Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Harper’s Weekly

Execution, By Hanging, Of Two Rebel Spies, Williams and Peters, In the Army of the Cumberland, June 9, 1863

Execution, By Hanging, Of Two Rebel Spies, Williams and Peters, In the Army of the Cumberland, June 9, 1863.


Note: The following article provides a perspective from the day of the execution.  An article, “Williams, C.S.A.”,  published in Harper’s Monthly Magazine nearly  50 years later, fleshes out the story more fully, with dispatches, telegrams, and other material related to the incident. – MpG 6/2/2013


Harper’s Weekly, July 4, 1863.

We are indebted to Mr. James K. Magie, of the 78th Illinois Regiment, for the sketch of the execution of the two rebel spies, Williams and Peters, who were hanged by General Rosecrans on 9th inst. The following account of the affair is from a letter written by the surgeon of the 85th Indiana:

Headquarters Post,

Franklin, Tennessee.

June 9, 1863.

Last evening about sundown two strangers rode into camp and called at Colonel Baird’s head-quarters, who presented unusual appearances. They had on citizens’ overcoats, Federal regulation pants and caps. The caps were covered with white flannel havelocks. They wore sidearms, and showed high intelligence. One claimed to be a colonel in the United States Army, and called himself Colonel Austin; the other called himself Major Dunlap, and both representing themselves as Inspector-Generals of the United States Army. They represented that they were now out on an expedition in this department, inspecting the outposts and defenses, and that day before yesterday they had been overhauled by the enemy and lost their coats and purses. They exhibited official papers from General Rosecrans, and also from the War Department at Washington, confirming their rank and business. These were all right to Colonel Bayard, and at first satisfied him of their honesty. They asked the Colonel to loan them $50, as they had no coats and no money to buy them. Colonel Baird loaned them the money, and took Colonel Austin’s note for it. Just at dark they started, saying they were going to Nashville, and took that way. Just so soon as their horses’ heads were turned the thought of their being spies struck Colonel Baird, he says, like a thunder-bolt, and he ordered Colonel Watkins, of the 6th Kentucky cavalry, who was standing by, to arrest them immediately. But they were going at lightning speed. Colonel Watkins had no time to call a guard, and only with his orderly he set out on the chase. He ordered the orderly to unsling his carbine, and if, when he (the Colonel) halted them they showed any suspicious motions, to fire on them without waiting for an order. They were overtaken about one-third of a mile from here. Colonel Watkins told them that Colonel Baird wanted to make some further inquiries of them, and asked them to return. This they politely consented to do, after some remonstrance on account of the lateness of the hour and the distance they had to travel, and Colonel Watkins led them to his tent, where he placed a strong guard over them. It was not until one of them attempted to pass the guard at the door that they even suspected they were prisoners. Colonel Watkins immediately brought them to Colonel Baird under strong guard. They at once manifested great uneasiness, and pretended great indignation at being thus treated. Colonel Baird frankly told them that he had his suspicions of their true character, and that they should, if loyal, object to no necessary caution. They were very hard to satisfy, and were in a great hurry to get off. Colonel Baird told them that they were under arrest, and he should hold them prisoners until he was fully satisfied that they were what they purported to be. He immediately telegraphed to General Rosecrans, and received the answer that he knew nothing of any such men, that there were no such men in his employ, or had his pass.

Long before this dispatch was received, however, every one who had an opportunity of hearing their conversation was well satisfied that they were spies. Smart as they were, they gave frequent and distinct evidence of duplicity. After this dispatch came to hand, which it did about 12 o’clock (midnight), a search of their persons was ordered. To this the Major consented without opposition, but the Colonel protested against it, and even put his hand to his arms. But resistance was useless, and both submitted. When the Major’s sword was drawn from the scabbard there were found etched upon it these words, “Lt. W. G. Peter, C.S.A.” At this discovery Colonel Baird remarked, “Gentlemen, you have played this d—d well.” “Yes,” said Lieutenant Peter, “and it came near being a perfect success.” They then confessed the whole matter, and upon further search various papers showing their guilt were discovered upon their persons. Lieutenant Peter was found to have on a rebel cap, secreted by the white flannel havelock.

Colonel Baird immediately telegraphed the facts to General Rosecrans and asked what he should do, and in a short time received an order “to try them by a drum-head court-martial, and if found guilty hang them immediately.” The court was convened, and before daylight the case was decided, and the prisoners informed that they must prepare for immediate death by hanging.

At daylight men were detailed to make a scaffold. The prisoners were visited by the Chaplain of the 78th Illinois, who, upon their request, administered the sacrament to them. They also wrote some letters to their friends, and deposited their jewelry, silver cups, and other valuables for transmission to their friends.

