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By John Esten Cooke

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In the latter part of May, a portion of the Federal forces had crossed the Chickahominy, and confronted General Johnston defending Richmond. Such was the serious condition of affairs in the spring of 1862. The 47 Federal sword had nearly pierced the heart of Virginia, and, as the course of events was about to place Lee in charge of her destinies, a brief notice is indispensable of the designs of the adversaries against whom he was to contend on the great arena of the State. While the South had been lulled to sleep, as it were, by the battle of Manassas, the North, greatly enraged at the disaster, had prepared to prosecute the war still more vigorously.

Against his views and determination, the President and authorities struggled in vain. McClellan treated their arguments and appeals with a want of ceremony amounting at times nearly to contempt; he adhered to his own plan resolutely, and in the end the President gave way. " At last General McClellan carried his point, and an advance against Richmond from the Peninsula was decided upon. In order to assist this movement, General Fremont was to march through Northwestern Virginia, and General Banks up the Valley; and, having thus arranged their programme, the Federal authorities began to move forward to the great work.

The military resources of the South had been plainly underestimated. It was now obvious that the North had to fight with a dangerous adversary, and that the people of the South were entirely in earnest. Many journals of the North had ridiculed the idea of war; and one of them had spoken of the great uprising of the Southern States from the Potomac to the Gulf of Mexico as a mere "local commotion" which a force of fifty thousand men would be able to put down without difficulty. A column of twenty-five thousand men, it was said, would be sufficient to carry all before it in Virginia, and capture Richmond, and the comment on this statement had been the battle of Manassas, where a force of more than fifty thousand had been defeated and driven back to Washington.

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A life of Gen. Robert E. Lee by John Esten Cooke


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