Jefferson Davis Request to Be Dictator


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, April 1, 1865

This WEB site features an online archive of all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These newspapers have in depth news reports, and illustrations created by eye-witnesses. This resource allows the serious student of the war to create a more in depth understanding of the important people and events of the war.

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


Sherman's March

Sherman's March Through South Carolina

Jefferson Davis Dictator

Jefferson Davis Dictator Power

Confederate Gold

Jefferson Davis Seizes Confederate Gold

Sherman Carolinas

Sherman's March Through Carolinas

Carolinas in the Civil War

Cavalry Raid

General Kilpatrick's Cavalry Raid

Rebel Cartoon

Rebel Cartoon



Columbia, South Carolina

Hilton Head

Hilton Head








[APRIL 1, 1865.



UP from the ground at break of day,
When the bugle's note is heard,

From the cold, hard ground, where all night we lay, To rise with the waking bird. Right merrily our sabres ring

As we scour along on our steeds

Oh, true and tried are the hearts of those Whom the brave Kilpatrick leads !

Away, away, o'er the plain we go, Away on our steeds so fleet!

Ah, well the foeman's path we know ' By the print of the foeman's feet! So on we ride while our sabres ring A merrily sounding tune,

By field and river and wooded steep To the halt which comes with noon.

And then in the forest's welcome shade, 'Neath the pine-trees dark and high, We rest till the burning heat is past From the Southern noonday sky.

Then up and away o'er the rolling plain,

Away on our gallant steeds !

What foe is there whom we would not dare When the brave Kilpatrick leads?

Of Northern steel our good blades are, Our carbines are true of aim;

The Southern traitor hears with dread

The sound of our leader's name.
Oh, wild is the life we troopers live,

But a merrier none may know,

To scour the plain on our gallant steeds

In search of the traitorous foe !

And when on the battle-field we meet,

And loud on the echoing air

The bugles sound, and quick in the sun

Our blades gleam bright and bare,.

Away we go at the one word charge,

With a cheer, at the flying foe,

While the bullets sing, and our scabbards ring,

And the bugles loudly blow !

Oh, long shall the tale of our deeds be told

When this cruel war shall cease,
On winter eves, by the glowing hearth,

When the land shall be blessed with peace And long shall live in the hearts of all

Our valiant leader's fame,

And our children lisp with their infant lips The brave Kilpatrick's name.




FROM the glimpses opened by SHERMAN, and furnished by the rebel journals, and the message of JEFFERSON DAVIS, it is not difficult to understand the condition of public sentiment at the South. There is the original fire eating war party, of which DAVIS is the gloomy chief. To this belong the mass of the women and the aristocracy of the plantations. The young men of this party are in the army, and the army is controlled by the Richmond cabal. The adherents of this party retire before our advance. They desert their town houses for the interior, grimly hoping that accumulating disaster may drive every body to their own desperation. Then there is the small party of original Unionists, of whom Mr. PETTIGRU was a chief. They have been utterly overpowered, and in the ruder districts remorselessly slaughtered for their fidelity. Beside these there are the Unionists of whom Mr. AIKEN is a representative ; those whose sympathies are entirely Southern. but who thought secession a dangerous mistake. Beyond these is the great party of those who acquiesce in the situation whatever it may be; who submit quietly to the rule of the rebellion, and with equal passivity to that of the Government.

In addition to these there are the slaves, who are much the largest party of all. They are the most faithful of the whole population of the Southern States. Despite their ignorance, and the careful falsehoods of the rebel chiefs, they know perfectly well that the Yankees are their friends. Notwithstanding the criminal blunders of Generals HALLECK and McCLELLAN, a sure instinct keeps the slaves true to us. The best information for our armies and fleets comes from them. Escaping Union soldiers, whether in Louisiana, Georgia, Carolina, or Virginia, make straight for the negro quarters. There they are fed, cheered, and guided. One officer, making his way through the heart of the rebel region to our lines, traveled two hundred miles without seeing a white man. He went by night and was passed along to freedom by friendly black hands. The slaves have been forced to work upon the rebel fortifications. They speak freely of it; but they have one answer when asked what they will do if they are armed by the rebels. They will shoot behind. The slave masters are not ignorant of this, and therefore they are opposed to arming them. It is the same knowledge which made LEE'S Adjutant-General declare that the opinions of the soldier would not impair his military efficiency, if only discipline were severe enough. In other words, this wiseacre thinks that a man will fight just as well for his slavery as his liberty if he is only drilled sufficiently.

