not value need not heed them; while the critical student will often find them of decided use. Should any one demur to this, I urge him to examine thoughtfully the dates of the dispatches received and sent by McClellan
between his retreat to Harrison
's bar and Pope
's defeat at Groveton
; also, those given in my account of his movements from the hour of his arrival at Frederick
to that of Lee
's retreat from Sharpsburg
across the Potomac
I trust it will be observed by candid critics that, while I seek not to disguise the fact that I honor and esteem some of our commanders as I do not others, I have been blind neither to the errors of the former nor to the just claims of the latter — that my high estimation of Grant
(for instance) has not led me to conceal or soften the lack of reasonable precautions which so nearly involved their country in deplorable if not irremediable disaster at Pittsburg Landing
So with Banks
's mishap at Sabine Cross-roads and Butler
's failure at Fort Fisher
On the other hand, I trust my lack of faith in such officers as Buell
and Fitz John Porter
has not led me to represent them as incapable or timorous soldiers.
What I believe in regard to these and many more of their school is, that they were misplaced — that they halted between their love of country and their traditional devotion to Slavery — that they clung to the hope of a compromise which should preserve both Slavery and
, long after all reasonable ground of hope had vanished; fighting the Rebellion
with gloved hands and relaxed sinews because they mistakenly held that so only was the result they sighed for (deeming it most beneficent) to be attained.
If the facts do not justify my conviction, I trust they will be found so fairly presented in the following pages as to furnish the proper corrective for my errors.
Without having given much heed to rival issues, I presume this volume will be found to contain accounts (necessarily very brief) of many minor actions and skirmishes which have been passed unheeded by other historians, on the assumption that, as they did not perceptibly affect the great issue, they are unworthy of record.
But the nature and extent of that influence is matter of opinion, while the qualities displayed in these collisions were frequently deserving of grateful remembrance.
And, beside, an affair of outposts or foraging expeditions has often exerted a most signal influence over the spirits of two great antagonist armies, and thus over the issues of a battle, and even of a campaign.
Compressed within the narrowest limits, I have chosen to glance at nearly every conflict of armed forces, and to give time to these which others have devoted to more elaborate and florid descriptions of great battles.
It has been my aim to compress within the allotted space the greatest number of notable facts arid circumstances; others must judge how fully this end has been achieved.
Doubtless, many errors of fact, and some of judgment, are embodied in the following pages: for, as yet, even the official reports, &c., which every historian of this war must desire to study, are but partially accessible.
I have missed especially the Confederate
reports of the later campaigns; only a few of which have been made public, though many more, it is probable, will in time be. Some of these may have been destroyed at the hasty evacuation of Richmond
; but many must have been preserved, in manuscript if not in print, and will yet see the light.
So far as they were attainable, I have used the reports of Confederate officers as freely as those of their antagonists, and have accorded them nearly if not quite equal credit.
I judge that the habit of understating or concealing their losses was more prevalent with Confederate than with Union commanders; in over-estimating the numbers they resisted, I have not been able to perceive