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[149]

When the remnant of the grand army of Tennessee reached Augusta in charge of General Stevenson, Johnston ordered Hill to assume command and move in front of the vast and victorious hosts of Sherman. The greeting given him by the little bands of the old legions of Cleburne and Breckinridge now left, was a fitting tribute to an old commander whom they loved and admired. Hoping against hope, Hill was the leader above all others to infuse new spirit into the forlorn band devoted to this desperate duty. At every stream and on every eminence in his native State he disputed the ground with Sherman's vanguard till he developed a force that made it madness to contend further. Hill's reputation as a soldier depends in nowise upon successful running. This final retreat was the first and last in which he took a leading part. When once more his foot was planted upon the soil of North Carolina, it was eminently fitting that he who heard the first victorious shouts of her first regiment in the first fight in Virginia, should lead her brave sons in the last charge of the grand army of the great west within her own borders. Again, as in the last onset of Cox at Appomattox, North Carolina soldiers stood the highest test of the hero by facing danger in a gallant charge when they knew that all hope of success was gone forever.


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