Slike strani

bers arrayed for the assault be greatly superior to the number of the defenders. Only a few can make the direct attack at any time. Those who were engaged in the strife did not consider their "tentatives" frivolous. There were no better troops in the Army of the Potomac, than the men of the Kanawha division and those of the Ninth Corps, who attempted and finally carried the bridge. The losses in killed and wounded sustained by the Corps as compared with the rest of the army will show whether or not every thing was done that could be done at the "Burnside Bridge" and on the heights and plateau beyond. The second corps was more roughly handled by the enemy than any other, and lost a little more than twenty-five per cent. of its number; the first corps lost a little less than sixteen per cent.; the twelfth corps lost a little more than sixteen per cent.; the Ninth Corps lost a little less than sixteen per cent. Of the two corps that were not actively engaged for any length of time, the fifth lost less than one, the sixth a little more than three per cent. The fight on the right of our line was especially severe as every one knows. Yet there is no great disparity between the losses on the two wings, and if the number of casualties affords any ground of judgment, it must be allowed that "frivolous tentatives" are equal to a combat which was "very murderous to each side "—or else that there were no frivolous tentatives at all, but downright fighting. Nor is it to be supposed that General Lee, able officer as he was, and the object of Mr. Swinton's admiration, would have left the bridge upon his right so poorly defended as to make General Burnside's task "one of comparative ease."

It is in the Campaign on the Rappahannock" that Mr. Swinton falls into the grossest errors of statement. Without stopping to comment upon his reasoning from the unfounded premise of General McClellan's "manœuvering to fight a great battle," it is only necessary to examine the spirit and declarations of the author in his attempt to disparage General Burnside and his services. His statement of General Burnside's plan at the outset shows that he had no adequate knowledge of the subject upon which he was writing. "In point of fact," he says, (note to page 233,) "General Burnside had not matured any definite plan of action, for the reason, that he hoped to be able to postpone operations till the spring. He did not favor operating against Richmond by the overland route, but had his mind turned towards a repetition of McClellan's movement to the Peninsula; and, in determining to march to Fredericksburg, he cherished the hope of being able to winter there upon an easy base of supplies, and in the spring embarking his army for the James River." Every single assertion in the above extract is precisely the reverse of the truth. General Burnside had his plan matured, did intend to operate against Richmond by the overland route, did not have his mind turned to a repetition of McClellan's experiment, did not cherish the hope of going into winter quarters, was greatly averse to spending the winter in inaction, and had no notion of embarking his army for the James. It

could not be possible for an author to put more misstatements into a single sentence than Mr. Swinton has done.

General Burnside's plan has been stated in the text, to push forward rapidly beyond Fredericksburg, keeping to the eastward, changing his base of supplies successively from Aquia Creek to Port Royal, to White House and some point on the James River below Richmond. His plan was substantially the same as that followed by General Grant in the campaign of 1864, except that he intended keeping nearer to Chesapeake Bay, unless a favorable opportunity occurred of thrusting in his army, well supplied and ready for battle, between General Lee and Richmond. He had the advantage of being considerably in advance of General Lee, and of marching on a shorter line, and through a defenceless territory. That this was General Burnside's plan at the time, I know through my correspondence with him, and frequent and familiar conversations at Falmouth and elsewhere, during the Winter of 1862-'63.

Mr. Swinton is equally unfortunate in his conception or interpretation of the plan of attack at the battle of Fredericksburg, and accuses General Burnside of an afterthought in his declaration that the main attack was to be made by the left wing of our army. That certainly was the plan of battle if General Burnside is to be believed; and those who know him best will not judge lightly of his veracity. General Franklin was to attack with one division, but he was to keep it well supported and have his entire command in readiness for a rapid movement along the old Richmond road. General Sumner was to form his division for attack but was to await directions. The subject has been fully stated in the text, and when Mr. Swinton tries to make it appear that General “Franklin was directed to make a partial operation of the nature of a reconnaissance" he is doing himself and his theme injustice. Nor is he more happy in his apparent attempt to disparage the fighting of our soldiers, when he tries to produce the impression, that but a small force was in the front of General Sumner's command. Two brigades he allows as the entire force, used by General Longstreet, to repel the attacks made by our right wing upon "the stone wall and rifle trenches at the foot of Marye's heights"-the chief scene of fighting in that quarter. In a note on the 250th page, he quotes with evident satisfaction an extract from General McLaw's report of the battle, which states that seventeen hundred men were all that were necessary "to repulse the numerous assaults made by the Union columns." Yet on the 253d page, he quotes another note to the purport, that General Longstreet's loss in fighting General Sumner's attack was "three thousand four hundred and fifteen "'—or about twice as many as his subordinate found necessary to repulse the Union assaults. It is curious to notice how easily a man falls into error, when once he is predetermined to make the event of which he speaks wear the worst possible appearance. With such premises, of what value is the reasoning deduced from them?

Surely it may be said of Mr. Swinton somewhat as Sheridan said in his reply to Dundas, that he is indebted to his prejudices for his arguments and "to his imagination for his facts."

The animus of the book, to which I have thus called the reader's attention, so far as General Burnside is concerned, is one of contempt or malevolencesometimes expressed directly, sometimes by innuendo. The cause of the author's spitefulness dates back to the time when he was a correspondent of the New York Times. In the issue of that paper of January 16, 1863, he characterized General Burnside's letter of December 17th to General Halleck as one "in which there is nothing his but the signature, and to which his good nature, not his conscience, consented." Mr. Swinton being questioned as to his authority for such an extraordinary declaration, gave, after some delay and with great reluctance, the name of General Sedgwick. But General Sedgwick, on being confronted with the correspondent at General Burnside's headquarters, declared the statement utterly unfounded. A friend of Mr. Swinton requested that the matter might be overlooked, and General Burnside was content, after such an exposure, to let the crestfallen writer


with an admonition to refrain from such unworthy practices in the future. Since that time, Mr. Swinton's animosity against General Burnside has been so strikingly marked through the public press, and now through his "Critical History," as to give but little value to his opinions.





« PrejšnjaNaprej »