We continue our weekly feature of reflecting upon the appropriate 150 year old issue of “Harper’s Weekly ” from the perspective of a subscriber in 1861:
The front page of today’s May 4, 1861  issue portrays what seems to me an eerie sight. It is captioned: “The House-Tops In Charleston During the Bombardment of Sumter” and shows what appears to be hundreds of men and women watching the battle in the distance, smoke rising from the forts & what appears to be bomb blasts as well. It is as if they are watching fireworks on the 4th of July–but this is war! Several of the women are shown doubled over in grief. It must have been a distressing event to witness.
The maps are always helpful in providing a geographic perspective of the war. A full page map shows: “…Part of Maryland and Virginia, Showing the Probable Theatre of the War”. It’s a great view of Chesapeake Bay, showing Baltimore to the north and Norfolk to the south, and including Washington, D.C. & other towns as well. I didn’t realize the nation’s capital was so close to the Bay.
Another full page shows: “The Great Meeting in Union Square, New York, to Support the Government” which includes both soldiers and citizens. Two other prints show the support for the war with the “Boston Regiments Embarking for Washington…” and a parade of “The Seventh Regiment, Marching Down Broadway to Embark for the War” with cheering fans along the way, even hanging from the windows and cheering from the rooftops–flags everywhere. It must have been a very special sight!
The drama & tragedy of war is certainly depicted in the print: “First Blood–The Sixth Mass. Regiment Fighting Their Way Through Baltimore”. It shows nearly hand-to-hand fighting, long rifles involved with killed & wounded on the ground. The daily reports can’t relay the violence a single print portrays.
Other prints are interesting as well showing the huge size of the “Stevens’ Bomb-Proof Floating Battery” (but made out of wood: how can it be bomb-proof?), “The Heroes of Fort Sumter” and soldiers preparing for war.