An Englishman's views of the American war,
Mr. Russell's last letter, published in the London Times August 20th,bears date at Washington, August 5th. The subjoined extracts embrace the principal portions of it:
Mr. Russell's letter to the London Times.
Secession policy.‘"Let us only hold on till October, and we are safe."’ That, or something like it, was said to me over and over again in the South by men why play no inconsiderable part in the mystery drama of the Confederates. And when I asked one of these gentlemen, more than two months ago, what chance there was of the North giving the South all that time, I was answered almost in these words: "We are bound to go to the assistance of Virginia. The whole of the Northern frontier abounds in good position, which can be fed by the rail from the South. The Abolitionists will come and give us battle. We are certain to whip them if they attack us, and the North will then learn it can't at once overrun us as it fancied. The leaders will pause. There will be a reaction up there. We will work all the harder and all the better for our victory, drilling our men and consolidating our resources. The Northern cities will become discontented. Foreign nations will ask when the cotton ports are to be open. The North will have no reply. We shall be better able to fight in November than we shall be to fight in June. Every week's delay will add to the complications and weakness of the North, and the end of the year will find them further from their aim than ever — divisions in their councils, even disturbances in their populations, while we, inspired by the approach of success, will exhibit increasing energy and unanimity." A part of the programme has been already accomplished, but it does not follow that the remainder of the prophecy will be fulfilled with as much nicety — so far as the result of the action of the 21st has been the prolongation the war in America. The effect it may have had abroad will be known in a few days more.
Confederate weakness.It is plain now that the Confederates were not only really unable to pursue their advantage, but that they were not at first aware of its extent. They suffer from deficient transports, and are better prepared for defence than for attack. Their army was almost as much ‘"scared, "’ to use an English word in an American way, as the Federalists, if the reports are to be believed of confusion, wavering, and retreat in their ranks, and of the passionate exertions of the officers, as well as their losses. In fact, the Confederates stand before the world stripped of a good deal of the strength of which they boasted in actual numbers; and it is a poor cover to their weakness to put forward the assertion that only a small portion of their force was engaged, when it is notorious that they had sent to all quarters for reinforcements, and, above all, when it is considered that, by using all the men at their disposal, they could have forced the mass of the Federal army to surrender prisoners of war, and have occupied the capital. Their operation up to this time indicate hesitation and want of vigor; but it is just possible that they may be preparing to strike some great blow.
Quiet reigns.There is less of that wild, guerilla sort of work between the two armies than was formerly the case, but the attitude of the Confederates is not that of a very confident or aggressive force. One does not hear either of the vigorous advices to drive the enemy from the sacred soil of Virginia, which were so rife, nor even of the hot menaces to take Washington, nor even of the earnest promises to liberate Maryland and other afflicted portions of the slaveholding sisterhood. There may be a policy in this, and, not withstanding the growing opposition of one or two papers in the South to the men and measures of the war, the influence of Mr. Jefferson Davis is quite sufficient to induce the press to keep its peace or adopt any tone he may suggest in furtherance of the common cause.
Reorganization on both sides.They can organize a transport corps in time. There are plenty of excellent mules in the South if the planters can in their patriotism submit to ruin and send them from the fields. Horses in abundance can no doubt be procured from the south west and smuggled out of Kentucky. Twenty-five brass field-pieces, one rifled gun throwing 30-pound shot and shell from a small bore, and perhaps, several other guns not enumerated, captured at Manassas, will go some way to make up for the want of field artillery, under which the Confederates were laboring, and the quantity of ammunition of all sorts which fell into their hands must strengthen them in their weakest point. The thousands of muskets left on the field will be no indifferent acquisition, and they have been already applied to arm men who were not well provided previously with small arms, while whole regiments are made happy by the blankets, overcoats, canteens, knapsacks and accoutrements of all kinds distributed among them, to the great relief of the Confederate treasury. Meanwhile, the army of the United States is undergoing a complete reorganization in the face of the enemy. The old army of volunteers and three months men may be looked upon as annihilated, or, at all events, dissolved. It would be curious to ascertain how many of them will re-enlist, even under different officers. The affair at Manassas not only destroyed McDowell's army, but it gave a heavy blow and great discouragement to the very spirit of the American system, by which men were placed in positions they had no fitness for, and large masses of armed men were assembled whom it were delusion to consider as an army. Mr. Davis saw the mischief long ago, and, by special act of Congress of the Confederate States at Montgomery, he seized the power of appointing officers.
Discipline.It is hard to teach Americans discipline.--Their regular army has been for the most part composed of Germans and Irish. The people are averse to obedience in principle. Yesterday evening, as I was riding through Georgetown, I saw an officer ‘"fall in"’ his men to go on some patrol or relief. They were drawn up by the side of the street, ‘"What have you got in that bottle?"’ said the officer to one of his men. ‘"Whiskey."’ ‘"Let's have a dram,"’ quoth the affable subaltern. ‘"Don't take it all, then,"’ responded the proprietor, producing from his haversack the black bottle, which had been detected by the eagle eye of his superior. The officer held it up to the light, gauged the contents, smelt the mouth, and then took a long pull, which was followed by a sounding of the lips, and a ‘"fast rate"’ of great intensity. The bottle was restored, and then, ‘"shoulder arms — by the right — wheel — quick march,"’ and away went bottle, officer, and men. It would be very unfair to assert that such officers are common, and such practices usual.
