Friday, January 4, 2013

The Expected Blow

Very much of the new we reprint from the rebel journals we interpret by the rule of contraries, so that their averment that Beauregard has gone to New Orleans, of instance, persuades us that he will soon turn up a good way from that city.  Still, we are inclined to believe their late story that Jeff. Davis has set out for the South West, because, many reasons concur in designating that as his most desirable locality.  We believe the Rebels will not meet our great Potomac Army in open battle, but will [wait] for opportunities to attack portions of it in superior force, as lately as Winchester; but should no such be afforded them, they will gradually retire as our main body advances, hoping only to detain it in Virginia until the season is too far advanced and the heat too fervid for offensive operations in the Cotton States.  Such seems to be the general purpose of the present Rebel strategy in Virginia.

On the other hand, we see much that indicates a determination on the part of Secession chiefs to strike a sudden and heavy blow in the South-West.  They are evidently concentrating their forces at Corinth or some other point near the south line of Tennessee, with intent to hurl the great mass of them suddenly on an exposed detachment of ours, thus repeating the lesson of Bull Run, Wilson’s Creek, and Lexington.  We Trust they are to be baffled in this game by the cautious energy of Gen. Halleck; and, if they should not be able to fight at the advantage they meditate, we believe they will make a virtue of necessity, and fight a desperate battle any how, hoping by success to recover Tennessee, or at any rate protect “the South proper” form invasion and restoration to the Union.  The vigor and skill of our generals are quite likely to interfere with these calculations; but we are satisfied that, if left to their own devices, the Rebel chiefs will not soon fight a great battle in Virginia, but will fight one in the South-West.

The “Anaconda” plan of surrounding and crushing a rebellion exposes those who adopt it to great and obvious hazards.  Since Napoleon’s early campaign, every tyro in the art of war understands that the first canon is, “Be strongest at the point of actual and decisive conflict, no matter how weak everywhere else.”  The rebels profited by their fidelity to this rule at Bull Run, and in most of their triumphs, as we have since done at Fort Donelson, Roanoke Island, &c.  To comprehend the value and importance of this rule is easy enough; to obey and profit by it requires a mastery of the military art.  But the rebels, holding the inferior position and operating upon much the shorter lines of communication, can conform to it more easily than the Unionists who confront them.  And only a most resolute offensive on all points can prevent an army engaged in active operations, as has been recently witnessed.  And their advantage of position is so fairly counterbalanced by our command of the seas and our superiority in both gunboats and transports on the Western rivers, that it should not, and probably will not, be allowed to prove of much avail.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 5, 1862, p. 3

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