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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 28, 1863

Welcome to our online archive of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. We have created this online resource to help facilitate a more in depth understanding of this important period in American History. We hope you enjoy this incredible collection.

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Joe Hooker

General Hooker



Slaves Paid

Slaves to be Paid

Colored Troops

Colored Troops

Blockade Runner

Queen of the West Runs Blockade

Slave Chart

Slave Chart

Louisiana Colored Troops

Louisiana Colored Troops

Copperhead Cartoon

Copperhead Cartoon

Queen of the West

Queen of the West

Rappahannock River

Rappahannock River

Southern Map

Southern Slave Map

Army Pay-Day

Army Pay-Day




[FEBRUARY 28, 1863.



ON page 141 will be found a chart which represents to the eye the relative slave population in the different parts of the Southern States at the beginning of the rebellion. The depth of shade represents density of the colored in proportion to the white population; and it will be perceived that the shade varies from white to solid black. In several counties in West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, Northern and Southeastern Missouri, the slaves were less than three per cent. of the whole population. In Western North Carolina, Northern Georgia, Northern Arkansas, and toward the northern part of Alabama, are counties in the population of which the slaves numbered less than six per cent.

The greatest proportion of slave population is embraced within the country extending along the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and bordering the Southwestern rivers. The slaves were more than fifty per cent. of the inhabitants included between the sea and Gulf coasts and a line, nearly parallel, beginning north of Richmond, Virginia, and extending southwardly to near Raleigh, North Carolina; thence southwestwardly to a little north of Montgomery, Alabama; thence northwestwardly to the vicinity of Memphis, Tennessee; thence to Shreveport, Louisiana, and a little to the north of Austin, Texas. Within this region there are counties in Southwestern Georgia, Southeastern Alabama, Central Mississippi, and some parts of Texas where the slaves were less than twenty-five per cent. of the whole people. In many of the counties they were from fifty to sixty per cent.; and in nearly all the region along the Mississippi River, Central Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, and in Virginia, south of Richmond, the slaves were more than sixty per cent. of the inhabitants; and in some South Carolina districts along the coast, in parishes of Louisiana, and counties of Mississippi along the Mississippi River, the slaves were over ninety per cent. of the whole population. In Central Kentucky, Tennessee, along the Tennessee River in Northern Alabama, and along the Missouri River was a slave population varying from thirty to sixty per cent., while in Western Kentucky and Tennessee it was scarcely thirty per cent., except in the region northeast and east of Memphis, where cotton is produced in abundance.

In all the Slave States, except those along the northern border, the north and west parts of North Carolina, and north and east parts of Tennessee, the density of slave population presents a proportionate abundance in the product of cotton. Along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia rice is an additional product of slave labor; and along the Gulf coast of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, particularly the last-named State, many slaves were engaged in the production of sugar.

In the western part of Central Georgia, in Central Alabama, Northern and Western Mississippi, Southwestern Tennessee, Eastern Arkansas, and Louisiana, and in Middle Texas, the produce of cotter was more than two bales to each slave.


PROBABLY very few persons indeed ever think of the risk incurred by thousands of their fellow-countrymen, every day of their lives, in laboring for those things without which they themselves would find it difficult to live, or if they do remember it, it is only when some more than usually fearful accident, where the destruction of life is on a large scale, occurs. In the case of accidents in mines, it is seldom that the sufferers survive to tell the tale. I do not speak of such commonplace occurrences as being crushed by a fall of coal, but where an explosion has taken place near the pit-shaft, possibly followed by a fire, thus cutting off egress from the pit, and leaving the unfortunate men in the more distant workings to perish by hunger, or by the combined action of starvation and suffocation. Such an occurrence, when only three or four lives are lost, seldom does more than form the subject of a paragraph for a newspaper, and the matter is then forgotten; and more frequently it is not known beyond the pit.

My own occupation has been of a kind to bring me in frequent contact with miners, not only those employed in coal-mines, but those who are engaged in the less dangerous, but, as I think, more unpleasant labor of mining for ores. Some of these men —poor cripples, who have little to live on except the few shillings a week they get from the owner of the pit in which they were maimed, the parish, and it may be a Benefit Society—have tales to tell which thrill one with horror, and excite feelings of wonder that men can be found who are willing to enter upon an occupation carried on under such miserable conditions, when they might find work, if not in this, at all events in another country, under the open sky. One of these men, an old man now, who had at the time I heard his narrative been a cripple for fifteen years had escaped death by what might almost be called a miracle. His name was Henry Stanley, and he, with his brother Richard, another miner named Smale, and a son of the last named, a little fellow barely eight years old, were in the habit of working together. The manner in which the boy was employed was a secret among the men themselves, the reason given by the father to the overlooker for having him in the pit with him being, that having no mother to look after him, he wished to keep him out of the way of harm. The part of the pit in which they worked was so distant from the shaft that they never saw any of the overmen more than once a day, and more often not at all; and whenever he did make his appearance in that part of the pit where they were, the boy, who had been on the look-out, gave them notice of his approach, and they would hastily leave the working in which they were actually engaged for another a hundred yards distant, and running in a different direction