In all our meditations upon reconstruction we must constantly remember these various groups. The fire eaters and those who have been conspicuous in rebellion will always retain a certain hate of the Union and Government. But they will be the smallest element of the population, and constantly dwindle by exile as they have been destroyed by the war. They will be the most dangerous political allies, because they will constantly compromise any party with which they may act. The Aiken Unionists and the acquiescers will be disposed to co-operate with their old political friends at the North. But the true Union men of the South, of whom JOSEPH HOLT and the Maryland liberals are the noblest representatives, will accept with all their hearts the new conditions of the country, and become the active power in the Southern regeneration, as the fire eaters were in the Southern rebellion. With these must be counted the late slaves, the great laboring population. They will be enfranchised, we have little doubt, by the sagacity of the new party in the Southern States as a permanent security against reaction. When that is done, there will be no more " natural antipathy" to the African than to the Asian, or to the European. The rebels have discovered that a colored man is as good as any other if he will only fight for them. We shall find that he is no worse than others if he will only vote with us.

The work of reconstruction will be done by those who are in earnest, both at the North and South. And as the vast cloud of ignorance which has overshadowed the whole South scatters and lifts, and the people there are enabled to see their country and understand their Government, they will have touched the bottom of the slough in which slavery and State sovereignty had plunged them.


THE little effort of the rebel chiefs in Richmond, in concert with their sympathizing organs in New York, to make it appear that the Government is averse to peace, is amusing and natural, but not successful.

DAVIS and the Copperheads know perfectly well that under no circumstances will the Government of the United States treat with any agent of the rebels, civil or military, as the representative of a nation or of a legitimate separate government. If DAVIS or LEE, or any rebel soldier or civilian, has made up his mind that the rebellion is a failure, he can have peace by submitting to the authority of his lawful Government. There has never been any other condition, and there never will be. If General LEE should write to General GRANT that he wishes to cease his resistance to the laws, and acknowledge the national authority, General GRANT would at once accept his surrender. But when LEE writes a letter, as he did on the 2d of March, speaking of arrangements and negotiations, General GRANT properly replies that he is a soldier, and that his business is suppression of the rebellion by force of arms.

DAVIS and his New York friends lose their pains. The case is clear. The "negotiation" policy has been fully exposed. It was the attempt of DAVIS to get a little breathing timeto gain the chance of saying that the Government were resolved upon reducing him and his fellow citizens of " the Confederacy" to submission, and to give his Northern abettors the opportunity of denouncing the Government as bar-ring the door to peace. Oh no ! The Government holds it wide open with both hands. Submit to the authority of the laws, it says, and you shall have peace. Until you do submit you will feel war.


IN the doomed city of Richmond JEFFERSON DAVIS still plays his ghastly part. He has sent another message to the remains of the rebel Congress. He says in it that " our country is in danger," and that the " capital is in greater danger than it has been at any time during the war." He then proceeds to ask the Congress to complete by law the military despotism over which he presides.

We must have money, he says. The army must be paid. It should be paid in coin. The proper officers report that two millions of dollars in coin will supply the army for the remainder of the year. Pass a law to make the coin available. Let me seize the gold for the army.

The impressment law, he continues, is tedious and uncertain in its operation. Sometimes owners of property refuse to part with it. Let the supplies be estimated at their value in coin. Give the obligation of the Government to pay in coin when it can. Then pass a law to let me impress provisions for the army.

Congress, he adds, has done very foolishly in not increasing taxation. It has also been very dilatory in passing the act to raise negro troops. Besides this " a law of a few lines repealing all class exemptions" would enable me to put every man into the field, and to have the papers edited by my tools and all the civil service performed by my own creatures.

We need a new militia law, says DAVIS, which shall override that of the States. One Governor informs me that he has not the power to call out

the militia in one county for service in another. Such State rights are folly.

