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[528] Lee's small force fought, with its usual vigor and obstinacy, during the severe weather of the three days and nights of this second Hatcher's Run engagement. Lee wrote of them: ‘Under these circumstances, heightened by assaults and fire of the enemy, some of the men had been without meat for three days, and all were suffering from reduced rations and scant clothing, exposed to battle, cold, hail and sleet. . . The physical strength of the men, if their courage survives, must fail under this treatment.’

Environed by defeats in every direction, except in the immediate neighborhood of Richmond, and seeing the Federal armies closing in upon this last stronghold of the Confederacy, President Davis, grasping the last straw offering relief, on the 6th of February, 1865, appointed General Lee commander-in-chief of all the Confederate armies. In his first general order, after reluctantly accepting this added responsibility, Lee said, in substance: ‘Deeply impressed with the difficulties and responsibilities of the situation, and humbly invoking the guidance of the Almighty God, I rely for success upon the courage and fortitude of the army, sustained by the patriotism and firmness of the people; confident that their united efforts, under the blessing of Heaven, will secure peace and independence.’ In a second order on the 14th, he said of his soldiers: ‘The choice between war and abject submission is before them. To such a proposal, brave men, with arms in their hands, can have but one answer. They cannot barter manhood for peace, nor the right of self-government for life or property. But justice to them requires a sterner admonition to those who have abandoned their comrades in the hour of peril.’

At this crisis the homes of those beyond the confines of Virginia, which heretofore had not felt the presence of the enemy, were being overrun with ruthless destruction, as by Sherman's march from Atlanta to the sea, and the wanton damages of scattered bodies of Federal soldiers. Large numbers of absentees were unable to return to their commands, and Lee's army was being depleted by constant desertions. He appealed to these sorely tried men to come back, offering pardon; adding, ‘Our resources, wisely and vigorously employed, are ample; and with a brave army, sustained by a determined ’

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