would at once be crushed and broken into fragments by the irresistible force arrayed against it. But the disastrous battle of Bull Run
and the untoward affair of Ball's Bluff had blighted these fervid hopes, and a despondency had taken possession of the public mind which was as unreasonable as the previous assurance had been.
This rising and sinking of our spirits had tended to aggravate that impatience which must be admitted to be one of our national traits; and in the autumn of 1861 a strong desire had taken possession of the public mind that some decisive step should be taken, some vigorous blow should be struck.
The people murmured and chafed at the delay that clogged the movements of the Army of the Potomac; the press, with its myriad voices, gave utterance to the feeling, and the cry “On to Richmond
became the symbol and motto of the hour.
This was a very natural sentiment, and, to some extent, commendable,--because it caught its warmth in part from the patriotism of the people and their earnest wish to have the Union
They desired to see some results commensurate with their efforts and sacrifices.
But strong feeling is apt to be unjust, especially when it is general as well as strong; and our ignorance of war — that happy element in our lot — had an-influence in the same direction.
We had read of armies, but practically we knew nothing about them.
The battles of the War
of 1812 and of the war with Mexico
had been fought with small and manageable bodies of men; but so immense an army as that which was encamped in and around Washington