Building the Dutch Gap Canal


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, January 21, 1865

This Harper's Weekly Newspaper was published during the Civil War, and is part of our extensive collection of historical documents. We are creating an online archive of this collection, to enable the serious student of the War a deeper and broader understanding of the key people, battles and events of the war.

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Dutch Gap Canal

Dutch Gap Canal

Fall of Savannah

Savannah After the Fall


Roanoke Expedition

Battle of Wilmington

Battle of Wilmington

Building Canal

Building Dutch Gap Canal

Mosby Two Days

Two Days with Colonel Mosby


Wreck of the Otsego

Eliza Hancox

Sinking of the Eliza Hancox

Newspaper Office

Newspaper Office



Slocum Revolver

Slocum's Revolver







[JANUARY 21, 1865.


(Previous Page) The mistake, then, was not in the failure to make an assault, which must have ended disastrously. It will be objected that the fire of the fleet made the garrison useless, by keeping them in their bomb. proofs. But until the assault was made there was no reason for the garrison to leave their bomb proofs. If our force had attempted an assault, as at Fort Wagner, the garrison, we may rest assured, would have made their appearance at the right moment. As to the fire of the fleet, as soon as our forces should have reached the immediate vicinity of the fort, this fire, if kept up, would have told as effectually against the assailants as against the assailed. As it was, even in the reconnoissance ten of our men were wounded by our own fire. It is true that a flag was carried off, a horse stolen, and an orderly bearing dispatches killed, and naturally the question recurs, Why did not the whole column advance and take the fort? But how was it at Fort Wagner? There hundreds of our men got inside the work, part of which they held over an hour ; and yet Fort Wagner was not taken. When it was taken after ward it was by siege. At Fort Fisher, too, there were elements of resistance which did not exist at Wagner. Besides an armament twice as heavy, there was in front of the work a ditch from eight to ten feet in depth, which could be crossed only by a bridge twenty feet in length. Under these circumstances, and in remembrance of the fact that no assault on an earth work, defended by a determined garrison, has succeeded during the war, we may congratulate ourselves on the wisdom which deterred Generals WEITZEL and BUTLER from making an attempt which would have magnified a simple reverse into a great disaster.

The mistake seems to have been that the circumstances to which we have alluded were not calculated upon in the first instance and before the expedition was undertaken. Our naval and military authorities have had sufficient experience to have avoided so glaring a mistake as this. The times have changed since BUTLER and STRINGHAM took Forts Clark and Hatteras. The rebels have learned, if we have not, how much dependence can be put on a strong earth work stubbornly and prudently defended ; and they are not so easily frightened by the mere mention of an iron-clad as they formerly were.

Wilmington will be taken, and so will Charleston ; but they will be taken as SHERMAN took Savannah by a formidable investment, or else by our occupation of such positions as render them untenable or unimportant.

We illustrate on the preceding page the bursting of a 100-pound Parrott gun on board the Juniata. A similar accident occurred on board several vessels. In this way a larger number of our men were wounded than by the guns of the fort. What the cause may have been why all these accidents there were six of them should have happened only to 100-pound Parrott guns, is a problem to which the naval authorities will, we hope, give the proper attention.


WE have previously, in No. 410, Volume VIII., given an illustration of General BUTLER'S Canal at Dutch Gap, while the work was still in operation. The more picturesque and interesting sketch, which we give on the first page, we reproduce from a photographic view, for which we are indebted to Captain S. L. LANGDON, First United States Artillery. This sketch gives a view of the work in its last stages, while preparations were being made to explode the bulk head.

Dutch Gap Canal was originally suggested by General BUTLER. James River is an extremely tortuous stream, and especially so in its course around Farrar's Island. This peninsula, misnamed an island, is forty miles from Richmond by the river, although it is only one third that distance by a straight line. The bend of the river here takes it seven miles out of its way, bringing it around again to a point only two hundred yards from its point of deflection. A canal across these two hundred yards not only saves a journey of seven miles, but also evades the obstructions and batteries which make the bend impassable to our fleet.

The work was surveyed on the 7th of August, and three days afterward was actually commenced. Brigadier-General B. C. LUDLOW, of General BUTLER'S staff, acted as superintendent, assisted by Major PETER S. MICHIE, Chief of Engineers. The enemy occupied elevated positions threatening the workmen, and it was necessary at first to proceed in the same manner as in throwing up parallels in front of an enemy's fortifications. In the beginning a declivity covered the working parties who at first dug ditches, throwing the earth up as a breast work. Several of these at length merged into a single wide ditch, with a dam left so that the rush of water in opening the lower part of the canal would not deluge the workmen in the upper part, who were to dig fifteen feet below tide mark. Soon such progress was made that rails were laid and cars supplied the place of wheel barrows.

