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The Position of
The Position of
one occasion of our meeting “M. Thouvenel, in reply, said
since, failed to make them the that no application had yet been France.
subject of friendly inquiry, and made to him by the Confedeoften of comment. He looks upon the dismember rated States, in any form, for the recognition of their ment of the American Confederacy with no pleasure, independence ; that the French Government was not but as a calamity to be deplored by every enlight in the habit of acting hastily upon such questions, ened friend of human progress. And he would act, as might be seen by its tardiness in recognizing the not only in conflict with sentiments often expressed, new kingdom of Italy; that he believed the maintebut in opposition to the well-understood feelings of nance of the Federal Union, in its integrity, was to the French people, if he should precipitately adopt be desired for the benefit of the people North and any step whatever tending to give force and efficacy South, as well as for the interests of France, and the to those movements of separation, so long as a rea
Government of the United States might rest well sonable hope remains that the Federal anthority assured that no hasty or precipitate action would be can or should be maintained over the seceding taken on that subject by the Emperor. But whilst States.
he gave utterance to these views, he was equally “The Emperor Napoleon has no selfish purpose bound to say that the practice and usage of the preto accomplish by the dismemberment of the Amer. sent century had fully established the right of de ican Union. As he has upon more than one occa- facto Governments to recognition when a proper tion said to me: 'There are no points of collision case was made out for the decision of foreign between France and the United States; their inter. powers." ests are harmonious, and they point to one policy,
Mr. Seward's instructions to Mr. Dayton, althe closest friendship and the freest commercial in. ready referred to, (see pages 186–87,) will intercourse.' He knows full well that the greatness form the reader of the decision expressed, at of our Republic cannot endanger the stability of his the start, by Mr. Lincoln's administration, throne, or cast á shadow over the glory of France. regarding foreign recognition of the ConfedHe would rather see us united and powerful than erate States and of interference with Amerdissevered and weak. He is too enlightened to mis. ican affairs by foreign Governments. Mr. apprehend the spirit of conciliation which now actuates the conduct of the Federal authorities. He Dayton held a long audience with M. Thouknows that appeals to the public judgment perform venel, May 16th, which resulted in a thorough that function in our Republic which is elsewhere only canvassing of the entire question of relations accomplished by brute force. And if armies have between the two Governments. The French not been marshaled, as they would have been ere
Minister demanded the right of the Southern this in Europe, to give effect to the Federal author. States to be treated as belligerents, “applyity, he is aware that it is not because the General ing," as Mr. Dayton said, "the same doctrine Government disclaims authority over the seceding to them as always had been upheld by the States, or is destitute of the means and resources United States." The blockade would be reof war, but from an enlightened conviction on its
spected. To fit out letters-of-marque in part that time and reflection will be more efficacious French ports, or even to shelter them except than arms in re-establishing the Federal authority, in stress, was forbidden by the Imperial Govand restoring that sentiment of loyalty to the Union which was once the pride of every American heart. ernment; nor would it allow the bringing in, “I have not, so far, heard that any commissioners
or sale of, prizes at French ports. An interhave been sent by the seceding States to France. view was held with the Emperor on the 19th Should they, as you anticipate, arrive shortly, I of May, on which occasion Louis Napoleon think I am not mistaken in saying that they will find repeated his kindly expressions toward the that the Imperial Government is not yet prepared
United States Government, and also added to look favorably upon the object of their mission." that he had been, and still was, ready to offer
In answer to Mr. Seward's first Circular his services to the contending parties, if such (March 9th) to our Ministers abroad, inclos- offer would be mutually agreeable, &c. The ing copies of the President's Inaugural Mes- interview with the Empress also was well sage, and recurring to the policy which would calculated to reassure the American Minister govern the new Administration, Mr. Faulk- of the disposition of the French Government ner, under date of April 15th, 1861, stated' to act openly and candidly in its dealings tbe substance of his interview with the French with the Federal Government. Minister-among other things saying :
This reassurance was welcome because our
Want of Confidence in
Government felt that French promises would | while they lay, for weeks, in English harbors. be respected ; and, when M. Thouvenel stated No act of the English Government could exhis purpose to allow the Confederate Com- ceed the baseness and bad faith of allowing missioners no official status, nor to grant the its commerce, through many months, to supuse of French ports to Southern privateers, ply our enemies with all the necessaries of an it was regarded at Washington as satisfac-effective resistance. Had the American Gov. tory. The recognition, in conjunction with ernment connived at a full
Want of Confidence in the British Government, of the belligerent supply of arms to the Se
