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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 7, 1863

We have posted our entire collection of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers online for your research and enjoyment. These old newspapers contain fascinating images and stories of the key elements of the War, and offer unique insights into this conflict.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to the page of interest)

 

Longworth

Nicholas Longworth

Jewish Persecution

Jewish Persecution

Queen of the West

Capture of the Queen of the West

Paying Teamsters

Paying Teamsters

Free People, Long War

How Free People Conduct a Long War

Battle of Vicksburg

Battle of Vicksburg

Madisonville

Madisonville, Louisiana

New Orleans

Poor of New Orleans

Teamsters

Teamsters

Vicksburg Blockade Runner

Running the Blockade at Vicksburg

Vicksburg Battle

Picture of the Battle of Vicksburg

Vicksburg Map

Map of Vicksburg

Napoleon Cartoon

Napoleon Cartoon

 

 

MARCH 7, 1863.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

151

(Previous Page) Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo, operations requiring time, and the success of which was essential to the safety of the army in its further progress. Still, so little was Wellington's position, military and political, understood in England even at that time, after all the proofs he had given of consummate ability, that public clamor was again roused against the mode adopted by him for conducting the war. As there were no disasters at which to grumble, people talked of "barren victories," because like those of Crecy and Azincourt, they brought no territorial acquisitions, forgetting then what they have never been weary of boastingly proclaiming since, that these victories were the best proofs that their army was distinguished by the highest military qualities, which, properly directed and supported, were capable of achieving the most glorious results. So profound was the conviction of the immense superiority of the French, both in numbers and in the quality of their troops, that the public mind was in a state of feverish anxiety, and many of the stoutest hearts gave way to despair. About this period Sir Walter Scott writes to Mr. Ellis:

"These cursed, double cursed news (from Spain) have sunk my spirits so much, that I am almost at disbelieving a Providence; God forgive me, but I think some evil demon has been permitted in the shape of this tyrannical monster, whom God has sent on the nations visited in his anger. The spring-tide may, for aught I know, break upon us in the next session of Parliament. There is an evil fate upon us in all we do at home or abroad."

So Sir James Mackintosh, writing to Gentz, at Vienna:

"I believe, like you, in a resurrection, because I believe in the immortality of civilization, but when, and by whom, and in what form, are questions which I have not the sagacity to answer, and on which it would be boldness to hazard a conjecture. A dark and stormy night, a black series of ages may be prepared for our posterity, before the dawn that opens the more perfect day. Who can tell how long that fearful night may be before the dawn of a brighter morrow? The race of man may reach the promised land; but there is no assurance that the present generation will not perish in the wilderness."

As if to render the situation more gloomy, if possible, the Marquis of Wellesley, the brother of Wellington, left the Ministry upon the avowed ground that the Government would not support the war with sufficient vigor. History has stripped his conduct of any such worthy motive, and shown that the real trouble was his anxiety to supplant Mr. Perceval. At the same time the attack was kept up in the opposite quarter. "No man in his senses," said Sir Francis Burdett, "could entertain a hope of the final success of our arms in the Peninsula. Our laurels were great, but barren, and our victories in their effects mere defeats." Mr. Whitbread, too, as usual, was not behindhand with his prophecies. "He saw no reason," he said, "to alter his views respecting peace; war must otherwise terminate in the subjugation of either of the contending powers. They were both great; but this was a country of factitious greatness. France was a country of natural greatness." So General Tarleton "had the doctrine of Mr. Fox in his favor, who wished for the pencil of a Cervantes to be able to ridicule those who desired to enter upon a Continental war."*

Thus, from universal enthusiasm in favor of the Spanish war, public opinion, at first manifesting itself through the factious spirit of the Opposition, at length spoke through all its organs, in tones of despondency and despair, of the situation and prospects of the country, and simply because there had not been that sort of military success which it could understand to sustain and direct it. Universal distrust seized upon the public mind; and had it not been for the heroic constancy of that great commander, whose task in supporting the Ministry at home was at least as difficult as that of beating the French in Spain, the glory of England had sunk forever.

