Southern Editorial Condemns Lincoln after Fredericksburg
The Battle of Fredericksburg was a crushing defeat for the Union army and a bitter disappointment for President Abraham Lincoln, whose newly-appointed commander, General Ambrose E. Burnside, had failed him. The five-day battle’s climax occurred on Dec. 13, 1862, when the Union army made 14 heroic and futile charges uphill against General Robert E. Lee’s army entrenched behind earthworks and stone walls. The charging Northern soldiers were devastated by concentrated artillery and rifle fire from their well-protected foe. The Union army suffered 12,653 casualties in the battle, most of them during the charges on December 13, while the Confederates had 5,377 casualties and held their position.
The Battle of Fredericksburg included Burnside’s controversial decision to shell the city, and the wanton vandalism and looting of the city by the occupying Union troops.
The Union army’s retreat meant yet another attempt to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, had failed, and the Northern public was growing discouraged. Lincoln had removed General George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac in September 1862 because Lincoln felt he was not aggressive enough. In November he appointed Burnside as the army’s commander. Now his new man had made an aggressive move that resulted in a terrible defeat.
A Southern newspaper wrote an editorial after the Battle of Fredericksburg astutely observing that the Confederate victory was more than just another loss for the Union army—it was a major defeat for President Lincoln’s management of the war and his public support and approval. This editorial was published by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on the front page of its Dec. 19, 1862, issue:
The Battle of Fredericksburg
This victory grows brighter as time lights it up. The Federals are making a terrible mouth over it, and say their loss was 20,000. It is believed by the Richmond officials that it was 15,000, and the last accounts chronicle the entire disappearance of the enemy from the banks of the Rappahannock. So the fourth “on to Richmond” is for the time fatally, terribly frustrated. As if to leave a striking illustration of themselves behind them, the Yanks employed their last moments in Fredericksburg in plundering the houses, and left behind them uncared for and unburied the dead bodies of their more unfortunate partners in villainy.
We are inclined to regard the victory at Fredericksburg as more important in a moral point of view than any which has yet been achieved. It has been an easy, cheap and sudden prostration of the grand military enterprise of the winter’s campaign, and of the war—to take our capital. It is the fourth and perhaps most complete failure of that enterprise. It happens at a time when the Northern mind is sick of the war—discouraged at the prospect—suspicious of its ends—dissatisfied with its management—weary of the party in power and longing for peace. It comes, too, as the result of an unwarrantable and unpopular interference of the President in the conduct of the war. It is the administration’s own campaign. They planned it and turned out McClellan because he would not advance to fight it out. Since then, every forward movement of the Yankee army has been in response only to a pressure in the rear from the Lincoln administration, and today, we see, even after the army of Burnside had crossed the Potomac and were standing within gunshot of the point of fatal collision, comes another blast from a Lincoln organ calling upon Burnside to go on “whatever may be the result!” Thus, from first to last, these vile and unlucky invaders have been victims to the indecent haste of the Lincoln party and administration, urging them forward—forward, no matter what happens or who may be sacrificed; and this from men who had torn from the Northern army its only trusted leader, and took good care to keep themselves out of the danger into which they were so zealous to thrust others.
If, therefore, we are not mistaken this defeat will crown the unpopularity and infamy of Lincoln and his ignorant and brutal horde of followers. If they can keep clear of tar and feathers, it will be as much as they can reasonably hope. In brief, we look for important events both in this country and Europe to follow this last defeat. All sensible men on both sides will cry to what purpose is this shocking waste of blood persisted in? Why should human life, commerce, trade and comfort be longer the sport of maddened and stupid brutes, who have only sense enough to blunder and do mischief? Perhaps we shall see, to borrow the language of Greeley, a third “grand uprising,” but this time in favor of putting a stop to the fruitless sacrifice of blood and money.
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