The gallows was constructed by a wild cherry-tree not far from the depot, and in a very public place. Two ropes hung dangling from the beam, reaching within eight feet of the ground. A little after nine o’clock A.M. the whole garrison was marshaled around the place of execution in solemn sadness. Two poplar coffins were lying a few feet away. Twenty minutes past nine the guards conducted the prisoners to the scaffold—they walked firm and steady, as if unmindful of the fearful precipice which they were approaching. The guards did them the honor to march with arms reversed.

Arrived at the place of execution they stepped upon the platform of the cart and took their respective places. The Provost Marshal, Captain Alexander, then tied a linen handkerchief over the face of each and adjusted the ropes. They then asked the privilege of bidding last farewell, which being granted, they tenderly embraced each other. This over, the cart moved from under them, and they hung in the air. What a fearful penalty! They swung off at 9:30—in two minutes the Lieutenant ceased to struggle. The Colonel caught hold of the rope with both hands and raised himself up at 3 minutes, and ceased to struggle at 5 minutes. At 6 minutes Dr. Forester, Surgeon 6th Kentucky Cavalry, and Dr. Moss, 78th Illinois Infantry, and myself, who had been detailed to examine the bodies, approached them, and found the pulse of both full and strong. At 7 minutes the Colonel shrugged his shoulders. The pulse of each continued to beat 17 minutes, and at 20 minutes all signs of life had ceased. The bodies were cut down at 30 minutes and encoffined in full dress. The Colonel was buried with a gold locket and chain on his neck. The locket contained the portrait and a braid of hair of his intended wife—her portrait was also in his vest pocket—these were buried with him. Both men were buried in the same grave—companions in life, misfortune, and crime, companions in infamy, and now companions in the grave.

I should have stated in another place that the prisoners did not want their punishment delayed; but, well knowing the consequences of their acts, even before their trial, asked to have the sentence, be it by hanging or shooting, quickly decided and executed. But they deprecated the idea of death by hanging, and asked for a communication of the sentence to shooting.

The elder and leader of these unfortunate men was Lawrence Williams, of Georgetown, D. C. He was as fine-looking a man as I have ever seen, about six feet high, and perhaps 30 years old. He was a son of Captain Williams, who was killed at the battle of Monterey. He was one of the most intellectual and accomplished men I have ever known. I have never known any one who excelled him as a talker. He was a member of the regular army, with the rank of captain of cavalry, when the rebellion broke out, and at that time was aid-de-camp and private secretary to General Winfield Scott. From this confidence and respect shown him by so distinguished a man may be judged his education and accomplishments. He was a first cousin of General Lee, commanding the Confederate army on the Rappahannock. Soon after the war began he was frank enough to inform General Scott that all his sympathies were with the South, as his friends and interests were there, and that he could not fight against them. As he was privy to all of General Scott’s plans for the campaign, it was not thought proper to turn him loose, hence he was sent to Governor’s Island, where he remained three months. After the first Bull Run battle he was allowed to go South, where he joined the Confederate army, and his subsequent history I have not been able to learn much about. He was a while on General Bragg’s staff as Chief of Artillery, but at the time of his death was his Inspector-General. When he joined the Confederate army he altered his name, and now signs it thus: “Lawrance W. Orton, Col. City. P. A. C. S. A.”—(Provisional Army Confederate States of America). Sometimes he writes his name “Orton,” and sometimes “Anton,” according to the object which he had in view. This we learn from the papers found on him. These facts in relation to the personal history of Colonel Orton I have gathered from the Colonel himself and from Colonel Watkins, who knows him well, they having belonged to the same regiment of the regular army—2d U. S. Cavalry. Colonel Watkins, however, did not recognize Colonel Orton until after he had made himself known, and now mourns his apostasy and tragic fate.

The other victim of this delusive and reckless daring was Walter G. Peter, a lieutenant in the rebel army, and Colonel Orton’s adjutant. He was a tall, handsome young man, of about twenty-five years, that gave many signs of education and refinement.

Of his history I have been able to gather nothing. He played but a second part. Colonel Orton was the leader, and did all the talking and managing. Such is a succinct account of one of the most daring enterprises that men ever engaged in. Such were the characters and the men who played the awful tragedy.

History will hardly furnish its parallel in the character and standing of the parties, the boldness and daring of the enterprise, and the swiftness with which discovery and punishment were visited upon them. They came into our camp and went all through it, minutely inspecting our position, works, and forces, with a portion of their traitorous insignia upon them; and the boldness of their conduct made their flimsy subterfuges almost successful.

battle of big black river bridge

The Battle of Black River Bridge, May 17, 1863 – Sketched by Mr. Theodore R. Davis.


