OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Chapter II, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 4


Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5

M'Lellan had been thoroughly discomfited; but another Federal army still kept the field in Virginia, covering Washington, and occasionally making forward movements as far as the Rappahannock. This was the army, numbering about 40,000 men, under the command of General Pope. On taking the command, Pope had issued a boastful and grandiloquent manifesto, some of the expressions of which were understood to glance at the luckless M'Lellan. " I hear constantly," he said, "of taking strong positions and holding them - of lines of retreat and of bases of supplies. Let us discard such ideas.... Let us study the probable lines of retreat of our opponents, and leave our own to take care of themselves. Lot us look before, and not behind. Success and glory are in the advance. Disaster and shame lurk in the rear." But

Quid dignum tanto feret hie promissor hiatu?

After the greater part of M'Lellan's beaten army had taken up its quarters again within the lines of Alexandria, Lee, with Jackson, his indefatigable lieutenant, resolved to pay his undivided attention to Pope. In the first battle, at Cedar Mountain, near the Rapidan, a portion of Pope's army attacked, without knowing it, nearly the whole of Lee's, and, of course, received a terrible and bloody repulse. The next fifteen days were a maze of marches and combats, in the course of which Jackson, with an audacity defensible rather on moral than on military grounds, and evidently proceeding from an exact appreciation of the calibre of the man and the troops opposed to him, marched round Pope's right and seized his magazines at Manasses Junction, exactly in his rear; yet managed to extricate himself in time from a position which, with an abler adversary, would have been his certain destruction, and succeeded in rejoining Longstreet before lie was compelled to fight the battle of Gainesville, in which Pope's generals of division sustained a crushing defeat. Pope retreated to Centerville; again his flank was turned, and lie found himself compelled to fall back on the lino of Alexandria, having been incessantly engaged, ever since the Confederate army turned against him, in that very operation of retreating which he had vain-gloriously announced would, under his auspices, be the exclusive portion of " our opponents."

But Lee was not satisfied with having defeated two Federal armies, and nearly cleared Virginia of invaders; he determined to carry the war across the Potomac, and enter Maryland at least, if not Pennsylvania. The bulk of his army crossed the Potomac near Leesburg on the 5th September, and advanced to Frederick, whence Lee issued an address to the people of Maryland, to whom he held forth the prospect of deliverance from their oppressors. He appears to have hoped that the Confederate ranks - not over well filled at the first, and now sadly thinned by the drain of incessant warfare and hardship - would be recruited by a large accession of enthusiastic Marylanders. But most of the more ardent spirits among these had already crossed the border and enlisted in the Confederate armies, while of the remainder many doubtless shrank from the peril of confiscation and other trouble which their joining Lee might bring upon their friends and relations. Thus it happened that not more than between 200 and 300 Marylanders enlisted. Failing this object, or along with it, Lee had formed a plan for the reduction of Harper's Ferry, an important post at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac, and the capture of its garrison. By one of the accidents of war, a copy of Lee's general order, giving clear instructions to his divisional commanders with a view to this important capture, fell into M'Lellan's hands; yet, although it was an operation which involved the cutting of Lee's army in two, and the separation of the two halves by a considerable river, the Federal general was so poor a tactician that he could neither prevent the fall of Harper's Ferry, nor fall with overwhelming force upon the portion of the Confederate army that remained to the north of the river. The active Jackson opened fire on Harper's Ferry on the 13th September, and the place surrendered on the 15th, nearly twelve thousand men laying down their arms. Not delaying a moment, Jackson hurried his division across the Potomac again, and, marching day and night, reached Lee's head-quarters behind the Antietam Creek on the 16th, in time to help him in repelling the great Federal attack of the next day. The indecisive battle of Antietam was the most bloody of the whole war; the loss on each side exceeded twelve thousand men. M'Lellan, according to his own statement, had 87,000 men in line on that day; the Confederates stood their ground with only 45,000 for the first half of the day, and for the remaining half with no more than an aggregate of 70,000; yet the last incident of all was the driving of the Federal left down the hills, up which they had gradually advanced, and across the creek again. The stubborn valour of the Confederate soldiers, and the high qualities of their officers, were never more nobly exemplified than on this bloody field of Antietam. On the following day, the 18th, both armies rested; but M'Lellan was joined by a reinforcement of fourteen thousand men; and Lee knew that he could do no more. He crossed the Potomac with his whole force on that night, and retired upon Winchester, in the Shenandoah valley; nor did M'Lellan pursue. Emboldened by this inaction, Lee detached Stuart with eighteen hundred horsemen on a raid into Pennsylvania. Stuart penetrated into that state as far as Chambersburg, where he destroyed a large quantity of military stores; he then rode right round the Federal army, doing what damage he could by the way, and recrossed without loss into Virginia below Harper's Ferry.

