Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

Some More Fratricidal Strife

The effort to open the Mississippi from the north was seconded by an expedition from the south, in which Captain David G. Farragut, commanding a fleet of forty vessels, co-operated with General Benjamin F. Butler, with the capture of New Orleans as the object.

Mortar-boats covered with green branches for the purpose of fooling the enemy, as no one could tell at any distance at all whether these were or were not olive-branches, steamed up the river and bombarded Forts Jackson and St. Philip till the stunned catfish rose to the surface of the water to inquire, "Why all this?" and turned their pallid stomachs toward the soft Southern zenith. Sixteen thousand eight hundred shells were thrown into the two forts, but that did not capture New Orleans.

Farragut now decided to run his fleet past the defences, and, desperate as the chances were, he started on April 24. A big cable stretched across the river suggested the idea that there was a hostile feeling among the New Orleans people. Five rafts and armed steamers met him, and the iron-plated ram Manassas extended to him a cordial welcome to a wide wet grave with a southern exposure.

Farragut cut through the cable about three o'clock in the morning, practically destroyed the Confederate fleet, and steamed up to the city, which was at his mercy.

The forts, now threatened in the rear by Butler's army, surrendered, and Farragut went up to Baton Rouge and took possession of it. General Butler's occupation at New Orleans has been variously commented upon by both friend and foe, but we are only able to learn from this and the entire record of the war, in fact, that it is better to avoid hostilities unless one is ready to accept the unpleasant features of combat. The author, when a boy, learned this after he had acquired the unpleasant features resulting from combat which the artist has cleverly shown on opposite page.

General Butler said he found it almost impossible to avoid giving offence to the foe, and finally he gave it up in despair.

The French are said to be the politest people on the face of the earth, but no German will admit it; and though the Germans are known to have big, warm, hospitable hearts, since the Franco-Prussian war you couldn't get a Frenchman to admit this.

In February Burnside captured Roanoke Island, and the coast of North Carolina fell into the hands of the Union army. Port Royal became the base of operations against Florida, and at the close of the year 1862 every city on the Atlantic coast except Charleston, Wilmington, and Savannah was held by the Union army.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


The Merrimac iron-clad, which had made much trouble for the Union shipping for some time, steamed into Hampton Roads on the 8th of March. Hampton Roads is not the Champs-Elysees of the South, but a long wet stretch of track east of Virginia,—the Midway Plaisance of the Salted Sea. The Merrimac steered for the Cumberland, rammed her, and the Cumberland sunk like a stove-lid, with all on board. The captain of the Congress, warned by the fate of the Cumberland, ran his vessel on shore and tried to conceal her behind the tall grass, but the Merrimac followed and shelled her till she surrendered.

The Merrimac then went back to Norfolk, where she boarded, night having come on apace. In the morning she aimed to clear out the balance of the Union fleet. That night, however, the Monitor, a flat little craft with a revolving tower, invented by Captain Ericsson, arrived, and in the morning when the Merrimac started in on her day's work of devastation, beginning with the Minnesota, the insignificant-looking Monitor slid up to the iron monster and gave her two one-hundred-and-sixty-six-and-three-quarter-pound solid shot.

The Merrimac replied with a style of broadside that generally sunk her adversary, but the balls rolled off the low flat deck and fell with a solemn plunk in the moaning sea, or broke in fragments and lay on the forward deck like the shells of antique eggs on the floor of the House of Parliament after a Home Rule argument.

Five times the Merrimac tried to ram the little spitz-pup of the navy, but her huge iron beak rode up over the slippery deck of the enemy, and when the big vessel looked over her sides to see its wreck, she discovered that the Monitor was right side up and ready for more.

The Confederate vessel gave it up at last, and went back to Norfolk defeated, her career suddenly closed by the timely genius of the able Scandinavian.

The Peninsular campaign was principally addressed toward the capture of Richmond. One hundred thousand men were massed at Fort Monroe April 4, and marched slowly toward Yorktown, where five thousand Confederates under General Magruder stopped the great army under McClellan.

After a month's siege, and just as McClellan was about to shoot at the town, the garrison took its valise and went away.

On the 5th of May occurred the battle of Williamsburg, between the forces under "Fighting Joe" Hooker and General Johnston. It lasted nine hours, and ended in the routing of the Confederates and their pursuit by Hooker to within seven miles of Richmond. This caused the adjournment of the Confederate Congress.

But Johnston prevented the junction of McDowell and McClellan after the capture of Hanover Court-House, and Stonewall Jackson, reinforced by Ewell, scared the Union forces almost to death. They crossed the Potomac, having marched thirty-five miles per day. Washington was getting too hot now to hold people who could get away.

It was hard to say which capital had been scared the worst.