The Fight at the Black River Bridge.

“Head-Quarters Of Major-General McPherson,

Commanding 17th Corps Army Tennessee,

Camp Near Vicksburg, May 18, 1863.

“We had fought the battle of Champion’s Hill, and at night lain down as tired as mortals ever are; yet the next day, finding the enemy, we, before dinner, captured his works, seventeen guns, and over two thousand prisoners.

“The brigade of Colonel Lawler was ordered to advance upon the right, and the division of General A. J. Smith upon the left, which they did, as illustrated by my sketch.”

Mr. Theodore R. Davis, Published

in Harper’s Weekly, June 20, 1863.

Battle of Champion Hill

Battle of Champion Hill, May 16, 1863 – Sketched by Mr. Theodore Davis.


“Head-quarters of Major-General McPherson,

Commanding 17th Corps Army Tennessee,

Near Black River, May 17, 1863.

“The division of General Hovey being in advance, discovered the enemy in force, posted in excellent position upon the crest of a hill covered with forest and undergrowth. General Hovey deployed his division, that of General Logan forming upon his right. The line advanced, preceded by a heavy line of skirmishers, and was soon heavily engaged.

“The batteries of Captains Rogers and De Solyer opened with good effect. Captain Rogers’s battery, posted in a good but exposed position, was soon charged upon; the enemy being severely repulsed by three regiments of Gen. John E. Smith’s brigade and the guns of De Solyer’s battery.

“An attempt to check our advance and flank our right was observed by General McPherson, who sent the brigade of General Stevenson and two batteries to meet it. After a short and sharp engagement, the fight at this time being severe along the whole line, General Stevenson charged with his brigade, driving the enemy and capturing their battery. The mass of the rebel troops seemed now to have been thrown against our left, and General Hovey, being forced to retire, was at once supported by General Crocker, who sent from his division two regiments of Colonel Sandborne’s brigade, and the brigades of Colonels Boomer and Holmes. These troops held the rebels in check, and shortly advanced, driving the enemy, capturing 1600 prisoners and a battery.

“A general advance, now ordered by General Grant, who had been upon the field during the entire day, many times in exposed positions, found the enemy in full retreat toward Edwards’s Depot, General McPherson sending in pursuit General Stevenson’s brigade, with De Solyer’s battery, followed by General Carr’s division. In this retreat the rebels lost General Tighlman, killed by a shell.

“The enemy lost nearly two thousand prisoners and thirteen guns.”

published in Harper’s Weekly  issue of June 20, 1863

battle of raymond

“Head-Quarters Major-General McPherson, May 13, 1863

“At 10 o’clock on the 12th the ‘Body Guard,’ under Captain Foster, discovered the enemy in small force upon the road three miles from Raymond. A portion of General Dennis’s brigade—the Twentieth Ohio and Thirtieth Illinois Regiments —were deployed to the right and left of the road. Being advanced, the enemy were discovered in line of battle, occupying a commanding position, a mile and a half from Raymond.

“A section of De Golyer’s battery was placed in position in the road, and at a distance of one thousand yards opened the fight, when the whole battery was placed in position, with the brigade of General Dennis for its support, it being in turn supported by the brigades of Generals Smith and Stevenson, who soon after formed in line of battle upon the right. These troops, constituting General Logan’s division, were soon charged by the enemy. The charge was upon the right flank, but the previous disposition of troops frustrated it, and a sharp engagement of an hour ensued. The enemy were repulsed.

“General Crocker’s division coming up, was disposed to the right, left, and reserve by General McPherson, and the line immediately advanced. The rebels, being driven from their position, retreated through the town toward Jackson. and our troops occupied Raymond. Our loss was 52 killed and 198 wounded. Among the killed was Coloneel Richards. Colonel McCook was wounded.

The Approach of the British Pirate Alabama

The Approach of the British Pirate “Alabama.”

IT is not to be disguised that our relations with Great Britain have reached a most critical pass. The speeches of the Solicitor-General of England and of Lord Palmerston, in Parliament, on 27th March, indicate a determined purpose on the part of the British Government to persevere in the work of fitting out piratical vessels in British ports to prey upon our merchant navy, It was well shown by Messrs. Forster, Baring, and others, that the equipment of the Florida and Alabama was in violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act; and that other similar vessels—some say eighteen, others fourteen—are being constructed for the rebels at Liverpool and other British ports, without let or hindrance by the Government, and will soon be at sea, manned by British sailors, armed with British guns, and as thoroughly British in every respect as the Warrior herself. The only answer to these cogent facts was some legal quips and quibbles in the Nisi Prius style by the Solicitor, and a sneer from Lord Palmerston about “the Americans always picking a quarrel with England whenever they got into trouble.”

