There probably never was a military disaster, of which the importance was more unduly magnified, than that of the 21st of July in front of Manassas
After a severe and protracted encounter between the two armies, which, it is admitted, was about to terminate in a drawn battle, if not even in favor of the United States
, the Confederates
were largely reinforced, a panic arose on the part of the teamsters and civilians following in the train of our forces, the alarm gradually spread to the troops, a retreat commenced, and ended in a general rout.
The losses of the enemy in the mean time were equal to our own; he was unable to pursue our flying regiments, and they reoccupied, unmolested, the positions from which (from political reasons, and against the judgment of the Commander-in-chief
) the premature advance was made.
A month has since elapsed; the army of the United States has passed through the terrible ordeal of the return of the three months men, which began simultaneously with the disaster of the 21st of July, and in spite of the disheartening effect of that disaster and the confidence it was so well calculated to inspire on the part of the Confederates
, our military position is stronger now than it was before the inauspicious event.
Had this occurred in a campaign in Europe
, where it is not the custom to cloud the outskirts of an advancing army with a host of curious non-combatants, even if the military retreat had taken place at all, (which without the civilians' panic might not have happened,) the account given of the day would probably have been that which Mr. Russell
, while ignorant of the disaster behind, gave to the affrighted fugitives whom he encountered toward its close: “Oh, it's a drawn battle.
The troops are reoccupying the position from which they started in the morning.”
Unhappily the next night's mails were loaded with accounts, not of course intentionally exaggerated, but written under the influence of the same panic which had indefinitely aggravated, if it did not cause, the disaster.
From the necessity of the case, the civilians being in the rear of the forces engaged, the disorderly retreat, and finally the panic rout of the forces was all of which they could have been the eye-witnesses, and in their accounts, accordingly, these disastrous events occupy the chief place, to the exclusion of the military operations of the day. These operations extended over a space of several miles, and the commanding officers
themselves were unable for some days to make a full and accurate report of them.
During my residence in London
, I had several
very interesting conversations with the Duke
on the subject of the battle of Waterloo
. One of them took place in the ball-room at Devonshire House, as we stood watching the dancers.
He informed me that he had lately received a letter from a person about to write an account of the great battle, asking some information as to its details.
“I answered him,” said the Duke
, “that by comparing and studying the almost innumerable printed descriptions of the battle, English, French, and German, a man of sense could acquire a better knowledge of it at the present day than any body, even the commander-in-chief
, could get at the time, from personal observation.
Suppose any one,” he added, “should ask us to-morrow morning to describe the position and movements of all the groups of dancers in this small space before us, we should not be able to report any thing beyond what concerned a few of the more prominent personages on the floor.
Much less can any individual observation extend to the detailed movements of numerous bodies of men extended over several miles.”
If such was the modest reserve with which so consummate a chief as Wellington
habitually spoke of his personal knowledge of the details of the great event of his life — the memorable engagement fought under his own orders — how little can be expected of the most intelligent and active spectator, who necessarily occupies a post of safe observation, who is borne away in a tumultuous retreat, and writes a hurried report by the next mail!
There is reason to think that, though the United States forces engaged on the 21st of July under almost every conceivable disadvantage--(raw troops to a great extent, whose term of service was expiring, coming under fire for the first time, after a weary march beneath a blazing sun, contending on strange ground with fresh opponents sheltered by field-works, that had been in course of construction for weeks)--nothing happened beyond the average ill-luck of unsuccessful battles.
If such battles, instead of being described from carefully returned official returns, were habitually narrated in glowing newspaper reports from the first impressions of civilians who have hovered in the rear of the army, they would, I apprehend, in most cases exhibit similar scenes of panic and disorder.
After the fate of Wagram
was decided by the retreat of the Archduke Charles
, and Napoleon
had retired to rest for the night, he was roused by an alarm which seemed of the most formidable character.
The rear of his victorious army was thrown into confusion.
Artillery, baggage-wagons, stragglers, and camp followers fled in disorder toward the Danube
The plain was covered with fugitives, the entrance to the bridges was blocked up with carriages, and many, even after crossing the river, continued their flight, and never halted till they were safe within the walls of Vienna
“The alarm,” says Alison
, “spread like wildfire from rank to rank; the Guard even was shaken; the victors for a moment doubted the fate of the day. The ranks presented the appearance of a general rout, and yet the whole was occasioned by a single squadron of the Archduke John
's cavalry, which had been far advanced toward Wagram
, and seeking to regain, as he retired, the road to Presburg, had cut down some French marauders in one of the villages on the east of the field.”
Such was the effect of panic on the veterans of Napoleon
, reposing in his presence after a mighty victory!
Justly does the same historian exclaim, “Experience in every age has demonstrated, that, after the protracted excitement of a great battle, the bravest soldiers become unstrung, and at such a moment the attack of a few fresh troops often produces the most extraordinary results.
