A letter to the editor of the New York Times says that it’s just politicians complaining about the Emancipation Proclamation; in the field, the army says it’s about time we used all our weapons to win the war. The letter is aptly published on Halloween, as it says the south is terrified: “There is no measure, I am confident, which has caused such dismay to the heart of the rebel leaders as that same ‘Lincoln Proclamation.’”
The President’s Proclamation, and How it is Received in the Army, &c.
BOLIVAR HEIGHTS, ABOVE HARPER’s FERRY, Monday Afternoon, Oct. 27, 1862.
Your editorial on “A Month of the Proclamation” views the subject from a truthful stand-point, and commends itself to every one at all conversant with the facts of the case.
Intercourse with the army, the Border State people and the rebels, enables your correspondent to confirm the statements of the writer as to the reception of the important document by the soldiers, Marylanders, rebel leaders and negroes.
It is the politicians at home, and not the voters in the field, who oppose this new war measure. The most cruel kind of warfare, MACAULAY remarks in one of his essays, is that waged on peace principles. The remark had reference to the old European contests, but how apt it applies to the war in which we are now engaged. Eighteen months ago we began the labor of restoring the Union. The sword was extended in one hand, and the olive branch in the other. Rebels taken in arms were turned loose with a gentle reprimand, and were expected, for the courtesy shown them to come back to their allegiance. Forts, arsenals and Navy-yards slipping through Government fingers, without the least apparent effort being made to save them, lest further provocation ensue, and the breach between the North and South be widened. Rebel emissaries were suffered to go abroad, and prejudice the European mind with the story of their pretended wrongs.
Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas had seceded, yet the conciliatory policy was still pursued. At length, when the hate, din, fury and determination of the rebellion began to make itself more apparent, a little imprisonment, confiscation, and other similar ingredients were added to the Union saving elixir. Still the war continued to be conducted on peace principles; and why not, it is a contest between brother and brother?
Two hundred thousand men are rendered hors de combat, and the Government at length awakes to the necessity of warring it on war principles, and brings every available nerve to bear in the contest.
Such is the view of the case entertained almost unanimously by both officer and private. I have mingled freely with the various corps of our army, and not one word of disapprobation have I heard, save from one Maryland Lieutenant, who deserted last week. “Let us finish up this war by any means whatsoever, and return home” is the feeling. “As long as the rebels have chosen to make the nigger the issue, let them have it, and to their hearts’ content,” remarked an artillery Captain to me a few days since, who, until recently, was of strong Pro-Slavery proclivities. “Amen,” responded his men, who are nearly every one Democrats. The recent proclamation of Gen. MCCLELLAN, in regard to political discussion in the army, may have led the Seymourites to suppose that a division exists among the soldiers in regard to the proclamation, sufficient to warrant the insertion of a denunciatory resolution in their platform. There never was a greater mistake.
Whatever may have been her feelings toward the South at the commencement of troubles, Maryland’s sympathies are now heartily with the Union as against the bogus Confederacy. As this war has progressed, her people have learned that it was not begun on the part of the rebel leaders from a sense of wrongs inflicted, but “originated,” as the Richmond Examiner, of the 18th, admits, “and is carried on in great part for the defence and perpetuation of the institution” Slavery. Such being the case, they have come to regard the rebellion in the same [???] with [???] of [???] birth, and to [???] the same desire for the rapid overthrew.
Experience has thaught them of the available [???] when Slavery holds out to either party, and of the necessity which exists for turning it against the rebels if we would subdue them.
When an insolent and cruel enemy threatens at the first opportunity to carry desolation to their homes, they are not going to oppose any measure whereby that enemy’s power can be broken. I accordingly have found in my journeyings through Maryland a general acquiescence in this last measure of the President’s. Among other sheets, the Frederick Examiner, published at the late seat of rebel power in Maryland, cordially indorsed it, while there are no papers save those of decidedly secession proclivities which directly oppose it.
There is no measure, I am confident, which has caused such dismay to the heart of the rebel leaders as that same “Lincoln Proclamation.” Said an intelligent Aid-de-camp to me, who had been taken prisoner a few days since, “this proclamation is monstrous; it will stir up our slaves and create general insurrection, which is contrary to the rules of civilized warfare.” My reply to him was, that the proclamation had gone far toward the attainment of the desired result, if such a reign of terror had been produced among the rebels. Last evening one of the loyal Virginians of this place remarked to me that the President’s Proclamation would do more toward the finishing of the war than all other military measures combined. Sixty years spent in the South enables him to speak intelligently of what pertains to Southerners. Such is the impression entertained by all the loyal Virginians, whom I have met. And who more competent to judge? On our recent advance to Charlestown, the effects of the proclamation on the rebels were very apparent. Nearly all the slaves have been sent South, showing the utter fallacy of the off-repeated statement that the negroes would under no circumstances desert their masters. The people were all in a qui vive in regard to it, and it was plain to see that the proclamation constituted the burden of their thought as well as conversation. To be sure, dire hate and vengeance were depicted on nearly every countenance, but have they borne any different expression since the very commencement of the rebellion, when the Southern heart became so thoroughly gangrened?
What effect it has had among the slaves no one can doubt, who is at all acquainted with the negro character. Let them once get it into their heads that “Massa LINCOLN habe set me free,” and the peaceful relation between the master and slave is at once ended. They will become as stubborn and ungovernable as they were before docile and obedient. Scarcely a day passes that some poor fugitive does not come within our lines and report their fellow bondsmen as anxiously looking forward to the first of January when they are to “lay down the shovel and the hoe,” seize the implements of war and play insurrection generally.