William Latham Candler
Papers, 1861-63, Ms1997-007
December 21, 1862; letter written from Potomac Creek
Camp near Potomac Creek
Dec. 21st 1862
My dear Brother
I intended to have written you before this time about our excursion to Fredricksburg, but I have been pretty much occupied establishing picket lines &c. since our return, and have not had much opportunity to write. You have probably heard from my wife the particulars of the crossing and the action; we were, as usual out generaled and in this instance there is no use denying that we were whipped. We were thrown into a perfect trap, and the only wonder is that the enemy allowed us to escape at all. General Lee is to be court martialed for not pitching into us the day after the fight; had he done so the Confederate States would have become a nation recognized
by all the European powers, for the Federal Army would have been utterly annihilated. Sixty thousand men lay in the streets of Fredricksburg for fifty or sixty hours, perfectly at the mercy of th Rebels; they had batteries which commanded every street of the city, and any movement they chose to commence the shelling the place became a mere slaughter house; where men would have been killed without any chance to defend themselves. They intended opening on us the morning we left; but, thank God, before they were aware of our movement we were on this side of the river. Had we remained there one day longer the Army of the Potomac would have been among the things that were, and the Southern Confederacy among those that are. Never before has the fate and honor of the Country been in such im-
minent peril as during the stay of the Army in Fredricksburg. I don't understand why Lee did not open on us. You know that you wrote me just after the appointment of Burnside to the command, that Al. Foster & Lowe others were rather crowing over it and referring in an exulting manner to my opinion of him. Was I right or was I not? Burnside I have the greatest respect and admiration for, as a man, and the more I have seen of him the higher as my opinion become of him; no one can know him and not be drawn towards him. He never wanted the Army and never felt that he was qualified for it. But it was forced upon him and he has done the best he could; that he has not succeeded is evident; that he will resign the command is very probable. I have not seen anything
since he has taken the command, to alter my expressed opinion of his military ability, but it has been much strengthened. If you recollect, when I was home, just after Pope had taken command, I then was laughed at for not believing him immaculate, but I was right; was I wrong with regard to Burnside? Albert & the rest of them, have been in the habit of setting down any opinion I have expressed, as the expression of an ambitious youngster desirous to be contrary to everyone else and there by make people think he is smart. They knew more about business matters than I and consequently (as it was not for their interests to have things turn out as I thought they would) considered they were better judges in military matters. They forget that my opinions of military men and movements, are chiefly the opinions of men of great experience in military matters and who have been intimately acquainted with the Army officers of this country for the last twenty years. As a matter of course I am
thrown continually into the society of the Generals of this Army; hear their discussions and know their opinions: and my opinions are formed on theirs; it is therefore not astonishing that I should know men in the Army, for more accurately than any citizen can, who rarely hears the opinion of more than one military man a month.
I see by today's paper that Sec. Seward has sent in his resignation; and that there is generally a grand ---- going on there. The cabinet to be reformed, Hallack to be removed but Stantonstill has the confidence of the President. How is it going to turn out, no one can tell, to me it grows blacker than ever. If Burnside resigns there is no one in this Army but Hooker can take the command. Rosecrans of the Western Army is also a remarkably able man, regular officers set him far ahead of McClellan and some ahead of Hooker, but it is out of the question for him to come from the west and take a command here. He is identified
with the West and ought to stay there. I hardly think Hooker would comply immediately with the cry of "Onward to Richmond"; I hope he would have independence enough to do as he thought best; and if he deemed it advisable to remain quiet for a month or two, that he would so, regardless of the cries of the public. I know Hooker has his failings as well as other men; but he is able, energetic, and I think very independant. He has very peculiar ideas of men; in some cases judges them most wonderfully, in others he makes the greatest mistakes. I think he will make a far better commander then either McClellan or B. He has their judgement and is far ahead of them in energy and dash. If any man can carry us out right, in our present strait, I believe Hooker can do it. But I've no great expectations for success. We have been playing soldier too long, and I'm much afraid that our chance of conquering the Rebels is gone by; they are as strong as we; and their officers and men fight with a heart
and earnestness which is now a stranger to our Army. We had it when we went to the Peninsula, everyone's heart was in it; but can it be wondered at that the Army are getting sick of it and long to get out of it. We have been kicked, "cursed" and butchered; and are tired of it. I don't like to acknowledge to myself the feelings that seem to be gradually imbueing the entire Army; but there is no use denying it. I actually believe that peace, today, would be welcomed by three fourths of the Army in the field and an equal number of citizens. It is a melancholy state of affairs, but it is too apparent to be denied. Any way the present and past of this war must be changed or we had better get some sort of a peace patched up if we don't the Army and country will both go to the devil "without recourse." I'm disappointed in the patriotism of the leading men of the North-
ern States, not one of them seems to think or care about any one or thing but their own dear selves; the country is only an object of interest to them, so long as it is a source of profit to their pockets or position. It is too sickening to think of-
I can see no signs of a movement. Burnside is in Washington, when he comes back something may turn up.
Remember me to all at home, if we are not going to improve in our management, I'm for winter quarters.
Your Aff. Bro
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