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[387] this late hour, when every avenue of retreat was closed and the enemy had formed his junction and accomplished his purpose, was vain and useless.

When this sad news reached General Beauregard—who on the day previous had received a confidential intimation of it—he was bitterly grieved; all the more, because he saw what the necessary result must now be. He was thoroughly convinced that the present hopeless strait could have been avoided had his counsel prevailed, when he urged the withdrawal of a portion of General Lee's army to strike Sherman's columns, then far from their base; and even later, about the 21st of February, when he again strenuously advised concentration at or near Salisbury, with a reinforcement of twenty thousand men from Generals Lee and Bragg, to defeat Sherman first, and attack Grant afterwards. The battle of Bentonville had proved to General Beauregard that the spirit of the Confederate troops was unbroken, and that, with approximate equality in numbers, those troops could achieve victory. It was now plain that the grand drama which had lasted for four years was fast drawing to an end. But he resolved, nevertheless, not to relax his efforts to uphold the cause until the last hour.

On his return to Greensboroa, General Beauregard was greeted with kindness by its leading citizens, especially ex-Governor Morehead, whose hospitality he accepted, for himself and staff, during the remainder of his stay in that town.

A system of light defensive works was now devised by General Beauregard for the protection of Greensboroa, which had become an important depot of supplies. The troops temporarily detained there were called out to construct these defences, in which he caused to be placed a few field-pieces, procured from Hillsboroa, where they then lay, unsupplied with horses and of no use.

The reports concerning Stoneman's raid indicated that he was moving from Wytheville, along the Virginia and Tennessee railroad, with a force of cavalry, variously estimated at from four to eight thousand men, and some light artillery; that a portion of this force had been thrown well out on his right flank, towards Wilkesboroa, Jonesville, Madison, etc., committing depredations on its way, and threatening the railroad from Salisbury to Danville, via Greensboroa; hence great alarm was felt in all these towns.

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