his line of battle was almost as thin as a skirmish line.
Duty was incessant; it was fatiguing in the greatest degree; the Confederates
had no reserves, and when a brigade was taken to assist at some threatened point, the position it left was endangered.
But even in this extreme situation, Gen. Lee
had not yet despaired of the cause of the Confederacy
He was gravely sensible of the danger; in frequent conference with committees of the Congress
, he stated frankly his anxiety, but urged levies of negro troops, held out what hope he could, and expressly and firmly discountenanced any surrender of the Confederate
cause by premature negotiations with Washington
On one of these occasions he made the personal declaration for himself that he had rather die on the battle-field than surrender — a sentiment which provoked the sneer of a well-known “Union” man in Richmond
, and the remark that “Gen. Lee
talked like a school-girl.”
The populace of Richmond
was but little aware of the terrible decrease of Gen. Lee
's army; and indeed the people of the Confederacy
were studiously kept in the dark as to all details of the military situation.
So reticent had the Government
become, that the newspapers were forbid publishing anything of military affairs beyond the scanty doles of information and the skeleton telegrams furnished to the reporters by an official authority, and copied at the desks of the War Department.
It thus happened that while there was a general despondency of the public mind, there were few outside the severe official circles of Richmond
who knew the real extremities to which the arms and affairs of the Confederacy
There was a dull expectation of what was next to happen; there was a vague condition of the public mind, in which, although not able to discover any substantial and well-defined ground of hope, it yet plodded on under the shadow of old convictions, and with a dim anticipation of something favourable in the future.
While every one affirmed that the affairs of the Confederacy
were in a bad way, and while every one appeared to have a certain sense of approaching misfortune, there were very few who knew the real condition and numbers of the armies of the Confederacy
, and realized how far had been undermined its system of defence.
It was difficult indeed to believe that the Army of Northern Virginia--that army, whose name had been for four years as the blast of victory-had declined to a condition in which it was no longer capable of offensive operations.
It was difficult indeed to abandon altogether the idea that the happy accident of a victory somewhere in the Confederacy
might not, after all, put a new aspect on affairs.
Even if the conclusion of subjugation had become probable, its day was at least uncertain, distant; and the opinion of Gen. Lee
was quoted in the streets of Richmond
that in any event the Southern Confederacy was likely to last another year's campaign.
Many lived in the circle of each day; the idea of Independence was yet in the