General Lee to Employ Colored Troops


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 11, 1865

This site features an online archive of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. This archive includes incredible eye-witness accounts of the key events of this period. This material offers the serious student of the war a resource not available elsewhere.

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


Capture of Wilmington

Capture of Wilmington

Lee Colored Troops

Lee's Plan to use Colored Troops

Capture of Charleston

Capture of Charleston, South Carolina

Field Hospital

Civil War Field Hospital

Transatlantic Telegraph

Laying First Transatlantic Telegraph

Jeff Davis Cartoon

Jeff Davis Cartoon



Signal Station

Petersburg Signal Station

Harper's Ferry

Harper's Ferry

Telegraph Cable

Telegraph Cable






[MARCH 11, 1865.



I know I have heard them sing, Child,

And I know that they spoke to me, With my mother's arms about me,

While I sat on my mother's knee ;
And she told me of love that saved us,

And a Father we had on high,

And the grave that we need not fear, Child, And the soul that can never die,

In the gleam of the summer lime-trees, In the glow of the summer's day,

And I heard them singing faintly then, For their voices were far away.

Again, when I walked with the Loved one

You remember the Loved one, dearó

And the smile that is gone from among us,

And the voice that we must not hear, The voice was so tender and earnest,

That joy was too deep for mirth,

And my heart was too full for speech, Child,

And Heaven had come down on Earth. Not a drop in the cup seemed wanting,

The thirst of a life to fill,

And farther and fainter the song died outóBut I heard the Angels still.

Then the Loved one was taken from me,

And I bowed my head in my hand, For my bark was free on a silent sea,

And I was alone on the strand.

The day had gone down for me, Child,

The light of my life was fled,

And I longed for the sleep of an endless night,

And to lay me beside the dead;

Then I clung to the arm that smote me,

With a prayer from a bended knee,

And my heart climbed up to meet the song,

And the song floated down to me.

I have heard them so often since, dear,

At church on the Sabbath morn,

When the organ swells, and the praise goes up,

That " To us a Child is born ;"

And here in the hush of my home-life,

And there where the little ones play, And once in the tremble of twilight,

At the turn of the night and the day. Each time they call in a clearer strain,

They sing in a sweeter tone,

And I look for the Reaper to house the grain, And the Master to claim his own.

I know it will not be long, Child,

For they bid me home at last,

To the place where the pledge of the Future

Is linked on the Love of the Past,

Where the lonely may seek a shelter,

Where the friendless may find a friend, Where the heart's desire shall be granted

That has trusted and loved to the end,

Where there's fruit in the gardens of Heaven,

From the hope that on Earth was betrayed, Where there's rest for the soul, life-wearied,

That has striven, and suffered, and prayed.



ON this day President LINCOLN enters upon his second term amidst the benedictions of the loyal citizens of the United States. No man in any office at any period of our history has been so tried as he, and no man has ever shown himself more faithful to a great duty, His temperament, his singular sagacity, his inflexible honesty, his patient persistence, his clear comprehension of the scope of the war and of the character and purpose of the American people, have not only enabled him to guide the country safely in its most perilous hour, but have endeared him forever to the popular heart.

Party hate has dashed itself to pieces against his spotless patriotism. Friendly impatience has long since hushed its hot criticism. Foreign skepticism and affected contempt at length recognize in him a purely characteristic representative of that America which conquers by good sense and moral fidelity. The history of the first term of his administration is the story of a desperate and prodigious civil war waged over a continent, and revealing the unprecedented power of a Government founded upon the popular will.

Such a war necessarily clothes the chief executive magistrate with extraordinary power. Yet it is the most significant tribute to the character of Mr. LINCOLN that his exercise of that power has been so temperate and so purely patriotic that after four years' experience of it parties crumble away, and he is continued in his high office by the hearty confidence of the vast body of the people.

And that he is today inaugurated amidst universal applause, that the nation has not been deluded by the vehement party assaults which every civil war makes so practicable and specious, but has known and approved a man so just and faithful, is the noblest proof of the truly conservative character of that popular Government with which the name of ABRAHAM LINCOLN will henceforth be associated.


