Southerners in early 1861 exhibited the same intense desire for political independence and fighting spirit as their revolutionary fathers. Though Russell did not fully know at the time why his country would not come to the aid of the Confederacy, after September 1863 it had more to do with hostile Russian fleets in Northern ports and threats against British shipping.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
South Regards Itself as Unbeatable
“[William H. Russell’s] Diary is as rich in historical value as in interest, which is saying much. His energy and reputation at first carried him everywhere, and his courage made him signally outspoken. In New York, where Mayor Fernando Wood and half the press were opposed to the war, he was shocked by the apathy and want of patriotism . . . The pages of the Herald and several other journals were filled with the coarsest abuse of the Great Rail Splitter, but contained not a word to encourage the government in any decided policy. In Washington the correspondent found much bustle and nervousness, but complete uncertainty.
When he saw the District of Columbia militia and volunteers drilling before the War Department Building, he set them down as a sorry crowd. “Starved, washed-out creatures most of them, interpolated with Irish and flat-footed, stumpy Germans.”
Crossing to the South, the correspondent found a far more belligerent spirit than among the Northerners. At Norfolk a crowd was yelling “Down with the Yankees! Hurrah for the Southern Confederacy!” and threatening the frigate Cumberland. On the Wilmington [North Carolina] quay there were piles of shot and shell, which a resident identified as “anti-abolitionist pills.” All along the way in the Carolinas he found Confederate flags whipping in the breeze, troops waiting for the train, and an excited buzz about Fort Sumter, which had just been captured.
At Charleston the fury, the animosity, and the eagerness for war astounded him. He went out to Morris Island, where there was a camp, full of life and excitement. Tents were pitched everywhere, the place was full of tall, well-grown young men in gray, and the opening of hostilities had plainly put everyone in high spirits:
“But secession is the fashion here. Young ladies sing for it; old ladies pray for it; young men are dying to fight for it; old men are ready to demonstrate it. The founder of the school was St. Calhoun. Here his pupils carry out their teaching in thunder and fire. States’ Rights are displayed after its legitimate teaching, and the Palmetto flag and the red bars of the Confederacy are its exposition.
The utter contempt and loathing for the venerated Stars and Stripes, the abhorrence of the very words United States, the immense hatred of the Yankees on the part of these people cannot be conceived by anyone who has not seen them. I am more satisfied than ever that the Union can never be restored as it was, and that it has gone to pieces, never to be put together again, in its old shape, at all events, by any power on earth.”
At Pensacola, Mobile, and New Orleans he was struck by the same intense fighting spirit, reporting that “as one looks at the resolute, quick, angry faces around him, and hears but the single theme, he must feel that the South will never yield to the North, unless as a nation beaten beneath the feet of a victorious enemy.”
The South regarded itself as unbeatable. But from one other belief, the belief that England would intervene, Russell strongly dissented. “Why, I expect, sir,” one Charleston merchant told him, “that if those miserable Yankees try to blockade us, and keep you from our cotton, you’ll just send their ships to the bottom and acknowledge us.” Russell said no.”
(America Through British Eyes, Allan Nevins, Oxford University Press, 1948, pp. 217-218)