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THE regular circulation of
is now between ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE and ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY THOUSAND
copies. Assuming that each number of the paper is read by ten persons—a moderate
estimate—a million and a quarter people derive instruction and amusement from
this journal. It affords us no little satisfaction to witness this success.
Certainly we may say that no effort on our part has been wanting to deserve it.
Our weekly expenses for traveling
artists are alone as heavy as our total outlay for artistic labor used to be
when Harper's Weekly was first established. This outlay, however, enables us to
depict, week by week, the progress of our arms along the whole circumference of
the Rebellion, with a fidelity and vividness seldom equaled.
We are besides enabled to lay
before our readers each week several pages of the best reading of the day,
including the works of Dickens,
Wilkie Collins, and Bulwer. So remarkable a
combination of artistic and literary excellences has never been presented in any
journal, either in this country or abroad.
We think that this Number, for
instance, will bear comparison with any number of any paper ever produced in the
United States or in Europe.
SATURDAY, APRIL 26, 1862.
A FAVORITE idea of many foreign
critics of the United States is that this country is governed by "the mob." We
are told that certain measures can not succeed because they will not suit "the
mob;" that the Government can not pursue the policy it pleases in consequence of
the pressure of "the mob;" that "the mob" will not hear of peace, and hence that
"the golden opportunity for compromise" is being lost; that "the mob" will not
pay takes, and therefore that public credit is ruined; that. "the respectable
classes" in the United States are powerless, the supreme authority being vested
in "the mob."
If, when foreigners use the words
"the mob," they merely mean "the people," then they are undoubtedly right in
stating that in the mob in this country supreme authority is vested by law.
There is no class in this country which enjoys legislative authority over its
fellow-citizens by virtue of birth, or rank, or wealth. In this country no
descendants of the bastard children of king's mistresses are born to make laws
for the legitimate offspring of honest women. This may be our misfortune: it is
undoubtedly the fact. Herein the United States differ from many foreign
countries, and especially from Great Britain.
But if, when foreigners employ
the words "the mob," they mean gatherings of lawless and turbulent risen,
unwilling to obey the mandates of the established authorities, then they are
clearly in error in stating that such a class in this country exercises any
appreciable control over our public policy, or is in the least feared or
regarded either by the legislative or the executive branches of Government.
Such gatherings have never been
seen here except at rare intervals in a few great cities. The lawless characters
of which they have consisted have almost invariably been foreigners. They have
never in a single instance been able to resist the power of the constituted
authorities. The most remarkable mobs ever known in this country have been the
Astor Place mob, which was quelled in a couple of hours by two companies of
militia; the Dead Rabbit mob, which was put down by a mere demonstration without
fighting; and the Municipal Police mob, which was a mere cabal, and did not
disturb the peace of the city in the least. There never was an instance in this
country of a mob, in the sense defined above, undertaking deliberately to resist
the execution of the law, or to defy its instruments. All our mobs have grown
out of petty local disputes, and have subsided on the first exhibition of
purpose by the constituted authorities. An attempt was made by Fernando Wood, in
1857, to get up a mob in this city for the purpose of organizing a revolutionary
resistance to the State authorities; and again, in 1860, the attempt was
renewed, with the like object. On both occasions the promoters of disturbance
failed signally. Even in this great city, where the "dangerous classes" are so
numerous, and there are always two or three thousand loose, idle, and disorderly
foreigners ready for any tumult, it has never been possible to organize any
substantial resistance to the constituted authorities.
The reason is very simple. In
this country every man is a maker as well as a subject of the law, and is
personally responsible for its execution. In every constituency in the United
States the number of persons who are interested in the preservation of law and
order largely exceeds that of the persons who are interested in riot and
disorder. Our system renders all citizens, jointly and severally, responsible
for the welfare and peace of society at large.
In England it is different. There
the governing power is confined to a small class of persons, and the benefits of
government enjoyed by a still smaller class. The bulk of the British people have
nothing to lose and every thing to gain by revolutionary movements. One out of
every nine people in England is a pauper; and of the remaining eight only one is
vote at elections. Property is in
a few hands; nineteen-twentieths of the British people own nothing, and are
controlled by the aristocracy and wealthy commonalty. It is easy to see that in
a society thus constituted there must be two classes: the Governing Class, which
rules the country and owns the property; and the rest of the people, who have
neither power nor property. These latter are called in England "the mob." It
likewise follows that between this "mob" and that Governing Class there must be
incessant warfare. It has always been so. No ministry in England has ever
pursued a policy that was in opposition to the instincts of that unrepresented,
unrecognized, but terribly feared body—the British mob—without providing large
bodies of troops to protect itself. The history of England during the present
century is one series of mobs and riots in London, in Liverpool, in Manchester,
in Birmingham; the sandbags which to this day line the roof of the Bank of
England, and the iron shutters which shield the windows of Apsley House, are
visible evidences of the dread and respect which British mobs have inspired. At
this very moment the news from England consists mainly of reports of mobs and
riots at Sheffield and other manufacturing cities.