Passing over the insolence of the latter speaker, who has been well said to represent the black-leg element in the British Cabinet, and the cheap erudition of the lawyer who was hired to defend the Government, the fact remains that we are practically at war with Great Britain without the power of reprisals. Every British dock-yard is now engaged in building steamers to capture and burn our merchantmen, to run our blockade, and to bombard our defenseless sea-board cities. The evidence points irresistibly to the conclusion that all the authorities and men in stations of influence in England are in the conspiracy against us. Lord Palmerston considers our complaints of the destruction of thirty odd American vessels by the British cruiser Alabama mere indications of our wish to pick a quarrel with England; Lord Russell sees no ground for arresting the Alabama until he has been assured she has got safely to sea, when he issues his tardy warrant; Member of Parliament Laird laughs—and the House of Commons re-echoes the laugh—at the objections which are made to his supplying the rebels with a navy; the Commissioners of Customs, with their ears stuffed with cotton and their pockets with the produce of Confederate bonds, are ready to swear off the most obvious Confederate steamer as a harmless craft intended for the Emperor of China; and the merchants, ship-builders, and newspapers of England all claim the right of furnishing the rebels with a navy, and denounce us furiously for objecting to their conduct.

These events have very naturally aroused a general and intense hostility to England among all classes in this country. There has never been a time when hatred of the English was so deep or so wide-spread as it is at present. There has never been a period at which war with England could have been more generally welcomed than at present—if we were free to engage in a foreign war.

Yet we do not believe that war is imminent. We can not afford the luxury. The struggle in which we are engaged taxes all our resources, and to carry it safely through to a successful issue will require our undivided energies. For this reason we do not anticipate that our Government will declare war against England— though it has ample ground for doing so; or will even declare an embargo, or seize British property to recompense our ship-owners for the losses they are suffering through the piratical acts of British vessels.

Our cue just now is to suffer every thing from foreigners for the sake of concentrating our whole strength on the suppression of the rebellion. When this is done, we shall have time to devote to our foreign enemies.

So soon as the restoration of the Union has been achieved, we look to see energetic measures adopted by our Government for the settlement of accounts with England. We expect to see every man who has lost a dollar by the depredations of the Alabama paid in full, with interest, by the British Government. The amount can always be collected in the port of New York. Half a dozen British steamers and a score of British ships seized and sold at auction by the United States Marshal would go far to make a balance. And when England next goes to war, let her look out for retaliation. Though her antagonist be only some Hottentot chief, the ocean shall bristle with American cruisers bearing his flag, and England may rely upon it, that for every peaceful American trader that has been burned during this war by British pirates, ten British vessels will then be destroyed. The next war in which England engages will be the end of her foreign commerce. We mistake our countrymen greatly, if, at the end of twelve months, they leave a ship bearing the British flag afloat in any sea from the German Ocean to Behring’s Straits.

But the watch-word now must be—Patience!

(Harper’s Weekly, April 25, 1863)

unsuccessful effort of the rams Switzerland and Lancaster to run the Vicksburg batteries

WE publish on this page a drawing from a sketch by our special artist, Mr. Theodore R. Davis, representing the unsuccessful effort of the rams Switzerland and Lancaster to run the Vicksburg batteries on the night of 25-26th March. A rebel account mentioned the attempt of the rams, and stated that both were disabled and one sunk. A Union account says:

“Last Wednesday evening the rams Lancaster and Switzerland undertook to run the batteries at Vicksburg. As soon as they came within range the rebels opened a tremendous fire. The Lancaster was struck thirty times. Her entire bow was shot away, causing her to sink immediately, turning a complete somersault as she went down. All the crew except two escaped. The Switzerland was disabled by a 64-pound ball penetrating the steam-drum. She floated down, the batteries still firing and striking her repeatedly, until finally the Albatross ran alongside and towed her to the lower mouth of the canal. The loss of life on her is not ascertained.”

Our correspondent mentions an interesting circumstance. The Lancaster had just sunk under the terrible hail of shot and shell from the rebel batteries. The Switzerland was badly injured, the smoke and steam filling her completely. At that moment Colonel Ellet remembered or perceived that the flag was not in its right place. Instantly ascending to the deck, he caught the halyards and hoisted the bunting in the face of the cheering rebels, while the shower of lead and iron whistled round him. A very gallant exploit. (Harper’s Weekly, April 18, 1863)

The Fight at Port Hudson.ON the night of 14-15th March Admiral Farragut passed the rebel batteries at Port Hudson with his flag-ship, the Hartford, and the Albatross. He attacked the forts with his entire fleet, but all but the two vessels above named were repulsed, and the Mississippi, having grounded, was set on fire and abandoned. We illustrate the combat on pages 248 and 249, and subjoin the following condensed account of the affair from the Herald correspondence:

The Rebel Batteries.

