Cold Harbor Battle Description


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, June 25, 1864

This site features online versions of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. This is a valuable resource to enable you to watch the events of the war unfold on the pages of newspapers of the day.

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


Andrew Johnson


Andrew Johnson Biography


Battle of Piedmont

Cold Harbor

Cold Harbor

Cold Harbor

Cold Harbor Battle Description

Sherman Resaca

Sherman Entering Resaca Georgia

Cat Fight

Cat Fight Cartoon

Hanover Ferry

Hanover Ferry

Cold Harbor

Cold Harbor

Cold Harbor Battle

Cold Harbor Battle






[JUNE 25, 1864.



THE new and handsome steamer Berkshire, of the New York and Hudson line, took fire on her passage down the river on Wednesday night, 8th instant, when a short distance above Poughkeepsie, and was almost totally destroyed. She had on board nearly 150 passengers, some live-stock, and a large quantity of freight. As soon as it was ascertained that she was on fire, the pilot immediately headed her for shore, the engine at the time working at full speed ; but before she struck the mud all the wood-work was one vast sheet of flame. The scene that followed beggars description. Men frantic with fear; children crying (and it is said that there were quite a number of little ones on board); men shouting, the flames crackling, and the passengers jumping overboard, formed a sight terrible to behold. Furniture of every description was floating in the water, some of the pieces upholding a few of the unfortunate beings.

One little boy, with his grandmother, was in a stateroom, and when he heard the alarm he endeavored to open the door of his room, but could not. He then managed to get out of the window, and tried to save his relative ; but so close were the flames that he had to jump overboard to save his own life. The lady was probably suffocated.

One of the most heart-rending scenes in this terrible disaster was the case of Mrs. HANFORD. On ascertaining her danger she seized her babe and her daughter, and jumped overboard, leaving her little son standing on the stern of the vessel. After she got in the water she was compelled to relinquish her hold on her little ones, and they both went down. A man with his child in his arms, who was in the water close by her, seeing that the mother was in the act of sinking, seized hold of her and buoyed her up ; but, alas ! in doing so he lost his own child.

In all some forty persons perished. The pilot and engineer remained at their posts until the boat struck the shore. Nineteen bodies have been recovered from the wreck. There is not a vestige of the wood-work of the Berkshire above water-mark that has not been destroyed, with the exception of a portion of the starboard wheel-house. Both smoke-stacks have fallen. The walking-beam and other portions of the machinery are still standing. The after-part of the boat, from the paddles to the stern, is entirely submerged. Twenty bodies are supposed to be there.

The fire originated in the lamp-room, and was caused by the explosion of a lamp. The violence of the fire was caused by the large quantity of hay on board becoming ignited as soon as the fire burst from the lamp-room, and which might have just as well been so much alcohol as regards combustion.

The Berkshire was a first-class steamer, and was built at Athens last season. She made one or two trips to New York last fall to test her machinery ; but she was not permanently placed on the river until this spring. Her engine was taken out of the hull of the South America, but it was enlarged and made more powerful.

Our sketch on the first page gives a vivid view of the steamer at the time of the calamity.


WE continue this week our sketches illustrative of scenes and events in General GRANT'S great campaign in Virginia.

On page 412 we give a view of the position near Cold Harbor, June 2. Our artist, A. R. WAUD, furnishes the following explanation of this sketch :

" At this point the Second and Sixth Corps join. One of GIBBONS'S brigades (M'KEAN'S, Second Division, Second Corps) appears on the left of the picture, massed under a crest. In this brigade are the Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts, etc. To the right of the house is the old Jersey brigade of the Sixth Corps. Their term of service expires June 3, and they leave the army with an unsurpassed reputation. The lines these troops hold have been taken from the enemy, and are not more than a hundred yards from the rebel front. The smoke on the extreme left marks the position of a section of STEVENS'S battery, while MOTT'S battery occupies the fore-ground. These and other batteries at this point soon silenced the enemy's artillery, while musket-balls in reckless profusion swept the rifle-pits, among which the dead and wounded lay thickly."