WE commend to our Copperhead friends, who have always sneered at the policy of enlisting colored soldiers, the report prepared by an Adjutant of General LEE'S. Now that the rebels concede the valor and value of such troops their

allies at the North will agree that they are most excellent material for an army. Fort Wagner, Milliken's Bend, Port Hudson, and every field upon which black troops have fought, could not prove their bravery and discipline ; but the word of LEE'S Adjutant will doubtless convince those who have never had any opinions until they received them from slave drivers.

The paper of which we speak cites the conduct of the colored soldiers in our army, as well as the experience of every nation by which they have been employed, as proof of their peculiar fitness for the service. But the remarkable point of the document, which contains nothing new to those who are familiar with the question, is the admission throughout of the bitter wrong of slavery.

The plan proposes to give immediate freedom to those who do best, not the promise of freedom at the end of the war to all who fight. This is offered as the highest conceivable incitement to bravery and fidelity. But how can it be so if the blacks were made for slaves, and are happy and contented in that condition? What kind of an incitement would it be to an ox to tell him that if he moved fast he should be thrown into the river at night ? How would a fish be stimulated by the promise of being laid in a clover pasture?

Again, the plan argues elaborately to show that a soldier does not think ; that an army is a machine ; that discipline makes a man fight equally well upon any side. But what is the point of the argument ? Slavery being the divine appointment for all men of African descent, and being also the most delightful position for them, why rely upon discipline to prevent their thinking ? The more they think they are fighting to perpetuate their bondage the more heroically they will behave, if it be true that they are born for it.

Since this debate was opened among the rebels, every word they say has convicted them of the consciousness of the foul injustice of slavery. It disproves every thing they have asserted about the colored race ; and how thoroughly contemptible it leaves the Northern toadies of the delectable system ! What says Bishop HOPKINS to this flying in the face of Providence ? What says the Reverend Mr. VAN DYCK to this departure from the divine ordination ? What have become of the curse upon HAM, and the conclusive precedent of ONESIMUS? Whither has disappeared the divine purpose indicated in heels and shin bones? The whole ghastly imposture collapses before the dire necessity of facts. They are as good men as we are, if they will only fight for us, cry the pale rebel chiefs as they feel the wind rushing before the coming of SHERMAN.

Meanwhile let the gentle Copperheads ponder one question. If the slave lords confess that their chattels are fit to be free, how long will it be before the good sense of the country declares that they are fit to vote ?


IT is remarkable that one of the most important questions of the war was lately decided for the present in Congress by an extremely close vote, and almost without exciting public attention. The bill for reconstruction, involving the very consequences of the war, was lost by a majority of five or six.

There is certainly no subject upon which the public mind should be more fully enlightened before legislative action than this, and therefore we can not regret the present postponement of a final decision, which gives the country time for ampler consideration.

One thing is clear. Whatever the special terms of any system of restoration may be, and whether there be one law covering all cases or not, yet the essential point must be the security of peace. No mere theory of the Constitution will suffice. The practical point is that the nation, after the tremendous struggle for its life, shall take care that it does not yield to political arts what arms have not been able to extort from it.

FERNANDO WOOD gives us the rebel theory of solving the question. "Congress has no power to make conditions on which a State may resume its position in the Union. Whenever the people of a State shall lay down their arms and recognize the Federal Constitution and laws, and send representatives to Congress, I should like to see the power which would prevent the return of those States." Here we have the rebel view of the matter, and FERNANDO WOOD having said what he thinks we should do, every loyal American citizen knows exactly what ought not to be done.

It is for the Government, not for the rebels, to decide when it may withdraw its troops and when it is no longer in danger from rebellion. This is a point which can not be determined by oaths, but by experience. The Government must decide what tests to employ. It is not bound to remove its troops from a region full of rebels, nor is it to assume that they are loyal because they say so. As the national army advances it recovers the various States. Provisional Governors will be of necessity appointed. They hold by the national authority. They summon the people to an election, and, of necessity, they determine by the same authority

who shall vote and under what conditions. This or anarchy is the alternative. In any system of restoration whatever, which contemplates permanent order and actual quiet, the national Government takes the initiative, and holds the State until it is satisfied that with perfect safety to the country its hold may be relaxed. The practical question is, therefore, what tests are satisfactory. Is it enough that the voters swear allegiance to the Government? Is it enough that emancipation be accepted by the State Legislatures ? Is it necessary to disfranchise certain classes ? Is it necessary to enfranchise certain other classes ?

