Robert E. Lee's Order No. 59


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, May 23, 1863

You are viewing part of our online archive of original Harper's Weekly newspapers. These newspapers are full of incredible pictures and reports on the Civil War. The collection serves as an excellent source of information on the war.

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General Stoneman

General Stoneman

General Stoneman Biography

Lee's Order No. 59

Robert E. Lee's Order Number 59

Stars and Stripes

The Stars and Stripes

Chancellorsville Map

Chancellorsville Battle Map

Vicksburg Battle Map



Chancellrosville Battlefield

Chancellorsville Battlefield

Battle of Chancellorsville

Battle of Chancellorsville

Jackson at Chancellorsville

Stonewall Jackson's Attack At Chancellorsville

Fight at Chancellorsville

Fight at Chancellorsville

Fernando Wood

Fernando Wood




MAY 23, 1863.]



(Previous Page) which they forced us by a long course of brow-beating diplomacy which threw them out of power. It is true that they, the inveterate enemies of England in this country, are now supported by the sympathy of the commercial and aristocratic interest of England in their effort to ruin us. And why not? What more dangerous enemy can England have than a vast government which such men have controlled, and, so far as England knows, may control again? She has no sympathy with the rebels as such. She supports their cause only because their success is the ruin of a huge rival power.

It is not, therefore, in the least worth while to bandy epithets. England is, and except when her kings were pusillanimous tools of France, always has been, a cold, haughty, selfish power. But have we in our national capacity been so conspicuously disinterested, consistent, and modest as to challenge comparisons? Let us leave taunting aside, and if war there must be, let us be sure that England is wrong in the cause of war. Until her insolence infringes our rights her insolence is permissible. It is our duty to confine ourselves exclusively to the maintenance of our rights, and to vindicate them at such times and in such ways as shall seem wisest. Whether we or England have been the greatest national swash-bucklers may be a question. But there can be no question that for England under a plea of neutrality to destroy our commerce is an invasion of our rights; and for us to prevent her supplying our enemies under the same plea is not an invasion of British rights. So long as we claim to be a living sovereign power we can not tolerate either of these things. But surely we shall use our common sense in deciding how our rights may most wisely be maintained.


THE question of belligerent rights is one upon which neutrals and belligerents never have agreed, and never will agree. The public mind of England rages over the seizure of a ship suspected of carrying contraband, as if some outrage had been inflicted upon British rights. And yet the seizure of the Peterhof is in strict consonance with the letter and spirit of the British dispatch, which declares that upon reasonable suspicion ships may be detained. To determine what is, abstractly, "reasonable suspicion," is, of course, a hopeless task. But by the necessity of the case the belligerent naval officer is created the judge. The matter is left to his discretion. If the suspicion which he considers to be reasonable turns out to be baseless, and he arrests an innocent ship, it is one of the vexatious but unavoidable chances of a neutral commerce in time of war. It is a case which requires, and should receive, the promptest acknowledgment, apology, and reparation from the belligerent government. If the suspicion of such an officer is incessant and incessantly causeless, his Government, acting in good faith, will remove him from a station for which his want of sagacity unfits him. But if his Government persists in keeping him upon a service in which he causelessly harasses an innocent neutral commerce, his Government clearly intends to invite difficulty with the neutral.

On the other hand, if a neutral power takes the risk, for reasons that satisfy it, of trading in contraband with a belligerent, it will happen that every ship sailing under that particular neutral flag in certain regions is, by the general conduct of the neutral, exposed to suspicion. Nor can it justly plead the frequency of detention under a suspicion which it has itself awakened. It is notorious that the sentiment of the trading class in England is friendly to the rebels. It is equally well known that almost every runner of the blockade sails under the English flag. It is no secret that foreign supplies reach the rebels through Mexico and Texas. Under these circumstances a trader under the British flag, in that direction, is obviously more liable to suspicion than a vessel under the Swedish or Italian flags. It is by no fault of ours that she is strictly watched. It is no fault of ours if, in many cases, the suspicion of a naval officer watching her should often become "reasonable"—so often, indeed, as to be exasperating to the trading interest which desires a virtual immunity. If the neutral were indeed neutral frequent detention would be a just grievance. But a neutral systematically dealing in contraband should not wince at the inevitable consequences. To play at the same time for the advantages of a neutral and a belligerent is a hazardous game. It certainly is not manly in him who attempts to carry water upon both shoulders to complain that he is in danger of getting wet.