Yet it happened, as it so often happens in the order of Divine Providence, in the moral as in the physical world, that the night was darkest just before dawn. Amidst all this universal despondency and sinister foreboding, events were preparing which in a few short months changed the whole face of Europe, and forced back that torrent of revolutionary success which had spread over the whole Continent, until it overwelmed the country where it had its source in complete ruin. The discussions in Parliament to which we have referred took place in February, 1812. With the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo on the 18th of January of that year, with the fall of Badajoz on the 26th of March, the first battle of Salamanca on the 20th of July, and Napoleon's invasion of Russia in June in the same year, began the downfall of the French Empire.

Wellington at last reached Madrid in August, 1812, more than four years later than he ought to have done, according to the strategists of Parliament and the Press. This was all forgotten at the moment, so magic a wand is held by success. The fickle voice of popular applause was again heard, echoing the spirit of confidence which his persistent and undaunted conduct had revived in the hearts of his countrymen. His career of victory, however, was destined not to be unchecked; and when, after his occupation of Madrid, his unsuccessful____ *The following description of het  Opposition of that day, taken from the Annual Register for 1812, bears so striking a likeness to the peculiarities of the leaders of an insignificant but restless faction among us, that, omitting the old-fashioned drapery of the proper names, they seem to have sat for the photograph. "It may be remarked as a most singular circumstance, that those persons in this country who profess to have the greatest abhorrence of ministerial tyranny and oppression, look with the utmost coolness on the tyranny and oppression of Bonaparte. The regular Opposition do not mention it with that abhorrence which might be expected from them; but the leaders of the popular party in Parliament go further. They are almost always ready to find an excuse for the conduct of Bonaparte. The most violent and unjustifiable acts of his tyranny raise but feeble indignation in their minds, while the most trifling act of ministerial oppression is inveighed against with the utmost bitterness. Ready and unsuspecting credence is given to every account of Bonaparte's success; while the accounts of the success of his opponents are received with coldness and distrust. Were it not for these things, the conduct of Mr. Whitbread and his friends would be hailed with more satisfaction, and inspire more confidence with the real lovers of their country; for they deserve ample credit for the undaunted and unwearied firmness with which they have set themselves against abuses and against every instance of oppression."

assault upon the Castle of Burgos rendered a retreat to the Portuguese frontier, and the evacuation of the capital, a proper military movement, although that retreat was compensated for by the abandonment of Andalusia by the French, in order to concentrate their whole force against him, still the blind multitude could not be made to understand it, and began again to murmur.

It is not now difficult to see that the victory at Salamanca was really what the far-seeing sagacity of Marshal Soult predicted at the time it would become, "a prodigious historical event;" that it was the pivot on which at that time hinged the destinies of England—one of those battles, of which we see perhaps a dozen only in the whole course of history, which are really decisive of the fate of empires. It completely unloosed the French power in the Peninsula, and prepared the way for the great success of Vittoria, the next year, which gave the coup de grace to the French military occupation of Spain. It is not our present purpose to trace the history of the next campaign, but it is curious to observe the effects produced by assured success upon that public opinion which bad shifted so often and so strangely during the progress of this eventful struggle. The Opposition, as their only hope of escape from political annihilation, and thinking to swim with the popular current, abused the Ministers for not supporting Wellington with sufficient earnestness, complaining that they had taken the advice which they themselves had so often and so eloquently tendered. But it was of no avail. This wretched charlatanism was too transparent to impose upon any one; and of the great party who opposed the war, no one ever after rose to office or power in England. It required a whole generation, in the opinion of the English constituencies, to expiate the faults of those who had sneered at the great Duke, and had called the glorious fields of Vimeiro, Busaco, Talavera, Fuentes d'Onor, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Badajoz, names which had become associated with the proudest recollections of English renown, "mere barren victories, equal in their effects to defeats."