The Governors of the Northern States were asked to send militia to defend the capital, and the front door of the White House was locked every night after ten o'clock.

But finally the Union generals, instead of calling for more troops, got after General Jackson, and he fled from the Shenandoah Valley, burning the bridges behind him. It is said that as he and his staff were about to cross their last bridge they saw a mounted gun on the opposite side, manned by a Union artilleryman. Jackson rode up and in clarion tones called out, "Who told you to put that gun there, sir? Bring it over here, sir, and mount it, and report at head-quarters this evening, sir!" The artilleryman unlimbered the gun, and while he was placing it General Jackson and staff crossed over and joined the army.

One cannot be too careful, during a war, in the matter of obedience to orders. We should always know as nearly as possible whether our orders come from the proper authority or not.

No one can help admiring this dashing officer's tour in the Shenandoah Valley, where he kept three major-generals and sixty thousand troops awake nights with fifteen thousand men, saved Richmond, scared Washington into fits, and prevented the union of McClellan's and McDowell's forces. Had there been more such men, and a little more confidence in the great volume of typographical errors called Confederate money, the lovely character who pens these lines might have had a different tale to tell.

May 31 and June 1 occurred the battle of Fair Oaks, where McClellan's men floundering in the mud of the Chickahominy swamps were pounced upon by General Johnston, who was wounded the first day. On the following day, as a result of this accident, Johnston's men were repulsed in disorder.

General Robert E. Lee, who was now in command of the Confederate forces, desired to make his army even more offensive than it had been, and on June 12 General Stuart led off with his cavalry, made the entire circuit of the Union army, saw how it looked from behind, and returned to Richmond, much improved in health, having had several meals of victuals while absent.

Hooker now marched to where he could see the dome of the court-house at Richmond, but just then McClellan heard that Jackson had been seen in the neighborhood of Hanover Court-House, and so decided to change his base. General McClellan was a man of great refinement, and would never use the same base over a week at a time.

He had hardly got the base changed when Lee fell upon his flank at Mechanicsville, June 26, and the Seven Days' battle followed. The Union troops fought and fell back, fought and fell back, until Malvern Hill was reached, where, worn with marching, choked with dust, and broken down by the heat, to which they were unaccustomed, they made their last stand, July 1. Here Lee got such a reception that he did not insist on going any farther.

But the Union army was cooped up on the James River. The siege of Richmond had been abandoned, and the North felt blue and discouraged. Three hundred thousand more men were called for, and it seemed that, as in the South, "the cradle and the grave were to be robbed" for more troops.

Lee now decided to take Washington and butcher Congress to make a Roman holiday. General Pope met the Confederates August 26, and while Lee and Jackson were separated could have whipped the latter had the Army of the Potomac reinforced him as it should, but, full of malaria and foot-sore with marching, it did not reach him in time, and Pope had to fight the entire Confederate army on that historic ground covered with so many unpleasant memories and other things, called Bull Run.

For the second time the worn and wilted Union army was glad to get back to Washington, where the President was, and where beer was only five cents per glass.

Oh, how sad everything seemed at that time to the North, and how high cotton cloth was! The bride who hastily married her dear one and bade him good-by as the bugle called him to the war, pointed with pride to her cotton clothes as a mark of wealth; and the middle classes were only too glad to have a little cotton mixed with their woollen clothes.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


Lee invaded Maryland, and McClellan, restored to command of the Army of the Potomac, followed him, and found a copy of his order of march, which revealed the fact that only a portion of the army was before him. So, overtaking the Confederates at South Mountain, he was ready for a victory, but waited one day; and in the mountains Lee got his troops united again, while Jackson also returned. The Union troops had over eighty thousand in their ranks, and nothing could have been more thoughtful or genteel than to wait for the Confederates to get as many together as possible, otherwise the battle might have been brief and unsatisfactory to the tax-payer or newspaper subscriber, who of course wants his money's worth when he pays for a battle.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


The battle of Antietam was a very fierce one, and undecisive, yet it saved Washington from an invasion by the Confederates, who would have done a good deal of trading there, no doubt, entirely on credit, thus injuring business very much and loading down Washington merchants with book accounts, which, added to what they had charged already to members of Congress, would have made times in Washington extremely dull.

General McClellan, having impressed the country with the idea that he was a good bridge-builder, but a little too dilatory in the matter of carnage, was succeeded by General Burnside.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


President Lincoln had written the Proclamation of Emancipation to the slaves in July, but waited for a victory before publishing it. Bull Run as a victory was not up to his standard; so when Lee was driven from Maryland the document was issued by which all slaves in the United States became free; and, although thirty-one years have passed at this writing, they are still dropping in occasionally from the back districts to inquire about the truth of the report.