Salient Battle Description


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, June 11, 1864

The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American History, and nothing can explain the important events of the war better than original newspapers printed during the war. We have made our extensive collection of these historical documents available online on this site.

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Bell Plain, Virginia

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Battle of Salient


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Salient Battle Description

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Robert E. Lee Cartoon






[JUNE 11, 1864.



A CORRESPONDENT of the Weekly, on board the United States steamer Virginia, off Galveston, sends us the following curious and interesting story. The writer, we believe, is entirely trustworthy

For the benefit of those of your readers who may be interested in psychological investigations, I send you an account of the following remarkable incident which occurred on board of this vessel a few weeks ago. Having captured a schooner, which was taken while attempting to violate the blockade, she was dispatched, in charge of a prize officer and crew, to New Orleans, with orders to proceed without delay. At the time of the capture we had a sick man on board who was delirious, and had been given up by the doctor as past all hopes of recovery. When in health he had been remarkably quiet, but in his present excited state he talked incessantly. Soon after the schooner had left for New Orleans the sick man called out in a loud, authoritative voice, " Schooner ahoy ! What schooner is that ? Schooner ahoy! what schooner is that, I say?" He appeared to have some difficulty in understanding the name, but at length said, " Oh, that is your name, is it ?" [The prize schooner's name was Spanish, the Juanito pronounced Wanito.] " What water have you got ?" "Five fathoms—four fathoms—three fathoms—two fathoms." " Look out there ! you will be ashore !" " Heave the lead !" " One fathom." "There, you are right ashore!"

After this time his mind turned upon other subjects, and nothing was thought of his wanderings until the next morning, when we saw the Juanito hard and fast among breakers on the beach of Galveston Island about two miles distant. How she went there we have not yet learned satisfactorily ; but anchoring as near as possible to her we saw that she had been abandoned, and the officer and crew were prisoners in the bands of the rebels.

That the connection between the ravings of the sick man and the fate of the schooner was wholly accidental many will undoubtedly conclude ; but so many developments have been lately made, showing that thoughts can be unconsciously communicated from one mind to another, that I can not dismiss the subject so abruptly, but will give a few more particulars concerning it.

It may be said that the man was probably a seaman who had often thrown the lead, and that at this time the subject was by some slight incident presented to his mind, But this was not so. The man was a landsman, had never thrown the lead himself, or even seemed to notice whether it was thrown or not. Then, again, he took the soundings correctly from a little inshore of where we were then lying, which was in 54 fathoms, and carried them gradually in, just as the water actually shoals on this coast, to one fathom, which would be where the schooner was when among the breakers.

If it be said that although he might not have appeared to take notice of the soundings, yet he must have often heard them given, and his mind being in an unusually excited state when they were presented to it, then I would answer that the soundings two fathoms and one fathom he never could have heard ; for we never go into less than a quarter less three fathoms, i. e., 2 3/4. Why, then, did he not stop at that point ?

The time at which the schooner struck agrees, as nearly as we can ascertain, with that of the wanderings of the sick man, after which his mind turned to other subjects. He died two days after. We have since learned from deserters that no lives were lost, but we have been unable to find out the particulars as to why the schooner was run ashore.

I do not pretend to explain the relation which existed between the minds of the persons on board the schooner and that of the sick man, or even to say that there was any, but simply state the facts for those who may be interested in such subjects.


GOOD-evening, Sir."

"Good-evening. A fine night, this."

" Yes, Sir—a niceish sort of night. Pity for us we don't have more of them."

The scene was on the south coast of Cornwall, where I had retired a few days before the commencement of the long vacation, to seek a short repose from the turmoil and worry of the law ; leaving be-hind me the old time-worn buildings of Lincoln's Inn, where the old sun-dial, with its quaint motto,* seldom looked at, and still seldomer heeded, is perpetually reminding us of the frail tenure by which we hold our lives ; to seek a little rest and quiet, in about the quietest part of England. I had taken rooms in a little village about half a mile from the sea ; and the short walks gradually extended, the regular hours and the quietness of every thing internally and externally was fast bringing me round again, when the circumstances I am about to relate took place.

It was a fine moonlight evening, and I stood gazing out of my window at the few strangers still passing up and down the village street, when a sudden wish came into my head to take a walk along the cliffs by moonlight. I had often thought of doing this, wondering what sort of life the Coast-Guardsmen had of it—those men by whom every inch of England, so they say, is walked round every night, as they pace up and down, night after night, and year after year ; and so I resolved, at last, to put my long-fancied scheme into execution.

