18th.—To-day has been spent in clearing up, as if in preparation for a move or a battle. We have given our surplus “hard talk,” with some tea, coffee, sugar and other necessaries of life to the poor, paralytic old man, whose premises we have occupied. He is an uncompromising rebel, but humanity forbids that we should permit him to starve.
What will be the effect of this repulse on the spirits of the army? I shall watch with much solicitude. For the Commander-in-Chief, it has happened at a most inauspicious moment. He had just superceded General McClellan, who had many warm friends, who stood ready to take advantage of every misstep, or misfortune of the new Commander, and to turn it to the credit of their friend, now in disgrace. Though the army was rapidly growing into an affection for General Burnside, the feeling was of new growth, and not yet confirmed by long acquaintance, by trials, or by successes. The friends of McClellan, true to the instincts of human nature, will magnify the reverses, whilst they will withhold credit for the merits of the manœuvre. Already General Burnside’s friends are finding it necessary to defend him against the attacks of the croakers, by following the example set by the friends of McClellan on the Peninsula, in attributing the failures to the interference of the President, to General Halleck, or to Mr. Secretary Stanton. For my own part, I feel that defence is unnecessary, for when I consider the fact, that public opinion compelled the crossing and the attack on Fredericksburg; that no commander could have withstood the outside pressure, however great the danger of advance; when I recollect the successful crossing in the face of so large a force, the successful attack and capture of part of the heights, the falling back, made necessary by the tardiness of some of his Generals to support him, the ruse of clearing the decks for action, the removal of the hospitals and wounded to a point out of reach of fire, yet in full view of the enemy, the withdrawal of the army so quietly and so adroitly that even his own divisions were deceived into the belief by each, that it was the only division recrossing, altogether mark it as one of the most adroitly managed military manœuvres since the crossing of the Delaware by General Washington.