If the present civil war had
broken out in England instead of the United States these mobs would undoubtedly
have coerced the British Government from time to time. Those British writers who
have written about our mob have merely confounded our condition with theirs, and
given us credit for suffering from the disease which was familiar to them at
home. A closer acquaintance with our system would have shown them that mobs, in
their sense of the word, are an impossibility here; and a little more attention
to passing events might have induced them profitably to compare our treatment of
Dr. Russell of the Times with their outrage upon Haynau, and their rebellion
against the Duke of Wellington with the stern calmness with which the West
submitted to the removal of Fremont.
"WHEN the fighting begins," said.
General McClellan in the autumn, "it will be
short and sharp." He did not add, what he probably thought, that it would not
begin until each side was fully prepared, so that the event must be decisive.
But that is evidently the case. Every man, as he hears of the general advance,
feels that we are fully ready. Nobody was seriously troubled about the result at
No. 10, where the cheerful hero,
Foote, told us there was "some of the most
beautiful rifle practice ever seen." The siege of Yorktown is proceeding at this
moment; but nobody is apprehensive of the issue, except for one reason, and that
the Merrimac—the very point for which no proper
provision was made.
Nor can any good excuse ever be
made for that negligence. The only thing that can be said is that we preferred
to believe she was a failure. For ten or eleven months we knew she was
preparing. In Harper's Weekly for Saturday, November 2, there is an admirable
picture of her very much as she appeared when, four months afterward, she came
out and appalled us, and the account of her construction and armament was
accurate; yet we went on as if there were no Merrimac and no danger. Already we
have paid dearly enough for our blunder; and at this moment of writing the
national joy at the great Pittsburg triumph is overshadowed by the vague
apprehension of mischance from the Merrimac. Should she steam out and push on to
the relief of Yorktown by the annihilation of our boats there, she might be of
signal service in checking our advance.
Yet, except for this unguarded
point, the national campaign against the rebellion has proceeded according to
the motto of McClellan. Nor at last will the wisdom of the general plan be
disputed. To have attacked before we were fully prepared to annihilate
resistance would have prolonged the war indefinitely. It was not enough merely
to defeat the enemy in an occasional battle. It was essential to the final rout
of his hopes of resistance that he should feel our overwhelming strength
simultaneously at every point of his line.
For no student of the war must
forget the essential difference between dealing with a foreign foe and domestic
conspirators. And in this case, to say that if we had moved long ago the enemy
could not have intrenched himself, is simply to beg the whole question; for the
two prominent facts were that the enemy was organized before we began to
organize, and he stood upon his own chosen ground. Besides, suppose that we
might have driven him from Manassas or beaten him there last December—what then?
Was it not cheaper in blood and money to wait until
the West were ready? And what the condition of the Western Department was as
late as October we know from
If the campaign had been opened
at any one point last December, and before there could have been a general
cooperation, the chance is that the war would have been dragged out, with
varying success, until Europe insisted that the rebels had maintained their
independence long enough to be acknowledged.
If a man remembers accurately how
long this rebellion had been ripening, how deadly earnest the rebels were, how
united, how able, how they had already poisoned the public mind of Europe in
their favor, how doubtful we were, how bound hand and foot by Floyd and Toucey,
that we had
an army to raise and equip, a
navy to build, a line of a thousand miles to hold and then push back; if he
remembers this, and then considers where we are to-day—that a year ago, when
Sumter fell, the nation seemed lost, and to-day
when its anniversary returns the rebellion is palpably annihilated, not only in
its attitude of armed resistance but in its root of treason—he will surely agree
that however he may have criticised details, the general design of the campaign
has been most comprehensive and overwhelming. He is a very great genius or a
very great fool who thinks he could have improved it.
AT this moment of writing, when
our forces are gathered upon the peninsula before Yorktown and the rebels are
assembled for their last desperate defense, it will be curious to put upon
record a calculation of the chances.
