THE DISASTERS OF THE NORTH
1. Military Policy of the North.
The story of the war has here to be told from the point of view of the civilian administrator, the President; stirring incidents of combat and much else of interest must be neglected; episodes in the war which peculiarly concerned him, or have given rise to controversy about him, must be related lengthily. The President was an inexperienced man. It should be said, too—for respect requires perfect frankness—that he was one of an inexperienced people. The Americans had conquered their independence from Great Britain at the time when the ruling factions of our country had reached their utmost degree of inefficiency. They had fought an indecisive war with us in 1812-14, while our main business was to win at Salamanca and Vittoria. These experiences in some ways warped American ideas of war and politics, and their influence perhaps survives to this day. The extent of the President’s authority and his position in regard to the advice he could obtain have been explained. An examination of the tangle in which military policy was first involved may make the chief incidents of the war throughout easier to follow.
Immediately after Bull Run McClellan had been summoned to Washington to command the army of the Potomac. In November, Scott, worn out by infirmity, and finding his authority slighted by “my ambitious junior,” retired, and thereupon McClellan, while retaining his immediate command upon the Potomac, was made for the time General-in-Chief over all the armies of the North. There were, it should be repeated, two other principal armies besides that of the Potomac: the army of the Ohio, of which General Buell was given command in July; and that of the West, to which General Halleck was appointed, though Fremont seems to have retained independent command in Missouri. All these armies were in an early stage of formation and training, and from a purely military point of view there could be no haste to undertake a movement of invasion with any of them.
Three distinct views of military policy were presented to Lincoln in the early days. Scott, as soon as it was clear that the South meant real fighting, saw how serious its resistance would be. His military judgment was in favour of a strictly defensive attitude before Washington; of training the volunteers for at least four months in healthy camps; and of then pushing a large army right down the Mississippi valley to New Orleans, making the whole line of that river secure, and establishing a pressure on the South between this Western army and the naval blockade which must slowly have strangled the Confederacy. He was aware that public impatience might not allow a rigid adherence to his policy, and in fact, when his view was made public before Bull Run, “Scott’s Anaconda,” coiling itself round the Confederacy, was the subject of general derision. The view of the Northern public and of the influential men