Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Two years have thus brought us to just what we never had before, plenty of money and plenty of men.

Two years have thus brought us to just what we never had before, plenty of money and plenty of men.

July 22, 2013

Adams Family Civil War letters; US Minister to the UK and his sons.

Charles Francis Adams, Jr., to his father

Camp of the 1st Mass. Cavy Hillsboro, Va., July 22, 1863

Here we are and we enjoy this as more of a settled rest than we have had since the 30th of May. So I pulled out your old letters and read them over, re-read them with Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Port Hudson and Morris Island still ringing in my ears, and with our wondrous successes of July absorbing my thoughts. Does Europe want more? If it does I think it will get more, but I am lost in astonishment at the strength the North is developing. Can the South stand up against it? War is a dangerous game and the South has all that desperate courage which makes one a majority; so, while there is a single chance left I feel no safety. But for the last few days I had dwelt much during long marches on our relative positions as compared with two years ago. Two years ago at this time we fought the stampede of Bull-Run, and the two years that have passed have proved exactly the time necessary to develop our strength. Do you realise what prodigious victories we have won this summer? Men and money are the sinews of war. While we have reduced gold fifty per cent in five months, we have settled the question of a negro soldiery, and at last enforced the draft, thus opening an unlimited supply of recruits. Two years have thus brought us to just what we never had before, plenty of money and plenty of men. The negro regiment question is our greatest victory of the war so far, and, I can assure you, that in the army, these are so much of a success that they will soon be the fashion. General Andrews, formerly of the 2nd Massachusetts and one of the bravest and most reliable officers in the service, is organizing a corps of these soldiers in South Carolina, and he writes to officers here that, though he went out with all a conservative’s prejudices against their use, he has seen them do well under indifferent officers and he is confident that under good officers they will make troops equal to the best. This is a great deal from Andrews. I almost wish I had gone into that movement, but perhaps it’s just as well.

As to the conscription, the army is delighted with that and only regrets that it had no chance to discuss the matter with the gentlemen of New York. We, who have borne the heat and burden of the day, are tired and disgusted at seeing men bought by immense bounties, leaving home one day to return a hero the next, ovations to regiments with unthinned ranks. The three years men received no bounty. Now we do so much want to see all those who kiss our Lady Peace at home come in for a share of our laurels. So the army feels none the less pleased because it sees an iron hand on the rioters at home.

But having finished with our moral victories, I have not begun on our physical. Probably I can tell you little about those except that I really at last believe that we are learning to outfight the rebels on even fields, in spite of their dash and fanatical desperation. Does Europe want more? Europe however seems to me now out of the question. I may look at these things from too much of an army point of view, just as you take everything from your London watch-tower; but it does now seem to me that if any European nation, and especially England, and next to her France, wants hard knocks with little gain, they need only to meddle with us. Two years ago our soldiers would have dreaded foreign armies and especially French ” Zouayes.” That’s played out. If the Mexicans can make a fight, we can win a victory. Eighty thousand French soldiers might now make an impression through a campaign which would use them up; but in case of a war with us the whole English standing army could not save Canada from being overrun. How I would like to raid it through Canada, and how we would astonish the regular cavalry of Europe.

You will laugh at all this and say: “Why, victory has turned his head! How he does crow!! And that too before he’s out of the woods.” Not at all. It is not success in the field which delights me, it is feeling and seeing the strength behind me which this rebellion has just sufficed to call forth. Europe looked to see us exhausted and calling for mediation, without money and without recruits, and behold! the whole African race comes forward to fill our ranks at just the moment when by a wise conscription we are for the first time strong enough without them, and all this time the very war which was to destroy us reduces gold from 175 to 125. At last, oh Lord! at last!! Three months ago powerful and energetic foreign intervention would have saved Vicksburg to the South, cost us New Orleans and cost us the Mississippi. Today we have all these and will not lose them easily and, if European nations care to interfere, they may injure us in a small degree as we shall injure them; but, thank God! we have secured the material issues of this great struggle. For the rest I would the South East might have its own way and depart in peace. I am tired equally of them and of this war.

