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150

“ALL QUIET ON THE POTOMAC.”

CHAPTER VI.

THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.—THE TRENT AFFAIR.-CAPTURE OF ROANOKE ISLAND.

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OR the space of nearly two months after the disaster

at Ball's Bluff, the public ear was daily teased with the unsatisfactory report, “All is quiet on the Potomac!” The roads leading toward the Confederate camps, near Bull's Run, were never in better condition. The weather was perfect in serenity. The entire autumn in Virginia was unusually magnificent in all its features. Much of the time, until near Christmas,

the atmosphere was very much like that of the soft Indian summer time. Regiment after regiment was rapidly swelling the ranks of the Army of the Potomac to the number of two hundred thousand men, thoroughly equipped and fairly disciplined; while at no time did any reliable report make that of the Confederates in front of it over sixty thousand. Plain people wondered why so few, whom politicians called “ ragamuffins ” and “a mob,” could so tightly hold the National Capital in a state of siege, while the “ bravest and best men of the North,” fully armed and provisioned, were in and around it, and Nature and Patriotism invited them to walk out and disperse the besiegers, lying not two days' march from that Capital. But what did plain people know about war? Therefore so it was that they were satisfied, or tried to be satisfied, with a very little of it from time to time, though paying at enormous rates in gold and muscle for that little. And so it was that when, just before Christmas, the “quiet on the Potomac” was slightly broken by an event we are about to consider, the people, having learned to expect little, were greatly delighted by it. Let us see what happened.

When McCall fell back from Drainsville, the Confederates reoccupied it. His main encampment was at Langley, and Prospect Hill, near the Leesburg road, and only a few miles above the Chain Bridge, on the Virginia side. The Confederates became very bold after their victory at the Bluff, and pushing their picket-guards far up toward the National lines, they

FORAGERS AT WORK. made many incursions in search forage, despoiling Union men, and distressing the country in general. With

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BATTLE NEAR DRAINSVILLE.

151

McClellan's permission, McCall prepared to strike these Confederates a blow that should make them more circumspect, and stop their incursions. observed that on such occasions they generally left a strong reserve at Drainsville, and he determined to attempt their capture when an opportunity should offer. Later in December the opportunity occurred, and he ordered Brigadier-General E. 0. C. Ord to attempt the achievement; and at the same time to gather forage from the farms of the secessionists.

Ord, with his brigade,' undertook the enterprise on the

a Dec., 1861. 20th." McCall ordered Brigadier-General Reynolds to move forward with his brigade toward Leesburg, as far as Difficult Creek, to support Ord, if required. When the force of the latter was within two miles of Drainsville, and his foragers were loading their wagons, the troops were attacked by twentyfive hundred Confederates, under General J. E. B. Stuart," who came up the road from the direction of Centreville. A severe fight ensued. The Confederates were greatly outnumbered, and were soon so beaten that they fled in haste, carrying in their wagons little else than their wounded men. The brunt of the battle had fallen on the Sixth and Ninth Pennsylvania, the Rifles, and Easton's Battery. The National loss consisted of seven killed and sixty wounded; and their gain was a victory, and "sixteen wagon-loads of excellent hay, and twenty-two of corn." Stuart reported his loss at forty-three killed and one hundred and forty-three wounded. He had been induced to attack superior numbers by the foolish boast of Evans, that he had encountered and whipped four to his one; and he tried to console his followers by calling this affair a victory for them, because McCall did not choose to hold the battle-field, but leisurely withdrew to his encampment. This little victory greatly inspired the loyal people, for it gave them the assurance that the troops of the Army of the Potomac were ready and able to fight bravely, whenever they were allowed the privilege.

While the friends of the Government were anxiously waiting for the almost daily promised movement of the Grand Army toward Richmond, as the year was drawing to a close, and hearts were growing sick with hopes deferred, two events, each having an important bearing on the war, were in

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E. 0. 0. ORD.

