Monday, December 10, 2012

Will the Yankees Fight

To the inquiry whether the Yankees will fight, the Rebels are in the way of getting, of late, very decisive if not very satisfactory answers.  If there ever had been any real ground to doubt the courage of our Northern and Eastern troops, their recent behavior in the two most difficult and disadvantageous conflicts of the war – those of Pea Ridge and New Bern – must set such doubts at rest forever.

In the former of those battles the most unfriendly criticism must admit that we fought under heavy embarrassment.  Our army was in the enemy’s country, and far from its base of operations.  It had, moreover, certainly not more than half the numbers of its opponents – probably less; and it was absolutely cut off  from its only line of retreat and hopeless of any re-enforcement.  It was not superior even in discipline to its opponents, since most of the earlier and better disciplined regiments of the West had been transferred to the army of the Potomac, or to that in Kentucky.  The only advantage which the Rebels attribute to the Union troops was their possession of later and more improved arms.  This may possibly have been to some extent a real one; though, when we consider that their opponents were to a great extent the wild hunters of Arkansas and Missouri, and were armed in a great part with their chosen and most effective weapon – that which did such wonders at New Orleans under Jackson, the Kentucky rifle – our superiority might be questioned, and could not have been great.

Under all these disadvantages, our soldiers fought upon ground which was familiar to their enemies and not so to themselves – sustained and repelled the continued and repeated assaults of greatly superior forces, and drove and exultant and confident army, which had actually got into their rear, with loss of stores, arms and munitions of war, in decisive and shameful retreat.  The troops which achieved the glorious result were chiefly from the West, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri are forever covered with the honor by the conduct of their heroes; and the brave Germans of St. Louis shared the proud glory of this signal victory.

“Very true,” it is said, “those western men fight well; their daring is unquestionable.”

See, then how it is with the men of the East.  At Newbern, Burnside was obliged to abandon the protection of his gunboats; and made his attack upon the batteries of the enemy not only without the aid of their heavy artillery, but almost without field guns.  Long lines of batteries had been thrown up, and weeks of anxious toil had prepared every means of defense. – The attack was made by men landed in boats.  On one side the river – on the other a swamp – in front a narrow ridge across which these frowning batteries extend.  For the capture of these, only brave men of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York, with arms in their hands, but without any advantage save such as their own resolute heroism might supply.  They advance – they engage – they fight till their ammunition is expended, and then – hurrah! they charge, like heroes as they are, upon two or three miles of batteries.  Many a brave man attests with his blood the courage that in every conflict on the Continent for two hundred years has made the name of New England honorable; but though many fall, they drive the Rebels from their intrenchments and win the day.  The descendants of the men who captured Louisburg, and stormed Quebec, who fought at Lexington, Bunker Hill, and bore the brunt of the Revolution in every infant State, are not degenerate.  The old fire still glows, the old heroism survives.  An age of industry and peace has passed over them, but they show that only give them something worth fighting for, and New England men are true to their stern and noble ancestry.  It will be long before the Rebels of Carolina question whether the Yankees will fight or not. –{Tribune.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 5, 1862, p. 1

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