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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

Broke contact and got away from Patterson


factor in favour of the South was preparation. South Carolina had begun raising and drilling soldiers for a probable war as soon as Lincoln was elected. The other Southern States had at various intervals followed her example. On the Northern side there had been no preparation whatever under the Buchanan _regime_, and Lincoln had not much chance of attempting such preparation before the war was upon him.

Further, it was probably true that, even untrained, the mass of Southerners were better fitted for war than the mass of Northerners. They were, as a community, agrarian, accustomed to an open-air life, proud of their skill in riding and shooting. The first levies of the North were drawn mostly from the urban population, and consisted largely of clerks, artisans, and men of the professional class, in whose previous modes of life there was nothing calculated to prepare them in any way for the duties of a soldier. To this general rule there was, however, an important reservation, of which the fighting at Fort Donelson and Shiloh afforded an early illustration. In dash and hardihood, and what may be called the raw materials of soldiership the South, whatever it may have had to teach the North, had little to teach the West.

In the matter of armament the South, though not exactly advantageously placed, was at the beginning not so badly off as it might well have been. Floyd, at one time Buchanan's Secretary for War,

was accused, and indeed, after he had joined the Secessionists, virtually admitted having deliberately distributed the arms of the Federal Government to the advantage of the Confederacy. Certainly the outbreak of war found some well-stocked arsenals within the grasp of the rebellion. It was not until its later phases that the great advantage of the industrial North in facilities for the manufacture of armaments made itself apparent.

But the great advantage which the South possessed, and which accounts for the great measure of military success which it enjoyed, must be regarded as an accidental one. It consisted in the much greater capacity of the commanders whom the opening of the war found in control of its forces. The North had to search for competent generals by a process of trial and error, almost every trial being marked by a disaster; nor till the very end of the war did she discover the two or three men who were equal to their job. The South, on the other hand, had from the beginning the good luck to possess in its higher command more than one captain whose talents were on the highest possible level.

The Confederate Congress was summoned to meet at Richmond on July 20th. A cry went up from the North that this event should be prevented by the capture before that date of the Confederate capital. The cry was based on an insufficient appreciation of the military resources of the enemy, but it was so vehement and universal that the Government was compelled to yield to it. A considerable army had by this time been collected in Washington, and under the command of General McDowell it now advanced into Virginia, its immediate objective being Manassas Junction. The opposing force was under the Southern commander Beauregard, a Louisianian of French extraction. The other gate of Eastern Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, was held by Joseph Johnstone, who was to be kept engaged by an aged Union general named Patterson. Johnstone, however, broke contact and got away from Patterson, joining Beauregard behind the line of a small river called Bull Run, to which the latter had retired. Here McDowell attacked, and the first real battle of the Civil War followed. For a time it wavered between the two sides, but the arrival in flank of the forces of Johnstone's rearguard, which had arrived too late for the opening of the battle, threw the Union right wing into confusion. Panic spread to the whole army, which, with the exception of a small body of regular troops, flung away its arms and fled in panic back to Washington.

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