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NP: June 21, 1864 Petersburg Daily Express: A Battle at Hand, June 21, 1864



Tuesday, June 21, 1864



Things are now, we suspect, rapidly drawing to a focus in this vicinity.—Grant cannot slide any futher unless he slides into James River, or backwards to Bermuda Hundreds or the Chickahominy. If he again resorts to this sort of evasive movement, he will have shown himself not fit to command a platoon. Such another dodge as those he has been making, will strip him of all semblance of pretension to military respectability, and bring his reputation as a commander down below the level of that of the humblest corporal in his army. His course since he left Spotsylvania has been almost puerile1. It certainly has not been such as his great Greek namesake would have thought of pursuing under the same circumstances. The Ulysses of classic fame never shunned a fight when the Trojans offered one.2 The Yankee Ulysses rushed into the Virginia campaign with all the daring and energy of a General determined to push along his selected path to Richmond without turning to the right or to the left. His cry was, “I propose to fight it out upon this line if it takes all summer.”3 These words were echoed and re-echoed by the northern press and their reverberations rolled on from the Potomac to the Pacific through all Yankeedom. Brave words they certainly were, just as brave as the memorable ones which McClellan thundered forth to the same Grand Army of the Potomac when he took command of it. “We have met our least defeat and made our last retreat!” But words are one thing and the deeds which they promise another.—McClellan discovered the truth of his remark after a short experience, and Grant has made the same discovery. Instead of fighting it out on that famous line of his, he was beaten from it before he had advanced more than a dozen miles, and has ever since been getting further and further from it. For upwards of a hundred miles has he been slipping and sliding along sidewise, confronted at almost every turn by Lee’s army, until now he has got into the county of Prince George, where he finds a force something like that which confronted him in Spottsylvania, at Hanover Junction, and at Cold Harbor. We will not say that this march to Cold Harbor was a retreat or that Lee’s was a pursuit, in the ordinary military sense.—But we will say that it was not the march of his choice, and that Lee’s movements savored a good deal of a chase.

He (Grant) is now in a condition and position which demand either another change of base or another battle. He now again has before him a full opportunity of testing his capacity and power to crush the rebel lion. Will he avail himself of it, as he did in the Wilderness, or will he imitate his prowess at Hanover Junction and Cold Harbor, by another slide? He cannot, with any regard for his reputation, shrink from the arbitrament of battle in his new position, and a battle is therefore bound to come off before the lapse of many days.4,5

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: childishly silly and trivial
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: The Editor of the Express is of course referring to the Greek hero Ulysses, or Odysseus, of Iliad and Odyssey fame.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: As the summer of 1864 wore on and Grant failed to take Richmond and Petersburg, Southern papers reveled in mocking his famous quote, “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.”  This is more of the same.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: Although I disagree with the Editor’s position that Grant HAD to fight a battle rather than just settle in for a siege, he was prescient.  That very day, June 21, 1864, Grant’s Second Offensive against Petersburg, resulting the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road, June 21-24, 1864, would begin.
  5. “A Battle At Hand.” The Daily Express (Petersburg, VA). June 21, 1864, p. 2 col. 1
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