The enemy erected mortar batteries under cover of the river bank, which proved a great annoyance. Then bomb proofs had to be built for security to the workmen. In the beginning New York soldiers were employed, but these were subsequently relieved by colored soldiers. These suffered much from fever, brought on by the dampness to which they were exposed.

By the middle of November fifteen thousand cubic yards of earth had been removed by hand. The steam dredge removed, in addition, fifty tons a day. In little over a month more all that remained to be done was to remove the dam between the two sections and the bulk head still left at the upper end. The dam was easily removed by mining. More elaborate preparations, however, had to be made for the removal of the bulk head. This was cut into three pieces, as far as possible. Streets were cut through, and thus one third of the mass of earth removed. From the vertical cut on the left of the centre galleries were run toward the centre ; and, after reaching a proper point, a shaft was sunk

twenty-eight feet in depth, from which galleries ran toward the river. Five magazines were constructed, capable all together of holding six tons of powder, and at four o'clock P.M. on New Year's Day the grand explosion took place. The effect was hardly what was expected. A great proportion of the earth fell back again into the canal, and will have to be removed by the dredging machine under circumstances not especially advantageous. The length of the canal is between five and six hundred feet, its greatest width about one hundred and twenty-two feet, and its greatest depth about seventy feet. Unfortunately the entire length of the canal is now open to the enemy's fire.

Since its commencement seven thousand shells have been thrown in and around the canal; fifty men have been killed there, and two hundred wounded ; forty-five horses have been killed, three barges sunk, and nine tugs disabled. The engineer who has superintended the work, PETER S. MICHIE, has been made Brevet Major, for meritorious services during the campaign. He is a graduate of West Point, is modest in deportment, and a great favorite among his brother officers.


THE situation of Savannah, since its restoration to the Union, may be considered as an epitome of the general state of the South when the restoration of that misguided section shall have been finally accomplished. We doubt if the intelligence of HOOD'S defeat will produce an effect as demoralizing upon the remaining citizens of the Confederacy as the latest news from Savannah. A country of vast resources, really contending against oppression, may look upon the spectacle of a defeated army and still remain dauntless and determined. But when a great section like the South, entangled against the popular will and through the delusive pretexts of ambitious leaders, in a war needless and criminal from the first, looks upon a spectacle which illustrates the deceit practiced upon the people and the criminality of the scheme in which they have been involved, the effect is startling and revolutionary.

Such a spectacle is afforded to the people of the South in the attitude recently taken by the citizens of Savannah. When New Orleans was captured the case was quite different. The animus of rebellion had not then been so far spent, nor was its hopelessness so evident. Besides, there was considerable difference in the original temper of the people of the two cities. Savannah was captured at a time when the Confederacy had been reduced almost to hopelessness, and it was captured under circumstances which reflected great discredit upon the rebel Commander-in-Chief. It was to be expected, therefore, that the emotion which her citizens would display would be that of indignation against DAVIS, and of passive acquiescence to the Federal power. But how will the rebel leaders feel when they read the proceedings which actually followed upon the capture of the city, and find that, instead of passive submission, there is an element of exultation of supreme gladness at the prospect of again living under the old flag?

The city was captured on the 21st. Just one week afterward a meeting of citizens was held under the call of their old Mayor, Doctor RICHARD ARNOLD, and resolutions were unanimously adopted to lay down their arms and accept peace, submitting to the national authority under the Constitution, laying aside all differences, and burying by gones in the grave of the past. These resolutions explicitly state that the citizens " do not put themselves in the position of a captured city, asking terms of a conqueror," but that of citizens of the United States. They, moreover, request Governor BROWN to call a Convention of the people of Georgia, to give the latter an opportunity of pronouncing for or against the continuance of the war.

It is probable that General FOSTER'S command will occupy Savannah when General SHERMAN enters upon the new campaign for which he has been making preparations. In the mean time SHERMAN'S orders in relation to the city are beneficent and judicious. While Savannah is to be held as a military post, still ample provision is made for the 20,000 people within its limits, and for such others as may come. All the ordinary pursuits of life are to be continued, and commerce with the outer world is to be resumed to an extent commensurate with the wants of the citizens. The Quarter-master and Commissary departments may give suitable employment to the people, white or black, or transport them to such points as they choose, and may extend temporary relief in the way of provisions and shelter. The Mayor and City Council are to continue in the exercise of their functions.