1 His brigade was composed of Pennsylvania regiments, and consisted of the Ninth, Colonel Jackson ; Tenth, Colonel McCalmont; Twelfth, Colonel Taggart; Bucktail Rifles, Lieutenant-Colonel T. L. Kano; a battalion of the Sixth; two squadrons of cavalry, and Easton's Battery-in all about 4,000 men.

3 His troops consisted of the Eleventh Virginia. Colonel Garland; Sixth South Carolina, Lieutenant-Colonel Seagrist; Tenth Alabama, Colonel Harvey; First Kentucky, Colonel T. H. Taylor; the Suiter Flying Artillery, four pieces, Captain Cutts; and detachments from two North Carolina cavalry regiments, 1,000 in number, under Major Gordon. Stuart was also on a foraging expedition, and had about 200 wagons with him.

3 Report of General McCall, December 20, 1961; also, General Stuart to General Beauregard, December 21, 1861.

152

OPINIONS OF THE BRITISH ARISTOCRACY.

progress; one directly affecting the issue, and the other affecting it incidentally, but powerfully. One was the expedition that made a permanent lodgment of the National power on the coast of North Carolina; and the other was intimately connected with the foreign relations of the Government. Let us first consider the latter event. The incidents were few and simple, but they concerned the law and the policy of nations.

We have already noticed the fact that the conspirators, at an early period of their confederation against the Government, had sent representatives to Europe, for the purpose of obtaining from foreign powers a recognition of the league as an actual government. These men were active, and found swarms of sympathizers among the ruling and privileged classes of Europe, and especially in Great Britain. There was an evident anxiety among those classes in the latter country to give all possible aid to the conspirators, so that the power of the Republic of the West, the hated nursery of democratic ideas, might be destroyed by disintegration resulting from civil dissensions.'

Fortunately for the Republic, the men who had been sent abroad by the conspirators were not such as the diplomats of Europe could feel a pro

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I Sec page 259, volume I.

We have alrearly observed the “precipitate and unprecedentod" proceedings, as Mr. Adams termed it, of the British Government, and tho leaders of public opinion in England, in allowing to the insurgents the privileges of belligerents. [Chapter XXIV., volume I.) In Parliament and out of it, no favorablo occasion was omitted, by inany leading men, to speak not only disparagingly, but often very offensively, of the Government and people of the Republic. Tho enemies of free institutions and supporters of privileged classes acted upon the old maxim of political craft, “ Divide and Govern," and they exerted all their powers to widen the breach between the people of the Free and Slave-labor States. Sir Edwar:l Dulwer Lytton, the author, who bad received the honors of knighthood, which allied him to the aristocratic class in Great Britain, appeared among the willing prophets of evil for the Republic. He declared in an address before an Agricultural Society, on the 25th of September, 1861, that he had “long foreseen and foretold to bo inevitable" a dissolution of the American Union ; and then again, mounting the Delphic stool, he solemnly said: “I venture to predict that the younger men here present will live to see not two, but at least four, and probably more than four, separate and sovereign Common. wealths arising out of those populations which a year ago united their legislature under oro President, and carried their merchandise under one flag." He rejoiced in the prospect that so gladdened his vision, and said: " I believe that such separation will be attended with happy results to the safety of Europe, and the development of American civilization." The desire for such separation was evidently engendered in the speaker's mind by an unpleasant horoscope of the future of the Great Republic. “If it could have been possible," he said, " that, as population and wealth increased, all the vast continent of Am:rica, with her mighty seaboard, and the ticets which her increasing ambition as well as her extending commerce would have formed and armed, could have remained under ono form of government, in which the executive has little or no control over a populace exceedingly adventarous and excitable, why, then, America would have hung over Europe like a gathering and destructive thunder-cloud. No single kingdom in Europe could have been strong enough to maintnin itself against a nation that had once consolidated the gigantic resources of a quarter of the globe."