I had been sauntering along for about half a mile, looking at the blue waves, reaching far, far out into the distance, and checkered here and there by the distant sail of some fishing-boat, gleaming silver in the moonlight, and at the long golden track, reaching from far away up to the base of the cliffs—the foot-path of the fairies, as I had been told long ago —and peopling it, in my fancy, with the light spirits of the air, tripping along in many a fantastic maze, on the glittering surface, and calling to their -sister sprites in the water below, when I was star-

* Ex hoc momento pendent aeternitas.

tled by an approaching footstep, and, looking up, saw a man close to me, while the inviting smell from a short pipe quickly recalled me from my fancies to the sense of ordinary existence.

All that I noticed of his dress was that he had on a rough pilot-coat, with a low hat, while a thick walking-stick formed his only apparent weapon of offense and defense. In short, it was with him that the sentences "first above written" were exchanged.

I soon found that my new acquaintance was one of that very body of men that I had so often pondered about ; and so, having fallen into conversation, I walked on a bit with him.

" I suppose you don't have much to do now be-sides walking up and down, do you ?"

"Why no, Sir. There's not so much doing as there used to be, once on a time, though I have seen some goings on in my time—Mind where you are treading, Sir!" he exclaimed. " The cliff is not very safe along the edge, and if it gave way you would be smashed on the rocks below, like a poor fellow I knew was some time ago. God rest his soul !"

" What of him ?" I said. " Did any one fall over here ?"

" Why no, Sir. He didn't exactly fall over, and it wasn't over this cliff, neither, but the one we shall come to next. My beat ends there, and, as I am a bit before my time, I expect my mate won't be up for ten minutes or so ; and, if you like to hear the tale, though it's not so much after all, I will tell you on the spot where it all happened. Indeed, to say the truth, I shall be very glad of your company, for it's a whisht spot, and, often as I have waited there, I am always glad to turn my back on it again."

We soon reached the bay by the light of the moon. After looking along the cliff, to see if there were any signs of his companion, and, not finding any, he sat down on a stone, and I lighted a cigar, and, taking my place beside him, he began:

"It is not so many years ago, Sir, eight or nine, maybe, when a young gentleman came down here, as it might be you, to spend a month or so—our town being a quiet sort of place, like. He wasn't a bad-looking sort of fellow, and had small and white hands. Indeed most people would have called him handsome, though there was always a kind of look about his mouth I didn't like to see. He was staying up at the Miner's Arms, and there soon got tales about the town of the way in which he and two or three other wild young fellows about here, as there are every where, used to go on ; the sitting up at nights, the drinking and card-playing, and the wild freaks they used to be at. But as he always had plenty of money, and paid his bill every week (it was by his own wish), Polmarthen, the Iandlord, Sir, never cared to say any thing to him. He was a close man, was Polmarthen, and no doubt he made plenty of money out of his customer ; but it would have been better for him if he had never let Mr. Hendon under his roof. His daughter, pretty Kate Polmarthen as she was always called, was the prettiest girl for miles about (I see you guess what's coming), and many was the glass that had been emptied in her honor, and many a young man would have given much to have stood well in her good graces; but, though she was a bit of a flirt, there was none that had ever found favor in her eyes but Ralph Tregarva—a likely young fellow as ever was seen. Folks often wondered how it was that old Polmarthen ever allowed his daughter to engage herself to young Tregarva, who was only a fisherman ; but though the old man loved money much, he loved his daughter more ; and though I hear there was some trouble about it, yet, in the end, he gave way to her in this. It was not long, however, after Mr. Hendon came down here, that a change seemed to come over poor Kate. She would sit silent for hours, and if Ralph came to try and cheer her up, she would speak sharply and harshly to him, and then sometimes burst into a flood of tears, and beg his pardon, and kiss him, and tell him that he was the dearest and best of men, and that she was not worthy of him. I was a great friend of his, and I gathered most of this from him at the time, poor fellow I was sitting in my cottage one day toward the evening, thinking it would soon be time to be going off on my beat, when young Tregarva burst in with a face as white as a sheet, and scarcely able to stand. ' What is the matter, man,' said I ; have you seen a ghost?' but he staggered to a chair and fell, rather than sat, down on it, holding his face between his hands, while the big sobs that burst from him seemed to shake him from head to foot, though not a tear fell through his fingers; I stood by him for some little time, but he seemed to grow worse instead of bet-ter, and at last I laid my hand on his shoulder. 'Come, Ralph, be a man ; what is all this about?' He turned on me like a tiger. ' Leave me alone, curse you. Do you too mock at me?' and with one spring he was past me, and out at the door like a madman. I followed in haste, greatly alarmed, as you may suppose, but could see nothing of him. There was a mist rising, and any one would have been invisible at any moderate distance ; and it was with deep forebodings that I went my rounds that night. When I returned to my cottage I noticed a small piece of paper lying on the floor. It explained all. It was a letter from Hendon to Kate, evidently written in a hurry, and was all crumpled up as if it had been clenched in the fingers. No doubt it had dropped from Ralph's hand, though how he got it I do not know. It left no room for doubt. He urged her to fly from the village, and promised that he would provide for her. Soon after I heard more. That same evening Kate Polmarthen had disappeared. That morning her bedroom had been found empty, and she was gone. What surprised others, though not me, was, ,that her father made no search after her—for he made none. He knew only too well why she had gone. Hendon was still in the village, in order, I suppose, to divert all attention from himself, as he was not aware that the note had been found, Ralph and I each keeping our own counsel. What need to publish the certainty of her shame ? We heard nothing of Ralph for