If it shall appear that Admiral Wilkes has stopped the Peterhoff, or any other naval officer any other vessel, from pure wantonness or simple desire of annoyance, we hope that he may be summarily dealt with. But no man in his senses will claim that such a motive has been in the least established in any detention or seizure yet made.


IN a late discourse upon Edmund Burke, Mr. Richard O'Gorman alluded to the passage in Burke's speech on Conciliation with America, in which he says that, wherever there is slavery, "those who are free are by far the most proud and jealous of their freedom." The passage occurs in that part of the oration which is devoted to the consideration of the probable obstinacy of resistance upon the part of the colonies, and it is introduced by the remark that the spirit of religious dissent in the Northern colonies will make them fight, and although this disposition may be checked in the Southern by the prevalence of the Church of England, yet slavery will restore the balance, because wherever there is slavery those who are free are particularly proud of liberty, and may be expected to fight for it desperately. The liberty of which he is speaking is political, not personal, liberty.

This was one of the splendid generalizations and impressive prophecies in which great statesmen

sometimes indulge, and which are so often brought to shame by experience. If Mr. O'Gorman did not tell his hearers of the melancholy and utter failure of the expectation of his great countryman's, we prefer to believe that, as a foreigner, he was ignorant of our history, than that, as an exile for the same political liberty, he was pandering to the meanest of all enterprises, a rebellion to perpetuate slavery.

The experience to which Burke prospectively appealed to sustain his assertion laughed his sophism to scorn. He uttered it in 1775, to dissuade Parliament from going to war by showing how fiercely slaveholders would fight for liberty. Four years afterward, in 1779, a Committee of the Continental Congress, appointed to take into consideration the circumstances of the Southern States, report that "the State of South Carolina unable to make any effectual efforts with militia, by reason of the great proportion of citizens necessary to remain at home to prevent insurrection among the negroes, and to prevent the desertion of them to the enemy; that the state of the country, and the great number of these people among them, expose the inhabitants to great danger from the endeavors of the enemy to excite them to revolt or desert."

As a matter of fact the slaveholding section, which, according to Burke, was to be so "proud and jealous of freedom" as to be formidable to the British arms, was the nest of Toryism in the Revolution. By the census of 1790 the Southern colonies had a population of 1,956,354; the Northern, 1,968,455. Of Continental troops the Southern colonies furnished 58,421; the Northern, 172,496. Of militia the Southern colonies furnished 12,719; the Northern, 46,048. These last are the figures authenticated by the War Office. By the "conjectural" returns the Southern colonies furnished two militia men to one from the Northern. Burke's was also a conjectural estimate.

That the Southerners fight well no one denies. That they fight well because they are slavedrivers is an assertion which is simply silly. Slavery being a system of barbarism, all who are subjected to its influence have a certain ferocity common to all semi-civilizations, and always attended with fear. But that is not "a high and haughty spirit of liberty," nor heroism, nor pride of freedom. When Burke spoke the Turks and Asiatics were slave-holders, and at once ferocious and cowardly; but Burke would hardly have contended that they were braver or had a prouder love of liberty than the British people. Privilege will always fight hard to defend itself. But it is a degradation of language to dignify attachment to privilege as a high love of liberty. Privilege is the denial of liberty; and therefore the party of liberty in the long-run always conquers that of privilege.



ON the 10th inst., by the Rev. Dr. Calculation, Mr. Timothy Economy to Miss Louisa Poverty. No Cards; no Fee; no Entertainment.

This is surely common sense

To get a wife without expense.

Then all you can from that time save,

To keep until you reach the grave.

Please publish the above without charge, with the compliments of the groom.

An Irishman went into a public house one day, and asked for a mug of beer in a great hurry, stating that he was so dry that he thought he could drink a gallon. The publican told him if he would drink it at one draught, without taking the measure away from his lips, he should have it for nothing. "Agraid," said Pat; "and, be the holy Saint Pathrick, I'll do that same." The landlord then drew off a gallon of ale, and slyly slipping a red herring into the measure, handed it to Pat, who eagerly raised it to his month and drank away until the measure had been elevated almost perpendicular. The publican's eyes followed its motion in astonishment, and, looking in it, he exclaimed, shaking the froth out, "Pat, didn't you feel any thing going down with the beer when you drank it?" "Be jabers," said Pat, "I thowt I felt a hop, Sur."