THE LAST FIGHT OF THE PENNSYLVANIA RESERVES is illustrated on page 412. The Reserves were attacked by EARLY'S corps, which came out of the woods, covered by artillery, and in line of battle swept down upon CRAWFORD'S command. At first some of the regiments gave way, but were rallied, and the brigade seen in the fore-ground stood with conspicuous gallantry under their commander, Colonel FISHER. The rebels were repulsed, and retreated in disorder. General CRAWFORD and staff were close to the house during the fight. A rebel shell set it on fire, and it was consumed during the engagement.

On page 405 are sketches showing the troops of General BARLOW in front of the rebel works, and the passage of the Pamunkey at Hanover by the army in its advance from the North Anna. General BARLOW's position on the front, where this sketch was taken, was twelve miles from Richmond. Mr. WAUD says :

"The sketch was taken from the Sheldon House, a mansion nearly two hundred years old, built of imported glazed brick, and occupied by a lot of women and children, who refused to leave, although fifty or sixty rebel cannon-shot passed through the building. They sought refuge in the cellar. The works seen from this point consist of a double row of rifle-pits on the crest above the stream called Tolopatamoy, with epaulements for guns, not more than 600 yards away. The guns, flags, and men are distinctly visible from this mansion."

The crossing of the Pamunkey has been fully

described in accounts of the forward movement. The river is deep, muddy, and thickly fringed with wood. The ferry-master at Hanover sunk his boat on the approach of our forces.

In reference to the sketch of the Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery Crossing the North Anna, given on page 404, our artist writes : " After HANCOCK had crossed the North Anna, BURNSIDE was ordered over to connect the line of battle. To do this he had to cross the river by the Chesterfield bridge on the Telegraph road to Richmond. The rebels had a fine range on this bridge, and a 4-gun battery played upon it all day, whenever troops appeared upon it. As the columns double-quicked it over shell would burst right about them, covering the men with dust when they struck the ground, and wounding a few of the soldiers. The crest from which our batteries are represented replying to the fire was captured the day previous by General BERRY'S old brigade, to which the Ninety-third New York Volunteers have been assigned. The assault and capture of this point is considered one of the most dashing incidents of the campaign. The rebels were so severely handled that they had not time to burn the bridge. Many were captured and some drowned at this place."

In the battle at Cold Harbor, June 1, STEVENS'S battery, belonging to the Sixth Corps, was so near the rebel lines that the soldiers nicknamed it " Battery Insult." It stirred up the rebels in a most aggravating manner, and was an excessively dangerous spot to be seen in. After a discharge of the pieces hundreds of bullets would zip through the embrasures and around the earth-work; occasionally round shot would batter down portions of the work, but the artillerists stuck to it and did good execution. It will be noticed, in our sketch on page 404, that the limber chests have been taken off the carriages, and placed in trenches dug for their security.

The picture on pages 408 and 409 illustrates one of the grandest charges of the war—that of BARLOW'S Division in the Battle of Cold Harbor, June 1. General BARLOW held the extreme left of the army. A correspondent of the Times thus describes the charge :

BARLOW had directed that his attacking brigades should, previously to the assault, be moved out, and formed just in rear of the picket line. From this point they advanced for half a mile, through woods and over open intervals, under a severe fire, square up to the enemy's works. That portion of his front where the right of MILES'S brigade joined with the left of BROOKS'S—the same brigades that so brilliantly carried the famous salient in the lines of Spottsylvania—succeeded in a similar splendid coup here; they got over and into the enemy's parapet, capturing his guns (four light 12-pounders), his colors, and five or six hundred prisoners, about three hundred of whom were secured by promptly passing them to the rear. The storming column, in fact, was just turning the enemy's guns on the retreating rebels when powerful reinforcements from the second rebel line appeared advancing. BARLOW'S brigades—stout hearts, not used to pale before the greatest odds—could have held their own under conditions the least short of desperation, but the situation in which they now found themselves o'erleaped its limits. It was not merely the overwhelming front that came pressing down upon them—of that they had no fear—but the position they had gained placed them in advance of the whole line of battle, and gave the rebel artillery the opportunity for a deadly enfilading fire. Besides this, they had lost the directing heads of two of the chief commanders. BROOKS and BYRNES, "souls of courage all compact," fell seriously wounded, and all the organizations had suffered fearfully from an unparalleled loss of officers. In this state of facts they fell back, bringing with them the prisoners they had taken and a captured color, but not the guns. They fell back, but not to their original position; to a position far in advance of that they had held, and at different points not more than fifty yards from the enemy.

