on the night of the 12th of June, the Federal
army began its march to the south side of the James
had at first been of the opinion that the south side of the James
was the best position for attack, and doubtless his north side experience had made this opinion a positive conviction.
Says his chronicler: ‘The march of fifty-five miles across the peninsula was made in two days, and with perfect success.’
Surely after so much unsuccessful fighting, the Federal
commander is entitled to all praise for this successful marching.
The overland campaign was at an end. To the Federal
army it had been a campaign of bloody repulses, and even when a gleam of success seemed to dawn upon it for a moment (as at the plank road on May 6th, and at Spotsylvania
on the morning of the 12th), it was speedily extinguished in blood, and immediate disaster covered over the face of their rising star of victory.
Says the historian of the Army of the Potomac: ‘So gloomy was the military outlook after the action of the Chickahominy
, that there was at this time great danger of the collapse of the war. The history of this conflict, truthfully written, will show this.
Had not success elsewhere come to brighten the horizon, it would have been difficult to have raised new forces to recruit the Army of the Potomac, which, shaken in its structure, its valor quenched in blood and thousands of its ablest officers killed and wounded, was the Army of the Potomac no more.’
In a foot-note to this he adds: ‘The archives of the State Department, when one day made public, will show how deeply the Government
was affected by the want of military success, and to what resolutions the Executive
had in consequence come.’
That the morale
of General Lee
's army was high at this time there can be no doubt.
The strain of continuous bloody fighting at Spotsylvania
had been great; but the campaigns of the North Anna
had given them much more repose.
They were conscious of the success of the campaign, and were on better rations than they had been for a long time.
The fat bacon and (Weathersfield
?) onions brought in at that time from Nassau
were very cheering to the flesh, and the almost prodigal charity with which several brigades contributed their rations to the suffering poor of Richmond
was a striking incident in the story of these days on the Chickahominy
But cheerful and in high spirits though they were, there was a sombre tinge to the soldier wit in our thinned ranks which expressed itself in the homely phrase, ‘What is the use of killing these Yankees?
it is like killing mosquitoes—two come for every one you kill.’