We pass now to the consideration of another class of difficulties inherent in the prosecution of every war, and generally of far greater magnitude than any other—those connected with the raising of the vast sums of money required for the support of military operations. In this important matter, if we mistake not, there are some striking points of resemblance between the English experience during the war, and our present situation. It is the fashion among many who seek to excite the public alarm on this subject from unworthy, and sometimes, it may be feared, from treasonable motives, to represent the enormous outlay of the nation's wealth which is poured out to save the nation's life, as wholly unparalleled in history. Yet it may be asserted, without any fear of contradiction, that England, with a population then little more than half of that which now inhabits our loyal States, with resources infinitely less in proportion at that time than our own, her manufacturing industry, so far as external outlet was concerned, wholly crippled by the operation of the French Continental system, and her own Orders in Council, expended, during every year of the Peninsular war, as large a sum as has been required here each year to create and keep up the gigantic force now in arms to put down the Rebellion. During the five years that the war lasted her average annual expenditure exceeded ninety millions of pounds sterling, or four hundred and fifty millions of dollars, which is about the same sum which is demanded of us. No one, of course, pretends to say that this rate of expenditure is not appalling; yet it concerns us to know that it is not unprecedented, and that these vast amounts have been raised from national resources far inferior to our own. It should not be forgotten, also, that they represent the money price of England's independence; and if ours is secured by a far greater outlay, we certainly are not disposed to quarrel with the wisdom of the investment.

The question is, how were these immense sums raised in England? The man who would have predicted, at the commencement of the war with France, that the English national debt would at its close exceed one thousand millions of pounds sterling, and that the country would be able to bear such a burden, would have been regarded as a visionary as wild as he who in this country, two years ago, might have foretold the present amount of our national debt, and have contended that, in spite of it, the public credit would remain unimpaired. The difficulty in England of raising these vast sums was ten-fold greater than it is here. Napoleon, looking upon England as the Southern people have been taught to regard us, as a purely commercial nation, undoubtedly placed more reliance for ultimate success upon the instinct of money-getting, which would shrink from the pecuniary sacrifices necessary in a prolonged struggle, than upon the mere victories of his army. Hence he pursued, during his whole career, an inflexible purpose of ruining English commerce, and by a series of measures known as the Continental system, endeavored to exclude English ships and English products from the markets of the world. The effect of these measures, although not so serious as he wished and had anticipated, nevertheless crippled enormously the resources of England just at the period when they were most needed.

Taking the three years before the issuing of the Orders in Council and the vigorous enforcement of the Continental system, which were coincident in point of time with the commencement of the Spanish war, the average annual exports sank from fifty-seven millions to twenty-three millions, taking the average of three years after they had been in operation. Taxes were laid on at a most burdensome rate. The income tax was ten per cent., and besides, specific war taxes amounting to more than twenty millions a year were imposed. Notwithstanding all these taxes, the debt increased more than one thousand millions of dollars during the Peninsular War. Discontent and violence among the laboring classes became universal, and

it was remarked that the achievement of the greatest victories in Spain was celebrated in England "amidst a population who had been prevented by the burden of taxation on the absolute necessaries of life, from securing a livelihood by the strictest industry, and thus pauperism had been generated throughout the land, a pauperism aggravated by a spirit of pillage, which it required a strong military force to repress." Bankruptcy and ruin fell upon the trading classes, and absolute exhaustion of the resources of the country seemed almost reached. The public stocks had sunk to such a degree that the three per cents., which are now always above 90 per cent., were rarely higher during the war than 65 per cent., and so depressed at last had the public credit become, that the last loan of the Continental war, that of April, 1815, was taken by the contractor at 53 per cent., and paid for in the depreciated paper of the day; and yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer was congratulated even by the Opposition for having made "a good operation." The Bank was in a slate of chronic suspension, the buying and selling of gold were prohibited to the public under severe penalties, and yet every gold guinea which was sent by the Government to the army in Spain (and nothing else would answer the purpose of money in that country) cost thirty per cent. premium. How England survived all this complication of troubles is one of the marvels of history, but it is not our purpose to discuss that question. The great fact that the money required was somehow raised is all that we have to do with at present. When we have been at war for twenty years, and are forced, in order to raise the means of carrying it on, to submit to one tithe of the sacrifices which were endured by the English, we may then perhaps begin seriously to consider the money value of the Union.

