Page images

who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."



MOST Southerners remained spellbound by the glamour of Bull Run till the hard, sharp truths of '62 began to rouse them from their flattering dream. They fondly hoped, and even half believed, that if another Northern army dared to invade Virginia it would certainly fail against their entrenchments at Bull Run. If, so ran the argument, the North failed in the open field it must fail still worse against a fortified position.

The Southern generals vainly urged their Government to put forth its utmost strength at once, before the more complex and less united North had time to recover and begin anew. They asked for sixty thousand men at Bull Run, to be used for a vigorous counterstroke at Washington. They pointed out the absurdity of misusing the Bull Run (or Manassas) position as a mere shield, fixed to one spot, instead of making it the hilt of a sword


thrust straight at the heart of the North. Robert E. Lee, now a full general in the Confederate Army and adviser to the President, grasped the whole situation from the first and urged the right solution in the official way. Stonewall Jackson, still a junior general, was in full accord with Lee, as we know from the confidential interview (at the end of October, '61) between him and his divisional commander, General G. W. Smith, who made it public many years later. The gist of Jackson's argument was this: "McClellan won't come out this year with his army of recruits. We ought to invade now, not wait to be invaded later on. If Davis would concentrate every man who can be spared from all other points and let us invade before winter sets in, then McClellan's recruits couldn't stand against us in the field. Let us cross the upper Potomac, occupy Baltimore, and, holding Maryland, cut the communications of Washington, force the Federal Government out of it, beat McClellan if he attacks, destroy industrial plants liable to be turned to warlike ends, cut the big commercial lines of communication, close the coal mines, seize the neck of land between Pittsburg and Lake Erie, live on the country by requisition, and show the North what it would cost

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

to conquer the South." On asking Smith if he agreed, Smith answered: "I will tell you a secret; for I am sure it won't be divulged. These views were rejected by the Government during the conference at Fairfax Court House at the beginning of the month." Jackson thereupon shook Smith's hand, saying, "I am sorry, very sorry," and, mounting Little Sorrel without another word, rode sadly away.

Jefferson Davis probably, and some of his Cabinet possibly, understood what Lee, "Joe" Johnston, Beauregard, Smith, and Jackson so strongly urged. But they feared the outcry that would assuredly be raised by people in districts denuded of troops for the grand concentration elsewhere. So they remained passive when they should have been active, and, trying to strengthen each separate part, fatally weakened the whole.

[ocr errors]

Meanwhile the North was collecting the different elements of warlike force and changing its Secretary of War. Cameron was superseded by Stanton on the fifteenth of January. Twelve days later Lincoln issued the first of those military orders which, as we have just seen, he afterwards told Grant that the impatience of the loyal North compelled him to issue, though he knew some were

certainly, and all were possibly, wrong. This first order was one of the certainly wrong. McClellan's unready masses were to begin an unlimited mud march through the early spring roads of Virginia on the twenty-second of February, in honor of Washington's birthday. A reconnoitering staff officer reported the roads as being in their proper places; but he guessed the bottom had fallen out. So McClellan was granted some delay.

His grand total was now over two hundred thousand men. The Confederate grand total was estimated at a hundred and fifteen thousand by the civilian detectives whom the Federal Government employed to serve in place of an expert intelligence staff. The detective estimate was sixty-five thousand men out. The real Confederate strength at this time was only fifty thousand. There was little chance of getting true estimates in any other way, as the Federal Government had no adequate cavalry. Most of the few cavalry McClellan commanded were as yet a mere collection of men and horses, quite unfit for reconnoitering and testing an enemy's force.

McClellan's own plan, formed on the supposition that the Confederates held the Bull Run position with at least a hundred thousand men,

« PreviousContinue »