But whatever may be decided upon these points one end is paramount the national safety ; and the whole movement proceeds by one authority, that of the nation. Of course it is exceptional. Of course it is abnormal. Of course it would be absurd to say that in a time of profound peace the national Government could altogether supersede the State authority. But of course it would be still more absurd to contend that in the settlement of this civil war it could not. The engrossing consideration now is national safety, not State rights. To insure the tranquil operation of the States in their spheres hereafter, it is necessary to adjust them by the national authority now. The loyal citizens of any State in rebellion are, in the eye of the national Government, the State; and to defend them against the conspiracy within and without the State, and to secure them in their defense, the national Government will justly do whatever the vital necessity of the case, not State precedent, demands. And of that necessity the Government is the judge.

The bill reported by Mr. ASHLEY was lost, as we understand, for two reasons. The Opposition voted against it as an unconstitutional invasion of State rights, and some friends of the Administration because they did not like its terms. The bill seemed to some of these last too sweeping in disfranchisement, and to others unjust because it did not allow the black population to vote. Consequently so radical a Union man as Mr. JULIAN, of Indiana, was found voting upon the same side with FERNANDO WOOD. There is a similar anomaly in the Senate, where Mr. SUMNER and Mr. POWELL, of Kentucky, both oppose the Louisiana bill. Mr. POWELL, because the State election was held under terms prescribed by the national authority, and Mr. SUMNER, because those terms excluded the colored population from the polls.

We are glad that the present defeat of the bill enables us all to consider the subject more maturely. The principle of such a bill is beyond debate. Congress would be treacherous or imbecile if it did not provide for the inevitable emergency. Public opinion must now indicate what terms the bill shall prescribe.


IT is a common remark that the wounds inflicted by civil war heal quickly. Mr. EVERETT, in his Gettysburg funeral oration, repeated it, and unfortunately illustrated it by the English restoration of CHARLES SECOND unfortunately, because CHARLES'S reign was one long act of vengeance, which his brother JAMES continued, until the nation rose again and expelled the STUARTS forever.

The truth is, that such wounds do not and can not heal quickly. The English civil war began in 1642; and in 1745 the Jacobites took arms again. The reasons are obvious; and equally obvious are the reasons why, in this country, we should be as gentle and humane in our feelings toward the rebels, and in our treatment of them, as firmness of purpose and security of settlement will allow. As we have constantly said, there has been no vindictive feeling upon the part of the loyal nation since the war began; and although the President has been sharply censured for his tender heart and incessant pardons and modifications of severe sentences, his conduct has responded to the deepest popular feeling. The long national forbearance under the tragical sufferings of our prisoners in rebel hands shows how perfectly clear of hatred or anger the public mind is.

This disposition will deepen with increasing victory, and the danger is not that we shall punish too relentlessly, but that we shall imperil the result which the war should secure. Magnanimity is neither forgetfulness nor weakness, and firmness is not revenge. For a just solution of this terrible struggle, it is essential that every man bear constantly in mind the inexpressible wickedness of the system for which the insurrection was long prepared and the utter criminality of its leaders. For more than a generation they aimed at the debauchery of the national conscience. For all that time they devoted every power and opportunity to confusing the sense of right and wrong in the nation, and to corrupting the fundamental principles of the Government. To this end they appealed to all that is basest in human nature. They made the name of the United States hated as a bully abroad and a slave driver at home. They created that public sentiment in the governments of Europe that hailed our probable destruction with delight. At home they annihilated the most fundamental constitutional rights of free speech and equal citizenship ; and when

they thought that the national mind was sufficiently enervated and corrupted they drew the sword, believing that the mere sight of its edge would compel the quaking nation to terrified submission to their will.

