Page images

and even by the school boys and girls, the war was talked over. And around the doors of the homes of the foreign population groups would be collected, one reading the newspaper and the others listening to what was doing in the army.

The army was made up of men of every rank from the sons of millionaires to day laborers. In it were skilled mechanics of every description. When on their march they found railroads torn up, or bridges burned, or when anything went wrong, there was always somebody among the soldiers who knew how these things were to be repaired and who could step out from the ranks and help to do it. There is a story of a day when one of the Union generals needed badly to use an engine to transport some of his troops. But the engine had been put out of order by the confederates. One man came forward and said he thought he "could fix it." "What makes you think you can fix it?" asked his general. "Because I made it," returned the man. And he did "fix" it.

But one thing this army did not know at the beginning of the conflict; and that was the rules and manœuvres of war. They were not used to fighting, and this takes training as truly as baseball and football and boat-racing and other games need training, and a great deal more of

it. These men were, really, not as well prepared as the minute men in the Revolutionary war, because those had been trained in Indian wars and in hunting and had had more practice in the use of weapons. In case of fire in a schoolhouse we know what the difference is between the very same children when they have had no practice and when they have been well trained in the fire-drill. If they have, they will go out of the house in perfect order and nobody is hurt, or even frightened. But if not, there will be a terrible rush and crowding and danger. Yet, in both cases the children will be the same children. That was a good deal the difference between our army at first, and later. Then, as it has been said before, the greater part of the officers trained by the government to fight for it in times of danger had been Southerners and had gone with their States; while many Union officers were untrained in war. All this made a vast difference at the Battle of Bull Run.

There is not time to tell of the things that came to pass before those July days on which the battle was fought. Only, this was true, that' some of the generals were very stupid or disloyal in carrying out the spirit of their orders, and General Johnston, the confederate general who should have been intercepted by the Union forces, was allowed to join General Beauregard,

and this made up largely the force that won the battle at Bull Run. For at Bull Run, in Virginia, the Union forces had been ordered to meet the confederates in battle. The battle was not opened at the time arranged for; the Union officers did not know how to deploy their troops skilfully and the confederates attacked the army instead of its being the other way, and in a place particularly unfortunate.

There was a great deal of hard fighting on both sides; but after the battle had raged nearly two days a panic seized the Union forces, such as sometimes seizes the best-trained soldiers, and they broke and ran away, until at last they all gathered in Washington-those who were left of them, and the great army upon which the country had depended for victory was too disorganized even for defence. Had the confederates followed up hard, they could have captured Washington in that first wild alarm. Congress was in extra session during this battle; and some of the congressmen had gone to the field of Bull Run to "see the fight," as if it were to be a holiday victory. One of these was captured; and the others came flying back with no desire to see any more battles.

The South was wild with delight over its victory; while for a very short time the North was in despair over this terrible defeat. It

seemed as if for us all was blackness, while for the confederacy success was near. But things did not prove so. The South began to feel that if victory was to be won so easily, there was no need of its trying so very hard to raise men and money. Then, it did not follow up the victory and received not much more than the fame of the battle. On the other hand, the North gathered itself together for the long, hard combat and put forth new strength. It took courage and saw that, after all, everything was not lost. Congress voted the President all the men and all the money he needed at the time, even more money than he asked for. And when some of the New York bankers met and began to be afraid of the future value of the government bonds, one of them said: "If you let the government go down, your other securities won't be worth much to speak of. We must let the President have the last cent.'

[ocr errors]

This was the spirit in which the North met the defeat of Bull Run, and in the end turned it into a victory. Just as in a man's life, many a defeat proves in the end a gain to him.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]



After the battle of Bull Run over which the confederates boasted so much there was a feeling in the South, as has been said, that it would be easy enough to conquer the "Yankees"; the South was then in the habit of calling all the Northerners-especially those who opposed it"Yankees." And it was even whispered at the North that the men had become so discouraged and frightened by the Bull Run defeat, that they would flee at the sight of any confederate forces. But in October this was found to be most untrue. For then came the battle of Ball's Bluff, in Virginia. Here the Union troops were badly handled by their officers, and although General McClellan was fairly near with a very large army, he sent no reinforcements. As a result the army was so badly beaten by the confederates that almost half the men engaged were killed. Much as the North grieved over this

« PreviousContinue »