In reference to our picture our artist writes : " This sketch represents a portion of the line at the time when they had captured the first line of rifle-pits, and were about to advance upon the second. The regiment is the New York Seventh Heavy Artillery. Some of the men are seen over the embankment endeavoring to turn the enemy's captured guns upon them, under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel MORRIS, Colonel PORTER having been killed in the charge. In the fore-ground the prisoners are seen rapidly divesting themselves of their accoutrements, the first thing being always the disarming of the captured. Near them some soldiers are moving the Colonel in a blanket ; and above a captured flag, with the Virginia State arms emblazoned upon it, is carried in by one of our soldiers."





ONCE more Lily traversed the up-hill pavement, and marveled at the great rolling turbulent gutters in the roadways : gutters which in those days often bore on their inky bosoms the carcasses of defunct cats and dogs, that rolled past, swift and supine, toward the Infinite re-served for the beasts.

Once more she saw the clumsy oil-lamps slung on ropes across the streets, and smelled the faint odor of the melons and peaches, and the quicker aroma of the grapes from the fruiterers' shops. The way was by back streets, where there were few brilliant shops, full of gold, and silver, and jewels, and rich dresses, and beautiful pictures. But to the timid little hermit just escaped from her thralldom, the narrow, dirty streets of old Paris were ineffably charming. The great dishes full of wet partly-cooked spinach, like green mortar, in the green-grocers' shops; the giant pumps kins at the doors, some cleft in twain, and disclosing a voluptuous mine of golden squash and seedfulness within, that looked like the heads of grim Paynim warriors stricken off by the two-handed swords of doughty Crusaders ; the eggs boiled in cochineal (as Madame Prudence explained) to make their shells red : " c'est pour distraire l'oeil, mon enfant;" the long strings of dumpy little sausages ; the shapely pigs' feet cunningly truffled, as though they had corns defiant of the skillfulest chiropodist ; the other wonder

ful preparations of pork at the charcutiers' ; the butchers' shops, with their marble dressers and gilt iron railings, and their scraggy but lively-colored show of meat ; the glaring sign-boards; the dazzling show of pewter pitchers in the wine-shops ; the ticket-porters dozing on their trucks, with their shirt-collars open, disclosing their shaggy, vein-corrugated necks; the throng of little boy-soldiers with vacant faces and red legs; of priests in shovel- hats; of policemen with swords and cocked-hats ; of mustached old women, very like the two Fates who came to card wool at the Pension, trolling monstrous barrows full of fruit or vegetables ; the water-carriers with their pails; the alert little work-women, with their trim white caps, whisking along with their skirts thrown over one arm ; the wonderful poodle - dogs with tufted tails and curling manes, like pacific lions of a smaller growth; the liquorice-water seller with his pagoda at his back hung with bells and banners, and his clean napkin and arsenal of bright tin mugs ; the woman. who sold the jumbles, and the man who sold metal taps; the wandering glazier with his cry of 64 Vitrier-e-e-e-er !" the old clothesman, no Jew he, but a stout Christian, who looked as though he had spent a good many years traveling in Galilee, and had begun to waver in his faith somewhat, crying, " Vieux habits, vieux galons!" the very beggars and blackguard little boys in torn blue blouses, who splashed in the gutters, or made faces behind the backs of the cocked-hatted policemen ; all had charms for Lily. She could not help observing that most of the surrounding objects—animate as well as inanimate-were exceedingly dirty, and that the atmosphere was heavily laden with tobacco smoke; but the entire spectacle was charming to her, nevertheless.

