THE WILMINGTON FAILURE :—CIIRISTMA.S IN NEW YORK.
[Fnom OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.]
New York, January 7, 1865.
THE country is awaiting with great interest General Butler's explanation of his abandonment of the expedition against the defences of Wilmington harbour. It is said that his justification is complete, and such army officers of experience as I have seen say that, under the circumstances, an assault would have been a mere reckless and useless waste of life, and that the fire of the ships could not have kept the garrison of Fort Fisher in the bomb- proofs long enough to give the troops the least chance of making an assault without being destroyed before reaching the parapet. But, on the other hand, the naval officers say that the navy did its part well (which nobody denies), that the troops could have been protected, and that the assault should have been made. Meantime I understand that the probability which I mentioned last week of a prompt renewal of the attempt at Wilmington has become cer- tainty; and that an expedition is now in preparation of much more formidable character than the last, and that it will soon set out. General Hancock was named to me as the probable com- mander of the military force. He has gained the reputation of always fighting when fighting is at all within the bounds of pru- dence, and of always fighting vigorously and well. But I see difficulties of rdillitary etiquette and routine in his appointment, and indeed I do not repeat this information as absolutely trust- worthy. It is not, however, a rumour, for nothing has yet been said about it in public.
What the correspondent of the Times calls "General Sherman's retreat through the heart of Georgia" is bearing earlier fruit than was looked for. Already trade has been opened between that city
• and the North. Savannah merchants have sent on money to pay their debts, now more than three years overdue, and they send United States Treasury notes. Those who cannot pay all pay part. Ships loaded with goods are all ready to put to sea upon the reception of permits. An agent of the city is here to buy food, partly for sale to those who can afford to buy, and partly to be given to the poor ; for it appears that there is little food there except rice, although of that there is profusion. This agent receives hearty and generous co-operation among the vindictive and blood- thirsty Yankees. But beside all this there has been public and official action ending in an acceptance of the amnesty proclamation and a submission to the Government. On the 27th of December a memorial signed by more than a hundred prominent citizens of Savannah, some of whom are known to me as having been active Secessionists, addressed a memorial to the Mayor, asking him to call a meeting of the people for the consideration of their present and future welfare. The meeting was called for the next day, and
the Mayor took the chair. Of the proceedings the following pre- amble and resolutions are'sufficiently important to be given here in full :— " Whereas, by the fortunes of war, and the surrender of the city by the civil authorities, Savannah passes once more under the authority of the United States; and, whereas, we believe that the interests of the city will be best subserved and promoted by a full and free expression of our views in relation to our present condition, we, therefore, the people of Savannah, in full meeting assembled, do hereby resolve, That we accept the position, and in the language of the President of the United States, seek to have "peace by laying down our arms, and sub- mitting to the national authority under the Constitution," "leaving all questions which remain to be adjusted by the peaceful means of legis- lation, conference, and votes."' "Resoked, That laying aside all differences and burying bygones in
the grave of the past, we will use our best endeavours to bring back the prosperity and commerce we once enjoyed.
"Resolved; That we do not put ourselves in the position of a con- quered city asking terms of a conqueror, but we claim the immunities and privileges contained in the proclamation and message of the Pre- sident of the United States, and in all the legislation of Congress in reference to a people situated as we are; and while we owe on our part a strict obedience to the laws of the United States, we ask the protec- tiort over our persons, lives, and property recognized by those laws."
In addition to these resolutions there were three others, one requesting the Governor to call a State Convention to enable the people to decide whether they wished the war to continue longer ; one thanking General Sherman's Lieutenant, General Geary, for his urbanity and kindness shown as military commander of the post, and asking that be be continued in command ; and one direct- ing that a copy of these resolutions be sent to the President of the United States, the Governor of Georgia, General Sherman, and to the Mayors of Augusta, Macon, Columbus, and Atlanta. A copy was not directed to be sent to Mr. Jefferson Davis, President of the "so-called" Confederate States. So far proceedings have been made public. But I have learned that these resolutions, very handsomely and clerkly endorsed upon fine paper, were presented to General Sherman, and of course were kindly received. They are important and significant, and show that the wedge has en- tered which will rive the " so-called " Confederacy into fragments. But they are regarded as being the fruits, on the part of those who were chiefly instrumental in procuring their passage, of a mere consciousness that further resistance is hopeless, and that interest dictates unquestioning submission. But at about the same time when they were received General Sherman received another com- munication, not quite so properly, though very clearly, expressed, not engrossed in so clerkly a manner or upon such handsome paper, the heartiness of which there was no room to question. It was from a secret association of loyal men, who had been bound together since the war began, sworn to avenge treachery with death, and waiting, hitherto in vain, an opportunity of aiding the restoration of the Government. For secret associations we Yankees have not a very high respect,—they are generally unsuited to our habits of thought and feeling ; but the summary manner in which death has been inflicted by the fire-eaters upon those who were even suspected of a disposition to support the Government certainly palliates, if it does not justify, the concealment of such in- tentions.
