Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/149
A Parotid for Qranf a .1 //"//. 141
In slmrt. in this campaign the- t'ni<m army was handled with a boldness and nmfidi-nce unknown in its prc\ ions history, and with a success in the presence of R. E. Lee which surprised those to whom liis name had been a tenor for three years. All expectation of out- manoeuvering and defeating the superior Federal army in the open had evidently been put aside, though it is plain Lee had confidence that he could repeat the Chancellorsville episode when he marched on Grant in the Wilderness. His previous successes in this favorite field against large armies gave him ground for such expectation. Hut the cyclone tactics of the Confederate leader of 1862-' 3 were now completely reversed. Trite, Lee was largely outnumbered, but not so largely as at Chancellorsville.
It is not likely that many favorable openings were afforded by General Grant for promising attack, but in the numberless move- ments at Spotsylvania of corps back and forth, it seems strange that Lee did not make an opportunity with his old-time skill to strike effectively, but here he preferred a strict defensive, a policy in marked contrast with the bold advance at the Wilderness on May 5, and Longstreet's attack on the 6th.
Grant's style of fighting was a new sensation on this front. The partisans of defunct Federal generals previously cleaned out by Lee, who prognosticated disaster, were silenced by Grant's advance; op- position journals and the supporters of McClellan, who had declared that the war was a failure, spread exaggerated lists of killed before the country for political purposes. Through such agencies there was created a popular impression that Grant's warfare was utterly devoid of sense or science; that by mere weight of numbers and through sheer stolidity he was maintaining a losing fight; that General Lee a great military genius was constantly outgeneraling him. watch- fully biding his time and from behind impregnable breastworks shoot- ing down the Union troops like pigeons almost at will, while losing very few himself. Cheap historians afterward followed these lines. Many ignorant people are still of that impression, especially those who have read only the earlier histories and have depended upon sensational newspaper accounts for their knowledge of the war, written before the contemporaneous official reports of both sides were accessible.
Never was there a greater mistake. Lee had previously been lucky in his adversaries; now he had met one who understood his business; who like himself knew how to ueigh relative chances; who knew when his army was licked and also when it wasn't; who.