all the aids that practised ingenuity could suggest.
Such a defeat could be borne without dishonor, and without material effect on the issue of a campaign.
If it had been received by disciplined troops, they would probably have retired to a safe distance for the night, and renewed the attempt the next day, with a victory as the gross result.
The apparent magnitude of the calamity, that which makes it look overwhelming, is due to the unnecessary and disorderly flight.
The best troops in the world are liable to panics, but the liability is infinitely greater with raw levies, abounding in patriotic zeal and native courage, but necessarily wanting in cohesion and self-reliance.
It is remarkably easy now to point out several blunders which are fairly responsible for the defeat; but, instead of assuming for ourselves the credit of the discovery, we will assign it to a quarter where it had at least the honor of being prior to the event.
The New York Times
, in an article published the day before the battle, distinctly pointed out the circumstances which might justify the prediction of an untoward result.
In truth, it was a foolhardy step to hurl untried troops against a position of unknown strength, and which turned out to be an amphitheatre of masked batteries, supported by an overwhelming force of the enemy.
In such a game, all the advantages are on the side of the defence.
To the assailants, nothing was likelier than a defeat, and with an army so heterogeneous in its composition, imperfectly disciplined, and officered by yesterday's civilians, a defeat was certain to end in something worse — a universal break — up and pell-mell rout.
In the delirious excitement which followed, the disaster was no doubt greatly exaggerated.
It was gradually found out that all the men were not slaughtered, that all the artillery was not taken, and that regiments which presented a miserably broken appearance on the morning after the battle, soon filled up their ranks as the runaways came in. The affair was a fight and a scamper, the scamper being unquestionably the worst part of it. The consequence of the disaster will be lamentable, no doubt, chiefly by protracting the war, and exciting intenser passions on both sides; but to describe it as an “Austerlitz
,” is a blunder only possible to those who sacrifice accuracy to a taste for grandiloquence.
After such a disaster, recrimination naturally rules the hour.
The great question is, Whom shall we hang?
Of course a victim will be found, even if justice itself expires in the effort to make its own award.
The gentleman who is likeliest to figure as culprit-in-chief is Gen. Patterson
, who commanded the troops at Harper's Ferry
, and whose special business it was to give an account of Gen. Johnston
, the rebel commander, who was at the head of 25,000 men. The favorite theory is, that the junction of Gen. Johnston
's troops with those of Gen. Beauregard
, on the 21st, decided the fortune of the day, and that if Gen. Patterson
had done his duty, that unpropitious junction would have been avoided.
It is the old tale of Grouchy
Every Frenchman knows that if Grouchy
had not been culpably negligent, Blucher
would never have been able to come to the assistance of Wellington
, who in that case would have been beaten hollow.
The theory is very natural, since it interposes an “if” as a shield against the dishonor of defeat, but there is something to be said against it. In the first place, Gen. Johnston
was known to have joined the main army of the rebels long before the fight on the 21st, so that the advantage thus acquired by the enemy was foreseen.
It is the same as if Blucher
, instead of arriving at Waterloo
at 4 o'clock on the afternoon of the 18th June, 1815, had joined Wellington
the day before, and Napoleon
had known that he had two enemies to contend against instead of one--a circumstance which would have made all the difference.
In the next place, before blaming Gen. Patterson
, we ought to ask whether he was in a position to do all that was required of him. The same journal which censures him so loudly, tells us of his success on the 15th, and adds that his men were so mutinous for want of shoes and other necessaries, that he had to appeal to them in the most pathetic terms to stand by him, and not forsake the flag of the Union
, but without success.
If this is true, it is arrant injustice to blame him. We trust our Northern friends will not copy the Carthaginians, by crucifying a general just because he is unsuccessful.
That will be a sorry way of mending their misfortune.
The advance on Manassas Gap was doubtless imprudent, and has turned out most unfortunate; but the people were in favor of it — they demanded it, they howled for it. They had their way, and they have been taught a lesson.
Their sole business is to improve it. If they are wise, magnanimous, and brave men, they will not make this misfortune more ignoble by wrangling over it, but try to find in defeat the discipline and patience which lead to victory.--Manchester Examiner
Reply to the London times on American Democracy.
A new and singular charge is brought against “unlimited Democracy.”
We are told that it does not furnish the “slightest security against the worst of wars,” the proof being the civil war in the United States
We must observe at the outset, that the writer's superlatives are sadly at fault.
War, it is true, has broken out between the North
and the South
, but, for any thing that is urged to the contrary, this catastrophe may have happened in spite of the sagest precautions and the strongest securities that human wisdom could suggest.
It may be that under any other form of government known to the world, the Americans
would have been fighting twenty years ago, end that civil strife has been delayed so long simply because of the palliative and remedial tendencies of Democratic institutions.