From The Constitution, Wednesday, July 24, 1861 (volume 24, number 1230)
The Army in a Panic
When the news came in yesterday of the sad rout of McDowell’s fine army, it caused great sorrow and depression. It was a terrible reverse. While our soldiers were bravely driving the enemy from their batteries, an unnecessary and unaccountable panic seized them, and they fled precipitately thirty miles to the Potomac. At this moment Washington itself is threatened.
The Cause of the Panic
The following is an account of the inauguration of the panic which resulted so disastrously:
All our military operations went on swimmingly and Col. Anderson was about erecting a pontoon across Bull Run, the enemy seemingly in retreat and their batteries being unmasked one after another, when terrific consternation broke out among the teamsters, who had incautiously advanced immediately after the body of the army, and on the line of the Warrentown road.
Their consternation was shared in by great numbers of the civilians who were on the ground, and for a time it seemed as if the whole army was in retreat. Many baggage wagons were emptied and their horses galloped across the open fields, all the fences of which were torn down to allow them a more rapid retreat.
For a time perfect panic prevailed which communicated itself to the vicinity of Centreville and every available conveyance was seized upon by the agitated civilians.
A number of wounded cried on the roadside for assistance, but the alarm was so great that numbers were passed by. Several similar alarms occurred on previous occasions, when a charge of batteries rendered the retirement of artillery on our part necessary, and it is most probable that the alarm was owing to the same fact.
The News This Morning
By telegraphic dispatches this (Tuesday) morning, it is ascertained that the loss of our forces is not so great as was at first supposed. It is thought to be not over 300 killed and perhaps not 200. The 2d Connecticut regiment lost but half a dozen. The N. Haven Grays are unharmed.
Gen. McClellan has been summoned by Government from Western Virginia to repair to Washington and take command of the army of the Potomac. Gen. Rosencranz [sic ; Rosecrans] is to go to Western Virginia.
The army at Washington is to be immediately re-organized and increased. Preparations for a renewal of offensive operations are going on vigorously.
Gen. McDowell has returned to his headquarters at Arlington Heights.
It was stated some time since that Gen. McClellan took rank in the army of the United States next to Gen. Scott. Some surprise and incredulity was expressed at the statement, inasmuch as Gen. McClellan is quite a young man and was but little known to the public before the present war. It seemed improbable that he should outrank tried veterans in the army. A Washington correspondent of the New York Commercial confirms the statement, and says that Gen. McClellan by his recent promotion became second in command of the army of the United States, and the presumptive successor of Gen. Scott. He outranks Gen. Wool from the fact that his title is that of Major General while Wool is simply a Major General by brevet.
Mr. Breckinridge’s Speech
In his speech in the Senate last Tuesday Mr. Breckinridge occupied himself entirely with condemning the course of the Administration. He had not a word to say in condemnation of those men who have avowed a deadly hostility to the constitution and have taken up arms against the Government. All his invective and fault finding was directed against the men who are now standing up manfully for our institutions. He was especially severe on the course of the President. According to Mr. Breckinridge it was wrong to summon the people to arms in defence [sic] of the national capital, it was illegal for the President to resist the armed invasion of the rebels, it was unconstitutional for him to prevent the constitution from being overthrown ! The Senator from Kentucky is very much shocked because the President has found it necessary to assume certain high powers in the present dangerous crisis. His extreme tenderness for the constitution reminds us of the pirates in the Mediterranean who on a certain fast day butchered a whole ship’s company in cold blood and who religiously abstained from eating meat on that day on account of conscientious scruples.
Mr. Editor : Many of your readers would be pleased to see in your columns those (in!)famous secession resolutions introduced into the Legislature by the Hon. T. H. Seymour ! Let justice be done if the sky falls ! Give us the record upon which a name who has been so highly honored in time past desires his name to go down to posterity ! [ Justice.
Whereas, One third of the sovereign states heretofore composing the United States have withdrawn from the Union, and the effort to compel their return, and to enforce, within their limit, the laws of the United States, have assumed the proportions of a civil war of vast magnitude, threatening the people of the country, not only with the burdens of enormous taxes and public debt, but the destruction of thousands of men in deadly combat, therefore,
Resolved, That while we are in favor of maintaining the Constitution of the United States in the true spirit of its founders, and of upholding the government organized in consonance therewith, we believe it to be the duty of Congress now soon to assemble, to adopt the resolution known as the “Crittenden Compromise,” or some other plan of adjustment of similar design, for a fair and honorable termination of the present troubles ; and in any event stoutly protest against any interference by any warlike movement upon the institution of slavery when it is recognized by the constitution of the United States, or for the purpose of disparaging the equality of the several states as united by the federal constitution.
The foregoing preamble and resolution is what “Justice” asks for.
The following dispatch was received here [that is, Middletown] on Sunday from Washington:
“Lancey was with the advance skirmishers. Used his rifle until Sherman’s battery opened, when he volunteered to carry shell and shot to the gunner. After four house of the severest labor he fell exhausted and is now in hospital rapidly recovering his strength. Will be all right in a day or two.
S. L. Warner, Esq., of this city now in Washington, telegraphed yesterday to Lieut. Gov. Douglas that he had just seen Capt. Dickerson and Lieut. Douglas who reported none killed of the Mansfield Guard, but Richard Taylor of Portland was wounded.
A New Company Raised
No sooner was the news of the defeat of our army received here yesterday than there arose a universal feeling that the honor of our country must and should be maintained. Lieut. Gov. Douglas at once put in circulation a paper for the organization of a company to proceed to Washington at 24 hours notice and serve for 30 days. He signed the paper himself and obtained a hundred names. This shows the spirit of our people.
An enrollment of white male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45 has been made in this town according to the new military law—as all between those ages, unless specially exempt, are required to do military duty.
An Army of Worms
There has been a new sensation in Middletown. The south-east part of the city was threatened with an invasion. On Wednesday last it was discovered that the lot on Water street south of Belden’s ship yard was full of worms. They were mostly about an inch long, and of a dark brown color. On Thursday they began to come out of the lot in all directions and in vast numbers. The fields and gardens in the vicinity were threatened with destruction, and in one or two instances they invaded the neighboring dwellings. Ditches were immediately dug around the lot, and filled with coal tar, and a regular siege was commenced. In this way the progress of the worms was effectually prevented. But still they kept coming through Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The field where they originated is said now to be full of them.
Trim Your Trees
The street commissioner is going to enforce the law requiring that shade trees be trimmed to a proper height.—Any lover of shades, who prefers to do his own trimming will have to do it before the first day of September, or it will be done for him at the public expense. Trees must be trimmed so that the branches shall be eight feet at least from the ground.
The Fishing Excursion
The schooner Freestone, Capt. Brooks, which left here a week ago last Wednesday with a party of about twenty on a fishing excursion, returned on Saturday. The boys report having had a good time—spent Sunday in Nantucket—almost all hands got sea-sick, and for about twenty four hours didn’t care whether they went to Davy Jones locker or not—thought they had rocked in the cradle of the deep long enough—were glad to get home—concluded not to go fishing again till next summer.
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Middletown, July 15, 1861.