BETTER THAN A DOZEN.—Crazy as George III. was said to have been, there was evidently a method in his madness at times. Speaking to Archbishop Sutton of his large family, he used the expression, "I believe your Grace has better than a dozen?" "No, Sir," replied the Archbishop, "only eleven." "Well," rejoined the King, "is not that better than a dozen?"

Widow Grizzle's husband lately died of cholera. In the midst of the most acute bodily pain, after the hand of death had touched him, and while writhing in agony, his gentle wife said to him, "Well, Mr. Grizzle, you needn't kick round so, and wear all the sheets out, if you are dying!"

We like fine writing when it is properly applied: so we appreciate the following burst of eloquence: "As the ostrich uses both legs and wings when the Arabian courser bounds in her rear—as the winged lightnings leap from the heavens when the thunder-bolts are loosed—so does a little boy run when a big dog is after him."

At a Sunday-school the other afternoon, a bright-looking little fellow was asked: "What is conscience?" He answered very properly, "An inward monitor." And, "What is a monitor?" "Oh, one of the iron-clads!"

"Well, how do you like the looks of the varmint?" said a "southwester" to a "down-easter," who was gazing with round-eyed wonder, and evidently for the first time, at a huge alligator, with wide-open jaws, on the muddy banks of the Mississippi. "Wa'al," replied the Yankee, "he ain't what yeou may call a hansum critter, but he's got a great deal of openness when he smiles!"

A university doctor desiring to see a bird-catcher exercise his employment accompanied him to the field. As soon as he saw the birds he hallooed in Latin, "There they are!" The birds took the alarm. The sportsman, indignant at the absurdity of the professor, told him of it in very plain terms. "My good friend," exclaimed the doctor, in great astonishment, "who would have imagined that those birds would have understood Latin?"

An old gouty gentleman, having lost a pair of capacious shoes, said that the worst wish he had was, that the shoes might fit the thief.

"How dreadful that cigar smells!" exclaimed a clerk to his companion. "Oh no; it's not the cigar that smells," was the reply. "What is it, then?" "Why, it's your nose that smells, of course."

When is a man thinner than a lath?—When he is a-shaving.

A QUESTION FOR CLASSICAL SCHOLARS.—Were the sacred fowls of the ancient Romans ever used for lay purposes?

All the women of the villages on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico are in the habit of swimming. The young ladies are all diving belles.

CONSUMPTION.—Two thin shoes make one cold, two colds an attack of bronchitis, two attacks of bronchitis one mahogany box.

The discovery has been made that without a mouth a man can neither eat, drink, talk, kiss the girls, nor chew tobacco.

When is a lobster like a mortar?—When it casts its shell.

There are two kinds of cats—one with nine lives, the other with nine tails. The former always fall upon their own feet, the latter upon others' backs.

When is a soldier like a baby?—When he is in arms.

Rank and fashion may be all very fine in times of peace, but rank and file must have precedence of them in time of war.

"Come here, my dear; I want to ask you all about your sister. Now tell me truly, has she got a beau?"

"No, it's the janders she's got, the doctor says."



THE operations of the Army of the Potomac on the south side of the Rappahannock are fully chronicled on page 331. General Hooker recrossed his army safely on 4th and 5th, and part, at least, of his forces occupy their old camps. Some divisions are reported to have crossed the river again; but of this we have no reliable information.


General "Stonewall" Jackson was badly wounded in the arm at the battles of Chancellorsville, and had his arm amputated. The operation did not succeed, and pneumonia setting in, he died on the 10th inst., near Richmond, Virginia.

The losses in the battles appear to have been about ten thousand on each side.


The following order has been issued by Major-General Hooker:



May 6, 1863.

The Major-General Commanding tenders to this army his congratulations on its achievements of the last seven days.

If it has not accomplished all that was expected the reasons are well known to the army.

It is sufficient to say they were of a character not to be foreseen or prevented by human sagacity or resources.

In withdrawing from the south bank of the Rappahannock before delivering a general battle to our adversaries, the army has given renewed evidence of its confidence in itself and its fidelity to the principles it represents.

In fighting at a disadvantage we would have been recreant to our trust, to ourselves, our cause, and our country. Profoundly loyal and conscious of its strength, the Army of the Potomac will give or decline battle whenever its interest or honor may demand.

It will also be the guardian of its own history and its own honor.

By our celerity and secrecy of movement our advance and passage of the rivers were undisputed, and on our withdrawal not a rebel returned to follow.