A little later, Earl Russell, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in an after-vinner speech at Newcastle-uponTyne, declared that the struggle in America was “on the one side for empire, and on the other for power," and not for the great principles of human liberty, and for the life of the Republic, for which the Government was really contending. A little later still, the Earl of Shrewsbury, speaking with hope for his class, at the old city of Worcester, said that he saw in Arneria the trial of Democracy, and its failure. He elieveil the dissolution of the Union to be inevitable, and that men there before him would live to "see an aristocracy established in America." In the same hour, Sir John Pakingtun, formerly a cabinet ininister, and then a member of Parliament, told the saine hearers, thit, "from President Lincoln, downward, there was not a inan in America who would venture to tell them that he really thought it possible that by the force of circumstances the North could hope to compel the South to again join them in constituting the United States." Sir John Bowring, an eminent English scholar, in a kindly letter to an American friend in England, expressed his solemn conviction of the utter separation of the States, and intimated that the Government lacked the sympathy of Englishmen because it had not “ shown any lisposition to put down slavery." Overlooking the fact that the fathers of the Republic fought for the establishment of liberty for all, and that the conspirators were figliting for the establishment of the slavery of the many for the benefit of the few, he made a comparison, and said, “ It does not appear to mno that you are justified in calling the Southerners rebels. Our statesten of the time of George III. called Washington and Franklin by that name." Lord Stanley, who had traveled in the United States a dozen years before, and better understood Arnerican affairs, said, in a peech early in Norember, that a Sonthern nfederacy would be established. “He did no: think it reasonable to blame the Federal Government for declining to give up hálf their territory without striking a blow in its defense;" but the real difficulty in this case, in his inind, was

NEW CONFEDERATE COMMISSIONERS.

153

found respect for;' and at the beginning of the autumn of 1861 it was painfully evident to their employers that they were making no progress toward obtaining the coveted good of recognition. It was therefore determined to send men of more ability to vindicate and advocate their cause at the two most powerful Courts of Europe, namely, Great Britain and France. For these missions, James Murray Mason and John Slidell were appointed. They were original conspirators. The former was a native of Virginia, and the latter of New York, but long a resident of Louisiana. The former was accredited to the Court of St. James, and the latter to the Court of St. Cloud. Both had been prominent members of the Senate of the United States, and both were somewhat known in Europe. Mason was justly supposed to possess a sufficiency of that duplicity (which unfortunately too often characterizes a diplomatist), to cover up the real objects of the conspirators and win for them the good offices of confiding English statesmen. Slidell (whose wife

. was an accomplished French Creole of Louisiana) was well versed in the French language and habits; and for adroit trickery and reckless disregard of truth, honor, or justice, he was rightly supposed to be a match for the most wily employé of the Emperor of France, honest or dishonest. These men were duly commissioned as “ Ambassadors ” for the “ Confederate States of America,” and their proposed work was regarded as of vital importance to the interests of the Confederacy.

The blockade of the Southern ports of the Republic was then very stringent, and it was some time before these men found an opportunity to leave the country. They finally went to sea on the 12th of October, in the small steamship Theodore, which left Charleston harbor at a little past midnight, while rain was falling copiously, and in the darkness escaped the notice of the blockading fleet. Mason was accompanied by his secretary (Mr. McFarland), and Slidell by his wife and four children, and his secretary (Mr. Eustis) and his wife, who was a daughter of Corcoran, the eminent banker of Washington City. The Theodore touched first at

4 1861.

involved in the question, “ If they conquer the Southern States, what will they do with them when they have got them ?" Ho pictured to himself the need of the establishment of a powerful military government to keep them in subjection. He wisely recommended great caution in judging of American affairs.

