Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 130.djvu/587

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From The Edinburgh Review.


These, volumes in more than one respect should satisfy any reader. In the first place they meet the want hitherto felt of such a skilful narrative of one of the greatest, and certainly the most complicated of modern wars, as should give a juster measure than yet has been attained of the weight of individual events, and trace more clearly their influence on the general course of the struggle. Advances, retreats, victories, defeats, succeeded each other confusedly during the contest on the different theatres of the war, each of which for the day seemed of chief interest. Preceding narratives had either diminished unduly the importance of some of these, by dwelling on those that were better known; or, describing them in detail, had failed to show their bearing on the struggle as a whole. Writers might have attempted this however with success, who would have altogether failed where the Comte de Paris has most perfectly succeeded. Hitherto no one on either side of the Atlantic has been found to view the character of this war in its larger historical aspect, as one impressed on it not merely by the incidents of the day, but by the slowly strengthened force of precedent. Much has been said of the divergence of the American soldiery from European rules, their want of discipline, their personal disregard when not under fire for those who led them, their general impatience of restraint The peculiar features of the actions fought have been dwelt upon as though these could have been reproduced in any rough and wooded terrain by any militia that found themselves engaged there. Too often European critics have treated the subject, when deeming it worth examination, as a mere question of locality, or hasty training, or a superabundance of the raw material of war. The Comte de Paris approaches it in its military aspect with the true spirit of philosophic inquiry. He goes back, being the first to take this simple and necessary step, to the early history of the United States when they were struggling and separated colonies. At the risk of wounding French sentiment, he enters deeply into that long struggle for a continent between his nation and our own, a struggle which, far more than the petty wars that raged along the Spanish main between fierce viceroys and savage buccaneers, decided the destinies of a new world. He shows how the endurance and readiness of the rough colonial levies aided the soldiers of the Georges, too ready to despise their allies, in gradually and surely founding a new empire, and shattering, despite the genius of a Montcalm, the visions of French dominion in the West, as effectually as the native military skill of Clive ruined them in the East. Thence he passes onward to the most humiliating episode of British history — the American Revolutionary War. In the prowess as well as in the very defects of Washington's "Continentals," he traces at once the continuance of the traditions of the struggle waged against his own country, and the germs of those vices and virtues which made the American soldier of 1861-5 by turns the derision and the admiration of the world. This heritage of the troops of the Union from the stubborn contests fought first with the Latin race, and afterwards with the British, gives the key to much that the best American writers have hitherto failed to apprehend, chiefly because they never looked at the subject with the breadth of view which seems natural to the Comte de Paris. It explains the apparent contradiction in the mixture of general feebleness with high individual courage, of fine design with imbecile execution, of success changed unexpectedly into defeat, or causeless panic into noble rallying, which has hitherto been the despair of commentators on the Civil War, and has caused the greatest of modern strategists to publicly avow, so recently as last autumn, that he had not yet found the proper materials for any proper study of it. It has long been known that the American troops were frequently routed without proper cause. More recently European writers, those ofi Great Britain especially, have discerned

  1. Histoire de la Guerre Civile en Amérique. Par M. le Comte de Paris, ancien Aide-de-Camp du Général MacClellan. Tomes I. et II. Paris: 1874. Tomes III. et IV. 1875.