The reason why they were so anxious to conceal the scene of their operations was as follows: The pit was one of those on the coast, and the richest, and therefore most profitably worked part of it, was beneath the sea. One of the veins was so high and broad, and the coal so easily worked, that it was extended to a distance under water, which, in the opinion of an inspector, endangered the safety of the mine. In consequence of this opinion the men were ordered to discontinue working it; and most people would have thought that nothing more was necessary than to give this order, when the miners knew that it could only be disobeyed at the peril of their lives. But considerations of danger in the exercise of their vocation never have and never will deter miners from disregarding orders, when the doing so is attended with profit, or even convenience. The men above named were in the habit of working this vein, though ostensibly, and at times actually, they were employed in a siding, where the overlooker found them when he went in that direction. Their earnings, under these circumstances, were large, but not so large as to excite much remark; and, to celebrate their success, they agreed to eat their Christmas dinner together. Two days before the time when this was to take place they were sitting at the extreme end of the working referred to, eating their mid-day meal, when they were startled by a sudden, heavy fall, followed by the hollow crackling sound which good coals produce when they crumble together into a mass. There was a rush to escape, but the fall completely blocked up the vein, and this at a distance of not more than thirty or forty paces from where they had been sitting, thus imprisoning them in a cell, as it might be called, about fifty yards long, four wide, and three in height. Fortunately there was no escape of gas, but they were familiar enough with such matters to know that the air must in a limited time be rendered incapable of sustaining life. The first thing they did, after they had recovered a little from the shock, was to examine their bags, to see what provisions they had left; and the second, to ascertain how many candles they had among them. As regarded provisions, they were more than commonly well off, one of them having brought a large loaf of home-made bread down with him that morning, in order that his mates might taste it. In the matter of lights, they were badly off; they found that if they put out all except one, in less than twenty-four hours they would be in total darkness.

Of the extent of the fall they could form no idea; but as their only chance of escape was by clearing a way through it they went to work at it without delay. They toiled for hours, but the progress made was slow, owing to the slipping down of fresh pieces in the place of those removed, which, moreover, helped to fill up the not very large space in which they were confined. They worked two at a time, the third relieving one of the others at regular intervals. In this way hour after hour passed, and to all appearance they were as far from liberty as ever. Presently there was a little flicker of light, followed immediately by total darkness. There is something inexpressibly horrible in being thus cut off from sunshine, and buried alive in the body of the earth, which the imagination is scarcely capable of realizing. The poor fellows thus doomed, as they had every reason to believe, to a slow but certain death within a few hours, groped their way together, and sat down on the ground. Silent and motionless they sat, the thoughts of each occupied with those they had left in the morning; suddenly the silence was broken by the voice of the little boy repeating a part of his evening-prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

The little voice could not get beyond the second line, but broke down with a deep sob, followed by a passionate fit of crying, in the midst of which his father could be heard trying to console him in a half-choked voice. The others, unable to contain themselves any longer, gave vent to their grief, and for some minutes nothing could be heard in the darkness but deep sobs. When these had died away, they could hear dull, heavy sounds above them, which followed each other in monotonous and slightly irregular succession: it was the beating of the sea on the shore above. It was astonishing, said the poor fellow who told me this, how much the sense of their position was aggravated by these sounds. The thought of the free rolling waves, of the life they bore in them, of the sunlight which shone upon them, increased their agony to desperation, and, with the exception of the child, each reflected within himself whether it would not be better to end it by a speedy act of his own. They agreed that they had little reason to hope that any attempt would be made to rescue them even when they were missed, since none of the other men engaged in the pit knew of their working this vein, and would therefore not think of searching for them there. Rather than sit in idle useless despair, they resumed work in the dark; but if the progress they made was trifling when they had light, it was still more so now that they had none. They were soon exhausted by their exertions, as much, perhaps, from their hopelessness as from fatigue. Throwing themselves on the ground, they tried to prepare themselves for the fate which they now regarded as certain. Timidly, as is the wont of men when they address their Creator aloud in the presence of others for the first time, Stanley uttered a few short sentences of prayer; Smale was the next to follow his example, and after him Richard Stanley. Comforted by their appeals, they continued them at short intervals; and presently the child, at the desire of his father, sung a hymn he had been taught at the Sunday school, the men joining their rough voices to his little childish treble. At the conclusion of each verse, the sound of the dashing waves on the shore above filled the hole in which they were buried with its low, thundering, monotonous beat. Soon this was the only sound audible. The two brothers put their arms round each other, and they all lay patiently waiting for the coming of that light which

all, even those who daily ask for it, shrink from with inexplicable inconsistency.