I wish also, he continues, to have the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus suspended. If this is ever to be done, now is the time. Suspend it at once. He concludes by saying that General ORD told General LONGSTREET that there might be a chance of settling " the present unhappy difficulties" by an informal conference between General GRANT and General LEE ; but when on the 2d of March General LEE proposed such a conference, General GRANT replied that he had no authority to act. It remains only then, says DAVIS, to commend our sacred cause to God and our own valor. Pass the laws I recommend; then go home and encourage the people.

That the rebel Congress would put all the available money and food of their section at the disposition of JEFFERSON DAVIS that they would allow him the absolute control of every person, either to put into the army or into prison at his pleasure and thus by law make him what he asks to be, absolute Dictator, was hardly to be expected. They have declined to do any thing he asks, and have gone home.

His message will be an authorized cry of despair to his foreign supporters. How JOHN SLIDELL will chuckle that, while DAVIS has had all the bitterness and anxiety and struggle, he has performed his part of the rebellion in Paris, comfortably ensconced in airy apartments, tranquilly trundling on pleasant afternoons in the Bois de Boulogne, gambling all night in the finest society, with his money quite secure from his friend DAVIS'S tax gatherers, and his precious person safe from a very doubtful habeas corpus. History will concede that SLIDELL was the shrewdest rebel of them all.


A NEW YORKER contemplates his city with complacency. He moves among the busy streets down town, passes up Broadway, and looks with pride upon the long ranges of stately houses radiating from Madison Square. It is a very beautiful city, he says to himself, with satisfaction ; and if the population is not so large as that of some European cities, it is at least nearly a million of people, who are remarkably comfortable.

That is certainly a just inference from the parts of the city of which we have spoken. But if the complacent observer will hear a few facts about the parts and people of the city that he has not seen in Wall Street, Broadway, or the Fifth Avenue, he will walk a little less proudly and speak more humbly.

Of this population, then, 78,000 live in damp, dark, dreary cellars, often under water, close to the most loathsome sinks, overcrowded, and reeking with filth and mortal disease. There is never sound health in them, and the constant sickness rate ranges from 75 to 90 per cent.

Of this population 500,000 live in tenant houses. These buildings are of two classes front and rear. Between them is the well hole, as it is called, in which are the sinks and cesspools, from which the disgusting odor constantly penetrates every recess of the buildings with sickness and death. Every hideous form of misery and vice, hunger, murder, lust, and despair, are found in every corner. There is nothing that makes human nature repulsive or human life intolerable that does not abound in these tenant houses.

It has been estimated by careful investigators that 17 in 1000 persons die annually from inevitable causes. This may be taken as the necessary death rate under the most favorable conditions of life. But the City Inspector's records in the city of New York show that for the 11 years preceding 1860, excepting 1854, the year of the cholera, the death rate was never below 28 in 1000 the average was 33 in 1000, or nearly twice the necessary rate; and twice it exceeded 40 in 1000. So if we take the lowest rate, that of 28 in 1000, New York annually lost by preventable deaths 11 in 1000 of her population, or more than 7000 yearly, making for the whole period 77,000 preventable deaths. Nor need we soothe our consciences with the reflection that we are no worse off than other great cities for, while during the ten years from 1850 to 1860 inclusive, but excluding 1854, the average rate of New York was 33 in 1000, that of London was 22, and that of Philadelphia only 20. Yet year after year the City Inspector of New York serenely declares that New York is one of the healthiest cities in the world, and smug New Yorkers take his word for it !

But if we look a little closer we find that the terrible death rate is in the tenant house region. The Seventeenth Ward has the natural rate of 17 in 1000, but in the Fourth and Sixth wards it varies from 36 to 40 in 1000. And upon a still closer glance it appears that, while the average rate in the Sixth Ward is about 40, the mortality of the large tenant houses is as high as 60 or 70 in 1000.

" The evidence," says Dr. STEPHEN SMITH, in his remarks before the Joint Committee of the Senate and Assembly, from which we take these facts, " proves that at least half a million of its population [the city of New York] are literally submerged in filth, and half stifled in an atmosphere charged with all the elements of

death   It is a city without any sanitary government."

