What do the losses at Gettysburg and Vicksburg mean for the Confederacy? This week, while the facts of battle are yet fuzzy and news stories often contradict one another, Southern newspaper editors begin trying to make sense of the recent battlefield defeats.
Not atypical of the larger discourse in the Southern religious press this week, one editorial in a Confederate Baptist newspaper probes the meaning of the losses. Noting the despondency settling over the land, overstating Robert E. Lee’s movements and underestimating Confederate losses at Gettysburg, yet offering ultimate assurance that God will not allow his nation to be defeated by the enemy, the editorial undoubtedly raises the anxiety level of readers.
Public attention is so largely engrossed by the great events occurring in different parts of the Confederacy, that it would be useless to write of anything else. This deep, this all absorbing interest in movements which are to decide the destinies of the nation is natural and inevitable. We should be less than men, could we look with unconcern on the progress of a struggle which is to secure our independence and, with it, prosperity, freedom and happiness, or else consign us and those who come after us to a state of hapless bondage and misery.
The enemy have lately put forth unusual exertions to subjugate us, and the last few weeks have been prolific of results. Their details have not yet been made public, but enough is known to fill us with sadness and to awaken anxiety for the future. The fortunes of war seem to have gone against us temporarily. In this there is cause for regret, but not for discouragement. Such is ever the fate of those who contend in battle. The struggle still goes on at different points, and the mind awaits with eager interest the next development on the bloody theatre of war.
Vicksburg, thrice glorious in our annals, after a protracted and heroic defence, has at last been compelled by want of provisions to surrender. The telegraph only tells us that Pemberton and his gallant little band marched out on parole, the officers taking their sidearms and private baggage with them. The surrender took place on the 4th instant. Meanwhile Grant, having accomplished this feat has advanced on Jackson, and before we go to press we may hear of a battle near that place between him and Johnston.
The fall of Vicksburg has been a severe blow to our cause. It has carried sadness to many a heart, despondency to some, and all are anxiously enquiring what are to be the results. But we must wait for these.
The attack on Charleston has been renewed, and though unsuccessful thus far, no one can tell how it will terminate. We have confidence in the troops and the General who defend the place, but it would be useless to speculate now. That all which human skill and valor can do to save it will be done, we are well assured; and we hope they will be successful.
Across our Northern border a series of battles has been fought and they are said to be not as favorable to our arms as could be desired. All that is definitely known of them is that Meade, the successor of Hooker, attacked portions of our army near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday the 1st instant, and was repulsed with heavy loss. On Thursday evening and Friday Lee attacked the enemy driving him some five miles and took his fortifications, but being unable to hold them, fell back to Gettysburg, and the next day to Hagerston.–He was at the latter place at last advices.–His loss was very heavy, estimated at ten to fifteen thousand including a very large proportion of field officers. Four Generals are mentioned among the killed, and seven among the wounded. The details of these fights will carry sadness into many a house hold.
The future movements of the army in this quarter are regarded with anxiety, but what they will be probably depends on contingencies which are not yet developed. But we have full confidence in the man on whom they will depend, and we are willing to leave them to him.
The situation is full of interest. There is much to sadden, but nothing to discourage us. Reverses sometimes fall to the lot of all who contend in arms, and with such odds as we have against us, the wonder is that they have not come more frequently. With a firm and abiding confidence in the justice of our cause and in Him who has thus far led us in our brief but eventful history, let us calmly, hopefully await the issue of this struggle. While we are true to ourselves, and firm in reliance on God, we can not be conquered. Meanwhile let us bear with patience whatever reverses and trials may be necessary to secure the end which we have in view–independence and peace.
Source: “The Country,” Biblical Recorder, July 15, 1863 (link)