The Confederate States of AmericaThe Illustrated London News, vol.41, no.1173, p.487.
November 8, 1862
On my return to Richmond from the army under General Lee, with drawings and material descriptive of the late successes that have crowned the Confederate arms, I find to my great disgust that a long letter forming the connecting link between my campaign in the North and my visit South has been lost. This letter was intrusted to a gentleman who proposed to run the blockade from Charleston in the Lloyd's, and, unfortunately, while on his way to the latter city he lost his portmanteau. The ship was on the point of leaving and, sacrificing his baggage and my correspondence, he left in her. I have just received a telegraphic despatch from Messrs. Frazier and Co., the agents of the gentleman in question in Charleston, in answer to one of my own inquiring about the safety of my letter, acquainting me with the mishap, and also bringing me the intelligence that the portmanteau has been traced and that they hope to have it forwarded to them in time to leave by the next steamer. There is no disguising the fact that my lines of communication are exceedingly hazardous and that I am compelled to rely solely on the successful running of the blockade--a postal arrangement which has very little certainty in its operation. Some of my first sketches from the South were lost in the broad current of the Potomac, the person who had them in charge throwing them overboard with other papers while being chased by a gun-boat. Two or three of these I have redrawn, and I now send them, in addition to others of the late battle on the plains of Manassas. On the present occasion I have had to be my own courier as far as here, and as soon as I see this packet safely off I shall return to camp.*
The more I see of the Southern army the more I am lost in admiration at its splendid patriotism, at its wonderful endurance, at its utter disregard of hardships which, probably, no modern army has been called upon to bear up against. Wretchedly equipped, the soldiers of the Confederacy advance to meet their foes, the light of battle shining on their countenances, determined to be victorious or die. I have seen them marching over the hot and dusty roads of Virginia, uniformless, shoeless, many with nothing but a thin, well-worn shirt to shelter them from the scorching rays of the sun, and yet every man cheered his comrade, and all as they dragged their bleeding feet along made light of their sufferings, and with renewed elasticity strode forward on their way, many to their graves. The lies I had heard in the North of disaffection in the South have been refuted to me a thousandfold. My own eyes and ears have contradicted at every step I have taken the calumnies circulated to the prejudice of a people firmly united in their desire for separation from the old Government, and resolved to fight for their independence till the last man has been called from his home and the last plantation laid waste. What a grand picture does this colossal revolution present; how near to heroism is this people brought, who, sacrificing everything--mothers their sons, wives their husbands, all they hold dear--for that which every country has fought for at some time during its history--its rights! Yes, with all Europe against them--for are not the ports of the Northern States open to the world?--these Saxons of the South, blockaded in their harbours, with sorry arms, deprived of those resources which alone make their enemy formidable, yet drive back the countless legions of the invader from their soil, and with "Io triomphe" on their tattered banners, prepare to carry the desolation which they have suffered to the homes of their adversaries.
Surely your readers by this time have learned to properly estimate the empty assurances and vain boastings of the Northern Government and press in relation to the suppression of the rebellion. Mr. Seward's circulars to the United States' Ministers abroad have been marvellous specimens of promises on a promise to do something. At each additional disaster to the Federal arms he has paraphrased in his despatches the words of the popular song, "There's a good time coming, boys, only wait a little longer;" and for eighteen weary months of bloodshed he has been singing this refrain, and each month his voice has grown more uncertain and wavering in the notes. How long England and France will submit to be bamboozled by the hollow representations of the Federal Government remains to be seen; as it is they have held aloof long enough, and precedents which they have followed in other cases demand that the two Powers at the head of civilisation should interfere to stop the butchery which disgraces the century we live in. The call for six hundred thousand more men in the North goes a long way to show that hitherto Mr. Seward has been cheating Europe into the belief that the Southern revolt was nothing. What has become of the first six hundred thousand? Their bones lie whitening in the fields around Corinth; the plains of Manassas are one huge Northern graveyard. From the James to the York River, on the banks of the Chickahominy and the Pamunkey, the slaughtered thousands of the once proud army of the Potomac sleep their last sleep. And should Mr. Lincoln be successful in his demand for new levies, which I very much doubt, the beginning of the end will be as far off as ever. Surrounded as I am by the Southern people, living in their midst, associating with their soldiers, I emphatically assert the South can never be subjugated. There is not a mother with two sons, having lost one by a Northern bullet, who will not freely offer up the other on the altar of her country. As I have said before, there are men serving in the ranks of the Southern army worth a hundred thousand dollars (£20,000) submitting to every privation--and such privations were never known--and, if need be, they will continue to bear with them and prolong the struggle for years. Never have I heard a doubtful word expressed as to the ultimate result of the war now waged by the Southerners: every soldier of the Confederacy is impressed with the stamp of individuality, and has a confidence in himself which half a million of Northerners cannot shake. And should dire necessity demand that more blood should be shed in addition to that which already crimsons the fields of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, there will be five hundred thousand such men ready to form a barricade with their bodies over which the invaders of their soil will have to pass. We have seen the first great Northern army swept away, and the second will scarcely fare better. The South is now thoroughly aroused; the late victories that have crowned its arms have made it more hopeful and determined than ever. The North, on the contrary, is demoralised by a succession of reverses, which even the mendacious despatches of its Generals have failed to conceal. The whole Northern people are writhing under the disgrace of the continued defeats of their well-equipped armies by, as they themselves term the foe, a half-starved ragged mob of rebels. Will their past experience in the war increase the prestige of their new levies in the field? It is hardly probable. Their forces, beaten everywhere, cannot commence a new campaign, even should they be permitted to do so by the European Powers, without the dead weight of previous disaster exercising its depressing influence upon them. However this may be, the South will be found prepared, and, whatever the result, nobly, I am convinced, will she stem the tide of battle. I would wish to continue this letter, and give a comprehensive view to your readers of the social and political policy of the South; but time is short, and I must delay to the next opportunity the multitudinous facts that I have collected for the benefit of your readers. Hoping this may reach you safely, I am yours ever, F.V.
[Some Illustrations by our Special Artist which arrived with the above letter will shortly appear in this Journal.]
*A correspondent of the Times, writing from the Confederate capital on Oct. 8, makes the following remarks in reference to the blockade:--"It should be noticed, before leaving the subject that, while four-fifths of the smuggling vessels on the Potomac and two-thirds of the seagoing vessels on the coast are invariably successful in their entrance to and exit from 'Dixie's Land,' there are occasional seizures effected by Federal vessels, which are made the most of by the New York press and in Mr. Seward's despatches. As an instance, it may be mentioned that Mr. Vizetelly, the well-known and popular correspondent of the Illustrated London News, has been singularly unfortunate in the despatches which during the last six weeks he has addressed to England, and which have, without exception, been subjected to moving accidents by flood and field. But the fact remains that the South, though sorely vexed by the blockade, is penetrated and reached by vessels every day and every night, and that, consequently, there is no such scarcity as the Federal journals have loved to paint."