? As long as he sits in Congress Mr. Davis will divide his wrath between the partisans of Slavery and the friends of Liberty, and believe ardently and sincerely that if you wish to prevent nettles from stinging you must reprove them severely.


THE rebellion will not break up like a frozen river in spring; and amidst its waning fortunes we are not to forget that it has still a large, brave, and trained army, led by desperate chiefs, and that this army will not disappear until it has struck some strenuous blows. General Schenck, of Ohio, said pertinently in Congress last week that we must be prepared for wild movements from the rebels in extremity. For undoubtedly they will mass their forces and fall with overpowering weight upon some point of our extended lines. Exactly where they will strike it is impossible to say; nor is it unreasonable to suppose that their first onslaught may be successful. We can therefore only be prepared, and not be dismayed by the surprise.

Yet there are certain points of cardinal importance, where a rebel surprise or success should be impossible. East Tennessee, for instance, is a position so important that its possession was deemed worthy of a special call for national Thanksgiving from the President but a few weeks since. Its value to us and its necessity to the rebels are known to every soldier and civilian in the country. Any mishap there, therefore, would be simply unpardonable. The nation has the clearest right to require that, whatever occurs elsewhere, East Tennessee shall be held. It is certainly unfortunate that we should have heard of General Grant's presence in St. Louis simultaneously with the falling back of our forces before Longstreet toward Knoxville; for what becomes of our Thanksgiving of two months ago if Longstreet can seriously threaten Knoxville now? That should not be a debatable point; for any disaster in that region would shake public confidence more than any other conceivable event, except a successful rebel advance upon Washington.


Nor to put too fine a point upon it, does any body really believe that Messrs. Vallandigham, Bayard, Brooks, Saulsbury, Seymour, & Co. are more loyal to the Constitution, or more anxious that the liberties of every citizen and the dignity of each State and of the nation shall be preserved than Mr. Lincoln and the mass of the people in the loyal States?

Does any body sincerely suppose that, if these gentlemen were charged with the conduct of this war, a permanent and prosperous and honorable peace would be obtained more speedily than it will probably be under the present authorities?

Does any body doubt that if Mr. Jefferson Davis, and Judah Benjamin, and Robert Toombs could have their way they would prefer to have the Government of the United States in the hands of Messrs. Seymour, Vallandigham, & Co.? And would it be because they suppose that rebels would be compelled to submit to the authority of the Government, or because they believe that, with the Government in such hands, the rebels could dictate terms of settlement?

Why is it, that, in the third year of a terrible war to maintain the Union and Constitution, the people of the country have overwhelmingly repudiated the men who claim to be distinctively the friends of the Union and the Constitution? Because not one of them—whatever he has said—has given proof of any sounder knowledge of the Constitution or sincerer devotion to the Union than Mr. Lincoln, or General Butler, or Andrew Johnson, or Mayor Swan of Baltimore.

The gentlemen who have been politically known heretofore as the most supple tools of the leaders now in rebellion—who have held with Governor Seymour, even if they have not said, as he has, that, if the Union could not be saved without destroying slavery, it might slide—these gentlemen claim to be peculiarly jealous of the principles of the Constitution and of the rights of the people. Why, then, do the people repudiate them?

Because, not to put too fine a point upon it, they do not believe them.


WE have alluded several times to the fact that in January, 1861, when the rebels were preparing to overthrow by force the Government of the United States, Fernando Wood apologized to Robert Toombs that he could not help him obtain arms for that purpose. In other words, the new apostle of peace regretted that he could not furnish Toombs and the rebels with rifles to shoot loyal American citizens. We put upon record here the words of that apology:

"Hon. Robert Toombs, Milledgeville, Georgia:

"In reply to your dispatch I regret to say that arms intended for and consigned to the State of Georgia have been seized by the police of this State, but that the city of New York should in no way be made responsible for the outrage.

"As Mayor, I have no authority over the police. If I had the power, I should summarily punish the authors of this illegal and unjustifiable seizure of private property.


This is the gentleman who waxes so pathetic over the shedding of brothers' blood, and proposes to send commissioners to Richmond to ask his friend Toombs upon what terms he will submit to the laws




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