Immediately following the great
victory of our arms at Pittsburg, and involving the fate of the rebel capital,
the battle of Yorktown must be considered as the decisive event of the
rebellion. Should the national army conquer and the "Confederate" Government get
upon wheels and begin to roll Southward, the conspiracy could hardly again
gather force enough for any considerable blow. On the other hand, should the
rebels defeat us, the disaster would be a serious check to us The result will be
known, probably, before these words are printed. What, then, are the chances?
First, as to numbers. We are
probably a hundred thousand strong in the field, with a reserve at
Fortress Monroe, and
McDowell's corps within cooperating distance.
The rebels are probably not more than sixty thousand at Yorktown with a reserve
nearer Richmond of thirty or forty thousand.
Second, as to position. We are
moving across a plain, wooded country in which the rebels have strengthened
every defensible point against us. We have some gun-boats to harass them from
the water side, to which they oppose heavy batteries and the chances of the
Merrimac. The rebels have probably two, and perhaps three, lines of defense
across the peninsula upon which they have had a year's time to intrench
Third, as to arms. Ours are of
the best kind and variety, and most ample in number. This has been a special
point with McClellan. The rebels are near the Tredegar works at Richmond and the
factories at Norfolk, and they are doubtless better appointed here than they
have been at any point, although they have always been strong in
artillery. The number of guns upon either side
is purely conjectural. The reports of five hundred upon the rebel fortifications
are only the guesses of Baltimore sympathizers.
Fourth, as to quality of men.
Ours are confident of numerical superiority. They are flushed with the glory of
our incessant victories. They long to mingle the splendor of their renown with
that of the Western army. They are eager and enthusiastic. They have been long
and carefully trained. They believe in their leaders, and feel that their
victory will secure and crown the triumph of the National cause. Moreover, they
are in the enemy's country upon a peninsula. A severe repulse would inevitably
end disastrously for them. In a sense their ships are burned behind them. Safety
as well as honor lies only before. On the other hand, the rebels are stunned and
discomfited. The last two months have overwhelmed them every where with defeat
at home, and the faint hope of foreign recognition and aid has at length
expired. They know that success even does not save them. They are dispirited,
hopeless, uncertain. But they hate us, and they stand upon their own soil, and
they believe that they are defending their hearths and their honor, and the very
desperation of their situation may give them a ferocious energy.
Fifth, as to leaders. We have one
directing mind, General McClellan. His Generals, Keyes, Porter, Heintzelman, and
the rest, are worthy of the wisest chief. McClellan has not yet commanded in a
great battle as
McDowell have, therefore his generalship in the
field upon a large scale is to be tested. Yet the strategy of the war thus far,
of which he is certainly entitled to his share of the credit, has been
overwhelmingly triumphant. His troops are proud of him; the country confides in
him. Should he capture Richmond, every cloud of uncertainty rolls away from his
name. For their side, the rebels have
Joseph Johnston, Magruder, and
Lee, neither of whom is a very noted general.
The great military rebel names were
Leonidas Polk. Joseph Johnson
is reputed to be a good soldier. Lee is certainly not. Magruder is a Captain
Bobadil, but Jefferson Davis is doubtless cool and sagacious.
The comparison of chances leaves
us, then, numerically and morally, superior and better led. The rebels have the
advantage of position, and the arms are equal. If the rebels stand and fight in
earnest, the battle must be desperate and bloody. Should it result, as every
loyal heart hopes and believes, the dramatic coincidence of this war with the
Revolution would be remarkable. The first bloody battle of the Revolution was
fought at Lexington and Concord on the 19th of April. On the same day,
eighty-six years later, the first blood of this war was shed at Baltimore. At
Yorktown was the success that assured the establishment of our national
independence, and at Yorktown will have been won the victory which secures it
ON the 21st and 24th of August,
1781, Lafayette wrote from his camp at the Forks of York River to Washington at
Philadelphia. On the 22d Lord Cornwallis, comfortably secure, wrote from
Yorktown to Sir Henry Clinton at New York offering to spare him ten or twelve
hundred men. Washington instructed Lafayette to prevent any escape up
the peninsula which Cornwallis
might attempt when the French fleet under De Grasses arrived. Accordingly troops
were sent to the south of James River, and General Wayne was ready to cross it
at Westover. Lafayette was meanwhile ready to move to Williamsburg and join the
forces which might be landed from the French fleet.
On the 5th of September
Washington left for the scene of operations and heard, on the way, of the
arrival at the Capes on the 28th August of the French fleet of twenty-eight
ships of the line. He immediately wrote to de Grasse that the van of the two
armies would drop down the Chesapeake to co-operate with him and Lafayette. De
Grasse immediately closed the mouth of the York River and landed 3300 men. At
the same time James River was full of armed vessels to cover the transportation
of our troops, and Wayne crossed. Cornwallis saw that his escape was cut
off—strengthened his works, and sent to Sir Henry Clinton for aid.
