Re-enlistment or volunteers.
--The public mind has been puzzled for a solution of McClellan
's long-continued inaction upon the Potomac
That he has a large and well appointed army is a well ascertained fact.
More than five months have elapsed since the battle of Manassas
More than five months, a period long enough to begin and finish a modern European
war, and of course affording time, with ample opportunity, to reorganize armies, develops immense resources, and reanimate drooping courage.
For three month the North
has had a force at Washington
which, according to its own account, outnumbered our own two to one, which has had abundant time for discipline, and has at its command an immense amount and infinite variety of arms, ammunition, and equipments of war. And yet, whilst the winter has thus far been the mildest on record, whilst the roads have been as firm and smooth as in midsummer, whilst this delightful weather has presented a daily invitation of "Come on"--the Federal
army continues to lie sluggish, torpid, and motionless, behind its entrenchments on the Potomac
‘"If you are coming, why don't you come along?"’
Amongst the variety of speculations upon the real cause of this long-continued delay, the theory is gaining ground that McClellan
does not intend to advance till the period arrives when the term of enlistment of our volunteers expires, and when, in consequence of their return to their homes, the Southern Army
will be so reduced in numbers as to present but a feeble barrier to his immense masses.
Notwithstanding the vaporing of the Yankee
papers, it is evident that, even with heavy odds, they have no stomach for encountering the chances of another Manassas
The Southern expeditions, it was fondly hoped, would draw off a great body of the Southern
troops to the defence of their own firesides, and inspire the successors of the Bull Runners
with courage enough to make an advance movement.
But this hope failing, there remains but one equally promising opportunity,--the expiration of the term of duty of the volunteer,--and the belief is now gaining ground that McClellan
will await that moment before making his onward movement, and that then, when our camps are deserted, or the vacant places supplied by troops who cannot, by any possibility, in the interval now remaining, be made the equals of the present volunteer army in drill and efficiency, the Federal
forces will make their grand, and long-promised onward movement.
We are aware that Congress has legislated with a view to encourage re-enlistment, but we have not learned that its legislation has, to any great extent, secured the object designed.
Our volunteers did not enter the army for money, though they have had a right to expect the treatment due to gentlemen and to soldiers; treatment which would have been of far more service in attaching them to their cause, than any pecuniary advantage.
This treatment they have not always received; there have been civil and military officials whose heartless and brutal neglect have put the Southern
cause in more peril, than all the armed legions of the North
More even than this cause, the rust of inaction, to which they have been condemned, has eaten out some of the bravest spirits; and these facts, as well known to the enemy in their front as to any one in the Southern Confederacy, have emboldened them with the hope that, at the expiration of their time of enlistment, our volunteers will return to their homes, and that Virginia
will then fall, almost without resistance, into their hands.
We trust that these confident expectations are destined to inevitable disappointment Certainly we have formed a false conception of the character of Southern volunteers if they, like the Northern volunteers, are bent upon forsaking their camp when their time is up, no matter what the danger by which the country is menaced.
Indeed, such a supposition would be more derogatory to Southern than to Northern volunteers, because when the latter left they injured nobody but themselves, and did not expose their territory and their homes to foreign invasion, whilst the withdrawal of Southern volunteers would leave the way to their own fields and firesides open to an invading horde, who declare that their time for submission and compromise has forever gone and who are panting to bring desolation and defilement upon every Southern home.
‘"Never,"’ says Dr. Moore
, as truly as eloquently, in his late Fast Day Sermon, ‘"never since the terrible scenes of La Vendee, under the ravaging hordes of Publican France
, has the old heathen war cry Va Viclis,
(wo ! to the conquered !) been more unmistakably sounded by an army of invaders.
Let this tremendous crusade become successful, either by mismanagement in the Army"’--or, we may add, by the refusal of volunteers to re-enlist--‘"or cowardice and greediness at home, and history furnishes no page so dark and bloody as that which would record the result.
Our best and bravest men would be slaughtered like bullocks in the shambles; our wives and daughters' dishonored before our eyes; our cities sacked; our fields laid waste; our homes pillaged and burned; our property, which we are perhaps selfishly boarding, wrested from us by fines and confiscations; our grand old Commonwealth degraded from her proud historic place of Ancient Dominion, to be the vassal province of a huge central despotism, which, having wasted her with fire and sword, would compel her by military force to pay the enormous expense of her own subjugation, or in default of this, parcel out her broad lands to insulting emigrants as a feudal reward for the rapine and murder of this new Norman
conquest; whilst the owners of these lands must either remain as cowering factors for insolent conquerors and oppressive lords, or wander as penniless and homeless fugitives in a land of strangers."’
Nor would this be the fate of Virginia
Every other State in the Confederacy
is equally interested.
It is the cause of every other State as much as of Virginia
that is to be decided by the wager of battle on the Potomac
, with its immense military stores and manufacturing resources, in the enemy's hand, other parts of the State
would soon follow, and the Federal
march into North Carolina
be instant and comparatively easy.--Then would be realised the favorite scheme of Scott
, the tightening of the anaconda folds, which have so long been preparing, about every part of this body politic.
Then, from their different bases of operation upon the sea coast, the invading armies would advance to penetrate the interior and unite with the Grand Army
of subjugation on its resistless Southern march.
Then, wo, wo, to the conquered in every Southern State, and every Southern habitation.
All this, and worse — horrors, unimaginable horrors in every Southern home and every Southern plantation, rise before the eye. And can it be possible that Southern men, the husbands of Southern wives, the sons of Southern mothers, the brothers of Southern sisters, by refusing to re-enlist, can expose their country and all they hold dear to this bottomless abyss of woe and perdition?
We cannot believe it. The conduct of the Northern volunteers, who left when their time was up, but who imperilled neither home nor fireside by their leaving, would be glorious in comparison.
Rather than submit to a fate like this, the hardships, the privations, the petty official insolence of twenty years, or of a life time, ought to be borne with alacrity.
It would be better, far better, that our brave soldiers had not put their hand to the plough at all than that, having put it there, they should turn back.
Better to have made no resistance to Northern tyranny than, having made it sufficiently to inflame and intensify the malignity and vengeance of our enemies, it should be withdrawn at the very moment that it is necessary for our protection.
A few, more months beyond the period of enlistment will, in all probability, terminate the struggle, if our gallant soldiers prove as persevering as they are brave.
That they should desire to see their homes again is natural, and the act of Congress has made provision for this purpose, if they desire to re-enlist; but what will home be worth if, for the purpose of enjoying it for a brief period, they put it in peril of perpetual ruin?
Hence, in view of all these solemn considerations, we indignantly reject the idea that Southern volunteers will hesitate on the subject of re-enlistment one moment after they become apprised of the trick to which McClellan
looks for our destruction.
Their places cannot be supplied by others; it will be impossible to manufacture such troops in a few months as those tried, experienced, and valiant veterans — those heroes of Bethel
, Bull Run
, Carnifax Ferry, Greenbrier river
, as well as others, who have been painting in vain to meet the enemy.
One more great sacrifice for their country, and her independence is secure, their homes free and happy, and their own hearts irradiated to the end of time with a more satisfying glory than that of the most brilliant battle-field — the consciousness of having done their duty.
We sincerely hope soon to hear of some general consultation and conclusion among the soldiers whose term of enlistment soon expires, which will give assurance both to the country and its enemies that no expectation of Southern conquest and subjugation need be based upon the delusion that they will fail to re-enlist at the end of their term.