December and its results.
--The developments of the last four weeks of the war have been the most remarkable that have occurred during its entire progress.
The beginning of December saw the Yankees
in full force, apparently ready for decisive battle, at all the important points of the frontier.
On the Potomac
they had the best appointed army on the Continent, stated by their own authorities to be two hundred thousand strong.
they had massed together two immense forces, of thirty to fifty thousand each, which menaced Columbus
and Bowling Green
; and all the indications pointed with certainly to an immediate advance upon our lines; at a time when we were weak, and were poorly able to withstand assault from heavy columns.
was pressed before Cumberland Gap
by a force more than double his own; Pound Gap
was at the mercy of Nelson
, having only a thousand men to oppose against ten thousand; Rosencranz
was on the Gauley
with an army which he now confesses to have been fifteen thousand strong, against Floyd
, having only twenty-three hundred, Reynolds
was on Cheat Mountain
with five thousand, opposed by Johnson
with only twelve or fourteen hundred; and Sherman
had succeeded in landing fifteen or twenty thousand men at Beaufort
, while we had in that region at the time but a few thousand forces, little better than militia, poorly provided with arms and ammunition.
And to crown all, the splendid weather invited them to the charge.
Then was presented the golden opportunity to strike at every one of these points.
Bold, effective blows, stricken then simultaneously by all their armies, could not have failed to crush our strength in several quarters, and put a gloomy face upon our affairs.
Success at Columbus
and Bowling Green
would have been almost annihilating to our fortunes in the West
Success at Cumberland
and Pound Gaps
would have cut our connections with Tennessee
Success in capturing our army in the Kanawha
would have laid open all middle Western Virginia
next spring to the easy invasion of the enemy.
A vigorous push from Beaufort
upon the Charleston and Savannah Railroad would have separated those two cities, and cut our army of the seaboard in two.
But the enemy have let the golden opportunity slip through their fingers.
They have allowed us time to make good our defences in every threatened quarter.
The energy of the Southern
people has been aroused by the imminent danger, and we are now safe in every point where before we were so vulnerable.
Our danger is passed, and we are now at liberty to speculate upon the blindness or imbecility which prevented the enemy from using an opportunity which will never return to him.
To what cause is the enemy's failure everywhere to advance attributable?
It clearly was not due to the want of men, to the want of supplies, or to the want of preparation in facilities of every character.
No troops were ever better armed, better clothed, or better furnished with provisions and ammunition.
This was not over the case with particular corps, but was case with all. And yet, though fully proceed for effective operations though the whole world was expecting heavy blows to be struck and decisive results to be achieved, their armies everywhere either remained stock still, or ignominiously and most strangely and suddenly stampeded from an imaginary and non-pursuing foe.
There can be but one solution for this most strange phenomenon.
do not enlist to fight; they enlist only to draw pay. The cessation of Southern trade having put a stop to their factories and mechanical trades, the operatives have had no other means of livelihood than enlistment; the clerks and foremen have, under the same necessity, taken lieutenancies and captaincies; and the bosses are forced to play colonels.
They have all gone into the army as a means of livelihood and without any sort of intention to throw away their lives.
They took to the army to keep body and soul together, and without the remotest thought of employing that method for separating the two.
Accordingly, when McClellan
orders and advance from the Potomac
, as he is said to have done repeatedly, these well fed, well clothed, well paid and salaried men of war persistently do not march.
So in Kentucky
, where they had every opportunity for a victory; and so at Beaufort
, when the panic created by their landing invited an advance.
All around the frontier they exhibit this same frugal regard for life and comfort, and the same stolid immobility under orders for an advance.
We regard the last four weeks as decisive of the war, not merely by its results, or rather barrenness of results-favorable to the enemy, but by its clear development of the fact that the Yankees
have enlisted in the army for a living and with a fixed objection to hard fighting.