The events of the last week may swell with pride the hearts of every officer and soldier of this army.

We have added new laurels to its former renown. We have made long marches, crossed rivers, surprised the enemy in his intrenchments, and wherever we have fought we have inflicted heavier blows than we have received.

We have taken from the enemy five thousand prisoners and fifteen colors, captured and brought off seven pieces of artillery, and placed hors de combat eighteen thousand of his chosen troops. We have destroyed his depots filled with vast amounts of stores, damaged his communications, captured prisoners within the fortifications of his capital, and filled his country with fear and consternation.

We have no other regret than that caused by the loss of our brave companions, and in this we are consoled by the conviction that they have fallen in the holiest cause over submitted to the arbitrament of battle.


S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant-General.


The following address has been issued by General Lee to the army under his command:



May 7, 1863.

With heart-felt gratification the General Commanding expresses to the army his sense of the heroic conduct displayed by officers and men during the arduous operations in which they have just been engaged.

Under trying vicissitudes of heat and storm you attacked the enemy, strongly intrenched in the depths of a tangled wilderness, and again on the hills of Fredericksburg, fifteen miles distant, and, by the valor that has triumphed on so many fields, forced him once more to seek safety beyond the Rappahannock.

While this glorious victory entitles you to the praise and gratitude of the nation, we are especially called upon to return our grateful thanks to the only giver of victory for the signal deliverance He has wrought.

It is, therefore, earnestly recommended that the troops unite on Sunday next in ascribing to the Lord of Hosts the glory due unto His name.

Let us not forget in our rejoicing the brave soldiers who have fallen in defense of their country; and while we mourn their loss let us resolve to emulate their noble example.

The army and the country alike lament the absence for a time of one to whose bravery, energy, and skill they are so much indebted for success.

The following letter from the President of the Confederate States is communicated to the army as an expression of his appreciation of its success:

"I have received your dispatch, and reverently unite with you in giving praise to God for the success with which He has crowned our arms.

"In the name of the people I offer my cordial thanks to yourself and the troops under your command for this addition to the unprecedented series of great victories which your army has achieved.

"The universal rejoicing produced by this happy result will be mingled with a general regret for the good and brave who are numbered among the killed and the wounded."   R. E. LEE, General.


The success of General Stoneman's expedition is admitted by the rebels themselves. His forces were divided into three squadrons—one commanded by himself, and the others by Generals Averill and Buford. All performed their work gallantly by cutting the railroad communications between Lee's army and Richmond, and destroying all the bridges to within five miles of the rebel capital. One party of the cavalry went to Louisa Court House, cutting up the railroad there. Another pushed on to Columbia and Goochland, on the James River, breaking the canal at the former point, and capturing rebel stores at the latter. A portion of the force are said to have actually got within a mile and a quarter of Richmond. Of the brilliant movement of Colonel Kilpatrick's command General King says, in his official notice of his arrival at Gloucester Point: "They burned the bridges over the Chickahominy, destroyed three large trains of provisions in the rear of Lee's army, drove in the rebel pickets to within two

miles of Richmond, and have lost only one lieutenant and thirty men, having captured and paroled upward of three hundred prisoners. They have marched nearly two hundred miles since the 3d of May. They were inside of the fortifications of Richmond on the 4th, burned all the stores at Aylett's Station on the Mattapony on the 5th, destroyed all the ferries over the Pamunky and Mattapony, and a large depot of commissary stores near and above the Rappahannock, and came in here in good condition."


Our army on the Peninsula is not idle. All the bridges in the vicinity of White House have been destroyed. West Point is now occupied by our troops. General Dix, having returned to the fortress, reported that Colonels Fitzpatrick and Davis had reached Gloucester Point with 700 cavalry without losing a man.


It is rumored that General Buford's light cavalry have gone as far as the Alleghany Ridge, in Western Virginia, and cut the Richmond and Tennessee Railroad in several places, destroying at the same time large quantities of rebel stores intended for the Army of the Southwest.


General Grant has captured Port Gibson and taken five hundred prisoners. He drove the enemy, eleven thousand strong, from the place after a hard contest. Our loss was only fifteen hundred in killed and wounded. The enemy retreated toward Vicksburg, destroying the bridges over the two forks of the Bayou Pierre. These were rebuilt, and the pursuit was continued. So General Grant telegraphs; and he also reports a brilliant feat of Colonel Grierson with his cavalry in Northern Mississippi, from whence he progressed rapidly southward, destroying bridges, railroads, locomotives, and stores of all kinds, and was at last accounts supposed to be on his way to Baton Rouge.


