“The Barbarians at Harper’s Ferry,” New York Times, June 16, 1861, p. 4: 6.
New York Times
The Barbarians at Harper’s Ferry
Don Sailer, Dickinson College
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
THE BARBARIANS AT HARPER’S FERRY. – The rebels, we are told, have left Harper’s Ferry. They signalized their departure by destroying the railroad bridge, burning the workshops, and taking various other measures for making the place inaccessible to the National forces, and untenable, should they occupy it. The destination of the retreating army is represented to be the Manassas Junction. Beyond, however, the destruction of property, the story should be received with hesitation. Harper’s Ferry is not a position to hold against a powerful enemy ; but it is an admirable trap into which one may be decoyed to be annihilated. It is quite possible, therefore, that the rebels may be willing to withdraw long enough to see the approaching army of the West fairly caged, and then, reoccupying the surrounding heights, have every advantage in the work of slaughter.
The deeds of these heroes, from the day they possessed themselves of the valley of the Potomac to that in which they have thus vanished in blue flames, afford a happy illustration of the two civilizations which are now contending in this New World. All products of modern ingenuity and industry, the concrete results of human progress, are objects of unsparing hostility to these people. They destroy bridges, tear up railroads, overthrow canal dams, and mark their retreat by so many wanton acts of the same character, that the idea of their being acts purely protective and defensive is inadmissible. The Northern troops, on the contrary, bring order, skill and civilization with them. It is for them to relay the displaced tracks, repair the disabled engines, rebuild the burnt bridges, erect the overthrown workshops, restore the damaged canals ; in short, to replace the malicious mischief of an enraged barbarism, with the splendid resources of civilization. Reconstruction thus presses close upon the heels of destruction ; and it will be fortunate if the same process do not reach the social, as well the industrial organization of the South.