Illustrations of the War in America.The Illustrated London News, vol.41, no.1180, p.695.
December 27, 1862
The Federal Government, as must by this time be well known all over Europe, could not have carried on the war against the South on anything like equal terms if it had not been for the aid afforded by the Irish and German population. American citizens of native birth volunteered in large numbers immediately after the attack on Fort Sumter, which expedited the collision; but their zeal did not keep pace with the exigences of the work they had undertaken; and, in urgent need of men, the Government was compelled to have recourse to the system of high bounty-money to foreigners and to naturalized foreigners to fill up the depleted ranks of an army that melted away in swamps and hospitals more rapidly then in the battle-field. The Government offered 100 dollars bounty-money to each recruit, and, this sum not being sufficient to provide the first batch of 300,000 men that Mr. Lincoln demanded during the summer, and the second 300,000 that he demanded under the penalty of a conscription if the men were not otherwise forthcoming, the corporations of the various cities in the north, aided by the liberality of wealthy and patriotic citizens, doubled and trebled the offer of the Government, and in some places actually raised the bounties to 500 and 600 dollars. The results were a large enrolment of Irishmen and Germans, to whom the bounty-money was the attraction rather than love of the cause, and many of whom had been rebels in their own country before they took up arms to fight rebellion in the land of their adoption. The most favourite of the regiments thus raised among the foreign recruits were the Zouaves, in imitation of those of Paris, and composed of a similar class of people, to whom the brilliant and picturesque costume was almost as much an inducement to enlist as the ready money. Our Engraving represents a group of these foreigners before a well-known recruiting-office at Mozart Hall, Broadway. The draught or conscription has been postponed sine die in New York for fear lest there should be a popular outbreak if unwilling men were forcibly carried off to a war which it might ruin their business to attend, or of which for other reasons they might not approve; but there has been no cessation of recruiting, which is still carried on with the utmost possible vigour. New York city and State are said to have provided nearly 80,000 men under Mr. Lincoln's two calls; but as the quota due, according to the population, is about 110,000, there is still a very large number of men to be provided.
The traveller to America who enters the beautiful harbour of New York by any of the ocean steamers will observe, on the right hand in passing the channel known as "The Narrows," a solitary fort on an island at some distance from the shore. This is Fort Lafayette, so named in honour of the French General who immortalised his name by the aid he rendered to the Americans on their early struggle for independence. It is a pity that such a name should have been desecrated in later days by the perversion of the fort from its original purpose of guardian of the channel to a bastille for the detention of political prisoners, sent thither on the sole warrant of lettres de cachet, on bare suspicion, or on the secret testimony of spies and informers. Lafayette himself, had he lived
Page 696long enough to witness the wreck which the Federal Americans have been making of their own liberties in the futile attempt to subjugate the South, might perhaps have urged the Government of Mr. Lincoln to adopt another and wiser course of policy; or, if that were not to be thought of, to give some other name than him to a fortress that had been converted into an instrument of tyranny as flagrant as the old Bastille so famous in the history of the the first French Revolution. For the last fifteen months Fort Lafayette (like its sister forts in the harbours of Boston and Baltimore) has been filled with political prisoners, mostly consigned thither by order of Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, or of Mr. Simon Cameron, the former, and Mr. Stanton, the present, Secretary of the War Department, Then arrests had become so numerous, and the outrage to the Constitution both of the State of New York and of the Federal Union involved in the virtual abrogation of the right secured to the humblest citizens by the writ of habeas corpus, was so flagitious, that the Democratic party, defeated at the election of Mr. Lincoln, reorganised its broken phalanx to resist the encroachment of arbitrary power. At the elections which took place on the 4th ult. the Democrats succeeded in carrying their candidate, the Hon. Horatio Seymour, for Governor of the State, and the whole of their members of Congress for the city, of New York. Other elections throughout the North showed the same results. A powerful opposition was thus formed, which, though appearing to side with the Government in its determination to prosecute the war against the South with unflinching zeal and untiring energy, was resolved at the same time that the war should be carried on within the limits of the Constitution, without the suspension of the habeas corpus in loyal States, and without abrogation of any portion, great or small, of the letter or the spirit of the document drawn up by the founders of national independence and sanctified by the great names of Washington, Jefferson, and other fathers of American liberty. The Government appears to have been alarmed for the first time since the commencement of the war at the stand taken by the Democratic party, which not only threatened the punishment of the three Secretaries of State but the impeachment of the President himself, for these and other illegal acts. Having once begun to debate the question, the Government lost no time in coming to a decision. On the 27th of November, little more than three weeks after the triumphs of the Democrats in New York, it took the opportunity of "Thanksgiving," which is annually celebrated throughout the North on that day, and which answers in some respects to the English festival of Christmas, to order the liberation of all political prisoners in Forts Lafayette, Warren, MacHenry, and Delaware. On that morning the gloomy gates were opened and the prisoners were set free without stipulation or condition. Fort Lafayette at present contains only its customary garrison for the defence of the channel, and it is to be hoped will never again be employed for any less legitimate purpose. Our Engraving is taken from the water, near Staten Island. The fort is not of great value as a means of defence, having been almost superseded in utility by Fort Hamilton, the larger fort immediately behind it, on Long Island, which has been recently erected, and which, in connection with Fort Tompkins, now in process of construction on the point of Staten Island, will effectually command the approaches to New York.