Current LiteratureThe Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1228, p. 432.
October 31, 1863
Battle-Fields of the South. By (T. E. C.) an English Combatant in the Southern Army. (2 vols. Smith, Elder, and Co.) T. E. C. had been for a long time resident in America when the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency was received with a growl of dissent in the Southern States, when the patriotism or treachery of Floyd sent arms southward for the conflict which he knew was impending, when the connivance or vacillation of Buchanan made confusion worse confounded, and when at length the bombardment of Fort Sumter proclaimed to the universe in iron tones that a great people was divided against itself, that the hour predicted by Jefferson was come, and that civil war had crossed the Atlantic to find a new amphitheatre in the New World. Then came the sneers of newspaper-writers at the two thousand shots expended against Fort Sumter, at the two days or parts of two days spent in reducing it, and at the bloodlessness of the affair, only four men having been killed, and that by the bursting of one of Major Anderson's own guns as he was performing the ceremony of saluting his flag; but soon the thoughtless mockery was changed to real or simulated horror at the carnage, which seemed to increase with every bloody field from Bull Run to Chicamauga. T. E. C., however, brings down his account no later than the battle of Fredericksburg, when Burnside found himself so unequal a match for Lee, and when the Federal troops, after repeated assaults upon positions which T. E. C. pronounces unassailable, had to take advantage of the darkness and rain of a dreary December night to make good their retreat across the river. T. E. C.'s heart is evidently in the cause, and though, to use his own expression, he had "all to lose and nought to gain in opposing the tyranny of Federal rule," he embraced the Southern cause from the very first with an enthusiasm which would have done credit to a scion of one of the "first families of South Carolina." He declares himself that "the impulse by which he was prompted in bearing arms for the Southern cause was simply that inherent love of liberty which animates every English heart," but he writes with a virulence of feeling which would scarcely be greater were the difference between himself and the Yankees social and religious instead of national and political; indeed, he could not hate them more than he (apparently) does had they once been his best friends. He says that General Scott considered lying an element in strategy, and accounts for the "bouncers" of Major-General Pope and others on the ground that they imitated the "old hero." Of M'Clellan, whom no less an authority than General Lee pronounced to be the best officer the Federals had, he asserts that the "young Napoleon" at the commencement of the war offered his services to the South and asked to command a division, but "was answered that, if his heart was in the cause let him join the ranks, like Longstreet and others, and fight his way up to that position." He says, moreover, "I have frequently heard distinguished Southern leaders speak of M'Clellan in the highest terms of compliment. His successful retreat through the Chickahominy swamp is considered by officers to be equal to the best deeds on military record;" but he does not himself speak in very high terms of "little Mac," representing him as but little inferior in power of imagination, exaggeration, minification, and downright leasing to the unsurpassable General Pope. T. E. C. served first as a private, and eventually as Lieutenant of Artillery on the field staff, and, in the latter position, had no doubt more opportunity than in the former of observing the tactics and movements of the officers in command; but, as privates and subalterns have usually about as intimate an acquaintance with the plans and operations of commanders of armies or divisions as pawns and knights on the chessboard have of the intentions and movements of those who place them on their particular squares, there is, perhaps, not much more to be learnt, in a scientific point of view, from his volumes than from the accounts which have already appeared in the newspapers. Besides, as he was with the army of Virginia, and the South fought battles elsewhere, he, not having the gift of ubiquity, is forced to rely for events of which he was not an eye-witness upon letters from friends and announcements in newspapers. It is, of course, those parts of his volumes which tend to show the spirit which animates regiments and companies, masters and slaves, officers and privates, and which treat of camp gossip and of the qualities and personal appearance of now world-known Generals, on which he is most likely to be well informed, and which are most entertaining. It is a matter of regret that his narrative does not come down to the date of the enlistment into the Federal army of black troops, the reported flocking to the Federal lines of escaped slaves, and the asserted bravery of the coloured regiments under fire and in the face of white men; for he leads you to suppose that such things could hardly be.