Lee's last battles.
's retreat from Petersburg
will rank among the most remarkable events of history.
As every circumstance connected with it will prove interesting hereafter, when the full history of this period comes to be written, I propose to record some particulars which came under my observation; and especially to describe the bearing of the illustrious Commander-in-Chief
of the Confederate forces while passing through this tremendous ordeal.
An adequate record of this brief and fiery drama-played from the first to the last scene in a few April days-would involve the question of General Lee
This question I have neither time nor space to discuss; but I am much mistaken if a simple statement will not set at rest for ever those imputations which have been cast, since the surrender, upon Lee
's military judgment, by ignorant or stupid persons throughout the country.
The facts ought to be placed on record.
If General Lee
continued, of his own choice, to occupy a position at Petersburg
from which, as events soon showed, he could not extricate his army, it will go far to rob him of that renown which he had previously won; and if General Grant
out-manoeuvred and caught his great adversary by simple superiority of soldiership, he is the greater general of the two.
The truth of the whole matter is that Lee
surprised; that he foresaw clearly what was coming;
and acted from first to last under orders against which his military judgment revolted.
Orders were given by General Lee
for the evacuation of Petersburg
, and, consequently, of the State of Virginia
, at least six weeks before General Grant
broke through the Confederate
The military necessity for this movement was perfectly plain to all well-informed and intelligent persons, in the army and out of it. It was only the ignorant or the hopelessly stupid who cherished the hallucination that Lee
could continue to hold his works around Petersburg
's enormous force.
Nevertheless there were a plenty who did think so, and who looked upon things there as a sort of “permanent arrangement.”
, in the estimation of these persons, was the spoiled child of good fortune, greater than fate, and the Army of Northern Virginia could not be whipped.
The Southern lines were to be held en permanence
, and Grant
was to “keep pegging away” until the crack of doom.
Such was the fond delusion of all the “outside” class; those who were accurately informed, and took the “inside” view, knew better; and especially did General Lee
know that unless he was speedily reinforced, he could not continue to hold his lines against the large and steady reinforcements sent to General Grant
. “More men; give me more men!”
was the burden of his despatches to the government.
He had nearly fifty miles of earthworks to defend against three or four times his own numbers; and a child might have understood that if Grant
continued to receive heavy reinforcements, and Lee
none, while his army continued to diminish from casualities, the time would soon come when retreat or surrender would be the only alternatives.
The reinforcements did not come, however.
The Army of Northern Virginia went on dwindling, and Grant
continued to increase his strength, until at the end of winter the result of the coming campaign no longer admitted of a doubt.
The crisis had evidently come, and it was perfectly plain that Lee
must evacuate Virginia
All his prominent Generals
shared his views.
One of them said: “If Grant
once breaks through our lines, we might as well go back to Father Abraham, and say, ‘Father, we have sinned.’
” If anything was plain it was this: that if the immense line of Lee
's works was broken anywhere, he was lost.
It is certainly nothing very remarkable that under these circumstances General Lee
should make an attempt to save his army — the only hope of the Confederacy
There was only one way to do it, and the opportunity of embracing that sole means was rapidly slipping away.
must move, if he moved at all, on the line of the Southside Railroad toward Danville
, and he must move at once; for General Grant
, who knew perfectly well the necessities of his adversary, was pouring heavy columns toward Hatcher's Run
, to intercept him if he made the attempt.
The Federal army was kept ready day and night, with rations cooked and in haversacks, for instant pursuit; and each of the great opponents understood completely his adversary's design.
knew that General Lee ought
to retreat, and he had learned the important maxim that it is always best to give your enemy credit for intending to do what he ought to do. If Lee
moved promptly toward Danville
, every effort would be made to come up with and destroy him; if he did not retreat, time would be allowed the Federal
army to gradually fight its way to the Southside
Once lodged upon that great artery of the Southern
had checkmated his opponent.