De Grasse and a French General
begged Lafayette to storm Yorktown and Gloucester. The young chief, humane as
honorable, preferred to await the coming of the combined forces to secure a more
bloodless, if less brilliant, victory. De Grasse, expecting the fleet of De
Barras from Rhode Island, and hearing of the English fleet under Graves, off the
Capes, sailed out with many of his ships and amused Graves for a few days,
during which De Barras slipped in, De Grasse followed him, and Graves,
outwitted, returned to New York.
Meanwhile Washington had reached
Williamsburg, and sent to hasten the arrival of the French troops, while he
begged General Lincoln to press forward to a junction. These troops were coming
down the Chesapeake. On the 22d of September Washington heard of the arrival of
Admiral Digby at New York with troops and six ships. De Grasse was afraid of the
combined fleets, and proposed to leave a few vessels in the James and York
rivers, while he put to sea to engage the English with the rest. Washington saw
that if the fleet went Cornwallis had a chance of succor; if it remained he must
surrender; and he entreated De Grasse to remain. The Count was persuaded, and by
the 25th September the American and French troops were encamped near
Williamsburg, and ready. The enemy was mainly at Yorktown, but also held
Gloucester Point, opposite. On the 26th our troops were drawn out, twelve
thousand strong. In the evening Cornwallis heard from Clinton that a fleet of
twenty-three ships with 5000 troops would sail to his relief on the 5th October.
In the night he abandoned his outworks. Our men seized them in the morning. On
the 28th September our army marched from Williamsburg, and, driving in the
British pickets and patrols, encamped within two miles of Yorktown. On the 1st
October our lines completely invested the place, while De Grasse's fleet held
the month of the river. In the evening of the 2d Tarleton and his troop crossed
to Gloucester Point from Yorktown to forage; a skirmish followed, and he
retreated. The next day the French General, Choisy, with a detachment of
marines, cut off Gloucester Point from the rear country.
On the 6th of October General
Lincoln opened our first parallel, six hundred yards from the enemy. On the 9th
it was completed, and Washington fired the first gun. On the night of the 11th
the second parallel was opened, within three hundred yards of the works. On the
night of the 14th two redoubts were stormed and carried by the Americans and
French, General Hamilton commanding. It was a most brave and brilliant
achievement; and it was while watching it, intensely excited, that Washington
was greatly exposed, and his aid-de-camp ventured to say so. "If you think so,"
said Washington, gravely, "you are at liberty to step back." Just before dawn on
the 16th Cornwallis tried to carry two of the batteries in our second parallel.
It was a gallant dash, but the enemy was repulsed, and had spiked our guns so
poorly that by evening they were all right again. Then Cornwallis's only hope
was a retreat. He projected crossing to Gloucester Point and forcing his way
Northward, leaving his sick and wounded. He prepared sixteen large boats, and
had carried over a large number of troops when a storm scattered the boats.
Success was hopeless, and he had to recross his troops in face of our fire. At
ten o'clock on the morning of the 17th he opened a parley. At two o'clock on the
afternoon of the 19th his troops marched out and laid down their arms.
At the surrender of Yorktown we
made 7073 prisoners. The loss of the British was 552, our loss about 300. Our
combined army was estimated at 16,000, of whom 7000 were French, 5500
Continentals, and 3500 militia.
The best accounts of the siege
and surrender are in Thacher's "Military Journal," Irving's "Washington," and
THE extreme exigency which
threatens the "Confederacy" will probably develop results like those which the
pressure of Europe against revolutionary France produced at the close of the
last century. Jefferson Davis is probably a man who knows when he is beaten; but
there are men around him who will doubtless refuse to see defeat, and whom
disaster will only plunge into utter recklessness. Davis's only hope of safety
at home will be in running before the wind. When a man in his position and under
his circumstances falls, from whatever cause, he falls into utter contempt, and,
in perilous times, into danger of personal harm. To save his life, Davis must
still be a leader. When Danton paused, Robespierre called for his head. If Davis
delays, some man of inferior talent and more bloody will will demand that he be
put out of the way.
It is not surprising, therefore,
to see by the reports from Secessia that if a final blow falls upon
Virginia—like the fall of Richmond, for instance—the Davis Administration will
be in danger. Some great design was supposed to be preparing a month (Next