By-and-by, in the wane of the afternoon (for they had walked leisurely, and Madame Prudence had met several acquaintances, the majority bearing large baskets from which the stalks of vegetables protruded, or the heads of fowls dangled, and who were manifestly of the culinary calling), they crossed the great roaring Boulevard —which the housekeeper told Lily was an ocean of wickedness, and to be avoided, save on feast-days, when the good people came out as well as the bad—and entered a maze of streets much wider and cleaner, but much quieter. There were few shops, but many white walls, seeming to stretch onward for miles, and relieved only by jalousied windows and heavy pontes cocheres. Lily's- heart sank within her. All looked older ; but then all was as still and as gloomy as the stark and sepulchral suburb of Saint Philippe du Roule.

"Does the good lady—does Madame de Kergolay—keep a Pension ?" she asked, nervously. Madame Prudence could feel the little arm quivering within her own, and patted it again, reassuringly.

" Courage, my child!" she said, with a merry laugh. "Why, we have not the boldness of a guinea-pig. We have done with Pensions for good. No more classes, no more haricots, no more tasks and penances, no more Marcassins! A Pension, my faith ! Madame la Baronne de Kergolay —a baroness, mind you, of the old stock, and not one of the day before yesterday--is a lady of ancient extraction, high rank, and ascertained position in society. She has had misfortunes, cruel and bitter misfortunes ; but sooner than keep a Pension, and suck the blood of young children, she would stand and sell matches at the corner of the Rue de la Chaussee d'Antin. Yes, my child ; suck their blood ! That is what the Marcassin does. She is a real Count Ugolino."

A considerable period had apparently elapsed since Madame Prudence had perused the works of Dante. Lily, however, knew quite as little about Count Ugolino as the housekeeper did ; and the assurance that Madame de Kergolay did not keep a school was quite sufficient for her.

The baroness lived in the Marais, in one of the tallest and oldest houses of that tall old quarter. It was a red brick house, too—almost as great a rarity in Paris as a stone house is in Lon-don. The entire mansion, Madame Prudence took care to inform Lily, belonged to the baroness ; but she let it out in flats to respectable ten-ants, and reserved only one floor, the third, for her own use.


IF Madame de Kergolay had lived on a third floor in London, the altitude of her dwelling-place would have been accepted as prima facially conclusive evidence of her impoverished circumstances. But indigence, in Paris, does not necessarily correspond with the number of stairs you have to mount to your abode ; and, al-though the baroness's apartment was an troisieme, it was spacious, comfortable, and even elegant.

Madame Prudence was short-winded, and, as she toiled up the staircase, uttered sundry invectives against a certain "Satane" asthma which troubled her. The Abbe Chatain would not have failed to reprove her for using so naughty an adjective; and of this eventuality Madame Prudence seemed herself aware ; for on the second landing she objurgated the asthma with bated breath, and apostrophized it only as a "Cosaque." But she was very glad to rest a while on this penultimate flight, while Lily gazed with admiration through an oeil-de-boeuf casement on the vast panorama of slated roofs and chimney-stacks which stretched around and beneath her. The sweetly-savored smoke from the wood fires curled in delicate violet hue against the clear blue sky ; and the distant melody of a piano—played not as a school task, but for pleasure, for the instrumentalist caroled a lively ditty as he sang—came and smote her very sweetly on the

ear. It was a simple matter to be pleased with, yet Lily felt as though she could have clapped her hands, and sung back again. Poor little creature ! she had seen so little, as yet, of the only city in the world worth living in !

"I should like," she said, in airy prattle to her new-found friend, " always to live here, and look through that window. See, there is a. woman hanging out linen on a roof. Oh, if there were only some birds ! There used to be birds at Miss Bunnycastle's."

"Bird yourself," rejoined the good-humored housekeeper. " Silly little chatterer, you'd soon get tired of your bird's-eye view, I'll warrant. Yes, yes, there are better things to be seen with-in. Come ! my respiration is a little restored. We will ring at the good lady's bell."

A lively piece of sculpture, in the likeness of a horse's fore-foot, hung at the end of a silken cord by the side of a door whose central panel exhibited a brass plate, and thereon, in very spiky and attenuated black letters, the words, "Madame la Baronne de Kergolay." Lily felt a slight tremor when she read " baroness." The remembrance of a former "countess" was rather conducive to a conviction on her part that she had had enough to do with titles of nobility for the term of her natural Iife.