* Cornish for "dull-melancholy."

three days, when he returned and went about his work just as usual, but resenting fiercely any mention of the past. His manner, too, was quite changed. Oh ! so haggard and wild he looked, and with a dogged kind of sullenness in place of his former light-hearted gayety. Even to me he never spoke now, and one or two attempts I made to draw him out into conversation were met with such bursts of rage that I was obliged to leave him to himself. And now I must come to the most painful part of my tale. You see that the bay below is closed in at high-tide, and the sand gets quite covered. It was high-water about half-past eleven on the September evening, when I was on my beat, and a bright night, just like this. I was walking along the top of the cliff, just where we are now, when I thought I heard a voice down below, on the beach, which was nearly under water. Surprised at this, I looked over and I saw that there was a figure there, and that he was rushing about and shouting up. I could recognize the voice of Hendon, and called out—' Holloa, there?' ' Help ! help !' he cried. 'I am cut off by the tide. I can't swim. Send a boat.. For God's sake, help me !' So it was. Sauntering along, he had, I suppose, waited there, and had found himself cut off by the rising tide, which would have been the ease an hour and a half before I saw him, so that he must have waited at least that time with the water gradually rising higher and higher. But what was to be done? True, I had a rope, and instinctively I had taken it out, but it was only a short one, about a dozen yards long. I always carry a bit about with me. It often comes in useful ; but what good was it now? I could not descend the cliff, and if I left my beat and went for assistance he would be drowned long before I could return. Even while I hesitated I heard a step behind me, and Ralph Tregarva stood by my side. ' I can go down that cliff,' said he, in the measured, dogged tone he had always used since then, though there seemed to be an expression of savage exultation in his tone that night that made me shudder. ' I will go. Give me that rope.' ' Good God!' I exclaimed, ' it is certain death !' While I spoke, however, he had snatched the rope out of my hands, let himself over the edge of the cliff, and was going down, hand-under-hand, clutching at every little bush and every tuft of grass. My head swam watching him. One slip, and he would have fallen, literally ' smashed' on the rocks below ; but he seemed to bear a charmed life, for still I could see him going down, further and further, crawling like a lizard, till he was only some eight or nine yards from the bottom. There he stopped. There is a flat ledge of rock there, and he lay down on it. It was a still night, and I could hear him as plainly as I could you, Sir. `Mr. Hen-don !' he called out. ' Oh, thank God, you are come at last !' I heard Mr. Hendon answer. ' Here I am. How can I reach you?' ' I have a rope with me ; if I throw it you, can you get up here?' `Yes, yes ; be quick, be quick. The tide has risen up to may knees, and I am half dead with cold.' 'Just so,' was the strange answer of Tregarva. ' Quick! quick! do not trifle with me ; I shall drown.'. ' You will not drown for half an hour yet, Mr. Hendon,' replied Tregarva, with a laugh. But such a laugh! It sounded like the laughter of a fiend. ' Oh, for mercy's sake, be quick !' ' Mercy !' echoed Tregarva. ' Such as you have shown shall be shown to you. Where is Kate Polmarthen ?' ' I do not know. I do not, indeed. Quick ! the water is over may knees.' ' Liar !' returned Ralph, heedless of his agonizing entreaties. ' I have ventured may life to come here. Did you think it was to save you? No; it was to secure my revenge. Never shall you come up here alive. Listen to me. When I heard of her flight I was among the first to visit her house. Her father found a letter from you, telling her where to go, and that you would meet her. She had dropped it in her hurried departure. But never shall you meet her in this world. Liar! seducer ! Your last hour is come. I have but to throw you this rope and you are safe. Your life is in my hands ; but had I a thousand lives, and were each of them entwined in your one, I would give up all, all, to punish you.' Again the scream arose —' Mercy ! mercy !' ' Mercy !' again echoed Tregarva. ' Such mercy as the lion shows to his prey, such shall you have. You shall die, wretch—die in your sins ; and, as the water mounts higher and higher, think of her whose body and soul you have murdered—think of me whose peace of mind, you, in your wantonness, have utterly wrecked, and then ask for mercy. Never.' Oh, that I could forget the fearful scene that followed. The wretched Hendon, as the water mounted higher and higher, while each wave almost tore him away front his frail hold on the projections of the rock, clung to the cliff, shrieking out mingled prayers and blasphemies in his agony, while the relentless waves came dashing in, rearing up, with a hoarse boom, against the rocks, while, above all, rose the frantic yells of Tregarva, as he exulted in his terrors and sufferings, like a wild beast over his victim. The crisis arrived. One mountainous wave came rolling in, and while his death-shriek still rings in my ears, Hendon was torn away from his hold. His white face appeared gleaming among the spray for one moment, the next he was dashed with fearful force against the rocks, and the next a bleeding and shattered body was borne out to sea. Ralph was reascending the-cliff, when, losing his scanty foot-hold, he slipped away. For one moment he hung suspended from the shrub he was holding, and then, as the roots gave way under his weight, he fell down into the same tomb to which he had consigned his victim. _His body was never found. That of Hendon was recovered next day, and an inquest held. I was the principal witness, and a verdict of `willful murder' was returned against Tregarva.

