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joy as would thrill the hearts of the brave officers and crew of the little Monitor.”
He says again in reference to the conflict :
“ No officer was captured of any naval ship or military company on that eventful day. The enemy captured just twenty-three sailors, who went on board one of their tugboats voluntarily, either through mistake or lured by a promise from the perfidious foe that they should be set free on shore at Newport News. These men were carried to Norfolk, one dying on the way. But for the sharpshooters of the Indiana Twentieth from the shore, more prisoners, including officers of the Congress, would have been taken. Nor was a single man killed in camp at Newport News. Two Germans were wounded among the soldiers on shore. Less than two hundred sailors and soldiers in all were killed during the entire naval engagement. The enemy's victory was a bootless one, and I believe will result in good to our cause, by changing our naval tactics, and forcing us to resort to plated steamers and gunboats, instead of wooden walls. Such a floating battery is far better as a means of defence than an entire fleet of wooden ships of war, or half a dozen forts, and much less expensive than are our steam wooden frigates or the maintaining a single fort sixty days.”
EVER did military expedition set out under
more favorable auspices than the Peninsular campaign in the spring of 1862. Victory
had perched upon the Union banner in a series of momentous battles. Farragut’s naval achievement, transcending the rules of military science, as genius and genius only has power to do, had sailed by the embattled forts and seized the Crescent City. This glorious feat wrought up the zeal of the Union forces to a high pitch of enthusiasm, while it dealt to Rebellion a stunning blow, and little was needed to crush it forever.
An immense army started to go up the Peninsula, fired with martial ardor and flushed with hope. The enemy were in no spirit nor force to resist its onward march. But the great expedition paused before Yorktown, and, observing the most cautious rules of military science, advanced upon the place with the progressive parallels of a siege, as if it had the strength of Sebastopol. But the heart of the enemy failed them, and they evacuated.
They were slowly and cautiously
pursued. They were vanquished in the battle of Williamsburg. But advantage was not taken of victory to strike an effectual blow. Slowly feeling their way, the Union forces advanced.
The enemy, meanwhile, by this dilatory progress, gained heart and time and reinforcements. When Yorktown was evacuated, Richmond had been almost destitute. But time had been given to concentrate forces there, and make fortifications. Within a few miles of Richmond the bloody field of Fair Oaks was fought, and the discomfited foe fled to the city. The rebels talked of evacuating the capital, and all expected it to fall; but the Union army did not seize the occasion to attack it. Slowly approaching, the Federals came so near that the clocks of the city could be heard in the Union camp as they struck the hours, and from a high tree, known as the signal-tree, its buildings could be discerned.
But the enemy had been reinforced, not only by men, but by midsummer, which had been permitted to come upon the Union army, breeding pestilence in its marshy camp. This ally, in a heart-sickening, inglorious way, laid more brave Union soldiers under the sod than all the balls and bullets of the Rebellion. The enemy soon made a concentrated attack, leaving Richmond feebly guarded. Now commenced a strategetic movement, as it has been called,* by which the Union army was withdrawn, badly shattered, to the
* Chaplain Fu related, tha after the Peninsular retreat he was in conversation with a Frenchman, who spoke very disparagingly of the operations of the Union army in that campaign. To offset it the Chaplain reminded him of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. “Ah!” cried the Frenchman, “ Napoleon never retreated. That was only one grand retrograde movement !”
protection of the gunboats. The right wing, as they retired, fully believed that the other wing was being hurled upon Richmond; but in this belief they were destined to cruel disappointment; and they arrived weary and broken to the river-banks, to learn that the day was lost, the most reasonable anticipations of victory rendered vain, and one of the largest armies known to history, composed of a rank and file of unequalled valor and endurance, reduced to a shadow.
This was a disastrous blight upon Union hopes, and it thrilled painfully through every pulse of the nation. That most delicate thermometer of public confidence, finances, sunk immediately. Gold rose to an unprecedented premium, and public securities declined. On the Saturday when the telegraph announced the sad finale of the Peninsular campaign, the affrighted silver dollar and all his progeny of change retreated instantly to hoarding-places, and the market was left to make shift, as it might, with postage-stamps and other paper substitutes.
But we must leave to the deliberate inquest of history the searching out of the causes of this dreadful national disaster, while we record the Chaplain's notes by the way.
He writes respecting the encampment before Yorktown:
“ Three times have I visited McClellan's grand and noble army while it was encamped before Yorktown. The roads, fearful beyond belief or expression; the' uncouth specimens of Southern chivalry' and coarse, vehement Secession women; the rich soil, almost wholly untilled, and evidencing years of agricultural neglect, these have been too often
described by correspondents to require any recital on my part. Nor shall I speak of privations and hardships inseparable from the condition of any large army moving rapidly through a hostile country. What do soldiers or visitors to soldiers expect, if not these? I am stopping at the far-famed Nelson house, which Lord Cornwallis occupied while in Yorktown in 1781. It is now occupied as a hospital, and in these rooms, which once were filled with British officers, and but a few days ago with Jefferson Davis, Magruder, and other rebel generals, now our sick officers and soldiers of the loyal army can be found.
“This morning I breakfasted with three rebel officers, captured by us last Sabbath as they inadvertently rode into our lines, believing the Yankees still in front of and not in Yorktown. These officers I found every way gentlemen, and though defiant of the North and a little grandiose in their Southern hopes, our morning breakfast, which was casually made together, passed off very agreeably to me. They declared, in answer to my questions, that they believed a decided stand would be made at Richmond by the rebel army; they thought defeat possible, and that Virginia would be very likely to be evacuated, but that this would by no means end the contest nor injure the South, except with foreign nations, whose assistance they have ceased to hope. The capture of New Orleans they admitted to be a heavy blow to their cause, and they candidly acknowledged that Beauregard, though victorious on the first day's fight at Shiloh, was repulsed on the second day with heavy loss. The blockade they believed a great hardship, and severely felt, but ultimately would do the South good, by making her self-sustaining.”
Here he secures some trophies. “I bring with me many relics, collected at Yorktown. One, a fierce, bloodthirsty-looking pike, used by the rebel