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[745]

The parting of Lee with his devoted followers was a sad one. Of the proud army which, dating its victories from Bull Run, had driven McClellan from before Richmond, and withstood his best effort at Antietam, and shattered Burnside's host at Fredericksburg, and worsted Looker at Chancellorsville, and fought Meade so stoutly, though unsuccessfully, before Gettysburg, and baffled Grant's bounteous resources and desperate efforts in the Wilderness, at Spottsylvania, on the North Anna, at Cold Harbor, and before Petersburg and Richmond, a mere wreck remained. It is said that 27,000 were included in Lee's capitulation; but, of these, not more than 10,000 had been able to carry their arms thus far on their hopeless and almost foodless flight. Barely 19 miles from Lynchburg when surrendered, the physical possibility of forcing their way thither, even at the cost of half their number, no longer remained. And, if they were all safely there, what then? The resources of the Confederacy were utterly exhausted. Of the 150,000 men whose names were borne on its muster-rolls a few weeks ago, at least one-third were already disabled or prisoners, and the residue could neither be clad nor fed — not to dream of their being fitly armed or paid; while the resources of the loyal States were scarcely touched, their ranks nearly or quite as full as ever, and their supplies of ordnance, small arms, munitions, &c., more ample than in any previous April. Of the million or so borne on our muster-rolls, probably not less than half were then in active service, with half so many more able to take the field at short notice. The Rebellion had failed and gone down; but the Rebel Army of Virginia and its commander had not failed. Fighting sternly against the Inevitable — against the irrepressible tendencies, the generous aspirations of the age — they had been proved unable to succeed where success would have been a calamity to their children, to their country, and the human race. And, when the transient agony of defeat had been endured and had passed, they all experienced a sense of relief; as they crowded around their departing chief, who, with streaming eyes, grasped and pressed their outstretched hands, at length finding words to say, “Men, we have fought through the War together. I have done the best that I could for you.” There were few dry eyes among those who witnessed the scene; and our soldiers hastened to divide their rations with their late enemies, now fellow-countrymen, to stay their hunger until provisions from our trains could be drawn for them. Then, while most of our army returned to Burkesville, and thence, a few days later, to Petersburg and Richmond, the work of paroling went on, under the guardianship of Griffin's and Gibbon's infantry, with McKenzie's cavalry; and, so fast as paroled, the Confederates took their way severally to their respective homes: many of them supplied with transportation, as well as food, by the Government they had fought so long and so bravely to subvert and destroy.

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R. E. Lee (2)
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