NP: June 14, 1864 Richmond Examiner: Latest from Europe, May 1864

   

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in June 1864

Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.

LATEST FROM EUROPE—THE BATTLES IN VIRGINIA, IN EUROPE—COMMENTS OF THE ENGLISH PRESS.

The late European advices show that the battles in Virginia formed the great theme of interest in England.  In the report of the proceedings of the British Parliament, we find the following allusion to them:

In the House of Commons on the 27th of May, Mr. Halliburton asked the noble lord at the head of the Government whether he had received any intelligence confirming the rumoured defeat of the Federals by General Lee.

Lord Palmerston—The latest intelligence that I have seen in the papers to-day, was up to, I think, the 16th.  At that time no fresh action had taken place between the armies.  They were looking at each other.  I have not seen the more recent accounts to which the honourable member refers.

Sir W. Frazer asked whether the Admirality had any additional intelligence.

Lord C. Paget—No.

COMMENTS OF THE BRITISH PRESS.

The British press were anxiously discussing the same subject.  The following extracts will serve to show their opinions and speculations of the campaign in Virginia.  It will be seen that the English press, in each instance, is forced to admit the superior generalship and valour of our army:

(From the London Times, May 28.)

The actual capture of Richmond, even if that triumph should crown Grant’s desperate enterprise, will not bring the North a STEP NEARER TO THE RESTORATION OF UNION OR THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH.  The saying of President Davis that, the war could be prolonged for twenty years, even in the State of Virginia, after Richmond had fallen, will be in everybody’s recollection, and if Grant ever reaches that city he will find that his cool and resolute adversary, after exacting the utmost attainable price for it in blood and slaughter, will leave the position in his hands with no greater value in it than attached to the Wilderness after it had served its time and the fighting was done.

After what has now been divulged of the plans and recorded of the operations of the contending armies we can estimate with little difficulty the prospects of the campaign.  It is leterally a question of military arithmetic.  If Grant possesses strength enough to continue to attack as he has attacked, it is clear that in the end he will arrive, in some plight or other, before the defences of Richmond, and, if he can still maintain the same rate of expenditure, will some day enter the city.  He, himself, writes Secretary Stanton:  “I propose to fight it out on this line, if it takes me all the summer,” and he has shown by his conduct that we may take him at his word.  If, however, his cool, resolute and skillful adversary should be strong enough to continue up to the walls of the capital the tactics which he has hitherto employed, and if he can make Grant pay at the current rate for every mile of ground, it may be a question whether the resources or endurance of the Federals themselves will prove as inexhaustible as the obstinacy of their General.  At present we can only see that this dreadful game has been played by both parties through twelve days of battle and carnage, without surrender on either side.  We have heard what Grant has been doing, and he himself does full justice, in his curt but TRUTHFUL despatches, to the unconquerable heroism of his adversary.  It is the rudest and most savage issue of the war—who can stand the most killing.  It is more than ever difficult to predict the result of a contest of endurance, but the advantages of ground position and intelligence ARE WITH THE CONFEDERATES, and Washington has more than once been in greater danger of capture than we believe Richmond to be now.

(From the London Post, (Cabinet Organ,) May 28.)

If the North really consider the battle in Virginia a victory, it can only be because they have been so accustomed to be disgracefully beaten in that quarter by General Lee that they look upon anything short of utter and disastrous defeat a triumph.  Upon the same principle, it is to be presumed that should Grant be ultimately driven back and routed, they will not take it much to heart, having become so habituated to failure, that they regard it as the normal and natural order of things.  Anything short of repulse and the narrowest possible escape from complete destruction for the Grand Army of the Potomac, in its “on to Richmond’ exploits, will indeed be agreeable surprises for the Federals—almost as great a surprise as the unexpected capture of Richmond would be for the South.

In the Northern armies there is, no doubt, besides mercenaries, many a grim fanatic, laboring under the delusion that he is fighting ‘the battles of the Lord,” in a crusade against slavery—many a political enthusiast, who is ready with the best and most disinterested intentions, to offer up six millions of Southerners on the bloody shrine of “the Union as it was.”  But after all, the truth is, THAT THE NORTH DO NOT FIGHT SO WELL AS THE SOUTH.

