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Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 2.djvu/17

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At Hilton Head.—1863

FOR a few days I was quite a lion in Washington as the first arrival from the front. The Tribune office was crowded day and night with army officers, members of Congress and others who wished to talk with me about the battle. Wherever I went—in the departments, at the hotels, in private houses, and on the sidewalks—I was beset by eager inquirers. I did not mince words, and can flatter myself that my earnest denunciations had something to do with the early inquiry into the Fredericksburg campaign instituted by the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, which fully brought out the facts of the case. Owing to the contradictory evidence given by the commanders involved, the public mind, however, remained much befogged as to where the real responsibility for the disaster belonged.

It is a matter of record that Burnside, notwithstanding his thorough defeat, clung for some time to the plan of trying another offensive movement without delay, and that his obstinacy and illusions in this respect were brought to an end only by his famous so-called "mud march" on January 21. But I was convinced that the unfavorable season and the condition of the army rendered further collisions be tween the armies of the Potomac and Northern Virginia before spring very improbable. I advised our managing editor that I thought it not worth while on that account to return to the front, and suggested that I be sent to the coast of South Carolina in order to witness the impending combined land and naval attack on Charleston. My recommendation was approved, and, accordingly, I left Washing-