The rebel batteries extend about four miles in length, with a gap here and there between. Below, just before the high bluff begins, a very large number of field batteries were placed in position. These batteries are by no means to be despised; for in such a narrow part of the river they are just as effective as siege guns, especially as they can be handled with far greater facility than ordnance of larger size. Proceeding upward, the regular fortifications commence. They seem to consist of three distinct ranges of batteries, numbering several in each range. It does not seem, however, that either of them mounts guns of very large calibre. The river now begins to trend to the west, forming a faint representation of a horseshoe, in the hollow of which the town of Port Hudson is situated. It is right in that hollow, and just below the town, that the most formidable battery—the central one—is situated, on the highest bluff. Four heavy guns appear to be mounted there in casemates. I say appear, because the flashes from these guns revealed nothing; but the flame from the muzzles showed that all beyond was in obscurity —precisely as would be the case with guns in casemate. The other guns, en barbette, or peering through open embrasures, revealed, when fired, something of the lay of the land behind and around, though but for a moment. Above the town are other batteries, only less formidable than those just below. Beyond these the high bluffs gradually subside into the general level of the surrounding country. Right opposite the principal batteries, on the right bank of the river, is the point of land on which the Mississippi grounded, in consequence of which she had to be set on fire and destroyed.

After describing the first shots from the Hartford, which were promptly returned from the rebel batteries, the correspondent thus describes the

Mortars Opening Fire

And now was heard a thundering roar, equal in volume to a whole park of artillery. This was followed by a rushing sound, accompanied by a howling noise that beggars description. Again and again was the sound repeated, till the vast expanse of heaven rang with the awful minstrelsy. It was apparent that the mortar-boats had opened fire. Of this I was soon convinced on casting my eyes aloft. Never shall I forget the sight that then met my astonished vision. Shooting upward at an angle of forty-five degrees, with the rapidity of lightning, small globes of golden flame were seen sailing through the pure ether—not a steady, unfading flame, but corruscating, like the fitful gleam of a fire-fly—now visible, and anon invisible. Like a flying star of the sixth magnitude, the terrible missile—a 13-inch shell—nears its zenith, up and still up—higher and higher. Its flight now becomes much slower, till, on reaching its utmost altitude, its centrifugal force becomes counteracted by the earth’s attraction; it describes a parabolic curve, and down, down, it comes, bursting, it may be, ere it reaches terra firma, but probably alighting in the rebel works ere it explodes, where it scatters death and destruction around.

The “Richmond” At Work.

The Richmond had by this time got within range of the rebel field batteries, which opened fire on her. I had all along thought that we would open fire from our bow guns, on the topgallant forecastle, and that, after discharging a few broadsides from the starboard side, the action would be wound up by a parting compliment from our stern chasers. To my surprise, however, we opened at once from our broadside guns. The effect was startling, as the sound was unexpected; but beyond this I really experienced no inconvenience from the concussion. There was nothing unpleasant to the ear, and the jar to the ship was really quite unappreciable. It may interest the uninitiated to be informed how a broadside is fired from a vessel-of-war. I was told on board the Richmond that all the guns were sometimes fired off simultaneously, though it is not a very usual course, as it strains the ship. Last night the broadsides were fired by commencing at the forward gun, and firing all the rest off in rapid succession, as fast almost as the ticking of a watch. The effect was grand and terrific; and, if the guns were rightly pointed—a difficult thing in the dark, by-the-way—they could not fail in carrying death and destruction among the enemy.

Of course we did not have every thing our own way; for the enemy poured in his shot and shell as thick as hail. Over, ahead, astern, all around us, flew the death-dealing missiles, the hissing, screaming, whistling, shrieking, and howling of which rivaled Pandemonium. It must not be supposed, however, that because our broadside guns were the tools we principally worked with, our bow and stern chasers were idle. We soon opened with our bow 80-pounder Dahlgren, which was followed up not long after by the guns astern, giving evidence to the fact that we had passed some of the batteries.

The Action Becomes General.