It is poor business correcting small mistakes across the Atlantic ocean, but an error, not perhaps unnatural, in thesheading of my
letter from Irvington, published in the Spectator of the 3rd De- cember last, did not a little toward defeating my purpose in
writing it. The heading was "A New York Watering-place." Now this is exactly what the place described is not. Saratoga Springs, where people pass a few summer weeks in huge hotels and boarding-houses ; Sharon Springs, Newport, at the sea side, where there are huge hotels, but where pretty villas occupied only in the late summer and early autumn take the place of the boarding- houses ; Long Branch and Rockaway, also at the sea side, are the watering-places of New Yorkers. But the house which I des- cribed was a country house, a home, and those of my readers who remember the letter in question, or will turn to it, have therein a picture faithful at least of the every-day country life here of that very large class of people more or less cultivated who have their homes in the country within fifty or sixty miles of some city, and who live in them all the year, or the greater part of it. Other- wise I should not have thought the subject worthy your or my attention.
The New York special correspondent of the London Times made recently a statement, not quite so innocently I fear, which conveyed a similarly erroneous impression in regard to
us and our habits of life. Devoting a letter to Thanksgiving Day, he said, "Thanksgiving here takes the place of Christ- mas." He must, or at least he should, have known better.
He could have been as ignorant as he sbems only because he did not choose to inform himself upon the subject as to which he made a statement which is directly the reverse of the truth. It is possible that he thought it would please his readers to have us represented in this matter as half-puritan, half-pagan, at all events" quite un- like what we have at home." Christmas Day and the Christmas holidays are with us a festive season, for which it seems the previous half-year is but a preparation. The day is a religious festival, and the day of all the year for famili gatherings and social enjoyment.
Not, however, for what " society " calls gaiety. Although our sea- son. is in the winter, fashionable parties do not begin until after the Christmas holidays. They are a starting-point as well as a goal. All the schools, public and private, then have a fortnight or a month holiday; and Congress itself adjourns for two weeks, that the members may go home to spend Christmas Day and the succeeding week ; and some of them go 500 miles to spend this cherished season of the year in the old homestead with the greyheaded father and mother, or, if these have passed away, in the bosom of their own immediate families. I was in Washing- ton when Congress adjourned for the holidays, and for three days the trains were so crowded with people homeward bound, who went away only to spend Christmas, and who would have to return again in a week, that the standing-places in the cars were filled, and I myself, starting the day before Christmas, was obliged for a time to stand upon an outside platform. The churches are net only dressed with evergreens until they look like vast bowers, but the principal rooms in private houses are similarly decorated, so that Christmas greens are a large and a sure article of trade all through the month of December. On Christmas Eve it is, or was, the custom in some places not only to decorate but to illuminate the church. In ordinary times full half of the editions of the Christmas books published in London are taken in this country in addition to all that are published here, and for the two or three days preceding Christmas the streets are so thronged with people going about in search of presents that it is difficult to get along, and the force of salesmen is always largely increased in all retail establishments during the middle weeks of December. On New Year's Day people in this city go about and make brief calls upon all their acquaint- ances; but this is a remnant of old butch custom which would be more honoured in the breach than in the observance, and which is confined to New York. Christmas season is observed as I have described it all over the country. Thanksgiving Day, on the con- trary, is but a single day, is not regarded as a festival, and not very festivous, except in the way of a good dinner, at which turkey and a pumpkin pie are standing dishes ; whereas on Christmas Day the sine qua non, whatever else there may be for the delectation of the inward man, is roast beef and plum pudding. The child who is born on Christmas Day here is regarded as having been blessed with a most fortunate and propitious entr ance upon this world. And yet, although this is but a brief, dull, and literal statement of the truth, the British public is gravely told, and the greater part of it will believe, that those incomprehensible and degraded Yankees have done away with Christmas Day, and sub- stituted their puritan, half-political, half-religio us Thanksgiving