19th Century War Reports from Harper’s

Since relaunching their website, Harper’s has been posting selections from their 140+year archive. For example, “Battle Gossip,” an 1861 column by Charles Nordhoff. In addition to vivid accounts of women in combat, Nordhoff writes about Napoleon III’s use of balloons for battlefield surveillance; correspondence with the enemy; and animals in war:

There are many instances of worn-out cavalry horses, sold out of the army and used in menial employments, remembering and obeying, years after, the sound of a regimental trumpet. At the battle of Waterloo some of the horses, as they lay on the ground, having recovered from the first agony of their wounds, commenced eating the grass about them, thus surrounding themselves with a circle of bare ground, the limited extent of which showed their weakness; others were noticed quietly grazing in the middle of the field, between the two hostile lines, their riders having been shot off their backs.