By a merciful condition of existence, those unfortunate men who are buried as these were, gradually cease to feel the dread of death, in proportion as hope of rescue fades away from their minds, the inhalement of carbonic acid gas reducing the vitality by degrees till the brain becomes paralyzed, and this long before the vital spark is utterly extinguished. Richard Stanley had already readied the stage of insensibility, when his brother heard a slight movement among the coal, indicative of a further settling down of the mass, under increased pressure from above, or of its being removed by men on the other side. Under the stimulus of this thought, Henry Stanley crawled to the heap and listened with all the eagerness of which he was still capable. His practiced ear soon enabled him to satisfy himself that men were at work on the other side, and he was in the act of turning to crawl back to try and rouse his companions in peril to a knowledge of the good news, when a heavy block of coal fell from the roof upon his loins, crushing him to the ground beneath its weight, and rendering him completely incapable of moving. It was in this position that the pit-men found him when they had worked their way through the fallen mass. Richard was insensible, and so also was Smale, who lay as if asleep, with his arms round his little boy, who was lying on his bosom. The child was past recovery; but after several hours in the open air, all three of the men regained their senses, Henry Stanley alone being permanently injured by the accident.

Another accident of a different kind, which likewise occurred in a coal-mine, was related to me by one of the survivors, though how he came to survive is a mystery known only to himself. One cold winter night, a middle-aged man named William Jamieson was waked by his wife, who was trembling and bathed in perspiration, and adjured by her not to go to work the next day. Wondering what had happened to cause her to make the request, he asked the reason, when she told him that she had dreamed twice that night that she had seen him go down into the pit, take a lamp, and walk to a distant part of the mine, where he joined their sons and began work; that while they were at work she heard a dreadful crash, and then saw a bright sheet of flame, which lit up the galleries and workings from one end of the mine to the other, and finally rushed up the shaft in a body, which went roaring up to the clouds and seemed to set them in a blaze. Without attempting to imitate Jamieson's dialect, which would only weary the reader without adding to the interest of his narrative, I will give the facts he related as nearly as I can remember them.

When my wife told me what she had dreamed I told her it was all nonsense. Our wives are always having dreams of this kind, but in time they get used to them and take no notice. However, she was so earnest about it, and seemed so frightened, that I promised her at last I would stay at home. I was thinking directly afterward what I should do all day, when I thought it would be a good opportunity to kill our pig instead of putting it off a week or two longer. I got up between six and seven o'clock, and when I went down stairs I found my sons having their breakfast, and their mother trying to persuade them not to go to work. They did not pay much heed to what she said; and when they had finished breakfast they took their bags, and were going out as usual, when my wife got before the door and begged me not to let them go. I was ashamed to say that I had promised not to go to work because of their mother's dreams; so I said that I decided on having the pig killed that day, they might as well stay at home and we would make a holiday of it. As they refused to do this, and were too old to be made to do what they did not like, there was no help for it but to let them go. After breakfast I went to the slaughter-man to ask him to come down with me, and on my way I went to the public house and got a stone bottle filled with gin, which I slung over my shoulder. On getting to his house I found that he had gone to Slivecome, and was not likely to be back before the evening. I was uncertain what to do. The promise I had made my wife only made me feel ashamed that I had made it. There was nobody I could have a holiday with; so, at last, I made up my mind that I would go to work as usual. It was rather late when I got to the pit, and I had to wait a while before I could be lowered, and while I was waiting, an overlooker came up, and I heard him say they had found a good deal of gas in Davis's Hole—a name that had been given to a spot where a man of that name had been killed.

When I got to the bottom of the shaft I took my lamp and walked to the part of the mine where I had been working with my sons for several days before. It was about as far from the shaft as it could be; but there was plenty of air, the ventilation in the mine being too strong, if any thing, and apt to give the rheumatism. I stood two or three minutes talking to my son Alfred, and then turned round to put my things off. I was just taking the bottle off my shoulder when we heard a smothered roar. We knew well enough what had happened, and directly set off for the shaft, to get drawn up, if the explosion had been serious and the choke-damp likely to spread through the pit. Before we got to the shaft we were stopped by a miner named Naylor, who said that the shaft was on fire, and all the workings on the north side. We went on, and found several other men standing not far from the shaft, talking of what it would be best to do. The pit was all in a blaze against the shaft, and the fire was rushing up with a roar like a whirlwind; and every now and then pieces of burning timber came crashing down, and bounded out of the fire toward where we were standing. As there was no possibility of getting out of the pit before the fire had burned itself out, I and my two boys went back to the place where we had left our things, leaving the other men still standing near the shaft. Knowing that several hours must pass before the timber in