Soon after firing was heard astern of us, and it was soon ascertained that the Monongahela, with her consort, the Kineo, and the Mississippi, were in action. The Monongahela carries a couple of two hundred-pounder rifled Parrott guns, besides other ticklers. At first I credited the roar of her amiable two hundred-pounders to the “bummers,” till I was undeceived, when I recalled my experience in front of Yorktown last spring, and the opening of fire from similar guns from Wormley’s creek. All I can say is, the noise was splendid. The action now became general. The roar of cannon was incessant, and the flashes from the guns, together with the flight of the shells from the mortar boats, made up a combination of sound and sight impossible to describe. To add to the horrors of the night, while it contributed toward the enhancement of a certain terrible beauty, dense clouds of smoke began to envelop the river, shutting out from view the several vessels and confounding them with the batteries. It was very difficult to know how to steer to prevent running ashore, perhaps right under a rebel battery or into a consort. Upward and upward rolled the smoke, shutting out of view the beautiful stars and obscuring the vision on every side. Then it was that the order was passed, “Boys, don’t fire till you see the flash from the enemy’s guns.” That was our only guide through the “palpable obscurity.” Intermingled with the boom of the cannonade arose the cries of the wounded and the shouts of their friends, suggesting that they should be taken below for treatment. So thick was the smoke that we had to cease firing several times, and, to add to the horrors of the night, it was next to impossible to tell whether we were running into the Hartford or going ashore, and, if the latter, on which bank, or whether some of the other vessels were about to run into us or into each other. All this time the fire was kept up on both sides incessantly. It seems, however, that we succeeded in silencing the lower batteries of field-pieces.

Muzzle to Muzzle.

This phrase is familiar to most persons who have read accounts of sea-fights that took place about fifty years ago; but it is difficult for the uninitiated to realize all the horrors conveyed in these three words. For the first time I had, last night, an opportunity of knowing what the phrase really meant. The central battery is situated about the middle of the segment of a circle I have already compared to a horseshoe in shape, though it may be better understood by the term “crescent.” This battery stands on a bluff so high that a vessel in passing immediately underneath can not elevate her guns sufficiently to reach those on the battery; neither can the guns on the battery be sufficiently depressed to bear on the passing ship. In this position the rebel batteries on the two horns of the crescent can enfilade the passing vessel, pouring in a terrible crossfire, which the vessel can return, though at a great disadvantage, from her bow and stern chasers. We fully realized this last night; for, as we got within short range, the enemy poured into us a terrible fire of grape and canister, which we were not slow to return—our guns being double-shotted, each with a stand of both grape and canister. Every vessel in its turn was exposed to the same fiery ordeal on nearing the centre battery, and right promptly did their gallant tars return the compliment. This was the hottest part of the engagement. We were literally muzzle to muzzle, the distance between us and the enemy’s guns being not more than twenty yards, though to me it seemed to be only as many feet. In fact, the battle of Port Hudson has been pronounced by officers and seamen who were engaged in it, and who were present at the passage of Fort St. Philip and Fort Jackson, below New Orleans, and had participated in the fights of Fort Donelson, Fort Henry, Island No. 10, Vicksburg, etc., as the severest in the naval history of the present war.

The “Richmond” Returns.

Matters had gone on in this way for nearly an hour and a half—the first gun having been fired at about half past eleven o’clock—when, to my astonishment, I heard some shells whistling over our port side. Did the rebels have batteries on the right bank of the river? was the query that naturally suggested itself to me. To this the response was given that we had turned back. I soon discovered that it was too true. Our return was, of course, more rapid than our passage up. The rebels did not molest us much, and I do not believe one of their shots took effect while we were running down rapidly with the current. It was a melancholy affair, for we did not know but what the whole expedition was a failure; neither could we tell whether any of our vessels had been destroyed, nor how many. We had the satisfaction of learning soon afterward, however, that the Hartford and Albatross had succeeded in rounding the point above the batteries. All the rest were compelled to return. We soon came to anchor on the west side of Prophet Island, so near to the shore that the poop-deck was strewn with the blossoms and leaves of the budding trees that we brushed back. As I passed the machinery of the vessel, on my way forward, I was shown a large hole that had been made by an eighty-pounder solid conical shell, which had passed through the hull of the ship, damaging the machinery so as to compel us to return. (Harper’s Weekly, April 18, 1863)

Blacksmiths department Hd. qts. Army of the Potomac 21397uWE devote pages 244 and 245 to illustrations of the HEAD-QUARTERS OF THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, from sketches by Mr. A. R. Waud.

