From the Charleston Mercury, 5/16/1862


The Richmond Dispatch of Wednesday morning says:

The hour of trial seems to have arrived, and although we would avoid giving publicity to anything calculated to excite alarm, or give uneasiness, we deem it useless to disguise the fact that there exists grounds for the most serious apprehensions. The news yesterday is of the most exciting character, and a doubt can no longer exist that the gunboats of the enemy are making their way up James river. This may be relied upon, the last accounts representing them as one mile and a half below City Point, cautiously and slowly advancing.

It is not for us to speak advisedly of the obstructions intended to impede their progress. They may be formidable, they may not. We can only hope that our government has foreseen the storm, and wisely made provision to meet it. The Monitor, Galena, and Stevens' Battery, all iron-clad, are embraced in the fleet that now menaces our beautiful capital. At half past 12 o’clock yesterday this armada was within thirty miles of the obstructions in the James, intended as a barrier to their further advance. Yesterday afternoon the Curtis Peck, Jamestown and Northampton, were all sunk in the channel, to add to the existing obstructions.

We get from the Examiner of the same date the following more hopeful view of the situation of affairs:

The enemy’s gunboats entered the James river in an hour after they saw the Merrimac blown to pieces. This was a matter of course. The pyrotechnic event was in full view. Since then they have been slowly feeling and sounding their way up the river, and are now believed to be within twelve miles of the city. There is little cause for alarm at present on that account. We sincerely believe that the obstructions in the channel are now sufficient to check them.

If the obstructions placed in the James, with the batteries which are, or ought to be, there protecting them against removal, are insufficient, the gunboats might come up to Richmond, and endeavor to take it by frightening the place into surrender under threats of bombardment. But Richmond can never be so yielded. The interests of the Confederacy are too deeply dependent on its retention. If the gunboat can bombard, then let them bombard till all is blue. Cannot an American city, too, bear bombardment? In every other country of the world cities have supported that ordeal to the last with infinite courage and fortitude. Even luxurious Venice, of 1848, shut up by land and sea, with famine and pestilence in every house, with a population eating rats and making soup of old shoes, and the bombs crashing through every roof, stood it without the encouragement of a purpose or a hope, for months. Is Richmond less brave? Are Virginians and Southern men mere cowards?

Have their women less spirit than femmes galantes? If the gunboats come alone, the government and the city can and must meet their menaces with defiance, and retort cannon shot with cannon shot. If the batteries already constructed should be passed, then drag guns to the point indicated on the first day of the war - in these columns of this journal - to the heights of Chimborazo Hills. It was considered an unanswerable objection then that the place was too near - that the shells would reach the town. We hope that this is no longer considered a final answer. The town can take and give the shells, as hundreds of others have done for less cause and to gain a smaller object. Further, gunboats in a narrow river can be boarded.

But there is little reason to suppose that any such call will be made immediately on the fortitude of this city. Our danger is rather more remote. It is this: That McClellan should get away from the York without a battle, throw his troops on the James, and come up to Richmond with the gunboats protecting his flank. When the army and fleet reach the obstructions and the batteries they can, of course, do what they did at Yorktown. But here, as elsewhere, we have a chance, a glorious gate to safety. It is a great battle. If we beat McClellan in battle either on the York or on the James, we are still safe. Turn the tables ad infinitum, they still present that angle. War means fighting. But, if we hope to defend ourselves with the manoeuvres of the chessboard, our ruin is predestined.


The Petersburg Express of Wednesday contains the following:

Edmund Ruffin, Esq., of Prince George, has just sent us the following notice of the movements of the Federal flotilla on James River:

May 13, 8 a.m. Five steamers are now (8 a.m.) slowly passing up the river by Berkley wharf. Four are large, and one sits very low in the water, supposed to be the Monitor. The atmosphere is hazy so that we cannot distinguish their flags, though they are flying. The small boats of the steamers, five in number, are now sounding the channel over Harrison’s Bar. Harrison’s Bar is six miles below City Point, and at high tide, vessels drawing fifteen feet can pass over. It having been ascertained that the fleet could easily get over, the vessels came directly up, heading for City Point. Our pickets at the Point perceiving the intentions and nearness of the gunboats, fired the depots and warehouses at the Point, and left on an engine for this city. Several hundred hogsheads of tobacco, and many other valuables, were consumed.

The latest from City Point is, that after landing a few officers and portions of their crew, who cavorted about for awhile, and appeared to be on the best terms with a contraband or two who condescended to speak to them, the party re-embarked, and steamed up the river, with the prows of their vessels pointing Richmondwards.

So far as rivers are concerned, we have the assurance of a gentleman who recently traversed the James from the head of tidewater to the vicinity of Newport News, for stating that there is not so much as a pop gun on either bank. In the early months of the war, we had strong fortifications at Fort Powhatan, mounting several heavy guns, and garrisoned by many hundred brave hearts and stout arms. These works have all long since been removed. The guns were dismounted by order of General Lee, and the men removed to points where there was not the remotest possibility of a fight.

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