The Response to a Clash
Union and Confederate Strategies and
Soon after the details of the battle of Manassas were transmitted to towns and cities across America, newspaper editors began to discuss the probable impact of the Southern victory on the Confederate bid for independence. Horace Greeley, the mercurial editor whose New York Tribune had taken the lead in the "On to Richmond" frenzy, almost immediately wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln which virtually implied that the Union cause had been defeated in that single battle. Greeley told the president that "on every brow sits sullen, scorching, black despair... if it is best for the country and for mankind that we make peace with the Rebels at once and on their own terms, do not shrink even from that." On the other hand, most newspapers in the South were decidedly more upbeat as they discussed the now inevitable prospect of Confederate independence. The Mobile Register predicted that the Union army "would never again advance beyond cannon shot of Washington" while the Richmond Whig noted that "the breakdown of the Yankee race, their unfitness for empire, forces dominion on the South. We are compelled to take the scepter of power. We must adapt ourselves to our new destiny."
While many newspaper accounts grossly exaggerated the long term impact of a single battle, cooler minded men in the meeting rooms of Washington and Richmond realized that the confrontation at Bull Run was merely a beginning, not an end, to the secessionist conflict. By the morning after Manassas, Abraham Lincoln had recovered from his initial shock at the Union disaster and had begun to draw up a list of priorities for winning the war. In some respects Lincoln and his cabinet were in a position that was similar to the one faced by George III and his ministers after they had