Mr. Waud writes:

Stables and Negro servants tent, hd.qtrs Army of the Potomac 20918u“The term headquarters’ conveys but a vague idea to the uninitiated. Most people are aware that the general lives and has his tent there, but of the necessity and use of the large train of Genl. J. Hooker's. Tent Hdqts. Army of Potomac 20891uofficers that accompany the general few out of the army have a correct idea. In the first place, the general must have his personal aids, whose duty it is to be always in attendance, to assist their commander in his plans, carry dispatches of importance, make themselves Army Mail leaving Hd.Qts. Post Office. Army Potomac 21422uconversant with the position of the army and the roads, and in battle direct, under the general’s orders, the movements of the various corps, etc., etc. The chief of staff, whose tent is always near the Provost Marshals department. Hd. qtrs. Army Potomac 21388ugeneral’s, has a very onerous position. He must keep himself accurately posted on the actual condition of the army in all its departments, the intention and results of its movements, reconnoissances, etc. Commissary dept. Hd.qts. Army of the Potomac 21050uThrough him the general’s orders are transmitted, and it is his duty to furnish the commander-in-chief and the head of the War Department tables of the strength and position of corps and posts, Adjutant Generals office head quarters, Army of the Potomac 20919ureports of operations, and all necessary information. Next to the commander, the chief of staff is the man of the whole army who can do the most good if he is capable, and the most harm if deficient in ability.

“The remainder of the officers of head-quarters are chiefs of the departments in which the army is divided and their aids. The Adjutant-General’s department, through which orders are published, reports and returns received and disposed of, tables formed of the state and detail of the army, records made, and much more. The Engineers’, whose duty it is to construct fortifications, field defenses, roads, bridges, etc., and remove obstructions. The Topographical Engineers’, whose duty it is to survey and map the country in which the army is to operate, attend reconnoissances, examine routes of communication by land and water both for supplies and military movements, and lay out new roads. The Chief of Artillery, in a siege or battle, directs the position of the artillery, and is responsible for the condition of that arm of the service. The Chief of Cavalry has similar duties in the cavalry. The Chief of Ordnance has charge of and furnishes all ordnance and ordnance stores for the military service; also equipments for mounted troops. The Inspector-General’s duties are to inspect and report upon stores and animals, and every thing required to keep the army in good condition. The Medical Director attends to the entire working of that department, and after a battle makes lists of the killed and wounded; and at other times regulates the management of the hospitals, the distribution of medical supplies, etc. The Chief Commissary, through whom the army is fed. The Chief Quarter-master, by whom it is clothed, provided with tents and transportation. The Provost-Marshal General, who receives prisoners, and attends to the police of the army, including the secret-service department. The Chief Signal-officer, and many minor departments or sub-departments, such as the telegraph-office, the post-office, the balloon party, and others—all tend, with their necessary complement of clerks for office-work, orderlies for out-door purposes, servants, and grooms, to swell the proportions of the camp at head-quarters, which is, in fact—under the orders of the War Department —the seat of government, the metropolis, or capital, of the community which is formed by the presence of the army.” (Harper’s Weekly, April 18, 1863)

Arrival of a Federal Column at a Planter's House in Dixie

ON page 220 we publish a picture, by Mr. Thomas Nast, representing the arrival of one of our regiments on a Southern plantation, and their reception by the ladies and negroes of the plantation. The picture explains itself. We append, however, a newspaper extract from an officer’s letter in Dixie:

Heavy planters live all along the road, whose broad acres extend for miles, and whose aristocratic mansions show them to be the nabobs of the soil. Long rows of negro cabins are seen at short distances from the residence, indicating that the “institution” still flourishes here. These negroes, in huge numbers, men, women, and children, come and evince the most comical and unsophisticated manifestations of delight at our appearance. The older ones bow, and grin, and scrape, and throw themselves into all sorts of the most ludicrous attitudes. The younger ones dance and frisk about in high glee. “Gora-mighty bless you, gemmen — may you live allers!” exclaimed a delighted old darkey as we passed yesterday. At the same time he bowed himself almost to the ground. These poor creatures are about all the friends we have in this region. They most willingly give all the information they have.  (Harper’s Week;y, April 4, 1863)

Bache's Quaker

“Bache’s Quaker” Driving the “Queen of the West,” and Causing the Rebels to Blow up the “Indianola.”—[Sketched by Mr. Theodore R. Davis.]



WE illustrate herewith the exploit of “BACHE’S QUAKER” on the Mississippi, at which the whole West is shaking its sides with laughter. After the loss of the Indianola, it seems, Admiral Porter and his officers were at their wit’s-end for some device to repair the loss. The Herald correspondent says:

On the 27th of February Admiral Porter dispatched what was called a paddy boat, or dummy Monitor, to run the Vicksburg batteries, in order to ascertain their exact location. This contrivance was an old flat-boat, with flour-barrels for smoke-stacks, and a couple of large hogs-heads to represent Monitor turrets. It ran the fortifications in gallant style, and drew the fire of the rebel guns, but, as far as could be ascertained, received no damage. The paddy boat, it seems, frightened the rebels, who were at work trying to raise the Indianola, below Vicksburg, and caused them to skedaddle on the double-quick. When they got safe away from what they supposed to be a turreted monster, or “a cheese box on a raft,” they reported the fact to their friends, and blew up the Indianola, to prevent her from again falling into the hands of the Yankees.

