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[99] Seven Years War against nearly all Europe. Alexander, Hannibal and Caesar in ancient days taught that numbers did not necessarily win battles.

The thought ignores Providence, and forgets the influences of moral forces in the work of war. All history sustains the profound philosopher, who declared that other maxim. ‘In war the moral is to the physical as three to one,’ and that maxim fights for the invaded against the invader.

The history of Western Europe did not allow the conclusion that it would respect the thin blockade which prevented the exchange of our great products in the markets of the world, and kept from us money, supplies and munitions which could not be had at home.

There was reasonable hope, if the contest long continued, that the interests and rivalries of the outside world would raise up allies for us, as in the Revolution of our fathers.1

History taught that critical periods always arise in such a struggle, when military disaster or great sacrifice paralyze a representative government in carrying on a long war of invasion.2

1 The seizure of Mason and Slidell from an English vessel on the high seas, and the irritations and complications growing out of the French occupation of Mexico, came near involving the United States in conflict with those powers. The thin, almost ‘paper’ blockades, maintained for a time on parts of the Southern coast, afforded constant provocations of trouble with the outside world, and so also of questions with foreign powers, which recognized the Confederate States as ‘belligerents,’ as to allowing our privateers to remain in their ports, the sale of the ships, munitions of war, &c., &c., as where the Wachusetts attacked and captured the privateer Florida in the Brazilian port of Bahia.

2 Such crises more than once threatened to bring invasion to a halt, during the last two years of the war.

In 1863 there was intense opposition to the draft and the methods of President Lincoln's administration, both in the East and in the West. The terrible draft riots in New York city occurred while Meade was yet about Gettysburg. Had he been defeated there, the Government would have been compelled to call back its invading columns to enable it to maintain itself at home and save its capital. Such a result, a practical defensive, in the third year of the war, would have so greatly impaired, if not destroyed, the credit of the Government, and so strengthened the opposition at home, that it would have been impossible to fill the depleted armies, or successfully prosecute further invasion.

Another still more critical period arose in the latter part of the summer of 1864. In the spring of that year the Confederates had crushed an invading force in Florida, and practically ended the seige of Charleston. Banks had been defeated with great loss in his Red river campaign, and Sherman, after the defeat of his cavalry, compelled to fall back from his attempted invasion of Mississippi, and Hoke had captured Plymouth, and expelled the enemy from North Carolina, while the Confederates had met with no corresponding back-sets.

Sherman had penetrated near Atlanta, but with considerable loss, and his ability to either capture the city or destroy Johnston's army was doubted, while few thought he could long maintain himself so far inland, and many believed he must finally retreat, which he could not do without great disaster. Grant had sustained fearful losses in the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania, at Cold Harbor, in assaults on Petersburg, and at the Mine explosion. The Confederates still holding Grant at arm's length before Richmond, had invaded Maryland, and thrown an army up to the very walls of Washington, driven Hunter from Lynchburg, defeated Seigel in the Valley, and bottled up Butler at Bermuda Hundreds.

To the popular conception of the North, the invading armies appeared at this time as far, if not farther, from accomplishing their task than in 1862, and there was great and almost universal despondency as to the final result of the war in the Northern mind. The depreciation of the currency was very great, and the strain of the war also added to the general feeling of despair. The Confederate cruisers had destroyed the United States merchant marine and practically driven it from the high seas. To cap it all, came another of the interminable succession of drafts, demanding half a million more men to fill up the depleted armies, which still further fed public discontent and aroused most bitter opposition to further war of invasion.

Halleck, who was then Chief of Staff at Washington, writes Grant that alarming combinations were forming in several Northern States to resist the draft. He says: ‘The draft must be enforced, for otherwise the army can not be kept up, but to enforce it may require the withdrawal of a considerable number of troops from the field. I call your attention to it now that you may make your arrangements accordingly.’ ‘Are not appearances such that we “ought to take in sail, and prepare for a storm.” ’ Grant, on the 15th day of August, replies that the loyal governors must enforce the draft with their militia. ‘If we are to draw troops from the field to keep the loyal States in harness, it will prove difficult to suppress the rebellion in the disloyal States. My withdrawal from the James would ensure the defeat of Sherman.’ A week before Grant had written Sherman about reinforcing him, concurring in the latter's view ‘about showing no despondency,’ and expressing the opinion, ‘we must win, if not defeated at home.’ At that time, probably, a majority of the voters at the North felt that war as a means of saving the Union was a failure, and the morale of the armies in the field were affected by the action of this opinion from their homes. Grant says, Memoirs, Volume II, page 167, ‘Anything that could have prolonged the war a year beyond the time it did fairly close, would probably have exhausted the North to such an extent that they might then have abandoned the contest, and agreed to a separation.’

All sources show that at this time there was great danger of a complete collapse of the war spirit of the North, and if the military successes at Atlanta and Winchester and Cedar Creek in September and October had not opportunely come to Mr. Lincoln's rescue just before the presidential election of November following, the ‘Peace Party’ would have prevailed. Indeed, even after the fall of Atlanta, if Early, whose army had so nearly crushed Sheridan's on the 19th of October, had been able to finish the work, and to again invade Maryland and bring his army before Washington, it needs no seer to predict its effect on the Northern mind, or the change it would have produced in the presidential election. As it was over a million and a half of voters at the North expressed their dissatisfaction at the conduct of the war, and a desire in preference to save the Union by negotiations.

It admits of little doubt, if Sherman had been held off at Atlanta as Grant was at Richmond, and Early had been able to maintain his hold of the Valley, until after November 6th, that the public opinion at the North would have destroyed the power of the government to continue a war of invasion. On such slender threads depend the fate of nations, and the chances of war give rise to many of them in a long contest such as ours was.

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