McClellan Receives 1864 Democratic Nomination for President


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, January 9, 1864

Harper's Weekly was the most popular newspaper published during the Civil War. These newspapers were read by many Americans hungry for news of the war, and perhaps a glimpse at the outcome of battles fought by their loved ones. Today, these papers are an invaluable tool for students and researchers wanting more insight into the war.

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Rebel Sharpshooters

McClellan Nomination

McClellan  Presidential Nomination

Averill Expedition

General Averill's Expedition


Battle of Ringgold

Fort Saunders

Fort Saunders

Prisoner's Poem


Bombardment of Charleston

Remington Revolver



Fort Saunders

Battle Fort Saunders








[JANUARY 9, 1864.




WE have the right to wish our friends a HAPPY NEW YEAR, for a year never opened more full of promise for the country and the cause, dear to all faithful hearts. No man who truly comprehended the magnitude of our war, or who has thoughtfully studied its development, could have expected that we should stand at this time with so firm a hold upon the future as we have. Forced to learn to fight while we were fighting, we have patiently learned our lesson, amidst the doubts of friends and sneers of foes, until at last the fidelity, tenacity, and courage of the people begin to tell against their enemies, and the great experiment of free popular government, victorious in domestic as it has always been in foreign war, was never surer of its triumphant vindication than on New-year's Day eighteen hundred and sixty-four.

This confession is extorted from the bitter lips of our steadiest enemies at home and abroad. Directly, by its words, the British aristocratic jealousy of a republic concedes that, without foreign intervention, we shall prevail in the contest; and, indirectly, by their acts the rebels allow the desperation of their cause. The late law of the rebel Congress compelling every private soldier, non-commissioned officer, and musician to serve for the war, regardless of the conditions of enlistment; the law forcing those who have supplied substitutes to take place in the ranks by their side, the demand that the rebel currency shall be reduced by force, the terrible revelations of Memminger's report, with the wild rancor of abuse in the message of that "accomplished statesman," Jefferson Davis, and the resolutions offered by Foote in the rebel Congress—all these are signs that the greater resources and unquailing energy of the American people directed in the interest of humanity, civilization, and law, against a colossal conspiracy of crime and anarchy, begin already to be successful.

Surely the year may be hailed as happy that opens upon such a prospect—happy though a thousand hearts ache, and America, like Rachel, weeps for her children, who shall return no more. But dead, they yet speak, and shall speak forever. Unseen they hold as fast in love and honor to the holy cause for which they fell. The young, the brave, the true, who by night and day, through summer and winter, on land and sea, have died that we may live, have consecrated us all to their own heroic fidelity. The land mourns—it is full of graves; but what the President so simply and solemnly said of Gettysburg is true also of the country: "The world will not note nor long remember what we say here, but will never forget what they did here."

The year that begins brings us nearer to the end of great military operations, and to the settlement of the war. Standing upon its threshold, with hearts saddened for those who are gone, and hopeful for those who are to come, let us take are through this year and through all years, to stand as fast for the victory our brothers in the field have won as they stood firm in winning it.


THE late speech of Mr. Wendell Phillips has naturally provoked a great deal of censure. His sharp and direct criticisms upon men and measures can not fail to exasperate the friends of both, and his sarcasms, while they sparkle, sting. We do not agree with Mr. Phillips in his estimate of the President, of Mr. Seward, or of Mr. Chase; and we certainly do not acknowledge the justice of a criticism of the public action of public men which takes no account of circumstances. Statesmanship is no more the doing, or the attempt to do, what the statesman may individually think to be abstractly right, without regard to the conditions that surround him, than seamanship is laying a course and persisting in it, spite of the wind. In fact, the wind will control the ship, and public opinion the statesman.

Probably no man in the country would more heartily assent to this than Mr. Phillips; and the apparent injustice of his criticism of public men arises from the fact that he always regards the man instead of the officer. If the attainment of the end desired depended solely upon the will of the man, the work would always be easy enough. But when the cardinal condition of success is the consent of other men, the work is plainly difficult and gradual. If Mr. Phillips made the point clearer, not that the President ought to do this or that, but that the people ought to wish him to do it, and insist upon his doing it, he would be juster to what we suppose to be his real view.

