Again this great nation holds its breath in painful suspense while awaiting the shock of the vast armies on the field of battle. Again do the leafy aisles of the Wilderness echo to the tread of armed legions; the golden rays of this blessed May sunshine glint from polished swords and shining bayonets unsheathed in deadly contest. While we write, those forests, whose woody pulses just begin to stir with the new life of the wondrous resurrection that annually gladdens the world with ever-recurring beauty, tremble to the roar of artillery, and their senseless fibres are splintered by the fiery shell and leaden hail of musketry. On green leaves and on budding violets; on sulphurous volumes of smoke, transfigured by its radiance into wreaths of splendor; on pools of dark warm blood, and on torn and ghastly forms which but now trod in the pride of manhood on the soil of Virginia, does this May morning sun pour down its kindly light. The acts of a tremendous drama are hurried on with fearful rapidity, while the smoke of battle still veils the scene and obscures the result. When that veil is raised, shall our eyes behold the old flag glorious, triumphant, or tattered and trailed as we have beheld it before along the banks of the swift Rapidan?
That splendid army, the pride of a continent, which bears in its march the prayers and best hopes of the nation, will it be hurled back, shattered and demoralized from its shock with Lee's rebel legions, or will the next breeze from the east bring us the notes of its triumphal music, as it drives the discomfited hordes of rebellion into their fastnesses at Richmond? These are the thoughts which "give us pause;" we strain our eyes into the dim distance, while we wait painfully to catch the first tidings from that scene of awful strife.
Let the event be as it will, the carnage must be fearful. The red glow of this morning's dawn will catch a ruddier tinge from the life-blood that wells from brave hearts; this gentle spring breeze fans the wan cheeks of death-stricken heroes whose lives are offered on the altar of a holy cause; and the solemn stars to-night shall watch over a scene at which angles well may weep. We can but wait patiently, and pray that God may speed the right.
As we watch the march of this grand army towards the field of death, how naturally do Byron's glorious lines rise in the memory:
"And Ardennes waves about them her green leaves
Dewy with nature's tear-drops, as they pass;
Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves
Over the unreturning brave, alas!
E'er nightfall to be trodden like the grass
That now beneath them, but above shall wave
In its next verdure; —"
Never, during this war, have results so momentous been staked upon the fortunes of a battle. Our dispatches indicate that it has now been fought; we can only trust that Providence and the fortunes of war have this time been propitious to the Union cause.