Still the day was not wholly lost to the South, had her men not given way to causeless panic. Left and right followed center—lost all order and fell back almost in flight. Then the scattered and demoralized army was saved from utter ruin, only by the admirable manner in which Cleburne covered that rout-like retreat, day after day; finally beating back Thomas' advance so heavily that pursuit was abandoned.
Missionary Ridge cost the South near 8,000 men; all the Chickamauga artillery and more; and the coveted key-position to the situation. But it cost, besides, what could even less be spared; some slight abatement in the popular confidence in our troops, under all trials heretofore. Reasoning from their dislike to General Bragg, people and press declared that the men had been badly handled through the whole campaign; yet—so inured were they to the ragged boys fighting successfully both the enemy and our own errors—there came general bad augury from the panic of Missionary Ridge.
Mr. Davis had visited Bragg's army, after the howl that went up on his failure to press Rosecrans. On his return, the President appeared satisfied and hopeful; he authorized statement that the delay after Chickamauga was simply strategic; and the impression went abroad that Bragg and he had affected combinations now, which would leave Grant only the choice between retreat and destruction.
If these tactics meant the detaching of Longstreet—said thoughtful critics—then are combination and suicide convertible terms!
Neither was public feeling much cheered by the aspect of the war in Virginia. Lee and Meade coquetted for position, without definite result; the former—weakened by Longstreet's absence—striving to slip between Meade and Washington; the latter aiming to flank and mass behind Lee, on one of the three favorite routes to Richmond. The fall and winter wore away with these desultory movements; producing many a sharp skirmish, but nothing more resultful. These offered motif for display of dash and military tact on both sides; that at Kelly's Ford, on the Rapidan—where the Federals caught the Confederates unprepared—showing the hardest hitting with advantage on the Union side. The compliment was exchanged, by a decisive southern success at Germania Ford; but the resultless fighting dispirited and demoralized the people, while it only harassed and weakened the army. Both looked to the great shock to come; forces for which were gathering, perhaps unseen and unheard, yet felt by that morbid prescience which comes in the supreme crises of life.
The trans-Mississippi was now absolutely cut off from participation in the action of the eastern Confederacy; almost equally so from communication with it. Still that section held its own, in the warfare peculiar to her people and their situation. Quick concentrations; sharp, bloody fights—skirmishes in extent, but battles in exhibition of pluck and endurance—were of constant occurrence. Kirby Smith—become almost a dictator through failure of communication—administered his department with skill, judgment and moderation. Husbanding his internal resources, he even established—in the few accessible ports, defiant of blockade—a system of foreign supply; and "Kirby Smithdom"—as it came to be called—was, at this time, the best provisioned and prepared of the torn and stricken sections of the Confederacy.
Note has been made of the improvement of Federal cavalry; and of their raids, that struck terror and dismay among the people. During the winter of '63-'64, Averill penetrated the heart of Virginia, scattering destruction in his path; and, though he retired before cavalry sent to pursue him—he even shot his horses as they gave out, in the forced flight—his expedition had accomplished its object. It had proved that no point of harassed territory was safe from Federal devastation; that the overtaxed and waning strength of the South was insufficient to protect them now!
Gradually—very gradually—this blight of doubt and dissatisfaction began to affect the army; and—while it was no longer possible to fill their places by new levies—some of the men already at the front began to skulk, and even to desert.
Though still uncondoned, the crime of these was roughly urged upon them; for imagination brought to the ears of all, the shriek of the distant wife, insulted by the light of her burning roof and turned starving and half-clothed, into the snowy midnight! And all the more honor was it to the steadfast that they held out—dogged but willing—to the bitter end; fighting as man had not fought before—not only against their enemy—not only against their own natural impulses—but against hope, as well!
For the mass of that grand, tattered and worn army never faltered; and only their enduring patriotism—backed as it was by selfless energy of their home people—availed to make up for the lost opportunities of the Government!
