Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
The victory reported by the telegraph on yesterday is exactly confirmed by LEE’S despatch in to day’s paper. It was what General JOHNSTON is accustomed to style “a handsome affair”—that is to say, it was quite complete, all the enemy’s force on the field, which was not killed and wounded, being captured. But this result will not prevent General GRANT from continuing his march to the left; or from practicing that “strategy” which carried him from the Wilderness to Fredericksburg, from Fredericksburg to West Point, from West Point to Harrison’s landing, and thence to the southern bank of the Appomattox. If he likes it, he has only to go on; it will take him to Newbern—and to the devil; but as it does not lead to Richmond, nobody will interfere—as long as he does not deviate from the “original line.”
But we have Northern files of the 20th; and in addition to the news of General LEE, the reader will find those of Mr. EDWIN STANTON in the paper. His three bulletins contain no intelligence of HUNTER, and the splendid army of house-burners and women-shooters which he lately lead in triumph up the Valley. Not a scrap—not a syllable. One of these newspapers attributes HUNTER’S silence to the probable fact that he is too busy securing prisoners and spoils in Lynchburg, destroying the canal, &c., to write even to STANTON. We have the pleasure, if he ever sees the EXAMINER, to furnish Mr. STANTON with some of the missing intelligence. Indeed, it is highly probable that all the news the Federal Government gets from HUNTER (till he reaches the Ohio) will be derived from a similar source. But, in the meantime, Mr. STANTON has discovered that “WE HAVE NOT TAKEN PETERSBURG!” This is as much as the Secretary’s stomach will allow him to confess at the present moment. He gives part of GRANT’S despatch, detailing the events of the last memorable Friday. So far as it goes, it appears to be a statement consistent with known facts. Only THE EXTRACT IS CURTAILED at seven o’clock in the evening; and in place of its disastrous conclusion. Mr. STANTON simply inserts the following dry words of his own: “LATER UNOFFICIAL “DESPATCHES SHOW THAT, AT EIGHT O’ CLOCK THIS MORNING, THE ENEMY STILL “OCCUPIED PETERSBURG!”
But Mr. STANTON makes amends over his SHERIDAN. The account which this superlative specimen of military gammon gives of his total defeat in Louisa, his rout in Hanover and race for the water, is one of the most amusing novelettes which has yet issued from the Yankee Press. A useful moral may be drawn therefrom.
The natural tendency of the human mind is towards belief. Doubt is learned only by experience of falsehood. Among a simple and honest people like that which inhabits the agricultural South, the disposition to credulity is far greater than in more corrupted and artful communities. Despite their intimate knowledge of the coarse faithlessness and impudence in mendacity which marks the character and manners of every Yankee, in peace or in war, in their own country or in ours, when the Government of the United States or one if its generals, comes out with an official statement of some fact which we believed to have concurred in a very different way, the first impulse is surprise, resulting from some degree of credit which we give involuntarily to every direct and circumstantial declaration: we have some uneasiness, least we had not been told the whole truth by our own countryman, and least the thing was worse for us than we had hitherto supposed. Repeated examinations have proven, in every case, that the Yankee was really and simply a liar; and that the facts were invariably and precisely as they had been stated, if anything was said about the matter, in the bulletins of the Southern officers; but they have not eradicated the natural inclination to faith; and we shall perhaps experience the same momentary trouble whenever the second invention of a scoundrel race shall develop a new fable.
Yet this one—that which the reader gets to day from SHERIDAN has some peculiarities which should make it, if anything could be, a complete and durable antidote against further deception—even the most faint and momentary. He says we took from him one hundred and sixty prisoners. That was all. Now, here is an assertion to which most of our readers have had the means of applying the test of their own senses. No less than four hundred and eighty-seven unwounded privates and eleven commissioned officers belonging to this man’s horde of thieves were brought by the canal to this city; were marched openly through the streets to prison, while they were gazed at and counted by thousands of people; and afterwards transported to the depot in the further South where they still remain. Then this official document of a Yankee general officer is proven to be a deliberate and intentional lie: it is not supposed to be false; it is not contradicted by other testimony—veracity against veracity—but is known by the ocular testimony of those who read it, to have been made in perfect opposition to truth.
We have not always the means to verify with the senses the truth or falsehood of Yankee statements; but after such a result, where the opportunity so to test them has occurred, it must be a credulous nature indeed which can another time even pause to consider whether the words of a Yankee officer may not possibly contain some grains of truth. Certainly, little weight can be given to the other declaration of SHERIDAN in this same despatch, that HE has taken three hundred and twenty “prisoners of war.” He may possibly have dragged from their homes that number of women, aged or crippled men, or unwilling negroes, and have them now tied up in the camp under the guns of the fleet which protects himself and his gang of cowardly miscreants; but even that must be doubted when we remember the rapidity of his flight, and the heat and constancy of the pursuit from which ran to cover.
From insufficiency of forage and horseflesh, SHERIDAN reports his great raid abandoned after only two days marching. A sham must be dear to him and his race when the one puts forth, and the other takes in, such a ridiculous excuse. The whole Northern people were on tip-toe of expectation when this raider started. All the Yankee papers were full of the great results he would accomplish. His was to have been the monster raid of all the war.—Nothing could stop it. After utterly destroying the Central road and the road between Charlottesville and Lynchburg, it was to have burnt the University and Government stores at the former town, joined HUNTER at Lynchburg and proceeded with his victorious army down the Southside railway, burning every bridge clear the way to Danville, go to Raleigh and cut all the routes crossing that State down to the seaboard. SHERIDAN had the largest body of effective and disciplined cavalry yet put into the field. The horses and equipments were unexceptionable. But he was whipped at the beginning of his work; raced up and down till half his fine horses died, and until all of them were ruined, and until he was obliged to take refuge in the fork of the Mattaponi and Pamunkey, under the protection of the horse marines. If one tithe of the cruelty which he has practiced on unoffending rustics, helpless women and gray-beards, was repaid in the punishment of five hundred unwounded villains taken from him and transported to a safe prison, there would be an end of both raids and the barbarities which characterize all the operations of the enemy when occupying undefended territory.1
- No title. Richmond Examiner. June 24, 1864, p. 3 col. 1-2 ↩
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