Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 18, 1861 - Real fighting in the Civil War has not begun, "neither side as been put to the test"

Lord Lyons was the British minister in Washington just before and during the Civil War. Robert Bunch, Our Man in Charleston, provided his key intelligence about events in the South.

June 18, 1861 - Lyons to Lord John Russell, the British foreign secretary: … No doubt the prospects of the North are brighter than they were a month ago. But nothing has yet happened to give any clear notion of the probable [extent] and duration of the struggle.
The Long Bridge between D.C. and Virginia
The perseverance of neither side has yet been put to the test. No military engagement has taken place — and consequently the effect of defeat or victory on the spirit of the two divisions of the country can only be conjectured. Hitherto the North has advanced gradually into Virginia without opposition, but if the advance is to go on at the same rate it will take about half a century to get on to Florida. On the other hand, we have been again threatened with an attack upon Washington, and no doubt if President Davis could move his troops with rapidity, such an attack would have a fair chance of success. But the same causes which oblige General Scott to be so nearly immoveable no doubt operate as forcibly with his antagonists. Lack of means of transport, lack of Commissariat, lack of trained soldiers. Unless one side make up their minds to a dash at Richmond, or the other at Washington, we may go on in the present state of uncertainty all the summer, and even much longer.

            If this be, so we shall probably also remain in the same uncertainty about the conduct of the Cabinet of Washington toward Gt Britain, and prudence must, I am afraid, lead us to consider ourselves at any moment open to a Declaration of War. Any symptom of disunion between England and France, any necessity on the part of the Cabinet of some or some of its members to around popular passion, or pander to it, might bring on a war. …

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