The lesson which this review of the progress of the Peninsular War teaches, is, it seems to us, one of hope and encouragement; for if it shows any thing, it proves clearly that in the support of public opinion, and in the means requisite to maintain a great army, those fundamental essentials of real military success, our Government is immeasurably stronger than the English ever was at any period of the war. It teaches also another important lesson, and that is, that there is such a thing as public opinion falsely so called, which is noisy just in proportion as its real influence is narrow and restricted. One of the most difficult and delicate tasks of the statesman is to distinguish the true from this false opinion, the factious demagogue from the grumbling but sincere patriot, and to recognize with a ready instinct the voice which comes from the depths of the great heart of the people, in warning it may be sometimes, in encouragement often, but always echoing its abiding faith in the ultimate triumph of the good cause.

[After some remarks on military efficiency, Mr. Stille goes on to say:]

Much inconvenience has necessarily resulted in our case from the ignorance of Regimental Officers, to a greater degree probably, however, from a want of proper care and attention on their part to the troops when iii camp, than from any gross incompetency or misconduct on the field of battle. Instances of such misconduct there have undoubtedly been, but, considering the number of the officers and their want of experience, those instances are extremely rare, and when we call to mind the number of officers who have fallen, while leading their men in battle, out of proportion, as it undoubtedly is, with the losses in other wars, we may well palliate deficiencies in this respect, out of considerations for their heroic gallantry and devotion. We do not underrate, certainly, the value of good officers; but history tells us that great victories have been achieved by armies who were no better led than ours. The incompetency of his officers was one of Wellington's standing complaints in Spain. Must of them knew absolutely nothing beyond the mere routine of garrison duty; they were all what is technically called "gentlemen," for each one had purchased his commission at a high price, but they had had no systematic training in military schools; nearly all of them had had no actual experience of war, and their average intelligence was undoubtedly below that of the men who hold similar positions in our army.* All accounts agree that at that period the scientific branches of the great art of war were almost wholly neglected in the British army, and such was the happy ignorance of the elements of strategy, that at a court-martial composed of general officers for the trial of General Whitelock, in 1808, for his failure at Buenos Ayres, it was necessary to explain to the court what was meant in military phrase by the "right bank" of a river.

[We omit here some remarks on the superior morale of our soldiers to the rank and file of foreign armies.]

One of the most cruel statements which party rancor has circulated in regard to the condition of the army is, that the rate of sickness and mortality is excessive, and that this is due to the neglect of the Government. Fortunately we have the means of showing that these statements are false. From June 1, 1861, to March 1, 1862—nine months—the annual rate of mortality for the whole army is ascertained to be 53 in a thousand, and the sickness rate 104 in a thousand. The returns for the summer campaigns are not yet printed, but it will appear from then, that in the army of the Potomac on the 10th of June, after the battle of Fairoaks, and while the army was encamped on the Chickahominy,

_____________________________

*We have no room to enumerate in detail the complaints made by the Duke of the officers of his army. Those who are interested in the subject may consult Colonel Gurwood's 4th volume, pages 343, 346, 352, 363, 385, 399, and 407. The whole story is summed up, however, in the general order occasioned by the disorderly retreat from Burgos, in which the Duke said "that discipline had deteriorated during the campaign in a greater degree then he had ever witnessed, or ever read of in any army, and this, without any disaster, or any unusual privation or hardship; that the officer, had from the first lost all commanel over their men, and that the true cause of this unhappy state of affairs was to be found in the habitual neglect of duty by the Regimental Officers." This is the army of which the Duke said later, that "with it he could go any where and do any thing," and, good or bad, it saved Europe—in the English sense.

the whole number of sick, present and absent, compared with the whole force of that army present and absent, was 128 in a thousand. During the stay of the army on the Peninsula it lost less than 14,000 men by death from disease and wounds, and the annual sickness rate during the campaign was about that which has for some time prevailed in the whole army, less than ten per cent. of the whole force. It appears, strange to say, that the army was more healthy when in the trenches before Yorktown than at any other period of the campaign. Compare this with the English experience. We have already said that Wellington lost about one-third of his whole army from malarious fever on his retreat from Talavera: on the 1st of October, 1811, the Anglo-Portuguese army had 56,000 men fit for duty, and 23,000 sick in hospitals; and in the Crimea, while the annual rate of mortality for the whole war was 232 in a thousand, the period of active operations, the last three months of 1854 and the first three months of 1855, shows the fearful rate of 711 deaths in every thousand men.