It is this which has so often chained success to the effort of a reserve in the close of an obstinately disputed day; which made Kellerman's charge at Marengo
snatch victory from the grasp of the triumphant Austrians
; and the onset of Sir Hussey Vivian
's brigade, on the flank of the old guard at Waterloo
, overthrow at once the military fabric of the French
But it will be said, Gen. McDowell
's army was not only worsted, it fled in wild disorder from the field.
I apprehend most defeated armies do that.
The Roman veterans of the army of Pompeius
did it at the battle of Pharsalia, and when those of them who had escaped to the neighboring mountain capitulated the next day, they threw down their arms, and wept as they begged for their lives.
A greater than Pompeius
was vanquished at Waterloo
; but the French
writers all but unanimously claim that they had the advantage till the arrival of the Prussian reinforcement at the close of the day. Then, says the English
historian of the battle, “the whole French army became one mass of inextricable confusion.
was like the scene of an immense shipwreck, covered with a vast mass of cannon, caissons, carriages, baggage, arms, and articles of every kind.
All the efforts of the guard to stem the flight or arrest the progress of the victors were fruitless.
They were swept away by the torrent, which streamed in resistless force over the whole plain.
Never had such a rout been witnessed in modern war. * * * * Before the pursuit ceased, from the inability of the British
through absolute exhaustion to continue it, 150 pieces of cannon, 850 caissons, and 6,000 prisoners had been captured; and of the vast French army, that morning so brilliant, not two companies were to be found together. * * The Prussians
continued the pursuit during the whole night.
Seven times the wearied French
, ready to drop down, formed bivouacs; seven times they were roused by the dreadful sound of the Prussian trumpet, and obliged to continue their flight without intermission.
Such was the fatigue, that the greatest part of the
foot soldiers threw away their arms, and the cavalry utterly dispersing, rode every man for his life across the country.
The dejection was universal and extreme.
At Gemappe some resistance was attempted, and a brisk lire of musketry was kept up for a few minutes from behind a barricade of overturned cannon and carriages.
But a few shots from the Prussian horse artillery soon dispersed the enemy, and the town was taken amidst loud cheers, and with it Napoleon
's travelling carriage, private papers, hat, and sword.”
Let me remind the reader that this was the panic flight, not of volunteers, who that day heard the roar of hostile cannon for the first time; nor of young men fresh from their offices, counting-rooms, workshops, and farms; but of veterans seamed with the scars of a hundred battles; some of whom had followed the victorious eagles of the greatest of modern commanders from Cairo
The English press, with scarce an exception, finds in the recent panic at Bull Run
not merely a theme for the bitterest taunts, but the completion of the proof that “the bubble of democracy has burst.,” as if a drawn battle, or, if you please, an ignominious rout, suffered by an army of raw volunteers at the commencement of a war, proved any thing one way or another, in reference to the comparative stability of different forms of government.
What bubble burst when Charles Edward
, on the 25th of July, 1745, landed from “a little bark” of eighteen guns, (furnished by a private gentleman in France
,) on the western coast of Scotland
, for the conquest of Great Britain
, and the overthrow of the House of Brunswick
At the head of a handful of clansmen, of whom half were armed with scytes and bludgeons, the youthful adventurer marched upon the ancient capital of Scotland
— an object, one would have thought, to England
, in the middle of the last century, not so much of fear as of pity.
A monarchy consolidated by ages, whose virago queen two centuries before had brought the royal beauty of Scotland
to the block — whose armies, under Marlborough
, in the preceding generation, had humbled the pride of Louis XIV.
in the dust — quailed before an unbreeched rabble of two thousands men from the Highlands.
Panic fear marched in their van ; the royal army blundered up to the north, while the Pretender was hurrying southward; the gates of Edinburgh
flew open, and on tle 17th of September, just three weeks after his landing, the heir of the Stuarts was seated on the throne of his ancestors in Holyrood House. “That two thousand men,” wrote the Marquis
to Lord Milton, who had escaped from Edinburgh
, “and these the scum of two or three highland gentlemen, the Camerons, and a few tribes of the Macdonalds, should be able in so short a time to make themselves masters of Edinburgh
, is an event which, had it not happened, I should never have believed possible.”
“The panic,” says another letter, “wrought so powerfully on some, and worse
arguments on others, that the town is now in the hands of the rebels.”
What bubble burst, when the forces of the Pretender, a few days later, met the royal army at Preston
the numbers about equal, but the Highlanders
without artillery or cavalry, while the royalists were provided with both — troops that had triumphed under George II.
two years before, and had suffered a defeat scarcely less glorious than a triumph in the spring of this year, at the memorable battle of Fontenoy
At four in the morning the young Pretender roused himself from his pillow of pease straw, beneath the open canopy of heaven, and the fight began; and “in less than five minutes,” says the Chevalier de Johnstone
, who was in the battle, “we obtained a complete victory, with a terrible carnage on the part of the enemy.
