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SIEGE OF WASHINGTON, D.C.
WRITTEN EXPRESSLY FOR LITTLE PEOPLE.
BY F. COLBURN ADAMS, CAPT.,
AUTHOR OF THE "STORY OF TROOPER," AND OTHER BOOKS.
MY publisher gives it as his opinion that a great many persons will be offended at what I have said in this work. He thinks, also, that "quite a number" of our great generals will be seriously disturbed in their dignity on seeing what liberties my artist has taken with them. Such opinions as these are rather too common with publishers in this country, who generally take very narrow views as to what public men think and do. This work was not written to offend, but to amuse and instruct little people. I have too much respect for our great generals to believe that they will feel offended at what I have said of them. Some of our little generals may perhaps take exception to the positions my artist has assigned them, and feel disposed to make war on him. But there will be nothing new in this, inasmuch as any close observer of the war must have seen that these little generals were always more fierce in making war on writers and artists than courageous in facing the enemy. That the Siege of Washington was the most remarkable military event history has any account of, is very well understood among those who participated in it. I must beg the reader, then, not to place false judgment on the pleasantry introduced here and there, since I have recorded, with great care and correctness, all the military movements, that took place during that memorable occasion.
F. COLBURN ADAMS.
WASHINGTON, D. C., January 15, 1867.
I.-WASHINGTON A REMARKABLE CITY II.-GOING TO WAR TO SETTLE OUR DIFFICULTIES III.-THE FORTS AROUND WASHINGTON IV.-COMING HOME AFTER THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN V.-BRAVE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC VI.-NOBODY HOME AT YORKTOWN VII.-POPE DID IT VIII.-HOW GENERAL POPE CAME TO TOWN IX.-BRIGHT PROSPECTS AHEAD X.-THE GENERAL THAT FOUGHT THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORVILLE XI.-HANGING IN THE BALANCE XII.-ALARMING SYMPTOMS OF THE ENEMY'S APPROACH XIII.-THE GREAT COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF TAKES THE FIELD XIV.-THE WAY GENERAL EARLY CAME TO TAKE THE CITY XV.-A REBEL GENERAL BROUGHT TO GRIEF XVI.-THE DISTINGUISHED STATESMAN WHO ENGAGED IN THE WORK OF REBELLION WITH GREEN SPECTACLES ON
SIEGE OF WASHINGTON.
A TRUE AND AUTHENTIC STORY, WRITTEN EXPRESSLY FOR LITTLE PEOPLE.
WASHINGTON AS A REMARKABLE CITY.
YOU, my son, have heard, and perhaps read, how Rome was once saved by a goose. There were, as you know, my son, a great many geese abroad during the siege of Washington; but it was not through any act of theirs that the city was saved. As I love you dearly, my son, so is it my first desire to instruct you correctly on all subjects in which the good of our great country is concerned. Before concluding my history of this remarkable siege, I shall prove to your satisfaction that Washington was saved, and the fate of the nation determined, by a barrel of whisky.
Let me say to you, my son, that the siege of Washington, however much people abroad may laugh at it, was one of the most extraordinary events in the history of modern warfare. It took place in the year of our Lord, 1864; and there is no other event in the war of the great rebellion to compare with it. You will, therefore, my son, understand why it is that the history of an event of so much importance should be written only by an impartial historian—one who has courage enough to tell the truth, and no official friends to serve at the expense of honor. I must tell you, also, my son, that the great military problem of this siege has afforded a subject of deep study for our engineers, from General Delafield downward, who have puzzled their wits over it without finding a solution.
Should we be unfortunate enough to have another great war, and the nation again be compelled to give itself up to the profession of arms, the conduct of this siege would afford us an excellent example, as well as a profitable key to the art of war, as understood by our War Department in the said year of our Lord, 1864. This, then, is another reason why this great military event should be faithfully rendered. I will also add, my son, that though I may fail to instruct you after the manner and style of the most profound historian of our day, I will at least make my account of this great siege so plain and simple that you will comprehend it in all its multiplicity of parts.
But first let me tell you a few things about Washington, the capital city of this great nation. You, my son, may have seen one hundred other cities, and yet it will remind you of none of them. It is very elongated, and spreads over a great deal of ground, apparently for personal inconvenience. Indeed, my son, it has the appearance of having been dropped down late of a Saturday night by some eccentric gentleman who had a large quantity of architectural odds and ends on hand, and had no other use for them. It has been famous always for its acute angles and broad avenues. The former, I have heard more than one person say, were skillfully arranged by a very accommodating French engineer, for the special benefit of persons who went home late of nights and were liable to get confused on the way. The population is rather a curious one, and may be classified as the distinct and indistinct, the settled and unsettled. The census report, a remarkably unreliable account, has it that they number "some" sixty thousand. A large proportion of this settled and unsettled population is of such variety of color as to render it almost impossible to define the nice proportions of blood it is so strongly mixed with. On this point, my son, you must not be too particular, but accept it as your father does, as a proof that the races, whom we are told can never be got to live in harmony together, have, to say the least, gone very extensively into a system which gives strength to the belief that it could be done. The French call this the commingling system, and their philosophers argue from it, and with much force, that it is impossible to establish the question as to what kind of blood the best society is based upon. For myself, I feel that we can with safety accept these French philosophers as good authority in such matters. You will also find among the population of Washington natives of nearly every country on the face of the globe. These speak no end of tongues, follow all manner of professions and occupations, and what is most valuable, preserve that delightful diversity for which what is called the "old society" has always been famous. Picturesque hills encircle the city at a distance, and a beautiful river flows past on its way to the sea. The city has many fathers and few friends. These fathers, while in an ornamental mood, built a grand canal into the very bowels of the city, after the manner of Venice, that commerce might be encouraged, and such persons as had a passion for moonlight and gondolas could gratify it. But the people were not given to sailing in gondolas, so this famous canal was diverted from the object for which it was originally intended. It is now used as a tomb where deceased animals of a domestic nature are carefully deposited. The old inhabitants regard this tomb with a reverence I never could understand clearly, even though I had sought for a cause in their instinctive opposition to all and every manner of reform. Indeed, the fathers of the city regard this grand canal as performing a very humane part, inasmuch as it supplies an excellent and very convenient burial-place for their domestic animals, and increases the practice of a large number of doctors. The city fathers, I am informed, find some consolation in the fact that other canals have performed equally humane services.
And it came to pass, my son, that there was a great war in all the land; and greater than was ever known before in any other land. Thus Washington became the centre of our anxieties and our thoughts. The people of the North, and the people of the West, and the people of the South, who constituted the people of one great nation, had long held different opinions as to the right of making merchandise of men, of women, and of little children. Yes, my son, it was at last claimed to be in accordance with Christianity to doom these people to a life at once hopeless and miserable. As you grow up, my son, and begin to think and act for yourself, you will think it very strange that such a great national crime as this should have existed in a land so blessed with the fruits of a ripe civilization. And it will be a cause of wonder to you that a society based upon such an abomination did not sooner break down under the burden of its wrongs. And yet you must always bear in mind, my son, that men do not view great crimes alike, and that even good and great men differ as to what constitutes national rights and national wrongs. It is said that great nations have gone to decline because their people became blind with pride, and refused to think right. A nation is always safe while its people think right; but you must teach the children right before you can have the people think right. Education and association had much to do in training the thoughts of men in the South into wrong channels. Taking this view of the subject you may find much to forgive in a political system that seems wrong in your eyes and right in the eyes of its supporters. Indeed, my son, I would enjoin you to treat with a reasonable amount of deference the arguments advanced by those who differ with you on questions of public policy, and also to remember that right and reason are your strongest weapons. Never get angry with your opponent, never use language that will cause you a regret; and if you cannot convince by the moral force of your argument, abandon the undertaking. And whatever else you do to advance your material prosperity, never let it be said of you that you advocated a great political wrong merely because it was popular and brought you the applause of the unthinking. You cannot do so with a clear conscience; and what is life without it?
I have, unwittingly, my son, wandered away from my subject. The people of the South forgot all the great principles which govern humanity for humanity's good; they were betrayed into wrong doing by false friends, and made blind by their own prosperity. And they even forgot that God was their truest and best guardian, and to Him they must look for that care and protection which shall last forever. But, my son, I would enjoin you to bear these people no ill will, and remember how much better it is in the sight of God to deal with the erring in the spirit of forgiveness. They were a brave and a gallant people, who fought in the belief that they were right, and with a heroism worthy of a good cause. It is only the meanest nature that has no respect for the courage and gallantry of an enemy—that cannot find in it something to admire. It was the selfishness, my son, which slavery begat in these people, that perverted their natures, and caused them to forget God.
