As spring arrived in 1862, Lecky Harper and the Democratic Banner interpreted some recent Union victories, mostly in the West, and the shifting of Confederate positions in Virginia as evidence that the South was about to collapse and Gen. George McClellan’s strategy was working to bring the war to a successful end without the thousands of deaths the abolitionists would cause.
On March 18, Harper wrote:
“On Monday and Tuesday of last week the rebels evacuated Leesburg, Centreville, Winchester and Manassas, the latter being their Gibraltar in Eastern Virginia! The entire rebel army has gone South, to what point is not yet precisely known. It is scarcely believed, however, that they will make a stand at Richmond, for if Manassas was untenable, Richmond certainly cannot be held by them for any considerable length of time. It is more likely they will give up Virginia as entirely lost to the rebel cause, and concentrate their entire force at two or three of their strongest points in the Gulf States.”
Harper goes even more astray when he combines the eastern adjustments by the Confederate army with the evacuation of Bowling Green, Columbus and Nashville in the West, plus the victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, to conclude: They “must certainly break the backbone of the rebellion, and wholly demoralize the whole rebel army. These ‘bloodless victories’ at Columbus, Manassas, etc., prove the master policy of Gen. McClellan. Had he obeyed the insane demands of the Abolitionists, in and out of Congress, there would have been the ‘bloodiest battle in the book of time’ fought in front of Washington, and although we doubt not our army would have been victorious, after sacrificing thousands and tens of thousands of lives, yet the very same result is now accomplished without losing a single life!”
In only a few weeks, Harper and those that believed the war would be won quickly and with a minimum of bloodshed, would have their fantasies shattered at a place called Shiloh.