Marx-Engels Correspondence 1861

Engels To Marx
In London

Source: MECW, Volume 41, p. 294;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.

Manchester, 12 June 1861

Dear Moor,

Unfortunately, I haven’t been keeping any newspapers on the American war, besides many of the places are not to be found on the map. The essential points are as follows:

The South had been quietly arming for years, particularly since the fuss over the presidential elections ... and, at the very last moment, had received money and arms en masse as a result of the treachery on the part of Buchanan’s ministers. By 4 March, therefore, the North was completely crippled. Moreover, prior to the fall of Sumter, Lincoln did not or could not do anything, save effect a somewhat greater concentration of his few regular troops (18,000 in all, the majority scattered about the West on anti-Indian duties) and refurbish their equipment. Now finally, after the attack on Sumter, the North was sufficiently aroused to silence all outbursts on the part of the opposition, thereby making powerful military action a possibility. 75,000 men were drafted and may now be serving, but it would seem that ten times that number were eager to volunteer, so that there may be up to 100,000 men now serving even though they won’t by any means have been concentrated yet. A further call-up by Lincoln is expected daily and will take less time, for everything is better prepared now. The 75,000 men, or rather the element occupying positions in the Washington region, on the Ohio facing Kentucky, and in St Louis (Missouri) (i.e. not counting the reserves in Ohio and Pennsylvania), have been sufficient for the time being to restore the balance between the forces of North and South along the line of the Potomac and momentarily even to permit a limited offensive by the North.

For the South, just as for the North, the primary objective was Washington. The South’s offensive in that direction was far too weak; beyond Richmond the main force was evidently not strong enough to put in a timely thrust. All they managed to do was send a mobile column to Harper’s Ferry on the Potomac above Washington. This position is ideally suited to an offensive against the North (Maryland and Pennsylvania), for it lies at the confluence of the Shenandoah, an important river, and the Potomac, is extremely strong tactically and commands both rivers completely. Seemingly, it was not without intent that the Federal Armory was sited up there by a government that foresaw and favoured future secession. The occupation of Harper’s Ferry disrupts the control of the Potomac line by Union troops at a sensitive spot and will immediately afford the Southern troops complete command of both banks, assuming they advance en masse to this line.

The fate of Maryland and Delaware was dependent on Washington being held by the North; cut off from the South and occupied by Union troops, they at once fell to the Union. A second success for the North.

The reconquest of Missouri by the St Louis Germans was the third success and one of enormous importance, for whoever holds St Louis blocks the Mississippi. The extent to which Kentucky’s neutrality is favourable to North or South will probably depend on circumstances and events. For the time being, at any rate, it will restrict the theatre of war to the area that lies further east.

Result: Thus, for all its preparations, the South has achieved nothing, save that the North, after only 1 month’s preparation, has already wrested from it the national capital and three slave states, while a fourth slave state doesn’t dare secede; also that the South’s offensive on the Potomac has come to a halt, whereas the North has already advanced beyond this river, as yet without meeting resistance. For every man the South can still produce, the North will produce three or four. The seceded states have about 7½ million inhabitants, of which more than 3 million are slaves; a minimum of 1 million whites must be deducted to guard the slaves, so that barely 2½ million are left as the aggregate of the population available for war. If 10% of these are mobilised, probably the largest number ever mobilised for defensive purposes, this will produce at most 250,000 men. But there would certainly not be a muster of that order. Switzerland, with pretty well the same population — rather more than 2 millions — has on paper about 160,000 militiamen. By contrast the North — reckoning the free states alone — numbers nearly 20 millions, all of whom are available with the exception, perhaps, of California, Utah and the territories in the far West. If we say the available population amounts to 17 millions and if we assume that not 10% but simply one third of that, i.e. 3 1/3%, are available for an offensive war, we arrive at over 500,000 men, more than enough to quell the South, even if it exerts itself to the utmost. Man for man, there is no question that the people from the North are markedly superior to those from the South, both physically and morally. Your pugnacious Southerner has a good deal of the cowardly assassin in him. Each of them goes about armed, but only because this will enable him, during a quarrel, to fell his antagonist before the latter expects to be attacked. That is the aver...