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Cedar Swamp Historical Society Collection: 18th-20th Century Historical Letters

Letter to Hon. John M. Williamson from Lt. Thomas L. Seabury of Norfolk, VA regarding the removal of Gen. McClellan and criticism of radicals in the North.


Norfolk Va
Dec. 7th 1862

Hon. John M. Williamson

                                        Dear Sir - No doubt an epistolary communication from me will occasion you some surprise; but the truth is, I feel that an item or two from within the lines of the army cannot but be received with some interest by one so fortunate as to he honorably exempt from a participation in a strife which seems to forbode the destruction of a nation rather than ensure the reconstruction of a beneficent government. To your sage observations in times past, I am indebted for a great deal of information concerning political affairs: and in writing you a few items of the times and my opinions of events now transpiring I am activated by a desire to communicate with an old friend, in the old way; and I rely upon you to absolve me from an intention of becoming presumptuous.

          The one question of the times is not now, as a few months since : - "When will we have peace?"; but rather : - "What will be the end?" In defiance of the prevailing sentiment of the people at the north, the radicals seem bent upon driving affairs to their own destructive issue. The future will convince the world that the removal of Genl. McClellan was a wanton sacrifice of the country's good to their visionary schemes. If the removal of McClellan should result in the permanent substitution of Burnside, then McClellan might be sacrificed upon their altar of fanaticism with less harm to the country, for Burnside is a good Gent; but such is not the programme (in the general opinion of the army).

          The God whom these people worship is eventually to be given the command of the army if it is in the power of the administration to place him there. As a first move the people would not have countenanced the substitution of a Cromwell for a Washington, they saw that that the North must bury all internal differences to ensure their success and they accepted Burnside with scarcely a murmur. That was one step down the ladder in the direction of radical views. The next step will be from Burnside to Hooker or some other general and the next from him to Fremont who is the military and political exponent of their creed. There is not another round in their ladder or they would go to the bottomless pit for a leader. The people would not put up with being humbugged all at once, but will submit to it with a grace if administered by degrees.

          The army, from long habits of discipline may be said to have become - for all intents and purposes - a regular army: and whatever may be the political views of those composing it, they will conform to discipline from habit, obeying their leaders implicitly. With such a mighty but tractable power within the grasp of visionary schemers one may well ask with "fear and trembling" "What is to be the end?" At present there is every indication that the Army will do nothing in front of Fredericksburg. That is not the way to Richmond; and if it were, it would avail nothing, for the same impediments are thrown in the way of Burnside that were made to fetter the movements of McClellan and so it will ever be until the radicals have everything their own way- You need not be at all surprised to see the whole army soon travelling back to the peninsula...to reach the Confederate Capitol by way of James river and an advance from Suffolk. In my judgment it is the only feasible route; and if such a sensible course should happen to be pursued at the eleventh hour by the administration and ^result successfully what a beautiful commentary it will be upon the military sagacity that induced the removal of McClellan for attempting Richmond by the same road. The rumored overtures of peace by the South is all moonshine and if they can wheedle the administration into the adoption of an armistice for a few months, it will be a brilliant and paying stroke of diplomacy for them, as it will be a means of bringing to an open rupture the now slumbering yet nevertheless divided sentiments of the North concerning peace measures. The people of the South seem to have lost all regard for honesty and principle. If you find a man who avows himself to be for the Union you may rest assured in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred that he is so from a motive of his own. There is no such thing as a Union spirit among them and they have not the remotest idea of entering the Union again on any terms if they can help it.

          With regard to myself I am very pleasantly situated. I have charge of a line of signals from this City terminating in a vulnerable part of our lines, in the edge of the Dismal Swamp. I was sorry not to have seen you while on my visit home and meant to have visited you otherwise I should have taken advantage of the momentary sight I caught of you. Please give my regards to all who take the trouble to remember me.

Very respectfully yours
Thos. L. Seabury
Lt - (?) Actg.-Sig. Officer
Head _(?) Genl. _(?)
Norfolk Va


Transcribed by Amanda Cintron
Palmer School of Library and Information Science
June 25, 2012