Union fleet attacked by fire ships, October 12, 1861


“Our Fleet At the Mouth of the Mississippi. Attacked By Hollins’s Fleet of Fire-Ships on October 12, 1861.”  New York: Harper’s Weekly, November 9, 1861.  Half sheet: 6 3/4 x 9 1/4.  Wood engraving.  Very good condition.


A contemporary print showing the Union fleet attacked by fire ships at the mouth of the Mississippi River in October, 1861.  The print was issued in Harper’s Weekly, an illustrated newspaper issued in New York beginning around the Civil War and continuing for most of the remainder of the nineteenth century.  Its mission of was best described by its subtitle, “A Journal of Civilization.”  The newspaper had copious articles, but it communicated much of its message through excellent and topical pictures which were drawn by its many staff artists.  These pictures were of current events, most drawn on the spot, as well as genre pictures of the customs and fashions of the day.  The artists’ sketches were sent to New York where they were transferred to wood blocks and then printed with offset type to inform the greater American public.

Harper’s really came into its own during the Civil War, when it gathered the most current illustrations possible—most drawn on the spot—and then published them for a public eager for news from the war, often within just a few weeks of the events depicted.  These are primary Civil War documents and provide us, as they did the public at the time, with a front-line view of this seminal American war.