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The author had expected to finish this work early in the current year, but he found himself unable to compress it within the limits originally intended. The important events of the War for the Union were so many; its area was so vast, its duration so considerable; the minor collisions and other incidents were so multifarious, yet often so essential to a clear understanding of its progress and results, that this volume has expanded far beyond his intent, and required for its preparation extra months of assiduous and engrossing labor. Even now, though its contents probably exceed in amount those of any other single volume which the War has called forth, it barely touches some points which may• be deemed essential to a clear understanding of the whole matter. Of the War itself, however—that is, of the Military events which made up
the physical struggle initiated by Secession—this volume aspires to give a clear though necessarily condensed account, from the opening of the year 1862 down to the final and complete overthrow of the Confederacy. That all his judgments will be concurred in by every reader, the author has no right to expect; but his aim has been to set forth events as they occurred, and as they will appear to clear-sighted observers a century hence; and he rests in the confident belief that those who dissent from his conclusions will nevertheless respect the sincerity with which they are cherished, and the frankness wherewith they are avowed.
The History which this Volume completes was not contemplated by its author till just after the Draft Riots by which this Emporium was damaged and disgraced in July, 1863. Up to the occurrence of those Riots, I had not been habitually confident of an auspicious immediate issue from our momentous struggle. Never doubting that the ultimate result would be such as to vindicate emphatically the profoundly wise beneficence of God, it had seemed to me more probable—in view of the protracted and culpable complicity of the North in whatever of guilt or shame, of immorality or debasement, was inseparable from the existence and growth of American Slavery—that a temporary triumph might accrue to the Confederates. The real danger of the Republic was not that of permanent division, but of general saturation by and subjugation to the despotic ideas and aims of the Slaveholding Oligarchy. Had the Confederacy proved able to wrest from the Federal authorities an acknowledgment of its Independence, and had Peace been established and ratified on that basis, I believe the Democratic Party in the loyal States would have forth with taken ground for 'restoration by the secession of their respective States, whether jointly or severally, from the Union, and their adhesion to the Confederacy under its Montgomery Constitution-making Slavery universal and perpetual. And, under the moral influence of Southern triumph and Northern defeat, in full view of the certainty that thus only could réunion be achieved, there can be little doubt that the law of political gravitation, of centripetal force, thus appealed to, must have ultimately prevailed. Commercial and manufacturing thrift would have gradually vanquished moral repugnance. It might have required some years to heal the wounds of War and secure a popular majority in three or four of the Border States in favor of Annexation; but the geographic and economic incitements to Union are so urgent and palpable, that State after State would have concluded to go to the mountain, since it stubbornly refused to come to Mahomet; and, all the States that the Confederacy would consent to accept, on conditions of penitence and abjuration, would, in time, have knocked humbly at its grim portals for admission and fellowship. That we have been saved from such a fate is due to the valor of our soldiers, the constancy of our ruling statesmen, the patriotic faith and courage of those citizens who, within a period of three years, loaned more than Two Billions to their Government when it seemed to inany just tottering on the brink of ruin; yet, more than all else, to the favor and blessing of Almighty God. They who, whether in Europe or America, from July, 1862, to July, 1863, believed the Union death-stricken, had the balance of material probabilities on their side: they erred only in underrating the potency of those intellectual, moral, and Providential forces, which in our age operate with accelerated power and activity in behalf of Liberty, Intelligence, and Civilization.
So long as it seemed probable that our War would result more immediately in a Rebel triumph, I had no wish, no heart, to be one of its historians; and it was only whenfollowing closely on the heels of the great Union successes of July, 1863, at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and Helena–I had seen the Rebellion resisted and defeated in this City of New York (where its ideas and vital aims were more generally cherished than even in South Carolina or Louisiana), that I confidently hoped for an immediate and palpable, rather than a remote and circuitous triumph of the Union, now and evermore blended inseparably with Emancipation-with the legal and National recognition of every man's right to himself. Thenceforward, with momentary intervals of anxiety, depression, and doubt, it has been to me a labor of love to devote every available hour to the history of the American Conflict.
This Volume is essentially Military, as the former was Civil: that is, it treats mainly of Armies, Marches, Battles, Sieges, and the alternations of good and ill fortune that, from January, 1862, to May, 1865, befell the contending forces respectively of the Union and the Confederacy. But he who reads with attention will discern that I have regarded even these under a moral rather than a purely material aspect. Others have doubtless surpassed me in the vividness, the graphic power, of their delineations of the noise of the captains, and the shouting:' I have sought more especially to portray the silent influence of these collisions, with the efforts, burdens, sacrifices, bereavements, they involved, in gradually molding and refining Public Opinion to accept, and ultimately demand, the overthrow and extinction of Human Slavery, as the one vital, implacable enemy of our Nationality and our Peace. Hence, while at least three-fourths of this Volume narrates Military or Naval occurrences, I presume a larger space of it than of any rival is devoted to tracing, with all practicable brevity, the succession of Political events; the sequences of legislation in Congress with regard to Slavery and the War; the varying phases of Public Sentiment; the rise, growth, and decline, of hopes that the War would be ended through the accession of its adversaries to power in the Union. I labor under a grave mistake if this be not judged by our grandchildren (should any of them condescend to read it) the most important and interesting feature of my work.
