Petersburg Mine Explosion


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 25, 1865

Below we present the February 25, 1865 edition of Harper's Weekly. This original newspaper features important news and illustrations of the war. Our site allows you to read all these original documents online to help you develop a more in depth understanding of this important period in American History.

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


Spring Campaign

Spring Campaign

Mine Explosion

Mine Explosion

Judah Benjamin

Judah P. Benjamin

Philadelphia Fire

Great Philadelphia Fire

Philadelphia Fire

Philadelphia Fire

Black Practitioner

First Black Practitioner


Civil War Clothes

Petroleum Company

Pacific Cost Petroleum Company

Rowanty Creek

The Battle of Rowanty Creek

Home Again

Home Again








[FEBRUARY 25, 1865.


(Previous Page) the left of the Second Corps, but was severely repulsed.

An illustration on page 116, representing a charge made by the First Division of the Fifth Corps, refers to an action which occurred on the morning of the 7th.

The result of the movement, on the whole, has been favorable to us. Our line has been extended a few miles westward, and Petersburg is menaced more seriously than before. We still hold the line of Hatcher's Run.


[" When I, an American, living under the Government founded by the immortal WASHINGTON, visit his tomb, let me not stand there, a stranger, an alien, by the consent of a government founded by rebels and traitors."—From a Union Speech, delivered in Union Square, New York, by the Hon. Chauncey Shaffer.)

WORDS of beauty, power, glory,

How through all the land they ring, Broad and mighty as the music

Rolling from our eagle's wing

As he battles with the tempest,

Scatters clouds that veil the plain, So the glorious sun may sparkle

On its hallowed homes again !

What ? Americans be aliens

Where his native forests bloom?

Beg permission for an hour

By their mighty father's tomb?

What ? resign our rights to treasure Worshiped by a whole wide world? See another nation's banner

On the sacred spot unfurled?

Sooner shall exultant Heaven,

When the very noon is won,

Let the tempest fiends of chaos

Rob her bosom of the sun!

No ! ye impious rebels, traitors,

Ye who rend the very Trust

Left by him no, never, never

Shall ye only own that dust !

All Americans shall guard it

Even ye when Battle's fires

Shall have burnt out of your bosoms Their disloyal, vile desires!

Words of beauty, power, glory,

Ring along the loyal sod!

Loudly ring as when archangels

Smite the thunder-bells of God B

ells of warning to the peoples

Who in Truth's white castles dwell, When en their ramparts are assaulted

By the rebel hosts of hell !



THAT the President knew exactly what Mr. BLAIR wished to say to JEFFERSON DAVIS that he is at the bottom of all the movements for peace that he will flinch and falter when it comes to the point are assertions made and emphasized by some ardent friends of the Union. The one person they are not sure of is the President. The one thing they doubt is his fidelity, or if not that, then his sagacity. They fill the air with grumblings and growlings, and the newspapers with insinuations, and when they have done all they can to depress and discourage the popular heart they sigh and groan with renewed vigor at the want of persistence which the public displays.

If these gentlemen had but a little of the President's unswerving faith and cheerful good sense if they had but their own moderate share of the steady earnestness of the people, they would spare themselves much dismal croaking and their friends an incessant indignation. What was probably true upon a consistent view of the President's whole course is now proved by his own word. In his Message upon the conference he says distinctly that he did not know what Mr. BLAIR wished to say to the rebels. His word disposes of that assertion. The correspondence he transmits shows exactly how much he flinched or was disposed to falter, and effectually annihilates the idle slander that he will betray the national honor in the least degree.