Upon this obvious view of the situation, General Lee
, in February, issued orders for the removal of all the stores of the army to Amelia Court-House
, on the road to Danville
A movement of this sort is, of course, impossible of concealment, and the whole army soon knew that something was “in the wind.”
Government cotton and tobacco was hauled away from Petersburg
; hundreds of the inhabitants left the place; all the surplus artillery was sent to Amelia Court-House
, and even the reserve ordnance train of the army was ordered to the same point.
Then suddenly, in the midst of all, the movement stopped.
The authorities at Richmond
had said, “Hold your position.”
countermanded his orders and awaited his fate.
I say awaited his fate
, because I am perfectly well convinced that from that moment he regarded the event as a mere question of time.
No reinforcements reached him, while Grant
grew stronger every day by reinforcements from Washington
's army-two corps from the latter-and soon he had at
his command Sheridan
's excellent force of 12,000 or 5,000 cavalry.
He was pushing heavy columns, one after another, toward the Southside
road, and at any moment a general attack might be expected all along the lines, while the elite
of the Federal
force was thrown against Lee
Such an assault, in his enfeebled condition, was more than General Lee
could sustain, unless he stripped his works elsewhere of all their defenders; but a brave effort was made to prepare for the coming storm, and Lee
evidently determined to stand at bay and fight to the last.
The expected attack soon came.
rapidly concentrated his army (amounting, General Meade
stated at Appomattox Court-House, to about 140,000 men) on Lee
's right, near Burgess' Mill; his most efficient corps of infantry and cavalry were thrown forward, and a desperate attack was made upon the Confederate
works on the White-oak road.
A bloody repulse awaited the first assault, but the second was successful.
At the same time the lines near Petersburg
were broken by a great force, and the affair was decided.
The Confederate army was cut in two; the enemy held the Southside Railroad, intercepting the line of retreat; and what Lee
's clear military judgment had foreseen had come to pass.
Between his 40,000 men and Danville
were the 140,000 men of Grant
I should think it impossible even for his worst enemy to regard the situation of this truly great man at the moment in question without a certain sympathy and respect.
He was not Commander-in-Chief
only, but the whole Southern Confederacy himselfcarrying upon his shoulders the heavy weight of the public care.
Every confidence was felt in the patriotism and sincere devotion of President Davis
to the Southern
cause-but there was a very general distrust of his judgment, and his administration had not made him popular.
, on the contrary, was the idol almost of the people; and it was to him that the South
looked in this dark hour, calling on him for deliverance.
Up to this moment he had been in a condition to meet his great responsibility.
In a campaign of unexampled fury, dragging its bloody steps from the Rappahannock
to the Appomattox
, he had held his lines against almost overwhelming assaults, foiling an adversary of acknowledged genius, commanding a superb army.
Against this army, constantly reinforced, he had continued to hold the works around Petersburg
, and protect the capital; and to him, amid the gloom and depression, all had looked as to their sole hope.
There was no possibility of General Lee
himself escaping a knowledge of this fact.
It was in the faces and the words of men; in the columns of the newspapers; in the very air that was breathed.
Good men wrote to him not to expose himself, for if he fell all was over.
In brief words, the whole country agreed that in this man and his army lay the only hope of the Southern Confederacy.
If the reader realizes what I have thus tried to express, he may form some idea of the crushing ordeal through which General Lee
was, on the 2d of April, called upon to pass.
The brief particulars about to be set down may furnish the candid historian of the future with material to form an unbiassed judgment of General Lee
and his retreat.
I am mistaken if the narrative, however brief and incomplete, does not show the great proportions and noble character of the individual-his constancy under heavy trials, and his majestic equanimity in face of a misfortune the most cruel, perhaps, which a soldier can be called on to bear.
