widely from that of his subordinates who spent the Winter in camp in Virginia
, while he remained snugly housed in Washington
, who saw and (until forbidden) questioned the ‘contrabands’ and other deserters who came within our lines from Centerville
and vicinity that Autumn
, was confident that 60,000 was the highest number they ever had encamped in our front; and these we might have assailed at a day's notice with 120,000; and, by taking three days for preparation, with 150,000.
The weather was magnificent; the roads hard and dry, till far into Winter.
An artillery officer wonderingly inquired: “What is such weather for
, if not fighting?.”
The loyal masses — awed by the obloquy heaped on those falsely accused of having caused the disaster at Bull Run
by their ignorant impatience and precipitancy — stood in silent expectation.
They still kept raising regiment after regiment, battery after battery, and hurrying them forward to the allingulfing Army of the Potomac, to be in time for the decided movement that must be just at hand — but the torrent was there drowned in a lake of Lethean stagnation.
First, we were waiting for reenforcements — which was most reasonable; then, for the requisite drilling and fitting for service — which was just as helpful to the Rebels
as to us; then, for the leaves to fall — so as to facilitate military movements in a country so wooded and broken as Virginia
; then, for cannon — whereof we had already more than 200 first-rate field-guns in Virginia
, ready for instant service: and so the long, bright Autumn, and the colder but still favorable December, wore heavily away, and saw nothing of moment attempted.
Even the Rebel
batteries obstructing the lower Potomac were not so much as menaced — the Navy laying the blame on the Army; the Army throwing it back on the Navy — probably both right, or, rather, both wrong: but the net result was nothing done; until the daily repetition of the stereotyped telegraphic bulletin, “All quiet on the Potomac
” --which had at first been received with satisfaction; afterward with complacency; at length evoked a broad and general roar of disdainful merriment.
And so, Winter at last settled down upon that vast, gallant, most effective army, Two Hundred Thousand strong, able and ready, on any fair field, to bear down at a charge all the Rebels
in their front without coming to a stand; yet lying thus beleaguered and paralyzed, shivering and dying in the tents to which they had been so suddenly transferred from their comfortable homes — not allowed to build themselves huts, such as the Rebels
had, because that would reveal to the country the fact that nothing was to be attempted till Spring or later; expecting, hoping every day to receive the long-awaited order to advance; but seeing night after night close in without it; and sinking into homesickness and disease, which employment for body and mind would readily have repelled and dissipated.
Is this obstinate fixity, this rooted neglect and waste of the grandest opportunities, explicable?
Not by the hypothesis of a constitutional aversion to the shedding of blood — that is, of other men's — on the part of our “Young Napoleon
;” for he was at that moment among the most eager