Indeed, nothing but the foolish assumption of four years ago, that Mr. LINCOLN was unfit for his office, can excuse such aspersions and reflections upon his honesty and capacity as are implied in the kind of twaddle of which we are speaking. Those who cling to that assumption reveal their incapacity to judge of public men and affairs. If there is any man in the country who comprehends the scope of the war more fully than the President, who is he? If any man in the country has shown greater skill and sagacity in dealing with the rebellion, where is he? If there is any public man now living in the United States whom the gossips of which we speak would place in Mr. LINCOLN'S chair, what is his name ? We venture to say that there is no man in our history who has shown a more felicitous combination of temperament, conviction, and ability to, grapple with a com-

plication like that in which this country is involved than ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

When the war began there were impatient people who cried, " Oh, for an hour of JACKSON !" But does any man who truly comprehends the character and antecedents of this great struggle, and the infinite patience and wisdom which the settlement of its various questions demands, really think that ANDREW JACKSON'S qualities were those which the situation requires ? Is the great fact of no significance that the vast and threatening opposition to the policy of the Administration has crumbled away before the steady development of that policy, and crumbled without the least yielding of the Administration ? Is it an incident of no meaning that, in the week of the passage of the emancipation amendment by Congress, S. S. Cox, a representative of a kind of " war Democracy," moves the thanks of Congress to the President, and in the same week the notorious FERNANDO WOOD, the most unscrupulous demagogue and " peace" apostle in the country, declares for strenuous war ? Is it nothing that the shrewdest journals of the Opposition, which, from the first shot of the war, cried out with HORATIO SEYMOUR that to touch slavery was to destroy the Constitution, now complacently announce that the Constitutional amendment was always a "Democratic" measure, and that the Democratic party was always an anti-slavery party ? Does any body mean seriously to assert that the active head of an Administration which, in a country like this, frenzied with party-spirit like ours, torn for four years with a vast sectional civil war, and incessantly menaced with foreign interference, has directed public affairs until the army and navy are every where victorious, and the most malignant opponents of the war now openly advocate it and thank the President, who has carried steadily forward a policy which they have steadily denounced does any one mean gravely to assert that such a head is a shiftless, undecided man, ready to sacrifice any principle, forever mousing round for peace, and anxious to buy it at any price ?

There is no man of us all probably who wishes for peace more earnestly than the President. There is certainly no man who is so little likely to surrender any essential point to secure it. The purpose in the war, which he understands the people to cherish, he has plainly iterated and reiterated. The conditions upon which peace is possible, and without which it is impossible, he has as often repeated. Peace can not be made upon the sly or in a corner. Shall we not say plainly, what every loyal citizen sees with pain, that it is the Tribune, which has so long and nobly fought the good fight against the subversion of the Government by the slave power, that now speaks of peace in a strain of cringing obsequiousness to the slave lords in rebellion, which inevitably suggests that it would be willing to make peace upon terms of concession to those lords which the President and all faithful citizens would reject with scorn?


THE explosion of the mine before Petersburg at the end of last July was, in its results, one of the real disasters of the war, because it discouraged the public mind to a degree foolishly disproportioned to the event. It will be remembered that the month of August was one of so general depression that the Chicago Convention felt emboldened to try to carry an election by an appeal to the cowardice of the country. This action at Chicago and the fall of Atlanta dissolved the temporary spell, and the public mind resumed its natural tone of patience and confidence.

The scape goat of the failure at Petersburg and of the petulance of the country was General BURNSIDE. Forgetting his brilliant and distinguished services in North Carolina and East Tennessee; forgetting the developments in regard to the battle of Fredericksburg, which certainly did not leave him culpable forgetting the history of the intrigues in the Army of the Potomac, in the midst of which the one thing steadily clear was the character of BURNSIDE; the disappointment of the mine betrayed the country into an injustice, and the General was most sharply and impatiently condemned.

Those who knew him bided their time. Those who knew his good sense, his soldierly character, his perfect integrity, and who remembered his services, were very sure it would at last appear that, however severe and deplorable the misfortune, it could not be justly charged upon his sheer incapacity, and that the hero of Newbern and Knoxville had not suddenly become "a blunderer and a butcher." As for the General himself, he was no more daunted by calumny than by canister, and he stood as firm and calm amidst the peltings of popular misrepresentation as in the storm of shot and shell. " Some of us must lose our lives in this war," said he, " and some of us our reputations. Perhaps a few must lose both." And when he was urged to publish some explanation of the circumstances, he replied smilingly, "When the war is over there will be plenty of time to clean damaged reputations."