Gallant and unfortunate men! brave gentlemen of Virginia and the Carolinas! genuine strain of the old English blood! worthy countrymen of the Mannys and Raleighs of former times! defenders of your native fields against a motley host representing twenty different nationalities, a " colluvies omnium gentium" pouring upon you from the North - Scotch, Irish, Dutch, Germans, and many more, - surely, if mortal heroism could avail to bar the irresistible decrees, your blood would not have been shed in vain, and your names would have shone in the page of history as the founders of a new nation. But you fought not against overwhelming numbers only, but against the eternal law of justice, though you knew it not; and therefore you could not prevail. Your chiefs prated about liberty, but in their hearts designed to establish their state on the perpetual enslavement and inequality of a race of men that deserved not such a fate; and you, imagining your cause to be just and holy, sacrificed your lives for ends that in the last analysis were plainly irreligious and immoral.

Yet one more day of slaughter was to close this year of carnage. In November, M'Lellan had been relieved of his command, which had been turned over to Burnside. The sole military conception of this general, with reference to the taking of Richmond, appears to have been that he must march straight at it along the direct road until he arrived there. He pressed on as far as the Rappahannock, and occupied Fredericksburg, on the southern bank of that river; but the heights behind the town offered a strong position, which Lee at once seized and carefully fortified; so that when, on a beautiful sunny day of the Indian summer, December 12th, Burnside flung his masses against the heights, they were repulsed with fearful slaughter. During the remainder of the winter the armies of the Union and the Confederacy faced one another on opposite sides of the Rappahannock, which, by a sort of tacit consent, was accepted as the dividing line of the two powers. But cavalry raids, most of which were successful, were the order of the day with the Confederate officers all through the winter. In January, 1863, the command of the army of the Potomac was transferred from Burnside to Hooker, who had greatly distinguished himself at Antietam.

In the autumn, General Bragg led a Confederate army from Chattanooga, on the confines of Alabama, across Tennessee, into the state of Kentucky, routing in succession all the troops that opposed his march. Occupying Frankfort, the state capital of Kentucky, he then issued a skilfully worded address to the Kentuckians, whom he professed an ardent desire to liberate from the thraldom in which they were held by the Federal Government. Great was the alarm in the wealthy cities on the Ohio, Louisville and Cincinnati. But on this, as on many other occasions during the war, it was seen that the sheer weight of numbers was enough to neutralise all the advantage which the superior Úlan of the Confederate troops, and the finer strategy of their generals, had for a time obtained. General Buell, who had slowly followed Bragg from the vicinity of Chattanooga, reached Louisville towards the end of September. Reinforcements now joined him to such an extent that, at the beginning of October, he found himself at the head of 100 000 men, the greater part of them indeed raw troops, but outnumbering the Confederates in the ratio of more than two to one. So far from advancing on Louisville, Bragg felt that he was no longer safe at Frankfort, and he resolved to retreat. But in order to protect the march of his immense trains, loaded with the plunder of Kentucky, he gave battle to Buell at Perryville, on the 9th October, and signally defeated him. After this he retired through Cumberland Gap into Eastern Tennessee, which at this period was firmly held by the Confederates. Dissatisfied with the dilatory proceedings of Buell, the Federal Government superseded him at the end of October by General Rosecranz, who, on the 4th instant, had repelled, with heavy loss to the assailants, a combined attack of Generals Van Dorn and Price upon the lines of Corinth. The expedition of Bragg was, upon the whole, a failure; since it demonstrated that in spite of the incapacity of generals and the rawness of soldiers, the resources of the Federal power were far too solid, far too elastic, to permit of the Confederacy making conquests on Federal ground. Would the Confederacy be able to hold its own? That was now the question of questions.

