Chapter 25: spring of 1865.

We are near the end of the tremendous struggle for Southern independence.

In the last month of winter the famous Hampton Roads' Conference was held between President Lincoln and the Southern Commissioners. The only terms offered were unconditional submission to the Federal authorities, and it proved an utter failure. In Richmond gloom and anxiety filled the minds of the people. The noble army of Gen. Lee, reduced to thirty thousand men, had a line forty miles long in front of Gen. Grant, with his splendidly equipped force of a hundred and fifty thousand men. Gen. Johnston, in command of the remnant of Hood's army and portions of other forces, could count only twenty-five thousand men to confront forty thousand, flushed with victory, moving from th. South under Gen. Sherman.

In the midst of disasters, and under the thickening gloom of war clouds, the people of the South lifted up their voice to Him that ruleth the nations. The President, in accordance with a resolution of the Confederate Congress, appointed the 10th day of March as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, with thanksgiving. In the spirit of a Christian patriot he addressed his proclamation to the suffering people of the Confederate States:

It is our solemn duty, at all times, and more especially in a season of public trial and adversity, to acknowledge our dependence on His mercy, and to bow in humble submission before His footstool, confessing our manifold sins, supplicating His gracious pardon, imploring His divine help, and devoutly rendering thanks for [416] the many and great blessings which he has vouchsafed to us.

Let the hearts of our people turn contritely and trustfully unto God; let us recognize in his chastening hand the correction of a Father, and submissively pray that the trials and sufferings which have so long borne heavily upon us may be turned away by his merciful love; that his sustaining grace be given to our people, and his Divine wisdom imparted to our rulers; that the Lord of Hosts will be with our armies, and fight for us against our enemies; and that he will graciously take our cause into his own hand and mercifully establish for us a lasting, just, and honorable peace and independence.

And let us not forget to render unto his holy name the thanks and praise which are so justly due for his great goodness, and for the many mercies which he has extended to us amid the trials and sufferings of protracted and bloody war.

To this earnest call there came a response from all parts of the South. In the churches, in the hospitals, in the camps and in the trenches, thousands bowed in humble prayer for the blessing and mercy of God.

And, as in earlier periods of the war, many of the brightest examples of endurance and faith were found in the army. The anchor of hope held more securely as the storm increased. The serene courage and perfect trust of Christian soldiers were the richest legacies of those gloomy days. The Rev. Thomas A. Ware, of the M E. Church, South, who labored with untiring zeal as a Chaplain in the army of Northern Virginia, gives a vivid picture of a scene after a day of blood. In the midst of the surgeon's work, as he spoke to the sufferers stretched upon the ground, his ear caught the soft murmur of prayer.

“I turned,” he says, “to catch the words. I saw one form bent over another, prostrate on the grass, until the [417] lips of the suppliant nearly touched the pale face of the sufferer. ‘Oh, precious Redeemer!’ he said, ‘we thank thee for thy abounding grace, which of late brought him from the ways of folly and sin to know and love thee, and that now makes this dark hour the brightest of his life Be thou graciously with him to the end. Mercifully pour into the hearts of his dear ones at home the balm of thy love and, sweetly resigning them to thy will, bring them all at last to meet him in heaven.’ The prayer was ended. ‘Amen,’ murmured the faded lips. The Chaplain recognized me, and gave me an introduction to the dying man. ‘I trust you are a Christian, my friend,’ said I, ‘and that even now you are resigned and happy.’ ‘Oh, yes,’ he said. ‘I entered the army a wicked man, but I must tell you now of the influence of a good sister. Will you please unroll my knapsack, sir, and get me a letter lying on my clothes? I wish you to read it to me. I have often read it, but you will be so kind as to read it to me now.’ I obeyed. The touching appeal for patriotism and piety, especially the entreaties for the latter, couched in all the tender sentiments of a sister's love, evoked frequent ejaculations of prayer that ‘God would reward and bless her forever.’ ‘Oh, sir,’ he said, ‘her precious letters have proven my salvation. Thank God for such a sister.’ Soon after the manly form lay cold and stiff on the ground, and the spirit, leaving the impress of its rapture on the up-turned face, went with the angels to heaven to await the coming of its best beloved.”

