Affairs Abroad and at HomeThe Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1204, p. 550.
May 23, 1863
...The operations of the French in Mexico must ere long be conducted on a large scale; and if the policy which is supposed to have dictated that expedition be carried out, it will involve a war between France and the Northern States of America, the former power becoming the ally of the Confederates. Even if such an event be thought somewhat remote, it can hardly be denied that where so many small causes of difference, if not of dispute, exist at present between England and the Federal States, they may at any moment take an aggregate shape and ripen into a casus belli. So much for the prospects of the future; a word or two now on actualities.
Probably at no period of the contest in America has more interest been felt than in the movements of General Hooker, the present commander of the Army of the Potomac. Unquestionably some sympathy is felt for a Federal General who exhibits at once boldness and skill. The tactics which Hooker adopted had within them the elements of brilliant success; but the materials with which he had to work are apparently unfitted for such a system as he has pursued, especially when he is opposed to leaders so daring and vigilant as Lee and Jackson, ably seconded as they are by their singularly mobile troops. By a bold and unexpected movement Hooker, dividing his forces and crossing the Rappahannock at different points, succeeded in placing the bulk of his army on the road between Fredericksburg and Richmond, and, therefore, in the rear of the Confederates, leaving a corps under General Sedgwick to occupy the attention of the enemy by advancing upon the battle-field of Fredericksburg. Not in the least taken aback, Stonewall Jackson, by a rapid counter movement, outflanked Hooker himself, and fell fiercely on his right wing; and for two days a series of obstinate encounters--a battle, divided as it were, into four or five acts--ensued, and when the latest accounts left America there could be no doubt of Hooker's entire failure. On the third day he was standing on the defensive, intrenching himself, his front completely changed, no longer between the Confederates and Richmond. He had their whole army in his front and the rivers Rappahannock and Rapidan in his rear; while Sedgwick's corps, which had continued to threaten the Confederate army, was assailed, defeated with great loss, and driven back across the river. The position of the Federal General is such that he will be subjected to an attack in force by the Confederates, and, unless a military miracle is wrought, we do not see anything for him but a choice between capitulation and being driven into one of two rivers, according to his selection. Assuming his defeat, the question arises whether such an occurrence will be considered decisive of the war. We confess we think not. It would be quite possible for the Confederate Army to follow Hooker and march upon Washington, but it is much to be doubted whether such a course will be pursued. Apart from the perils of an attack on Washington, which city would of course be defended by the concentration of all the Federal troops which could be got there, so that something like a siege would ensue, it is not unlikely that the Confederate statesmen would look at an assault on the capital of the once United States more from a political than a military point of view. The capture of Washington by the Secessionists would exasperate the Northerners and goad them to fresh efforts against the South; while, as a matter of policy, it may seem to Jefferson Davis and his advisers judicious to let it appear that the war is not aggressive on their part.