Yes, my son, it was the curse of slavery that corrupted the hearts and turned the heads of these people; that found them requesting the race they had made suffer so long in bondage, to be thankful that their sufferings were no worse. I never could, my son, see why any human being, who had been made the victim of the greatest outrage against his rights, should be thankful. The Church might, and did, attempt to sanctify this greatest of crimes; but that did not change the character of the cruelty and injustice. It will, no doubt, seem strange to you that ministers of the Gospel should be found the defenders of crime. And yet slavery found its ablest defenders in the pulpit of the South. I am afraid it always will be so, for even now we see ministers of the Gospel more ready to hang out false lights to lead their people into darkness, than to give them that truth and instruction they so much need. But you must not let the thought of this lessen your respect for the Church. Examine with great care until you have found out in what true Christianity consists; and when you have, practice accordingly to the extent of your ability. Never forget that it was the preaching of popular errors that cost the nation so much blood and treasure, so much sorrow and distress. That bishops should put aside their lawn, and gird on the sword—that they should lead men to war and death, instead of the baptismal, and all to perpetuate the sorrows of an oppressed race, is, my son, only another proof that error may gain a victory over truth in the hearts and feelings of the best of us.
WE GO TO WAR TO SETTLE OUR DIFFERENCES.
HERE let me present you, my son, with an exact portrait of the distinguished general who is commonly accepted as striking the first blow of this war. He was kindly educated at the expense of the nation, and was first among its enemies. For a time his fame ran high enough, and timid people were inclined to give him the character of a monster. But it turned out in time that he was a very peaceable gentleman, and not so much of a terrible warrior, after all.
But I want to tell you, my son, how it was that the people of this great nation took to swords and cannon, to settle their differences of opinion.
The people of the great North, and the people of the great West, were educated to a very different way of thinking on the question of slavery; and differed with the people of the South as to what constituted a national blessing. They were willing, for the sake of peace, to tolerate slavery, as a great evil it were dangerous to attempt to remove; but it was too much to ask them to accept it as a great national blessing. These people were energetic, thrifty, lovers of right and justice, and had grown rich and powerful by their own industry. They could not see why the whole people of so great a nation as ours should be required to bow down and worship what the rest of the civilized world had stigmatized as the greatest scourge of mankind. Seeing the power this great wrong was obtaining over the nation, as well as the danger it was causing us by corrupting the minds of the people, they consulted together and elected a President after their own way of thinking. And this so offended the people of the South, who were a brave people, and quick to anger, that they gathered together from all parts of their country, gave up their peaceful pursuits, and went to war for what they called their independence. But I always found, my son, that independence was an abused phrase, much on the tongues of these people. Indeed their idea of independence extended only to giving one class the full and exclusive right to enslave the other. The Southern idea of independence was so shaped as to contain the very worst features of a despotism. But you must look with forgiveness on these people, my son, and seek to forget many of those acts of vindictiveness which characterized them during the war.
At the same time, my son, you must not lose sight of the lesson which the result of this war teaches. Let it be a guide to your own actions that these people went to war to tear down what they could not build up, to destroy a Government the world had come to respect and admire, and under which they had found a safe refuge and a tolerance for their institution of slavery. But the edifice they sought to build up crumbled to the ground, and they are now left without even a safe refuge for their pride. Yes, my son, these people scorned the example of the Christian world, went to war in defense of a great crime, and ceased only when they had destroyed themselves.
I have been thus serious while instructing you as to how the war began, because I am aware that a very large number of writers will tell you that it began in a very different manner. If the account I may hereafter give of what took place at the siege may be less serious, you must charge it to my love for the truth of history. Indeed much that occurred during that remarkable military event, was not of so serious a nature as is generally conceded by an intelligent public. Unless, then, it be written down as it occurred, we shall not convey a faithful picture of it to the public.
Now that the war spirit was full to the brim, the people of the South gathered in great numbers on the plains of Manassas. They were earnest, serious, and even savage in their intentions; and they brought with them their powder and shot-guns, and a large quantity of whisky. They also brought with them a great number of negroes, who were to build the forts, and do all work it would not become a gentleman to do. And while this work was progressing, the "gentlemen" soldiers of the South were to talk very loudly and courageously, and invite all the Yankees round about to come out and get whipped. These people resolved themselves into a great and powerful army, with Peter Beauregard, the French gentleman of whom I have before spoken, for its commander. This gentleman was somewhat eccentric, and much given to saying things, the true meaning of which he did not understand. A waggish friend of mine once told me that this Mr. Beauregard was educated for an apothecary at West Point, a place where young gentlemen are instructed in the various ways of getting a living honestly. Being very skillful in the use of mortars, he was held by Mr. Davis as a most proper person to command a southern army, inasmuch as he could give the Yankees all the physic they wanted in the shortest time. And as it is always expected that a great general will say a great many things that are neither sensible nor wise, and which afford politicians an excellent opportunity of picking them to pieces, he is a wise general who issues his orders and keeps his lips sealed on politics. I say this, my son, because it is popularly understood that a general who knows his business bears the same relations to a politician that pepper does to the stomach.
And it came to pass that the people of the North and the people of the West became seriously alarmed at the capers Mr. Beauregard and his men were cutting at Manassas. Indeed, many false reports were circulated concerning the great power of this Mr. Beauregard; and our people began to give way to their fears, and to declare that he might enter the capital any dark night and capture or send the Government on a traveling expedition. The aged gentlemen at the head of our Government shook their heads discouragingly, and declared there was no safety in going to bed at night while Mr. Beauregard was so near a neighbor. The honest farmers in the country round about were also very much alarmed at the unruly conduct of Mr. Beauregard's men, who carried off their pigs and chickens, and eat up all their vegetables. They also made a great noise, and planted guns on all the adjacent hills, a proceeding the honest farmers did not fully comprehend. Then these unruly men became very defiant, felt like fighting the world, and, in the honest belief that they could do it, invited all the rest of the nation to come out and get whipped. Yes, my son, and to show what confidence they had in themselves, they said we might bring "five for one;" and for that matter, all Germany and all Ireland. It was considered wisdom with them to say nothing about England and France. Those two peaceably inclined nations might, at some future day, be disposed to step in and help them out—in a quiet way. It was not so much humanity as a matter of profitable trade with these two great nations, and if things should take a successful turn, they might see the confederacy in a strong light, and give it material as well as moral help, notwithstanding it had slavery for its foundation. In short, these Southern gentlemen acted on the wise axiom, that it will not do to make enemies in a direction where you may need friends and assistance.
Now, my son, the eccentric French gentleman, of whom I have spoken as capable of administering physic enough to settle the question with the Yankees, soon became an object of great admiration with his noisy people. And this so pleased him, that he came in time to admire himself, and to firmly believe in his own mind that the world had no greater warrior. Self-confidence, my son, is one of the most necessary things in war. I have sometimes thought that this element of an army's strength was not fully understood. It was at least not understood by us when the war began. If it had been, a much less number of our people would have shared Mr. Beauregard's opinion of himself. As it was, our timid people so magnified his proportions as to see danger in his very shadow. But then, my son, we were very innocent of the practical part of war when the great rebellion began; and this innocence led us into the very grave error of giving our adversary more than his proper dimensions. It was this that led the Northern mind to over-measure Mr. Beauregard.
I have always had a good deal of sympathy for Mr. Beauregard, and never believed him anything but a pleasant, harmless gentleman, who got into bad company by mere accident. Nor do I believe he ever had any more serious design on the capital of the nation than to look at it longingly from a distance, and perhaps a desire now and then to enjoy the hospitality of some old friend. That he would have played the ruthless invader, if he had got into the city, no reflecting mind ever believed. But then there were people ready enough to believe anything in those days—even to believe that there was truth to be found in the stories told by Mr. Detective Baker.
It was natural enough that Mr. Beauregard should amuse his soldiers by telling them romantic stories of the pleasant days he had spent in Washington, as well as the great value of what it contained. It was necessary also that he should ascertain how far the Government at Washington could be frightened, and what were the best means to that end. You must know, my son, that a Frenchman regards it as one of the first principles in war to find out how far you can frighten your adversary before proceeding to fight him. This will account for a good deal that Mr. Beauregard said and did while at Manassas, and which, at the time, was somewhat unintelligible.
As we were not sure, however, as to what the real intentions of Mr. Beauregard and his master were, it was concluded that we could better preserve our respect for them, as well as the peace of mind of our own people, by applying the proper means to keep them at a respectful distance outside. Indeed the capital contained a great many things which would be extremely useful to an ambitious gentleman resolved on setting up a government of his own, and with the machinery all working according to his own way of thinking. And as the honest intentions of these ambitious men (I refer to Mr. Beauregard and his master) were no more to be trusted than their loyalty, we set our engineers to work building a cordon of forts, such as the world had never seen before, and supposed to be strong enough to keep all our enemies out. And these forts were mounted with such reasoning powers as the largest cannon in the world were capable of.