Not only the veterans, but the boys, died in faith and glorious hope.

“As I walked over a battle-field,” says a writer,

I found an interesting boy, who was rolled in his blanket, and resting his head against a stump. He had been fearfully wounded through the lungs; his breath came painfully; and his broken arm hung helplessly at his side. His lips were pallid from loss of blood, and it [418] seemed as though such pain and exhaustion would quickly wear his life away. I said:

“My dear boy, you are severely wounded.”

“Yes; I am going to die.”

“Wouldn't you like to have me write to your mother?”

“Yes! I do,” he eagerly said; “you will write to her, won't you? Tell my mother I have read my Testament and put all my trust in the Lord. Tell her to meet me in heaven, and my brother Charlie too. I am not afraid to die.”

And then, exhausted by the effort, the head fell back and the eyes closed again. Several soldiers had gathered about, attracted by the patient heroism of the boy; and that sermon from those white lips was a swift witness to them of the power of the religion of Jesus. Strong men turned away to hide their tears as they saw that young soul, strengthened and cheered in its agony by the hopes of the gospel. It was not hard to assure him of Christ's love and remembrance, and lead him still closer to the Cross. At length the eyes opened again:

Tell my mother that I was brave, that I never flinched a bit.

We cannot forbear to record a rare instance of the devotion of a soldier to the spiritual welfare of his comrades in his last hours:

W. E. Howard, of Douglass' Battery, a soldier from Texas,

says Dr. J. B. McFerrin, “was converted in one of our revivals in the army and became an active, zealous Christian. During one of the fights last fall he was mortally wounded. Before his death he requested his effects converted into cash and applied to the cause of Christianity in the Army of Tennessee, especially in circulating religious reading among the soldiers. Lieutenant Harden thinks when all is realized there will be about eight hundred or one thousand dollars to dispose of in this way.”

Of all who adhered most firmly to our cause in the [419] darkly closing days of the struggle, the women of the South have the noblest record. By their letters from homes, where they were pinched with want, they infused just courage into the hearts of fathers, husbands, and brothers, and held many a desponding soldier to the post of duty. The same writer, from whom we have quoted, says:

“ If I were to go home without leave,” said a Colonel to me yesterday, “my wife, though I am sure as anxious to see me as it is possible I should be to get home, would send me back.” You are right, sir, 'tis home influences that make us, under God, what we are. If a man falter, they at home are apt to be responsible. Depression is rather reflected from home on the army than from the army home.

“You know the circumstances,” said an enraged soldier to me as to “a father confessor,” asking my advice as to a rash act to which he felt he had justifiable provocation. “Do you think my dear wife would think any the less of me if I did it?” “She may not censure,” I replied, “but she must regret. The heart of your dear wife would perhaps cling to you even in folly and crime, but you may break that heart.” The appeal was sufficient. “Sir,” said he, “I'll take your advice — I'll desist.”

The women of the South were never happier than when serving the soldiers. On every great highway there were open houses for the weary, wounded, hungry, and footsore, where rest, and food to the very last quart of meal and pound of meat, were freely tendered. Speaking of what he saw at “Sunshine,” the residence of Bishop George F. Pierce, near Sparta, Ga., Dr. E. H. Myers says:

Bishop Pierce keeps the apostolic rule that a Bishop must be a lover of hospitality,” in which good work he is nobly seconded by a wife whose time seems almost wholly given to providing for the weary, wayfaring soldier. While I was at “Sunshine,” the current of travel [420] had somewhat slacked, yet, even then, the callers were at the rate of from twenty to thirty a day. Tired soldiers, wounded soldiers, want a shelter for the night; hungry soldiers want a lunch or a full meal; sick soldiers want a glass of milk, or some little delicacy; and these wants recur, not at regular meal-time, but at all hours of the day, and sometimes of the night. A ld the applicants are not denied. What though the cook is at work, with extra help, all day? The supply of prepared food must be kept up, and every needy case must receive attention. And thus has it been at “Sunshine” since November, and thus must it be until another route for travel is opened.

