Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the conviction that in many of the tribes of our frontier Indians, such as the Delawares, Kickapoos, &c., we possess the material for the formation of partisan troops fully equal to the Cossacks: in the event of a serious war on this continent, their employment, under the regulations and restrictions necessary to restrain their tendency to unnecessary cruelty, would be productive of most important advantages.

“In our contests with the hostile Indians, bodies of these men, commanded by active and energetic regular officers and supported by regular troops, would undoubtedly be of great service.

The cavalry of Prussia, Austria, France, England, and the United States are next considered, the whole occupying about one hundred pages; and an Appendix, of the same extent, contains a system of regulations for the field service of cavalry in time of war. This arm engages the author's particular attention, naturally enough, as he was a captain of cavalry at the time.

Besides its other merits, the volume is a record of the most faithful and persevering industry, and contains the results of an immense amount of hard work. It embraces accounts of military schools, forts, museums, camps, hospitals, and garrisons. The arms, dress, and accoutrements of the men, and the equipments of the horses, are minutely described, down to the most exact details. It is il. lustrated with several hundred engravings, making every thing plain to the eye where a visible reprosentation is needed. In short, no one can look at this volume without seeing that the author has one of those happily constituted minds which neither over

looks nor despises details, and yet is not so bampered by them as to be incapable of wide views and sound generalizations. No man can be a great officer who is not infinitely patient of details; for an army is an aggregation of details, a defect in any one of which may destroy or impair the whole. It is a chain of innumerable links; but the whole chain is no stronger than its weakest link.

In January, 1857, Captain McClellan resigned his commission and retired from the army. He had then been fifteen years in the service,-years of busy activity and energetic discharge of professional duty. We may suppose him to have been moved to this step by the consideration that the future held out no promise of congenial employment and seemed to open no adequate sphere to honorable ambition. A dreary life upon some distant frontier, the monotonous discharge of routine duty, a renunciation of all the attractions of civilized life without the excitement of ennobling adventure or heroic struggle, presented an uninviting prospect to a man like him, in the prime of early manhood, and with unworn energies alike physical and intellectual. He thought, too, that in case of war his chances of occupation and promotion would be quite as good in civil life as if he had remained in the army. The rapid growth and material development of the country created a demand for capacities and accomplishments like his; and immediately upon his resignation he was appointed chief engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad, then just opened, and went to Chicago to reside.

In a few weeks he was made vice-president of the corporation, and took general charge of all the business of the road in Illinois. In this capacity he first made the acquaintance of Mr. Lincoln, now President of the United States, then a practising lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, and occasionally employed in the conduct of suits and other professional services on behalf of the company.

In May, 1860, Captain McClellan was married to Miss Ellen Marcy, daughter of General R. B. Marcy, his former commander in Texas, and the chief of his staff during the Peninsular campaign.

In August, 1860, he resigned the vice-presidency of the Illinois Central Road, in order to accept the presidency of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, which post he held, residing in Cincinnati, till the war broke out.

CHAPTER IV.

The guns which opened upon Fort Sumter on the memorable 12th of April, 1861, did not merely crumble the walls of that fortress, but they also shattered all hopes of a peaceful solution of the problems which were then before the country. Civil war was now a sad necessity. The President's proclamation of the 15th called forth tho militia for objects entirely lawful and constitutional; and it was responded to with a patriotic fervor which melted down all previously existing

party lines. This "uprising of a great people," as it was well termed by a foreign writer, was a kindling and noble spectacle. The heart of the whole land throbbed like the heart of one. But we cannot now look back upon that brilliant and burning enthusiasm without a touch of sadness, because there was mingled with it so much ignorance, not merely of the magnitude of the contest before us, but of the nature of war itself. The spirited young men who, at the call of patriotic duty, thronged to swell the ranks of our volunteer force, marched off as gayly as if they had been going to a hunting-party or a picnic excursion. The rebellion was to be put down at once, and by little more than the mere show of the preponderating force of the loyal States; and the task of putting it down was to be attended with no more of danger than was sufficient to give to the enterprise a due flavor of excitement. War was unknown to us except by report: the men of the Revolution had passed away,

and even the soldiers of the War of 1812 had become gray-haired veterans. We had read of battles; we had seen something of the pride and pomp of holiday soldiers; but of the grim realities of war we were absolutely ignorant. Indeed, not a few had come to the conclusion that war was a relic of barbarism, which the world had outgrown, and that modern civilization could dispense with the soldier and his sword.

It need hardly be added that we were wholly unprepared for the gigantic struggle that was before

Our regular army was insignificant in num

us.

bers, and scattered over our vast territory or along our Western frontier, so that it was impossible to collect any considerable force together. Our militia system had everywhere fallen into neglect, and in some States had almost ceased to have any real existence. The wits laughed at it, and the platform-orators declaimed against it, to such a degree that it required some moral courage to march through the streets at the head of a company.

The South had been wiser, or, at least, more provident, in this respect. The military spirit had never been discouraged there. Many of the political leaders bad long been looking forward to the time when the unhappy sectional contests which were distracting the country would blaze out into civil war, and preparing for it. In some of the States there had been military academies, where a military education had been obtained: so that they had a greater number of trained officers to put into their regiments. This gave them a considerable advantage at the start. Happily for us, graduates of West Point were scattered all over the North: to them the civil authority looked for assistance, and they rendered an assistance which cannot be too highly estimated.

Ohio was as unprepared as other States. There was a small force of militia nominally organized; but the Constitution and laws of the State provided that all its officers should be elected by the men, and the Governor was limited, in his selection of officers in case the militia was called out, to the parties so chosen. In an emergency like this, it was

« ZurückWeiter »