Friday, July 3, 2015

July 3, 1861 - W.H. Russell on "a great battle expected"

The great British war correspondent William Howard Russell, a key contact for Our Man in Charleston, is on his way from New York City to Washington where excitement is mounting about a great battle to come. On his way he is reminded that Maryland is still very much a slave state even though, under duress, it remains part of the Union.
The Baltimore riots. Image from "Harper's Weekly" courtesy The American Library in Paris

July 3— ... Nearly four months since I went by this road to Washington. The change which has since occurred is beyond belief. Men were then speaking of place under Government, of compromises between North and South, and of peace ; now they only talk of war and battle. Ever since I came out of the South, and could see the newspapers, I have been struck by the easiness of the American people, by their excessive credulity. Whether they wish it or not, they are certainly deceived. Not a day has passed without the announcement that the Federal troops were moving, and that "a great battle was expected" by somebody unknown, at some place or other. 

I could not help observing the arrogant tone with which writers of stupendous ignorance on military matters write of the operations which they think the Generals should undertake. They demand that an army, which has neither adequate transport, artillery, nor cavalry, shall be pushed forward to Richmond to crush out Secession, and at the same time their columns teem with accounts from the army, which prove that it is not only ill-disciplined, but that it is ill-provided. ... The greater part of the military stores of the States are in the South arms, ordnance, clothing, ammunition, ships, machinery, and all kinds of materiel must be prepared in a hurry. ...

The Secession newspapers of Baltimore have been suppressed, but the editors contrive nevertheless to show their sympathies in the selection of their extracts. In to-day's paper there is an account of a skirmish in the West, given byone of the Confederates who took part in it, in which it is stated that the officer commanding the party "scalped" twenty-three Federals. For the first time since I left the South I see those advertisements headed by the figure of a negro running with a bundle, and containing descriptions of the fugitive, and the reward offered for imprisoning him or her, so that the owner may receive his property. Among the insignia enumerated are scars on the back and over the loins. The whip is not only used by the masters and drivers, but by the police ; and in every report of petty police cases sentences of so many lashes, and severe floggings of women of color are recorded.

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