Vr. Glastone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech at Edinburgh, in January, 1562, expressed there the opinion that the National Government could never succeed in putting down the Rebellion, and if it should, he said, it "would only be the preface and introduction of political difficulties for greater than even the military difficulties of the war itsell.” This speech was delivered just after the surrender of Mason and Slidell to the British Government; and Mr. Gladstone, evidently unmindful of the true greatness of fixed principles of action as inseparablo from mere worldly interests, was ungenerous enongh to make that display of honor. honesty, and consistency on the part of our National Guvernment an occasion for disparaging that Government and the people, by charging them with instability of purpose, if not cowardice. He tauntingly said: “Let us look back to the moment when the Prince of Wales appeared in the United States of America, and when nien by the thousand, by tens of thousands, and by hundreds of thousands, trooped together from all parts to give him welcome as enthusiastic, and as obviously proceeding from the depths of the heart, as if thoso vast countries hal still been a portion of the dominions of onr Queen. Let us look to the fact that they are of necessity a people subject to quick and violent action of opinion, and liable to great public excitement, intensely agreed on the subject of the war in which they were engaged, until aroused to a high pitch of expectation by hearing that one of their vessels of war had laid hold on the Commissioners of the Southern States, whom they regarded simply as rebels. Let us look to the fact that in the midst of that exultation, and in a country whero the principles of popular government and democracy are carried to extremes--that even, however, in this struggle of lifo and death, as they think it to be --that even while ebullitions were taking place all over the country of joy and exultation at this capture-that even there this popular and democratic Government has, under a demand of a foreign Power, written these words, for they are the closing words in the dispatch of Mr. Seward: The fonr Co:nmissioners will be cheerfully liberated.""

· Soe page 260, volume I. 2 See page SS1, volume I. 3 See page 231, rorumo I.

154

WILKES IN SEARCH OF TRAITORS.

CHARLES WILKES.

Nassau, New Providence, a British port, where blockade-runners and Confederate pirate-ships always found a welcome and shelter during the

war, and thence went to Cuba. At Havana, the “ Ambassadors” were greeted with the most friendly expressions and acts, by the British Consul and other sympathizers, and there they took passage for St.

Thomas," in the British • Nov. 7,

mail-steamer Trent, Cap1861.

tain Moir, intending to leave for England in the next regular packet from that island to Southampton.

The National Government heard of the departure of Mason and Slidell, and armed vessels were sent in pursuit. None of these won the prize. That

achievement was left for Captain Charles Wilkes, of the navy, to perform, an officer of world-wide fame, as the commander of the American Exploring Expedition to the South Seas, a quarter of a century before. At that time he was on his way home from the coast of . Africa, in command of the National steam sloop-of-war San Jacinto, mounting thirteen guns. He put into the port of St. Thomas, and there hearing of the movements of the pirate ship Sumter, he departed on a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico and among the West India Islands in search of it. At Havana he was informed of the presence and intentions of the Confederate “Ambassadors," and after satisfying himself that the law of nations, and especially the settled British interpretation of the law concerning neutrals and belligerents, would justify his interception of the Trent, and the seizure on board of it of

the two “ Ambassadors,” he went out in the track of that vessel Nov. 2.

in the Bahama Channel, two hundred and forty miles from Havana, and awaited its appearance. He was gratified with that apparition toward noon on the 8th of November, when off Paredon del Grande, on the north side of Cuba, and less than a dozen miles distant.

On the appearance of the Trent, all hands were called to quarters on the San Jacinto, and Lieutenant D. M. Fairfax, a kinsman of Mason by marriage, was ordered to have two boats in readiness, well manned and armed, to board the British steamer, and seize and bring away the “ Ambassadors” and their secretaries. When the Trent was within hailing distance, a request was made for it to heave to. It kept on its course, when a shell fired across its bow made a demand that was heeded. Fairfax was sent on board of the Trent, but found he could do nothing in the matter of his errand without the use of physical force. Captain Moir had declined to show his papers and his passenger-list, and the “ Ambassadors” had treated with scorn the summons to go on board the San Jacinto, which, like all the other acts of Fairfax, had been done with the greatest courtesy and propriety.' A proper force was

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1 The appearance of Lieutenant Fairfax on board the Trent, with a warrant for the arrest of Mason and

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