Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
We beg leave to present our compliments to General Grant and his hundred thousand fellow-citizens on the occasion of the happy return of their Anniversary; and to wish that they have had “a good time” down there in the marshes between Petersburg and the James.—It might seem, under other circumstances, in hospitable on our part to keep them out in the open air at such a time, while the pleasant and shady city of Petersburg is within but a step. Under such a Sun as this, the regimental “orators of the day,” and the men detailed to read the Declaration of Independence, must have suffered from thirst and perspiration. We know, indeed, that our Yankee neighbours down in these swamps did celebrate the day, not precisely as they had counted upon, but the best way they could. Vast breadths of striped bunting were displayed along their whole line; and although Petersburg could not hear their Hail Columbias, nor the appropriate remarks of their orators, yet she could hear well enough the discharges of heavy guns with which the exercises were varied, and saw an occasional shell exploding in the streets or crashing through the dwellings—as if to illustrate the right of all people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; to enforce the doctrine that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed; and that “when a “long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, “evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it “is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for “their future security.”
We wonder whether it once occurred to any of the hundred thousand men there assembled, to bethink him what a very sorry figure they all make, with their bunting and music and orators of the day, on that particular spot at this time. After laboring to wrest from us by force these three long years every single right and liberty affirmed by that Declaration, the third return of their anniversary finds them skulking there at the back door of the little town of Petersburg which they cannot take, which they have even failed to besiege—but still they can stand far off, with one foot in their ships, and hurl from several miles’ distance over the heads of the city’s defenders, whom they dare not attack, a storm of shot and shell to burn and shatter the town they cannot conquer, to maim and scorch the people they can never subdue. Glorious celebration of the birthday of Liberty:
But even in this matter of shelling and burning our Yankee friends have not come up to expectation. It was thought they were preparing to make a grand bombardment on the Fourth. Everybody knew indeed that GRANT could not take the town, but it would have been a source of comfort and pride on every public place of Northern cities if he could have, at least, telegraphed on the evening of that immortal day that the city was in ashes—“Petersburg dared to resist the will of the Yankee nation: Petersburg is no more!” It was the very least piece of good news that New York and Boston felt themselves entitled to. For what have they furnished this Major-General with the greatest armies on the planet, and terrible guns that will kill beyond the horizon, if it was not to crush and wipe out every vestige of rebel resistance, so that the gospel of Yankee “Liberty” should cover the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. And now, on the grand day of Fate, or of Luck, when they were waiting to hear that Richmond itself was razed to the ground and its place sown with salt, comes nothing but the dull, monotonous daily bulletin—all quiet along the lines; Richmond neither taken nor besieged; even Petersburg neither taken nor besieged, nor likely to be; but the vast Union army yawning over its Declaration of Independence, eagerly searching for shade and water, and much troubled to keep the flies off. From time to time crawl into camp a few footsore cavalrymen, whose horses are dead, the sorry remnant of those splendid squadrons which were to have cut the rebel cities off from all succor, coming now “bootless home and weatherbeaten back,” and only an occasional shell dropped into the streets of Petersburg—just enough to frighten the women (a grand point of Yankee warfare) or maim or kill a poor negro or two! This is really not what his nation had reason to expect at the hands of that “Napoleonic” general, most terrible “flanker,” most inevitable POLIORCETES, or overthrower of cities. It is probable that they had but a dull Fourth. What signifies it his raising such wonderful clouds of dust these two days, as if his army were doing something? He cannot throw dust in the eyes of his employers in this way; and to his own soldiers it is but scurvy treatment in a place where water is so scarce, if they are to be choked and suffocated with dust, under pretence of important movements.
General GRANT is said, in one of his communications to Washington, to have pronounced LEE “an enigma,” of which the solution is not yet found. General LEE will not retort that remark: to him the Yankee commander is no enigma by this time. LEE has taken HIS measure: has fathomed the heart of his mystery; knows exactly what he can do and what he cannot; and in the latter category he puts the capture of Petersburg.
But let GRANT not be cast down too much: impossibilities are not fairly to be expected of any man; let him not resign himself to despair, nor give himself up wholly to drink. A good man struggling with adversity is a spectacle for the Gods; and although he can by no means take Petersburg, not to speak of Richmond, yet let him remember that he who ruleth his own spirit is greater than he who taketh a city.1
- No title. Richmond Examiner. July 6, 1864, p. 2 col. 1-2 ↩