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our people or their invincible determination to achieve their independence, the spirit of volunteering had died out, and the resolution of our soldiers already in the field was not sufficient to resist the prospects, cherished for months aniid the sufferings and monotony of the camps, of returning to their homes. The exigency was critical, and even vital. In a period of thirty days the terms of service of one hundred and fortyeight regiments expired. There was good reason to believethat a large majority of the men had not -re-enlisted, and of those who had re-enlisted, a very large majority had entered qompanies which could never be assembled, or if assembled, could not be prepared for the field in time to meet the invasion actually commenced.
The first act of conscription was passed on the 16th of April, 1862. It was afterwards enlarged by another act, (27th September),,giving the Executive the power to call into service persons tyetween the ages of thirty-five and forty-five. Although the rush of volunteers had comparatively ceased, and the ardour of the individual did not suffice for the proffer* of self-devotion, yet the sentiments and convictions of the mass recognized as the most sacred obligation the stern duty of defending, if needs be, with their entire numbers, their imperilled liberty, fortune and -honour. The conscription law was, generally, cheerfully acquiesced in. In every State one or more camps of instruction, for the reception and training of congcripts; was established; and to each State an officer, styled a commandant of conscripts, was appointed, charged with the supervision of the enrollment and instruction of the new levies.
The execution of the conscription law was unfortunately resisted for a time by Governor Brown of Georgia. The correspondence between him and the President on the subjett> which was printed and hawked in pamphlet form through the country, was a curiosity. It wTas illustrated copiously by Mr. Brown with citations from the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of 1798 and exhumed opinions of members of the old Federal Convention of 1787. In 4he most vital periods of the country's destiny, and in the fierce tumults of a revolution, the people of the South were refreshed with exhumations from the politicians of 1787, and the usual amount of clap-trap about our "forefathers," and the old political system that had rotted over our heads.
The beneficial effect of the conscription law in the re-ojiganization of our army was assisted by some other acts of legislation. That re-organization was advanced by the appointment of Lieutenant Generals, some commanding separate departments, and others heading army corps under a General in tjie field. The policy of organizing the brigades with troops and Generals from the several States was pursued, as opportunities offered, without detriment to the public service. The greater satisfaction of the men from each State, when collected together, the generous emulation for glory to their State, and the fair apportionment of officers assured to each State according to its contribution of defenders to the country, overbalanced the inconvenience of separating regiments or companies previously associated, and the liability to State jealousies. Military courts were organized to secure the prompt administration of the military law, to check desertion and straggling, to restrain license of all kinds, and to advance temperance, discipline and subordination.
But it was not only the re-organization and improved morale of the army that came to the aid of the declining fortunes of the South in the war.
The disasters on the Mississippi frontier and in other directions had constrained the government to adopt the policy of concentrating its forces in the interio'ur of Virginia. The object of all war is to reach a decisive point of the campaign, and this object was realizecf Nby a policy which it is true the government had not adopted jit the instance of reason, tut which had been imposed upon it by the force of ^disaster. There were childish complaints that certain districts and points on the frontier had been abandoned by the Confederates for the purpose of a concentration of troops in Virginia. An inflammatory appeal was made by Governor Rector of Arkansas to the States of the Trans-Mis3issippi, representing that the government had deserted them in transferring its troops to other portions»of the Confederacy, and suggesting that they should form a new association for their safety. But the appeal was severely rebuked-by public sentiment. The complaint of Governor Rector cost him his election, and the display of the demagogife consigned him to the reproaches of the public.
Such complaints were alike selfish and senseless, and in most cases nothing more than the utterances of a demagogical, short-sighted and selfish spirit, which would have preferred the apparent security of its own particular State or section to the fortunes of the whole Confederacy. The fact was, that there was cause of intelligent congratulation, even in those districts from which the Confederate troops had been withdrawn to make a decisive battle, that we had at last reached a crisis, the decision of which might reverse all our past misfortunes and achieve results in which every State of the Confederacy would have a share.
