214 1/2.-the war in America.
It is a very proper prudence which restrains speakers and writers on both sides the Atlantic
from answering the question, “What next?”
in regard to the war and its prospects.
We are glad to see that the disinclination to prophesy is on the increase; and that the Northern
newspapers and letter-writers seem to be on their guard against the folly of disparaging their enemy.
They have a warning, by what they read in Southern reports, of the mischief and danger of brag of their own prowess, and ignorant contempt of an untried antagonist.
We, at this distance, can only wait to see what happens.
But there is no reason why we should not, and every reason why we should, gather together such facts as are within our knowledge, bearing upon the present conditions of the struggle, in order to obtain some idea of how matters are likely to go. While awaiting news of the first clash of arms, or other kind of exploit, we may review the leading considerations of the case.
The main considerations seem to us to be four.
The first in importance is the question of the strength of the Union party in the Slave States
The Washington Cabinet declares, from its special sources of information, that the Union party is strong in every region of the South
leaders insist that the whole South
is united as one man in favor of Secession.
Newspapers tell us, on the one hand, that the whole South
is a chaos of factions, and on the other, that it is a scene of perfect fraternity.
We can learn nothing by authority or hearsay, it is clear.
But there are now facts to judge by. Thus far, in every State in which opinion could express itself, the Union party has proved so strong as to neutralize the action of the Secessionist authorities.
, in Missouri
, in Kentucky
, in Virginia
, and in Maryland
, and now in Louisiana
, there is enough loyalty to the Washington Government
to cause a virtual split in each State, resembling that of the Republic
If, in every case in which opinion can declare itself, there is a strong opposition to Secession, it is reasonable to suppose that the same thing will appear in the other States, as soon as they can get leave to speak; and at all events we perceive that it is not true that the desire for Secession is universal.
All the gentry who have effected their escape from the plantations bear testimony to the forcible repression of opinion by the dominant “faction,” as they call it, in their respective neighborhoods;
and in fact no doubt remains of there for being a strong antagonism of parties in the Slave States
--a circumstance important in the highest degree to the prospects of the war. If Virginia
, and Missouri
are divided between allegiance and Secession, the probability is that other Slave States are also divided.
At all events, while opinion is not free, the Montgomery Government
cannot be entitled to affirm that they are not.
In the second place, it is known with clearness and certainty, that there is a serious deficiency of food in the Slave States
For many years it has ceased to be true that the South
excelled the North
in agricultural production — even including cotton and tobacco in the estimate; and of late the cereal growth of the Western Free States
has increased prodigiously, while, in the South
, great expanses of corn land have been given over to cotton growing, though food was brought down from the Northwest
Northern food products have for some years been on sale in every Southern city.
At present there is severe scarcity — amounting in some places to famine — in Mississippi
; and we have seen before what efforts have been made to obtain grain and other food on credit since the winter.
The Federal forces and the loyalists of Illinois
now hold the passage of the Mississippi
, aided by Missouri
loyalists, and no cargoes can pass Cairo
The blockade by sea being by this time complete, it is difficult to see how the war can be supported while the Southern
corn crop is growing.
Strong appeals, we observe, are made to the planters to grow corn instead of cotton this year; but, beside that the crops have to grow, there is no getting any work done on the plantations.
The owners are summoned to the war, with all sons above sixteen; and even their overseers are not often allowed to remain, however strong are the remonstrances of the proprietors.
Thus, left to the management of old gentlemen, boys, or ladies, and taking advantage of the general excitement, the negroes are beginning to make holiday; and if the community depends on them for its food, it is likely to suffer hunger.
Whatever may be the fact about the existing supply in particular places, the fact of dearth in any one State, while all access to food markets is cut off, points to a short duration of the war.
In the third place, there is the question of the negroes, free and bond.
In the South
the free negroes are anxiously and peremptorily summoned to the war. Their money is invested in Southern loans, and they are put under drill as soldiers, or set to work on fortifications.
Their zeal is extolled in the newspapers, but their Northern kindred well understand that they are thus to be kept out of mischief.
There is little expectation of seeing them on any battle-field; but if they appear, it will not be, their kindred say, to fight with their best friends.
In the free States the people of color are eager to help on the loyal side.
They have for many weeks past formed themselves into companies, and got themselves drilled and armed — refused at present a place in the loyal forces, but resolved to be ready for the call, which they believe will come.
The authorities of Pennsylvania
have refused a passage through their State to companies of free negroes from New England
and New York; but the black volunteers extend their organization week by week.