In Congress was vacillation, discord, vacuity; while the people were goaded to the absurd charge, that some of its members were traitors! But the great diplomat has graven the truth, that an error may be worse than a crime; and the errors of the Confederate Congress—from alpha to omega—were born of weakness and feeble grasp on the prompt occasions of a great strife, like this which so submerged their littleness.
It is in some sort at the door of Congress that the head of the government, harassed by overwork, distracted by diverse trifles—each one too vital to entrust to feeble subordinates; buffeted by the gathering surge without and dragged down by the angry undertow within, lost his influence, and with it his power to save!
The beginning of the end had come upon the South. Her stoutest and bravest hearts still,
"Like muffled drums, were beating Funeral marches to the grave!"
THE UPPER AND NETHER MILLSTONES.
From the earliest moment General Grant assumed command in the West, the old idea of bisecting the Confederacy seems to have monopolized his mind. The oft-tried theory of "drilling the heart of the Rebellion"—by cutting through to the Atlantic seaboard—had never been lost sight of, but in Grant's hands it was to be given practical power and direction.
To effect that object, it was essential to make North Georgia the objective point; and North Georgia—now as ever—offered a stubborn and well-nigh insurmountable barrier. But the northern War Department was now fully impressed with the importance of crushing the spine of the Confederacy; and the fact was as clearly realized in the North, as in the South, that the vital cord of Confederate being ran from Atlanta to Richmond! Therefore, every facility of men and material was furnished the commander, who at that moment stood out—in reflected lights from Vicksburg and Missionary Ridge—as the military oracle of the North; and he was urged to press this design of the campaign to a vigorous and speedy issue.
During the winter of 1863-64, General Grant incubated his grand scheme, and with the month of February brought forth a quadruple brood of ridiculous mice.
His plan—in itself a good and sound one—was to secure a permanent base nearer than the Mississippi. To accomplish this he must first secure Mobile, as a water base, and connect that with some defensible point inland. At the same time that this attempt was made—and while the troops guarding the passway into Georgia might be diverted—Thomas, commanding the Chattanooga lines, was to advance against that point.
The plan was undoubtedly sound, but the general's want of balance caused him to overweight it, until its own ponderousness was its destruction. On the 1st of February, Sherman, with a splendidly-appointed force of 35,000 infantry, and corresponding cavalry and artillery, marched out of Vicksburg; to penetrate to Mobile, or some other point more accessible, on the line of the proposed new base. Simultaneously a heavy force approached the city from New Orleans; Smith and Grierson, with a strong body of cavalry, penetrated Northern Mississippi; and Thomas made his demonstration referred to.
Any candid critic will see that four converging columns, to be effective, should never have operated so far away from their point of convergence, and so far separated from each other. The enterprise was gigantic; but its awkwardness equaled its strength, and its own weight broke its back.
Sherman, harassed by cavalry and skirmishers—advanced in solid column; while Polk, with his merely nominal force, was unable to meet him. But the latter fell back in good order; secured his supplies, and so retarded his stronger adversary, that he saved all the rolling-stock of the railroads. When he evacuated Meridian, that lately busy railroad center was left a worthless prize to the captor.
Meantime Forrest had harassed the cavalry force of Smith and Grierson, with not one-fourth their numbers; badly provided and badly mounted. Yet he managed to inflict heavy loss and retard the enemy's march; but finally—unable to wait the junction of S. D. Lee, to give the battle he felt essential—Forrest, on the 20th February, faced the Federal squadrons. Confident of an easy victory over the ragged handful of dismounted skirmishers, the picked cavalry dashed gaily on. Charge after charge was received only to be broken—and Forrest was soon in full pursuit of the whipped and demoralized columns. Only once they turned, were heavily repulsed, and then continued their way to Memphis.
This check of his co-operating column and the utter fruitlessness of his own march, induced a sudden change of Sherman's intent. He fell rapidly back to Vicksburg; his army perhaps more worn, broken and demoralized by the desultory attentions of ours, than it would have been by a regular defeat.
