I considered an imperative duty.
I repeat that I regret most deeply that this discussion was not opened before the death of General Lee
If the charges so vehemently urged against me after his death had been preferred, or even suggested, in his lifetime, I do not believe they would have needed any reply from me. General Lee
would have answered them himself, and have set history right.
But, even as the matter is, I do not fear the verdict of history on Gettysburg
Time sets all things right.
Error lives but a day-truth is eternal.
There is an incidental matter to which I shall refer in this connection.
It is in regard to a statement made by Mr. Swinton
In his “Ultimo Suspiro,” he gives the history of a meeting which he says took place on the 7th of April, 1865, between General Lee
and his leading officers.
He says that this meeting was a private council, and that the officers united in advising General Lee
to surrender on that day-two days before the surrender took place at Appomattox
In describing that meeting, he does me the grave injustice of putting my name among the officers who gave General Lee
The truth of the matter is, I never attended any such meeting.
I had no time to have done so. I was kept incessantly busy in the field during the days preceding the surrender at Appomattox
All night long of the 1st we marched with Fields
' Division from Richmond
, reaching that point at early dawn on the 2d.
I at once went to General Lee
I found him in bed in his tent.
While I was sitting upon the side of his couch, discussing my line of march and receiving my orders for the future-this involving a march on the Five Forks
--a courier came in and announced that our line was being broken in front of the house in which General Lee
I hurried to the front, and as fast as my troops came up they were thrown into action to check the advance of the Federals
until night had come to cover our withdrawal.
We fought all day, and at night again took up our march, and from that time forward until the surrender, we marched, and fought, and hungered, staggering through cold, and rain, and mud, to Appomattox-contesting every foot of the way, beset by overwhelming odds on all sides.
It was one constant fight for days and days, the nights even giving us no rest.
When at length the order came to surrender, on the 9th, I ordered my men to stack their arms, and surrendered four thousand bayonets of Fields
' Division — the only troops that General Lee
had left me. I also turned over to General Grant
one thousand three hundred prisoners taken by the cavalry and by my troops while on the retreat.
As to the conference of officers on the 7th, I never attended, and, of course, did not join in the advice it gave to General Lee
. Mr. Swinton
has been clearly misinformed upon this point.