The official report of Admiral Porter, recording his great success in the capture of Grand Gulf, Mississippi, was received at the Navy Department last week, and created much excitement in Washington. The possession of this point places the formidable rebel strong-holds at Vicksburg and Port Hudson at our mercy. Admiral Porter says that he now holds the door to Vicksburg. The fight lasted five hours and a half. The forts were literally torn to pieces by the fire of our vessels, but all the guns captured by our forces were in good condition. The works at Grand Gulf were the most formidable ones the rebels possessed in the vicinity of Vicksburg. Admiral Porter is now remounting the guns. Many of the rebels who fled from Grand Gulf were captured by our pursuing forces.


A dispatch from Cairo on 11th says that, according to the Memphis Bulletin, Jackson is already invested, and that the rebels have no way of getting out of Vicksburg but by cutting their way through the national forces. A rebel dispatch from Jackson to Richmond, dated the 5th, says that the Union troops were repulsed the day previous at Anderson's Ferry, on the Big Black, after four hours' severe fighting.


General Braxton Bragg sends an official account to Richmond of our cavalry raid in Georgia. He describes the resistance offered to our troops as stubborn, and boldly maintained from point to point, resulting in the capture of Colonel Streight's command by General Forrest, near Rome. General Bragg claims one thousand six hundred prisoners, with all their horses and rifles.


General Banks has been issuing some important general orders. One condemns to death all who supply aid to the enemy; another orders the registered enemies of the United States Government to leave the Department by the 10th of May, and another forbids sheriffs and others to conscript slaves for the rebel army, in pursuance of the action of the Louisiana Legislature.


The President has issued a Proclamation preliminary to the enforcement of the Conscription Act defining the position and obligations of inchoat cities under that law. Persons of foreign birth who have declared their intentions to become citizens, are, by this proclamation, pronounced liable to be drafted, if after the expiration of sixty-five days from the date thereof they still remain within the territory of the United States.



ON April 23d the Marquis of Clanricarde, in the House of Lords, called up the subject of the seizure of British merchant steamers while in the Matamoras trade, and inveighed against the proceedings of Admiral Wilkes. In the course of his remarks he also alluded to the fact that Minister Adams had granted a permit to a steamer carrying arms and munitions to the Mexicans, and characterized it as a most unwarrantable act. After remarks by other members, Earl Granville, on behalf of the Government, deprecated angry discussion on imperfect information, and the subject was dropped. In the House of Commons, Mr. Roebuck led off the debate on the same topics, and delivered himself of a strong philippic against the Northern dis-United States. Lord Palmerston gave assurances that the Government was giving due consideration to the matters discussed. The debate was continued in the House of Lords next day, when the Earl of Derby denounced the proceedings of the American Government as monstrous. The case of the Alexandra was also under discussion, and it was stated positively, on behalf of her builders, that she was not deigned for the rebels. Earl Russell defended the policy of the Government, and other members denounced the absurd tirade of Roebuck.


It is said in London that Mr. Adams, the United States Minister, has made a "frank explanation" respecting "ticket of leave" letters to the Mexican traders, and that no diplomatic protest on the part of England is necessary in consequence.


Earl Russell had called Mr. Adams's attention to the fact, that it was reported to the Government in London that Union agents were recruiting for the Federal army in Great Britain. A very interesting correspondence ensued on the subject. The large number of able-bodied young men leaving Cork by the Inman steamers was adduced by the Earl in support of the charge. Mr. Adams denied that United States agents were so employed, and quietly suggested that the "alleged distress" existing in Ireland might account for the emigration "phenomenon."



Affairs in Poland remain unchanged. Russia has renewed her propositions to Prussia for an offensive and defensive alliance. A Russian courier has arrived in London, bearing, it is supposed, the Czar's reply to Earl Russell's dispatch on Polish affairs.



The latest news from Mexico is to the 16th ult., by way of San Francisco, reporting the condition of affairs at Puebla to the 15th ult., at which time the French had gained nothing since the 6th. At that time they held six blocks in the city and the Castle of San Javier. They were bombarding some convents in the city, which they had failed to capture. General Comonfort still held the road between Puebla and the City of Mexico. General Ortega is confident that he can maintain Puebla against all the assaults of the French.




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