disappointment to the rebel authorities.
Every door to hope or escape seemed closed.
The encircling armies of the nation came nearer day by day, like the walls of that terrible dungeon in the Middle Ages
, which approached the prisoner slowly but steadily on every side.
The doomed men shut up in Richmond
saw their fate in each other's eyes.
On the 5th of March, the day after Grant
's letter was received, Jefferson Davis
transmitted to the rebel congress a confidential communication from Lee
, in regard to ‘the condition of the country, as connected with defences and supplies.’
This document was received and considered in secret session, and the awestruck silence of the listeners may be imagined as the appalling message was read from the chief of their armies: ‘I have received your letter of this date,’ he said, ‘requesting my opinion upon the military condition of the country.
It must be apparent to every one that it is full of peril, and requires prompt action.
My correspondence with the department will show the extreme difficulties under which we have labored the past year to keep this army furnished with necessary supplies.
This difficulty is increased, and it seems almost impossible to maintain our present position with the means at the disposal of the government . . . . The country within reach of our present position has been exhausted. . . . . The only possible relief is in the generous contributions of the people to our necessities
, and that is limited by the difficulties of transportation . . . . Unless the men and animals can be subsisted, the army cannot be kept together, and our present lines must be abandoned.
Can it be moved to any other position where it can operate to advantage without provisions ’