« PreviousContinue »
“ M ARCHING TO VICTORY” is the second volume of the series
l relating to the War of the Rebellion, covering the middle period of the struggle of the people of the United States for the preservation of the Union. It treats of the events of the year 1863-distinguished by a series of victories to the armies of the Union, of discomfiture to those of the Confederate States.
The year began auspiciously for the cause of the Union in the triumph of the Army of the Cumberland on the field of Stone River, in Tennessee. Following the chronological order of events, the beginning of the month of May witnessed the disastrous defeat of the Union Ariny of the Potoinac at Chancellorsville, and at the same time the repulse of the Confederates at Suffolk, in Virginia.
While these events were transpiring east of the Alleghanies, the Union Army of the Tennessee began a strategic movement which resulted in the victories of Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hills, Big Black River, and the siege of Vicksburg.
The achievements of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, the Army of the Tennessee at Vicksburg, and the army at Port Hudson on the Mississippi, in midsummer—the severance of the States of Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas from the other States of the Confederacy, rendering co-operation between the sections impossible, by the opening of the great river to commerce, under the protection of the naval forces—marked the culmination of Confederate power. Taken in connection with the situation of affairs in England and France, the events of July were decisive, not only in the struggle for the preservation of the Union, but in the history of civilization.
During the summer and early autumn the Confederates in Middle Tennessee were forced to abandon that State, while Eastern Tennessee, which had been loyal to the Union, was brought once more under the protection of the United States. These successes were followed by the battle of Chickamanga-won by the Confederates, but resulting in no · advantage to the Confederate cause.
The closing months of the year were distinguished by Union victories on Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and at Knoxville, and by the reducing of Fort Sumter to a shapeless ruin, a heap of crumbled masonry, with every gun dismounted; while from Morris Island — from the spot where the Confederates had inaugurated the war—Union cannon were raining shells upon the city of Charleston.
During the year the Confederate Government saw the fading away of all hope of recognition as a nation by the Government of Great Britain. The iron-clad war vessels which had been constructed with Confederate money by British ship-builders, and which were intended for the dispersion of the Union fleets blockading Wilmington and Charleston, and which were supposed to be sufficiently powerful to send the monitors, one by one, to the bottom of the sea, were prevented from leaving English ports by the order of the British Government, which had been compelled to act by the resolute protest of the United States. There was still the glimmering hope that through the interference of the Emperor of France with the affairs of Mexico, and the establishment of an empire in that country in place of a republic, the United States would be embroiled in a foreign war, which would result advantageously to the Confederate Government; but in this the Confederates were doomed to disappointment.
January 1, 1863, will ever stand in history as the day upon which four millions of the African race received their freedom at the hands of Abraham Lincoln. The close of the year beheld several thousand of the able-bodied men thus emancipated from slavery voluntarily enlisting under the Stars and Stripes for the preservation of the Union. At Fort Wagner and on other fields the colored troops, by their discipline, courage, and manhood, manifested their right to citizenship.
Other victories than those of the battle-field were achieved during the year. The prejudice of centuries against negroes was swept away, and they became citizens of the republic, entitled to equal rights and privileges with their fellow-men.
There were victories not only in the Western World, but beyond the Atlantic, where, despite all the efforts of the nobility and aristocracy of England, and of the trading and manufacturing classes, who for selfish
ends favored the cause of the Confederacy, the people—the toilers and I wage-earners — when starvation was staring them in the face, resolutely gave their allegiance to the cause of the Union, comprehending by an instinct more true and subtle than reason that the armies of the Union were fighting a battle for the oppressed of every land; and so, by their steadfast adherence to their convictions, the Government of Great Britain was constrained to refrain from any recognition of the Confederacy, except as a belligerent power.
In this volume, as in the “Drum-beat of the Nation," I have endeavored to set forth impartially and truly the cause, scope, and meaning of the war by a grouping of leading events. It has been my desire to lay aside all prejudice, and to see the questions at issue as the people of the seceding States saw them, duly recognizing their sincerity of conviction and adherence to the idea that the authority of the State was greater than that of the Nation ; but the archives of the Confederate Government bear witness that the so-called “Rights of the States” disappeared almost at the beginning of the war, and that the Confederate Government, through the passage of the Conscription act, became a military despotism waged only for the preservation of a government based on slavery. I have endeavored to do full justice to the endurance of hardship, and to the bravery of the soldiers of the Confederacy, and the great ability of those who commanded them; to set forth truthfully the treatment of the Union men of the South by the Confederate Government, the attitude of the so-called Peace Party of the Northern States, the hatred to the negro, . the opposition to the Proclamation of Emancipation, and the enlistinent of colored troops.
To comprehend the meaning of the war, we must ever keep in mind the nature of the struggle -- that it was between free and slave labor, between aristocracy and democracy; a contest of ideas and institutions marshalling the aristocracy of Great Britain on the side of the Confederacy, the starving spinners and weavers — the hard - working men and women of that country and of all Europe -- on the side of the United States.
Sophistries and false issues fade away with the flight of time, and as the perspective lengthens we are able to comprehend the greatness of the struggle and its influence upon the world's civilization.
The “Drum-beat of the Nation” and “ Marching to Victory” have not been written from a desire to picture the carnage and desolation of war. I would fain shut forever from my eye the scenes of blood, but behind
the lurid pictures are the sacrifice, devotion, and loyalty to the flag of our country, as the emblem of the most beneficent government the world has ever seen the loftiest ideal of Justice, Right, and Liberty attained by the human race. I write that the present and future generations of the boys and girls may know that through such sacrifice and devotion the great principles upon which the Government of the United States was established were preserved to the world.
CHARLES CARLETON COFFIN. BOSTON, September, 1888.