Among the things in Washington so very desirable to a gentleman about to set up a government of his own was the White House. Mr. Davis had long regarded this pleasant looking old mansion as a desirable residence for a gentleman born to rule over a people. Once comfortably seated in this pleasant mansion, a wonderful change would be worked in the political opinions of those whose minds were in doubt. Considered as master of the situation, his friends in the North would increase fourfold. And there was no knowing the turn respect for him abroad might take. A gentleman quietly settled down in the White House, if only for four years, is sure to have a large increase in the number of his friends, all ready either to accept his favors or sound his virtues. Even slavery, that had scourged mankind for so many generations, would have found a great increase of friends and admirers if Mr. Davis had made a home in the White House; so prone is weak human nature to bow to power. Indeed, I am not so sure that, with such a turn in our political affairs, those preachers who had been asserting the divine origin of slavery would not then have proclaimed that God himself was its great protector—a blasphemy the Christian Church will some day be ashamed of.
In addition to the White House being a desirable residence for Mr. Davis, there were those fine public buildings so much admired by strangers. They were just what Mr. Davis and his friends wanted in starting a new government, and would come in very handy. With Washington in his possession, and our worthy President and his Cabinet locked up in the arsenal, or sent on a traveling expedition into a colder climate for the benefit of their health, Mr. Davis's new enterprise would become a fixture in the history of nations. And there was a time when Mr. Davis could, with the means in his power, have accomplished all these things.
The arsenal, too, was full of gunpowder, of great guns, of valuable military stores and equipments. And these were just such things as a gentleman resolved to be a ruler and have a government according to his own way of thinking would stand most in need of. In short, the powder and big guns might be needed as a means of convincing those who differed with him that his opinions must be respected. This is a queer world, my son, and man is the strangest and most uncontrollable animal in it. Mr. Davis understood this as well as any gentleman within my knowledge. And if he had kept as keen an eye on his finances as he had on his political fortune, it would have been much better for him. He knew that if he could show to the world that his new government was sound financially, and likely to continue so, his prospects would be bright indeed. And with Washington, and what Washington contained, in his possession, he could set up his claim to the confidence of the financial world with more than ordinary pretensions.
It was indeed said (but I think in a strain of slander) that Mr. Beauregard looked with an air of great condescension on our noble Treasury building, and promised his fighting followers a share of its contents as soon as it came into his master's possession. Indeed it was said that Mr. Beauregard promised his men that when they got Washington they should have luxuries for rations, and fight with their pockets filled with silver and gold. And with their expectations firmly fixed on a specie basis, who could doubt as to what the result would be? This was the golden prize Mr. Davis hoped to win with Washington. And with it he saw, or rather thought he saw, England extending to him the right hand of fellowship, and the Emperor of France making him one of his very best bows, and thanking him for the liberty he had taken with the freedom of a people.
These, then, my son, are some of the reasons why we concluded to close the gates of Washington against Mr. Davis and his rebellious people, and to keep them closed by raising a cordon of strong forts around the city.
CONCERNING THE DISTINGUISHED OFFICER WHO BUILT THE FORTS.
I HAVE thought it no more than right, my son, to present you with a pleasant, but very exact picture of the distinguished officer of engineers, to whose skill we are indebted for the forts that more than once saved Washington. I do this out of respect to the truth of history, and from an apprehension that there are others, perhaps, higher in rank, who may lay claim to the honor, at some future day. I have also presented you with a more extended and complete portrait of him in the frontispiece of this work. He appears here in his usually calm, meditative mood, with his pipe and Professor Mahan's last great work on fortifications. He is, I must tell you, my son, a man of large brain, and generous nature, fond of his joke, and very fertile in the art of rearing earthworks. In figure he is Falstaffian, and when on his rounds among the fortifications wears immense canvas-legged boots, and a hat with a high crown and extremely broad brim. Indeed, his figure is what may be called formidable, and there would be no mistaking him were you to meet him on the road. And, notwithstanding his peaceable disposition, and his scrupulous regard for the rights of others, the farmers round about Washington regard him with fear and trembling. In short, my son, his approach near a farm house is sure to send all the children scampering with fear. And even the curs and other domestic animals, seem to have an instinctive knowledge that his visits portend no good to their master's domicil. It is curious to see those domestic animals how they bark and snap, and then shrink away at his approach, uttering signs of their dislike. In truth, my son, he has a bad reputation among these worthy farmers, whose farms he quietly takes possession of, and then indulges in his favorite amusement of building forts on them. In this way many an honest farmer has suddenly found himself dispossessed of his property, and his means of getting an honest living; thereby bringing great distress on his family. To remonstrate would be useless. He must submit to the fate of war, and look to Heaven for redress. Now it is by no means pleasant for a quietly-disposed farmer to have his home turned suddenly into a fortress, and his acres made a camping ground for soldiers, who are not the most desirable guests, even under the best of circumstances. But the farmer lays all his sorrows at the door of our distinguished engineer, forgetting that he is only carrying out the orders of his superiors. Thus it was that he got a bad reputation, just as General Gilmore got a bad reputation with the people of Charleston, and South Carolina generally, for throwing shells into their city.
While, then, our distinguished engineer progressed in his work of building forts, with a view to saving the city, the people of the North, and the people of the great West, seeing that war was upon us in all its stern reality, were much agitated as to what was best to be done. They were a peaceable, prospering people, and much attached to the Government that had conferred so many blessings on them. But the fire of their patriotism had already been kindled; and they went wisely to work adding fuel to it. The trumpet of war had sounded over the land, their gallant militiamen came together, boldly and earnestly. And these they sent to Washington, by regiments, to quiet the fears of the people, and save the nation.
Now these gallant militiamen were very full of courage, and their courage increased as their numbers multiplied in the capital, and they sent word to Mr. Beauregard and his men that they would be out there soon and thrash him out of Manassas. Some of these gallant men came for thirty days, others for ninety, our wise rulers being satisfied in their own mind that the latter number of days would be quite enough to finish up the small job of putting down the rebellion. These militiamen wore gay and many-colored uniforms, and had the fat of the land for rations. They were the nation's favored guests, and every man was set down for a gentleman and a hero, who would as soon shed his blood for his country as eat his breakfast. And these gallant militiamen were organized into a grand army, so full of pomp and circumstance, that we were sure the enemy would run away as soon as he saw it coming. But in order to make the thing safe beyond peradventure, we gave the command of this grand army to General McDowell, a man of solid parts, a gentleman, and a soldier. Our wise political rulers at that time held to the idea that a gentleman who had seen service must be a great general. Hence it was that General McDowell, being a gentleman and a scholar, and ready enough to square his political sentiments with the predominant ideas, was accepted as just the soldier who would lead our gallant militiamen to victory, and never think of running from the enemy. Indeed, according to our military politicians, we were to get no end of glory through General McDowell's success. And Mr. Beauregard was to be driven back to his master, bag and baggage.
THE BATTLE OF BULL-RUN, AND HOW IT ENDED.
I CONSIDER it of the greatest importance, my son, to present you with an exact portrait of the very distinguished general who led our gallant militiamen to battle at Bull-Run, and followed them home without gaining a victory. Greater battles than this of Bull-Run have been fought, as well in modern as in ancient times; but it is my honest opinion that it has never had its equal in the small number killed and wounded, as compared to the very large number that got frightened and ran away. But I shall speak of this more particularly hereafter.
When the bold McDowell had got the courage of our gallant militiamen well up, and was sure they would look the enemy right in the eye, and give him powder and shot to his heart's content, he led them forth with such pomp and pageantry as had never been seen before. Yes, my son, our gallant militiamen marched forth on the morning of the 21st of July, 1861, every man a hero, and every man intent on fighting the battle according to his own peculiar notions of how a great and glorious victory ought to be gained. There was great blowing of bugles, beating of drums, playing of bands, and fluttering of colors; all of which told Mr. Beauregard to put in his powder, that we were coming, and in earnest. The nation went into a very fever of joy. Several of our grave Congressmen got up their courage, put pistols in their pockets, and went forth with the army to set our brave boys a noble example by their presence on the field. Indeed, many otherwise reflecting persons looked forward to this great clash of arms as a grand entertainment, which was to wind up with a feast, to which the vanquished enemy was to be invited. And to that end they went amply provided with provisions and good wines. In truth, my son, there was a strong rear guard, made up of Congressmen, editors, and distinguished citizens, all going to see the battle, in wagons well-filled with luxuries. This was a new feature in the history of war, and quiet people along the road wondered at the sight.
