From the Charleston Mercury, 5/6/1864
FROM LONGSTREET’S ARMY.
VIRGINIA, April 27.
In spite of the grand preparations now being made to reduce Richmond, one cannot discover a nerve shaken there, anticipating the result. The clatter of machinery at the Tredegar Works is as deafening as ever - the huge columbiad turns over and over while the hard augur cuts out its great throat just as before - the iron ore runs from the furnace into the mould a white rivulet of fire, quietly and undisturbed - hundreds of wheels are buzzing and hundreds of workmen busy in the armory, constructing implements of war, all with as much nonchalance as if an ocean of fire stood between them and an insatiable enemy.
Among the throng of soldiers that are daily crowding through the city to the army, the question is scarcely ever discussed. The merchant and speculator hurry through the streets, intently wrapped in a purpose of gathering in, quite oblivious, seemingly, of all extraneous dangers, and fear no immediate perils as long as good terms are maintained between the street guard and conscript officers. Gay faces wreathed in smiles and flashy bonnets enliven the capitol square every fair evening when the ‘turn out and the company’ parades as if it were peace times. Provisions are scarce enough to leave the demand unsatisfied - the poor sewing women crowd around the government establishment, pale and care worn, for each day’s work that is to sustain life, the ‘Song of the Shirt’ in every liniament of their anxious faces - the ragged newsboy cries out in his usual piercing phrase: ‘Here yur morning’s paper’- drays and wagons rumble over the stony ways until one must use high words in the streets to make his vis-a-vis understood him - officers in fine uniforms guard the hotels from cavalry raids, and have guarded them so long their faces are as fair as ladies’- the President is calm - Gen. Bragg is stern - everything is an unassuming picture of sublime indifference to outside dangers. Such comes from the confidence in Gen. Lee and that army before it, standing like an adamantine wall against which tyranny has broken itself time and again.
In the army there is the same indifference to Grant gigantic preparation. The war worn southern soldier shrugs his shoulder as he looks across the Rapidan and says to his comrades, “over yonder is going to be hurt before they get into Richmond.” His comrade replies, “____, and a ---- sight of , too.” A dark eyed North Carolinian was hurrying on to the army with a number of his fellow soldiers from the same State. There was none of that white livered, detestable, Holdenite fraternity among them. They talked like men. ‘Boys,’says the dark eyed one, can show our scars for Richmond, but I say we ought to show our graves before they shall have it.’ True courage, wherever it is found, is sublime.
General Lee is no doubt ready to try the issue if Grant and Lincoln still insist that more blood must be shed, but of the disposition of forces this is not the time nor place to speak of them, if they were all perfectly understood. It is thought that the published programme of the Federal campaign will be followed: that is, to advance in North Carolina under Burnside, up the Peninsula under Smith, and across the Rapidan under Grant, simultaneously. A victory at either point will be deemed a key, possibly, to the ultimate overthrow of our capitol. The enemy’s forces are being moved very secretly, and will in all probability terminate in massing at one point (perhaps the Peninsula) and at other points, making simply heavy feints for no decided results except to deceive our Generals. Of course these moves have been anticipated. All that is necessary apparently, to success is a hearty cooperation among our General officers in executing superior orders. General Lee, great in his magnanimity, justice and natural dignity, always commands the love and willing obedience of his subordinate officers.
The jarrings which sometimes take place among our Generals can be traced to littleness in superior commanders. To what can that be attributed which has lately affected General Longstreet’s corps? Facts are stubborn things. He went into East Tennessee, and his first step was a failure. Subsequent ones there were magnificent competitors with the first. What followed? Was he as magnanimous as Gen. Lee to Gen. Wilcox after the battle of Gettysburg? ‘You did well, General, it was my fault,’ he said, speaking of the failure. If he was, it appears so under singular circumstances. After the failure at Knoxville Gen. McLaws was arrested and court martialed the result of which has been withheld. Gen. Robinson was pursued with the same. Gen. Law arrested and furnished with charges - his brigade transferred to another division - the charges sent back subsequently as frivolous - the brigade returned to the old division - Gen. Law released and restored to his command; all immediately or indirectly flowing from General Longstreet and his East Tennessee failures. Not to go into statements which can almost prove malice, what does this look like? Instead of the greatness of Gen. Lee, it resembles subterfuges to hide what imbecility has occasioned. This is plain talk, but such things ought to be noticed in such circumstances as ours, if they could ever be passed over, and it is time, too, that the public mind should know a fact not often recognized - that good troops will sometimes make great captains when nothing else will.