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Waterloo or Austerlitz--General Lee's Plans.

The New York Mercury of February 26th has an editorial article which possesses particular interest at this time. We copy it entire:

Wilmington is ours. Charleston is ours. Columbia is ours. Without a struggle; without an answering blow. One after the other of these — but lately the chief strongholds of the rebels — have yielded to what the Government organs would have us believe was an inexorable necessity. For nearly four years, bold and impregnable, they have defied attack, laughed siege to scorn, and withstood bombardment, want of supplies, and suffered all the miseries ever endured by a weaker power contending with a stronger.

And now why is it, that in this, their last extremity, they have so tamely yielded to the foe they have defied and held at bay so long? Why this sudden departure from the cities which, in the earlier days of the war, they so stoutly swore should never be desecrated by the presence of the "accursed Yankee" unless he chose to walk through the heaps of ashes, smouldering ruins and desolate streets? Why are the "vandals of the North" so easily victorious? Why allowed, with flaunting banners and the clash of regimental bands, to march without opposition to those places? Is the cause weakened? Is it a premonition that resistance would be annihilation? That the conquering legions of the North cannot be held in check, and the vast, and as yet but partially developed, combinations of our Lieutenant-General are irresistible?

Let us regard the subject calmly, soberly, justly.

We do not consider it treason, we do not speak it as disloyal, when we say that Robert E. Lee, the commander of the rebel forces, is all that constitutes a strategist, in all that goes to make a General able to dare and fight down even fate itself, the first and foremost in the country. While we admit the talents, the genius and the greatness of Lieutenant-General Grant, it is not only unfair, but unjust, that we should refuse to acknowledge the grandeur, the sublime heroism, of that grey-haired genius, the descendant of a line of patriots, who, battling against the combined opposition of almost an entire world, still firm and unyielding, has held at bay the most formidable armies in existence, and has, in defiance of defeat, still held him to his ground, nor wavered even when hope itself seemed lost forever. Let us yield the meed of praise even to our enemies. They were once our brothers — once hand in hand with us. Whatever their errors, their crimes, they are none the less men.

Charleston, Wilmington and Columbia being ours, cui Bono? Beyond the mere fact of obtaining full control of the seaboard, and thereby relieving our blockading fleet from a tedious, tiresome service, and gaining possession of cities deserted, there does not seem to be any material advance toward the termination of the war.

Those who have studied the career of Lee, and observed his plan of campaign, know that his system is that of concentration. To mass his troops and attack the enemy's divisions in detail, one after the other, is his strategy. Wary, circumspect, yet possessing and using at times the dash and reckless audacity in attack of the first Napoleon, he never loses a chance, and so far has left no record of a mistake.

Since his appointment to, and assumption of, the supreme command of the rebel army, the whole method of operations has been changed. Concentration is now the order. He is carrying out his favorite plan of prosecuting the campaign. He well knows the strength of his antagonist, and that antagonist's tenacity of purpose and immense resources. And knowing them, he is at this moment gathering the scattered forces of the rebel domain into one compact whole, with the intention of deciding the fortunes of his cause at or near Richmond. There, upon the already blood-soaked soil of the Old Dominion, will be fought the Waterloo of the rebellion.

Sherman's victories and almost entirely unopposed raid from Chattanooga to Atlanta, thence to Savannah, Charleston and Columbia, with whatever of devastation he may have created, has not in the least disconcerted Lee. It may rather be considered part and parcel of his plan. And when the true history of affairs at the front is made known, it will be found that Charleston, Columbia and Wilmington were evacuated only that the rebel commander in-chief might withdraw all the available force stationed at these garrisons to be incorporated with the army around Richmond.

It is useless to talk of Grant's combinations and tremendous schemes, of which we are duly and daily reminded by army correspondents and the telegraph. These grand combinations and that wonderful strategy of which we have heard so much have been capturing Richmond every day for the last six months. Yet the beleaguered capital is as far from our grasp as when our armies under McClellan were driven from the peninsula. "On to Richmond" but never into it. With the recorded the last attempt, beginning in the spring and as yet unended — from the Rapid Ann, through the awful carnage of the Wilderness, and to the present base, a hecatomb of dear lives have been lost, the blood of our kindred has flown in torrents, happy homes have been made desolate, and grief brought to thousands of hearts, in order that the glory of one man might have its holocaust.

To gratify the dogged pertinacity of a General who, whatever his genius, and whatever past success he may have blundered into, cares as little for the lives of his soldiers as he does for those of the enemy, and who would throw away half an army to accomplish a purposeless object, the Administration have given him almost absolute flower.

Week after week, month after month, Richmond was being evacuated — it was about to be captured.

Petersburg, after being bombarded, its outer defences mined and stormed, still is held by Lee. The great Butler elephant, the Dutch Gap canal, was to accomplish wonders, but it did not. It caved in magnificently, and buried Butler beyond hope of resurrection. Demonstrations of an imposing character were made, and are being made daily, with the same result — a loss of life and so good accomplished.

But matters are approaching a crisis. Before many weeks the last grand and decisive battle will have begun. The preliminaries are being rapidly arranged.

Such a contest as this will be the world has never witnessed, for upon it depends the fate of the country. In that battle, should we suffer a defeat, it will be overwhelming, and all the advantages we may have gained in the past six months will be as worthless as the bubble reputations they have made. If Lee is defeated, he still has the interior in which to once more rally his scattered legions, and concentrate for defence, if not for attack.

From all the outer garrisons and troop depots the rebel army at the capital is being augmented. Silently but surely the storm is gathering. Let us not be too sanguine of success. It may be that the rebel General will make it a Waterloo for us, while upon him, through the smoke of that day's battle, will shine the sun of a second day's Austerlitz. Lee will not throw away a single chance. He is not the man of Lost Opportunities.--Had Lee had command of our armies at the outset of war, we verily believe the rebellion would have been crushed in less than eight months. But we had only such second-rate Undertaker as Burnside and Hooker, Butler and Pope.

Let us trust that our Lieutenant-General may be thoroughly prepared for the conflict; that when the conflict comes, our immense plurality of men may not be driven to their deaths in vain attempts to accomplish an impossible purpose, and that for once our leaders may be equal to their Herculean task.

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