They are not a very large element in the population; but they avow their determination to offer themselves to a man, leaving only the infirm and children out of their training system.
They certainly believe that the question is that of the abolition of Slavery; and their preparation has the religious fervor and solemnity which befit such an occasion as the redemption of their race.
Under such circumstances, the mood of the slaves becomes a very interesting inquiry.
Thus far, the most certain fact is, that wherever any Federal force has appeared, slaves have deserted to them at every opportunity.
Hitherto, they have been all returned.
It was so in Maryland
, and it was so in Florida
; and we hear the same story from every station of the United States troops.
After the first collision in the field there will be an end of returning deserters; and the fugitives will be too useful as guides and aids to be slighted.
The despatch of Governor Andrew
, of Massachusetts
, shows the changing feeling of the North
on this point of policy.
It is asserted with so much detail as to have every appearance of truth, that mounted bands are trained in various States, and especially in the North-west, for the purpose of running off slaves, and, if necessary, of raising them in insurrection.
We hear of an insurrection in Kentucky
; and whether it is true or not we shall hear of more, both because the owners are always fancying plots, and because the slaves seize every occasion of relaxed supervision to help themselves to what it pleases them to take and to do. At present the known facts are that the free blacks are prepared to take a part in the war, and that there is a purpose on the part of these blacks and their friends to use the opportunity for putting an end to the captivity of their race.
There are incidents connected with this which lead us to the fourth consideration.
The fourth consideration is of the quality of the Southern
What sort of soldiers the Northern
men will make we can hardly judge by facts.
It is the boast of the South
that the force for the Mexican
war was furnished chiefly by that section; and the assertion is ratified by the Northern
boast that the free States supplied a very small force to that atrocious war, and that that contingent consisted mainly of the adventurer class, who are always sent away to a distance with great alacrity.
Except in the Seminole
war in Florida
, the Northern
men have hardly appeared in the field at all, and there they contrasted most favorably with the Southern
They little knew what
they went for. They were unaware that the object of the so-called war was the capture of escaped slaves, together with the children of negro women who had mated with Indians
, on the Southern
plea that the children follow the fortunes of the mother.
When the truth came out, the heart-burning in the North
was sore enough to account, with other like provocations, for the present conflict.
Parents and all society mourned the young men slaughtered by Indians in the swamps in such a cause.
But the troops made themselves a reputation for spirit and discipline which has never been rivalled by Southern soldiery.
When we hear of the military genius of the South
, we naturally turn to what we know.
We know something of the Mexican
war, of which they make their boast.
We know what a miserable enemy they had there; and we know what a miserable hand they made of several of the enterprises of the campaign.
There is testimony enough to prevent its being ever forgotten that the commanders were at their wits' ends to get their troops out and home again, and what to do with them while abroad.
In the absence of discipline on the one hand, and of due legal authority on the other, offences were constantly occurring which there were no proper means of dealing with; and punishments were inflicted which disgusted every foreigner in the force, (and there were many immigrants from Europe
.) Soldiers were tied neck and knees together, and set down by the roadside, to be mocked by the troops marching past.
Whatever could break a man's spirit or torture his passions was invented to supply the deficiency of authority; and the troops grew wilder every day. When ordered to pursue the enemy they piled their arms and went to play.
When appointed to any service, as part of a scheme, they announced that they were going home; and the commanders cursed the very name of volunteers.
The practical question now is whether that boasted Southern army and the present are at all of the same quality.
All that we can know is that that army must be composed of certain elements.
The slaveholders are a mere handful of men; and of them we know that very few are likely to fight their Northern kindred and customers with any relish.
The non-slaveholders are the largest element; and they showed their quality in Mexico
and in Kansas
The better part, in the Kansas
case, went over to Northern views as soon as they learned what they were; and the worse portion were a mere banditti.
The free blacks will hardly be sent North
It is announced that the Indians of three tribes have offered their services to the Confederacy
; but they will be employed near home, no doubt, if at all. It is impossible to foresee what the campaign will be like, in circumstances so singular; but we may remember, while awaiting news, that the military reputation of the South
, such as it is, has been gained in fields where there was no honor to win; and that the Southern
vaunt is of the bravery, and not of the discipline, of the so-called chivalry.
On the whole, these four considerations seem to point to a not distant conclusion, and to a desultory kind of conflict meantime.
Tidings may be on the way to contradict or to confirm this view; but the facts on which it is founded seem to be as clear in their substance as they are serious in their significance.--London News
, May 29.