(From the London Herald (Derby Organ), May 17th, 1864)

If the American quarrel is to be decided by the ordeal of battle, it can hardly be said to be in a fair way of receiving any distinct solution at present.  Though some fifty thousand men at least have been killed and wounded in a week, mail after mail which brings us news from the battle fields in Virginia represents the result of this fighting as still indecisive.  The circumstances are such as to suggest to us a very precise balance of advantages on either side—enough, indeed, to make us doubtful as to the issue of events.  On the one side the power of almost overwhelming numbers, with a ferocious energy which has not been paralled in the former history of the war—on the other side THE PERFECTION OF SCIENTIFIC STRATEGY, with an equal determination to conquer or die.  We will do General Grant the justice to say that he has made the most direct and perhaps the most skillful attack that has yet been leveled at the Southern capital.  It must be confessed, however, that all previous attacks have been MISERABLE FAILURES; and it is not improbable that this will turn out to be the completest failure of all, for the very reason that it has approached nearest to a success.

On the morning of the 13th May, the Federals found that the enemy had disappeared from their front, and the latest accounts leave them following slowly and painfully through thick mud that offers a very serious impediment to the  transport of artillery.  Time will show the object of the Southern general in this movement.  He may wish to prevent his right flank from being turned by an advance along the Fredericksburg railroad.  He may find the position on the Po creek too favourable to the Federal artillery and too far from his supplies.—The advance of, Butler along James river may have made him anxious about the safety of Richmond.  He may wish to draw the Federal army into the heart of a difficult country, some ten miles further South of its base of operations, that he may be the better enabled to surround it and complete its destruction.  The position of Grant is now perilous to an extreme degree.  He has gone so far that he has no longer an opportunity of escape in case of danger.  There is, to all appearances, but one alternative left to him—he must either drive Lee from his front, or be himself annihilated.

(From the London Telegraph, May 7)

As long, indeed, as Grant moves onwards, so long will New York believe in him.  But suppose he calls a halt—suppose that his crippled forces are held for more than a few days in check before some other rifle pits and breastworks stronger than those of Spotsylvania?  To measure the probable reaction, we must remember that an almost bloodless victory was hoped for, and that the same journal which records these sanguinary struggles very recently expressed its opinion that the campaign would result “in the rebel evacuation of the city, end Lee’s retreat into North Carolina, without a battle, in order to save his army.”  That dream, at any rate, has been dispelled; and on the first indication of evil fortune, New York, suddenly recovering from an excitement that is almost madness, will confess that twenty miles of Virginia soil may have been dearly won at the price of two thousand men for every mile.

(From the Manchester Examiner, May (illegible))

A survey of these difficulties will enable us to understand the considerations which General Lee must take into account in determining the tactics of the campaign.  A retreat to Richmond would simplify the situation, and seem to afford him so many advantages—if that is the word to use where everything looks disadvantageous—that we shall not be surprised to hear of this marching thither at once.  He is menaced with an avalanche of disaster, and if he should avert it from crushing him it will be next to a miracle of energy and skill.  In coolness, in fertility of resources, in promptness of decision, and, above all, in unflinching resolution, Grant has immeasurably distanced his predecessors.  The federal soldiers have fought as they never fought before on the soil of Virginia, than which, perhaps, no tribute to their prowess could be higher.  It is simple truth to say that the  Confederates HAVE ASTONISHED THE WORLD BY THEIR HEROISM.  It has been a revelation of Southern character which their antecedents led but few to anticipate, and which, even from those who most severely condemn the cause for which they have taken up arms, must command all the respect which the highest military qualities can inspire.

(From the Liverpool Mercury, May (illegible))

General Grant will have to follow them dragging all his supplies over broken roads and through swollen streams.  All the circumstances of these desperate battles give one a high respect for the bravery both of the Federal and Confederate armies; but ALL THE GENERALSHIP APPEARS TO BE ON THE SIDE OF THE CONFEDERATES.1

Source:

  1. “Latest from Europe.” Richmond Examiner. June 14, 1864, p. 3 col. 4-6

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