May 27, 1863: Threat of rebel invasion

Signalmen watch Lee in Maryland
Signal officers watch Lee’s army in Maryland


The New York Times notes that there are rumblings in the South about an offensive to strike into Northern territory. The Times doesn’t think there’s much hope for such a move, and concludes rather optimistically that if they try it, the Union will wind up taking Richmond while the rebel troops are occupied elsewhere.

Rebel Threat of Invasion.

The Richmond papers, within the last fortnight, have been full of hints and menaces — dark and ominous hints, as well as open and ferocious menaces — of an aggressive movement of their Eastern and Western armies, in the direction of Maryland and of Kentucky. The pressure is particularly great for an advance of LEE’s army. This is not only urged in all the Richmond journals, but they pretend to have knowledge that it is on the very eve of taking place. We gave yesterday extracts from the Richmond Examiner of Saturday last, in one of which occurred the following sentences:

“There is really no occasion for panic about Vicksburgh. Whatever may be the result of the military operations around it, their interest will soon be eclipsed by far greater events elsewhere. Within the next fortnight the campaign of 1863 will be pretty well decided. The most important movements of the war will probably be made in that time. If the Confederate standard is again victorious — as may be hoped with much and solid reason — although mere victory will not end the war, it will destroy the efficiency of the enemy’s army for the rest of this year. If we gain all that is now fairly possible, an entirely new character will be given to future operations, which will relieve the country of half the suffering it has hitherto endured. Now is the noble day, the fortunate hour for the Confederate army. At this time, if ever, let every man be at his post.”

The Richmond Enquirer, also, which we lately characterized as JEFF. DAVIS’ personal and confidential organ — but which imputation the Enquirer indignantly denied — discusses the same point in its issue of the 21st:

“If it will be ever possible to attempt anything beyond the defensive,” remarks the Examiner, “this would seem to be the time. From the first day, the only reasonable hope of the Confederacy has been the transfer of hostilities to the enemy’s territory. If we cannot do that, the progress of invasion, however slow, must, after a time, overwhelm us. No treaty of peace is possible, save that signed on the enemy’s soil; and if our armies can ever go there at all, the time is at hand when they will do so.”

JEFF. DAVIS does not usually permit his organs either to announce projected movements of his army, or to discuss them; and the freedom with which these announcements are put forth might be thought to throw doubt on their truth. But our Government, we believe, is in possession of other information beside this to the same purport — information in the handwriting of a Confederate officer, of a projected rebel movement into Maryland and Pennsylvania. The rebel theory is that by the end of this month, or thereabouts, our army will be so weakened by the loss of the two year and the nine month regiments that it will be feasible for them, with a body of fifty or sixty thousand men, to make a sudden march northward, through one or more of the passes of the Blue Ridge, down the Shenandoah Valley, and into Maryland. By this means it is supposed they would draw HOOKER’s army up to Washington for its defence, and thus Richmond would need but a small force for its defence. It is true that the rebel army lost a prodigious proportion of its men in the battles of the first four days of this month; but, by calling in outlying detachments, they could probably still bring together an effective force of fifty thousand men for an offensive movement, and yet leave twenty thousand to defend Richmond.

There are two or three remarks suggested about this whole scheme.

1. The Government could easily prevent its execution by occupying with a proper force one or two strategic points in the Shenandoah Valley, and one or two of the passes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are forces under Gen. MILROY, forces around Washington, in Baltimore, and elsewhere, that could be used for this purpose without weakening the Army of the Potomac.

2. Another means of aiding to prevent the rebel movement would be by activity on the part of our forces on the peninsula and in North Carolina. Let them ceaselessly menace the region round about and back of Richmond, and thus keep active in defence of their capital as large a part as possible of the rebel army.

3. We would say in regard to the rebels, that a movement of invasion on their part would be really and truly a movement of desperation. The Confederacy and its army are being killed by inches — or rather, by much larger measurement than inches. In every section of the South, the rebels are being pushed to the wall. They are on the edge of the last ditch. With shattered finances, short supplies, blasted hopes, a dismal future, with the West almost wrested from their grip — with our armies in the heart of the Cotton States, and our flag waving in every State — with Slavery, for which the war is waged, tumbling to pieces — the rebels can see no prospect of success but by a maniacal rush in the direction of our Capital, where they might wrench victory from fate, and enforce a peace.

4. The loss of Stonewall JACKSON will operate seriously to the detriment of the rebels, if they entertain any reckless project of invasion. It was he who took the lead in every daring and desperate rebel movement of the war; and, so far, we know of no man in their army possessed of equal skill, intrepidity and venturousness, as there is none other who has ever undertaken such work.

We believe, on the whole, that if the Virginia rebels should undertake a movement of invasion, it will be for us the opportunity which, if properly seized and used, will enable us not only to check them, but to capture Richmond, annihilate DAVIS’ army, and bring the rebellion to a close.

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