NP: June 18, 1864 Richmond Examiner: Butler’s Campaign

   

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in June 1864

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

     The clouds break and lift all around the horizon.  At Petersburg, General BEAUREGARD has added another score to the long debt of gratitude which the South honestly owes to him.  Between Petersburg and Richmond we have again the railroad and the abandoned works—and BUTLER’S army is once more under cover at Bermuda Hundred.  General Lee announces that he has wrested from the enemy the position known as Howletts, on the James, which gives command of Dutch Gap and of a passage down the river.  But one point remains undecided—one question yet unsettled—it is Lynchburg, and the future of the Valley army under HUNTER.  It is no longer doubtful that they never intended to return to Washington by the way they came.—Without looking back, HUNTER has led his army out of the Valley to the gates of Lynchburg.  When last heard from, HUNTER and his army were at Forrest Depot, twelve miles from Lynchburg, on the Tennessee road.  It was believed at Lynchburg that he was about to attack the town.  He may, however, have no such intention.  He may leave it aside and endeavor to march by Campbell Court House down the Southside, with the purpose of forming a junction with GRANT’S forces, and so complete the circuit of Richmond.  But his intentions are of little importance.  Whatever they are, we know that they will shortly end in disastrous failure.

It may now, at last, be pronounced with some degree of confidence that the vast combined movement of armies against Richmond and Virginia is a failure, and is dying out.—Trouble it will still give us, and do much local damage; but there is no danger in it any more.  Probably at some early day, as we look back upon that mighty armament as it was originally launched upon us, unbroken as yet in mass and in spirit, we may almost be inclined to wonder whether our proud city still verily stands upon her hills; whether it is our flag indeed that the summer air yet lazily stirs above the trees of Capitol Square.

Let us look at the campaign as it thundered down upon us six weeks ago—and then at the DISJECTA MEMBRA of the same as they sprawl now.  The Yankee army which crossed the Rapid Ann we set down at one hundred and thirty thousand men of all arms; since reinforced by about fifty thousand.  BUTLER’S force, thrown about the same time upon the Southside, was not less than forty-five thousand strong.  These two armies, then, which were to have moved simultaneously, one upward and the other downward, and meet in or about the aforesaid Capitol Square, amounted to two hundred and twenty-five thousand—as many as the THREE armies combined which fought at Waterloo.  This host was armed and equipped with a complete perfection which no army “on the planet” had ever matched.  And in addition to the land forces, the armament boasted an immense fleet, consisting of every description of vessels of war, with the heaviest batteries yet seen on earth, and innumerable supply and transport ships, to make sure that everything needed should be ready at hand, and that large masses of troops should be moveable at the shortest notice, and without fatigue, to any point upon the navigable rivers, which opened several ways almost to the walls of Richmond.  Thinking of this dreadful tempest of war which was let loose upon us about six weeks ago, men might rub their eyes and look up once more to assure themselves of the identity of that snowy banner and its blood red UNION, crossed with blue.

But it would be to wrong the illustrious commander of those hosts and the great nation he serves, to limit our view of the Virginian campaign to these direct operations against Richmond.  A Northern military critic, sketching the plan of the campaign at its commencement, said:  “This theory, which limits “General GRANT’s plan of the campaign to the capture of Richmond, does but half justice.  He may “capture the rebel capital, without capturing the rebel government machinery, and without “overthrowing LEE’S army.  In that event further active and prompt operations will be necessary.  “General GRANT foresees this, and has provided for it.”  That is, the reader observes, General GRANT foresaw that he might be obliged to capture Richmond WITHOUT overthrowing LEE’S army, which would be only an imperfect success; and accordingly he had provided for certain other movements which could not fail, as judicious persons thought, to finish the work in Virginia.  The same military critic says:  “The “SECOND movement” (GRANT’S being first) is that of SIGEL and STAHL up the Shenandoah valley “towards Staunton, with the view first of taking possession of the Virginia Central railroad, and “ultimately effecting a lodgment upon the Virginia and Tennessee railroad at Lynchburg.  The THIRD is “that of AVERILL moving towards the same great railroad, with a design of striking it at Salem; the “FOURTH that of General CROOK, who is moving with a strong force and large supplies from Charleston “towards Newbern, on the same railroad; the FIFTH that of Major GALLUP, moving up the Virginia side “of the Big Sandy, towards Abingdon, on the same road.”  In short, this part of the programme was no less than to move the Yankee base line of operations from the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, one hundred and fifty miles to the south, and establish it on the Virginia and Tennessee road, connecting with Chattanooga and Nashville.  It was expected that LEE’S army would be lurking among the mountains by that time (that is, NOW or a little earlier,) and that BUTLER would be predominating over the markets and churches of Richmond, and looking after the spoons and pianos.  It was a truly majestic and stupendous plan of a campaign, worthy of the majestic nation and stupendous General; but where is it now?

Somehow in those enormous movements from all points of the compass at once, some part always failed to come out right at the right moment.  BUTLER, for example, in his justificatory account of the matter, says HE was right, and came up to the attack on our intrenchments on the Southside at the end of the “ten days” agreed upon.  How was he to tell that he would meet there the formidable BEAUREGARD?—and how was he to know that GRANT would take “seventeen days,” or even more, to get up before the fortifications of Richmond on his side?  It was not BUTLER’S fault, then, that his part of the programme failed; perhaps it was GRANT’S; or perhaps (which is most probable) BEAUREGARD’S.

It does not detract from the grandeur of a plan, that unforeseen difficulties have arisen in the course of its execution.  For instance, that SHERIDAN, on his way to the Valley, to help the other columns in finishing that railroad business handsomely, should meet HAMPTON, and be so maltreated by him; that Lynchburg should show its teeth boldly, and indicate that there could be no right of way for CROOK, AVERILL, GALLUP and the rest, just THERE—all these matters were accidental, and no way derogate from the general merit of the campaign as projected.  Indeed, other obstacles will supervene, quite contrary to all expectation; and the end will be, that after wonderful waste of horseflesh, those cavalry forces will have accomplished nothing except a trifle of pillage and arson, and they will be as far from possession of the coveted railroad as GRANT is, this day, from the occupation of Richmond.

But what, then, has become of the relics and remnants of the great combined armaments?  By the lowest computation, even of the Yankees, out of the 225,000 in GRANT’S and BUTLER’s forces, 110,000 have been killed or wounded.  The desertions have also been very large.  This we know, though the amount of loss from this source can only be guessed; let us guess it at twenty-five thousand, including those disabled by sickness.  This would leave the combined armies of GRANT and BUTLER this day only ninety thousand.  It is still a great force in point of numbers; but the surviving HALF of a beaten army always remains beaten.  The pluck is taken out of it.  After coming almost within sight of the spires of Richmond, and receiving there a fierce and bloody repulse, they are now knocking at the door of Petersburg, and cannot get in THERE either.  Pass Drewry’s Bluff they cannot, neither by land nor by water, neither in front nor in rear; and by the more marked feebleness of every resistance these latter days, it is very plain that the remnant of that host feels the game to be up.  No body of troops on earth could receive such continued maltreatment without being disheartened.  The first impulse and ELAN is gone from this mighty invasion; and we repeat, there is no more danger in it.  LINCOLN had better “call out” the next half-million of men.1

Source:

  1. No title. Richmond Examiner. June 18, 1864, p. 3 col. 1-3

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