2. The naval portion of the war must now be briefly described. In the course of January and February, Commodore Goldsborough and General Burnside, at the head of a powerful expedition, attacked the coast defences of North Carolina, capturing the island of Roanoke, and compelling the surrender of Fort Macon, Newbern, and other places. In March occurred the famous conflict of the Merrimac and Monitor. When the navy-yard at Norfolk, in Virginia, opposite Fortress Munroe, on the south side of the James river, was abandoned by the Federals, they endeavoured, but without success, to destroy the forty-gun steam frigate Merrimac. The Confederates, having repaired this vessel, cut her down nearly to the water's edge, built up over her a sort of deck-house, sloping inwards, of solid timber strongly plated with railway iron, armed her with ten heavy guns and a formidable iron beak, rechristened her the Virginia, and sent her out to burn, sink, and destroy. On the 8th March, the officers on board the Federal fleet stationed in Hampton Roads beheld a strange black object, showing nothing but a funnel and a sloping roof above water, moving rapidly down upon them, followed by two small war steamers. Before they could decide on any course of action, the monster ran at the Cumberland frigate, and opened a gaping breach in her side with her iron beak, so that she sank at her anchors in a brief space of time, carrying to the bottom about a hundred sick and wounded men. Two other frigates, the Congress and the Minnesota, came to the assistance of the Cumberland, and rained heavy shot on the sides of the iron-clad, which glanced ineffectively off her mail. To avoid the fate of the Cumberland, the Congress ran herself aground; but being exposed in that position to a raking fire from the Merrimac, and having lost many men, she hauled down her colours. But the fire from the Federal soldiers on shore prevented the Confederates from taking possession of her, and in the end she was set on fire and destroyed. The Minnesota also got aground, but in a position where the Merrimac could not approach within a considerable distance. On the next day, the battle was renewed, and the Merrimac, having made out the channel by which the Minnesota had reached the bank on which she lay, was proceeding to attack her at close quarters, when a new combatant appeared on the scene. This was the Monitor, a small turreted iron-clad, just arrived from New York. Steaming in between the Minnesota and her assailant, the Monitor commenced a duel with the latter, which lasted some time without much apparent damage feeing done on either side. At last, as if in desperation, the Merrimac ran at the Monitor, and butted at her with all her force; the shock, however, did little or no injury to the turret ship, while in it the Merrimac carried away her enormous beak, and is supposed to have seriously damaged her machinery. Certain it is, that although she was got safely into Norfolk, she never made a second appearance; and not long afterwards, when the progress of the Federal arms in North Carolina rendered Norfolk untenable except by leaving there a larger garrison than the Confederates could spare, the place was evacuated, and the Merrimac, whose fame had flown already round the civilised world, was blown up and destroyed.

The fall of New Orleans, which took place in April of this year (1862), was the first crushing and irremediable blow which the Confederacy had sustained. An expedition for the purpose had been long since projected by General Butler, and approved by President Lincoln. Various delays prevented its being brought to full maturity till near the end of March, when Butler landed at Ship Island (in the Gulf of Mexico, between Mobile and the mouth of the Mississippi) and proceeded to concert with Captain Farragut, of the U.S. steam sloop Hartford, the details of the enterprise. The land forces here concentrated did not much exceed 13,000 men, and would have been of themselves insufficient to make an impression on so large a city as New Orleans, which at that time had a population of 170,000 inhabitants, and the defence of which was in the hands of an able and energetic governor, General Lovell. But the naval force at Ship Island numbered forty-seven vessels, of which eight were large and powerful steam sloops-of-war, and twenty-one mortar-boats, each throwing a 215-pound shell, the whole under the command of David Farragut, a man in whom the approach of age (he was sixty- three years old, fifty of which he had passed in the navy) had not chilled the fire or damped the enthusiasm of his youth. The principal defences of New Orleans were the forts Jackson and St. Philip, on opposite sides of the river, seventy-five miles below the city. An immense boom, composed of cypress-trees and chain cables, had been prepared with great labour and stretched across the current, just under the guns of the forts; but the flood in the Mississippi, rising this year to an unusual height, had carried the chief part of it away. Attempts, indeed, had been made to patch it up, but the obstruction thus presented was more formidable in appearance than reality. The plan agreed upon between the Federal commanders was this: that Captain Porter, who had charge of the mortar-boat squadron, should commence operations by bombarding the forts; that General Butler - after they had been sufficiently dismantled and disarmed by the heavy shelling they would receive - should attack them on the land side with his troops; lastly, that upon the fall of the forts Captain Farragut should, with his men-of-war, break the boom, engage and overpower the Confederate squadron, and steam up to the city.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5

Pictures for Chapter II, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 4

George Peabody
George Peabody >>>>
Battle of Pittsburgh
Battle of Pittsburgh >>>>
Fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac
Fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac >>>>
Earl Granville
Earl Granville >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About