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South, and renewed a grief similar to what had been expended a year ago upon the sorrowful stories of Donelson and New Orleans.
But happily in this instance the public despondency was of short duration. A few days brought news from our lines, which exploded the falsehoods of the Yankees, and assured the people of the South that the engagements of Gettysburg had resulted in worsting the enemy, in killing and wounding a number exceeding our own, and in the capture of a large number of prisoners. The public was yet further satisfied that the falling back of our army, at least as far as Hagerstown, was a movement dictated by general considerations of strategy and prudence. It consoled itself that the subsequent retirement of our forces into Virginia was the excess of safety; and it found reason for congratulation that the retreat of Lee to his old lines was accomplished with a dexterity and success that foiled the enemy, and disappointed the greater portion of his triumph.
But notwithstanding these causes of moderate thankfulness, it must be confessed that the retreat from Hagerstown across the Potomac was an inconsequence and a mystery to the intelligent public. Lee's position there was strong; his force was certainly adequate for another battle; preparations were made for aggressive movements; and in the midst of all came a sudden renouncement of the campaign, and the retreat into Virginia. The history of this untimely retreat has not been developed; but there is one fact to assist the explanation of it, and that is that the authorities at Richmond were much more alarmed than Gen. Lee, and much less capable than the commander himself of judging the military situation from which his army was recalled. The troops availed themselves of no other refuge than that of their own soil; they had not been defeated or seriously worsted; and so far the public had its secondary wish for the safety of the army. But this did not exclude mortification on the part of those who believed that Gen. Lee had abandoned the enemy's territory, not as a consequence of defeat, but from the undne timidity or the arrogant disposition of the authorities who controlled him. The grounds of such a belief are not certainly stated; but its existence in che public mind is a fact to be recognized by the historian, and
'to be determined by evidence, when time and occasion shal, produce it.
The check at Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg, which we have seized upon as the prominent events of the summer o: 1863, and of which we hope hereafter, in another volume, to give a more minute and faithful account, in connection with many contemporary or closely consequent events, which are here omitted, afford a natural pause in which we may well review the events of the revolution, and speculate on its distant or ultimate future.
The disasters to which we have briefly referred, although considerable, were far from being desperate, and were scarcely occasions of any serious alarm in the South, as to the ultimate issue of the struggle. The military condition of the country was certainly far better than at the former unhappy period of the spring of 1862. Then our armies were feeble, and, in a great measure, disorganized; the conscription law had not gone into operation, and our reduced forces were scattered along an extended frontier. Now well-disciplined and seasoned armies hold with compact forces the critical positions in the Confederacy. The loss of territory, which in a European campaign, where inland fortresses and great cities give convenient footholds to an invading army, would have been estimated as a fatal disadvantage, had a very different signification in a war between the two great American powers. Indeed it may be said that the armies of our enemy scarcely did more than hold the ground they stood upon, and that in a war now passing into its third year, they had failed to touch the vitals of the Confederacy. The temporary cession of large bodies of territory to them, was really to their disadvantage in military respects; for it occasioned the necessity of extending their lines of communication, exposing their rear, and subjecting themselves, on every side, to the dangers of a hostile country, where there were no great fortresses or citadels to protect them.
But it must be confessed that there were to be found at this time but few subjects of congratulation in the internal condi. tion of the Confederacy. The civil administration, in many of the departments, was ignorant, defective, and, in some in. stances, oppressive. The appendage of Congress might well
have been dispensed with in our revolution, for it accomplished nothing; all its legislation was patch-work, and its measures but the weak echoes of the newspapers. The extraordinary cabinet of Mr. Davis still survived as a ridiculous cipher; for its members never dared to raise their voices on any public ineasure, or to assert their existence beyond signing their names to certify the laws and orders of the government, or the will of the President.
The military pragmatism of the President was his worst failing. He had treated Price, among the earliest heroes of the war, with cold and insolent neglect. He had constrained Gustavus Smith to resign, and deprived the country of one of its most brilliant generals. He had taken the unfair opportunity of a sick furlough on the part of Beauregard, to deprive him of his command in the West and give it to a favorite. He had even attempted to put Jackson in leading-strings; for it was the Presidential order that set bounds to his famous Winchester expedition, and that would have timidly recalled him from his splendid campaign in the valley. Nor was this all. There was reason to suppose that Lee's return from the territory of the North was constrained by the views of the Executive, and that the President, who had once defeated the capture of Washington, by his interference at the first field of Manassas, had again repeated his intermeddling, removed a decisive victory from the grasp of our army, and turned back the war for years.
