Editorial Celebrates Confederate Victory at First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run)
On July 21, 1861, the first major land battle of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) , resulted in a Confederate victory and the complete rout of the Union army. It certainly was not the result the North had been clamoring for; since shortly after the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12 started the Civil War, Northern politicians, the public and the press had been demanding that the Union army invade the South and capture Richmond, Virginia, where the Confederacy had moved its capital. Some of the newspaper editorials fiercely denounced Lincoln for his inaction.
Three months after the Battle of Fort Sumter the Union army finally made its move, when about 35,000 Northern troops under General Irvin McDowell attacked the Southern armies of General P.G.T. Beauregard and General Joseph E. Johnston’s combined force of about 32,000 Southern troops at Bull Run creek, near Manassas, Virginia. Though the Union army initially fared well, the Confederate troops rallied late in the day and the Union retreat turned into a rout, as panicked soldiers threw down their guns and some fled all the way back to Washington, D.C.
The battle’s outcome sobered the North and greatly cheered the South. The following editorial was published by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on July 24, 1861:
The Victory and Its Probable Consequences
The victory at Manassas grows upon us in completeness and magnitude. In our last we regarded it merely as a signal and disastrous repulse of the enemy. But it was a great deal more so. It was a rout, in which their great army was disorganized and scattered, some of their columns taking to the woods to avoid the pursuing cavalry, and throwing down their arms in the precipitate retreat, and their most effective weapons of assault captured. Out of six batteries of flying artillery, five, numbering thirty-four pieces, are said to have fallen into our hands. Our Northern despatches which speak of the supercession of McDowell by McClellan and a thorough reconstruction of the Federal forces, impliedly admit a complete disorganization of their grand army. It is a great victory, and when we consider the vast disparity of the forces engaged, the perfect appointment of the Federal army in artillery and small arms of the latest and best pattern, we have equal reason for admiration at the valor of our patriotic forces—the skill and courage of their officers, and gratitude to God, who has given us the victory.
That it will exercise a most important influence upon this great sectional struggle to enslave the South, no man can doubt. Let us consider what is likely to be the character of that influence.
1. We think it will infuriate the Black Republican war party proper to the highest pitch of frenzy and desperation. It came upon them when they were flushed with the hope of victory, and a very easy and speedy frustration of the South. Propositions to divide our property among the invaders and confiscate to the extent of the costs of the war, were seriously entertained, and are still pressed in some of the public prints. The “Conservatives” among them found it hard work to discourage an avowal of a war for the abolition of slavery. We look for an annunciation of all these purposes shortly, by the Lincoln Congress. Our Northern despatch says they will “instantly” reorganize their grand army of invasion. In their political necessity for haste, we gather hope. They must redeem their fortunes at once, or go down under a weight of popular odium. For three months they have been straining every nerve and squandering money without stint to fit out this grand military expedition “to Richmond without a halt.” In three days it comes flying back upon them in scattered and broken fragments, with the loss of its best equipage, and in terror and dismay. The popular impatience over the delay of the first movement, will not brook repetition. Black Republicanism, struck down, must be on its feet, and vindicate its reputation at once, or the recoil upon the authors of these calamities will be equally signal and terrible. We must therefore look for another forward movement to Richmond very soon—in a week or a fortnight, and if it must come, the sooner the better, because the weaker.
The next approach will be more cautious, and more obstinately contested, but we have faith that it will be attended finally with no more favorable result. When that fails the Black Republican war will go down in the North like a plummet in a deep sea. We do not mean to say that it will cease at once—but with the loss of its popularity, its backbone will be broken and it may be “squenched” by degrees as the popular voice is able to make itself felt by Congress.
2. This victory will certainly strengthen the anti-war party at the North. It illustrates the character of the resistance to be met—the terrible nature of the undertaking—the awful sacrifice of human life it will involve—the hopelessness of the object to be attained. The long, bloody catalogue of the dead will be an awful, though silent protest against the invasion. To the clamor of famished women and children whom the New York prints represent to have paraded their streets on the 16th, will now be added the frenzied shrieks of thousands of widows and orphans—the poor laboring classes from which the ranks of the Lincoln army are filled up.
We hope the victory will not only enlist the laboring classes for peace, but will discourage enlistments, and increase the difficulty of raising the half million volunteers. On the North, as a section, it will press with a most disheartening effect. It will embarrass vastly the operations of Secretary Chase in the money market. Money lenders will be more chary of Government stocks at home and abroad, where Lincoln expects to get 150 millions. We think the bankers will narrowly scan their chances for principal and interest out of the Northern Republic.
3. Upon our own fortunes, it will be difficult to overrate the beneficial results of this victory. It will stimulate our enthusiasm and confidence at home, and abroad facilitate, in the highest degree, the negotiations of our Commissioners for recognition.
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