But the first movements of the famous summer campaign in Virginia that was to change the fortunes of the war and adorn our arms, were not auspicious. The designs of some of these movements were not properly appreciated at the time, and some of the incidents that attended them were real disasters.
We have seen that by the happy boldness of General Magruder in keeping the enemy in check on the line between Yorktown, on York ritfer, and Mulberry Island, on James river, the advance of the grand Federal army, destined for the capture of Richmond, was stayed until our forces were rescued by the consummate strategy of Gen. Johnston from the pressure of enveloping armies, who arrived in time to reinforce our lin6s on the Peninsula. It became necessary, however, in the judgment of that commander, to fall back in the direction of Richmond. It.was easily seen by General Johnston- that at Yorktown there was no prospect of a general action, as the attack on either side would have to be made under disadvantages which neither army was willing to risk. The Yankees were in superiour force, besides their additional strength in their gunboats, and: in falling back so as to invest the line of the Chickahominy, General Johnston expected to force the enemy to more equal terms. The difficulty was to match the strength of the enemy on the water; and the best practical equivalent for this w7as considered to be the open field, where gunboats being out of the question, the ppsition of our troops would be the same as if at Yorktown they had had a force of gunboats exactly equal to that of the enemy, thus neutralizing his advantage in respect of naval armament.
The retreat from Yorktown produced uneasiness in the public mind, and naturally shook the confidence of the many who were in ignorance of the plans of the cautious and taciturn strategist at the head of. our forces in Virginia. It involved our surrender of Norfolk, with all the advantages ,of its contiguous navy-yard and dock. And it was accompanied by a disaster which, in so far as it was supposed to be unnecessary and wanton, occasioned an amount.of grief and rage in the Confederacy such as had not yet "been exhibited in the war.
This memorable disaster was the destruction of the famous mailed steamer Virginia—" the iron diadem of the South." This vessel, Which had obtained for us our first triumph on the water, was an object of pride, and almost of affection, to the people of the South. She was popularly said to be wTorth fifty thousand troops in the field. Nor was this estimate excessive, when it is recollected that she protected Norfolk, the navyyard and James river; that no fleet of transports could safely land its troops, designed to attack those places at any point from Cape Henry to the upper James, as far as she could ascend; that her presence at Norfolk had annihilated the land and water blockade at Newport News, passed the control of the James river into our hands, and protected the right flank of our army on the Peninsula.
The Virginia was destroyed under the immediate orders of her commander, Commodore Tatnall, oh the morning of the 11th of May, in the vicinity of Craney Island; According to his statement, he had been betrayed into the necessity of destroying'his vessel by firing her magazine, by the deceitful representations of his pilots, who at first assured him that they could take the -ship, with a draft of eighteen feet of water, within forty miles of Richmond, and after having lifted her so as to unfit her for action, then declared that they could not get her above the Jamestown flats, up to which point the shore on, each side was occupied by the enemy. It is proper to add, ihat this statement of facts wras contested by the pilots, who resented the* reflections made upon their loyalty or courage. Whatever may have been the merits of this controversy, it is ce/tain jthat thfr vessel was destroyed in great haste by Commodore Tatnall,, who, in the dead hour of night, aroused from . his slumbers and acquainted with the decision of his pilots, ordered the ship to be put ashore, landed his crew in the vicinity of Craney Island, and blew to the four winds of heaven the only naval structure that guarded the water approach to Richmond.
The destruction of tke Virginia was a sharp and unexpected blow to the Confidence of the people of the South in their government. How far the government was implicated in this foolish and desperate act, was never openly acknowledged or exactly ascertained; but, despite the pains of official concealment, there are certain wTell-attested facts which indicate that in the destruction of this great war-ship, the authorities*.at Richmond were not guiltless. These facts properly belong to the history of one of the most unhappy events that had occurred, since the commencement of the war.
The Virginia was destroyed at 5 A. M. of the 11th of May. During the morning of the same day a prominent politician in the streets of Richmond was observed to be very much dejected; he remarked that it wTas an evil' day for the Confederacy. On being questioned by his intimate friends* he declared to them that the Government had determined upon, or assented to, the destruction of the Virginia, and that he had learned