You cannot tell how I long to hear from you and to know how all this affects you in London. I know it must make you very happy, but how does it affect you socially? . . .

July 23

As we still continue here I may as well lucubrate a little further. I notice that you and Henry dwell a great deal upon the apparent exhaustion of the rebel resources and their lack of men and supplies. As I yesterday dwelt on our successes, I will today give my experiences on their reverses, and that experience is by no means that of the newspaper reporters. I have lately seen and talked with considerable numbers of rebel prisoners, beside passing over some rebel territory, and that, too, in “desolated” Virginia. That the rebels have no money or currency is very apparent, but I see no evidence that they are either starving or destitute. Wherever we have been in Virginia we find cattle and corn in abundance, and the people seem comfortable. We find few men and few blacks but no suffering. I see that all accounts agree in placing the flower of the rebel army in Virginia. This may well be, for finer fighting material it would be hard to find. I am struck by their immensely improved condition since a year ago at Antietam. Judging by my means of observation, and I saw great numbers of prisoners, having myself at one time charge of a squad of five hundred from every Southern State, I should say that Lee’s army at Gettysburg was in every respect superior to the Army of the Potomac, superior in numbers, better officered, a better fighting material, as well armed, better clothed and as well fed. The spirit of his army was much better than that of ours, and I saw no evidence of their ever having been on short rations or demoralised by want or misfortune. Their tone was the very best. All said they were sick of the war, but scouted the idea of going home or giving it up until they had won their cause. I must say my opinion of the confederates and Southrons improved on near acquaintance in the early days of July.

You will ask why we were not defeated then at Gettysburg? We just escaped it by the skin of our teeth and the strength of our position. This regiment came into the field on the evening of the second day and in the midst of the battle. At sunset we were whipped and night saved the army. I never felt such sickening anxiety. We went into camp a mile and a half from the front and in rear of the right wing, in a wood. At sunset the enemy outflanked us and our men began to give way. Presently they came swarming through our camp in demoralised squads — wounded and well, officers and men — so that we were forced out and obliged to move back. Then it was resolved to fall back that night twenty miles, but fortunately at midnight this determination was reconsidered, our position was strengthened and next day the enemy were fairly whipped out.

Now, for the future, how do things stand? I guess Lee has 60,000 men left, but he is outflanked at the South West and at Charleston, and he must still make head against the large and now confident army. Southern affairs do seem desperate. They seem to me in just that condition from which genius alone could restore them and here is where, to my mind, the rebels have sustained their most vital loss. Stonewall Jackson would have given them this chance had he lived. In Virginia alone since the war began have they held their own, and what have they done in Virginia which they did not owe to Jackson? Now his loss to them seems to me to be irreparable and almost decisive. In a single campaign the South has lost Jackson and Vicksburg, and if they are not desperate, I do not know what can bring them to it. I do believe Jackson had genius and in that respect stands alone in the annals of this most stupid and uninspired of struggles. Certainly his death excited throughout this army a deep regret which was lost only in a sense of intense relief. Today I am sure, as Americans, this army takes a pride in “Stonewall” second only to that of the Virginians and confederates. To have fought against him is next to having fought under him.

As for Lee, how can we have faith in him? He might have crushed Burnside at Fredericksburg and yet he let him escape. Hooker got away, but then Lee was glad enough to let him go, for, at the start, Lee was surprised, out-generaled, and on the verge of utter destruction. Jackson seemed to have saved the army which Lee jeopardized. As to Lee’s two invasions, he cannot brag much on Antietam, for Jackson almost destroyed Pope only to enable Lee to get pounded to a mummy in Maryland. And now finally at Gettysburg, with every chance in his favor, and against a dispirited army and a new General, he has incurred a disaster to the Southern army which belittles our defeat at Fredericksburg or their own at Malvern Hill. Thus I cannot share in the general admiration of Lee. Jackson was his right hand man and his right hand is gone. For the rest I do not see that they are stronger in Generals than we. . . .

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