The attitude assumed by the citizens toward General SHERMAN does honor both to him and them. Immediately upon the General's arrival Mr. CHARLES GREEN offered his elegant mansion for his head-quarters, a favor of which the General availed himself. The house is the most elegant in the city. As seen in our sketches, the vestibule is decorated with the banyan and banana trees, and with rare and valuable statuary. The house fronts on a park, and is almost hidden by the trees that surround it.

The evacuation of Savannah on the night of December 20 is represented to have been a most ludicrous spectacle. Every kind of vehicle was pressed into use ; and how hasty the departure was may be inferred from the fact that not a gun was spiked, while vast stores of cotton were left uninjured.

Fort Jackson, of which we give two views, is so situated as to serve as one of the defenses of Savannah River. It was seized, together with Fort Pulaski, by order of Governor BROWN, January 3, 1861. Since that time it has been greatly strengthened. Its original cost of construction was $182,000.

The capture of Savannah has destroyed an important channel of supply for LEE'S army. In the course of a single week it has often happened that LEE has received 11,000 head of cattle via Savannah, on the Albany and Gulf Road, from Florida. It is in this way that SHERMAN'S movements are even now to be regarded as flank movements against the one great army of the Confederacy.


THE SUBTERRANEAN BARBER. It is well known that Sir Richard Arkwright to whose ingenuity and perseverance, more than to any other cause, we are indebted for the marvelous growth of our cotton manufactures began life as a poor barber. It is now more than a hundred years since he occupied a kind of underground kitchen in the town of Bolton, in Lancashire, to which he endeavored to attract customers by exhibiting a board with the facetious inscription, " Come to the Subterranean Barber; he shaves for a Penny." Whether the barbers of the town really dreaded this announcement, or merely felt the customary jealousy toward an interloper for Arkwright was a native, not of Bolton, but of Preston does not appear; but a fierce opposition is said to have been at once commenced between them. The Bolton barbers reduced their prices ; but the man whose inventive genius was destined to create a revolution in British industry was not likely to be beaten when fairly roused. Arkwright took down his board, and painted out the offensive inscription ; but it was only to substitute the still more alarming words "Richard Arkinwright, Subterranean Barber ; A Clean Shave for a Half penny!" We may assume that the Bolton barbers after this left their underground rival to shave the town in peace. Where Arkwright's cellar was, is not exactly known indeed, the facts relative to his early life are somewhat obscure ; but Mr. French, in his Biography of Crompton, informs us that a gentlemen in Bolton still preserves, as a relic of Arkwright, the leaden vessel in which his customers were accustomed to wash after being shaved. Like most handicraftsmen, whose business leaves them much spare time, barbers are frequently ingenious men a truth which appears to be as old as the Arabian Nights' Tales, most readers of which will remember the barber who left his half shaven customers to take astronomical observations in an adjoining garden. Arkwright appears to have corresponded in many ways with that ancient prototype of Oriental humor. His mind was always filled with schemes of ingenious mechanism for shortening labor, and appears, like many other uneducated men, to have long dreamed of discovering that philasopher's stone of mechanics perpetual motion. Like the wife of the potter, Bernard Palissy, Mrs. Arkwright was not unnaturally impatient of his neglect of the customers, who now began, we may suppose, to be more numerous in the barber's kitchen. Convinced that he would starve his family by scheming when he ought to be shaving, Mrs. Arkwright one day, in a fit of anger, destroyed some of his cherished models of machinery ; and in a moment the unfortunate barber saw the fruit of his labor and ingenuity, and all the prospective wealth that they were to bring him, gone, as he thought, forever. Arkwright never forgave this act. He separated from her immediately, nor would any thing induce him ever to live with her again.

AMMONIA IN FIRES.—An apothecary at Nantes has just discovered by the merest accident, that ammonia will put out fires. He happened to have about seventy litres of benzine in his cellar, and his boy, in going down carelessly with a light, had set fire to it. Assistance was speedily at hand, and pail after pail of water was being poured into the cellar without producing any effect, when the apothecary himself took up a pail which was standing neglected in the corner, and emptied the contents into the cellar. To his astonishment the flames were quenched as if by magic, and upon examination he found that the pail, which belonged to his laboratory, had contained a quantity of liquid ammonia. The result is easy to explain on scientific principles; for ammonia, which consists of 82 parts of nitrogen and 18 of hydrogen, is easily decomposed by heat, and the nitrogen thus set free in the midst of a conflagration must infallibly put out the flames. A large supply of liquid ammonia properly administered would be the promptest fire extinguisher ever imagined.