In reference to this the Jackson Mississippian had the following:

The destruction of the Indianola was a most unnecessary and unfortunate affair. The turreted monster proved to be a flat-boat, with sundry fixtures to create deception. She passed Vicksburg Tuesday night, and the officers believing she was really a turreted monster, blew the Indianola up, but the guns fell into the hands of the enemy.

The Vicksburg Whig of 5th says:

We stated a day or two since that we would not enlighten our readers in regard to a matter which was puzzling them very much. We alluded to the loss of the gun-boat Indianola, recently captured from the enemy. We were loath to acknowledge she had been destroyed, but such is the case. The Yankee barge sent down the river last week was reported to be an iron-clad gun-boat. The authorities, thinking that this monster would retake the Indianola, immediately issued an order to blow her up. The order was sent down by courier to the officer in charge of the vessel. A few hours afterward another order was sent down countermanding the first, it being ascertained that the monstrous craft was only a coal-boat; but before it reached the Indianola she had been blown to atoms — not even a gun was saved. Who is to blame for this folly, this precipitancy? It would really seem as if we had no use for gun-boats on the Mississippi, as a coal-barge is magnified into a monster, and our authorities immediately order a boat that would have been worth a small army to us to be blown up.

The New York Times publishes a letter from an officer, from which we extract the following:

Finding that they (the rebels) could not be provoked to fire without an object, I thought of getting up an imitation Monitor. Ericsson saved the country with an iron one — why could I not save it with a wooden one? An old coal-barge, picked up in the river, was the foundation to build on. It was built of old boards in twelve hours, with pork barrels on top of each other for smoke-stacks, and two old canoes for quarter-boats; her furnaces were built of mud, and only intended to make black smoke and not steam.

Without knowing that Brown was in peril, I let loose our Monitor. When it was descried by the dim light of the morn, never did the batteries of Vicksburg open with such a din; the earth fairly trembled, and the shot flew thick around the devoted Monitor. But she ran safely past all the batteries, though under fire for an hour, and drifted down to the lower mouth of the canal. She was a much better looking vessel than the Indianola.

When it was broad daylight they opened on her again with all the guns they could bring to bear without a shot hitting her to do any harm, because they did not make her settle in the water, though going in at one side and out at another. She was already full of water. The soldiers of our army shouted and laughed like mad, but the laugh was somewhat against them when they subsequently discovered the Queen of the West lying at the wharf at Warrenton. The question was asked, what had happened to the Indianola? Had the two rams sunk her or captured her in the engagement we heard the night before? The sounds of cannon had receded down the river, which led us to believe that Brown was chasing the Webb, and that the Queen had got up past him.

One or two soldiers got the Monitor out in the stream again, and let her go down on the ram Queen. All the forts commenced firing and signaling, and as the Monitor approached the Queen she turned tail and ran down river as fast as she could go, the Monitor after her, making all the speed that was given her by a five-knot current. The forts at Warrenton fired bravely and rapidly, but the Monitor did not return the fire with her wooden guns, but proceeded down after the Queen of the West. An hour after this the same heavy firing that we had heard the night before came booming up on the still air.

This “booming” was the destruction of the Indianola.

The following is Admiral Porter’s official account of the affair:


March 10, via MEMPHIS AND LOUISVILLE, 13th.

Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy: I have been pretty well assured for some time past that the Indianola had been blown up, in consequence of the appearance of a wooden imitation mortar, which the enemy sunk with their batteries. The mortar was a valuable aid to us. It forced away the Queen of the West, and caused the blowing up of the Indianola.   D. D. PORTER.

The Richmond Examiner, in a very grim way, thus pokes its fun at the rebels:

The reported fate of the Indianola is even more disgraceful than farcical. Here was perhaps the finest iron-clad in the Western waters, captured after a heroic struggle, rapidly repaired, and destined to join the Queen of the West in a series of victories. Next we hear that she was of necessity blown up, in the true Merrimac-Mallory style—and why? Laugh and hold your sides, lest you die of a surfeit of derision, O Yankeedom! Blown up because, forsooth, a flat-boat, or mud-scow, with a small house taken from the back-garden of a plantation, put on top of it, is floated down the river, before the frightened eyes of the Partisan Rangers. A turreted monster!


Harper’s Weekly, March 28, 1863