American History Stories—Volume IV - Mara L. Pratt

Quaker Guns

But it is about time to hear something from that "Army of the Potomac." You remember I told you a few pages back that this was a large, fresh army, sent from the North. The people expected great things of this army, and were very impatient to see them go to work.

For a long time the enemy had been holding that railroad junction that you heard of not long ago, so that there was no way of getting to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. I should not have said there was no  way of getting to this city—of course there were ways; but here was this railroad running straight to the city, carrying the Confederates food and clothing every day, and so helping to keep them able to fight on and on against their country. "If only this capital could be taken, the war might be as good as ended," every one said. In that city were stored food and blankets, guns and powder—everything that their army could need. "Why doesn't  McClellan march the Army of the Potomac to take it!" everybody cried.

At last McClellan did  move. He started his army on to this junction, this stronghold of the Southerners. The troops marched on, expecting, I presume, a terrible fight; but imagine their surprise when on reaching there they found it empty. Every Confederate had fled. More than that, on examining their camp they found that the guns, those terrible guns, which had been so long frightening back the Union Army, were just nothing in the world but big logs, their ends cut out to look like cannon-mouths, and painted black! One of them, even, was only an old stove-pipe! I wonder which this army felt the most—ashamed, or amused, or angry—that all these weeks they had been trembling before these Quaker guns!

Later, McClellan marched his forces upon Yorktown. Here they kept up a siege for more than a month. But one morning it was found that the enemy had run away in the night in the same way they had run away before. This time, too, they left nothing to pay the Union Army for their long work, except some old guns. This Confederate, General Johnston, had a way of retreating in this clever way; and came to be named in time, the "successful retreater."