For two years the blockade of its ports had been close and effective. Isolated from the world, it was hemmed in on all sides by a relentless foe whose resources were limitless. Its armies were skeletons of their former selves. Men fell; one rank did the work of two. Shoes and clothes wore out; rags became the fashion, and the soldier stood upon the battle line or moved to the charge with bandaged and bleeding feet. Money was almost worthless; he received for pay what would scarcely feed one hungry mouth at home. Food failed, and full rations were unknown; the pangs of hunger were borne without a murmur. Medicines gave out; they faced death by disease as they had faced him a hundred times in battle—unflinchingly. The Confederacy had been cut in two when the Mississippi was opened by the fall of Vicksburg. Another line had now been drawn across it, marked with blood and grave-mounds, from the Tennessee to Atlanta, and by blackened ruins and desolated homes from Atlanta to the sea. Hood's ill-starred expedition into Tennessee had ended in disaster. The fair valley of the Shenandoah had been ravaged until, in the graphic but unclassic language of the Federal commander there, ‘a crow in flying across it would have to carry his rations with him.’ Sherman was advancing through the heart of the Carolinas, marking his track by the blaze of burning cities and homes.
And so disasters came not singly;The world was against us. We were treading the wine press alone.
But as if they watched and waited,
Scanning one another's motions,
When the first descended, others
Followed, followed gathering flock-wise
Round their wounded, dying victim,
First a shadow, then a sorrow,
Till the air was dark with anguish.