British Good Faith. rights of the Southern States, was grounded poys, to assist them in murupon what was by France considered a settled dering their British rulers, the act would have provision of the laws of nations, and was been less reprehensible, because the Sepoys not regarded by M, Thouvenel as a source had been robbed of their heritage—their coun. of aid or comfort to the enemy, with the re-try — their all, by British arms, and their strictions of neutrality rigidly enforced, and stroke was for freedom from British chains. with the denial of ports of entry or harbor Whatever reputation may attach to the to Southern privateers, strictly carried out. French Emperor for ambitious designs, Amer
Our confidence in Eng- ica has less to charge to his sins than to the lish good faith was want- duplicity of British Ministers and the malig
ing from the first, and with nity of the leading British press. French good reason—her neutrality was the merest honor and integrity were un questioned by mockery. Hardly had the blockade been the Federal Government; British honor and established ere English fast-sailing vessels integrity not only were questioned but were and steamers sought to break it. An Eng- the subject of scorn by our people if not by lish island near our coast (New Providence) our Government. Whatever may come forth, became an open and recognized rendezvous in the future, to qualify and direct the relafor this illegal commerce. Thither English tions between the United States and the two vessels, with no attempt at concealment, powers named, one thing is assured : not for transported cargoes of arms, munitions, cloth- two generations, in this country, will there ing and goods—everything needed by the exist for Great Britain anything more than Confederates to conduct their war with vigor. a formal friendship. There rankles in the From Nassau harbor the vessels would dash heart of the Northern people a dislike which into any Southern port from which the block- bodes no good to the future relations of the ading squadron might be temporarily absent, two great Anglo-Saxon powers. We chronor which it had not yet been able to close. icle the existence of this feeling as a fact from Thus the Confederates received, during the which great events may spring—not that it summer and fall months of 1861, immense is a just resentment for indignities received. supplies of those things most useful and need. Public like private resentments should be ful in aiding the insurgents. What an impu- tempered with charity; and, though we may dent mockery was that “neutrality !” The deplore the animosity toward the English infamous character of the proceeding was not Government which unquestionably exists heightened when English guns covered and among us, we are not blind enough to believe protected the privateers Sumter and Nashville it portends a future of peace.
MAJOR - General Butler river, overlooking much of Disposition of Forces.
Disposition of Forces. and staff arrived at Fort- the Hampton Roads anress Monroe Wednesday afternoon, May 22d. chorage. This point was circumvallated, and His promotion to leading rank in the regular a heavy battery mounted on the bluff facing service, with orders to assume command at the water. The object of this occupation the Fortress, indicated extensive operations was not then, and is not now, apparent. It at and from that point. The enemy, antici- was too far away from Yorktown or Warwick pating this, had occupied the best positions to menace those places, or to afford a base commanding the avenues of communication of operations which the Fortress and Hampwith their Capital and with the South. ton did not offer. It was too exposed for a Yorktown and Gloucester Point were pro camp of instruction. It divided a command vided with earthworks and guns of an impos- at no time too strong, and weakened operaing nature. Colonel Magruder-late Colonel tions by compelling the troops to stand on in the U. S. service, and an officer of much the defensive—thus inaugurating a policy distinction as an obstinate combatant-was at once fatal to the spirit of the troops and placed in command (rebel) of the Peninsula. to the success of our arms. Butler acted unNorfolk Bay and Peninsula were strongly for- der superior orders in the disposition. tified by batteries at several points, and a The second camp on the Peninsula, comlarge number of troops were centered there posed of Colonel Duryea's Zouaves and Colounder command of General Huger-also late nel Carr's (Troy) regiment N. Y. volunteers, of the U. S. service. At Willoughby Point, was located one mile north-west of the FortSewall's Point, Craney Island and Pig Point, ress, just beyond the dyke leading to the imposing earthworks were thrown up. The main land, on the farm of Colonel Segar. Gosport Navy Yard was drawn upon for ar- Hampton Village, near by, was deserted by tillery and munitions to mount and supply ail its inhabitants, soon after Butler's arrival. of these defenses. Confederate troops to the His several dashing reconnoissances, and the number of about twelve thousand were gath- advance of his troops, convinced the Seces. ered in Norfolk and vicinity, by June 1st. sionists of the necessity of leaving his neighThey hastened forward rapidly, after the at- borhood, and, by June 1st, the village was tack on the Sewell's Point Battery by the quite deserted—not one hundred of its one U. S. gunboat Star, on the 19th of May. thousand inhabitants remaining. When Butler entered upon the “campaign Troops rapidly poured into Butler's departof the Peninsula,” he found his surroundings ment, and he soon found himself in a condifairly bristling with ordnance which bad tion to act on the offensive. Magruder's niunagement of Federal agents had placed in scouts and cavalry greatly annoyed the two the enemy's hands. (See page 114.]
