When Shall We Have Richmond?
Is a question asked diurnally but not yet answered. It would be a fit thing in the drama of the present time that the day which so long ago dawned upon a nation's birth should again be marked white in our national calendar by the possession of the Capital which is now the focus of the lurid light that has shot forth its malignant beams for so many months along the Southern sky. But Providence may not consult the "unities" in this matter, and the capture of Richmond may antedate or follow the celebration of Independence Day. That it will be captured eventually, those who are on the ground seem to have not the slightest doubt. So disciplined are our troops, now so well reinforced, such enormous quantity of artillery of the most powerful and improved description, such a reliance upon the soldiers' weapon — the bayonet — all combined seem to place our success beyond the limits of dispute. Probably the world has never seen, in spite of the sickness which is eating into its ranks, so effective an army, possessing such remarkable efficiency in the matter of munitious and supplies, in respect to which we are overwhelmingly superior. It is a question of time, then. Let our people be assured of this and none will wait more patiently for the final blow. It may come to-day, it may not for many days, but it will be struck, effectually and sure, when all is ready.
Henry J. Raymond, editor of the New York Times, who is with McClellan, writes encouragingly of the prospect. He says under date of the 17th:
"For the last day or two there was been an ominous silence all along the lines. The opinion is beginning to prevail on our side that no active operations, by way of advance, are expected for some time to come — but in this opinion I do not share. Gen. McClellan will undoubtedly take all the time for preparation which he deems essential to success — but he will take no more. He has full and entire confidence in his troops, and will not hesitate to put them in motion the moment he is able to move them with a certainty of being able to support them properly. We could not push infantry and cavalry upon the rebels in front of us — but these are not enough. We must also be able to bring into full and complete activity the great bulk of our artillery, and for that all the requisite and conditions are not yet fulfilled. When they will be, it is not for me to say even if I knew; but with such weather as that of yesterday and to-day the crisis cannot much longer be delayed.
I hear no doubts expressed in any quarter, of success. The rebels are believed to have a force of 150,000 men, or thereabouts — but not more than 100,000 of them are believed to be at all disciplined soldiers, and not more than 75,000 are thought to be troops worthy of meeting ours. The new levies will be worse than none. The battle soon to come off will be for possession primally of the comparitively open country which lies in front of the eight fortifications by which Richmond is defended. The guns mounted upon these fortifications can take but little part in it. They are too far off, and can come into play only after the main action shall have been decided and when our forces shall have advanced three or four miles further forward. The new levies will probably be posted in these works, leaving the older troops to contest the field in front of them. If the latter should be repulsed and driven back upon the works, they will be very likely to carry among the raw troops a good deal of confusion with them. If this should be sufficient to warrant such a step on our part, we may push forward at once, and undertake their capture. If not, we can at least encamp in front, and enter more deliberately upon the work of reducing them.
It is not believed here that any portion of Beaureguard's forces have reached Richmond from Corinth. But it is not doubled that some of the best of them may be on the way. They might possibly arrive next week — not sooner. I do not think Gen. McClellan is likely to run the risk of giving them the advantage of such a reinforcement.
If it had been possible to bring the main body of our army across the Chickahominy on the night after the battle of Fair Oaks. They would have marched at once upon Richmond. But we had no bridges — the stream was terribly swollen, and crossing in force was simply impossible. We did succeed, thanks to the indomitable energy of Gen. Sumner, in bringing over men enough to repulse the enemy and achieve a signal success — but not enough to make that success decisive."
A battle may, at any moment be precipitated by the rebels. They have probably learned to be more wary in making an attack, since the disastrous result of their well-planned and most formidable attempt to destroy the small force which had crossed the Chickahominy previous to the battle of the 1st. But there are sundry indications of a disposition on their part to make an attempt upon one of our flanks — most probably this time, if at all, upon our right, in the hope of destroying our stores at the White House, and cutting off our communications, by the Pamunkey and York rivers, which is now our only line.