WHAT MAY BE DONE WITH OLD RAGS.—There is a church actually existing near Bergen, Prussia, which can contain nearly one thousand persons. It is circular within, octagonal without. The relieve, outside, and the statues within, the roof, the ceiling, the Corinthian capitals, are all of papier mache, rendered water proof by saturation in vitriol, lime water, whey, and white of egg. We have not yet reached this audacity in our use of paper; but it should hardly surprise us, inasmuch as we employ the same material in private houses, in steamboats, and in some public buildings, instead of carved decorations and plaster cornices. When Frederick II of Prussia set up a limited papier mache manufactory at Berlin, in 1765, he little thought that paper cathedrals might, within a century, spring out of his snuff boxes by the sleight of hand of advancing art. At present, we, who haunt cathedrals and build churches, like stone better. But there is no saying what we may come to. It is not long since it would have seemed as impossible to cover eighteen acres of ground with glass as to erect a pagoda of soap bubbles; yet the tiling is done. When we think of a psalm sung by one thousand voices pealing through an edifice of old rags, and the universal element bound down to carry our messages with the speed of light, it would be presumptuous to say what can and what can not be achieved by science and art under the training of steady old Time.

SCANDAL and gossipings are things to be kept out of, rigidly, with an unbending back and lips hermetically sealed. If indeed any one likes an affectionate affiliation with hornets, and rather prefers than not a wasp's nest for a domicile, let him go into the world of gossip that floating, restless, Protean world where nothing is as it seems, or seems as it is. He will have a rare time of it, and ample opportunities for studying the properties of venom and the law of projectiles. And one thing we devoutly hope he will have an opportunity for studying the law of the moral boomerang, which brings back upon his own pate, and with a pretty sharp crack too, the scandal and the lie which he has flung at another. If people would but keep out of the vortex of gossip a great many more lives than are allowed to do so now would stand clear and free of blame; for gossip, as a rule, deals in lies not truths, and for one accusation with a root grounded in fact there are thousands head downward, with all four feet in the air, and not a leg to stand on.

AN ANCIENT HUMAN RELIC.—The Nouvelliste of Rouen relates the following strange circumstance: " The Marquis de V—, who possesses a fine property on the borders of the Forest of Cinglait (Calvados), has on his grounds a number of old Druidical oaks. A few days since, some workmen, who were employed in cutting down one of those trees, were surprised at finding in the hollow trunk the body of a man, which, on being touched, fell to dust. By his side was found the remains of a lance, the iron head of which alone was perfect. The supposition is that the man had been placed there, either dead or alive, by means of an incision made in the tree, the bark of which had afterward grown over and concealed the opening ; and from the antique form of the lance head, the belief is that he was one of the followers of Rollon, the leader of the men from the North who first invaded Neustria.

A Times correspondent relates the following incident connected with the battle of Nashville: " I was near General Thomas upon one occasion, when a shower of bullets rained in among his staff the whole assemblage being less than half a mile from the rebel line. `Why,' says the General, ‘I believe the scoundrels are shooting at me.' He did not vacate the premises, however, until duty called him to another part of the field."

A LAUGHABLE incident of the bribery practiced at the recent election in New York is told by a correspondent: An Irishman, who thought his vote worth half a day's wages, agreed to vote the Democratic ticket for one dollar. He went to the tavern where the ballots and bribes were distributed, and receiving a ticket., which he was assured was all right, went over to the polls to deposit it, which he did without difficulty or objection. That done, he returned to the tavern to get his dollar, and was astonished at being told that a bill for that amount was inclosed in his ticket. He had actually deposited both the dollar and ballot in the box, and had the assurance, after the closing of the polls and while the tickets were being counted, to go to the inspectors and claim the money. The bill was found in the ballot, but the latter was thrown out, and the Irishman did not get the former.

BRIDE AND GROOM A CENTURY AGO.—To begin with the ady: Her locks were strained upward over an immense nation that sat like an incubus on her head, and plas-

shows, my attention was drawn to a menagerie by a band of niXXer minstrels stationed on the outside of it, playing appropriate airs. Above and behind the musicians a series of wonderful works of Art indicated the wonderful works of Nature to be seen within. Among these paintings was the figure of an enormously fat man, entitled, in large illuminated letters underneath his portrait, "The Second Daniel Lambert." I thought I should like to se this second Daniel, and being what is euphemistic- ally called stout myself, walked up and demanded gratuitous admission on the ground of being one of the brotherhood. But that, the money-taker said, could not entitle me to see the lions and tigers, be- cause, if I was a monster, still I was not a beast. I accepted the compliment, paid my money, and went in.

The Fat Man was in a sort of annexe to the carat van. He panted and perspired very much. " Hard work, Sir," I observe d.

Puffing laboriously, he answered, " Yes, Sir!"

" I hope, Sir," I said, "that your exertions are liberally rewarded by Mr. Saunders"--tbe name of the showman.

