Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 34.djvu/279
Men of Virginia at Ball's Muff'. 271
paid to furnish false information, says in one of his reports: "Poor Baker must have been very rash to rush with his small force into t lie jaws of 7,000 men."
Our own people have always known, and it is beginning to be admitted among fair-minded people everywhere, that the true explanation of the Ball's Bluff disaster, and other brilliant triumphs of Southern arms over largely superior Federal forces, is to be found in the superb prowess of our Southern soldiers and the superior skill of our generals. Generals Johnston and Beauregard availed themselves in congratulatory general orders "to express the confident hope that all of his command, officers and men, by the brilliant achievements of their comrades in arms of the Seventh Brigade, on the 2ist instant, will be assured of our ability to cope successfully with the foe arrayed against us, in whatsoever force he may offer battle. * * * After the success of the Seventh Brigade in the conflict of the 2ist of October, no odds must discourage or make you doubtful of victory."
Colonel Edwin D. Baker at that time was, perhaps, the most spectacular personage in the land. Like Yancey in the South, he was the most inflammatory orator in the North and the special pet of the extreme abolition wing of the Republican party, which had brought on the war. He had been a member of the House from Illinois and California, and was then a Senator from Oregon. It is said that he appeared in the Senate in his uniform, and when Vice- President Breckinridge had finished his masterly farewell address to that body, seized the occasion to deliver a harangue of great virulence. He had, withal, the courage of his fanatical convictions and thirsted for military glory. Never, perhaps, has the Scripture saying that pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall, been more aptly illustrated than in his case. His fall in front of his skirmish line at Ball's Bluff shocked Washington as Caesar's fall at the foot of Pompey's statue shocked Rome. His body was taken to the White House, where it lay in state for several days, and the Senate ordered from Rome a statue of heroic size, which is to be seen today in Statuary Hall.
It is now scarcely possible to realize the frenzied state into which the popular mind of the North was thrown by this man's death and defeat. Reason completely lost its sway, and every vestige of conservatism and respect for the Constitution and the guaranteed rights of persons were swept away in the storm. Extreme men