Harper's Weekly 05/21/1864


THE earnestness with which the loyal people
of this country are sustaining the war has
been in nothing more signally shown than the
sobriety with which the great news of Grant's
victory was received. Before he moved, every
thing that was heard from the Army of the Po-
tomac revealed a unity, an unselfishness, a hearty
faith in the cause, a grave resolution to fight to
the end, which prepared us for a campaign en-
tirely unprecedented. “My ground of confi-
dence,” said one who returned from the head-
quarters of Grant a fortnight before he moved,
“is in the moral as much as in the physical con-
dition of the army.”

In an hour like this comparisons are untimely
and vain. We only know that the popular faith
in the ultimate triumph of our cause—which no
disaster, however grievous, has ever been fierce
enough to shake—enables the country to con-
template its success without levity, but with a
universal and sorrowful sympathy with the thou-
sands of brave men whose dauntless constancy
has saved human liberty, although it could not
save themselves from bitter wounds; and with
a lasting and regretful remembrance of the
dead. The desperate contest upon the Rap-
idan, the shock of battle through two long sum-
mer days, shows upon both sides the qualities
which will make the regenerated nation invinci-
ble. Lee and his rebels had every prestige in
their favor. They stood upon ground which
their valor had maintained against us for three
years. They were intrenched upon the Rap-
idan, where they had defeated Pope. They
were near Fredericksburg, from which Burn-
had been forced to retire. They were
flanked by Chancellorsville, where they had
worsted Hooker. They had before them Get-
tysburg, from which they had retreated in good
order to recuperate; and Antietam, from which
they had been allowed to retire. Far to their
rear were the melancholy swamps of the Chicka-
hominy, in which a noble army had been en-
camped so long within an easy possibility of
victory, which had been surrendered with terri-
ble disaster. All around them were the famous
places of their triumphs or of their secure re-
treats. They were confronted with an army
whose unwearied bravery they had tested, but
which they knew lacked the prestige of success.
They saw new toils spreading for them, but they
confided in the past, and believed they could se-
cure the future.

Against such men, with such advantages,
General Grant organized his army and laid his
plans. He knew the key of the military posi-
tion. The defeat of Lee was the essential blow
that must be struck. First of all, therefore,
General Grant secured absolute unity of pur-
pose among his Generals. He established that
moral discipline which is the source of perma-
nent strength in every army. He brought with
him the personal inspiration of vast and contin-
uous success. He assembled a host. He and
his officers, filled with the profoundest convic-
tion of the importance of victory, imparted it by
all they did and by all they were to the men.
And when March and April were passed, when
the soft May sun announced steady weather,
and all the elemental conditions were ripe, he
gave the word to his faithful and indomitable
ally, Butler, and the Union armies moved to
a battle which they knew must be desperate,
and which all men believed would be decisive.

The chapter of our history which opened on
the 3d of May is not ended as these words are
written. But the first week's work is of such
augury that we have the right to hope for a suc-
cess which should bring every true American to
his knees in religious gratitude—a success which
will be a victory for the people of every country,
and will mark an epoch in the advance of civil-
ization. The words of the President are ech-
oed instinctively by the popular heart. “While
what remains undone demands our most sincere
prayers to and reliance upon Him (without whom
all human effort is vain), I recommend that all
patriots, at their homes, in their places of pub-
lic worship, and wherever they may be, unite in
common thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty

Website design © 2000-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com