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[68]

Grant's soldiers suffered for nothing which money or the ingenuity of man could supply, and had constant communication with homes, far from the track of war, where the munificence of a powerful government protected their families from want. They saw the circle of the hunt drawing closer around the Army of Northern Virginia, and, conscious of the weight of numbers, had already caught the glow of victory and looked to the coming campaign, buoyed by the hope that it would crown their labors and sacrifices with glory in arms and victorious peace.

In the other army, thinner and thinner grew its scant battalions, and wider and wider they were stretched to guard their long lines. Cold and hunger struck them down in the trenches, while from the desolate track of triumphant armies in their rear came the cries of starving and unprotected homes. From other fields, quickly succeeding each other, came the resounding crash of blows that shattered the fabric of the Confederacy all around them, save where their bayonets still upheld it. Misery sought the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia by every avenue through which the heart of man can be reached.

The coming campaign would only bring new and more powerful foes upon its track, while it was yet too weak to drive off the old foe in front. Even lion-hearted courage and resolve could not shut out the thought from some that all they could give of life or blood might not ward off disaster. To the reflecting Confederate, the end, with all its attending miseries, indeed seemed not far off, and the strain upon the morale of an army of less sterner stuff, would have shriveled its strength and melted it away before the shock came. And this is the crowning glory of that army, that it neither faltered nor shrank even in the shadow of fate itself. Hope was well-nigh hopeless. Duty and honor and the God-like bearing of its grey-haired chief alone sustained the Army of Northern Virginia during this long and desolate winter and spring. If the fickle and varying fortunes of war could not bring deliverance in the coming campaign, that army still believed it might at least wring other terms of peace than surrender at discretion. It calmly awaited the issue, and contemplated surrender only as the heroic Poniatowski, when he declared to those about him: ‘Now, gentlemen, it becomes us to die with honor.’

About the middle of March Sherman had established his large army about Goldsboro, North Carolina, some 145 miles south of

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