Marx-Engels Correspondence 1862

Engels To Marx
In London

Source: MECW Volume 41, p. 365;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913, and in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1930.

Manchester, 23 May 1862.

Dear Moor,

The wine was delayed for the same reason as the letter. In such matters I have to attend to everything myself and, before getting to the stage of buying the hamper, etc., I'm frequently distracted. I have had to dispense with port on this occasion too, since it is at my lodgings and I wasn’t able to get it sent over to the warehouse. The hamper is leaving today. The red wine and 1846 Hochheimer are specially for little Jenny. The 3 bottles with the red seal and no label are 1857 Rüdesheimer (the same as we drank up here); too stimulating for invalids, though excellent for those in good health.

Strohn was here (as you can see, cela ne finit pas with these visits). He was in Berlin shortly before the dissolution... and indulged in much carousing with the Rhenish deputies. The fellows took the whole situation tremendously seriously, trusted in their omnipotence, and have relapsed into parliamentary cretinism almost as felicitously as at any time in 1848. Red Becker, whose hair has become much paler in the meantime, trotted round all day in evening dress, black from top to toe, and a dress-coat. His paunch is fatter than ever. Mr Rudolf Schramm, late of Striegau, was also gadding about there and complaining to all who would listen to him that nowhere did the public wish to elect him, which was beyond his comprehension. One evening Schramm was talking some colossal rubbish about England, whereupon Strohn said to him: ‘Now listen, Mr Schramm, if I'd been in England as long as you, I'd be ashamed to talk such nonsense; you must have been asleep the whole time you were there.’ Whereat Schramm, usually so insolent, replied: ‘In England, you know, I was compelled, on account of my wife, to mix with company where I was not in my element and, for that very reason, couldn’t see the people I should like to have seen!!!'

McClellan is carrying on in his familiar manner. The Confederates always give him the slip because he never makes straight for them, his excuse being that they are a good deal stronger than he is. That is why they keep on running away. Never before has a war been waged like this, in return for which he will get his vote of thanks. In the meantime, these wretched little rearguard actions and the constant desertions are certainly enough to demoralise the Confederates severely, and, if it comes to a decisive battle, they'll find this out.

The capture of New Orleans was a daring feat on the part of the navy. Quite outstanding — the passage of the forts, especially. Afterwards everything was simple. The moral effect on the Confederates was obviously enormous, and the material effect will already have made itself felt. Beauregard in Corinth now has nothing left to defend; the position had served a purpose only so long as it protected Mississippi and Louisiana, particularly New Orleans. Strategically, Beauregard has been put in a position where one lost battle will leave him no alternative but to disband his army and employ them as guerrillas, for without a large city in the rear of his army as a focal point of railways and resources, he cannot marshal massed bodies of men.

If the Confederate army is beaten in Virginia, it must, after the demoralising incidents of the past, quickly disband of its own accord and operate as guerrillas. Admittedly, its prospects are better, because the numerous rivers run from the mountains to the sea athwart its line of withdrawal, and also because it is facing that jackass McClellan; however, it is in the nature of things that it will be forced either to accept a decisive battle or to split up into bands without a battle. Just as the Russians were compelled to fight at Smolensk and Borodino against the will of the generals who had judged the situation correctly.

If Beauregard, or the army of Virginia, wins a battle, however big, it can be of little help. The Confederates are not in a position to derive the slightest benefit from it. They can’t advance 20 English miles without getting stuck and hence must await a fresh attack. They lack everything. Incidentally, I regard such an eventuality as quite impossible without outright treachery.

So, the fate of the Confederate armies now hangs on one single battle. We have still to examine the prospects for guerrilla warfare. Now, it is exceedingly surprising that in this of all wars the part played by the population should have been not so much small as non-existent. In 1813, French communications were repeatedly disrupted and harassed by Colomb, Lützow, Chernyshev and a score of other leaders of irregulars and Cossacks; in 1812, in Russia, the population vanished completely from the French line of march; in 1814 the French peasants took up arms and killed allied patrols and stragglers, but here nothing whatever is happening. They abide by the outcome of the big battles and console themselves with victrix causa diis, etc. All that boasting about a war to the knife has turned out to be just rubbish. ‘And how can guerrillas be expected to fare on such a terrain? I certainly anticipate that the white trash of the South’ will try something of the sort after the final disbandment of the armies, but I'm too convinced of the bourgeois nature of the planters to doubt for one instant that this would at once turn them into rabid pro-Unionists. Just let those others make an attempt at brigandage and the planters everywhere will receive the Yankees with open arms. The bonfires along the Mississippi may be attributed solely to the 2 chaps from Kentucky who are said to have arrived in Louisville — certainly not by the Mississippi. The fire in New Orleans was easily organised and will be repeated in other cities; elsewhere, too, a great deal will undoubtedly be burnt down, but the affair must inevitably bring to a head the split between the planters and the merchants on the one hand, and the white trash on the other, and then it will be all up with secession.

The fanatical support for the Confederation among the New Orleans merchants is accounted for simply by the fact that the fellows had to accept a mass of Confederation scrips in exchange for cash. I know of several examples here. This should not be forgotten. A good, big forced loan is a splendid means of shackling the bourgeois to the revolution and diverting them from their class interests by way of their personal interests.

Kindest regards to your wife and the girls.

F. E.

Lupus was again suffering badly from gout. He is going to Germany in 5 weeks’ time.

You must surely have read that thing about Bernard saying that they have put him into a lunatic asylum? Is the affair above-board or is there some suggestion of foul play?