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treats, is matter of opinion. In our judgment, the title is too ambitious. The work is not a critical history in any such sense as the works of Napier and Jomini, for instance, are critical histories. It is an account, and on the whole a good one, of the operations in the middle section of the eastern zone, and it contains much sensible criticism.
It is probable that Mr. Swinton has no rival in the possession of ma. terial. He says himself, in his Preface : “ No sooper had the war closed, and it was known that I had addressed myself to this work in earnest, than, from all sides, reports, despatches, and memorials poured in on me. It soon came about that, respecting every important action of the Army of the Potomac, there were brought to my hand, not only the manuscript official reports of its corps, division, and brigade commanders, but, for the illustration of its inner life and history, a prodig. ious mass of memoirs, private note-books, despatches, letter-books, etc." He states in the same place that he had access to much contemporaneous information, written and oral; and that, since the war ended, he has had the benefit of full conversations with the chief officers of both armies, of possessing a complete set of “Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia,” and many manuscript reports and documents forwarded to him from Confederate hands, especially “the invaluable gift of the unpublished consolidated monthly returns of the Confederate Army from the commencement to the close of the war."
He has used this great mass of valuable material with a good deal of diligence. The information he has derived from Confederate sources is interesting and important; but the disposition shown all through the war by Confederate officials, civil and military, high and low, to make very much of all they did and little or nothing of all we did, inspires a feeling of distrust of all testimony coming from that quarter. Even General Lee was gravely suspected of not being as truthful as he might be, especially in the matter of his denial of the statement of the capture by our army of a portion of his rear-guard when he recrossed the Potomac at Williamsport, after his defeat at Gettysburg. Mr. Swinton has himself found occasion to pronounce one statement of General Lee, made in an official report, “ too absurd to require serious reply” (page 234). The arrogant spirit which possessed many of the Rebel officers was well illustrated by a speech made by one of their generals, McLaws we think it was, to some of our officers whom he met under a flag on the James River soon after the “ Seven Days.” Referring to the gallant Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry, one of the best regiments in the service, to whom he had been opposed at Gaines’s Mills, he found nothing better to say than this: “ I never saw men take killing better than those fellows in red breeches.”
That a great amount of valuable information is to be derived from Confederate sources we do not doubt; but we think that the spirit shown by the Southern people, press, and officials, all through the war, makes it important to examine all information so derived in a spirit of scepticism, and we incline to the opinion that Mr. Swinton has been quite ready enough to believe all that Southern officers have told him.
We have said that Mr. Swinton has used his material with a good degree of diligence. That is going quite as far as we are disposed to go. As an intelligent account of the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac, and a sensible statement and discussion of the military principles applicable to the conduct of those campaigns, his volume is satisfactory, but it is not to be regarded as entirely trustworthy in its descriptions of particular battles. We find more fault with him for his omission of facts which he either knew or ought to have known, than for incorrectness in what he does state ; but there is room for complaint on each ground.
The animus of such a book, coming from a man in such a position as that of Mr. Swinton, is matter of no small importance. So far as the Army of the Potomac, regarded as a whole, is concerned, it is all that could be desired. He is the faithful champion of that army, which, in his own words, “ losing again and again the component parts of its structure, thinned by death and wounds and wasting disease, and filled up again and again by the unquenched patriotism of the people, never lost its individual being, but remained the Army of the Potomac still.” He celebrates “ the unswerving loyalty of this army, that ofttimes, when the bond of military cohesion failed, held it, unshaken of fortune, to a duty self-imposed.” He undertakes to follow it through a checkered experience, in a tale commingled of great misfortunes, great follies, and great glories ; but from first to last it will appear, he says, “ that amid many buffets of fortune, through winter and rough weather,' the Army of the Potomac never gave up, but made a good fight, and finally reached the goal.”
Though he is so true to the name and fame of the army as an army, the manner in which he has ascribed praise and blame to particular commands will hardly be approved by those competent to judge. There are even passages which are hard to understand, except upon the theory that he has bestowed his praise in accordance with suggestions contained in the memoirs and private note-books of which he says so many bare poured in upon him.
Mr. Swinton is a man of decided opinions, and he expresses them without reserve. In the first chapter of his book he says that the Arzny of the Potomac never had a great, and generally had commanders or moderate ability; and the proposition thus stated is mild in comparison VOL. CIII. — NO. 212.
with his criticisms as the book advances. He says in his Preface, “It is probable that the estimates here rendered of the successive commanders of the Army of the Potomac may in some cases be found to run counter to, and in other cases to be a reversal of, popular estimates." The antithesis is obscure, and we think that the popular mind is settling down into substantial agreement with most of bis estimates. His book will be extremely disagreeable reading for General Pope, General Burnside, and General Hooker; but General Banks will find a crumb of comfort in it, and General Butler a great many, and we can imagine that it will never be out of sight in whatever house General Warren may occupy. The much vexed question of General McClellan's military capacity is disposed of by him in a way in which we are disposed to agree : "Of him it may be said, that, if he does not belong to that foremost category of commanders made up of those who have always been successful, and including but a few illustrious names, neither does he rank with that numerous class who have ruined their armies without fighting. He ranges with that middle category of meritorious commanders, who, like Sertorius, Wallenstein, and William of Orange, generally unfortunate in war, yet were, in the words of Marmont, 'never destroyed nor discouraged, but were always able to oppose a menacing front and make the enemy pay dear for what he gained.'"