For it should be borne in mind always, that there is but one key to all the discourses of this eloquent orator. A true Democrat, with the fullest faith in the people, even in "the pavement," as he expresses it, his constant purpose is to stimulate, enlighten, and elevate public opinion, in order that its servants, the magistrates,

may obey it. Mr, Lincoln, he says, is a good man; he will do what the people wish; therefore the people must be made to wish the best thing. That is certainly fair enough. But when he adds that the President is a growing man, because we, the people, constantly water him, then, as it seems to us, the orator misapprehends the case. It is not the convictions of Mr. Lincoln, but the executive action of the President, that we water. A few years since Mr. Phillips called Mr. Lincoln the slave-hound of Illinois, and yet, three years before, this slave-hound had made the plainest statement of the vital and radical conflict between slavery and liberty in this country. Mr. Lincoln has learned upon that point nothing new. His convictions about slavery are substantially now what they have always been. So his view of his military power over it was exactly the same when he nullified the orders of Generals Fremont and Hunter that it was when he issued the final order of January 1, 1863. But his convictions as a man, and his power as a magistrate to fulfill them, are entirely different. He had no doubt, as appears from his letters to Generals Fremont and Hunter, that he had the right to emancipate slaves as a military measure, and he certainly had no doubt that slavery was the root of the rebellion. But he did not, for that reason, think it wise to begin the war by emancipation. For he was acting not upon his own convictions as to slavery and its relation to the war, but upon his conviction of what was wisest to be done under all the circumstances. Had he acted otherwise he might have been a very good man, but he would certainly have been a very poor officer.

It is not, therefore, the President who is growing, but the popular conviction upon the subject of slavery. And we certainly know no man who has more faithfully and copiously watered that than Mr. Phillips. His work in arousing the public mind to the real issue of our times is already as historic as that of James Otis at an earlier day. Like him he has been, of course, hated and defamed by the interest he attacks, and also, like him, has often outrun the sympathy and tried the patience of many friends of the cause he serves. But in censuring him his critics should understand exactly his position. It is that of a man who will not be content with any thing done so long as any thing remains to do; who believes that selfishness is always alert, and that the only way for men and nations not to go backward is to go forward. But to go forward they must be incessantly urged, and the urging must often be sharp and stern. While, therefore, he is glad of every step gained, he leaves to others the part of sitting down and congratulation. For himself he steps forward and asks, What next?

Now this is the spirit which saves society. It is not genial, however sweet and friendly the man inspired by it may be. It must be always in the minority; for the moment the path is accepted and popular the pioneer is already far out of sight, demolishing new impediments. It seems often rough and unfeeling; for sleepers can not be always or wisely roused by gentle taps and soothing tones. The office of this spirit, of which the career of Mr. Phillips is our most complete illustration, is to discover in good things how they may be made better; how men may become more manly, and America more American. The President, for instance, can supply reasons enough for what he has done. Mr. Phillips would supply public opinion with reasons for asking him to do more. These reasons may be good or bad; but a man whose purity of life and nobility of character, no less than his genius consecrated to human progress, class him among the truest Americans, is not to be disposed of as a scold or a professional caviler. For it is precisely such men as he who have kept the sacred fire of liberty burning in this country, while other men sneered and slept.


AT length General McClellan is first in the field. More unfortunate in his friends than in his enemies, he has been formally nominated for the Presidency by a knot of gentlemen in Philadelphia, of whom—to make an intelligible bull—the only one who is publicly known has been long ago forgotten. For the Hon. Amos Kendall is only remembered with scornful pity as the Postmaster-General of the United States, who tampered with the mails at the bidding of the master of the men who are now rebels. That he should preside at a meeting to nominate or to ratify the nomination of a candidate for the Presidency who, since his letter to Judge Woodward, must be considered a Copperhead of the clearest type, shows that he is of the same mind still, and that his age worships the dreary old idol of his youth.

