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Rebel Exultation
Harper's Weekly, July 25, 1863
 
The rebels’ feeling of their pinched and perilous condition is curiously revealed by the fierce and frantic exultation of their papers upon the supposed "magnificent victory" of Lee at Gettysburg. The wild scream of delight with which they hailed the news was like that of a flock of unclean and starving birds over a lion’s carcass. It was the violent outcry of reaction. The fury with which they gloat over the probable desolation of the Free States is the indirect testimony of the disaster and despair which they knew must be at hand if they did not win the battle in Pennsylvania.

Inspired by the glittering delusion of a victory, they shout that Pennsylvania is now to be laid under contribution. Philadelphia is to pay millions for its ransom. Washington, "that foul den of thieves, is expecting the righteous vengeance of Heaven for the hideous crimes that have been done within its walls." Which remarks, considering that Washington has been the head-quarters of the slave-drivers, who are now rebels, for the last thirty years, are a clear case of fouling one’s own nest. "Lincoln and his rascal ministers are turning pale." "Cincinnati would, we are assured, burn well…peopled by as God-abandoned sons of Yankees as ever killed a hog." "Ohio has towns to ransom and fertile plains to sweep of flocks and herds."

And as for the prisoners which Lee took at Gettysburg, the forty thousand Yankees, they must not be suffered to eat the food which rebels require. Let the guard that attends them on the march be supplied largely with cartridges and a few light guns, "so that, on the first sign of insubordination, the prisoners may be slain without mercy." And let the Yankee captives bring their own food with them. And let them be encamped in the mountains with batteries commanding them, "and as it is summer weather they will need no shelter." In the same spirit a Southwestern rebel paper asked in the middle of June:

"Why not hang every Dutchman captured? We will hereafter hang, or shoot, or imprison for life all white men taken in command of negroes, and enslave the negroes themselves. This is not too harsh. No human being will assert the contrary. Why, then, should we not hang a Dutchman, who deserves infinitely less of our sympathy than Sambo? The live masses of beer, krout, tobacco, and rotten cheese, which, on two legs and four, on foot and mounted, go prowling through the South, should be used to manure the sandy plains and barren hill-sides of Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia…Whenever a Dutch regiment adorns the limbs of a Southern forest daring cavalry raids into the South shall cease…President Davis need not be specially consulted; and if an accident of this sort should occur to a plundering band like that captured by Forrest, we are not inclined to believe that our President would be greatly disgruntled."

In the midst of all these frantic flourishes arrived the address of Lee to his troops, announcing that they had failed; also the news of the retreat of Bragg; also the fall of Vicksburg; also the Union victory in Arkansas. The whole horizon flamed with disaster. By the ghastly light the rebels have already read the words of the exultant Richmond Inquirer in a new and appalling sense: "Peace will come to us only in one way—by the edge of the sword."

Harper's Weekly, July 25, 1863

 

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