Letter to Joseph Weydemeyer, November 24, 1864

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 24 November 1864


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, p. 37;
First published: abridged in Die Neue Zeit, 1906-1907 and in full in Marx and Engels, Works, Moscow, 1934.
Collection(s): Die Neue Zeit

To Joseph Weydemeyer in St Louis

Manchester, 24 November 1864[edit source]

Dear Weydemeyer,

I was most pleased to hear from you again at long last. We have been without your address for years, otherwise you would already have received a reminder from me earlier on. My address is still Ermen & Engels and will probably continue to be so for five years or so yet, unless the storm breaks in Germany. Marx’ address is No. 1, Modena Villas, Maitland Park, Haverstock Hill, London, but Dr Marx, London, will also suffice if need be.

Our plump little pig Blind is showing off here in Europe, wherever he can, just as he did over there, it is the only little pleasure the poor wee creature has, and he indulges it with an assiduity worthy of a better cause and greater success. However, ever since Marx belaboured him so thoroughly in Herr Vogt, he has been keeping out of our range.

As far as Lassalle’s flirtations with Bismarck are concerned, they are beyond dispute. The passages quoted by Blind were, of course, actually uttered by Lassalle in the speech he made in Düsseldorf in his defence and published by him, so there is nothing to be done there. For all his distinctive qualities, Lassalle had that Jewish respect for momentary success, which made it impossible for him to deny Louis Bonaparte his respect, or to refrain from professing such overtly Bonapartist principles as he did. Those, who were more closely acquainted with him, knew that these things were not occasional happenings. You can readily imagine that this was as disagreeable to us as it was grist to the mill of piglet Blind, and that alone would have been sufficient ground for us to have had nothing to do with all Lassalle’s agitation during his lifetime, although there were other reasons, too. Nevertheless, that is all over and done with now, and we shall have to see whether his agitation was just a flash in the pan, or whether there was really something to it.

You will have heard that our poor Lupus died here on 9 May of this year. His was a loss for the party of an altogether different order from Lassalle’s. We shall never again find such a steadfast fellow, who knew how to talk to the people and was always there when things were at their most difficult. For 4 long weeks he had the most terrible headaches, his German doctor neglected him, and at length a vessel burst in his brain from the colossal pressure of the blood, he gradually lost consciousness and died 10 days later.

Nothing of much interest is happening here in Europe. The suppression of the Polish uprising [in the autumn of 1863] was the last decisive event; for his assistance in this, the Tsar gave Bismarck permission to take Schleswig-Holstein from the Danes. It will be a long time before Poland is capable of rising again, even with help from outside, and yet Poland is quite indispensable to us. The despicable behaviour of the liberal German philistines is to blame; if those curs in the Prussian Chamber had had more insight and courage, all might be well — Austria was ready to march in support of the Poles at any time, and it was only Prussia’s attitude that prevented it, and the treachery of Mr Bonaparte, who was, of course, only prepared to keep his promises to the Poles if he could do so safely, i.e. if he was covered by Prussia and Austria.

That war of yours over there is really one of the most stupendous things that one can experience. Despite the numerous blunders made by the Northern armies (enough by the South, too), the tide of conquest is rolling slowly but surely onward, and, in the course of 1865, at all events the moment will undoubtedly come when the organised resistance of the South will fold up like a pocket-knife, and the warfare turn into banditry, as in the Carlist war in Spain [1833] and more recently in Naples. A people’s war of this kind, on both sides, has not taken place since great states have been in existence, and it will, at all events, point the direction for the future of the whole of America for hundreds of years to come. Once slavery, the greatest shackle on the political and social development of the United States, has been broken, the country is bound to receive an impetus from which it will acquire quite a differed position in world history within the shortest possible time, and a use will then soon be found for the army and navy with which the war is providing it.

It was incidentally quite understandable that the North had some difficulty in providing itself with an army and generals. From the outset, the South’s oligarchy had brought the country’s few military forces under its control, it supplied the officers and furthermore raided the arsenals. The North found itself with no resources other than the militia, while the South had been training for years. From the outset, the South had a population accustomed to the saddle for use as light cavalry, on a scale the North could not match. The North adopted the habit, introduced from the South, of filling positions with party supporters; the South, in the midst of a revolution and with a military dictatorship, could brush that aside. Hence, all the blunders. I do not deny that Lee is a better general than any the North has, and that his latest operations around the fortified camp at Richmond are masterpieces from which our glorious Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia could learn much. But, ultimately, the determined attacks of Grant and Sherman made all strategy superfluous. It is clear that Grant is sacrificing a colossal number of men, but what else could he do? I have absolutely no idea of the level of discipline in your army, its cohesion under fire, its capacity and willingness to endure hardship, and in particular the nature of its morale, i.e. what can be demanded of it without its becoming demoralised. With such scanty reports and no proper maps, one needs to know all this before permitting oneself any judgment on this side of the water. What does seem certain to me, however, is that the army now commanded by Sherman is the best you have, as superior to Hood’s as Lee’s is to Grant’s.

Your field-manual and elementary tactics are, as I hear, positively French — the basic formation thus presumably being the column with intervals between platoons. What kind of field artillery do you now have? If you can enlighten me on these points, I shall be greatly obliged. What has become of the great Anneke? Since the battle at Pittsburgh Landing was all but lost because he was not supplied with everything which he should have had, according to the Prussian field-manual, he has quite vanished from my view. Of the Germans who have joined in the war, Willich appears to have given the best account of himself, whereas Sigel has unmistakably demonstrated his mediocrity. And Schurz, the valiant Schurz, farting away amidst the shower of bullets and shells, what foes is he demolishing now?

Apropos. The Prussian cannons that smashed Duppel and Sonderburg from 6,500 paces were our old long bronze 24-pounders, rifled and rebuilt as breech-loaders, 54-pound shells with 4-pound charge! I've seen them with my own eyes.

Kindest regards to your wife

Your
F. Engels