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1863 February 11: The Court-martial of General Fitz John Porter, and Other News

February 12, 2013

Again this week, February 11, 1863, The Prescott Journal does not have much in the way of war news to report, so instead of longer articles they have a series of small “News Items.”

From Washington.

Special Dispatch to the St. Paul Press

Gen. Burnside [Ambrose E. Burnside] paid the House a visit to-day.  He was cordially received.—Nearly all the members deserted their seats to pay their respects to him.  His reception in the Senate was equally cordial.

The House Naval Committee have agreed to report a bill for the establishment of a navy yard, for the construction of river gunboats, in the vicinity of St. Louis.

Gen. Hooker [Joseph Hooker] is about to issue a general order forbidding commanders of Grand Divisions or Corps, from coming to Washington without the permission of the Secretary of War.


— The steamer Harriet Lane, so recently captured by the rebels, and blockaded in Galveston harbor, by the Federal fleet, managed to elude the vigilance of the blockaders, on Monday, the 19th ult., and escaped to sea.  The Confederates are manageing [sic] to pick up something of a navy.  They have now afloat, the Alabama, Creto, Harriet Lane, and Retribution.

— It is believed that the Senate will confirm none of the Brigadier Generals who are now before it, except those who have earned a star by military conduct, and who are hearty supporters of the Government and it war policy.

—The conditions of admission of West Virginia into the Uoinon [sic] are such that the people of the new State have to pass upon them.  An election is soon to be held for that purpose, and the secession element in the several counties is arrayed in opposition to a State government in the Union.

— By latest advices from BANKS’ expedition [Nathaniel P. Banks] we learn that the plans for the attack on Port Hudson have been temporarily deranged, on account of our reverse at Galveston.  FARRAGUT [David G. Farragut] has sent a large portion of his force to aid Commodore BELL [Henry H. Bell] in bringing the Texan metropolis to terms or reducing it to ashes with a rain of shot and shell.

— George Francis TRAIN¹ was summarily prevented from delivering a political speech in St. Louis.  He was arrested by the Provost Marshal and given the alternative of leaving the State or going to jail.  He crossed the river immediately.

— The New York Tribune says that among the whole number—over sixty—of Justices of the Peace in the city of Washington, recently there could not be one found to issue a writ on the plea of a colored man for the arrest of a white man who had stolen his property ;  and it is conceded to be impossible to a colored citizen to prosecute in either one of the courts a claim againist [sic] a white man.

Even their testimony is excluded from the courts, in plain violation of the laws passed last summer for their protection.

— Jeff Davis’ “retaliation” proclamation is censured in very strong language by the London Times, and the rebel President is advised not to attempt its enforcement, as it may cause him the loss of the friendship of doth [sic: both] France and England.  [Jefferson Davis]

— The following from Gen. Sickles’ orders to his division has the ring of the true mettle:  “Whoever seeks to sow discontent among you, by any means whatever, is as much your enemy as the armed rebel you have so often and so successfully encountred [sic].”  [Daniel E. Sickles]

— The Springfield, Ill. Legislature has died of Copperheadism.  The Democrats having introduced resolutions, looking to an armistice, the Republicans have withdrawn from the Legislature, leaving it without a quorum, and refuse to return unless the resolutions are withdrawn.

— A dispatch from Charleston states that a grand naval and land expedition was concentrating at Port Royal, and that an attack upon Charleston was apprehended.  Seventeen blockading vessels were off the bar.  The British Consul has been ordered to Havanna [sic].

— We have interesting and important news from Vicksburg and Chattanooga.  There has been some skirmishing a few miles from Murfeesboro [sic], and the Queen of the West having run the blockade at Vicksburg, was damaging the Confederate cause below.

— A dispatch from Stafford Court House states that the Reserve Grand Division of the army of the Potomac had been dissolved, and that Siegel [sic: Franz Sigel] resumes command of the army corps.  The work of re-organizing the army was progressing.

— Official notice is given that certificates of discharge are furnished only by the surgeons in charge of the general hospitals and camps, and that the obstrusive [sic] efforts of persons claiming to be special agents retard instead of hastening the preparations of discharge papers.  All persons are warned against giving money for such purposes.

— The Court-martial of Gen. Porter [Fitz John Porter] was composed of nine Generals, and of these seven, all but two, were West Point graduates.  These seven are Gens. Hunter, Hitchcock, Rufus King, Rickets [sic], Casy [sic], Bufort [sic], and Morris, with one exception all veterans of the regular army.  Brig. Gen. Roberts [Benjamin S. Roberts], Inspector General of Pope’s army [John Pope], and the prosecutor, is a West point [sic] graduate.  Col. Holt [Joseph Holt], the Judge Advocate, is not a graduate.  The statement shows clearly that the decision of the Court is to be regarded as evidence of the high integrity of the West Point graduates.  More than six hundred and twenty of them remained loyal, while but one hundred and ninety seven, and these chiefly Southerners resigned their commissions at the commencement of the rebellion.

1.  George Francis Train (1829-1904) was an American entrepreneur who organized the clipper ship line that sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco, and he organized the Union Pacific Railroad and the Credit Mobilier in the United States in 1864 to construct the western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad. He spent most of the Civil War in England building a horse tramway company.
2.  This list is not completely accurate; only six of the nine were West Point graduates. William Hopkins Morris, who did graduate from West Point, was not a member of the court. The actual court was composed of:

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