Soon after sunrise on the 2d of April the Federal
columns, in heavy mass, advanced from the outer line of works, which they had carried at daybreak, to attack General Lee
in his inner intrenchments near Petersburg
When the present writer reached the vicinity of army headquarters, on the Cox road, west of the city, a Federal column was rapidly advancing to charge a battery posted in the open field to the right of the house, and at that time firing rapidly.
was in the lawn in front of his Headquarters, looking through his glasses at the column as it moved
at a double quick across the fields; and knowing the terrible significance of the advantage which the Federal
troops had gained, I looked at the General
to ascertain, if possible, what he thought of it. He never appeared more calm; and if the affair had been a review, he could not have exhibited less emotion of any description.
In full uniform, with his gold-hilted sword, and perfectly quiet look, he appeared to be witnessing, with simple curiosity, some military parade.
But this “dress” costume was assumed, it is said, with another view.
He had dressed himself that morning, I afterwards heard, with scrupulous care, and buckled on his finest sword, declaring that if he was captured he would be taken in full harness.
The movement of the Federal
column became more rapid, and the battery was soon charged; but it succeeded in galloping off under a heavy fire of musketry.
The column then pressed on, and the Federal artillery opened a heavy fire on the hill, before which the Southern
guns — there was no infantry-withdrew, General Lee
retired slowly with his artillery, riding his wellknown iron gray; and one person, at least, in the company forgot the shell and sharpshooters, looking at the superb old cavalier, erect as an arrow, and as calm as a May morning.
When he said to an officer near, “This is a bad business, Colonel
,” there was no excitement in his voice, or indeed any change whatsoever in its grave and courteous tones.
A slight flush came to his face, however, a moment afterwards.
A shell from the Federal
batteries, fired at the group, burst almost upon him, killing a horse near by, and cutting bridle-reins.
This brought a decided expression of “fight” to the old soldier's face, and he probably felt as he did in Culpeper
when the disaster of Rappahannock bridge ocurred --when he muttered, General Stuart
told me, “I should now like to go into a charge!”
These details may appear trivial.
But the demeanour of public men on great occasions is legitimate, and not uninteresting matter for history.
's personal bearing upon this critical occasion, when he saw himself about to be subjected to the greatest humiliation to the pride of a soldier-capture — was admirably noble and serene.
It was impossible not to be struck with the
grandeur of his appearance — no other phrase describes it: or to refrain from admiring the princely air with which the old cavalry officer sat his horse.
With his calm and thoughtful eye, and perfect repose of manner visible in spite of the restive movements of his horse, frightened by the firing, it was hard to believe that he saw there was no hope,--and for himself, would have cared little if one of the bullets singing around had found its mark in his breast.
In ten minutes the Federal
troops had formed line of battle in front of the Headquarters, and a thin line of Confederate infantry manned the badly-constructed works on the Cox road.
If the Federal
line of battle-now visible in huge mass-had advanced at once, they would have found opposed to them only two small brigades, which would not have been a good mouthful.
The amusing thing was to hear the “ragged rebels” --and they were very ragged-laughing as they looked at the heavy line apparently about to charge them, and crying: “Let 'em come on!
We'll give 'em —!”
was meanwhile thundering on the left of Petersburg
, and holding his lines with difficulty, and at night one point at least was gained.
The surrender would not take place there.
it would be was not yet decided.
Before morning the army had been moved to the northern bank of the Appomattox
; the glare and roar of the blown-up magazines succeeded; and accompanied by the unwieldly trains, loaded with the miserable rubbish of winter quarters, the troops commenced their march up the Appomattox
, toward the upper bridges.
was on his gray horse, leading his army in person; there were no longer any lines to defend, any earthworks to hold; the army was afloat, and instead of being depressed, they seemed in excellent spirits.
But the drama had only commenced.
The great game of chess between Grant
commenced on the morning of the 3d of April; the one aiming if possible to extricate his army, the other to cut off and capture, or destroy it.
The relative numbers of the opposing forces can only be stated in round numbers.
I understood afterwards that General Meade
stated the Federal
force to amount to about one hundred and forty thousand men. That of General Lee
did not exceed, if it reached, forty thousand.