Washington, and, above all, in the city itself, by young General McClellan, who bids fair to be the next President, if his success is at all commensurate with the enormous praise and flattery which, much, against his will, are forced down his throat. Before his nomination the streets of the Capital presented a spectacle the like of which was probably never seen in any civilized city. A routed, demoralized army, with just sufficient equipment to enable them to be a terror to civilians and to inflict death and wounds in their drunken quarrels, crowded the thoroughfares, formidable only to those whom they were intended to protect. The hotels and the bars were filled with officers whose regiments were in a state of complete disorganization. The small trades-people trembled for their little stores. Suddenly out comes an order, which I give entire, lest it might be said the words I have used exaggerate the condition of affairs at the period in question. [Here Mr. Russell quotes General McClellan's General Orders No, 2, prohibiting officers and men frequenting the Washington hotels, etc.]
Col. Porter, an active officer of the regular army, and a man of great determination and vigor, at once organized his patrols, and, though the guard-houses may be full, the streets are empty. He sets to work with such speed that Washington, which went to bed in very poor spirits one night, found that the evil had vanished in twenty-four hours, and that next night she could sleep in peace. The citizen soldiery were-astonished and were indignant, but they were nevertheless arrested and ‘"blockaded,"’ and I confess it gave me infinite satisfaction to observe the very salutary results of the process.
Views of a Spanish officer.Gen. Lana, who commands the Spanish troops in Cuba, has been over here on a tour, and he expressed to me his profound astonishment at the state of things visible in camps at the other side of the Potomac. He was here, however, at a bad time — just after the flight from Manassas. His criticisms, however, on lazy sentries, on slovenly and Ill equipped troops, on dirty arms and accoutrements, were just. Above all he was amazed that in any army of recruits there was no drill or exercise to be seen. Company drill is not much attended to; the battalion drill is of the most elementary character; and, indeed, with the exception of the skirmishing at Cairo, I have never seen anything but ordinary advance in line, or marching past at slow time, or at the double in column of companies or of subdivisions, and such common movements. This generally results from the ignorance of the officers as much as from the incompetency of the rank and file.
European sentiment.The United States army and navy will be made worthy of the young Republic, and in their hearts men rejoice at the prospects of a ‘"strong government"’ which must come, though they cannot see how, out of the present conflict. I am not quite certain that the silence which has obtained in Europe in reference to the conflict will not soon be resented as an impertinence and an insulting affectation of indifference to that which Americans regard as the greatest contest that the world has ever seen. No one can be honestly indifferent to the results, for they must affect Europe just as any great disturbance in any State must produce an impression on the rest of the world. It is useless to say that we are not jealous of the grandeur and glory of the United States, for the national, vanity would regard the things as impossible. It is, indeed, impossible to regard with indifference the fight which has such enormous interests and great principles involved in the issue, but it is unfortunate for the United States that it has by turns affronted nearly every Government in Europe; and left to itself only that natural sympathies of the people of those who appear before them as the friends of liberty. There is one thing to be said about civil wars — they do not last long. It is probable that the ‘"exceptionalism,"’ if one may use the word, on which the Americans rather pride themselves, will not prevail in the case of the struggle between the North and the South. Each of the contending parties, however, believes it is sure to win. The voices, of the South are, to be sure, rather deadened, and those of the North are swollen and blown through penny trumpets and brass whistles, but there is still reason to think that both are bent upon ‘"having it out."’ And, indeed, the North must do so, even if separation comes, for there would not and could not be an honorable peace if it followed an avenged defeat in a contest wherein the victors had announced beforehand that their opponents were destitute of courage and manhood. It would not be possible for the North to live on terms of decent amity with the South if the leaders on both sides were to agree to a peace to-morrow. The violent and triumphant jubilation of the conquerors would render it a mere armistice of short duration. Those who can see the reconstruction of the great Republic in the warring elements of this great convulsion must believe in some new atomic theory, and in some novel chemistry of political ffinitics.
The sentiment of Ruing.As I passed the State Department the other day, I observed on the ground great columns of marble in wooden coffin-like cases lying by the road side; near the White House there was similar food for ruins. Above the unfinished dome of the capitol rises a great machinery of seaffoldage and leverage, motionless and lifeless, and around the very building in which Senator and Representatives keep high debate, lie the vast fragments which at some future day are meant to supplement arch and dome — the ideas of a conception not yet brought into being. There are, then, two sorts of ruins — those of the thing which has been, and those of the thing which is not yet, and may never be at all. It was strange to see that all the effect of the work of years could be produced by the materials of work unaccomplished. The public buildings of Washington are surrounded before they are completed by the evidences of what they must be when they shall have been destroyed. Before the republic has finished its temples the worship of the deities to whom they are erected is assailed by terrible heresies. The capitol can never see within its dome the Senators and deputies of the Union, of which it seems no inapt type in its aspiring incompleteness. Can any even of the powers most menaced and affronted by the republic rejoice in its researches among the fragments? Certainly England has not by a word or deed within her borders exhibited trace of the passions attributed to her by many bitter enemies
Great Britain has demanded or solicited the establishment of a free port for the exit of cotton are untrue There is no foundation whatever for such statements, which are prepared by the same people who originate the stories of Admiral Milne's dispatches and views in reference to the blockade. The indifference to foreign politics which has marked the proceedings of the Congress has been a suitable commentary on the mode in which. affairs have been treated in Europe. Mr. Sumner was severely rebuked for alluding to the probable effects of the increase of the Morrill tariff on the sentiments of France and England; as if the Senate regarded such an allusion as a confession of weakness or an indecent introduction of an unsuitable element of consideration.