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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

Look at Jackson and his Virginians


unauspiciously opened the campaign against the Confederacy. The impression produced on both sides was great. The North set its teeth and determined to wipe out the disgrace at the first possible moment. The South was wild with joy. The too-prevalent impression that the "Yankees" were cowards who could not and would not fight seemed confirmed by the first practical experiment. The whole subsequent course of the war showed how false was this impression. It has been admitted that the Southerners were at first, on the whole, both better fitted and better prepared for war than their opponents. But all military history shows that what enables soldiers to face defeat and abstain from panic in the face of apparent disaster is not natural courage, but discipline. Had the fight gone the other way the Southern recruits would probably have acted exactly as did the fugitive Northerners. Indeed, as it was, at an earlier stage of the battle a panic among the Southerners was only averted by the personal exertions of Beauregard, whose horse was shot under him, and by the good conduct of the Virginian contingent and its leader. "Look at Jackson and his Virginians," cried out the Southern commander in rallying his men, "standing like a stone wall." The great captain thus acclaimed bore ever after, through his brief but splendid military career, the name of "Stonewall" Jackson.

Bull Run was fought and won in July. The only other important operations of the year

consisted in the successful clearing, by the Northern commander, McClellan, of Western Virginia, where a Unionist population had seceded from the Secession. Lincoln, with bold statesmanship, recognized it as a separate State, and thus further consolidated the Unionism of the Border. In recognition of this service McClellan was appointed, in succession to McDowell, to the command of the army of the Potomac, as the force entrusted with the invasion of Eastern Virginia was called.

At the first outbreak of the war English sympathies, except perhaps for a part of the travelled and more or less cosmopolitan aristocracy which found the Southern gentleman a more socially acceptable type than the Yankee, seem to have been decidedly with the North. Public opinion in this country was strong against Slavery, and therefore tended to support the Free States in the contest of which Slavery was generally believed to be the cause. Later this feeling became a little confused. Our people did not understand the peculiar historical conditions which bound the Northern side, and were puzzled and their enthusiasm damped by the President's declaration that he had no intention of interfering with Slavery, and still more by the resolution whereby Congress specifically limited the objective of the war and the preservation of the Union, expressly guaranteeing the permanence of Slavery as a domestic institution. These things made it easy for the advocates of the South to maintain that Slavery had nothing to do with the issue--as, indeed, directly, it had not. Then came Bull Run--the sort of Jack-the-Giant-Killer incident which always and in a very human fashion excites the admiration of sportsmanlike foreigners. One may add to this the fact that the intelligent governing class at that time generally regarded the Americans, as the Americans regarded us, as rivals and potential enemies, and would not have been sorry to see one strong power in the New World replaced by two weak ones. On the other hand, the British Government's very proper proclamation of neutrality as between the United States and the Confederacy had been somewhat unreasonably criticized in America.

Yet the general sympathy with the Free as against the Slave States might have had a better chance of surviving but for the occurrence in November, 1861, of what is called the "Trent" dispute. The Confederacy was naturally anxious to secure recognition from the Powers of Western Europe, and with this object despatched two representatives, Mason of Virginia and Slidell of South Carolina, the one accredited to the Court of St. James's and the other to the Tuileries. They took passage to Europe in a British ship called the _Trent_. The United States cruiser _San Jacinto_, commanded by Captain Wilkes of the American Navy, overhauled this vessel, searched it and seized and carried off the two Confederate envoys.

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