" I am Mr. Saunders, Sir. I am my own pro- prietor."

" No ! Are you, though, really ? Well, Sir, I admire your moral courage. You show your sense, Sir, in thus accepting your situation, and making the most of yourself."

"Ab, Sir I" he said, " I have made the most of myself indeed. This fat, Sir"—he did not say this here fat, but spoke very much like a gentleman— "all this fat is not natural."

" Is it not ?"

"No, Sir. I am"--here he slightly chuckled-- "what you may call a self-made man."

"Ah!" said I, " that's what we stout gentlemen most of us are, I'm afraid. We do make prize-pigs of ourselves with our eyes open—in that particular unlike the pigs."

" I did it on purpose, Sir."

'On purpose, Sir?"

" Yes, Sir, on purpose. 1' hen I started this concern, I thought I might as well become part of it, by making an exhibition of myself. I had a reason for it. What are appearances, Sir?"

" Full eight yards round," I answered. " Sir, I respect your contempt for appearances. and for the people who are astonished by them, and who come and stare at you. And so you made yourself of this size, Sir?"

" I did, Sir."

"How did you do it, Sir?"

" The old way, Sir—eating and drinking. " What did you eat, Sir ?"

" Potatoes. I ate a good deal of potatoes. And bread, Sir. Ate a good deal of bread. You see, Sir, I did just the reverse of what Mr. Banting recommends for bringing this down."

" Did you, Sir ?"

" Yes, Sir. Butter. I ate a good deal of that. Sugar, too ; large quantities of sugar. Sugar's vet y fattening, contains so much carbon ; dissolves so fast and runs into fat. Pies, tarts, puddings, sweets of all kinds. Pork too, Sir, pork : ate a great deal of pork. Not much bacon ; no. Don't like it; too filling to fatten on. Salmon, stewed eels, trio; nice, rich, nourishing ; very fond of stewed eels. Milk and cream ; have two bowls of bread and milk a day. Oil, and starch, and saccharine matter, Sir; as much as possible of food containing plenty of oil, starch, and saccharine matter."

" What did you drink, Sir?"

" As much fluid as possible, Sir ; as much of every pleasant fluid. A good deal of tea ; 'tin a sulvent for the solid food. Beer ; ale, good fat BLrtoti. Stout. Fruity port. Clicquot's Champagne. Hot rum and water, strong and sweet. Ah !"

"You must have had a strong motive, Sir, to !re- duce you to acquire a bulls which appears to be distressing."

"I had, Sir. My wife died, Sir, and at the s:. time I experienced a reverse of fortune. I los a one son, Sir, to whom I am desirous of giving a good education. Having bad an indifferent (eta myself, I had no means of earning the wherewithti' by intellectual exertion. Always rather di; i:,u'd exertion of any kind. Thought that the lust trou- blesome way of getting money would be. tding about with a show. At that time Mr -ban ling's pam- phlet fell in my way. It rim' an imlirestiou on me. I wanted a wonderf-' fat tnan. Couldn't one be made by practici the contrary of Banting's rules? Why nr"make one of myself? :,s I had determined t, start a show, fancied that the pleasntest ohapation would be that of clamming my. self -~., as my son says, for its chief attraction."

tered over with pomatum, and then sprinkled over with a shower of white powder. The height of this tower was somewhat over a foot. One single white rose-bud lay on its top like au eagle on a haystack. Over her neck and bosom was folded a lace handkerchief, fastened in front by a bosom-pin rather larger than a dollar, containing your grandfather's miniature set in virgin gold. Her airy form was braced up in a satin dress, the sleeves as tight as the natural skin of the arm, with a waist formed by a bodice, worn outside, from whence the skirt flowed off, and was distended at the top by an ample hoop. Shoes of white kid, with peaked toes, and heels of two or three inches' elevation, inclosed her feet, and glittered with spangles, as her little pedal members peeped curiously out. Now for the swain: His hair was sleeked hack and plentifully befloured, while his queue projected like the handle of a skillet. His coat was a sky-blue silk, lined with yellow; his long vest of white satin, embroidered with gold lace; his breeches of the same material, and tied at the knee with pink ribbon. White silk stockings and pumps, with laces, and ties of the same hue, completed the habiliments of his nether limbs. Lace ruffles clustered around his wrist, and portentous frills worked in correspondence, and bearing the miniature of his beloved, finished his truly genteel appearance.


I was idling about one of those towns the inhabitants of which, entertaining a serious objection to theatres, are obliged to depend, for amusement, on itinerant lecturers, conjurors, comic recitationists, popular preachers, and circuses, and othe





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