Slave Conscription


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 25, 1865

This site features our complete collection of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. This online archive provides unique perspective on the war, and is full of interesting news items and incredible illustrations. This information allows the serious student or researcher to develop a deeper understanding of the important issues leading to and resulting from the war.

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


Hugh McCullough

Hugh McCullough

Sherman's March

Details of Sherman's March

Slave Conscription



James Harlan

James Harlan


Keeping Secrets

Christian Commission

Christian Commission

Cardinal Wiseman

Cardinal Wiseman

Victory Parade

Victory Parade

Shenandoah Valley

General Sheridan Moving up the Shenandoah Valley








MARCH 25, 1865.]




(Previous Page) at the end of their present difficulties, may not wish to fight. But they will be certainly able to fight ; and so sagacious an observer as LOUIS NAPOLEON will hardly fail to note so interesting and suggestive a fact.

It seems, therefore, as if COWELL would lose his pains. Foreign war is not at all likely unless provoked by us ; and the union of national. and rebel arms to provoke it is one of those shallow whimseys which common sense instinctively repudiates. That the war has proved the immense strength of our system and our formidable military power is plain ; but it has not made us a military people. It has not tainted us with lust of dominion, and by exterminating slavery it has extirpated the cancer of " manifest destiny." A military force in the field we shall long retain, because preparation discourages insurrection. Nor are we ever likely again to be so utterly stripped of defensive and offensive means as we were when the war burst upon us.

But still the restored Union will be moderation, firmness, and peace. The infinite swagger and bluster of a slavery propagating policy, which disgusted every decent nation in the world, will give place to a spirit of civilization and equity. The sentimentality and savagery, which had both inflated and degraded the country, will yield to the plain common sense of universal justice and fair play. Exactly what ABRAHAM LINCOLN is contrasted with SLIDELL, and WIGFALL, and Davis, and BENJAMIN, and TOOMBS, and FRANKLIN PIERCE, and BUCHANAN, and FERNANDO WOOD, and YANCEY, and PENDLETON, and SAULSBURY, and BRIGHT just that will be the contrast of the spirit and policy of the United States after and before the war.


THE tragical delusion of the madmen of Charleston four years ago, that they could over throw a great nation as easily as they could fire upon a provision ship or upon a little isolated garrison, is vividly illustrated by the two following extracts. The first is from the Charleston Mercury of the 10th of January, 1861, and the second from a letter to the Tribune, written in Charleston on the 20th of February, 1865:

" The expulsion of the steamer Star of the West from the Charleston harbor yesterday morning was the opening of the ball of the revolution   We would not exchange or recall that blow for millions   The haughty echo of
her cannon has ere this reverberated from Maine to Texas, through every hamlet of the North, and down along the great waters of the Southwest. And though greasy and treacherous ruffians may cry on the dogs of war, and traitorous politicians may lend their aid in deceptions, South Carolina will stand under her own palmetto tree, unterrified by the snarling growls or the assaults of the one, undeceived or deterred by the wily machinations of the other. And if that red sea of blood be still lacking to the parchment of our liberties, and blood they want, blood they shall have, and blood enough to stamp it all in red. For, by the God of our fathers, the soil of South Carolina shall be free !"

So wrote men who were ready and eager to smother in blood a Government which they did not pretend had ever harmed them, and which they had absolutely controlled. Four years pass. One by one their hopes disappear. And now amidst the desertion, according to Governor VANCE, of half their army, amidst the imprecations and cries of the Richmond journals that their leaders shall not flee, by the mere wind of SHERMAN'S thundering march Charleston falls without a blow, and the crazy city that causelessly defied a Government as strong as it is benign, is thus described :

" The wharves looked as if they had been deserted for half a century broken down, dilapidated, grass and moss peeping up between the pavements, where once the busy feet of commerce trode incessantly. The warehouses near the river; the streets as we enter them; the houses and the stores and the public buildings we look at them and hold our breaths in utter amazement. Every step we take increases our astonishment. No pen, no pencil, no tongue can do justice to the scene. No imagination can conceive of the utter wreck, the universal ruin, the stupendous desolation. Ruin, ruin, ruin, above and below; on the right hand and the left; ruin, ruin, ruin, every where and always staring at us from every paneless window ; looking out at us from every shell torn wall; glaring at us from every battered door and pillar and veranda; crouching beneath our feet on every sidewalk. Not Pompeii, nor Herculaneum, nor Thebes, nor the Nile, have ruins so complete, so saddening, so plaintively eloquent, for they speak to us of an age not ours, and long ago dead, with whose people and life and ideas we have no sympathy whatever. But here, on these shattered wrecks of houses built in our own style, many of them doing credit to the architecture of our epoch we read names familiar to us all; telling us of trades and professions and commercial institutions, which every modern city reckons up by the hundred ; yet dead, dead, dead; as silent as the grave of the Pharaohs, as deserted as the bazars of the merchant princes of Old Tyre."


