Gen. Lee's Retrograde movement.
Opinions are various with regard to the motives which induced Gen. Lee
to withdraw his army to the Virginia
side of the Potomac
All seem, however, to agree that the movement was proper, under the circumstances, whatever they might be, being guided in their opinions entirely by the profound confidence which they repose in the Commander
's professional skill, and his well known prudence and discretion.
We shall not hazard a conjecture on the subject, although the long continued flood in the Potomac
, and the absolute necessity of preserving his communication with Virginia
, furnish ample reasons for the movement, without attributing it to a defeat.
There are persons who think, and have thought from the first, that the invasion of Pennsylvania
was a rash and dangerous experiment, which there was no justification for having undertaken.
We are not one of these.
On the contrary, we believe, when the secret history of this war shall have been published, the conduct of the General
will be amply justified by circumstances of which we are now, and must for a generation remain, completely ignorance.
As for the effect of the invasion, that is a question open, even now, to discussion.
Various are the opinions upon the subject.
One party maintains with great warmth that it has been altogether, and without mitigation, injurious to our cause, another that it has neither advanced nor retarded its progress, a third that it has been productive only of benefit.
We agree with neither of these parties.
We conceive that, like most other events in this world, it has been productive both of good and evil, though we are disposed to think that the good
more than balances the evil.
That it has had the immediate effect of stimulating the war passions of the North
, and enabling Lincoln
with the more ease to recruit his shattered ranks, can hardly be denied.
But it must be recollected that this was the consequence not of the expedition itself, but of the withdrawal of the troops, and has not therefore the slightest bearing upon the wisdom of the measure.
Had General Lee
destroyed the army of Meade
, as there was every reason to hope we should then have seen how fatal was the blow he had struck.
The wisdom of a measure is not always to be judged by its success.
We must look to the design, and see what would have been the consequences had it succeeded.
In this case we may judge what they would have been, by the abject terror with which the Yankees
were struck when they found their country invaded.
Had Gen. Lee
destroyed the army of Meade
— and this was what he aimed and expected to do — he would have held in his hands the issues of war and peace.
He failed to accomplish his object, but failure in the execution implies no want of judgment in the conception, unless the means should be ridiculously small.
They were not so in this case.
believed them to be ample.
But this expedition has been of service in these respects.
It relieved an impoverished country from the burthen of supporting a large army.
It gave us enormous supplies to be need hereafter.
It enabled us to live on the enemy, and to make war — for a time at least — support war. Above all, it has taught the Yankees
that they, as well as we, are open to invasion.
In the exultation of the moment they may forget this; but when that exultation has subsided, they will be sure to remember it. The dread of seeing repeated on their own territory the scenes which their plunderers have enacted on ours, will operate more powerfully in disposing their minds to peace than any number of battles lost within the boundaries of the Confederate States