I have little more to tell. Poor Kate and her babe lie side by side in the church-yard. And now, Sir, can you wonder that I don't much like being here all alone? But I see my mate is coming, just in time, so I will bid you good-night, Sir."

" Good-night."

And I returned to my lodgings, a sadder and more thoughtful, if not a wiser, man.


WE give in this week's paper several sketches illustrating General GRANT'S Campaign in Virginia. That on pages 376 and 377, "THE STRUGGLE FOR THE SALIENT," pictures the desperate fight of May 12, which resulted in a brilliant victory for General HANCOCK. A Times correspondent thus describes the struggle :

At the point at which HANCOCK'S assault was made, at 4 o'clock in the morning, the rebel breast-works formed an angle or salient, and his men advanced silently, and, with out firing a shot, entered the works at the salient, and swept up the inside of the right, capturing 7000 prisoners. After driving the enemy a mile the latter rallied, and HANCOCK at 6 A.M. returned and formed his line of battle in the enemy's works. As this was the key of the whole position, our right was gradually retired, and the main body of the army massed on the left. The Sixth Corps (WRIGHT), which had been on the right of the Second, withdrew behind their skirmish line, and united with HANCOCK'S right, and afterward two divisions of WARREN'S were brought over. The history of the day, after 6 o'clock in the morning, is all summed up in five successive and fierce assaults which LEE made to retake the lost position. At first EWELL's corps alone confronted HANCOCK, but during the day HILL and LONGSTREET were drawn over from the rebel left, and the whole army of LEE flung itself in five desperate efforts to recapture the breastworks. But it was all in vain, as every assault met a bloody repulse.

So terrific was the death-grapple, however, that at different times of the day the rebel colors were planted on the one side of the works and ours on the other, the men fighting across the parapet. Nothing during the war has equaled the savage desperation of this struggle, which was continued for fourteen hours.

Our sketch presents a vivid view of this bloodiest of all the fields of this campaign.

On page 380 we give three sketches by A. R. WAUD. One represents the RIVER NY, which is one of four known respectively as the Mat, Ta, Po, and Ny, which, when they join, form the Mattapoaty. The Ny lies northeast of Spotsylvania Court House, and will be historical for its connection with the battles fought around it.

SPOTSYLVANIA COURT HOUSE, as it is presented in Mr. WAUD'S sketch, is seen to be a mere hamlet, lying amidst surrounding woods. It is the capital of Spotsylvania County, and contains a court house, a jail, an Episcopal church, two or three stores, and probably 200 inhabitants. Our sketch was taken from a point within the Federal lines. The rebel rifle-pits appear in the distance.

Another sketch exhibits the BATTERIES on General WARREN'S left, showing part of Spotsylvania. GEN. SHERMAN'S CAMPAIGN.

WE give on the preceding page two illustrations of General SHERMAN'S campaign in Georgia. The sketch entitled GENERAL LOGAN'S SKIRMISHERS ADVANCING TOWARD THE RAILROAD AT RESACA, presents a vivid picture of the difficulties of, our advance in a country so peculiarly strong for defense as that in which General SHERMAN has mostly operated. Mr. DAVIS, in sending this sketch, says; "The country hereabouts is so little cleared, and the woods are so thick with undergrowth, that it is by no means a pleasant undertaking to enter the forests, exposed at every step to the fire of hidden marksmen. The skirmishers went in today, however, with a willingness and determination that very soon resulted in the expulsion of the enemy from the woods, and the advance of our lines to a strong position, from which an excellent view of the country before us was obtained. It was in this thick underbrush that General KILPATRICK was wounded."

Another sketch by Mr. DAVIS represents GENERAL OSTERHAUS'S DIVISION OF LOGAN'S CORPS ON BALD HILL, the position gained by it on May 14. From this position the railroad bridge at Resaca was shelled, causing a suspension of the trains, and doing other damage. The enemy responded briskly to this fire, and several of our officers were wounded, among them Captain SHERIDAN, chief signal officer of General    HOOKER.


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