A withered old man, very diminutive, hut with a very large head, and perhaps the thinnest pair of spindle-shanks ever seen out of a museum of anatomical preparations, opened the door, and grinned in a hospitable manner at the new-comers,

"This is my brother Thomas," said Madame Prudence, introducing the little old man, "al-though you will oftener hear him addressed by his little name of Vieux Sablons. Ile is twenty years older than I, but in his youth was furious gaillard. Even now il fait des farces. He is as upright as a dart, as strong as Hercules, and sain comme mon oeil."

Thomas, otherwise Vieux Sablons, grinned so extensively while these praises were being be-stowed on him that, in the mind of the timid, some fear might have arisen respecting the permanent cohesion ()This superior and inferior jaws. This time, however, no divorce between the up-per and lower portions of his head took place. The grin subsiding into a smirk, he shut the outer door behind the visitors, and ushered them into the interior of the premises.

Lily remarked that Thomas's Iarge head, though quite bald on the summit, and very scantily furnished with thin locks about the ears, was plentifully powdered. He wore, moreover, ear-rings : at which, I take it, an English Jeames would have been astounded, if not scandalized. He was habited in a green livery coat, short in the waist, and shorter in the tails, shortest of all from a proportional point of view in the cuffs, and ornamented with a shoulder-knot of tarnished silver bullion. It was a coat worn to the very shabbiest, and scrupulously neat; and the large plated buttons had been so often polished that the armorial cognizance on them, as on a Louis the Fifteenth franc, was well-nigh de-faced. Thomas's waistcoat had fallen likewise into the sere and yellow leaf—or rather the leaf that is sere without being yellow ; for the original hue of the nankeen which formed its texture had, through repeated ablutions, vanished. His green velvet nether garments likewise suggested to the observant spirit that they had originally formed the covering of a Utrecht sofa of the time of the First Empire, which had been very liberally sat upon by the beaux and belles of that epoch, Ile wore silk stockings of no particular color, and, where they were not cobweb, his hose, like the late Sir John Cutler's, were one darn. Still, any little shortcomings that might have been notice-able in his apparel were amply compensated by a prodigious pair of cut steel buckles in his ,shoes, and by a protruding shirt-frill or jabot : so white, so starched, and so stiff that it gave him the appearance of a piece of Palissy-ware, cleaving wit h distended fin its way through life, like one of poor Bernard's perch through a dish.

"He wore that coat before the assembly of notables met," whispered Madame Prudence. "He was a running footman at Vieux Sablons. He has worn l'epee an cote--the sword by his side. Ah, the glad days!"

Anon they had passed through a cheerful dining-room with the usual floor of inlaid wood, light chintz hangings and furniture, and plenty of mirrors. At each of the three windows there was a glittering cage, and in each cage a canary was singing.

"Hao! it is better than the staircase," quoth Madame Prudence, slyly.

Lily- thought so, indeed, when they came to the next room, the saloon, where the mirrors had richer frames—all tarnished, though--and where there were more birds, as many as four in a cage, and a beautiful globe full of gold and silver fish, and some stately pictures of ladies in hoops, and gentlemen with wigs and swords, and some older portraits of cavaliers in slouched hats end curled mustaches, and dames in ringlets and point lace. Here the furniture was of dark carved wood, with elaborate cushions and backs in needle-work.

"All Madame's doing," whispered the house-keeper. " She is an angel at her needle, but they were put together by the tapissier of the quarter. The old furniture was broken to pieces the mirrors and the pictures my brother saved but there's not a portrait without a bullet-hole or the gash of a knife in it, carefully mended not a looking-glass frame but the glass itself has been smashed. What you see is nearly all that is left of the chiiteau of Vieux Sablons."

Again they went on, until Thomas, lifting up a heavy drapery of old tapestry veiling a door, tapped discreetly at it. His large head disappeared in the hangings, but he speedily withdrew it, and turned it toward the visitors with a reassuring grin.




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