Such scenes were daily repeated in thousands of Southern homes.

The truly devout spirit that pervaded the armies of the South in the last days of the war could not be more fully shown than in the following resolutions adopted by Benning's, Bryan's, Wofford's, Anderson's, and Evans', brigades of Georgia troops:

Resolved, 1st. That we hereby acknowledge the sinfulness of our past conduct as a just and sufficient ground for the displeasure of Almighty God; and that, earnestly repenting of our sins, we are determined, by his grace, to amend our lives for the future; and, in earnest supplication to God, through the mediation of his Son, Jesus Christ, we implore the forgiveness of our sins and seek the Divine favor and protection.

Resolved, 2nd. That we earnestly and sincerely request our friends in Georgia to remember us in all their supplications at a throne of grace: praying that we may be enabled to continue steadfast in the foregoing resolve; that we may secure, through Divine grace, the salvation of our souls; that God may preserve our lives through the coming campaign, nerve our arms in freedom's contest, and crown our labors, privations, and toils, with Southern independence, peace, and prosperity.

“These resolutions,” says Rev. T. B. Harden, “were [421] unanimously adopted in every instance except one, and then there was but one vote in the negative.”

The same spirit animated a large majority of the soldiers in other armies of the Confederacy, as they nobly stood with daily decreasing numbers in the darkly closing days of the war. Richmond, the centre of t!e struggle, was destined soon to hear the tramp of the last regiment of Southern soldiers as they departed southward across her burning bridges. A picture of the city at this period will not be out of place. As the capital of the Confederacy it was the point; to which all eyes were turned. The various government offices added thousands to the population. Refugees crowded in from all parts of the State and from other States, until her population reached to nigh a hundred thousand. Nearly every dwelling-house was packed from cellar to garret. Beautiful women, refined and educated, and accustomed to all the luxuries of life, cleaned their own rooms, cooked their own meals, and endured all the privations of war with a patience, cheerfulness, and courage unsurpassed in the history of any people. A writer, from the midst of the scenes he describes, says:

All the government departments are filled with fair workers. The most accomplished find employment in the War, Post Office, Commissary, and other departments requiring recording clerks, while others labor in the clothing and other inferior bureaus. Even the government telegraph office has its fair bevy of fair operators. Those who cannot obtain such positions as are mentioned betake themselves to the Confederate laboratory, or if no government employment can be had, turn a willing hand to any business which can earn them an honorable support. Not one of this vast crowd of refugee ladies is to be seen at the doors of the charitable institutions of Richmond. With a self-reliance which reaches sublimity, they depend wholly upon their own exertions in their hour of need. [422]

Many of these ladies are the descendants of the Masons, Henrys, Tylers, Tazewells, Randolphs, Wythes, Prestons, McDowells, Smythes, Paxtons, and other families of the Old Dominion, whose names are historic. Their ancestral homes are desolate or in ruins. Fire and sword, shot and shell, have made homes once blooming gardens of beauty, a blackened desolation. But there are no tears shed by the fair beings who are reduced to poverty. They think that from woman's lips should fall no murmur of complaint while soldiers brave all the hardships of war, in defence of the Old Commonwealth and her sister States of the Confederacy.

The condition of the Confederacy at this time cannot be conceived of by any one who did not live there as an actor in the bloody drama, now so near its close. The Federal armies drew nearer to the coveted Capital and to all the important lines of communication with the sister States of the South. They were daily growing stronger, while General Lee's army was daily growing weaker. The last desperate resolve was to ask the owners of slaves to send them to the camps of instruction to be drilled for soldiers. The proportion called for was twenty-five per cent. of all the male slaves between the ages of 18 and 45 in each State. General orders were issued relative to the treatment of these slave soldiers. The officers were ordered “to bestow humane attention to whatever concerned their health, comfort, and discipline — to a uniform observance of kindness and forbearance in their treatment, and to protect them from injustice and oppression.” No slave was to be accepted as a recruit, unless with the owner's consent, by written instrument, confirming, as far as he might, the rights of freemen. But at the late period of the war when this scheme was adopted it was not possible to put it into execution, and it may be well doubted whether at an earlier date it would have been successful.