These are the crimes of the leaders of the rebellion, and they are crimes that can never be safely forgotten. Those leaders are to be remembered not for the blood of the war, not for the young and noble of every section of the country whom they have sacrificed, not for the broken hearts and wasted homes and desolate land, not for the war, but for that conduct and purpose which made the war inevitable. The Earl of STRAFFORD did more than any single man to precipitate the struggle between CHARLES FIRST and the Parliament. STRAFFORD was executed before a drop of blood was shed. But no student of history and human nature can rightfully condemn the extraordinary act by which he fell.

What STRAFFORD was willing to do that the rebel leaders have done. First they corrupted the people by arts, and then they tried to overthrow the Government by arms. But STRAFFORD'S punishment would be inadequate for them. We neither wish nor expect to see a single capital execution follow the war. If England had taken NAPOLEON BONAPARTE to the Tower and shot him at midnight in a ditch, as he murdered the Duke D'ENGHIEN, there would have been a painful sense of total inadequacy between the offense and the penalty. NAPOLEON'S fate had some proportion to his career. JEFFERSON DAVIS, even if he falls into the hands of the nation, will not be hung for treason. But by solemn act of Congress he should be individually and forever disfranchised as an American citizen, and then delivered to the remembrance of the country he has sought first to debase and then to destroy.

As for the great mass of the people in the Southern States, they have always been taught by their leaders to hate us, and they have learned the lesson. Only time and constant intercourse will wear away that feeling. And it is clearly the duty of every loyal man to help its removal, not by any twaddle of sentimentality about " the South" being " a great people;" not by embracing . the dearly beloved brother QUANTRELL, or weeping over the grave of that precious friend of our souls, WINDER ; but by clinging steadily to the great principles of an equal government, and showing by example how infinitely more profit-able for soul and body is liberty than slavery.


SHERMAN continues his " retreat" from Chattanooga to Richmond. The perils of his prodigious march are plain ; but his commanding genius is plainer. The Edinburgh Review which, looking at him and GRANT across the sea, declares that since BONAPARTE and WELLINGTON there has been no such soldiership, will have, fresh reason for admiration and delight as the details of his new campaign appear. We must remember that we are yet to know the history of his march across the swamps of Georgia and South Carolina; but in the memoirs of LIGHT HORSE HARRY LEE, describing the operations of the Revolution in the same region, we can see the immense difficulties to be overcome.

We are yet to know also how formidable a resistance the rebels are to offer to his advance. If rhetoric and fustian could annihilate him, SHERMAN would be already extinct. If swagger and bluster could save a cause, the rebellion would be triumphant. But why will not the rebel newspapers remember their own gasconade from month to month so as to affect consistency ? Their readers remember if they themselves do not.

Thus, on the 6th of August last, the Richmond Sentinel, DAVIS'S peculiar organ, said : " SHERMAN can hope for reinforcements from no quarter. His situation is a perilous one already, and growing worse every day   Victory or defeat

will be equally fatal to him    Let SHERMAN

gain two great victories over us, and he and his army are ours. But we will have them on cheaper and better terms. He will gain no victory. His lines of communication will be cut off. He will be compelled to attack HOOD behind his intrenchments, will be defeated, and, seeing no hope of escape, he and his army will surrender at discretion. This is the most probable result; and at all events, sooner or later, and whether he captures Atlanta or not, he and his army will be captured, or cut to pieces in the attempt to retreat."

This was on the 6th of August, three weeks before SHERMAN took Atlanta. On the 22d of February, a week after he occupied Columbia, in South Carolina, the Richmond Examiner said : "He may march through South Carolina to Charlotte or to Wilmington; but he conquers nothing, he holds nothing. His expeditions are destructive but not subjugating. The first mistake ruins him, the first check becomes a defeat, a rout, and will prove the destruction of his army."

Is the Examiner probably any wiser on the 22d of February than the Sentinel was on the 6th of August? Do the newspapers expect to save the rebellion by eternally prophesying disaster to SHERMAN ? He knew, says the Examiner, that all the fighting men were gone out of (Next Page)




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