Alas! when we think of two years ago, when, amidst universal acclamation, General McClellan was called to the head of our armies, with the hope and faith of a nation lavished upon him in advance, with thousands and thousands of our best and bravest soldiers committed joyfully to his charge, with the President, his only superior officer, resolved to give him every chance, with the national determination that he was a great soldier because a great soldier was a national necessity—when we think of all that fond and

persistent blindness in which we shared, and of all that has followed since down to the letter urging the election of Judge Woodward—it is hard not to hang the head with sorrow for the soldier and shame for the nation. But when from that letter we descend, although logically, to this nomination, the tragedy becomes farce, and it is impossible not to explode with laughter.

For granting that he is a very great man, is this the body of politicians who have ever shown any true perception of the public sentiment? Did this not of gentlemen, by whatever name they choose to call themselves, ever do more than make themselves politically ridiculous? When they nominated Mr. Fillmore in 1856, and Mr. Bell in 1860, they intended to help the slave-holders as they do now. They were in the political market, but they never pretended, as now, to lay hands upon the prize beef and spoil it by handling. They offered their flabby little veal chops, and knew that the great beef dealers would buy them up. But this time they put their label upon the prime sirloin, upon the baron itself. Do they seriously expect the Copperhead Convention to take a candidate from them?

General McClellan will perhaps thank Mr. Amos Kendall and his friends for this expression of their good-will, but will await a more emphatic indication of the public desire. Or he may delay, and give time for that outburst of popular enthusiasm which we have been constantly assured was to follow the presentation of his name to the country. Or, again, he may accept the nomination upon the platform of his Woodward letter. Or he may let the whole matter go by default. But it is useless to consider what he may do with this nomination, when we remember, as every man will, that all the friends of Vallandigham, all the apologists of the rebellion, all the Copperheads in the country will ratify it. And can any man, or any course, which the Copperheads approve save the honor of the nation, the integrity of the Union, and republican government? You may be a loyal citizen, and may think that justice has not been done to General McClellan; but you can not evade that searching question, and you can give it but one answer.


THAT the rebels give the best food they can to our prisoners in their hands may be true, but the best food is neither plenty enough nor of the right kind to support life. We know of a letter of late date from General Neal Dow, at the Libey Prison in Richmond, in which he says that his fare is a little flour mixed with a little water—in other words, flour paste. Of course the fate of the private soldiers is worse than his; and an eye-witness of the return of our starved prisoners to Annapolis describes to us their suffering condition as incredible.

This, then, is the way in which the rebels make good their threat of the black flag. They do not massacre their prisoners outright, but drag them away to starve in loathsome dungeons. For, as we have before said, it is no excuse that there is no better fare to give them. If the rebels can not treat prisoners honorably they have no right to take them. If, taking them, they persist in such inhuman conduct, it is manifestly the duty of the Government to set aside prisoners for retaliation—not in kind, of course, but by punishment. When it shall be clearly proved that our captive soldiers have been put to death by torture, by starvation and exposure, the retribution upon rebel captives should be swift and sure. Terrible as it is to retaliate, when the safety of our own men can be secured in no other way, it is one of the most imperative necessities of a state of war.

Do not let us become callous to the tales of horror which come wailing up from Richmond merely because they are incessant. Let the hapless prisoners who are there, and the soldiers in the field who have that possible fate before them, understand that the people hear their sighs and comprehend their fears, and will insist that in this matter the rebels shall be held to the sternest account.


Now that, in obedience to the demands of national common-sense, colored men are enrolled as soldiers, every citizen ought to insist that they shall have exactly the same treatment, chance, and pay as other soldiers. Hitherto they have been paid, under a general law regulating the labor of contrabands, ten dollars a month. This sum was offered to the freemen of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth, the first colored regiment raised in the Free States, and they declined it. The State of Massachusetts then resolved to pay the soldiers the difference, and Major Sturgis was sent with the money to Morris Island. But they declined that. Was this unreasonable upon their part? Let us see.