The evident purpose of General Grant to move his [423] left wing far enough to the south of Petersburg to cut General Lee's most valuable railroad line induced the Confederate leader to attack the Federals on their right, near the Appomattox river. The Confederates assaulted with their usual valor, and carried two lines of works and one or two heavy forts, but the Federals massed their artillery, and poured in so terrible an enfilading fire as to compel a speedy evacuation of the captured lines. Five Forks, fought on the first of April, compelled the evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond.

General Lee dispatched to President Davis that his lines had been hopelessly broken, and that the city should be immediately evacuated. This sad news was received by the President as he sat in his pew on Sunday morning in St. Paul's church. That night he left the city with the members of his Cabinet and the attaches of the several departments and retired to Danville. From that place he issued a stirring proclamation urging the Southern people to show that they were no less able to endure misfortune with fortitude than to encounter danger with courage. In a few hours after the departure of the government Richmond was in flames, and “all the hopes of the Southern Confederacy were consumed in one day, as a scroll in the fire.” In the midst of the awful conflagration the Federal troops marched in and gazed upon the funeral pile of Southern hopes.

In the meanwhile General Lee, with the remnant of his army, was struggling through deep and miry roads towards Farmville.

He hoped to be able to reach Danville and establish a new defensive line along the Roanoke and Dan rivers, but the Federals, fresh and well-equipped, moving rapidly with heavy cavalry forces by parallel roads on his left, cut off that line of retreat, and the only alternative was to push directly to Lynchburg. The dispirited, weary and famished Confederates dropped out of ranks [424] constantly as their lines straggled along the wretched roads, until less than ten thousand remained when they reached Appomattox Courthouse. But they stood ready in their pitiable condition to give battle at the signal of their Chief to the powerful army that was closing around them.

Those who were of that band of heroes know with what bitterness of grief they learned that their last line of retreat was cut off, and that the leader whom they loved as children love a father, rather than spill their blood in vain, had determined to surrender the fragment of the Army of Northern Virginia. Strong men sat down and cried like children; some, it is said, stuck their swords into the ground and snapped them asunder, while not a few made ready to escape through the closing lines of the Federals, for the purpose of joining the forces of Gen. Johnston in North Carolina.

The impression made upon the minds of the Federal officers and soldiers is given in the following extract from an oration before the Society of the Army of the Potomac, delivered by General Stewart L. Woodford, of New York:

The morning crept slowly on-first into gray dawn, then into rosy flush. Still on! Still on! The mist crept upward and into line you wheeled, and on your musket lay down, each man in place, to get scant rest, which, even in terrible marching, you neither sought nor heeded. You were squarely across Lee's front, and had closed forever his last line of retreat.

The enemy, reaching your cavalry advance, saw the serried line of Union troopers. Gordon gathered and massed his men for their last charge. Tattered and hungry, worn by ceaseless marching and fighting with no hope of victory, with little possible hope of escape, they closed their lines with fidelity of discipline and soldierly resolution, to which words can do little justice, but which each soldier's heart must recognize and honor. [425]

As the old guard closed around their Emperor at Waterloo, so those men closed around the flags of their lost cause. My heart abhors their treason. But it warms beyond restraint to their manhood so grandly brave, even in disloyalty. Slowly they advanced to their last attack. No battle yell, no crack of the skirmisher's rifle broke the strange stillness of that Sabbath morn. Steadily, silently they came when Sheridan drew back his horsemen, as parts some mighty curtain, and there stood the close formed battalions of infantry, the cannon gleaming in the openings, quietly awaiting the coming of Gordon's men.

