"Tears Would Have Fallen
From its Eyes of Brass"

Rebecca Blackwell Drake

The Hinds County Gazette press, known as the No. 3 Washington Press, was purchased in New Orleans in 1858, immediately following the "Big Fire" in Raymond. Except from May 1863- September 1865, the Press operated continually for 22 years and, contrary to myth, was not thrown in the town's
well by the Yankees.

Since May 12, 1863, when Union General James Birdseye McPherson and his 17th Corps occupied Raymond, rumor spread that the Yankees had burned many of the sites in town and that they actually threw the Hinds County Gazette's prized No.3 Washington Press in the town well. Now, one hundred and forty-one years later, evidence has surfaced to discredit this colorful myth.

In March of 1880, George Harper, owner/editor of the Hinds County Gazette, wrote an article entitled A Landmark Gone. The article revealed the news that his old friend, the No. 3 Washington Press, purchased in New Orleans in 1858, had been sold to the Canton Mail, a newspaper in nearby Canton. To Harper the sale of the press was a matter of necessity. The previous year, he had purchased the Power Printing Machine, a newer and more efficient press, and lacked the room to house both pieces of equipment. To Harper, the decision to sell the No. 3 Washington Press was equivalent to losing an old friend.

George Harper, a first rate journalist, could not resist bidding his iron-hearted friend with "eyes of brass" a public goodbye. To the readers of the Gazette he wrote, "If that press could talk what a wondrous list of events, momentous and soul-stirring, it could relate, as having passed in detail through its iron ribs.

"It was ours in the heated presidential canvass of 1860 when we so warmly and stubbornly advocated the election of John Bell of Tenn., as a conservative Union man, and the only one of the four presidential candidates who could possibly save the country from revolution, war and ruin. That Press announced the final overthrow of the Whig party and the surrender of the Union party and the election of Lincoln, and the withdrawal, on the 8th Jan., 1861, of Mississippi from the Union. And state pride and patriotism and love of country demanding it, the Press, in Jan. 1861, announced that the Hinds County Gazette, through confident that the South was rushing to death, ruin and woe and determined to drink the dregs of revolution, war, and calamity, would stand by its State and Section, though the heavens should fall.

"That Press gave us hearty a support as it could to the Confederacy and to the administration of President Jefferson Davis, and the principles, measures and men of the extreme Southern party. During the dark and stormy days of 1861 and 1862, it kept its head above water and rode on the surging billows. In May of 1863, however, when Grant and his 50,000 Union soldiers effected an entrance into Raymond [McPherson's 12,500 men], that Press was an object of special inquiry. It was captured by Grant's army and held a prisoner during the occupation of the town, and was forced to perform such duties as they required of it. We did not see the Press while it was in the hands of its cruel captors, performing their works, and we are glad that we did not. A blush would have covered its iron cheeks, and tears would have fallen from its eyes of brass, had we encountered its vision at that trying and dreadful period.

"After weeks of woe, however, we again took possession of the Press, or rather, what was left of it. The office had been destroyed and all of the press that could be similarly treated was similarly disposed of. The Press remained quiet - it its dismantled condition - from May 1863 until Sept. 1865, when it was refitted, and surrounded by new printing materials.

"During all the dark days of reconstruction - during all the dark night of carpet-bag rule and rascality - that Press stood by the people of this country, and faithfully contended that 'the great principles of American liberty were still the inheritance of this people.' It was the Press, too, through which we fought the wonderful battles of 1875 and 1876 and through its ribs was the announcement made, that a President elected by the people of the United States was set aside by fraud and perjury, and a man inaugurated who was not elected.

"We part with it now as we part with a very near and dear friend, whose goodness is in his face and hand, and whose kindnesses are engraven on our hearts. We were compelled to remove it from its position in March last to make room for the Power Printing Machine, and that it might not go to ruin, might not rust out - might not be trodden under foot as a useless thing - might not be carried to the foundry and melted into vessels of mean repute - we sold it, and to a man who will tenaciously defend its reputation, and always treat it with a father's kindness. Farewell, old and trusty friend, may the angels ever keep you and preserve you, and may it be our good fortune to be able often to visit you in your home, and cheer you with the old smile of approbation and confidence."

The fate of the No. 3 Washington Press following the transfer of ownership to the newspaper in Canton is unknown. Most likely, following the turn-of-the-century, it was destroyed.

With the recent discovery of George Harper's 1880 article, A Landmark Gone, one thing is certain; the demise of George Harper's beloved press resulted from advanced technology and not an act of vengeance by the Yankees. Yet another myth of the Civil War in Raymond has been laid to rest.

Historic source: A clipping entitled "A Landmark Gone" from the Hinds County Gazette dated March of 1880. The article was saved by Mrs. H. B. Gillespie, turn-of-the-century historian, and is now in a scrapbook owned by Dr. John Gillespie. The article was made available by Pattie Adams Snowball, granddaughter of Mrs. H. B. Gillespie.

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