Meantime the New Orleans-Pensacola expedition had danced on and off Mobile without result. Thomas had been so heavily repulsed on the 25th, that he hastily withdrew to his lines at Chickamauga—and the great campaign of General Grant had resulted in as insignificant a fizz as any costly piece of fireworks the war produced.
On the contrary, history will give just meed to Forrest, Lee and Polk for their efficient use of the handfuls of ill-provided men, with whom alone they could oppose separate and organized armies. They saved Alabama and Georgia—and so, for the time, saved the Confederacy. There could be no doubt that the sole safety of the invading columns was their numerical weakness. General Grant's practice of a perfectly sound theory was clearly a gross blunder; and had Polk been in command of two divisions more—had Lee been able to swoop where he only hovered—or had Forrest's ragged boys been only doubled in number—the story told in Vicksburg would have been even less flattering to the strategic ability of the commander.
As it was, he had simply made a bad failure, and given the South two months' respite from the crushing pressure he was yet to apply. For the pet scheme of the North was but foiled—not ruined; and her whole power sang but the one refrain—Delenda est Atlanta!
And those two months could not be utilized to much effect by the South. Worn in resources, supplies—in everything but patient endurance, she still came forth from the dark doubts the winter had raised, hopeful, if not confident; calm, if conscious of the portentous clouds lowering upon her horizon.
Meanwhile, Grant, elevated to a lieutenant-generalcy, had been transferred to the Potomac frontier; and men, money, supplies—without stint or limit—had been placed at his disposal.
On the 1st February, Mr. Lincoln had called for 500,000 men; and on the 14th March for 200,000 more!
General Grant, himself, testified to the absolute control given him, in a letter to Mr. Lincoln, under date of 1st May, '64—from Culpeper C. H., which concludes: "I have been astonished at the readiness with which everything asked for has been granted without any explanation being asked. Should my success be less than I desire and expect, the least I can say is, that the fault is not with you."
With these unlimited resources, he was given almost unlimited power; and the jubilant North crowed as loudly as it had before Manassas, the Seven Days, or Fredericksburg.
In Richmond all was quiet. The Government had done all it could, and the people had responded with a generous unanimity that ignored all points of variance between it and them. All the supplies that could be collected and forwarded, under the very imperfect systems, were sent to the armies; all the arms that could be made, altered or repaired, were got ready; and every man not absolutely needed elsewhere—with the rare exceptions of influence and favoritism openly defying the law—was already at the front.
And seeing that all was done as well as might be, the Capital waited—not with the buoyant hopefulness of the past—but with patient and purposeful resolve.
And the ceaseless clang of preparation, cut by the ceaseless yell of anticipated triumph, still echoed over the Potomac—ever nearer and ever louder. Then, by way of interlude, on the 28th March, came the notorious Dahlgren raid. Though Kilpatrick was demoralized and driven back by the reserves in the gunless works; though Custar's men retired before the furloughed artillerists and home guards; and though Dahlgren's picked cavalry were whipped in the open field by one-fourth their number of Richmond clerks and artisans!—boys and old men who had never before been under fire—still the object of that raid remains a blot even upon the page of this uncivilized warfare. It were useless to enter into details of facts so well and clearly proved. That the orders of Dahlgren's men were to release the prisoners, burn, destroy and murder, the papers found on his dead body showed in plainest terms.
No wonder, then, that many in Richmond drew comfort from soothing belief in special Providence, when three trained columns of picked cavalry were turned back in disgraceful flight, by a handful of invalids, old men and boys!
The feeling in Richmond against the raiders was bitter and universal. Little vindictive, in general, the people clamored that arson and murder—as set forth in Dahlgren's orders—merited more serious punishment than temporary detention and highflown denunciation. The action of the Government in refusing summary vengeance on the cavalrymen captured, was indubitably just and proper. Whatever their object, and whatever their orders, they were captured in arms and were but prisoners of war; and, besides, they had not really intended more than dozens of other raiders had actually accomplished on a smaller scale.
