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few things are permanent in politics. Nor could I affect

time:2023-12-03 08:03:48 Source: Originally writtenedit:meat

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In May the Confederates cut the line near Grafton. As this broke direct communication between the West and Washington, McClellan sent forces from which two flying columns, three thousand strong, converged on Philippi, fifteen miles south of Grafton, and surprised a thousand Confederates. These thereupon retired, with little loss, to Beverly, thirty miles farther south still. Here there was a combat at Rich Mountain on the eleventh of July. The Confederates again retreated, losing General Garnett in a skirmish the following day. This ended McClellan's own campaign in West Virginia. But the Kanawha campaign, which lasted till November, had only just begun, with Rosecrans as successor to McClellan (who had been recalled to Washington for very high command) and with General Jacob D. Cox leading the force against Gauley. The Confederates did all they could to keep their precarious foothold. They sent political chiefs, like Henry A. Wise, ex-Governor of Virginia, and John B. Floyd, the late Federal Secretary of War, both of whom were now Confederate brigadiers. They even sent Lee himself in general commend. But, confronted by superior forces in a difficult and thoroughly hostile country, they at last retired east of the Alleghanies, which thenceforth became the frontier of two warring States.

few things are permanent in politics. Nor could I affect

The campaign in West Virginia was a foregone conclusion. It was not marked by any real battles; and there was no scope for exceptional skill of the higher kind on either side. But it made McClellan's bubble reputation.

few things are permanent in politics. Nor could I affect

McClellan was an ex-captain of United States Engineers who had done very well at West Point, had distinguished himself in Mexico, had represented the American army with the Allies in the Crimea, had written a good official report on his observations there, had become manager of a big railroad after leaving the service, and had so impressed people with his ability and modesty on the outbreak of war that his appointment to the chief command in West Virginia was hailed with the utmost satisfaction. Then came the two affairs at Philippi and Rich Mountain, the first of which was planned and carried out by other men, while the second was, if anything, spoiled by himself; for here, as afterwards on a vastly greater scene of action, he failed to strike home at the critical moment.

few things are permanent in politics. Nor could I affect

Yet though he failed in arms he won by proclamations; so much so, in fact, that WORDS NOT DEEDs might well have been his motto. He began with a bombastic address to the inhabitants and ended with another to his troops, whom he congratulated on having "annihilated two armies, commanded by educated and experienced soldiers, intrenched in mountain fastnesses fortified at their leisure."

It disastrously happened that the Union public were hungering for heroes at this particular time and that Union journalists were itching to write one up to the top of their bent. So all McClellan's tinsel was counted out for gold before an avaricious mob of undiscriminating readers; and when, at the height of the publicity campaign, the Government wanted to retrieve Bull Run they turned to the ''Man of Destiny" who had been given the noisiest advertisement as the "Young Napoleon of the West." McClellan had many good qualities for organization, and even some for strategy. An excited press and public, however, would not acclaim him for what he was but for what he most decidedly was not.

Meanwhile, before McClellan went to Washington and Lee to West Virginia, the main Union army had been disastrously defeated by the main Confederate army at Bull Run, on that vital ground which lay between the rival capitals.

In April Lincoln had called for three-month volunteers. In May the term of service for new enlistments was three years. In June the military chiefs at Washington were vainly doing all that military men could do to make something like the beginnings of an army out of the conglomerating mass. Winfield Scott, the veteran General-in-Chief, rightly revered by the whole service as a most experienced, farsighted, and practical man, was ably assisted by W. T. Sherman and Irvin McDowell. But civilian interference ruined all. Even Lincoln had not yet learned the quintessential difference between that civil control by which the fighting services are so rightly made the real servants of the whole people and that civilian interference which is very much the same as if a landlubber owning, a ship should grab the wheel repeatedly in the middle of a storm. Simon Cameron, then Secretary of War, was good enough as a party politician, but all thumbs when fumbling with the armies in the field. The other members of the Cabinet had war nostrums of their own; and every politician with a pull did what he could to use it. Behind all these surged a clamorous press and an excited people, both patriotic and well meaning; but both wholly ignorant of war, and therefore generating a public opinion that forced the not unwilling Government to order an armed mob "on to Richmond" before it had the slightest chance of learning how to be an army.

The Congress that met on the Fourth of July voted five hundred thousand men and two hundred and fifty million dollars. This showed that the greatness of the war was beginning to be seen. But the men, the money, and the Glorious Fourth were so blurred together in the public mind that the distinction between a vote in Congress and its effect upon some future battlefield was never realized. The result was a new access of zeal for driving McDowell "on to Richmond." Making the best of a bad business, Scott had already begun his preparations for the premature advance.