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[67] population of Richmond and Petersburg. These roads were likely to be interrupted at any time by the floods or cut by cavalry raids. The accumulation of supplies for a few days ahead was an impossibility.1

The James river, on the contrary, furnished Grant a line of communication and a mode of supply which could not be cut by raids or disturbed except by ships. One gunboat on the river could defy all Lee's efforts to interrupt navigation. A wonderful merchant marine transported on the broad bosom of the river all that wealth could obtain from every quarter of the globe to add to Grant's magazines; while it floated a powerful navy which not only protected his line of communication and depot of supplies at City Point, but could join at pleasure in assaults on Lee's lines near Drewry's Bluff. So great were the mechanical appliances at Grant's command that we often heard the whistle of his locomotives on a military railroad which followed within half a day in the track of his columns. So great was the dearth of the necessaries of life among Lee's troops at this same time, that we find him writing an earnest letter to the Secretary of War in regard to procuring material with which the soldiers could make soap, for want of which there was much suffering.

Sherman's march to the sea, with its wide swath of destruction, had isolated the Army of Northern Virginia from the rest of the Confederacy and shut out even news from home from thousands of soldiers in its ranks. Hood's army had been driven from Atlanta and had battered itself to pieces in vain valor at Franklin, and then suffered rout at Nashville. Wilmington, Savannah and Charleston had fallen. The forlorn hope which Early had so long and gallantly led in the Valley of Virginia, had at last been driven from that land of historic memories. There was little of hope to sustain or cheer the grim veteran of the Army of Northern Virginia who starved and froze in the trenches as the foe in front, whom he still beat back, fired shotted salutes into his lines to tell of victories won in other quarters.2

1 As early as June 26th General Lee wrote President Davis stating, ‘I am less uneasy about holding our position than about our ability to procure supplies for the army.’ On the 22d July, 1864, he wrote the War Department ‘Our supply of corn is exhausted to-day, and I am informed that the small reserve in Richmond is consumed.’

2 Such salutes were fired in honor of the victories at Atlanta, Winchester, Cedar Creek, Nashville, and the capture of Charleston and Savannah, and the fall of Fort Fisher.

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