At Fredericksburg in December 1862, Lee’s 70,000 men repulsed the North’s 114,000-man army and inflicted heavy casualties. The latter army looted the town before advancing against Lee, and blue-clad soldiers, many in Gen. Meagher’s brigade of Irishmen, were “found dead . . . with women’s shawls and bonnets on.” Lincoln replaced this discredited commander with yet another general, under orders to defeat Lee and lay waste to Richmond. This was not to be a war to effect reunion, but to conquer and subjugate those States wishing to form a more perfect union.
Making Trouble Generally in the South
“As May, 1863 approached, the prospects of the South looked far more favorable, and the victories of Cold Harbor, Cedar Run, the Second Manassas and Fredericksburg had inspired the troops with enthusiasm. In Virginia, two years of arduous struggle had not enabled the Federal authorities to penetrate beyond the Rappahannock; and on the southern banks of that river . . . the long lines of Confederate pickets warned the enemy that any attempt to cross would be resisted by the army which had repulsed them in December at Fredericksburg.
What had, however, a direct bearing on the Virginia campaign . . . was the evident impression among many of the most prominent politicians at the North, that unless the approaching campaign was successful, the [Northern] government was must make peace upon the basis of separation and Southern independence.
The New York “Tribune” announced the programme of operations which the times demanded, and gave its views as follows:
“Having massed our forces and filled our depots and caissons, charge upon the rebels in every quarter – assailing their ports with iron-clads, their armies with stronger armies, fighting resolutely but warily with intent to capture their strongholds and exhaust their resources – while expeditions of light-armed black Unionists, carrying only arms and ammunition, traverse those portions of Rebeldom most exposed and thickly populated with slaves, carrying liberty to all who wish it, and arms wherewith to defend it; moving rapidly and evading all fortified points and overpowering forces, while breaking up railroads and telegraph lines, and making trouble generally.”
If this “making trouble generally” by black Unionists and others did not attain its object, then the war must be given up by the North.
“If three months more of earnest fighting,” said the “Tribune,” “shall not serve to make a serious impression on the rebels – if the end of that term shall find us no further advanced than at its beginning – if some malignant fate has decreed that the blood and treasure of the nation shall ever be squandered in fruitless efforts – let us bow to our destiny, and make the best attainable peace.”
(Life of Stonewall Jackson: A Military Biography, John Esten Cooke, D. Appleton & Company, 1876, excerpts pp. 395-396)