The morning was hot and sultry, and the air was misty with dust clouds. Our brave boys, who were not up to long marches, had a hard time of it. But they were full of patriotism, and bore up under it with great fortitude. Meeting the enemy near Bull-Run, we gave him battle. That is, we pitched into him and he pitched into us, the fight becoming general and extending over a great deal of ground. Then the fighting became so mixed up and confused that it was difficult to tell on which side victory was smiling. Indeed, neither general could tell how things were going. For a long time both armies kept at a respectful distance, under the evident apprehension that somebody would get injured. In short, there was a great deal of good ammunition wasted, and a great deal of wild and harmless firing done. And just as we were about to proclaim a great victory over the enemy—for many far-sighted persons declared they could see Mr. Beauregard and his men with the toes of their boots turned towards Richmond—a strange chapter of accidents occurred and changed the whole scene. A number of our brave boys got killed, a greater number got hurt, and a still greater number got frightened and thought it high time to look to their own safety. A backward movement, not ordered by our gallant general, began, and this soon resolved itself into a grand race for Washington, where, it was thought, shelter and safety were to be found behind its forts. What caused this sudden backward movement still remains an undecided question. It was first noticed among a regiment of brave Pennsylvanians, who had been homesick for several days, and wanting to go home, started for that purpose. The example of these gallant fellows was soon followed by our Congressmen, editors, and citizens generally, each leaving his stock of luxuries, and, indeed, everything he had, as a peace-offering to the enemy, and resolved not to be outdone in the race, especially in a case where it was made so clear that discretion was the better part of valor. Indeed, these distinguished non-fighting gentlemen proved themselves remarkably fleet of foot, and not to be outdone in a race where personal safety was at stake. But the worst of it was that their example was at once imitated by a regiment of fierce Zouaves, from New York, who firmly believed, when they went out to meet the enemy, that they were more than a match for him. It is reported that these fierce Zouaves became very much alarmed, and did some of the very best running of the day, under the apprehension that they were followed by not less than a troop of savage horsemen, better known as the black-horse cavalrymen, whose sabres they had no taste for. But I have always been of opinion, my son, that these fierce Zouaves were so intent on making the best speed they were capable of, that they never looked behind them to see if these savage horsemen were men of buckram or real substances. I have also heard it intimated that the good speed made by these red-legged heroes was owing to the fact that they had left their courage at home, and were returning to get it. Another very plausible theory I have heard advanced by an Englishman, who had very profound ideas as to how war should be carried on and battles fought. He very gravely told me (adding that he had undoubted authority for his statement), that what set the gallant Zouaves to scampering was this: There were a large number among them who had a weakness for office-holding. Knowing this, a mischievous member started the report that there was a vacancy in the New York Custom-house. The fellow could not have done a more rash act, for it sent them all scampering off the battle-field, each in the hope of being first to gain the prize. Her Majesty's sagacious subject contended that this sufficiently accounted for the good speed made in retreat by that gallant regiment, and also for its leaving more firearms than dead men on the field.
Indeed, my son, each man ran for his life, the excitement increasing at every step, until the race became general; and in this way it was kept up until our grand army of gallant militiamen reached the forts, when they breathed freer and felt safe. This was a dark day for Washington and the nation, which became bowed down with sorrow and disappointment. The brave general followed his army into Washington; and I have heard it intimated that he boasted of having the most fleet-footed divisions history had any account of.
You will see, my son, that forts have a moral as well as a material effect. The enemy might, had he known our forlorn condition, have followed up his victory and marched into Washington with flying colors. He was probably restrained by his fears of what we might have in store for him when he reached the forts. As to the provisions for the feast, we left them for the enemy to enjoy, which he did with many thanks to us for the bounty, his own fare being very scanty. And now, my son, I shall leave to my artist the task of giving you an exact picture of our army as it appeared on its way to Washington after the battle of Bull-Run.
THE wise men of Washington agreed that McDowell was not the general we took him for, so we sent for George B. McClellan, who had been whipping the rebels up in Northern Virginia. We felt sure that he was the man who would whip the rebels for us, and gain us victories; who would dispel the gloom hanging over the land, and bring us plenty of sunshine. Indeed, my son, the nation began to feel very happy in the possession of such a man; for, according to the newspapers, he had displayed remarkable military traits when only a boy, such as great attention to the study of maps, and the making of little dirt piles. It was also added that while yet a youth he was very obedient to his father, and affectionately fond of his mother. And these excellent traits of character, in one so young, it was held by our wise men, must, when improved and enlarged by manhood, make the man, who had given his mind to the study of arms a great general. So, my son, you see what an opportunity there is before you.
Well, George came to us flush from the field of his glories, and we proceeded at once to make him a hero before he had made us an army. The nation recovered from its disappointment, the sky brightened, the people began to send into the capital troops of a different sort, and the general we had put our faith in went to work making an army—the grand old Army of the Potomac. Now, my son, it was no small job to make an army, and when you have made it to so improve its drill and discipline that it will stand firm and fight well. It is just as necessary, my son, to harden the constitution of a new army as it is to so sharpen its digestion that it will relish the coarsest of fare. And you can do neither of these things in a day. You must also cultivate and improve the courage of a new army. And this can only be done by experience in the field. General George taught his army to do all these things, and do them well. And the nation felt grateful to him for what he was doing, and sang songs in his praise. And the army respected and loved General George. And General George loved and was proud of his army. The sky of our hopes brightened then, and the nation rejoiced and felt strong again. We all felt that when spring came Mr. Beauregard and his men would be driven to the wall; that we should march on and take Richmond; and that General George was just the man to do it all for us.
Then an evil hour came. The nation got in an impatient mood. And while General George was hardening the constitution of his army on the banks of the Potomac, a great many restless, discontented, and evil-disposed persons sprang up, declared that he was no general at all, and that to command armies was the business of politicians, not soldiers. During war every nation has its mischievous men, who, to create notoriety for themselves, make war in their own way on the great soldiers who are struggling to preserve its honor. These men were our misfortune. They proceeded to make war on General George, to persecute him, and to destroy his usefulness with the army. These men affected to know a great deal about war; but I noticed, my son, that they were very unwilling to shoulder a musket and face the enemy. They wanted General George to move on in the middle of winter, drive Mr. Beauregard out of Manassas, and take Richmond. And all this while the mud was so deep that he could not drag his wagons through it. George very sensibly refused to destroy his army in this way. Indeed, he foresaw that to follow their advice would be to bring the nation to grief a second time. This increased the discontent and opposition of his enemies, who regarded it a great grievance that a general would not follow their advice.
But George was not to be driven into the mud by a set of meddlesome civilians, who knew nothing about war. And to show them that he was not, he kept his army quiet, on the banks of the Potomac, all winter. And in this position he contemplated Mr. Beauregard, and Mr. Beauregard contemplated him, separated by twenty miles of mud. We had not got our war eyes open then, my son. In truth, we had but a very imperfect idea of what an amount of resistance a resolute and determined foe, standing on the defensive, can offer.
When it was spring, and the birds had come back to us, and the prospect looked bright and cheering, and the hopes of the nation ran high, George mounted his horse, and, picking up his army, moved out in the direction of Richmond, taking the overland route. He sent word to Mr Beauregard to wait until he came and he would thrash him out of Manassas. But Mr. Beauregard was not inclined to accommodate George with a fight at that particular point, where his elbows were so exposed, and stepped quietly out by the back door before George got there. In short, all George saw of Mr. Beauregard and his men was the tails of their coats and the heels of their boots, away in the shadowy distance. People said Mr. Beauregard did not do the clean thing to slip away in such a manner. And there were those who scolded General George for letting him get off in this shabby way; but how he was to prevent it I never could see. Mr. Beauregard was kind enough to leave us an army of log houses, and his smouldering camp fires, around which a number of sooty negroes were grouped, shivering and forlorn. And these were all we had to be thankful to him for.
A great storm arose while we were at Manassas. Snow, rain, and hail fell, the wind blew cold and piercing, and the face of the country became melancholy. And the army became melancholy, and sick, for it was stuck in the mud, and was suffering for something to eat, though so near Washington. And the poor animals got sick, and began dying, for there was nothing for them to eat. There was no following Mr. Beauregard to Richmond over such a muddy road, which looked very long then, and very dangerous. George was put to his wits to know what to do next. There was no persuading Mr. Beauregard to stop long enough to let us strike him square in the stomach, so George hit upon a great plan, whereby wonders were to be worked in the art of strategy. He conceived the grand idea of taking his army to sea, avoiding the mud, and after enjoying a pleasant voyage, finding a shorter and better road to Richmond. We all know at what a disadvantage you can take a man when you get in his rear. George felt that if he could take advantage of this on an enlarged plan he could have Mr. Beauregard just where he wanted him. That is, if he could get in his rear before he got to Richmond, he would have him and his men hived, and could give them a good thrashing, and then step quietly in and take the city. But it is not so easy a matter to get in the rear of a gentleman who keeps his eyes open. Nor, my son, have I ever before heard that it was wise in a great general to perform a feat in grand circle sailing to gain an advantage over an adversary who occupied the same roads with him. But George made up his mind that he knew better than all of us, so he took his army to sea, became a great navigator as well as a general, and sailed for the Peninsula, where some good friend had told him there were finer weather and harder roads.