WE have already mentioned Professor TAYLER LEWIS'S remarkable monograph, " State Rights, a Photograph from the Ruins of Ancient Greece," in which the most copious scholarship is brought in a most trenchant and picturesque style to illustrate the condition and the dangers of our condition. The pernicious folly of the doe. trine of supreme State Rights, which is but another name for the right of secession, is shown in the history and fate of Greece, and shown not only with the inexorable logic of the philosophic historian, but with the pathetic regret of a scholar who, deeply versed in the literature

and language of Greece, perceives the exceeding charm of Grecian civilization and its possible influence upon the course of history, an influence which was paralyzed and lost by the same false doctrine that now imperils the American Union and finally destroyed Greece.

The pamphlet, originally published last autumn, and one of the most interesting and significant which the war has produced, is now reissued by WEED, PARSONS, & Co., of Albany, enriched with three supplementary chapters on the Ideas of Nationality ; of Sovereignty; and the Right of Revolution. The stringent common sense of these chapters is not less striking than their clear and conclusive reasoning. As a contribution to the solution of the vexed question of nationality, which will be debated until it is finally put to rest in the fundamental law, this pamphlet of Professor LEWIS will hold a distinguished place. It is plain that as the partial obscurity of the Constitution upon the point of Slavery has compelled the people to make it clear as day, so its equally dangerous want of an explicit declaration of the national inviolability will be supplied by the same power. There can be no more important topic for the consideration of every citizen. There is no more valuable treatise upon it than the pamphlet of Professor LEWIS.


WE publish the following card with pleasure, and remind our readers once more how easily they can please and help the soldiers :

Mr. JOHN SAVARY, Agent of the United States Sanitary Commission, returns his thanks on behalf of the soldiers to those Northern friends and patriots who have remembered no, in the way of books and papers sent to the Hospital Library at City Point. To the editor and patrons of Harper's Weekly his thanks are especially due. The help and comfort thus afforded to sick soldiers is second to none in importance in this war. Invoices of books have been received from New York and Philadelphia; a box of Harper's also from young ladies in Lexington, Kentucky; and papers from an unknown friend in Indiana.

All reading matter intended for soldiers at this Point should be boxed up and marked as follows:


(or to JOHN SAVARY, Care of U. S. San. Corn.),

City Point, Va.

Contributors, in future, will please make known their name and address, that suitable acknowledgments may be returned.




A GENERAL view of the military situation has been given on the preceding page. It appears that no small portion of the rebel army in North Carolina is in the vicinity of Kinston, in Schofield's front. Sherman and Schofield are doubtless in communication. The panic in Richmond will not be diminished, we may be sure, from the fact that the line of communication toward Lynchburg is as effectually interrupted as it could possibly be if Lynchburg itself were in our possession. If Sheridan crosses the James the Southside Railroad will suffer a similar fate. In the mean time movements are on foot in the Confederacy to supply Lee's army by subscription. Every thing promises favorably for Grant and Schofield and Sherman and Sheridan.

There is no political news. The extra session of Congress, after effecting its own organization, has adjourned.


On the 14th a dispatch was received from General Sherman, dated Laurel Hill, North Carolina, March 8. He says: " We are all well, and have done finely."


On the 10th of March two dispatches were penned, one by Schofield, near Kinston, and the other by Sheridan, on the north bank of the James, at Columbia. We copy these dispatches below:


COLUMBIA, VIRGINIA, March 10, 1865. Lieutenant-General U. S. Grant, Commanding Armies

United States:

GENERAL,—In my last dispatch, dated Waynesborough, I gave you a brief account of the defeat of Early by Custer's division.

The same night this division was pushed across the Blue Ridge and entered Charlottesville at two P.M. the next day. The Mayor of the city and the principal inhabitants came out and delivered up the keys of the public buildings.

I had to remain at Charlottesville two days. This time was consumed in bringing over from Waynesborough our ammunition and pontoon trains.

The weather was horrible beyond description and the rain incessant.

The two divisions were during this time occupied in destroying the two large iron bridges one over the Rivanna River, the other over Morse's Creek, near Charlottesville and the railroad for a distance of eight miles in the direction of Lynchburg.

On the 6th of March I sent the first division, General Deven commanding, to Scottsville, on the James River, with directions to send out light parties through the country and destroy all merchandise, mills, factories, bridges, etc., on the Rivanna River, the parties to join the division at Scottsville. The division then proceeded along the canal to Duguldsville, fifteen miles from Lynchburg, destroying every lock, and in many places the bank of the canal. At Duguldsville we hoped to secure the bridge to let us cross the river, as our pontoons were useless.