It is here that the work of reform must begin. Moral, intellectual, political progress is impossible until a wise sanitary system is secure. Starving, sick, vicious, despairing men, who live in noisome dens in which horses would die, will neither think, act, vote, nor pray rightly. So long as their physical degradation continues so long their souls will be imbruted. While half of the population of the city live in filth and breathe poison so long the taxes will steadily increase so long the city will continue to be undermined with ferocious passions that endanger its peace and prosperity, so long the politics of the State will be a contest between the ignorance and vice of the city and the intelligence and well being of the country ; and so long every infamous public crime, whether it be slavery, filibustering, riotous resistance to the laws, or open rebellion, will find its vigorous supporters among the squalid and. vicious population of this city. Appeals to the passions, ignorance, and prejudice of this class are the entire political stock in trade of men like FERNANDO WOOD. Purify the stews of New York, and you annihilate such public enemies as he.

The labor of any citizens' association, addressed directly to political reform in this city, is lost before it begins. Lay the axe at the root. Spend your money to make it penal to live underground. Begin by giving every body a chance at fresh air. Liverpool in 1847 had a cellar population of 20,000, and a special ordinance, which forbade living below the street, lifted the great mass into better houses and reduced the mortality of the city. Compel the landlords of the tenant houses to keep them in good repair, to ventilate them thoroughly, to fill them with pure water, to purify the sinks, to remove garbage, and enforce cleanliness among the tenants. When once we have given these poor people a chance of life they will wish to live decently. As their physical condition improves all other improvement becomes possible. But one thing is certain, so long as filth and disease and a death rate of 60 or 70 in 1000 are the portion of half of the population, so long corruption and imbecility will be our governors.


JEFFERSON DAVIS is evidently no longer the chief personage in the rebellion. As President and constitutional Commander-in-Chief he has the superiority of position, but among rebels whose sole hope is the army, the actual Commander, when beloved and trusted as LEE is, is the true master. Doubtless at a word of LEE'S DAVIS would fall from power unpitied, and LEE be saluted absolute Dictator with universal con. sent and enthusiasm.

The reason is plain. JEFFERSON DAVIS is an old politician, and a cold, hard, ambitious man. His position has excited envy and ancient dislikes, and with the evident failure of the rebellion which he has conducted, all opposition becomes mingled hatred and contempt. No new man in his place but must have aroused immense hostility, while an old political leader brought with him the grudges of a lifetime to add to those he daily kindled. Nor is there any thing in DAVIS'S character or manner to relieve, in failure, the jealousy, suspicion, and antipathy which, even if successful, he could not have escaped.

The sunshine of success would have gilded the defects of DAVIS. But in the dark hour of so prolonged and terrible a struggle as this has been when the earlier lights of victory are going out in utter gloom when the larger part of their territory is occupied and paralyzed, and the general apathy and despair of the population foretell their certain failure the rebels who still hold out naturally cling with entire devotion to a soldier who has shared all the personal dangers of their enterprise, who had no political antecedents, who was the object of no old prejudices, jealousies, or quarrels whatever, and who seems to them at once a great captain, and a mild, unselfish, patriotic gentleman. All the faults of detail in administration, all the minor misfortunes and the general disaster, are mercilessly thrown upon the civil and executive head of affairs ; while all that might have been is fondly associated with the popular favorite and military hero. That his heart was not at first with the rebellion; that he is not a great captain; that he has shown no signal ability, are considerations of no moment in presence of his apparent modesty and fidelity. The rebels respect themselves in him. While he remains all is not lost. The very doubt whether they could persuade him to seize supreme power is probably to their minds his brightest ornament.

Indeed, while DAVIS is to the rebels very much what JAMES SECOND was to the Jacobites in England, LEE has all the chivalric charm of Prince CHARLES THE PRETENDER. The romantic devotion which few royalists could feel to the saturnine bigot they could cherish with enthusiasm for the graceful gentleman with no past and alas ! for them with no future. Thus the fiery TOOMBS, whose guilt in this great crime is black, has a thousand political jealousies of DAVIS which he could never have " of LEE. (Next Page)




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