Instinctively your enemy halted. Meanwhile Lee has turned back to meet Grant and surrendered his command. Sheridan swung his cavalry around upon Gordon's left and was about to charge, when Custer reached Longstreet. Assurance of surrender was given, and the end bad come.

The Sabbath day, with tears and in sorrow, Southern men folded the banners of the “Lost cause,” and their bravest and best sought honorably to bury them from sight forever.

How sad it is that poor ambitions, jealousies of race, the wretched greed of pelf and place, and the miserable hates of social rivalries should so often disturb the hearty reconciliation of that surrender, and for a time revive the bitterness which you then sought to bury in a common grave.

The interview between Generals Grant and Lee has often been described. We give the following from Gen. George H. Snarp, who was a member of General Grant's staff, and who witnessed the scene:

They met in the parlor of a small brown house Gen. Grant sat in a rocking chair, not appearing to the best advantage, as he was without his sword, and his coat was buttoned up so carelessly that buttons and button-holes were in the wrong places. Lee sat proud and majestic, [426] dressed in a new uniform that he probably then wore for the first time, every particle of his dress neat and soldier-like, down to the well-polished spurs. Grant apologized for not being equipped, having ridden out without his sword. Lee bore himself with composure, and betrayed his agitation only when the roar of 400 guns proclaimed the victory of the Union. Then General Lee glanced reproachfully toward Grant, as though to say, ‘You might have spared me this.’

The news of General Lee's surrender reached Mr. Davis at Danville on the 10th of April. He went thence to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he met Generals Johnston and Beauregard, both of whom assured him that in their judgment it was useless to continue the struggle. The surrender of General Johnston followed a few days after this interview, and all resistance to the Federal armies east of the Mississippi ceased. The army west of that river, under General Kirby Smith, soon after laid down its arms, and the great civil war was ended.

It is a noteworthy fact, and one that speaks well for the character of the American people, that the soldiers on both sides returned so quietly to the pursuits of a peaceful life after the disbanding of the armies. Throughout the South “almost every cross road,” says an eminent writer, “witnessed the separation of comrades in arms, who had long shared the perils and privations of a terrible struggle, now seeking their homes to resume their pursuits as peaceful citizens. Endeared to each other by their ardent love for a common cause, their words of parting, few and brief, were words of warm, fraternal affection; pledges of endless regard, and mutual promises to meet again.”

In closing our narrative the question arises, were the fruits of the army revivals enduring? To this question thousands can this day, more than twelve years after the banners of the South were furled, give an emphatic affirmative [427] response. In all the churches of the South there are earnest, devout and active Christians, who date their spiritual birth from some revival in Virginia, in the West, or in the far South. And before them vividly rises the rude camp church, the gathering throngs from the various commands, the hearty singing, the simple and earnest prayers, the tender appeals of the loved chaplain, urging all who stand on the perilous edge of battle to fly for refuge to the Friend of sinners, the responsive approach to the place of prayer, the sobs, the groans, the tears of men who could look steadily into the cannon's mouth, the bright faces, the shouts and hand-shaking, and embraces of new-born souls-these are the bright spots to which memory returns and delights to dwell upon in that dark period that drenched the land in blood and put a load of grief upon every household.

Strange as it may seem to many readers, the call to preach the gospel of Christ came to the hearts of the men of war on the tented field; and no sooner were their carnal weapons laid aside than they buckled on the Divine armor, and, seizing the sword of the Spirit, entered the battle against the powers of darkness. In this we find one of the strongest proofs of the genuineness of the Army Revival. Truly, its fruits are still enduring. Thousands who were participants in that glorious and, to some, strange work, have passed the flood of death and are seen no more among men, but the seed they sowed in trench and camp and hospital, in the bivouac, and on the weary march, was watered from above and has borne a rich harvest. And may we not hope that the full fruition of this work is to be realized in that era of peace and good will which is even now descending upon our common country? [428]

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