On account of the high water in this, however, we were foiled, as both this bridge and the bridge at Hardwicksville were burned by the enemy upon our approach. Merritt accompanied this division.

The third division started at the same time from Charlottesville, and proceeded down the Lynchburg Railroad to Amherst Court House, destroying every bridge on the road, and in many places miles of the road. The bridges on this road are numerous, and some of them five hundred feet in length. We have found great abundance in this country for our men and animals. In fact the canal had been the great feeder of Richmond. At the Rockfish River the bank of the canal was cut, and at New Canton, where the dam is across the James, the guard lock was destroyed and the James River let into the canal, carrying away the banks and washing out the bottom of the canal.

The dam across the James at this point was also partially destroyed.

I have had no opposition. Every body is bewildered by our movements. I have had no news of any kind since I left.

The latest Richmond paper was of the 4th, but containing nothing.

I omitted to mention that the bridges on the railroad from Swoop's Depot, on the other side of Staunton, to Charlottesville, were utterly destroyed ; also all bridges for a distance of ten miles on the Gordonsville Railroad.

The weather has been very bad indeed, raining hard every day, with the exception of four days, since we started. My wagons have, from the state of the roads, detained me.

Up to the present time we have captured fourteen pieces of artillery eleven at Waynesborough and three at Charlottesville.

The party that I sent back from Waynesborough started with six pieces, but they were obliged to destroy two of the six for want of animals. The remaining eight pieces were thoroughly destroyed.

We have captured up to the present time twelve canal boats laden with supplies, ammunition, rations, medical stores, etc.

I can not speak in too high terms of Generals Merritt, Custer, and Deven, and the officers and men of their commands. They have waded through mud and water during this continuous rain, and are all in fine spirits and health.

Commodore Hollins, of the rebel navy, was shot near Gordonsville, while attempting to make his escape from our advance in that direction.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General Commanding.

WISE'S FORK, March 10, 1865. To Lieutenant-General Grant:

The enemy made a heavy attack upon our centre and left today, but was decisively repulsed, with heavy loss. His dead and badly wounded were left upon the field. We also took several hundred prisoners. Our loss is small.

General Couch is only twelve miles from here tonight, and will be up early in the morning.

We took prisoners from Lee's and Stuart's corps. They say that two corps are here, and the rest of Johnston's army is coming.   J. M. SCHOFIELD, Major-General.

General Schofield, in a dispatch dated at Newbern, March 12, states that on the night of the 10th, near Southwest Creek, Bragg was fairly beaten ; that during the night he retreated across the Neuse at Kinston, and now holds the north bank of the river at that place.


The following is a dispatch from General Lee, claiming that a victory was gained by Hampton over Kilpatrick on the 10th. The locality of the battle is not given:

HEADQUARTERS, ETC., March 10, 1865. Hon. John C. Breekinridge, Secretary of War:

General Hampton attacked General Kilpatrick at day light this morning, and drove him from the camp, taking his guns, wagons, many horses, several hundred prisoners, and relieving a great number of our men who had been captured. The guns and wagons could not be brought off for want of horses. Many of the enemy were killed and wounded. Our loss is not heavy. Lieutenant-Colonel J. S. King was killed. Brigadier-General Hume, Colonels Kagan and Morrison, and Majors Davis and Ferguson, and others, were wounded.

R. E. LEE, General.


The bill to arm slaves and place them in the ranks of the Confederate army passed the rebel Senate March 7 by a majority of two. Mr. Hunter voted for the bill, which thus becomes a law; but he made a speech directly contrary to this vote. He said that to arm the slave was to abandon the principles upon which the war was undertaken. Who is to answer, then," he asks, " for the hundreds of thousands of men who had been slain in the war? Who was to answer for them before the bar of Heaven? Not those who had entered into the contest upon principle and adhere to the principle, but those who had abandoned the principle. Not for all the gold in California would he have put his name to such a measure as this, unless obliged to do so by instructions. As long as he was free to vote from his own convictions nothing could have extorted it from him. Mr. Hunter then argued the necessity of freeing the negroes if they were made soldiers. There was something in the human heart and head that tells us it must be so; when they come out scarred from this conflict they must be free."

The following is a copy of the bill :

A Bill to Increase the Military Forces of the Confederate States. The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact that in order to provide additional forces to repel the invasion, maintain the rightful possession of the Confederate States, secure their independence, and preserve their institutions, the President be and is hereby authorized to ask for and accept from the owners of slaves the services of such number of able bodied negro men as he may deem expedient for and during the war, to perform military service in whatever capacity he may direct.