The greatest of generals, my son, are liable to disappointment. They may drive the enemy, and win victories; but they cannot control the elements. That was what bothered George. It was all very pleasant to give his army an airing at sea, but when he was safely landed on the Peninsula, he found himself further from Richmond than when he started. Instead of mud he found dangerous quicksands, into which his army plunged and sank almost out of sight. And there was no better weather on the Peninsula than at Manassas. His cavalrymen, when they had got their sea-legs off, and mounted, cut a sorry figure in the quicksand. And his artillery sunk above its boots. Indeed it was with the greatest difficulty his army could be kept on the surface. There was no getting a firm understanding.
When George had got his army "all ashore," he set out on his grand journey to Richmond. But when he had waded for twenty miles or so through quicksands, he halted before a little old town called Yorktown. Now the old women along the road told George that he had better have nothing to do with Yorktown, that Yorktown was not much account anyhow, and not worth spending much powder on. They told him also that although Mr. Beauregard had not been seen, there was one General Johnson, who had just come to town with a large army; and had made no end of sand heaps, and put mighty big guns on them. That he would not find it so easy to get into Yorktown while General Johnson sat smoking his pipe behind them big sand heaps. And so it proved.
NOBODY HOME AT YORKTOWN.
THIS, my son, is an exact portrait of the general who sat behind the great sand heaps at Yorktown, smoking his pipe, and gave our George so much trouble. George and he had been old friends and playmates at school, where they had played pitch and toss in a harmless way. So it is natural to suppose they knew each other's game perfectly well. George took the hint given him by the old women along the road, and when he got to Yorktown he saw clear enough that his old friend Johnston was playing a game of brag with his big sand hills. And to show Mr. Johnston that he was not to be outdone in that line of art, George, when he had settled his army down in the soft ground, went to work satisfying the nation that he could build just as big sand heaps as any other general. In short, my son, George found himself in a worse predicament than he was in at Manassas, for his friend Johnston had a large army, and stronger works than Mr. Beauregard left behind him. So his army laid down its guns, and took up the spade, and went largely into the ditching and dyking business. He made sand heaps bigger than Mr. Johnston's, and stretched them all the way across the Peninsula, so that there was no getting on either side of him. And when he had done this he mounted them with the biggest cannon, which he intended to fire when he got them all up; so as to make a magnificent display of substantial fire-works, and in that way frighten Mr. Johnston out of town. So careful was George not to do his old friend any bodily injury before he got all his guns mounted, that he would only exchange compliments with him at morning and evening, when few shells would be tossed backward and forward, just to preserve what was called the etiquette of war. I have sometimes thought these compliments were exchanged with the very best of motives, intended only to change the monotony of camp life with a little excitement.
When George and his army had toiled hard for nearly a month, had thrown up a whole mountain of sand hills, and kept on crying for more soldiers, and had got almost all his guns mounted; and was just ready to bring Yorktown down about Mr. Johnston's ears, with a grand display of substantial fireworks, that general made up his mind not to be served in that way. Nor would he accommodate George by waiting to see his grand display of fireworks. No, my son, he was not the man to be caught at a disadvantage, or waste powder unnecessarily. Some kind friend informed him of George's intentions, so he packed up his baggage one night, and moved himself off, leaving Yorktown and his sand hills as a legacy to George, who was very much disappointed at being treated so shabbily by his old friend and playmate.
People said General Johnston was a cunning fox, and not to be caught in any trap our George could set. But George, like the Irishman, had a deal of pluck, and a big heart, and, above both, a great deal of chivalry. Now he was anxious that his old friend should not go away so shabbily, but come back, and either breakfast with him or accommodate him with a fight. So he sent his rough-riders after him, and they proceeded at a rapid pace, and came up with him on the outskirts of Williamsburg, where General Johnston prepared to fight rather than come to breakfast. There both armies came together, and a great battle was fought, which lasted two days. There was desperate fighting on both sides, and a great many were killed and wounded, and a great many more so badly frightened that they kept out of the fight, which they held to be a proof of their wisdom.
We gained a great victory over the rebels at Williamsburg, and made them feel so ashamed of themselves that they resumed their march backwards on the road to Richmond. And this battle and this victory attached our good Union soldiers more closely to General George. Indeed, my son, they loved him, and looked up to him as a dutiful child does to a kind father. They marched up the Peninsula singing his praises. And now, my son, let me enjoin you that whenever you hear the names of Generals Hancock and Kearney mentioned, respect and revere them, for never was American valor more beautifully illustrated than by those generals on the field at Williamsburg.
Then General George sent the right wing of his grand army, under General Franklin, by water, to West Point, where he fought a battle with General Johnston's rear-guard, and gained another victory. Then both armies moved leisurely along, up the Peninsula, in a manner not to make the marching uncomfortable. It rained a great deal, and the roads were bad, and the enemy resolved not to be hurried. And our Government, which was not so wise in war matters then as it got to be in time, was not disposed to do anything that might change General Johnston's resolution. In fine, our Government seemed to have quite as big a quarrel with General George as it had with the rebels, and the politicians held it of more importance to destroy our own general than the rebel army. The Government was just as fair as fair could be in making promises to General George. But then the Government seemed to have a short memory, and forgot its promises almost as soon as it had made them. It promised to send General McDowell, who was not far away, to help George fight the rebels and take Richmond. But the Government forgot to do so; and instead, kept that gallant officer looking from the hills of Fredericksburg, to see if the rebels were coming in that direction. To tell you the truth, my son, our Government was so afraid that the rebels would turn short around and take Washington, and make prisoners of its cabinet officers, that it made "look-out generals" of so many brave officers, who had troops under their command, that it had none to send General George to assist in taking Richmond. It may however, be a consolation to us to know that this would not have been the first time, in the history of the world, that fear had cost a great nation its fortunes and its glories.
General George marched leisurely along with his brave army until he came within four miles of Richmond, where there was a great swamp called the Chickahominy. The name of this swamp will be long remembered by our brave soldiers of the Army of the Potomac. The rain fell like a deluge, and flooded it; and it gave out deadly fevers, which brought death and tribulation on our army. And in this swamp our army fought the battle of Fair Oaks, and gained another grand victory over the enemy. But we had no means of following up this victory, and so its effect was lost to us. Then our army settled down into this deadly swamp, and wondered and waited for nearly a month, until our men got heart-sick and fever-stricken. We watched the enemy on the hills beyond; and the enemy watched us in the swamp. And we waited until the enemy had brought all his forces up into Richmond, and General Lee, his best general, had taken command. Things began to look desperate with our George, and he began thinking how he should get safely out of the swamp and change his base. How was he to fight Mr. Lee with all his strength, when the strength we ought to have sent him was kept at a safe distance looking on? George saw that the glories of Williamsburg, of West Point, of Hanover Court House, and of Fair Oaks would have to be thrown away because the wisdom of the nation would not send us aid.
This, my son, was the day of our tribulation. The people were strong, and the army represented the people. I wish, my son, that I could say also that the Government was strong. But the army, if it was sick, had not lost its courage, nor its love for the general who commanded it.
General Lee then came out with his strong and powerful army and fought us at Gaines's Mill, where he beat us after a desperate battle. We might as well confess that we were beaten, and badly beaten, in that battle; and that we had to make the best we could of our defeat, and get across the Chickahominy Swamp as quick as we could, and turn our backs on it forever, for we had filled it with the graves of our brave soldiers. George was sanguine, had great confidence in the endurance of his army, and looked forward to the future with faith and hope. He did not want to acknowledge that he was beaten at Gaines's Mill; but the nation made up its mind that he was. Indeed, the nation could not comprehend the principle of generalship that claimed a victory, and at the same time made a change of base necessary in the face of an advancing enemy. But George got his army safe across the Chickahominy, though in some confusion, and instead of driving the enemy to the wall, as he had promised us he would do, the enemy began driving him to the James River.
Like the Irishman who had twice got his head broken, but was unwilling to say he was beaten, George continued to show General Lee that our army was still full of pluck.
So he turned round and thrashed the enemy right soundly at Savage's Station, at White Oak Swamp, and at Malvern Hill—just to show that he could do it. These are places, my son, you shall read of in history. And the glories of the battles fought at them shall become brighter and brighter as we contemplate them; and new lustre will shed on the names of the officers who fought them, and set such noble examples of courage to their men. It was George's misfortune that he fought these battles and gained these victories while his army was moving backward instead of forward—while seeking a place of safety instead of driving the enemy to seek one. This makes a great difference with the public, which does not generally study the rules of strategy, and does not like to see an army fall back after it has gained what its commander claims to be a great victory.
