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1865 February 25: Charleston Evacuated: “The egg of cockatrice has been crushed in its nest”

February 26, 2015

The following editorial from the St. Paul Daily Press was reprinted by The Prescott Journal in its February 25, 1865, issue.



(From the St. Paul Daily Press.)

Charleston, S.C., the Mills House, with Adjacent Ruins

Charleston, S.C., the Mills House, with Adjacent Ruins, 1865³

Charleston is evacuated.  The egg of cockatrice¹ has been crushed in its nest.  Not quite four years ago, on the 12th day of April, 1861, the same city of  Charleston fired the signal gun of the slaveholder’s rebellion—set the match to the train of revolutionary elements she had been preparing for thirty years.

Charleston was drunk with joyous exultation then ;  champagne  flowed in torrents ;  the bells rang ;  ladies waved handkerchiefs ;  people cheered ;  it was glorious.  She had put forth her mailed² hand, and at a single blow, struck down the National authority in eleven Southern States.  And it was so easily done !

Not quite four years have passed ;  the champagne has not flowed so cheerily ;  the bells have not rung so merrily since then.  It was not done so easily after all !  Hundreds of thousands of Southern men and boys have perished in atonement for that act of mad ambition.  Every Southern household has been draped in mourning.  Nearly all her towns are in ruins. Her fields are desolated.  Her wealth is ashes.  Her people are fugitives and vagabonds on the face of earth.  Woe and horror have settled in a thick cloud over every Southern home.  And slowly, day by day and hour by hour, the nursed vengeance of the nation has been creeping through the blackened heavens and the war-blasted earth towards the cradle of the rebellion, as if reserving it a terrific catastrophe of retribution, commensurate in its awful proportions with the gigantic crime of which the doomed city had been guilty, and the fearful horror she had caused.

She boasted that she was going to make a Saragossa defense, and we inwardly thanked God for the obstinacy that justified the razing her in fire from the face of the earth.  We were going to honor her overmuch.  The result has proved that she was not equal to the occasion.  She has no ambition for the martyr’s crown, except in figures of speech.

The thunderbolt fell indeed, but she dodged it.  Fire and brimstone were ready to burst upon her—and she evacuated.  The sublime expiation, of a hero  death were something too good for this traitor city.  Her name is to go down to posterity with no such glorious epic famous Troy or Saragossa, but linked with derision and shame to the latest generation, as the Bob Acres4 of the Rebellion.

Chainmail glove

Chainmail glove

1.  A cockatrice is a medieval mythical beast that looks like a two-legged dragon with a rooster’s head.
2.  Chainmail armour.
3.  [Charleston, S.C. The Mills House, with adjacent ruins], George N. Barnard, photographer, April 1865. From the Photographs and Prints Division, Library of Congress.
4.  Bob Acres is a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play The Rivals. Acres was a coward, whose “courage always oozed out at his finger ends.”

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