A Confederate Soldier’s Optimistic Assessment

January 6, 1862/2012
Volume 3, Issue 1 (65 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

A Confederate Soldier’s Optimistic Assessment

January 1, 1862. Louisiana private William Clegg wrote in glowing — if mistaken — terms of the prospects of his cause. His letter offers insight into how at least one Confederate soldier saw the war at the advent of the new year:

“Out of the old government a new one has been formed, all its parts put into active & vigorous operation. Never has there been in so short a time such an one formed so perfect in all its parts, and founded on so sure a basis. A large army of half a million has been raised, clothed & fed and this without one cent to begin with. So far the omens seem to be good for the success of our new government, and the people of it are more united than ever and determined to resist to the bitter end.

“There has been quite a change in the old US govm’t. The masses are wild with fanaticism and urged on by still more fanatic leaders. The Federal constitution once held sacred & binding, has been violated more openly and flagrantly than ever. An army has been raised by the Pres. Without the authority of congress. The habeas corpus act suspended. Citizens imprisoned by military authority without charge, or hope of trial, ladies subjected to injuries & insults entirely unbecoming a civilized nation. These and other acts have been performed, not only disgraceful & dishonorable, but proofs of the imbecility of the government. So far the aspect of affairs in the North seem fast tending to a military despotism & whether they avoid it or not the govm’t will never command the respect with nations it did before the rupture.

“The South as yet has acted entirely upon the defensive. The plunder seeking vandals of the North have been met at every point on land with success and our home and firesides have been defended from devastation and their polluting touches. Our Arms have been victorious at the battles of Bethel, Bull Run, Manassas, Springfield, Oak Hill, Lexington, Carnifax Ferry, Belmont & in other less engagements.

“The enemy in all as yet accomplished little more than the capture of two small seacoast batteries at Forts Hatteras & Port Royal. This is doing but little after one year has expired when the people of the North had made the discovery that the Southerners were terribly in earnest. . . .

“We are now entering upon a new year what it may bring forth mortals know not but god still being our helper, although we may sustain reverses we will at last be victorious. Our ship of state has been launched. Though upon a troubled sea, we have a brave & skillful pilot and with Jeff Davis at the helm we may expect to weather the storm & ride into the haven of peace & prosperity.”

– Submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Executive Director, Vermont Humanities Council


Robert E. Bonner, The Soldier’s Pen, pp.149-51.

Tardy George

January 1862. “Tardy George,” a satirical poem by poet and playwright George Henry Boker dating from January 1862, expressed the feeling of the people, including President Lincoln, who were frustrated by the reluctance of General George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac and, also at that time, general-in-chief of the Union Army, to engage the enemy.

Tardy George

What are you waiting for, George, I pray?-
To scour your cross-belts with fresh pipe-clay?
To burnish your buttons, to brighten your guns;
Or wait you for May-day and warm Spring suns?
Are you blowing your fingers because they are cold,
Or catching your breath ere you take a hold?
Is the mud knee-deep in valley and gorge?
What are you waiting for, tardy George?

Read more

– Submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Executive Director, Vermont Humanities Council

Poet George H. Boker and General George B. McClellan

Poet George H. Boker and General George B. McClellan


To Light Us to Freedom and Glory Again: The Role of Civil War Poetry (Library of Congress)


Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1862

2 responses to “A Confederate Soldier’s Optimistic Assessment

  1. Pingback: General War Order No. 1 — Move! | Civil War Book of Days

  2. Pingback: General War Order No. 1 — Move! | Vermont Humanities

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