It was gained with such rapidity, that in the second line, where I still was by the side of the Prince
, we saw no other enemy on the field of battle than those who were lying on the ground, killed and wounded, though we were not more than fifty paces behind our first line, running always as fast as we could to overtake them, and near enough never to lose sight of them.”
Not a bayonet was wet, nor is it in one battle out of a hundred.
Artillerymen and dragoons fled at the approach of the Highlanders
, who threw away their guns — those who had guns — and with terrific screams rushed on with the claymore.
“All remedies,” says Rolt, a royalist, “in every shape, were exerted by General Cope
and his brother officers, among whom was the Earl
, (afterward commander-in-chief in this country,) to regulate the disorder, but in vain.
Neither the example nor the entreaty of the officers could animate the dastardly dragoons to the charge; the other body of dragoons joined in the flight; they opprobriously fled without wielding their swords, through the town of Preston
A portion of the infantry made a momentary resistance under the brave Colonel Gardiner
, who, after the flight of the dragoons, dismounted and placed himself at the head of the foot, “where he gloriously perished.”
Like the noble Lyon
, the other day, in Missouri
, seeing a detachment of infantry fighting without a leader, he exclaimed, “These brave fellows will be cut to pieces for want of a commander,” placed himself in their front, cheered them on, and was soon cut in two with a Highland scythe.
Not above 170 of the royal infantry escaped, all the rest being killed or taken prisoners.
Twenty captains, twenty-four lieutenants, twenty-nine ensigns, with all the train of artillery, baggage, tents, colors, and military chest, containing £ 6,000, a valuable acquisition for the Pretender, who, as he had only two captains and thirty men killed, and eighty-three wounded, made a triumphal entry into Edinburgh
, carrying all the wounded prisoners, with the colors and baggage, in procession through the city, guarded by the Highlanders
, and attended
by all the bag-pipes of the rebel army, playing their favorite air, “The king shall enjoy his own again
As for Sir John Cope
, the commander-inchief, who had fought at Dettingen
, he contrived, with the aid of a white rose on his breast, which was the Pretender
's badge, to slip through the Highland clans with a few dragoons, and, escaping to Edinburgh
, dashed through the streets of the city at full gallop.
They were refused admission, as a pack of cowards, into the castle, by the stout governor, who held it for King George, and “seized with a fresh panic, went off again,” says Lord Stanhope, “at full speed towards Coldstream.
Even there they did not feel secure, but after a night's rest sought shelter behind the ramparts of Berwick
There they arrived in the most disgraceful disorder, and Sir John Cope
was received by his brother officer, Lord Mark Kerr
, with the sarcastic compliment, that he believed he was the first general on record who had carried the tidings of his own defeat.”
The three generals who commanded the royal forces, while England
lay under the paralyzing influence of a six months panic, were Sir John Cope
, Field Marshal Wade
, and General Hawley
Their respective shares, in the military operations, were commemorated by the wits of the day (after the danger was past
) in the following couplet:
Cope could not cope, nor Wade wade through the snow,
Nor Hawley haul his cannon to the foe.
What “bubble burst” when Charles Edward
, flashed with success, his little force now swelled to seven thousand, invaded England
, besieged and reduced Carlisle
, baffled Field Marshal Wade
, and reached Derby
on his way to London
“It certainly appears to me,” says Lord Stanhope in his interesting monograph on the “Forty-five,” “that the prince and his soldiers were right in their reluctance to retreat, and that, had they pursued their progress, they would, in all probability, have succeeded in their object.
A loyal writer,” (Fielding
, the great novelist,) “who was in London
at the time, declares that when the Highlanders
, by a most incredible march, got between the Duke
of Cumberland's army and the metropolis, they struck a terror into it, scarcely to be credited
An immediate rush was made upon the Bank of England, which,, it is said, only escaped bankruptcy by paying in sixpences, to gain time.
The shops were shut, public business for the most part suspended, and the restoration of the Stuarts, desired by some, but disliked by many more, was yet expected by all
as no improbable or distant occurrence.
, the premier, is believed to have hesitated whether he should not embrace the Pretender
's cause, and George the Second was said to have packed up his precious effects and sent them to the royal yacht, to be ready for a start.
The day on which the approach of the rebels to Derby
was made known in London
was long remembered as the Black Friday
, and Lord Stanhope sums up the matter with the opinion that if Charles (whose forces never exceeded 8,000, and these miserably armed and clothed, and unprovided with every thing requisite for success) had marched onward from Derby
, he would have gained the British
“It is true,” he adds, “I am far from thinking that he would long have held it.”
This may be or may not be, but one would think that, with the recent memory of events like these, our brethren beyond the water might moderate the scorn with which they comment on the panic of our volunteers, and hesitate before they infer from it that “the bubble of democracy has burst.”
I say “recent memory,” for Charles Edward
was born but thirty-six years before Farnham
, who was introduced to the Prince
, in Boston
, last October, and his wife was living in my time at Florence
, where she died in 1824.
, August 22.
--New York Ledger