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‘ [94] the causes to be the lack of food, fuel and clothing, and constant duty in the trenches.’

As the winter waned his perplexities were redoubled. True, the wonderful resources of his genius, the magnetic influence which tied men to him as with links of steel—the influence of his goodness as well as his greatness—and the elastic vitality of his army, ‘Instinct to the last,’ says Swinton, ‘with life and courage in every part’—had sufficed so far to hold intact the works around Petersburg and Richmond, and to preserve insecure communication between these positions and their nearer bases of supplies; but in other sections of the country reverse after reverse had overtaken the Southern arms.

The diversion of the Army of the West from Georgia to Tennessee had removed the last effective obstacle to Sherman's northern march, and that officer, with a column still formidable, was now moving with the inevitability of fate upon the rear of the last military reality of the Confederacy—the intrenched camp in Virginia, from which neither strategy nor assault, mining nor flanking, nor the policy of attrition, had served to drive the wasted legions of our great commander.

Sherman's pathway, little impeded by the perfection of skill with which Johnson handled the skeleton force at his disposal, lay across the pleasant fields where dwelt the wives and children of those who, exposed to the severity of winter and destitute of food, still held with grim determination the last ditch of a doomed cause. The terrible exposure, the constant loss of rest, the incessant peal of musketry and roar of cannon, the lack of bread, the ravages of disease, had hitherto shaken not the constancy nor damped the courage of that peerless garrison. Each hour the whistle of the locomotive told of new levies thronging to swell the already overwhelming numbers of Grant's array. Each frozen morn told to the anxious eyes how sadly slender grew the chain of guards that held the trenches. Still, no fibre of their iron will relaxed; no nerve of their brave purpose lost rigidity.

Still manfully they held their posts, watchful and resolute, bound to their cheerless duty by some strength beyond the ken of mortal man. And if at last the stings and arrows of outrageous fortune found one unguarded spot in the well-joined armor of their souls, oh, who shall call the spirit weak that bore so much before it fell!

For now the tale of ravaged lands, and the wails of suffering wife and children—for Sherman's triumphal progress left desolation in


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