These men, free citizens of the United States, were enlisted in Massachusetts under the express written guarantee of the Secretary of War to the Governor of Massachusetts that they were to stand exactly upon the same footing with all other soldiers. Every body who knows the feelings of the Secretary of War in this matter knows that such was his wish. With that solemn

assurance the men were mustered in, and have proved themselves as heroic and docile and patient as soldiers can be. And they simply decline any thing less than bare justice. They do not mutiny. They make no trouble whatever. They say simply that the United States Government pledged its honor, and they will wait the fulfillment of the pledge.

Is this unreasonable? Would any white regiment do otherwise? And have we a right to require of men, whom we are so ready to call less than men, more than our own average manhood?

The remedy is immediate and thorough. Instead of wasting time in abusing men who merely claim what we all confess that we owe, let us urge upon Congress the passage of a law to pay these soldiers of the Union army exactly what other soldiers are paid. For if we reproach those who ask the same wages that others get for the same service, what shall we say of ourselves who hesitate for a moment in agreeing to the demand? The Secretary of War has recommended the passage of the necessary law. Is it unreasonable in the soldiers concerned quietly to await its passage?


THERE has been another illustration of the generous manly art of self-defense. The London papers give copious details. The news is transmitted across the sea as an affair of public interest. The story has large headings in our own papers. But what is it? Simply that one man has tried to squeeze the breath out of another and failed, while the other pommeled the squeezer to a jelly. There are several columns of the story. There are editorials in the Times, in the Saturday Review, in almost all of the great papers. It is very fine, it is very noble, it is very manly, and full of the heroic art of self-defense; but there was a much more remarkable occurrence in London a few weeks ago, which has most lamentably failed of that universal popular interest which waits upon the reduction of a big man to a jelly.

A man in London called a cab at a railway station just after dark. He and his wife and two children stepped in and the driver drove as directed. On the way the cabman is told to stop at a public house for some porter. It is drunk by the passengers and the pot handed out. By-and-by the gentleman calls to the driver to let him out, but to drop the lady and children at a certain point. The gentleman moves off; the cab drives away, and when it reaches the point and cabby alights and opens the door he sees the woman and children dead; murdered in a cab quietly driving in the evening through London streets. Here is a matter infinitely more remarkable and important than the beating a man to a jelly; but alas! it has had no large headings, and doubtless many a reader now knows it for the first time.

If two men should train themselves to lift heavy weights, and then strike each other with sledge-hammers, it would be much the same thing as hardening their muscle to iron and then fighting with their fists. But why is it manly? Why is it any thing but a melancholy dehumanizing of men? Why should any body feel a livelier or more elevated interest in it than in the butting and goring of prize bulls? Of course we do not deny that there is the profoundest interest. But why is that particular form of brutality, and utter want of every distinctive manly trait, so fascinating that it must be elaborately reported, and telegraphed, and commented upon? The persons who congregate to see the show are bullies, blacklegs, sharpers, the dregs of human society. Their haunts are the dens of ignorance, bestiality, and infamy. The encounter is an outrage upon the law and common decency. Why, then, should respectable papers do more than chronicle the fact, as they do all other events painful or pleasing, elevating or disgusting? Would there be the public interest which they plead in justification if they did not pander to it?


THE rebels resolved some time since that all our colored troops taken in war should be handed over to the State authorities and their officers hung. Since then we have heard of the hanging of such officers and men in Arkansas, and we know of the probable capture of others. How true is the Arkansas story, and what is the fate of such prisoners? The President promptly and righteously declared that he should retaliate for any ill-usage they might receive. But is care taken to ascertain their precise condition? We have already a colored army. The examinations for commissions in it are properly careful and strict. The officers are men of character and conviction, as well as of military skill and personal courage. They are among the best and noblest in the land, and they face peculiar perils. Does the Government know at this moment how many such officers, with their men, are prisoners, and what their treatment is? If not, is it not especially bound to ascertain? When it invites young men to peculiar peril, does it mean to surround them with less than ordinary care?

We ask the questions not supposing that there is neglect, but because of the singular mystery which overhangs the whole subject. Of every officer, for instance, who fell or was captured at the assault upon Fort Wagner we have accounts, except of (Next Page)




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