It can not be doubted that to many the most unfavorable symptom of our present condition is the slow progress of our arms. This slowness is more apparent than real, for the history of modern warfare scarcely shows an instance in which so great real progress has been made in the same space of time, and it is manifest that whenever our Northern soldiers have had a chance of fighting the enemy on any thing like equal terms, they have fully maintained their superiority.

There is a good deal of talk about the impossibility of conquering or subjugating the South, which is based upon very vague notions of what conquest and subjugation signify. It is surprising to find how even intelligent men have been imposed upon by this favorite boast of the rebels and their sympathizers. A pretended saying of Napoleon is quoted, that "it is impossible to prevent any people determined on achieving its independence from accomplishing its purpose; and it is confidently asked whether any one ever heard of the subjugation of twelve millions of people determined to be free. We reply that history, ancient and modern, is full of instances of the only sort of conquest or subjugation which any sane man proposes shall be submitted to by the South. No one thinks it possible or necessary, for the purpose in view, to occupy the whole South with garrisons, but simply to destroy the oule support upon which its arrogant pretensions are based, namely, its military power. This gone, what becomes of all the rest? and this remaining, where is there any hope of permanent peace and safety to us? For what is all war but an appeal to force to settle questions of national interest which peaceful discussion has failed to settle? and what is an army but only another argument, the ultima ratio, which, if successful in decisive battles, must give the law to the conquered? To say nothing of instances in ancient history, Poland, Hungary, and Lombardy, in our day, were just as determined to be free as the South is, and quite as full of martial ardor; and certainly Prussia, Spain under the Bonaparte dynasty, and the French Empire, are all examples of nations which valued their independence, and had ten-fold the resources for maintaining it which the South possesses; yet the capture of Warsaw, the surrender of Villages, the battles of Novara, of Jena, of Salamanca, and of Waterloo, respectively, settled as definitively the fate of the inhabitants of those countries, and their future condition, as if the terms imposed by the conquering army had been freely and unanimously agreed upon by the representatives of the people in Congress assembled. And, in like manner, can any one doubt, looking at the present comparative resources of the two sections, that if we should gain two decisive battles, one in the East and the other in the West, which should result in the total disorganization of the two rebel armies, and thus enable us to interpose an impassable barrier between them, we should soon hear a voice imploring in unmistakable accents peace on our own terms? It would not be a matter of choice, but of necessity; a simple question of how far the progress of exhaustion had been carried, and that once settled, and no reasonable hope of success remaining, the war would not last a week longer. This is the experience of all nations, and our Southern rebels, notwithstanding their noisy boasting, do not differ in their capacity of resistance from the rest of mankind. "Hard pounding this, gentlemen," said the Duke of Wellington to his officers, as he threw himself within one of the unbroken squares of his heroic infantry at Waterloo, "but we'll see who can pound the lontgest;" and the ability of that infantry to "pound the longest" on that day settled the fate of Europe for generations.

Let us bend, then, our united energies to secure, as much as in us lies, success in the field, and that success gained, we may be sure that all things will follow. Let us recognize with confidence as co-workers in this great object all, never mind what opinions they may entertain about the causes of the war and the new issues which its progress has developed, who desire in all sincerity, no matter from what motive, the success of our arms. Upon such a basis, the wider and more catholic our faith becomes the better. "In essentials, Unity; in nonessentials, Liberty; in all things, Charity:" this should be our motto. The only possible hope for the South is in our own divisions. Let us remember that with success all things are possible; without it, all our hopes and theories vanish into thin air. With success in the field we should not only disarm the rebellion, and rid ourselves forever of the pestilent tribe of domestic traitors by burying them deep in that political oblivion which covers the Tories of the Revolution, and those who sneered at the gallant exploits of our Navy in the war of 1812, but also force public opinion almond, whose faithlessness to the great principles which underlie all modern civilization has been one of the saddest developments of this sad war, to exclaim at last, "Invidiam gloria superasti."


 

 

 

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