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228

THE ARMY IN WINTER QUARTERS.

Lynch succeeded in cutting out a schooner almost under the guns of fortress Monroe. It was humiliating enough to submit to the blockade of the Potomac, without being defied in this way in the presence of a powerful fleet.

South, Dupont's mission seemed to have ended with the taking of Port Royal, and he was left apparently to amuse himself in any way he thought proper. There was a strange want of definite purpose about this whole expedition, which succeeding events instead of clearing up obscured the more. He, however, had his instructions, and commenced a series

explorations along the Carolina and Georgia coast, during the month, which served to keep the inhabitants in a state of alarm. The bay of St. Helena, valuable as a harbor, and for its proximity to Charleston, was taken possession of by Drayton, as well as Tybee Roads. Another expedition, under Commander Rodgers, went up Warsaw Sound, to within ten miles of Savannah. A little later, on the eleventh, he with several gunboats started up the Vernon river and the Great Ogeechee to Ossabaw Island.

On the sixteenth, Drayton made an exploration of the north and south Edisto rivers, but found little except deserted fortifications and plantations, denuded of every thing but slaves. Here and there a battery, placed where the gun boats could not operate, was discovered.

Nothing of importance occurred along the gulf, and affairs at fort Pickens seemed to have fallen back to their old state of quietness since the bombardment of the month previous.

Around Washington, the eventful year of 1861 went out quietly. The two great armies lay front to front,,and seemed occupied chiefly in making themselves comfortable during: the inclement season. Log cabins, tents banked with earth and supplied with every variety of heating apparatus tlsat American ingenuity could devise, and sheltered by, cedar bushes set in the earth to break the force of the wind, and

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every trade,

stables built of evergreens, combined to make the vast en-
campment of the army of the Potomac a curious and inter-
esting sight. Thus housed, the mighty host, composed of
mechanics, farmers, clerks, lawyers, and men

of
accustomed to all the comforts of life, prepared itself to
meet the biting gales and storms of sleet and snow that
made up the dreary winter.

A little excitement was created in Washington by the re-
turn of Mr. Ely, Member of Congress from Rochester, who
was taken prisoner at Bull Run, and had ever since been
confined. in prison at Richmond. Mr. Faulkner of Virginia,
our Minister to France under Mr. Buchanan's administra-
tion, had been arrested on his return to this country, on the
suspicion of treason, and confined in fort Warren. Being
released on parole for the purpose of effecting an exchange
for Mr. Ely, he succeeded, and the latter returned to Wash-
ington, where his description of his prison life, and that of
the soldiers, awakened considerable interest. It was hoped
that his release would be the means of some general system
of exchange of prisoners being adopted, and movements to
that end were set on foot, but failed to accomplish it.

Congress in the mean time was getting restive under the inaction of the army in front of the Capital. The impassable condition of the roads, it seemed to be admitted on all hands, rendered a winter campaign out of the question; but members were dissatisfied that no forward movement had been made before they became so, and the germs of a strong opposition to McClellan began to develop themselves. The country, however, was appeased by the assurance that a great plan was maturing, which required delay, but at the proper time would be developed and crush the rebellion at A blow. Unfortunately for McClellan, not only did the conservative part of the country uphold his course, but the opposition' seized upon him to play off against the ardent Re

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230

THE BORDER STATES.

publicans, thus creating a party hostile to him, independent of military matters. The more considerate thought they saw the beginning of incalculable evil in this, for it was plain that the army was determined to stand by its young commander, and if the opposition party made an onslaught on him, and carried the administration with it, we might have serious trouble on our hands. But it soon became apparent that the President was firm on this point, and would, at least until further developments, stand by the Commanderin-Chief. His position was so decided and determined, that the party leaders saw that to press the matter would bring them in direct collision with the administration. McClellan's indifference to politicians, and his habit of reticence, deigning neither to excuse nor explain, made it certain, however, that the first mistake that he should be guilty of, would rouse an intensely active opposition. Whenever he should move, it must be to unqualified victory, or the storm that would burst on his head would be the severer from having been so long delayed.

This firmness of the Executive, however, was the great redeeming feature of the administration; for the conviction that the hand at the helm was steady gave the country confidence and courage.

In the mean time, the members from the border states were in a very uncomforiable position: they wished to stand by the Union and put down the rebellion, but differed toto cælo from the Republican party, respecting the manner in which it should be done. They wished to leave slavery alone, -to reduce the rebels by force of arms,—and let the Union men in the slave states, held down by tyrannical power, have a chance to speak and act, and thus bring back the old Union, with the Constitution unimpaired. But the formar insisted that slavery was the cause of the rebellion, aqu was absurd to suppose you could destroy an effect so long

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let the cause remain. On this subject the north was much divided, and it was plain it would cause the President more trouble and vexation than all other things put together. What should be his line of policy under the circumstances, was a most serious and perplexing question, and one which would become more embarrassing at every step of the progress of the war. He would be between the upper and nether millstones, and vast and untold evils lay dimly shadowed in the future. He was, however, steadily rising in the confidence of all classes, exhibiting grander proportions of character than even his warmest admirers had ever claimed for him; but how long he would be able to hold a steady helm in the turbulent sea through which the vessel of State was dashing, no one knew. Events were crowding fearful responsibilities upon his shoulders, and it seemed more than likely before another year came round, on him alone would turn the destiny of the nation.

The Union border men trembled for their own states, as they saw the tendency of things, and tried in various ways to prevent the evil they feared. The most extraordinary proposition made, perhaps, was one by Mr. Saulsbury, Senator from Delaware, in the latter part of this month: that a certain number of commissioners should be appointed, among them Messrs. Fillmore and Everett, to meet a similar number from the south, for the purpose of agreeing on some basis of settlement by which the divided states could come together once more in peace. But the question, “Shall there be war or not?” had long since passed,—the momentous one now was; on what principles shall it be conducted ? and to what end shall it be pushed ? The abolitionists and one wing of the Republican party demanded that universal freedom should keep pace with the army, while the more conservative insisted that the war should look only to the restoration of the states to their old status. One

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declared that rebellion canceled all the obligations enforced by the original compact, and the other replied that a war waged on this basis would be a war of conquest, and could end only in ruin to the Republic. The former asserted that the rebellion could be crushed in no other way except by the destruction of slavery,—the latter said that neither Congress nor the President had any more right or power, except tyrannical, to abolish slavery in the states than slavery in India; and if they had, sudden emancipation would as effectually destroy the states, as a part of the Federal Union, as though they were physically cut off.

These opposing views necessarily more or less distracted the administration, and threatened a serious division in the north. The President was troubled, and felt that the people were making a grievous mistake in quarreling over the ques- .. tion of slavery, while the whole thought and energy of the country should be given to the defeat of the rebel armies in the field. Fortunately for the nation, he was not swayed by any fanciful theories, but took a practical view of the subject, and endeavored so to shape his policy as not to distract the country, but unite it. In this he showed a remarkable penetration, and a capacity and force of character that elevated him still more in the estimation of the people. He wished to crush the rebel armies first, and dispose of the question of slavery afterwards, but some of his friends seemed determined that he should make an effort to settle this first, and take the chances of its effect on the rebellion

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