This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 of battle, to the swelling crest of the front line, and, while the eyes of his soldiers are fastened on him in keen expectancy, but unwavering trust, the great leader—silent and alone with his dread responsibility—is scanning, with calm and penetrating glance, the shifting phases and chances of the stricken field. Such is the commanding figure which will presently be unveiled to your view, and dull, indeed, must be the imagination that does not henceforth people this plain with invisible hosts, and compass Lee about—now and forever—with the love and devotion of embattled ranks of heroic men in gray. But the campaign of 1862 was yet to close in a dramatic scene of unequalled grandeur. As in some colossal amphitheatre, Lee's soldiers stood ranked on the bold hills encircling Fredericksburg to witness the deployment on the plain beneath, with glittering bayonets and banners and every martial pomp, of Burnside's splendid army. A gorgeous spectacle was spread out under their feet. It was hard to realize that such a pageant was the prelude to bloody battle. But the roar of a hundred great guns from the Stafford heights quickly dispelled any illusion, and the youngest recruit could see and applaud the marvellous skill with which the Confederate commander, so recently baffled in his plan of invasion, was now interposing a proud and confident army across the latest-discovered road to Richmond. At the opportune moment, Lee's line of twenty-five miles contracted to five, and 78,000 Confederates calmly awaited the assault of 113,000 Federal soldiers. That assault was delivered. On rushed line after line of undaunted Northern soldiers. Braver men never marched more boldly to the cannon's mouth. But their valor was unavailing. As Stonewall Jackson said, his men sometimes failed to carry a position, but never to hold one. The most determined courage and a carnage, appalling from its concentration, served only to mark the heroism of the Northern soldier. But the prize of victory remained with Lee. At one blow the Federal invasion was paralyzed, and for months and months the great Northern host lay torpid in the mud and snow of a Virginian winter. The repose of that winter strengthened the Federal army, but weakened Lee's, for he had been obliged to detach Longstreet with two divisions to Southeastern Virginia. Hence the last days of April, 1863, found Lee confronting Hooker's army of 131,000 men with only 57,000 Confederates. If I mention these respective numbers so often, it is because they
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.