But the war is not yet ended and BURNSIDE'S

reputation is purged. The Committee on the Conduct of the War have reported upon the failure of the mine. Their conclusion is, that the failure is mainly attributable to the fact that the plan of General BURNSIDE, carefully matured, was set aside at the last moment by General MEADE, "who had evinced no faith in the successful prosecution of the work, had aided it by no countenance or approval, and had assumed the entire direction and control only when it was completed and the time had come for reaping any advantages that might be derived from it."

General BURNSIDE wished to put the colored troops in front, as they were the raw soldiers. General MEADE objected. General GRANT supported MEADE'S objection; but now, with the simple, manly honesty that marks all his conduct, he declares that he believes he was mistaken, and that if General BURNSIDE'S plan had been adopted success would have been secured. The truth is, that General BURNSIDE knew his own corps better than any other commander could know it ; he had made the most careful dispositions he had faithfully drilled his men to their various duties ; he and they had a mutual faith in themselves and in the work. At the very last moment the whole plan was deranged. Disaster was invited and came. There was a sharp cry of disappointment. Dejection followed disaster ; and the fame of a gallant soldier and noble man was obscured. We sincerely congratulate him and the country that the cloud is entirely scattered. And we shall all be the gainers if hereafter we do not hasten to demand the sacrifice of a reputation for every reverse that we may encounter.


THERE is a present end of political parties in the country. There is a body of representatives, indeed, in Congress and in the State Legislatures, which votes and talks in favor of human slavery, jeers at negroes, insults the Government, and virtually justifies the rebellion. But these individuals do not form a great political party. They are merely a faction ; a band of adventurers the roving, marauding remains of an army, holding together until they can advantageously ally themselves to some other organized and effective force. Single individuals like LONG and PENDLETON can not claim the name of Democratic for a political body with which GRISWOLD, GANSON, and ODELL, for instance, do not act. The position of these latter gentlemen shows that the late Democratic party no longer exists. The name will belong here after to those leaders who are most skillful in perceiving the principles upon which a party can be rallied.

Of the parties that existed when the war began the name "Democratic" alone remains. The Constitutional Union party survives only in JOHN BELL drinking success to the rebellion in bad whisky. The Republican party, as such, has secured its great object of limiting the extension of slavery. The necessities of the case, in a nation waging a civil war, divide us all into two bodies , those who support the Administration in its war policy, and those who do not. But the old party lines do not separate us. The party of the Administration is composed of men as different as the late EDWARD EVERETT, General BUTLER, JOHN A. GRISWOLD, THURLOW WEED, and CHARLES SUMNER, who were respectively leaders of the BELL EVERETT, the BRECKINRIDGE, the DOUGLAS parties, and both wings of the Republican party, before the war. We are at the end of parties. Upon what grounds are they to be reconstructed?

There are various speculations upon this point, but they all seem to us to be premature. Parties in a free government divide upon the policy of administration. But until the administration of the Government is secure, it is too early to discuss policies. There may be differences as to the means of securing the authority of the Administration. That is to say, the friends of the war may differ as to how it may be made most effective. But that is not a division into political parties.

Nor is it easy to infer from the previous history of the country what the division will be. The political struggle of this country from the beginning has been that between the Southern policy and the essential principles of the Government. But now that the latter have triumphed absolutely, and have destroyed the foundation of that policy, there must be entirely new issues. These are likely to arise, in the first place, from the peculiar structure of our Government ; and, in the second, from the methods necessary to carry it on. The relative rights and powers of the States and the nation, and the fundamental question of protection and free trade, are the probable grounds of future party division.