POPE DID IT.
HERE, my son, you have an exact portrait of the great general who was brought to Washington to command all our armies, and to keep us from making any more military mistakes. He is presented to you just as he sat in his easy chair, confounding the rules of war and bringing confusion on the army. This great general, though he had never fought a battle, except on paper, brought with him from the West a new and much enlarged plan for taking Richmond.
General George was on the banks of the James River, with his army, pointing with his sword toward Richmond, as the heart of the rebellion, and offering to take it for us if we would only send him twenty-five thousand fresh men, which very reasonable proposal we declined. Indeed the general we had placed in the easy chair at Washington, over George, declared it as his solemn conviction that Richmond was not to be taken in any such way. That an army so near Richmond could not take it with advantage. That objective points must be reached over the right road, not the wrong one. That General George, having taken his army to Richmond over the wrong road, must bring it back over the same wrong road, and then proceed on his travels over the right road. That Richmond, unless approached over the right road could not be taken in the right way. That General George had deceived us, inasmuch as his plan had too much strategy in it, and not enough straight lines. That Richmond, to be taken in the right way, must be taken by a new general, with a new army, and according to new ideas. That it was better to keep Washington from being taken than to take Richmond, though we had a large army knocking at its gates. This was the military logic of our new Commander-in-Chief. And this was the great Commander-in-Chief who was to conduct the war for us on enlarged principles and keep the nation safe against blunders.
This great general, then, when he had got comfortably settled in his easy chair, must needs show the people what faith he had in his new plan. So he ordered little George to pack up his baggage, stop knocking at the enemy's back door, and bring his army back to Washington on transports. Of course the rebels were very thankful to him for this act of kindness, as it evinced a disposition to conduct the war for their benefit. With General George and his army on their way to Washington by ship, Richmond was no longer besieged. And then the rebel army was at liberty to go where it pleased. And it very soon pleased General Lee to march it against Washington at a rapid pace, and over the shortest road. We had an army at sea, and a number of others we did not know just exactly where. So things military began to get so confused that the people did not understand them. They were requested to be patient, however, and patient they had to be.
Well, my son, we brought the scattered battalions we had on their front together at the forts, and soon formed a good fighting army. But where was the new general to lead it to victory for us? The government cast about it for a man, and at last fixed its eye on Pope. He was the shining star among generals, the man to take the buckrum out of the rebels for us. And it was said of this great general that he possessed uncommon virtues. His friends laid numerous feats of valor at his door, and the whole history of war was ransacked to find another such a hero. He had captured Islands, whipped rebel armies (I have forgotten how many), and bagged invisible prisoners enough to satisfy a Napoleon. This great general, too, was remarkable for his modesty; and he was also a man of strict veracity. Yes, my son, considering the times, he was a rare example of a man who never boasts of his achievements, nor claims a feather that belongs to another man's cap. Such were the virtues of this great general.
Well, my son, we sent for him to come to Washington and take care of us, and he came.
HOW THE NEW GENERAL CAME TO TOWN.
MY artist has drawn you an exact picture of the manner in which this great general entered the capital of the nation. The skies brightened, and the country felt safe again at the thought of having such a hero. Children laughed and gamboled, and said the rebels would get it now Pope had come to town. Dogs ran out, and barked, and snapped for joy. The crowd pressed forward to look at him, and policemen, for once, had enough to do. Fair women waived handkerchiefs and threw him kisses. And many were they who marvelled that so great a soldier had remained so long undiscovered. You see, my son, we are a people much given to excitement, and when we get to heaping honors on a man we do it without mercy. Hence it pleased us much when we saw Pope come to town amidst the beating of drums and the blowing of horns. That was the way he came.
I have spoken of this great general's modesty, my son. It will also be necessary for me to inform you that he introduced a new idea in war, one worthy of being added to the regulations, and that was that every general should be his own trumpeter, as well as keep a number of trumpeters in his employ.
Then Pope went out to see and have a talk with his army. He also published a grand order to his soldiers, which will stand as a great curiosity in our war literature, as long as the history of the rebellion, for its wisdom astonished the people. He told them the war had been carried on after a strange fashion, which he intended should be changed. He enjoined them, in a word, neither to look to the right nor the left, but to keep straight ahead, with their steel sharp and their powder dry. And when they got near enough to the enemy to see the color of his eye, then deliver their lead right square into his stomach. That was the way war must be carried on. Our army must look only to the front, keep its eye open, and forget that there was such a thing as its rear.
This was highly encouraging to those politicians who said our army must get to Richmond over the shortest road. After what I have said, my son, you will not fail to see what a great general this Pope was. Great generals were not generally generous enough to intrust the care of their rear to the enemy. But this was not all. He established his headquarters in the saddle, and told his soldiers they would always find him there. My opinion has always been, though I have never had much to do with war, that the general who establishes his headquarters in the saddle, was not always to be found when you wanted him. In short, the saddle is a very uncertain locality, and very difficult to find when you have information to convey, and orders to receive; both of which may be necessary during a battle. I rode an hour once to find a general whose headquarters were in the saddle, and did n't find him after all.
When, then, this great general had shown us how the rebels were to be whipped, he went out to take command of his army. And again there was great blowing of horns and beating of drums. And when he had got his headquarters firmly established in the saddle, he invited the enemy to come forward and get whipped. And the enemy came forward in all their strength,—fierce and earnest, and a great and bloody battle was fought on the plains of Manassas. And when they had fought for three days General Pope declared his new method of carrying on the war was a great success; that he had got the rebels just where he wanted them, and would have them all in his trap for us to-morrow. We all threw up our caps and felt so happy at this good news. But our hopes were dashed to the ground again, and it turned out that our Pope had made a slight mistake. It was the rebels who had got him just where they wanted. The saddle was not a good place from which to see what the enemy were doing. And as Pope had given no heed to his rear, General Lee very wisely took the responsibility of giving that important position his attention.
When, then, to-morrow came, our general, who was to give the rebels such a whipping for us, found them in his rear, on his flank, everywhere but where he wanted them. The very natural result of this was that his army resolved itself into a state of confusion, and in that manner came scampering back on Washington, leaving its commander to take care of himself, which he did, though with the loss of his wardrobe. It has been hinted that he returned to Washington a much wiser general than when he left it.
The nation was again brought to grief, and fear and disorder reigned in Washington. People were heard to say that Pope had made a prodigious failure, and was not the general we took him for, or he never would have let his army run away from him in this way. Others declared he had opened the gates of the city to the enemy, and invited him to walk in. And it was not with feelings of encouragement that they saw gunboats move up and take position where they could check the enemy's approach. Never did general lose his laurels so quickly. Indeed, my son, when he returned to Washington, with little else than his saddle, there was not a dog to bark him a welcome, nor a chambermaid to wave a napkin in his honor.
Timid people fancied every hour of the day that they could see the rebel army deploying over the hills of Arlington, and loud calls were made for a general who could save us. But we had something better than a mere general to save us. We had the grim and silent strength of the forts. And these the enemy dare not approach. Their effect on the enemy was manifest and he turned aside from them, and passed up into Maryland, victorious and defiant.
I ought to tell you, my son, that while Pope was illustrating the beauties of his new plan at the front, and bringing confusion on our arms, General George arrived with his good old army of the Potomac, which still loved him, still worshipped him as its hero. And just when he was most needed, to save Pope from his disaster, the government relieved him of his command, as if to increase the confusion already prevailing. The army felt this as a slight offered to itself, and called loudly for the restoration of its favorite general. And then the general, whose portrait I have placed at the head of a previous chapter, and who sat in his easy chair in Washington, and brought our armies to grief, called loudly for General George to come and help him out of his trouble. This, you will see, my son, was first tying a man's hands, and then asking him to come and help whip a giant.
Yes, my son, there was toil and trouble enough in Washington just then; and the errors our wise men had committed were like witches rising up and haunting them. It is said that the little bell-ringer of the State Department had his traps packed up, and ready to move; and that fear had made the burly man in the War Department civil. Newly recruited volunteers, well fed, well clothed, and fresh looking, were marching into the city with colors flying and drums beating. The militia, which had come to Washington to do ornamental duty for thirty days, were marching home with colors flying and drums beating. Neither of these could give us relief in our trouble. The nation had only the good old army of the Potomac to lean upon in this its day of trouble. And how few of us, my son, think of this matter properly, or are willing to give the brave men, who composed that army, credit for what they had done. Like the English, we are an exacting people, and inclined to ask too much of those who fight our battles. Some of our public men were for forgetting what those sun-scorched, ragged, and fever-stricken heroes had done for us on the Peninsula, and even for wiping out their record of heroism.
