Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
Considered with reference to the designs of the campaign of 1864, the enemy must themselves confess to its signal failure up to the present time. Judging from their military demonstrations alone, without the assistance of their public declarations, Virginia should have been before now completely in their possession. While an army of one hundred and eighty thousand veterans was pressing Lee in front, another of fifty or sixty thousand assailed his rear by an advance upon Petersburg; another of twelve thousand threatened his left flank in the direction of Staunton, and still another force of six or eight thousand, approaching from the Ohio, descended upon the Southwestern railroad, threatening Lynchburg. These regular movements were seconded by powerful cavalry demonstrations upon Lee’s communications with Richmond, and Richmond’s railway communications southward. Certainly not less than two hundred and fifty thousand men were launched upon Virginia at the outset of the campaign, and reinforcements since have swollen the grand aggregate of assailants to the appalling number of nearly three hundred thousand active, effective troops.
That a demonstration thus numerous, thus combined, and thus altogether formidable, should so far, have achieved no substantial success, and effected no real advance, is a sufficient proof of failure, even though the vast invading host may still retain a foothold upon the soil proposed to be conquered. Weak minds may replace at the thought of so prodigious an army occupying for many weeks an interior position in our territory and continuing to threaten our vital positions; but those who are capable of taking an intelligent view of the situation in all its relations and circumstances; those who compare the grand objects proposed with the meager results reached; those who ask themselves what have these three hundred thousand men accomplished in Virginia by six weeks of fighting, attended by a loss of one-third their number?—those, we say, who consider the campaign in these its real aspects, cannot fail to experience feelings of satisfaction bordering on exultation in contemplating the present situation.
It is a misfortune most deplorable; a calamity of the first magnitude, for any community to be invaded by an army of such huge proportions; it is an evil from which individuals and localities will suffer for many years to come; but there is a glorious compensation, and one not altogether unsubstantial, in the thought and in the fact that Confederate valour and intelligence has proven competent to baffle even this formidable assault upon our liberties. It is certainly of great material benefit to a people to have signally taught an assailant that brute power, however great and industriously accumulated, does not ensure success to injustice and nefarious wrong. It is certainly worth something to a new political power, in a material, pecuniary point of view, to have exhibited, before all nations the capacity of successful resistance against one of the most powerful enterprises of invasion that have been undertaken in any time recorded by history.
The importance of the operations in Virginia is enhanced by the fact that they have not been isolated; but have been simultaneous with others almost as considerable on two other important fields of contest. In Georgia a column of one hundred thousand men has been held at bay for many weeks, under circumstances which ensure a total failure of the grand object of that campaign. The possession of Atlanta was esteemed of vital necessity to the objects of the North; and its importance was attested by the magnitude of the army employed in the enterprise. Considered with reference to the end proposed by the enemy, our success there has been most decided; and if the invading foe has not been driven from the country, it has been only because of his vast force, which, although remaining in the field, is, by its very numbers, is yet to be the instrument of its own destruction, and the immediate cause of failure in the enterprise for which it was designed.
The case is the same in the country west of the Mississippi; except that there the invading army has not only failed in its enterprise, but has been virtually annihilated. The campaign commenced in that department six weeks earlier than in the East, and it may be that the result there accomplished foreshadow what will happen in the two other fields of contest by the time the campaigns in them shall grow six weeks older. Compared with the magnificent designs heralded in advance and the immoderate expectations boastfully proclaimed by the enemy, the results of the campaign west of the Mississippi are amusing as they are valuable and gratifying.
The enemy entered upon the present year with the avowal that their preparations were so complete and comprehensive as to ensure final and complete success. They confessed to have trifled with the rebellion in all their former dealings with it, and declared that they were exerting all their energy and employing all their resources in preparing for a decisive and final campaign. No doubt exists that they, in fact, put forth their whole available power. All the circumstances of the war and of the times conspired to render it an affair of political life or death with the Washington administration to make sure of the present campaign; and the national pride and chagrin, as well the national interests, rallied to Government the active aid and sympathy of the people. The tremendous movements which have been made upon Virginia, Georgia and Northern Texas are the result of all this preparation, exertion and determination. On not one single theatre have they accomplished, or approached the accomplishment, of the objects of their campaign. Their losses have been enormous, and there seems, at present, no probability of their succeeding in any one of their leading designs. We have still much fighting to do. We have still many trials to endure. But we know this, that the unprecedented preparations and exertions of the enemy have not enabled them to achieve a single object of their campaign.1
- No Title. Richmond Examiner. June 22, 1864, p. 3 col. 1-2 ↩