So great had been the drain upon this historic army from the casualties of the past year, from absence with and without leave, and other causes, that-deprived of all reinforcements — it was now weaker than it had probably ever been before.
, it is said, expressed extreme astonishment to General Lee
when informed of his small numbers, declaring that if General Grant
had suspected this weakness, he would have long before broken through the Confederate
The statement was natural, and General Meade
doubtless believed in the ability of the Federal
army to have done so; but it is certain that General Grant
made persistent and desperate attempts to accomplish this very object, in which his adversary, by rapid movements of his small force from point to point, and obstinate fighting, had invariably foiled him.
To return to the retreat.
The Southern army had been so long cooped up in its hovels and casemates-moving only by stealth along “covered-ways” --that any movement anywhere was a relief.
In addition to this, the troops had not yet had time to reflect.
The sensation of being driven from their earthworksnow like home to them — was stunning; and the men did not at once realize the tremendous change which had all at once taken place in the aspect of affairs.
No man seemed yet to have persuaded himself of the fact that “General Lee
's army,” which only yesterday had held the long lines, in defiance of all comers, was to-day in full retreat, and bent first of all upon escaping
from the enemy they had so often defeated.
Gradually, however, the unhappy condition of affairs began to dawn upon the troops; and all at once they looked the terrible fact in the face.
General Lee was retreating from Virginia-most
depressing of events!-and it was even a matter of very extreme doubt whether he could accomplish even that much.
No troops were ever better informed upon military affairs than those of the South
; and the private soldier discussed the chances with a topographical knowledge which could not have been surpassed by a
with a map before'him.
I heard one brave tatterdemalion, evidently from the backwoods, say, “Grant
is trying to cut off old Uncle Robert at Burkesville Junction;” and another replied, “Grant
can get there first.”
There, in a few words, was the essence of the “situation.”
held the Southside Railroad, and was pouring forward troops under Sheridan
toward the Danville Railroad, to which he had a straight cut without a particle of obstruction, except a small force of cavalry-less than two thousand effective men — under General Fitz Lee
. General Lee
, on the contrary, was moving by a circuitous route on the north bank of the Appomattox
, encumbered by a huge wagon-train, and having in front of him a swollen river, which proved a terrible delay to him at the moment when every instant counted.
So great were the obstacles, that General Grant
could have intercepted the Southern
column, had he made extraordinary exertions, even at Amelia Court-House
. General Lee
did not succeed in reaching that point until Wednesday, the sth-the
bridges over the Appomattox
being swept away or rendered useless by the freshet which had covered the low grounds and prevented access to them.
The troops finally crossed on pontoons at two or three places; and, although suffering seriously from want of rations, pushed forward in good spirits to Amelia Court-House
Up to this time there had been very few stragglers, the Virginia
troops turning their backs upon their homes without complaint, and satisfied to follow “Old Uncle Robert” wherever he led them.
The statement that desertions of Virginians
had taken place is untrue.
They marched with their brethren from the Gulf
States cheerfully; and it was only afterward, when broken down by starvation, that they dropped out of the ranks.
That some, seeing the sure fate before them-surrender, and, as they supposed, long incarceration in a Northern prison-left their ranks during the last hours of the retreat, is also true; but, a few hours after they thus left their colours, it was the general officers
who looked out for avenues of exit through the Federal cordon
closing around, to avoid the inevitable surrender; and who said to their men, “Save yourselves in any way you can.”
The scene at Amelia Court-House
on Wednesday was a curious
The huge army trains were encamped in the suburbs of the pretty little village, and the travel-worn troops bivouacked in the fields.
They were still in good spirits, and plainly had an abiding confidence in their great commander.
The brigades, though thinned by their heavy losses at Petersburg
, still presented a defiant front; and the long lines of veterans with bristling bayonets, led by Longstreet
, and Mahone
, advanced as proudly as they had done in the hard conflicts of the past.
