NP: June 25, 1864 Richmond Examiner: Battle Between the Tiger and the Elephant

   

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in June 1864

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

Battle between the tiger and elephant is not uncommon in the jungles of India.  The tiger circles round the elephant with innumerable starts and leaps, to find the unguarded flank on which me may spring and fasten; the sagacious defendant never changes ground further than is necessary to turn—and keep his formidable tusks between him and the foe.  Often the tiger makes his bound, only to be hurled back bleeding if not wholly transfixed.  This combat has one invariable conclusion—sooner or later the tiger gets a broken limb or is otherwise disabled—and then there is a rush forward of the strong creature he has provoked—a crackle of broken bones—and the splendid lord of the jungle is suddenly converted into a shapeless mass of carrion.

Perhaps the foregoing zoological illustration would give a more just idea of the struggle between GRANT and the Army of Northern Virginia than is afforded by the history of the Allied Armies and NAPOLEON, produced by the writer of the semi-official review of the present campaign, printed in the New York TIMES and re-published in the EXAMINER of this morning.  GRANT commands the armies of one nation, not of half a dozen; and, after all, Paris was lost by a cowardly surrender, at the moment when NAPOLEON was upon the point of checking his numerous adversaries.  Richmond will not be surrendered, and LEE has to deal with one military force only, somewhat, but not much, superior in numbers, and very far inferior in quality, to his own.  He need not be a “greater general than NAPOLEON” to manage a solitary GRANT.

The story of Vicksburg is not a whit more apposite.  Parallels are seldom complete, but it would be difficult to find one wider of range than that.   It is true that GRANT now endeavours to deal with this city as he did with the town on the Mississippi; but only as a last resort, and because he has been compelled to renounce every other scheme.  Vicksburg was a small place.  It was possible to circumvallate and blockade if, completely, by water and by land.  But half a dozen armies such as that which GRANT commands would be required to put Richmond in a similar position.  GRANT hopes to dig his trenches to the Weldon road; and his interpreter of the TIMES supposes that possession of the Weldon road gives permanent command of the Danville route.  Very far from the truth is he.  The latter may be easily injured by raiders; but another army of a hundred thousand men would be necessary to extend siege operations over the line.  Even then, Richmond, with the three quarters of the compass clear, would be as far from circumvallation as before.

GRANT’S reviewer and prophet in the TIMES furnishes better food for reflection, when he details the campaign on the Northern side of the James, than when he predicts the future results of operations on the Southern bank.  From him we learn that the idea; or general theory, of this present invasion was the destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia by ATTRITION.  GRANT should find his adversary and fight him again and again under all circumstances; GRANT should have fresh troops and superior numbers; if he could not kill man for man, he should be content with giving two Yankees for one Confederate, till the exchange should reduce the forces under LEE to nothing.  Unfortunately for us, it has been discovered (too early) that the theory of ATTRITION would not answer.  The loss of life on the Yankee side was so great!  The reviewer costively admits that it was three to two, instead of a mere two to one.  He states the matter more truly when he declares that the whole force of the United States would have been worn away on the Army of Northern Virginia, had the process of “ATTRITION” been persisted in.  In other words, says he, “the hammer would have been broken on the anvil.”  So the theory of attrition had to be given up.  It has followed the “anaconda” system, and the “avalanche” plan.

Then he says, GRANT assaulted at Cold Harbour, just by way of proving, once and for all, that nothing could be gained on the northern bank of the James; just by way of satisfying himself as to the futility of MACCLELLAN’S ideas.  Everybody was agreed, say the reviewer, that the card was a good one and ought to be played.  When it was on the table it was trumped and there was an end of it.  Fifteen thousand men was a small price to pay for the ample evidence thereby gained, that nothing could be done against Richmond on the northern bank of the James; and being now freed from all harassing doubts and uncertainty, General GRANT proceeded to the Southside.  The reviewer is ecstatic in praise of the brilliant thought—the grand discovery—reserved for the genius of GRANT—that Richmond could be captured by operations in the neighbourhood of Petersburg—where he might have gone on the first day of May, without firing a shot.—But then he would not have been satisfied that the theory of ATTRITION was imperfect and fallacious.

Now that he is down there, close to Petersburg, and cutting the railroads which bring supplies to Richmond, the reviewer has not a doubt that Richmond is indeed and at last a doomed city.  LEE is shut up as PEMBERTON was before him.  JOHNSTON cannot relieve us.  The case is just the same.  Richmond may hold out six months—the longest lease of life ever yet allowed for it by any Yankee reviewer, soothsayer or prophet—but its final fate is certain.  We of Richmond, who have heard something of that sort before, may be permitted still to indulge in a little scepticism.  It is easy to campaign on paper, but armies have occasionally been lost in the attempt to imprint the most elegant of plans on the green-surface of the earth.  We are even inclined to regard the Federal army on the Southside simply as so much food for cannon;  and if the proclamation calling for three hundred thousand Federal conscripts actually does make its appearance on the 4th of July, shall not think it premature even by one day.1

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  1. No title. Richmond Examiner. June 25, 1864, p. 3 col. 1-2

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