I have differed from most annalists, in preferring to follow a campaign or distinct military movement to its close before interrupting its narration to give accounts of simultaneous movements or campaigns in distant regions, between other armies, led by other commanders. In my historical reading, I have often been perplexed and confused by the facility wherewith chroniclers leap from the Euphrates to the Danube, and from the Ebro to the Vistula. In full view of the necessary inter-dependence of events occurring on widely separated arenas, it has seemed to me preferable to follow one movement to its culmination before dealing with another; deeming the inconveniences and obscurities involved in this method less serious than those unavoidable (by me, at least) on any different plan. Others will judge between my method and that which has usually been followed.
I have bestowed more attention on marches, and on the minor incidents of a campaign, than is common: historians usually devoting their time and force mainly to the portrayal of great, decisive (or at least destructive) battles. But battles are so often won or lost by sagaciously planned movements, skillful combinations, well-conducted marches, and wise dispositions, that I have extended to these a prominence which seemed to me more clearly justified than usually conceded. He was not an incapable general who observed that he chose to win battles with his soldiers' legs rather than their muskets.
As to dates, I could wish that commanders on all hands were more precise than they usually are; but, wherever dates were accessible, I have given them, even though invested with no special or obvious consequence. Printed mainly as foot-notes, they consume little space, and do not interrupt the flow of the narrative. The reader who does
not value need not heed them; while the critical student will often find them of decided
Should any one demur to this, I urge him to examine thoughtfully the dates of the dispatches received and sent by McClellan between his retreat to Harrison's bar and Pope's defeat at Groveton; also, those given in my account of his movements from the hour of his arrival at Frederick to that of Lee's retreat from Sharpsburg across the Potomac.
I trust it will be observed by candid critics that, while I seek not to disguise the fact that I honor and esteem some of our commanders as I do not others, I have been blind neither to the errors of the former nor to the just claims of the latter--that my high estimation of Grant and Sherman (for instance) has not led me to conceal or soften the lack of reasonable precautions which so nearly involved their country in deplorable if not irremediable disaster at Pittsburg Landing. So with Banks's mishap at Sabine Cross-roads and Butler's failure at Fort Fisher. On the other hand, I trust my lack of faith in such officers as Buell and Fitz John Porter has not led me to represent them as incapable or timorous soldiers. What I believe in regard to these and many more of their school is, that they were misplaced—that they halted between their love of country and their traditional devotion to Slavery—that they clung to the hope of a compromise which should preserve both Slavery and the Union, long after all reasonable ground of hope had vanished ; fighting the Rebellion with gloved hands and relaxed sinews because they mistakenly held that so only was the result they sighed for (deeming it most beneficent) to be attained. If the facts do not justify my conviction, I trust they will be found so fairly presented in the following pages as to furnish the proper corrective for my errors.
Without having given much heed to rival issues, I presume this volume will be found to contain accounts (necessarily very brief) of many minor actions and skirmishes which have been passed unheeded by other historians, on the assumption that, as they did not perceptibly affect the great issue, they are unworthy of record. But the nature and extent of that influence is matter of opinion, while the qualities displayed in these collisions were frequently deserving of grateful remembrance. And, beside, an affair of outposts or foraging expeditions has often exerted a most signal influence over the spirits of two great antagonist armies, and thus over the issues of a battle, and even of a campaign. Compressed within the narrowest limits, I have chosen to glance at nearly every conflict of armed forces, and to give time to these which others have devoted to more elaborate and florid descriptions of great battles. It has been my aim to compress within the allotted space the greatest number of notable facts and circumstances; others must judge how fully this end has been achieved.
Doubtless, many errors of fact, and some of judgment, are embodied in the following pages : for, as yet, even the official reports, &c., which every historian of this war must desire to study, are but partially accessible. I have missed especially the Confederate reports of the later campaigns; only a few of which have been made public, though many more, it is probable, will in time be. Some of these may have been destroyed at the hasty evacuation of Richmond; but many must have been preserved, in manuscript if not in print, and will yet see the light. So far as they were attainable, I have used the reports of Confederate officers as freely as those of their antagonists, and have accorded them nearly if not quite equal credit. I judge that the habit of understating or concealing their losses was more prevalent with Confederate than with Union coinmanders; in over-estimating the numbers they resisted, I have not been able to perceive