The Evening Post, one of the oldest old fashioned Democratic organs in the country, is of opinion that if the proposition of universal free trade as the permanent national policy had been made to the rebel agents in Hampton Roads, it would have seriously tempted Mr. HUNTER, an old free trader. But however probable it may be that this question may hereafter divide the country politically, it would certainly have been an extraordinary suggestion from the President to the rebels. Nobody knows better than the

Post that there is the utmost radical difference upon that very point among loyal men, and all that the President could have said would be no more than an expression of the probability that there would be a large free trade party hereafter. But whether free trade would be adopted as a permanent national policy the President could no more tell than Mr. HUNTER. If he had chosen to indulge in political speculation of that kind the President might have added, that, in his opinion also, the doctrine of supreme State sovereignty would be effectually exploded. But such topics would hardly have been timely or judicious. What the President could officially do, was one thing. What Mr. LINCOLN Supposed the popular decision upon a vital point of difference might be, was quite another.

In the present situation of the country there are no grounds upon which to construct great parties ; but there was never a more favorable moment for the discussion of the causes which have brought us to this condition, that we may not only win victories but secure their fruits. The great fruit will be the establishment of the Government upon its original principles. When that is accomplished, parties will naturally arise.


GENERAL GRANT has extended his lines before Petersburg toward the Southside Railroad, and General SHERMAN has seized a point which destroys the railroad communication of Richmond with the Southwest. SHERMAN'S advance is like NAPOLEON'S in his Austerlitz campaign. It shows no rashness, no confidence in chance ; but is rapid and resistless. Every movement he makes writes his name more deeply in history as a truly great soldier.

Simultaneously with his success, simultaneously with the deadly blow at the vitals of the rebellion, a shrill cry of rage bursts from its lips. At about the moment when SHERMAN'S victorious columns occupied Branchville, in their march of deliverance of the Southern people from the fierce despotism at Richmond, the leaders of that despotism were frantically haranguing the people, declaring that the vile Yankees had insulted them beyond endurance, and that they must fight to the last gasp, or see their country desolated, their homes ruined, and their family peace violated.

The wild fury of the speeches of the rebel chiefs from Davis downward the venomous spite and eagerness of the newspapers show how profound is the conviction that only a convulsive energy can save the rebellion. The rebel forts are falling the rebel ports are closing; the rebel lines are shrinking before our steady advance. We occupy the rebel cities we calmly invite the people to renounce their resistance to a Government which they confess has never injured them, or to suffer the consequences of refusal. Every where the national authority asserts itself. Every where the rebel power succumbs; and its leaders, foreseeing their doom, raise a yell of frenzy to stimulate despair. General LEE is reported to have said that all was well for the rebels if they would not yield to causeless despondency and foolish despair. General LEE is not a wise man, but he might have asked himself the reason of the general despondency around him.

A few years ago the people of his section were told. that they had a right to leave the Union ; that if it were disputed they had merely to show their swords, and they could march out over the prostrate necks of the caitiff tinkers called Yankees ; that, when they moved, the North would fight the battle at home if any were to be fought; that Europe would hasten to acknowledge their independence, and treat with the new nation; that cotton would coerce the world to the whims of " the South ; " and that every gallant and chive alric Southron would have the satisfaction of beholding the Yankees wanderers upon the earth, and " the South" graciously condescending to be the foremost nation of the globe.

Four years have passed, and those people see exactly what we see, what the world sees, and what General LEE sees, And thereupon that Captain says, if they only would not yield to despondency all would be well. "My dear Sir, why are you in the stocks ?" asked a sympathetic friend of the unfortunate incumbent. "For stealing eggs," was the reply. "Pooh! they can't put you in the stocks for stealing eggs," said the cheerful friend. " Can't they ? Well, they have done it," dolefully answered the victim. If you only would not yield to despondency, says General LEE. How can we help it ? his fellow rebels might justly retort. If you only wouldn't scorch the soles of your feet, a spectator might say to a martyr at the stake. Will you then please to remove the fire ? would be a very natural response. General LEE can remove the despondency in one way only. Not by wondering at it, and expostulating with it, but by winning victories.

The loud cries and fierce execrations of the rebel orators and editors tell the people of the Southern States nothing new. Those people have always known that the war was waged by the rebel chiefs for separation and by the Government of the United States for the restoration of its authority over the whole Union. They knew it before STEPHENS and HUNTER went to Hampton Roads. They knew it, after they re- (Next Page)




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