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London, Saturday, June 21, 1862

The Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1150, p. 628.

June 21, 1862


The thunderclouds of war had been nearing each other too rapidly to leave it in doubt whether an explosion were at hand or not. The metaphor might indeed have been suggested by the physical conditions of the encounter. Taking advantage of a tremendous storm, the Confederate General attacked on the last day of May, and what General M'Clellan calls a "desperate" battle ensued. The advanced guard of the Federals, under General Casey, was utterly routed, and fled in a way which M'Clellan describes as unaccountable and disorderly: nearly twenty of their guns were taken, and a great slaughter was made. Then reinforcements were brought up by the Federal leader, and the assailants were checked. They were not daunted, however, for they renewed the attack on the next day, Sunday, but without gaining any fresh advantage. They claim the victory on the whole business, but it is, of course, violently clamoured for by the North. The military honours are clearly with the Confederates, but it seems doubtful whether they gain much more. As regards the slaughter—we say it without disrespect—one knows not what to believe when the American journals take to computation. Our readers will recollect the "awful carnage" which has marked every action throughout the war—on paper. They were almost prepared to find the total account something terrible. The returns appear to have at length been made up, not from sensation paragraphs, but from the army rolls, and the whole amount of lost, from Bull Bun to Banks's run, is 5791. Reading this, we hardly like to believe that this last battle has cost the Federals more than they have sacrificed during the year and a half of fighting; and, when we set down the numbers said to be lost at 7000 killed and wounded—so speaks the latest telegram—we do so subject to the revision of the bill by the Federal General. The latter states that the losses on the Confederate side "must have been" enormous, but we shall await General Johnson's account. Be the figures large or small, the battle does not seem to bring the war any nearer a termination, but, on the contrary, it shows that the Confederates are not only very strong but very resolved. It may be presumed that another engagement must have occurred almost under Richmond, and the fate of the Virginian capital may by this time be decided. The mails also speak of an engagement on the Mississippi, of the destruction of Confederate vessels, and the surrender of Memphis; and also of a report that the Southern defences on the James River had been passed. If this latter report be true, the advantage to General M'Clellan is, of course, very great. Lastly, we hear that "the magnificent Fremont" had fallen into an ambuscade planned for him by General Jackson, and that "the Pathfinder who always lost his way," had suffered severely. More gun-boats were ordered, and the Senate had passed the Tax Bill. The New York papers continue to be outrageously angry at the idea of even France presuming to mediate, and the hint that the Orleans Princes have deserved well of the Union is repeated with additional offensiveness. Doubtless, there will be fresh exultation in the North at the bad news from Mexico.

Connected with the American question is the only business of much interest which has occupied the attention of our own Parliament. In both Houses Ministers have been invited to express their sentiments on the subject of the atrocious proclamation by which General Butler (an ex-attorney) hounds on the Rowdies in his ranks to outrage upon the ladies of New Orleans. Both Lord Russell and Lord Palmerston spoke as Englishmen must speak of such brutality; and their language implies, and was of course meant to imply, that no Government that should not disavow and punish the author of so ruffianly an appeal to the worst feelings of the worst class of men could retain the respect of civilised nations. We sincerely trust to hear that Butler has been superseded ; but certain laboured attempts which have been made to explain away some of the wickedness of his ferocious edict do not seem to point in the desirable direction. At present a Northern General is branded with the guilt of inciting worse acts than were ever perpetrated in the name of "Liberty" during the Reign of Terror; but let us hope that the brand may not also remain affixed upon those who can as yet atone to humanity by casting away the wretched creature himself.

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