the shaft would be burned out we staid where we were, calculating how long it would be before we could be drawn up. When we went back we found that the fire had spread several feet in our direction, which made our situation more desperate; but for all that we thought that when they began to throw water into the shaft it would not be long before it would be extinguished. We never thought they would close the shaft, with the deliberate intention of filling the pit with water. The upward draught was strong, the progress of the fire toward us was so slow as to be scarcely sensible, only the air became so heated that we were forced to draw further and further back into the mine, the hot air causing the gas to ooze out of the coal. Finding there was no chance of our being able to escape for many hours at least, we went back to the place where we had left the little food we had remaining, and where the air was still fresh and cool, in comparison with what it was near the shaft. To economize our food, as much as to escape from thought, we lay down and went to sleep. When I woke I fancied I could detect an unusual dampness beneath my hand, as I rolled over to get on my feet. My sons remarked the same thing when I called them; and we rushed off together as soon as we had lighted our lamp—for, fortunately, we had matches, as most of us usually have, though it is against pit regulations—hoping to find the fire extinguished. We had not gone far before we felt the water splashing beneath our feet. It was evident the water had been pouring in for some time, and in large quantities, and the suspicion crossed my mind that the pumps had ceased to work, and that they were allowing the water to accumulate in the workings. The air near the shaft was insufferably hot, but the fire had not extended, or but very little. Unfortunately, the floor of the pit below the shaft was higher than the surrounding parts, so that the water ran off, and was fast helping to flood the mine, while the place whereon it was wanted remained uncovered. To remedy this, it was proposed that we should go to work to make a dam of coal-dust; but as it was immediately objected that the only effect of this would be to cause the water to flow through the mine in one direction instead of two, the idea was not carried out.

Meanwhile the fire continued to rage as fiercely as ever in and about the shaft; and as it could do no good to remain near it, breathing the hot and bad air, I proposed to my sons that we should again return to our refuge, where we could contrive to keep out of the water, at all events, for a time. Alfred agreed to come, but William decided on remaining with the other miners, saying that he would join us presently. The mine was a very wet one, and the difference in the depth of the water, since we left the place where we had been working, was quite perceptible. We directly went to work, and made such a barrier as was sufficient to keep the water from reaching us, as we thought, and then sat down, sad and sorrowful enough. My thoughts ran a good deal on my wife's dream, as they had continually done since the accident, and I wondered at the singular coincidence, and whether there was any chance of our ultimate escape. As there was no use in sitting idle, we began to prepare for the rise in the water by picking away the coal from the roof; and without working very hard, we had raised ourselves in a few hours nearly level with the roof of the passages throughout the greater part of the mine. In the mean time, the water had been steadily rising; from being as high as the first joint of my forefinger, it had risen while we were at work to the height of the third. We made several journeys backward and forward to and from the shaft, and found it always burning, but the fire in the mine itself was growing less and less. Very few of the men had any hope of getting out now, and a good many began to complain that they were dying of hunger, though I could not help noticing that those who complained most on this score had the strongest voices. My son Alfred had noticed the same thing, and followed one of these men, and presently came to me bringing with him a huge piece of one of the ponies. This was a precious resource to us, for careful as we had been of the little food we had at the time of the accident, we had only a few ounces left.

As William preferred to remain with the other men, where they could see the light, Alfred and I were alone in our misery. We sat side by side in the darkness, our hands fast locked together, and only loosing our hold of each other when I crawled to the edge of the heap of coal we were sitting on to plunge my arm into the water to see how deep it was. In time this was useless, for when it had risen to the length of my arm, and I found the next time I tried it that my fingers would not touch the bottom, I left off doing it. Of the other men, we saw nothing after we had got too weak to wade through the water to the shaft; but some of them had come near us, driven back by the rising water, the part of the pit where we were being higher than the rest. At times, we could hear one man calling to another through the darkness, and ask him how he was. By degrees these inquiries became less frequent, and when made, often remained unanswered. Another kept on repeating, "Lord, have mercy on us!" till his voice grew weaker and weaker at every repetition, and at last died away altogether. I shouted for my son William, and he answered, but he could not join us, not being able to find his way to the place where we were in the dark. At intervals we called to each other, but after a while I got no answer, though whether he had perished of hunger, or had gone away toward the shaft, I could not tell, but I hoped the latter. By degrees all these sounds died away, and as far as I could tell, my son and I were the only living beings in the pit. Slowly but surely the water continued to rise, for though I could not test its depth, it was easy to ascertain that it was creeping toward us. We had no knowledge of the passage of time, but it seemed as if years had passed, when I was roused by my son, who was making feeble efforts to put his arm round my neck. I was myself too weak to lift him, but I crept close to him and kissed him. A little later, and he was cold and motionless. For (Next Page)




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