Saturday, January 7, 2012

What might have been done in South Carolina

Here is another piece from the January 4, 1862 Covington Journal. Note that the writer mentions conquering territory and securing profitable cotton, but makes no mention of freeing slaves or helping "contrabands" that may have been in the area.  Of course, this is 8 months before President Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and emancipation had not yet become an official war aim of the federal government. It apparently was not an issue for this writer either.

A correspondent of the New York Tribune writing from Hilton Head says:


The opinion I hear is freely expressed here in high quarters, that in spite of every obstacle, the instant following up of that first overwhelming success might ere have placed us in Savannah; beyond all doubt would have broke up their communication between that city and Charleston, by destruction of the railway at the nearest accessible point. The obstacles were great, but unwavering purpose and indomitable energy might have overcome them. It may be that the same spirit that inspired the proclamation of Gen. Sherman (editors's note - this refers to Thomas W. Sherman), retarded his offensive movements to await the results of that attempt at reconciliation.

Had he landed at Carolina's shore, with the clear conviction that this rebellious State was unalterably bent on war, and that its complete conquest and subjugation were his allotted task, I fully believe the work would have been half done - more than half - today, while the moral effect of immediate decisive action, would have been all over the South incalculably greater than any success can now produce.


There is much truth in this. The golden opportunity in South Carolina has been fooled away. The land forces have not done anything but fortify a position which was perfectly secure without fortifying. If the army, instead of being stupidly put to work throwing up enormous earthworks under the guns of the fleet, had been pushed into the interior as fast as possible, there is every reason to believe that Charleston and Savannah might have been in our hands before this time, and millions of dollars worth of cotton secured. If it was not intended to advance into the interior, why send a land force of fifteen thousand men to the coast? The fleet would have taken and held every foot of land now in our possession in South Carolina without the assistance of a single soldier. During the days of intense panic, which followed the magnificent performance of our fleet at Hilton Head, the whole sea island region was at our mercy. But whatever further advantage we gain will be by hard knocks. Every intelligent person in the United States knew as soon as the victory of the fleet was heard of, that a vast quantity of the best cotton of the world was within our grasp. But General Sherman would have nothing to do with cotton, and several weeks elapsed before he received instructions. Why could not instructions be sent with him? Oh for a single specimen of tolerable foresight and energy - a specimen of complete preparation and dazzling performance - a little common sense and practical notion - by way of variety.





Thomas W. Sherman


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