THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.* Ma. WILLIAM SwDrrox has written
the best book on the subject of American warfare which it has been our lot yet to encounter. Not that it is by any means up to the highest standard of military history, being disfigured by sundry flaws of style, and having some- times a tendency to bathos. But it is written with care and conscientiousness. The writer purposed plainly to compose the best book he could, and he has not spared his labour. The result
• The Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac. A Critical History of operations in Virginia. Maryland, and Pennsylvania, from the commencement to the close of the War. 18614. By William Swinton. London: Trubuer.
is a nearer approach to what we may call literature than has been made yet by any American or English author. And it has other advantages. It has been written with pretty ample knowledge-- not quite ample enough, perhaps, the time has not come for that —but enough to make it at once a readable and informing work. Mr. Swinton saw a great deal of the war with his own eyes, and not with the eyes of others. He had the advantage of knowing personally many of the actors in the drama on both sides ; for after the war he had long and familiar conversations with General J. Johnston, General Longstreet, and other officers of distinction on the Confederate side ; and on his own side he knew the chief leaders, and drew some of his information direct from President Lincoln. These advantages, joined to a critical military faculty of considerable power, have enabled him to give us a work of great present interest, and one that will be useful to the future historian who shall undertake to deal with the whole scope and field of the war. For, as the title implies, this book treats only of the actions of the Army of the Potomac, in other words, of that force which strove so often and unsuccessfully to reach Richmond, which twice pushed back the invasion of the Northern States, and which, powerfully aided by the Western Army, at length not only captured Richmond, but compelled the famous Lee and his valiant soldiers to capitulate in the field.
The first Army of the Potomac, as all know, was beaten at Bull Run, and beaten not so much for lack of valour, as was thought at the time, as lack of generalship. It is now no longer a secret that the day was lost, not only because the Federal General in the Shenandoah Valley did not do his duty,—he should have sacrificed his army and his life rather than let Johnston quit the valley—but because the Federal Generals on the field of Bull Run did not fight their troops in a soldierly manner. "Since the close of the war, the writer of these pages," says Mr. Swinton, "has had a very full conversation with General Johnston on his action, and on the question of the general mismanagement of the battle. He spoke as follows The key-point was a fiat bare crest. It was here that the Federals made their attacks. But they were made by a brigade at a time. The position was really hardly tenable, and had an attack been made in force, with double line of battle, such as any major- general in the United States' service would do now, we could not have held it half an hour, for they would have enveloped us on both flanks.'" A still more striking incident shows that the valour even then, was not, as the people of England were day by day taught to believe, all on one side. Over and over again we heard of the runaways from Bull Run and of a similar class at Pittsburg Land- ing. We never heard of the runaways on the other side. Yet General Jordan, chief of the staff to Beauregard, told our author that as he was conducting Mr. Davis to the scene of the fight, and just before its close, "such were the streams of stragglers and skulkers pouring to the Southern rear, that Mr. Davis fancied Beauregard must have been completely beaten." And in the con- versation before referred to, touching the effect of this action on the Confederates, Johnston said, "In our condition pursuit could not be thought of, for we were almost as much disorganized by our victory as the Federals by their defeat. Next day, many, suppos- ing the war was over, actually went home. A party of our soldiers, hearing that a friend lay wounded twenty miles off, would start out to go and see him ; or that another acquaintance was dead, and they would go and bury him. Our men had in a larger degree the instinct of personal liberty than those of the North, and it was found very difficult to subordinate their personal will to the needs of military discipline." General Johnston means personal liberty uncontrolled by the principle of obedience to law and authority, a general lawlessness, in short, the very thing we have always insisted on as characteristic of the Southern men, as distinguishing them from the law-loving people of the North. This "instinct of personal liberty," which the rude, un- cultured Southerners had, and have, in common with the savages, made them so much to be dreaded in the attack, just as a love of liberty and respect for law made the Northerners amenable to the demands of a rigorous discipline.
There can be no doubt now that Mr. Lincoln, General M'Clellan, and General Halleck, were responsible for the striking failures of the next two years in Virginia. Mr. Lincoln was as earnest as man could be in his desire to do his duty ; no man could have done his duty in a nobler spirit than he did, and he is not to be severely blamed, either for not understanding war, or for not putting unlimited confidence in General M'Clellan. With a President who did not understand war, and a General who was a model of hesitation in applying what he did understand, whose demands for more men were incessant, and who so often" did not know how to use them when he got them, we eaditutany
war. It may be said that they were the same for the defence pressed by a Board of Commissioners and Quartermasters, who as for the attack, but it would be nearly as reasonable to say only paid one-half the market value. As might have been ex-
that the obstacles presented by a fortress are the same for the pected, this was enough to prevent their getting anything. These assailed as the assailants. So extremely difficult, indeed, are all they took by force, and did it with the greatest injustice. YOU the lines of operation between Washington and Richmond that, can imagine what disorganization of labour and what discontent in spite of General Grant's success, it is still a disputed ques- this produced. The mismanagement of the Confederate Executive tion whether the overland lines or the lines from the coast in these two regards was enough to ruin the cause." No wonder are the better. Mr. Swinton does not solve it, and even abler that Joseph Johnston, undoubtedly the second General of the Con- pens have failed to do what he scarcely attempts. Upon the federacy, was unpopular at Richmond, if he held these views. conclusions formed by the competent reader will depend his judg- Mr. Swinton's book contains many facts and opinions of similar :tient upon all the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac. But worth.