While such was the envious or ignorant interference of the President with our most meritorious generals, he was not without favorites. While he quarrelled with such men as Price, Beauregard, Gustavus Smith, and Johnston, he maintained such favorites as Holmes, Heth, Lovell, and Pemberton. No man was ever more sovereign in his likes and dislikes. Favorites were elevated to power, and the noblest spirits consigned to obscurity by the fiat of a single man in the Confederacy, and that man one of the strongest prejudices, the harshest obstinacy, and the most ungovernable fondness for parasites.
In this war Mr. Davis has evidently been anxious to appear in the eyes of Europe as the military genius of the Confederacy 26 well as the head of its civil administration. He has been careless of public opinion at home. But this has been no proof of stoicism or of greatness; it has merely shown his conceit to be in a different direction. This conceit has been that of "provincialism”— the courting of that second-hand public opinion which is obtained from the politicians and journalists of Europe; the bane of political and civil society in the South. No man of equal public station on this continent has ever courted the opinions of Europe more assiduously than the President of this Confederacy. The proclamations of the Executive, the general orders of the army, the pronunciamentoes
, of chivalry which have denied the rights of retaliation, bilked the national conscience, and nursed a viperous enemy with the milk of kindness, have all been composed with an eye to European effect. Compromises of dignity and self-respect have been made to conciliate foreign nations. Consuls drawing their exequaturs from the Washington government—a standing derogation to the Confederacy which has received them-have been sheltered and endured here; and Europe, which denies our rights over our territory, has received at our hands the safety of her citizens.
We have referred in other pages to the low condition of the finances of the Confederacy in the opening months of this year. It had since declined much further. In February, 1862, President Davis had enade the most extravagant congratulations to the country on our financial condition, and pointed with an air of triumph to the failing fortunes of the enemy's treasury. In less than eighteen months thereafter, when gold was quoted in New York at twenty-five per cent. premium, it was selling in Richmond at nine hundred per cent. premium! Such liave been the results of the financial wisdom of the Confederacy, dictated by the President, who advised Congress to authorize illimitable issues of treasury notes, and aggravated, no doubt, by the ignorance of his Secretary, who invented a legerdemain of funding which succeeded not only in depreciating the currency, but also in dishonoring the government.
The experiments of Mr. Memminger on the currency was the signal of multiplied and rapid depreciation. While the eccentric and pious Secretary was figuring out impossible schemes of making money, or ransacking the bookstores for works on religious controversy, unprincipled brokers in the Confederacy were undermining the currency with a zeal for
the destruction of their country not less than that of the Yan kees. The assertion admits of some qualification. Sweeping remarks in history are generally unjust. Among those engaged in the business of banking and exchange in the South, there were undoubtedly some enlightened and public-spirited men, who had been seduced by the example or constrained by the competition of meaner and more avaricious men of the same profession, to array themselves against the currency, and to commit offences from which they would have shrunk in horror, had they not been disguised by the casuistry of commerce and gain.
It was generally thought in the South reprehensible to refuse the national currency in the payment of debts. Yet the broker, who demanded ten dollars in this currency for one in gold, really was guilty of nine times refusing the Confederate money. It was accounted shocking for citizens in the South to speculate in soldiers' clothing and bread. Yet the broker, who demanded nine or ten prices for gold, the representative of all values, speculated alike in every necessary in the coun try. Nor was this the greatest of their offences. With unsur passed shamelessness brokers in the Confederacy exposed the currency of the North for sale, and demanded for it four hundred per cent. premium over that of the Confederacy! This act of benefit to the Yankees was openly allowed by the government. A bill had been introduced in Congress to prohibit this traffic, and to extirpato this infamous anomaly in our his tory ; but it failed of enactment, and its failure can only be attributed to the grossest stupidity, or to sinister influences of the most dishonorable kind. The traffic was immensely profitable. State bonds and bank bills to the amount of many millions were sent North by the brukers, and the rates of discount were readily submitted to when the returns were made in Yankee paper money, which, in the Richmond shops, was worth in Confederate notes five dollars for one.
One-but only one--cause of the depreciation of the Con federate currency was illicit trade. It had done more to demoralize the Confederacy than any thing else. The inception of this trade was easily winked at by the Confederate authorities; it commenced with paltry importations across the Puto nac; it was said that the country wanted medicines, surgica.