Last Days of the Army of Northern F/V//////V/. 101
" war must support war." In a thinly settled country like ours, war could not be made to support war; since under such conditions " concentration starves itself." The offensive power of an army is gone at a long distance from its source of supply; and the necessity of maintaining long lines of communication often causes the retreat of the invader, though the invaded flees before him.
The character and expanse of country through which the invading armies must operate was, up to that time, a justification of the belief that the conquest of the South was impossible.
In the Revolution, England generally controlled the sea-board, but the river breezes were fitful and unsafe motive power for her sail vessels on our rivers, and she could not maintain depots of supplies for any large force, at any distance from the sea. It was not thought possible, under the art of war as known in 1861, that steam vessels could maintain inland navigation for any distance, in the face of
time, probably, a majority of the voters at the North felt that war as a means of saving the Union was a failure, and the morale of the armies in the field were affected by the action of this opinion from their homes. Grant says, Memoirs, Volume II, page 167, " Anything that could have prolonged the war a year beyond the time it did fairly close, would probably have exhausted the North to such an extent that they might then have abandoned the contest, and agreed to a separation."
All sources show that at this time there was great danger of a complete collapse of the war spirit of the North, and if the military successes at Atlanta and Winchester and Cedar Creek in September and October had not opportunely come to Mr. Lincoln's rescue just before the presidential election of November following, the " Peace Party " would have prevailed. Indeed, even after the fall of Atlanta, if Early, whose army had so nearly crushed Sheridan's on the igth of October, had been able to finish the work, and to again invade Maryland and bring his army before Washington, it needs no seer to predict its effect on the Northern mind, or the change it would have produced in the presidential election. As it was over a million and a half of voters at the North expressed their dissatisfaction at the conduct of the war, and a desire in preference to save the Union by negotiations.
It admits of little doubt, if Sherman had been held off at Atlanta as Grant was at Richmond, and Early had been able to maintain his hold of the Valley, until after November 6th, that the public opinion at the North would have destroyed the power of the government to continue a war of invasion. On such slender threads depend the fate of nations, and the chances of war give rise to many of them in a long contest such as ours was.