I confess it was to me a sad and touching sight to see these soldiers, who had served their country so well, who had suffered in swamps, and fought and defeated the enemy, treated with what seemed to me criminal indifference in the very capital they had returned to save. They muttered their discontent at the loss of their favorite commander, but were ready again to go forth, struggle with the enemy, and fight for the life of the nation. But not a voice was raised by the government to thank them for what they had done, not a cheer to welcome their return. You must know, my son, that the government was dumb with fear. The ghost of its errors so haunted it that its lips were sealed. The people looked on and saw it, in its very feebleness, asking for stronger hands to come and help it out of its trouble.
There was, my son, but one army and one general that could save the nation then. General George was that man, and the army was the good old Army of the Potomac. And the government, as if to confess its folly in the past, restored General George to his army. And there was great rejoicing over the land when this good news went forth to the people. And the army took more heart, and rejoiced also; and great was its rejoicing. The soldiers had confidence in him, and knew he could lead them to victory. Then he placed himself at their head and marched out in pursuit of the enemy, who was advancing triumphantly into the North. And who among us can tell what changes there would have been in our political and social condition had not the advance of this bold and triumphant enemy been checked by some strong hand? I have often thought, my son, that if the people of a republic were as ready to credit great men with the good they really do, as they are to search their characters for faults, we should have less pretenders and a better government.
A BRIGHTER PROSPECT.
YOU have here an exact picture of the brave Franklin, who commanded the gallant old Sixth Corps, which deserves a bright place in the history of the Army of the Potomac.
When Pope had finished his job for us, and shown us what a hero he was, the government, in the exercise of its wisdom, sent him into the far West to fight the Indians, where he could, with propriety, establish his headquarters in the saddle.
Franklin, who had been relieved of his command, for no one exactly knew what, was now restored to it, to the great joy of the old Sixth Corps. Soldiers fight better under a general they know and have confidence in; and they are the best judges as to who is the most competent to lead them. Franklin and his gallant corps fell in with the enemy, posted in a strong position on the South Mountain, at Crampton's Gap, and after a fierce fight, drove him from it and over into the valley, sometimes charging up the steeps with the bayonet. This was quite an important success, my son, since it checked the enemy's advance, and caused him to fall back on the plains of Antietam, and form his army in line of battle. Indeed, he so far mistook this movement as to believe it an attempt to get in his rear.
This gleam of success, gained by Franklin, inspired the nation with new hope. Yes, my son, and it cheered the hearts of our brave soldiers, restored their strength, and gave them new confidence. Then General George formed his army in line on the plains of Antietam, and a great and bloody battle was fought, and the rebel army beaten and put to flight. Pay no heed, my son, to what the prejudiced may say of this battle. It was one of the greatest battles fought during the war. All honor to the brave soldiers who fought it. Our troops, too, were handled with great skill, and the world never saw better generalship than our George displayed. Yes, my son, Antietam was our Waterloo, fought at a time when the nation needed a victory most; and the general who fought it ought never to be forgotten by his country. When, then, George had gained this victory for us, had beaten and driven the enemy from all his positions, and caused the nation to rejoice, he halted to give his brave soldiers rest and repair damages. His losses were great, and he had compassion on his soldiers, for many of them were without shoes and had little raiment. In truth, my son, these brave, abused, and war-worn soldiers had only the well-worn shoes and clothes they had made the campaign of the Peninsula in.
George pleaded the necessity of his soldiers as a reason for his delay, and very justly. But this pleased neither the government nor the politicians whose bitterest prejudices seemed to control it. These gentlemen urged that he follow the enemy at once and capture him, a piece of strategy not so easily accomplished as many think. In short, we were in no position to follow the enemy until we got shoes and raiment for our brave soldiers. Nor could we have added much to our success by following General Lee and his men, who had an open country before them, until we were well prepared to engage them in another battle. When, however, George got his army ready, he moved directly on the enemy, and his soldiers were in the best of spirits, for we had got General Lee and his men in a position where he would be compelled to fight another battle, with the advantages in our favor. Now I don't say, my son, that George would have won this battle, but by fighting it he would have exposed the enemy's real weakness, and placed him in a very bad position. But the government, as if more willing to promote the prejudices of politicians than to preserve the honor of our arms, resolved not to let George fight another battle. Yes, my son, it removed him from his command, and that, too, when he was close up with the enemy, and was expecting every day to engage him in battle. I do not remember that history records another instance where the commander of an army, that had just gained a great victory, was so disgraced by his own government.
The enemy could not have inflicted a more severe blow on our brave army than was done by this act of our own government. A feeling of disappointment and sorrow ran through the ranks, and the brave men who had fought under and loved their commander, wept at the injustice that took him away from them. It will, in time, be made clear, my son, that the government committed a great crime against our army by this act. It cannot be wisdom to remove a commander, so popular with his army as George B. McClellan was, especially when that army was on the eve of a battle. Such an act is sure to excite dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction destroys discipline. Nor should such a commander be removed at so critical a time unless the government were prepared to fill his place with one of equal, if not superior capacity. A general, to hope for success, must have the confidence and respect of his troops. To remove one who has, and fill his place with one who has not, is a crime than which none can be greater. It is a crime against the brave men whose lives are at the risk of the capacity of their commander. Our government committed this crime when it gave the command of the army of the Potomac to General Burnside. That general was the best judge of what he could do, and freely confessed his incapacity for so high a command. But the government was not to be put off by this confession of weakness on the part of a general, preferring to reward him for his honesty, and make no account of his capacity. I accept this, my son, as the only reason why General Burnside was given so high a command. As for his capacity as a general, he gave us a proof of that when he let the rebels fall back, and get well fortified at Fredericksburg. To show, however, what a general could do by attempting impossibilities, he sent the brave army of the Potomac to be slaughtered by an enemy covered with stone walls. I tell you, my son, it was a dark day for the nation when that was done. It multiplied our misfortunes, gave a deeper wound to our grief and sorrow, and brought disgrace on our arms.
I will pass over these misfortunes as lightly, my son, as possible, hoping only that they will serve us as a warning in the future. Having buried Burnside deep under the misfortunes of his own incapacity, the question again came up, where shall we find a general to do up these rebels for us, and gain us a little victory? The great Grant was doing wonders for us in the West. He was bold, earnest, and brave. And this was the secret of his success. But in the East we were sorely troubled for some one who could do something.
General Hooker was brave and bold. But, my son, he had such a weakness for blowing his own trumpet. Yes, he could blow it as loud and as long as any trumpeter you ever listened to—Pope excepted. He had declared of himself that he was just the man to lead our army to victory, and give the enemy a sound thrashing. It was true, this general had been very insubordinate. He had said a number of things, neither wise nor polite, of his superiors. And he had set an example to his soldiers not inclined to improve their discipline. As, however, he had declared himself the man to lead our army to victory, and the government wanted just such a man, it took the general at his word, and gave him the command.
There were some people, my son, unkind enough to say, and say boldly, that the government did this strange act more to show its appreciation of insubordination than out of respect to his capacity to discharge successfully the duties of his high position. When, however, the general had talked himself into the very best opinion of himself, he went to work nursing his grand army into good order. Yes, my son, the old army of the Potomac was a grand army, and General Hooker declared it was the finest on the face of the globe. And he nursed it into good order on the left bank of the Rappahannock, from December, 1862, to early April, 1863. The general could get up of a morning, and enjoy a look at his old friend Lee, quietly domiciled on the opposite bank. And General Lee could get up of a morning, and do the same. Both generals regarded this as a very harmless and pleasant way of spending the winter, while carrying on the war. They would, at times, it is true, exchange compliments of a belligerent nature. But this was only to give a lively turn to the state of affairs around Fredericksburg. They were, I can assure you, my son, not intended to harm any one.
CHANCELLORVILLE, AND THE CURIOUS FIGHT WE HAD THERE.
I AM sure my friends will all be anxious to see a portrait of the great general who fought the great battle of Chancellorville. And my artist has been particularly careful to present them with a good one.
Chancellorville was a strangely fought battle, my son; I have various good reasons for saying this, but, perhaps, it is best that as little as possible be said concerning them.