In our opinion, Mr. Swinton's criticisms upon the doings of Pope, Burnside, Hooker, and Halleck are fully justified by the facts. The campaigns of which the first three had charge were extremely disastrous, not to say disgraceful; and the more we know of the history of the war, the deeper becomes our conviction that General Halleck's influence, however good his intentions may have been, was all for evil. We do not think, and we do not believe the soldiers of the Sixth Corps will think, that Mr. Swinton has given their true-hearted leader, General Sedgwick, the credit he deserves. The general tone of his mention of him is cold. As for General Meade, he holds the balance quite evenly, but upon the whole leaves upon our minds the impression that, in his judgment, he has won all the fame that was his due. It is certain that very many tactical failures attended the movements of the army around Petersburg in 1864; and it is extremely difficult to form an opinion how far these failures were the fault of General Meade, how far of bis subordinates, and to what extent they resulted from the natural dilliculties that stood in the way of the forces taking the offen. sive in that puzzling country, where woods, streams, hills, and ravines combined to obstruct the sight, hearing, and movements of the troops.
But the thing which interests us most in this book, and which seems to us to give it its greatest value for the thoughtful reader, are its
incidental discussions of the curiously unsettled question of General Grant's military capacity. Success is usually the sufficient test of merit to the popular mind; and the man who took Vicksburg and carried the heights of Mission Ridge, and then took in a firm grasp the scattered masses of our army and moved it so irresistibly upon the enemy that in one short year the military fabric of the Confederacy passed like a wreck away, can never be otherwise than a great soldier, in the eyes of his contemporaries at least. But it is a curious and interesting question for inquiring minds, whether the foremost soldier of the great Rebellion was really a great soldier, or only a man of much good sense and almost unequalled tenacity of purpose. It is obviously impossible to so much as lay out the outlines of such a discussion in an article like this. It is enough for us to say that Mr. Swinton often touches on this question ; that his statements bearing on it are clear, strong, and precise; and that he indicates, without expressly declaring it, that, in his opinion, the Lieutenant-General falls within the latter description.
The portraits which illustrate this volume are admirable. It has the valuable addition of an Index; and the maps are convenient in form, and seem to us, in a hasty examination, to be excellent. The book is very entertaining reading, though there is no such writing in it as makes some of Napier's pictures of battles models of their kind. It is far less dramatic than the letters which its author used to send to the New York Times; but that was to be expected in the attempt to compress so long a story into such a narrow compass. Its new material and its able criticisms combine to give the book great value, and only leave us to desire that we might feel something more of confidence in the accuracy of its details.
7.- The Daily Public School in the United States. Philadelphia: J.
B. Lippincott & Co. 1866. 8vo. pp. 158. This careful-looking pamphlet is devoted to an exposure of the shortcomings of our system of Common Schools. It is based on an analysis of the system as it exists in four leading States, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts. The analysis, indeed, is not quite so thorough or so methodical as it might seem at a hasty glance, — the author's mind being apparently too full of what he considers the defects common to all to dwell much upon individual peculiarities; but it is evidently the work of a man of sense, candor, and considerable experience, and his opinions are the better worth listening to because they are quite opposite to the prevailing opinions. There is, perhaps, no covert or fastness from which we should imagine it would be more difficult to dislodge the American peacock than the Common School. Here he expands and suns himself secure in the admiration of the civilized world, and accepts as his due the tribute offered to his superiority by the envy of crowned heads and of the aristocratic scoffers of Europe. This is the pleasing theme of newspapers and popular orators. One of the most intelligent journals in the country lately urged, as an argument in favor of international copyright, the opening it would give for the introduction of our school-books, and in due course our methods of popular education, into England. There is no doubt some ground for this selfglorification, but still it is not a wholesome temper, and it hinders progress by blinding us to defects which we may be sure exist. Of late, indeed, there have been doubtful and warning voices. Professor Atkinson, in his Lecture before the Institute of Instruction at New Haven, confesses his fears “ that, with all our boasted improvements, if our cotton-mills did not approach nearer to the ideal perfection of cotton-spinning than our schools do to the ideal perfection of teaching, they would speedily ruin their stockholders.” And whoever has compared some of the school-books lately published in England with the products of that lucrative branch of industry in this country, or has noticed the tone which the discussions of popular education are taking there, will be somewhat prepared for the disquieting conclusions at which our author has arrived. “It is our firm belief,” he says, " that the confidence reposed in our present common-school system is delusive, and that, while specific branches of knowledge have advanced in later years, and some spheres of education have been greatly widened and improved, the work of preparing the great body of the school-children of the country for the duties and responsibilities of life is very imperfectly done.” There is, indeed, some difficulty in fixing a standard. To determine, for instance, how many persons in a given district can read and write is, our author remarks, as hard as to determine how many of them are “well off.” The standard which he proposes cannot certainly be called an unreasonable one. He would only require “ that every individual between five and twenty-one may have the opportunity to be well taught in reading, spelling, writing, grammar, geography, and arithmetic"; but he says (p. 65), “In the course of fifty years' pretty close observation of a great variety of men and women of diverse temperament, social relations, capacities, and pursuits, we have scarcely found one in a thousand that could spell, read, write, or speak their mother tongue with propriety”; and his observation of many thousands of children and youth has satisfied him that (p. 11) “nine in ten of them are incompe