Skip to main content


July 2024
1min read

Esmeralda, Sept. 9, 1862

Dear Billy:

… It appears to me that the very existence of the United States is threatened just now. I am afraid we have been playing the game of brag about as recklessly as I have ever seen it played, even on an Arkansas steamboat—“going blind” and “doubling the pot” and “straddling” and “calling” on hands without a “pair,” or even an “ace at the head.” D——n it! only to think of this sickening boasting—these miserable self-complacent remarks about “twenty-four hours more will seal the fate of the bastard Confederacy —twenty-four hours more will behold the United States dictating terms to submissive and groveling rebeldom!” Great God! and at that very moment the national army were inaugurating a series of retreats more disastrous than bloody defeats on the battlefield! Think of it, my boy—last week the nation were blowing like school-boys of what they were going to do—this week they are trembling in their boots and whining and sniveling like threatened puppies—absolutely frantic with fear. God! what we were going to do! and last night’s dispatches come to hand—we all rush to see what the mountain in labor hath brought forth, and lo! the armies have fled back to Washington; its very suburbs were menaced by the foe; Baton Rouge is evacuated; the rebel hosts march through Kentucky and occupy city after city without firing a gun. …

Let us change the disgusting subject.—Let us close our eyes and endeavor to discover in these things profound, mysterious wonders of “strategy!” Ah me—I have often thought of it—what a crown of glory it would be to us to slip quietly out of Washington some night and when the rebels entered it in the morning, overwhelm them with the bitter humiliation that the whole transaction was a masterpiece of “strategy!” Strategy be d——d-all these astonishing feats of strategy which we have been treated to lately, and which we stared at with a stunned look, and dimly felt that it was a big thing—a wonderful thing—and said so in deadened tones bereft of inflection, although, to save our souls from being eternally damned we couldn’t distinctly “see it”—all these “strategic” feats are beautiful—beautiful as early dawn—yet, like unto the mild and lovely juvenile show, “six pins admittance.” they don’t amount to a damn when the “shore-nuff” circus comes to town.

Strategy will bust this nation yet, if they just keep it up long enough, my boy. …

Your old friend,

Sam L. C.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.