Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 26, 1863: "Rosecrans's head cut off"

On this day 150 years ago, Richmond's Daily Dispatch reflected on the departure of William S. Rosecrans and his replacement by Ulysses S. Grant.
Rosecrans's head cut off.

At the commencement of this war Halleck advised Lincoln to claim a victory after every battle, whether defeated or not. The Yankee Generals have all subscribed to this policy, and all carried it out with unwavering pertinacity. Rosecrans is the last example. His proclamation to his army is quite a model for all Generals who, having been beaten in the field, depend on making up their losses of fame and men upon paper.
Rosecrans, who has been a whole year in Tennessee since his alleged victory at Murfreesboro', and whose only attempt to advance was met by the signal overthrow of Chickamauga, has fairly surpassed all his contemporaries in the art of gaining victories on paper. A few days since we published his address to his army, in which he claimed a succession of victories — such as rarely fail to the lot even of the greatest Generals —— such as Bonaparte or Stonewall Jackson might have been proud of — such as they alone have obtained within at least ten centuries. At the time, he was shut up in Chattanooga, after a most disastrous defeat, in which he had lost at least 25,000 men, of whom 7,000 were prisoners.

Rosecrans did not believe his own tale, his men did not believe it, the world at large treated it with contempt, and the powers at Washington have shown that they knew it to be a lie by cutting off his head. Yes! Rosecrans, poor fellow, has been decapitated — his head placed in a basket for Washington officials to stick up over the war office in terrorent as a warning to all unsuccessful Generals, and his body thrown upon the huge pile where rot the remains of Scott, McClellan, Pope, Burnside, and Hooker. Our Generals, during this war, have had unbounded influence at Washington. They unmake, if they do not appoint, whatever Generals they please. Meade is the only one left, and we predict for him a speedy decapitation.

Grant is to take the place of Rosecrans, and to hold it until the first battle at least. We take his appointment to indicate immediate active operations. Bragg, we presume, is to be forthwith attacked. We hope it may be so, and if it were not the intention of the Cabinet to have an attack made, we cannot see why they should have cut off Rosey's head, unless it was for his lying. This again can hardly be, for Halleck inculcated the duty of lying, and can hardly punish him for sticking so closely to his duty. Grant himself has never succeeded anywhere but by dint of overwhelming numbers. He is a slow-motioned General, and as a boaster fully equal to Hooker or Pope. Here he will not have the advantage of numbers, and we have no more dread of him than we had of Rosecrans. Indeed, the latter has proved himself the best General the Yankees have.

The situation in which Grant will find the Army of Chattanooga is one which it will require all the ability he may be master of to rectify. It is half surrounded in Chattanooga, by a foe powerful in numbers and terrible in character. Everywhere, except in the rear, wherever he turns, formidable works confront him. His communications are extremely critical — his supplies almost entirely cut off. He must either attack works almost impregnable, defended by soldiers of unsurpassed valor, and must triumph over them, or he must effect a retreat over a rough and exhausted country, with this army in his rear, heat upon destroying him, and animated by every passion that can impel man upon his enemy. We shall soon see what he will attempt to do.

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