They had, also, seized Simultaneously with the advance over the several Union men. These raids became so Potomac, the Federal troops pushed out to frequent and annoying that a night attack occupy Newport News Point, on the James I was concerted upon their positions at Little
Bethel and Big Béthel—the We state these orders explicitly that the The Expedition
latter, near the north branch commanding General who ordered the expeAgainst the Bethels.
of Back River, where it was dition may have their benefit in a decision as understood Magruder's outposts were throw-to the responsibility for the disgraceful dising up strong works. Brigadier-General | aster which followed. Pierce, of the Massachusetts troops, was The troops were all put
The Federal Troops detailed to command the expedition. Dur- in motion as ordered. The
fire on one another. yea's Zouaves were pushed over Hampton beautiful night, clear with Creek shortly after midnight, with orders to the light of stars, rendered every movement "march by the road up to Newmarket bridge, easy. The regiments passed to their several then crossing the bridge, to go by a by-road, designated positions - Duryea's in the adand thus put the regiment in the rear of the vance and Lieutenant-Colonel Washburne enemy, and between Big Bethel and Little with the Newport News troops close at hand. Bethel, in part for the purpose of cutting him Townsend's regiment, coming up, was within off, and then to make an attack upon Little a few yards of the rendezvous, when suddenly Bethel.” This regiment was to be supported a furious fire opened upon his ranks. This by Colonel Townsend's regiment (Third New fire, supposed to proceed from an ambuscade York volunteers) at Hampton, which was to of the enemy, was returned, while the assailtake up its line of march at two o'clock. ed regiment left the road and took the cover Colonel Phelps, at Newport News, was order- of a ridge in the rear. Not until several ed to send forward “such companies of the rounds had been discharged and two of regiments under his command as he thought Townsend's men killed and eight wounded best, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel | did the assailants (who proved to be a porWashburne, in time to make a demonstration tion of Colonel Bendix's regiment of German upon Little Bethel in front, and to have him riflemen, together with a few companies of supported by Colonel Bendix's regiment, Massachusetts and Vermont men) discover with two field pieces." Bendix and Town- their grievous mistake. send were to form a junction at the forks of Meanwhile, Duryea and Washburne, hearthe roads leading from Hampton and New- ing the firing, supposed the supporting regiport News, about a mile and a half from Lit- ments to be engaged with the enemy-in which tle Bethel.
event they were completely flanked. They These movements were so arranged that therefore fell back, although the enemy's the attack upon Little Bethel was to be made pickets had been driven in and five of them at daybreak; when, the enemy being re- captured. The alarm thus given prevented pulsed, Duryea's Zouaves and one of the New- the contemplated surprise of the enemy. port News regiments was to “ follow upon When the forces again moved forward to the heels of the flying rebels and attack the the attack, it was to find Little Bethel debattery on the road to Big Bethel, while coy- serted. A conference was then called and an ered by the fugitives, or, if it was thought assault of Big Bethel resolved upon-Duryea expedient by General Pierce, failing to sur- to lead the advance. Butler was informed, prise the camp at Little Bethel, they should by messenger, of the state of affairs, and sent attempt to take the work at Big Bethel. To forward Colonel Allen's regiment as a reserve, prevent the possibility of mistake in the to await orders at Hampton. darkness, Butler directed that no attack Approaching the enemy's position at Big should be made until the watchword was Bethel, it was found that their guns comshouted by the attacking regiment; and, in manded all points of approach. The road case that, by any mistake in the march, the leading up to the bridge over the creek was regiments to make the junction should unex- swept by their artillery. A thick woods to pectedly meet and be unknown to each other, the left of the road afforded some protection it was directed that the members of Colonel to the Federal left. An open field on the Townsend's regiment should be known, if in right of the approach only offered a house daylight, by something white worn on the arm,” and out-buildings as a cover.
