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[553] pieces, with a loss of twenty-five to thirty thousand men, beside all its artillery and munitions, and Washington lay at the mercy of the enemy, who were soon to advance to the capture and sack of our great commercial cities. Never before had so black a day as that black Monday lowered upon the loyal hearts of the North; and the leaden, weeping skies reflected and hightened, while they seemed to sympathize with, the general gloom. It would have been easy, with ordinary effort and care, to have gathered and remanded to their camps or forts around Alexandria or Arlington, all the wretched stragglers to whom fear had lent wings, and who, throwing away their arms and equipments, and abandoning all semblance of military order or discipline, had rushed to the capital to hide therein their shame behind a cloud of exaggerations and falsehoods. The still effective batteries, the solid battalions, that were then wending their way slowly back to their old encampments along the south bank of the Potomac, depressed but unshaken, dauntless and utterly unassailed, were unseen and unheard from; while the panic-stricken racers filled and distended the general ear with their tales of impregnable intrenchments and masked batteries, of regiments slaughtered, brigades utterly cut to pieces, etc., making out their miserable selves to be about all that was left of the army. That these men were allowed thus to straggle into Washington, instead of being peremptorily stopped at the bridges, and sent back to the encampments of their several regiments, is only to be accounted for on the hypothesis that the reason of our military magnates had been temporarily dethroned, so as to divest them of all moral responsibility.

The consequences of this defeat were sufficiently serious. Our 75,000 three months men, whose term of enlistment, for the most part, expired within the three weeks following the battle, generally made haste to quit the service and seek their several fire-sides at the earliest possible moment.1 Our armies were thus depleted with a rapidity rarely equaled; and the Government, which, throughout the preceding month, had been defending itself as best it could against importunities and entreaties to be allowed to furnish a regiment here or a battery

1 Gen. McDowell, in his official report, in giving his reasons for fighting as and when he did, says:

I could not, as I have said more early, push on faster, nor could I delay. A large and the best part of my forces were three months volunteers, whose term of service was about to expire, but who were sent forward as having long enough to serve for the purpose of the expedition. On the eve of the battle, the 4th Pennsylvania regiment of volunteers, and the battery of volunteer artillery of the New York 8th militia, whose term of service expired, insisted on their discharge. I wrote to the regiment, expressing a request for them to remain a short time; and the Hon. Secretary of War, who was at the time on the ground, tried to induce the battery to remain at least five days. But in vain. They insisted on their discharge that night. It was granted: and, the next morning, when the army moved forward into battle, these troops moved to the rear to the sound of the enemy's cannon.

In the next few days, day by day, I should have lost ten thousand of the best armed, drilled, officered, and disciplined troops in the army. In other words, every day, which added to the strength of the enemy, made us weaker.

It should here be added, that a member of the Now York battery aforesaid, who was most earnest and active in opposing Gen. McDowell's request, and insisting on an immediate discharge, was, at the ensuing election, in full view of all the facts, chosen Sheriff of the city of New-York--probably the most lucrative office filled by popular election in the country.

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Irwin McDowell (2)
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