The troops were still in excellent morale
, and had never been readier for desperate fighting than at that moment.
Men and officers were tired and hungry, but laughing; and nowhere could be seen a particle of gloom, or shrinking, or ill-humoursure symptoms in the human animal of a want of “heart of hope.”
I will add that I saw little of it to the end.
The unavoidable delay in crossing the Appomattox
had given General Grant
time to mass a heavy force — as General Meade
's report shows-at Burkesville Junction; and if it was General Lee
's intention to advance on the east side of the Danville
road, he gave it up. I believe, however, that such was never his design.
His trains were directed to move through Cumberland
, Prince Edward, and Campbell
, toward Pittsylvania
; and the army would naturally keep near enough to protect them, moving southward between the Junction
While the troops were resting at Amelia Court-House
, and waiting for the rear to come up, the Federal
commander must have pushed forward with great rapidity.
His cavalry was already scouring the country far in advance of the Confederate
column, and the numbers and excellence of this branch of their service gave them a fatal advantage.
The reserve train, containing nearly all the ammunition of the Southern
army, was attacked and burned near Paynesville
, and the fate awaiting other portions of the army train was foreseen.
Its unwieldly size and slow movement made it an easy prey; and it was incessantly attacked, and large sections carried off or destroyed.
So numerous were these captures, that nearly the whole subsistence of the army was lost; and from this time commenced the really distressing scenes of the march.
The men were without rations, and had marched almost day
and night since leaving Petersburg
; their strength was slowly drained from them; and despondency, like a black and poisonous mist, began to invade the hearts before so tough and buoyant.
The tendency of military life is to make man an animal, and to subject his mind in a great measure to his body.
Feed a soldier well, and let him sleep sufficiently, and he will fight gaily.
Starve him, and break him down with want of sleep and fatigue, and he will despond.
He will fight still, but not gaily; and unless thorough discipline is preserved, he will “straggle” off to houses by the road for food and sleep.
Desertion is not in his mind, but the result is the same.
The man who lags or sleeps while his column is retreating, close pressed by the enemy, never rejoins it. Such is the explanation of the phenomena exhibited on this retreat; and now why were the troops thus left without rations, and compelled to scatter over the country in search of enough food to preserve them from starvation?
The reply to that question is, that rations for his army were ordered to be sent to Amelia Court-House
by General Lee
; that trains containing the supplies were dispatched from Danville
; and that these trains were ordered, by telegraph from Richmond
, to come on to Richmond
, and did so, when the bread and meat was thrown in the gutter, to make way for the rubbish of the Departments.
The rubbish was preserved for subsequent capture, and the Army of Northern Virginia staggered on, and starved, and surrendered.
If any one demands the proof of this assertion, I will give it.
left Amelia Court-House
on the evening of the 5th, and from this time the army was incessantly engaged, particularly with the Federal
On the 6th the enemy was encountered in force; and line of battle was formed to repulse them, if they advanced upon the trains then moving towards
It was on this evening that Generals Ewell
were suddenly attacked and their commands thrown into great confusion, in the rear of the wagon-trains.
These officers and others-including General Custis Lee
, son of the General
— were captured, and the drama seemed about to end here; but it did not.
To the hostile fate which seemed to be pressing him to his destruction, General Lee
opposed a will as unconquerable as the Greek Necessity
with her iron wedge.
The terrible results of this disorganization of Ewell
were averted by a movement of infantry as rapid and unexpected as that of the Federal
From the flanking column of Confederate infantry a brigade was pushed across at a double-quick; and between the disorganized troops of Ewell
and the victorious enemy rose a wall of bayonets, flanked by cannon.
From this human rock the wave went back; and though the lurid glare of the signals along the Federal
lines in the gathering darkness seemed the prelude to another attack, none was made.
I have spoken briefly of this scene.
It was one of gloomy picturesqueness and tragic interest.