When spring came, and the roads were dry, and the robins had begun to sing in the trees, and the buds to put forth, General Hooker began to feel strong, and full of battle. He said to his officers that they must get their courage up, and be ready for a big fight, every one in his own way. And to his men he said, that they must have plenty of powder in their pouches, and not be afraid to use it. A general to be successful, my son, must have confidence in himself. General Hooker had confidence in himself, and felt that he could whip the rebels out of their boots any fine morning. Hence it was, that feeling in a fighting humor one morning in early April, he picked up his army, and, crossing the stream, went in pursuit of the enemy. He found the enemy posted in the woods near Chancellorville, where he engaged him in a fierce and desperate battle. But the general's plan, if he had any, soon got out of his head, and it became apparent that he was fighting the battle in so strange a manner that no one could understand it. In truth, the general set aside the established rules of war early in the battle, and went back to first principles. These give every man the right to fight in his own way, and is beautifully illustrated in an army fighting without orders. I am told, my son, on very good authority, that these "first principles," as applied to fighting battles, never were better developed than at Chancellorville. I am afraid, my son, we shall never get a complete and accurate history of that extraordinary battle, for the reason that no historian will be found capable of describing it. It is certain that the battle had not raged long when our army was in a state of uncertainty and confusion. Sometimes the fight was between different brigades or divisions of our own troops, who were as often brought face to face. The enemy liked this, for it helped him to fight the battle without reinforcements, and saved him a deal of trouble and loss. When we had got a great many men killed in this way, and a great many more severely hurt, the great question arose as to who had won the battle, and who got whipped. There can be little doubt as to the impression made on General Lee's mind on this point. General Hooker was sure he had gained a great victory, and yet he was not so sure. I say he was not so sure, since he found it necessary, before settling the question, to withdraw his army to his old quarters on the other side of the river. It is clear that the general's reflections would be less disturbed in his old quarters, and, with a river separating him from the enemy, he could form a more correct judgment as to whether he had beaten the enemy, or the enemy had beaten him. Feeling, however, that it would not do to let it get out that the enemy had beaten him, he resolved that it must be true that he had beaten the enemy. This was about the most accommodating settlement he could arrive at. But, accepting this in good faith, I never could see the necessity for our haste to get back to our old quarters on the hills, notwithstanding the general's friends said it looked like rain, and he was anxious to get his army over before the shower came on. I have noticed, also, that the rebel army, when beaten, generally fell back in the direction of Richmond. In this instance, however, he held his positions, beat his drums, blew his horns, fluttered his flags, and was altogether the most defiant of vanquished enemies. I noticed, also, that this vanquished enemy packed his knapsacks, put his ammunition in order, and marched off, not backwards, in the direction of Richmond, but forward, in the direction of the North.
Yes, my son, the enemy marched defiantly into Pennsylvania, and sent the peaceable Dutchmen in that remote part of the country into a state of great alarm. And this I accept as the best proof that the rebels were not beaten at Chancellorville. I am sure, also, that General Hooker had sufficient reason to share this opinion with me. He always had the rebels just where he wanted them, and yet I observed that he failed to bring them to a stand before they got on the free soil of Pennsylvania. Every honest Dutchman in the State was convinced in his own mind that General Hooker, if he had been the general he ought to be, should have driven the enemy into some remote corner of Virginia, and kept him there.
The military atmosphere was still full of confusion and uncertainty. And things seemed getting worse every day. Strange as it may seem, the government continued making extensive efforts to further the object of the rebel general. Fortunately for the nation, our wise rulers waked up one morning fully convinced that General Lee was in earnest, that he was already on the free soil of a northern State, with a favorable prospect for making a settlement there. The government also suddenly discovered that General Hooker, although a brave soldier and all that, was not the man to command a great army. So the government relieved him and sent him into elegant retirement, a custom very common at that time.
Then the government appointed General Meade to the command of the grand old army of the Potomac. Of this general little had been known. Still, the nation felt relieved at the change. Now, General Meade was a polished gentleman, a brave and good soldier, who had fought on the Peninsula under McClellan and commanded the Pennsylvania Reserves. To place a new general in command of an army at a time when that army is in face of the enemy and expects every minute to engage him in battle, is one of the most dangerous experiments a government can indulge in. It is also one well calculated to test to their utmost the qualities of the general placed so suddenly in command.
It was the 1st of July, 1863, General Meade took command of the Army of the Potomac, and posted it in order of battle on the hills and plains around Gettysburg. There the two armies stood, the Union and the Rebel, than whom there was none braver, awaiting for the signal for the clash of arms. Then a great battle began and lasted three days. And there was desperate fighting and great valor displayed on both sides, and the field was strewn with the dead and wounded. And the battle of Gettysburg was a great battle, and the Union army of patriots gained a great and glorious victory over the rebels. Yes, my son, and what was more, we celebrated it on the 4th of July. And the people of the North were glad of heart, and rejoiced exceedingly, and sang praises to General Meade, for he had fought the battle well and won his country's gratitude.
Still, my son, we hesitated, and failed to take advantage of our success. In truth, we let the rebel army re-cross the Potomac at its leisure, although we might have given it serious trouble had we pressed it at once. Indeed, there were a great number of people who expected General Meade to either drive the rebel army into the Potomac or capture it. But military men know that capturing a large army, though it may have been beaten in battle, is not so easy a matter. And even a victorious army, after fighting so great a battle, needs rest and time to improve its shattered condition.
HANGING IN THE BALANCE.
HERE, my son, is an exact portrait of the general who fought the great battle of Gettysburg. When he had rested his army a sufficient time he began moving in pursuit of the enemy. The rebel general fell back into old Virginia, taking his time as he went along, and being in no temper to hasten his steps. In short, we followed him back timidly to Orange Court House, where he made a settlement for the winter. There was a good deal of small fighting done during the autumn and winter, but neither side seemed to gain any advantage. The fate of war hung in the balance. If we gained an advantage one day, the enemy would do something to offset it on the next. This state of things was a source of great grief to the nation. The people wanted something more positive for the great amount of life and treasure they were wasting. They called for more earnestness and more resolution on the part of our generals, and a better system of carrying on the war on the part of the authorities at Washington. So, my son, the people's impatience was at length heeded, and when spring came (I mean the spring of 1864), and the people were weary of the war, and demanded a change in the policy of conducting it, so that an end be put to it as speedily as possible, the government began to wake up to its duty. We had fought battles for two years and hung the nation in mourning, and still Washington was as often in danger as Richmond. Indeed, the fortune of war seemed in favor of Richmond. Then the government began to see that if we would gain victories our armies must be commanded by soldiers, not politicians.
Yes, my son, the people were excited to joy when the government changed its military policy, and the great General Grant was brought to Washington and placed in command of all our armies. The sun of our hopes brightened then, for the people had confidence in that general. He had whipped the rebels so well for us in the West, and he had gained for us so many glorious victories.
And now, my son, we come to this remarkable siege of Washington. I say remarkable, for it is destined to stand on the pages of military history without anything to compare with it. Not that it was as bloody, or that the city was as obstinately attacked and defended as heroically, as some other cities that have been besieged, in ancient as well as modern times. But you must know that sieges, like battles, derive their great importance and all that makes them remembered hereafter, not so much from the amount of blood that has been shed during them, not so much from the impetuosity of the attacks made or the heroic defences, as from the manner in which they affect the fate of nations. Some sieges are remarkable for one thing, some another. The siege of Washington was more remarkable for the manner in which the city was defended than the manner in which it was attacked. No fields were fertilized with carnage, nor banners bathed in blood.
You, remember, my son, the tale of storied Troy, with all its "pomp and circumstance of glorious war." But, my son, it has never seemed to me more interesting than the passage of Thermopyl. Nor will Agamemnon live in history after Leonidas is forgotten. And yet these events in ancient war were small compared with the battles our Grant fought. His deeds will brighten as you read of them in history, and become greater than them all.
And now, my son, let us hie to the siege of Washington. Washington was besieged and Washington was saved; and the history of its salvation must not perish. Rome, you know, was saved by the cackling of a goose. And when I tell you that Washington, the capital city of this great nation was saved by the too free use of a barrel of whisky, you must not be surprised. When its great circle of fortifications, now bristling with cannon, and filled with busy soldiers, shall become so many grassy mounds, their history must still live to excite the patriotism of those who come after us.
Remember, my son, that had Washington fallen the nation had perished. To this remarkable siege, then, and its results, let all the succeeding glories of this great Republic be attributed.
As I have told you before, my son, after the first battle of Manassas, when our militia did such good running, there was nothing to prevent the rebels from entering and capturing it but the few hastily constructed forts, or ttes de pont, on the Virginia side. Nor could these have offered any resistance worth naming. Our demoralized troops, however, never halted until they got safe inside of them. And but for these forts, weak as they were, the city would have fallen. When General McClellan assumed command, he saw at once the necessity of properly fortifying the city. And the nation ought never to forget him for his decision. Experienced engineers, with large gangs of laborers, were set to work throwing up these huge masses of earthwork. To this was added the labor of a large number of the troops of the Army of the Potomac, during its organization in the autumn and winter of 1861 and 1862. When, therefore, the army moved for the Peninsula in the spring of 1862, the city was so strongly fortified that it was considered safe by General McClellan and his corps commanders. That is, my son, if its forts were properly garrisoned, and there was a working force of forty thousand men. But nothing was safe against the fears of a timid administration.