Sec. 2. That the General-in-Chief be authorized to organize the said slaves into companies, battalions, regiments, and brigades, under such rules and regulations as the Secretary of War may prescribe, and to be commanded by such officers as the President may appoint.

Sec. 3. That while employed in the service the said troops shall receive the same rations, clothing, and compensation as are allowed to other troops in the same branch of the service.

Sec. 4. That if, under the previous section of this act, the President shall not be able to raise a sufficient number of troops to prosecute the war successfully and maintain the sovereignty of the States and the independence of the Confederate States, then he is hereby authorized to call on each State, whenever he thinks it expedient, for her quota of three hundred thousand troops in addition to those subject to military service under existing laws, or

so many thereof as the President may deem necessary to be raised from such classes of the population, irrespective of color, in each State, as the proper authorities thereof may determine. Provided, that not more than twenty five per cent. of the male slaves between the ages of eighteen and forty five in any State shall be called for under the provisions of this act.

Sec. 5. That nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize a change in the relation of the said slaves.


On the 11th there was a review of the troops on Grant's left, which was graced with the presence of the Lieutenant-General's wife and the wife of his Chief of Staff, General Rawlins. In the evening the General and his party returned to City Point, where, in the presence of a large number of officers and distinguished civilians, he was presented with the gold medal voted him by a joint resolution December 17, 1863. The medal was accompanied by a copy of the resolution engrossed on parchment. The ceremony took place in the upper cabin of the Mary Martin. Hon. E. B. Washburne presented the medal, with an appropriate speech, in the course of which he read the following letter addressed to the Lieutenant-General by the President :


" LIEUTENANT-GENERAL GRANT,-In accordance with a joint resolution of Congress, approved December 16, 1863, I now have the honor of transmitting and presenting to you, in the name of the people of the United States of America, a copy of said resolution, engrossed on parchment, together with the gold medal therein ordered and directed.

Please accept for yourself and all under your command the renewed expression of my gratitude for your and their arduous and well performed public service.

" Your obedient servant, A. LINCOLN."

The General replied: "I accept the medal and joint resolution of Congress which the President has commissioned you to deliver to me. I will do myself the honor at an early day to acknowledge the receipt of the letter of the President accompanying them, end to communicate in orders to the officers and soldiers who served under my command, prior to the passage of the resolution, the thanks so generously tendered to them by the Congress of the United States."

The cost of the medal was about $6000. The Congressional resolution was beautifully engrossed, and encased in a silver tube.


A report from Newborn, N. C., says that the remaining Union prisoners at Salisbury, N. C., have been released by Union troops, whether of Sherman's or some other force is not stated.

New Orleans advices of the 7th inst. state that large bodies of troops were then leaving there for the vicinity of Mobile. General Bailey's expedition from Baton Rouge into the interior of Louisiana had reached Clinton. His force consists of three thousand cavalry and some artillery.,

On the 11th the obsequies of Major-General Whiting, who died on Governor's island of the wounds he received in the assault on Fort Fisher, took place at Trinity Church before a large congregation. The Rev. Drs. Dix and Ogilby officiated, and the remains were subsequently interred in Greenwood Cemetery.

Governor Vance, of North Carolina, makes an urgent appeal to the people, saying Lee's army must, for three or four months to come, depend for food upon portions of Virginia and North Carolina. He himself has donated half his stock of provisions to the rebel Government, placing his own family and dependents upon half rations, and recommends that other citizens follow his example.

Sherman's new base of supplies is at Wilmington. His Chief Quarter master has arrived there, and all transport, and other vessels laden with supplies have been ordered from both Charleston and Savannah, with orders to ren dezvous at New Inlet.

A gentleman who left the Army of the Potomac on the 11th, and who has been spending several days at the front, states that the Army is in most perfect condition. Large accessions are being made to it daily; and the order, neatness, drill, and discipline are complete; the parades and reviews are perfect, and are the special admiration of the British Major-General who has been for a time the guest of General Meade. There are nearly twenty miles of lines closely covered with Union troops. Our troops continue close on to Petersburg, and as near as ever to Richmond, They are most abundantly fed and clothed.



LORD LYONS has resigned the office of British Minister to Washington. Sir Frederick Bruce, English Minister to China, has been appointed to succeed Lord Lyons.

Queen Isabella of Spain, it is reported, is about to sacrifice her private estate in aid of the National Treasury. The royal palaces and their contents, Buen Retiro, Aranjuez, the Escurial, and ten more, the Museum of Art, the Alhambra, and some other property are to be entailed forever on the Crown ; and when so much has been put aside to serve for the perpetual lustre of majesty the rest of the patrimony, hereditary possessions, and other estates enjoyed by the Queen are to be sold. Three fourths of the proceeds are to be paid into the Treasury, and the remaining fourth to herself.

Richmond Campaign




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