On a plateau, raised above the forest from which they had emerged, were the disorganized troops of Ewell
, gathered in groups, unofficered, and uttering tumultuous exclamations of rage or defiance.
Rising above the weary groups which had thrown themselves upon the ground, were the grim barrels of cannon, in battery, to fire as soon as the enemy appeared.
In front of all was the still line of battle just placed by Lee
, and waiting calmly.
had rushed his infantry over just at sunset, leading it in person, his face animated, and his eye brilliant with the soldier's spirit of “fight,” but his bearing unflurried as before.
An artist desiring to paint his picture ought to have seen the old cavalier at this moment, sweeping on upon his large iron gray, whose mane and tail floated in the wind; carrying his field-glass half raised in his right hand; with head erect, gestures animated, and in the whole face and form the expression of the hunter close upon his game.
The line once interposed, he rode in the twilight among the disordered
groups above mentioned, and the sight of him raised a tumult.
Fierce cries resounded on all sides; and with hands clenched violently and raised aloft, the men called on him to lead them against the enemy.
“It's General Lee
“Uncle Robert!” “Where's the man who won't follow Uncle Robert?”
I heard on all sides; the swarthy faces, full of dirt and courage, lit up every instant by the glare of the burning wagons.
Altogether, the scene was indescribable.
This took place on the evening of the 6th of April.
The main body of the Federal
army was now closing round Lee
, and it was only by obstinate and persistent fighting that he was able to continue his retreat.
Everywhere the Federal
forces were confronted by his excellently served artillery; and the thin lines of infantry, marching on the flanks of the trains, met and repulsed every attack with the old spirit of the Army of Northern Virginia.
In hunger, and thirst, and weariness, and retreat, these veteran troops stood by their colours without a murmur, and fought as admirably as when carrying all before them, and flushed with victory.
Others, however, were less constant; rather, let us say, less physically competent.
They fell out of the ranks by hundreds, overcome by hunger and exhaustion; or, what was equally bad, they dropped their heavy guns and cartridge boxes, and straggled along, a useless, cumbrous mob. On the morning of the 7th, beyond Farmville
, the Federal
cavalry made continuous and desperate onslaughts on the train, throwing everything into confusion.
The teamsters, always the least soldierly portion of an army, became panic-stricken, and the terrible roads increased a thousand-fold the difficulties of the march.
Wagons were captured or abandoned all along, in spite of hard fighting, and from this time the retreat became a scene of disorder which no longer left any ground for hope.
I intended to describe it, but the subject is too disagreeable.
Let some other eye-witness place upon record these last scenes of a great tragedy.
On the 7th, General Grant
opened his correspondence with General Lee
, stating that the result of the march, so far, must have convinced him of “the hopelessness of further resistance;” and this correspondence continued until the morning of the 9th, General Lee
refusing to surrender the army.
But his condition was hopeless.
The Confederate forces were reduced to 7,800 muskets, and Grant
had in General Lee
's front 80,000 men, with a reserve of 40,000 or 50,000, which would arrive in twenty-four hours. These odds were too great; and although General Gordon
drove them a mile with his thin line half an hour before the surrender, the Federal
forces continued to close in and extend their cordon of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, until the Southern
army was almost completely surrounded.
's line slowly fell back before this overwhelming force, and the moment seemed to have come when the Old guard of the Army of Northern Virginia would be called upon to crown its historic fame by a last charge and a glorious death.
These men would have died with Lee
without a murmur, fighting to the last; but any such wanton sacrifice of human life, without any imaginable use, was far from the thoughts of the great soldier.
He had fought as long as he could, and done all in his power to extricate his army from a position in which it had been placed by no fault of his. Now he did not hesitate in his course.
At first he had recoiled from the idea of surrender when it was suggested to him by, I think, General Pendelton
This officer had informed him that his corps commanders were unanimously of opinion that surrender was inevitable; but he had exclaimed, greatly shocked, “Surrender!
