The steady drumbeat of war has been increasing in intensity over the past week, and it finally appears that a decisive battle between the Union and Confederacy is imminent. Such a battle has been anticipated since the attack on Fort Sumter in early April but has been slow in coming. The past few months have been characterized by the gathering of troops and supplies near the front lines, and all either side has dared is the occasional skirmish or reconnaissance mission. While this slow start has frustrated partisans on both sides, it may have been necessary—raising troops, training them, transporting them to the front and providing them with sufficient provisions for battle has been a long and arduous process, and has been the central focus of the Army and the War Department over the past three months.
Now, however, the forces in eastern Virginia that have been slowly inching towards each other for the past few weeks are finally ready to engage. In anticipation of the first meeting of the Confederate Congress at its new capital in Richmond—which met yesterday for the first time—the Union army began its march south earlier this week and is now approaching the Confederate encampment near Manassas. This strategically important railroad junction has been the site of a massive buildup of Confederate troops over the past month and will likely be the site of today’s confrontation. The Confederates, for their part, have been digging in and preparing defenses around the town and now appear to be very well entrenched, as demonstrated by the Confederate victory at the battle of Corrick’s Ford this past Thursday. Both sides, however, seem more than ready for battle. All that remains now is to see who emerges victorious. The stakes are extremely high; a victory by either side will clear a direct path to the opposing capital and an opportunity to bring the war to a quick and decisive end. The eyes of a nation—and indeed, the world—are fixed on a small town in northern Virginia, where the fate of the American experiment may well be decided.
Compared to the excitement in Manassas, affairs elsewhere in the nation cannot help but seem pale in comparison. And indeed, as if in recognition of the momentousness of the occasion, it has been a slow week across the country. Although the pursuit of Governor Jackson continues in Missouri, there has been little progress of note. And following the successful campaign in western Virginia earlier this month, there have been relatively few new developments in the area: The Confederate forces have been allowed to retreat, effectively ceding the region to Union control. Even in Washington, the excitement surrounding the eastern Virginia campaign has monopolized the attention of the President, his cabinet, and the Congress—just as it has the Confederate Congress in Richmond. All political life has been put on hold in anticipation of today’s likely battle, and the new shape the country will take once the actions of a few thousand men in eastern Virginia decide the issue.
- Senator James H. Bayard of Delaware delivered an address before Congress on “Executive Usurpation,” criticizing the president for claiming unconstitutional war powers.
- The Atlantic Monthly discusses the recent emancipation of serfs in Russia.
- A thorough examination of recent trends in warfare is provided in this month’s DeBow’s Review.
- July’s Harper’s New Monthly Magazine explores the development and study of language.
- The New Englander explains the duties of those who remain home from battle during a time of war.
- The North American Review responds to the recent address of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
- DeBow’s Review examines the current cultural differences between Northern and Southern society.
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