these are deep waters, into which we will not now enter, further than to say that the plan which did succeed was that of Grant, who worked through the overland line, and worked through it to the end. For we will never admit that the passage of the James was the abandonment of the original line, or that when Grant turned Lee's position on the Chickahominy he did anything dif- ferent in principle from what he did when he turned it at Spottsyl- vania Courthouse, or that his communications with Washington were more direct when he had crossed the Pamunky than they were when he had crossed the James. Upon one point there can be no doubt—the fine skill with which Lee defended the ap- proaches to Richmond on every line even to the end.
Mr. Swinton has written a very good account of Lee's Mary- land campaign and the battle of Gettysburg, in the course of which he sets forth the views of Lee as derived from Longstreet ; nor is his narrative of Grant's campaign of 1861 wanting either in interest or ability, though for some reason, not evident, he is throughout slightly unjust to Grant himself. But we pass by these to place before the reader an anecdote illustrating the temper of the much abused Northern soldiers, and General Joseph John- ston's views of the fall of the Confederacy. Thetrst anecdote arose out of an incident in Meade's abortive attack on Lee's famous camp behind Mine Run. It had been reported that there was a weak point in Lee's line, and General Warren was sent against it. But the presence of Warren drew Lee's attention to the threat- ened point, and he strengthened it so as to make it impregnable. Warren, an engineer, and able to gauge the worth of an entrenched position, saw that success would be hopeless, and he resolved to sacrifice himself rather than his command. He assumed the responsibility of suspending the attack. "His verdict was that of his soldiers—a verdict pronounced not in spoken words, but in a circumstance more potent than words, and full of a touching pathos. The time has not been seen when the Army of the Potomac shrank from any call of duty ; but an unparalleled experience in war, joined to a great intelligence in the rank and file, had taught these men what by heroic courage might be done, and what was beyond the bounds of human possibility. Recognizing that the task now before them was of the character of a forlorn hope, knowing well that no man could here count on escaping death, the soldiers, without sign of shrinking from the sacrifice, were seen quietly pinning on the breasts of their blue blouses slips of paper on which each had written his name I" And these were the men who were reviled daily by the party whose leader is now eloquent in praise of the Republic they saved.
The cause of the rapid fall of the Confederacy after a struggle of four years has usually been ascribed to the fact that the Con- federates were exhausted in men and provisions. It does not appear so to have been. "The South," says Mr. Swinton, "did not so much lack men, as the men lacked interest in the war. Indeed men enough to form three armies of the strength of Lee's lay perdu beyond the recovery of the Richmond authorities." After the war was over, General Johnston frankly said that the bad commissariat—Sherman's march showed that food abounded account for the ill success of 1862, without doing what our I —and the abuse of the conscription were enough to account for pro-slavery journalists did, call in question the manhood of the I the failure of the South. "In regard to the raising of the troops," North. "Without M'Clellan," said General Meade, "there would said Johnston, and his remarks are not without their value just. have been no Grant," and the modest victor of Gettysburg must now, "that was done in the worst possible manner by the Con- be a good judge of the temper and handiness of the instrument federate Government, namely, by conscription. Instead of deter- created by M‘Clellan, that Army of the Potomac which was raised mining the number of troops wanted, and apportioning to each after Bull Run. Indeed, it does not seem at all just to throw any State its proper quota, wholesale itnpressments were made by the of the blame of defeat on the personnel of the Northern armies. machinery of a central Government. Each State had its own Finer materials for marching and fighting could not be found, but officers, with which it could have raised the troops ; and being of the earlier regiments were poorly officered, and the larger masses the localities, they of course knew every man and boy in the place, ill commanded, the army was not broken in to its work by small and avoidance or evasion would have been difficult. But by the actions —M'Clellan was never known to aguerrir his troops—and system adopted this perfect agency was not called into play at all. it bad almost no staff. Add to this the shifting counsels alike Finally, it required as many men to enforce the conscription as of the President and the General, and there are ample reasons it was expected to raise by its operation. Then ensued evasion ; for defeat. Nor must we leave out the extreme difficulties those who wished to shirk the service, or aid others to do so, presented by the theatre of war itself. Those difficulties opened their ranks, allowed them to slip through, and closed up were appreciated by but few writers in England during the behind. Supplies, also, instead of being honestly raised, were ins-