I have too many good fighting men for that!”
Now the current had set too strongly against him, and he was forced to yield.
The army, with less than eight thousand muskets, a very short supply of ammunition, and almost nothing to eat, was at Appomattox Court-House, in the bend of the James-wholly impassable without pontoons-and on every side the great force of General Grant
was contracting and closing in. A Federal force had seized considerable supplies of rations, sent down by railroad from Lynchburg
; and this force now took its position in front of the Confederate army, slowly moving by the left flank toward
. General Custer
, who seemed to be greatly elated on this occasion, and to enjoy the result keenly, stated to Confederate officers that Grant
's force amounted to eighty thousand men, and that a heavy reserve was coming up.
Under these circumstances General Lee
determined to surrender his army, and did so, on condition that the officers and men should be paroled, to go to their homes and remain undisturbed by “United States
authorities” as long as they remained quiet and peaceable citizens.
Officers and men were to retain their private property, and the former their side-arms.
Such was the Convention
The Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered!
Strange, incredible announcement!
The effect which it produced upon the troops is hard to describe.
They seemed to be stupefied and wholly unable to realize the idea.
, the invincible, to yield up his sword was an incredible thing; and when the troops could no longer have any doubt, men who had fought in twenty battles, and faced death with unshrinking nerve, cried like children.
To yield is a terrible thing — a bitter humiliation; and if the private soldiers felt it so keenly, we may imagine the feelings of the leader who was thus called upon to write that word “Surrender” at the end of so great a career.
He had said once that he “intended for himself to die sword in hand;” but now not even this was permitted him. He must sacrifice his men or surrender, and he decided without difficulty or hesitation.
If there are any poor creatures so mean as to chuckle at this spectacle of a great man letting fall the sword which has never been stained by bad faith or dishonour, they can indulge their merriment.
The men who had fought the illustrious leader upon many battle-fields — who had given and taken hard blows in the struggle-did not laugh that day.
The scenes which took place between General Lee
and his men were indescribably pathetic.
I shall not speak of them, except to
say that the great heart of the soldier seemed moved to its depths.
He who had so long looked unmoved upon good fortune and bad, and kept, in the midst of disaster and impending ruin, the equanimity of a great and powerful soul, now shed tears like a child.
“I have done what I thought was best for you,” he said to the men. “My heart is too full to speak; but I wish you all health and happiness.”
It may be asked why I have omitted from my sketch the scene of surrender.
There was no such scene, except afterwards when the troops stacked arms and marched off. The real surrender was an event which was felt, not seen.
It was nothing apparently; the mere appearance of a Federal column waving a white flag, and halting on a distant hill.
But the tragic event was read in the faces of all. No guns in position with that column so near; no line of battle; no preparations for action!
A dreamy, memorial sadness seemed to descend through the April air and change the scene.
Silence so deep that the rustle of the leaves could be heard --and Longstreet
's veterans, who had steadily advanced to attack, moved back like mourners.
There was nothing visible in front but that distant column, stationary behind its white flag.
No band played, no cheer was heard; the feelings of the Southern
troops were spared; but there were many who wanted to die then.
This retreat was a terrible episode of military life, unlike any which the present writer ever before saw; but he does not regret having borne his part in its hardships, its sufferings, and its humiliations.
He is glad to have seen the struggle out under Lee
, and to have shared his fate.
The greatness and nobility of soul which characterize this soldier were all shown conspicuously in that short week succeeding the evacuation of Petersburg
He had done his best, and accepted his fate with manly courage, and that erect brow which dares destiny to do her worst; or rather, let us say, he had bowed submissively to the decree of that God in whom he had ever placed his reliance.
, the victor upon many hard-fought fields, was a great figure; but he is no less grand in defeat, poverty, and adversity.
Misfortune crowns a
man in the eyes of his contemporaries and in history; and the South
is prouder of Lee
to-day, and loves him more, than in his most splendid hours of victory.