occupied a hill, beyond the on his horse, rode between The Assault on Big
The Assault on Big Bethel.
creek, which almost com- the fires, and compelled his
pletely secured their front. | troops to retire. LieutenAt their rear was a dense wood. This gave ant-Colonel Washburne had, also, arranged them the advantage of ground, greatly. A for a flank movement which, with a combined reconnoissance would have demonstrated the attack from the front, must have ended the futility of a front attack except by artillery. struggle; but the order for retreat was given The only hope for the Federals was in a flank before the movement could be executed. movement, higher up the creek, by which, One who was present as an observer, wrote : the stream being passed, the enemy could be The raw troops, recruits not yet two months enassaulted in their works, at the point of the listed, and many of them not having received two bayonet, if necessary. This movement was weeks drill, stood fire well. They were almost only attempted partially at a late hour in utterly unable to defend themselves, from the nature the day.
of things, but never flinched. Some were less disThe rebels were well prepared, and only ciplined than others, and their efforts less available, awaited the appearance of the head of the but no lack of the most difficult sort of courage, that
which consists in enduring without the excitement Federal advance to open a sharp fire. Dur
of performing, was manifested. The cannonading yea, covered by two howitzers and a brass of the enemy was incessant. Shrapnel, canister, six-pounder, took the centre; Townsend the and rifled balls came at the rate of three a minute ; left, near the plain, with two guns; Bendix the only intervals being those necessary to allow the right, in the woods, with Lieutenant their guns to cool. Our own guns, although of comGreble serving his single piece of artillery, in paratively little use, were not idle, until the artillery front, openly. The fight was, from the first, ammunition was entirely exhausted. Almost all of extremely unequal. A front attack was sheer the cartridge rounds of the Zouaves were also folly. But, the flank movement was not or
fired. dered. A second messenger was dispatched
" At about one o'clock, Colonel Allen's regiment, for reenforcements-as if five to one in favor the First New York, came up as a reenforcement, of the Federals were not enough! Colonel and, at about the same time, Colonel Carr's, of the Carr's regiment then advanced as far as New- Troy Volunteers; thèse also received several dis
charges of artillery; but did not move upon the open market bridge, moved to the scene of con
field, with the exception two hundred of the flict-only reaching it, however, to partici- Troy Rifles. Their approach, however, seemed to pate in the retreat.
the commanding General to give no hope that he The fortunes of the day needed but a mas- would be able, without more artillery, to take or si. ter-hand to direct them, to have turned in lence the batteries, and, at about twenty minutes favor of the Union troops. General Pierce past one, he gave the order to withdraw.” refrained from active command*-each regi- The Federal loss was fourteen killed, fortyment seeming to act entirely on its own re- nine wounded and five missing. Among the sponsibility. Several most gallant advances killed were two of the most gallant and noble were made by the Zouaves, up to the enemy's men in the service—Major Theodore Winvery face, to pick off the men lurking behind throp, Secretary and Aid to General Butler, their guns. Colonel Bendix prepared for a and first-Lieutenant John T. Greble, of the final assault, but found no orders given for a United States regular artillery, Second regisupport. Townsend's men behaved with ment. The rebels pronounced their loss to great gallantry, and were only brought away have been but one killed and four wounded. from the murderous fire of the artillery by The retreat was accomplished in good order the personal leadership of the Colonel, who, —the enemy not pursuing. A troop of cav
* There is much variation in the several versions alry sallied over the bridge, and fell upon of this affair made public. Pierce's friends regard the wagons collecting the wounded—disrethe battle as having been lost by the refusal of the garding the flag of truce borne by the Chapbeveral regimental commanders to act in concert. lain in command; but no attack was made on If they disobeyed orders why did he not have them the lines. Colonel Phelps had dispatched two court-martialed ?
hundred and fifty men, under Colonel Haw