But the people would not see this. They murmured loudly against the weakness of not making these men an example. And more than one of the papers used this as the handle for violent abuse of the Government and of its chief.
At last all preparations were complete; and the northern army—as perfect in equipment, drill and discipline as if it had never been defeated—came down to the Rapidan.
Grant divided his army into three corps, under Hancock, Warren and Sedgwick; and on the 5th May, his advance crossed the river, only to find Lee quietly seated in his path. Then commenced that series of battles, unparalleled for bloody sacrifice of men and obstinacy of leader—a series of battles that should have written General Grant the poorest strategist who had yet inscribed his name on the long roll of reverses. And yet, by a strange fatality, they resulted in making him a hero to the unthinking masses of his countrymen.
Lee's right rested on the Orange road; and an attempt, after the crossing, to turn it, was obstinately repulsed during the entire day, by Heth and Wilcox. During the night Hancock's corps crossed the river, and next morning received a fierce assault along his whole line. The fighting was fierce and obstinate on both sides; beating back the right and left of Hancock's line, while sharply repulsed on the center (Warren's). Still his loss was far heavier than ours, and the result of the battles of the Wilderness was to put some 23,000 of Grant's men hors de combat; to check him and to force a change of plan at the very threshold of his "open door to Richmond." For next day (7th May) he moved toward Fredericksburg railroad, in a blind groping to flank Lee.
It is curious to note the different feeling in Washington and Richmond on receipt of the news. In the North—where the actual truth did not reach—there was wild exultation. The battles of the Wilderness were accounted a great victory; Lee was demoralized and would be swept from the path of the conquering hero; Grant had at last really found the "open door!" In Richmond there was a calm and thankful feeling that the first clinch of the deadly tug had resulted in advantage. Waning confidence in the valor of men, and discretion of the general, was strengthened, and a somewhat hopeful spirit began to be infused into the people. Still they felt there would be a deadlier strain this time than ever before, and that the fresh and increasing thousands of the North could be met but by a steadily diminishing few—dauntless, tireless and true—but still how weak! Yet there was no give to the southern spirit, and—as ever in times of deadliest strain and peril—it seemed to rise more buoyant from the pressure.
Next came the news of those fearful fights at Spottsylvania, on the 8th and 9th—in which the enemy lost three to our one—preceding the great battle of the 12th May. By a rapid and combined attack the enemy broke Lee's line, captured a salient with Generals Ed Johnson and George H. Stewart and part of their commands, and threatened, for the time, to cut his army in two. But Longstreet and Hill sent in division after division from the right and left, and the fight became general and desperate along the broken salient. The Yankees fought with obstinacy and furious pluck. Charge after charge was broken and hurled back. On they came again—ever to the shambles! Night fell on a field piled thick with bodies of the attacking force; in front of the broken salient was a perfect charnel-house!
By his own confession, Grant drove into the jaws of death at Spottsylvania over 27,000 men! But his object was, for the second time, utterly frustrated; and again he turned to the left—still dogged and obstinate—still seeking to flank Lee.
On the 14th, Grant was again repulsed so sharply that his advance withdrew; and then the "greatest strategist since Napoleon" struck out still for his cherished left; and, leaving "the open door," passed down the Valley of the Rappahannock.
Lee's calm sagacity foresaw the enemy's course, and on the 23d Grant met him face to face, in a strong position near the North Anna. Blundering upon Lee's lines, throwing his men blindly against works that were proved invincible, he was heavily repulsed in two attacks—with aggregate loss amounting to a bloody battle. Failing in the second attack (on the 25th) Grant swung off—still to the left—and crossing the Pamunkey two days later, took up strong position near Cold Harbor on the last day of May.
Lee also moved down to face Grant, throwing his works up on a slight curve extending from Atlee's, on the Central Railroad, across the old Cold Harbor field—averaging some nine miles from Richmond. Our general was satisfied with the results of the campaign thus far; the army was buoyant and confident, and the people were more reliant than they had been since Grant had crossed the Rapidan. They felt that the nearness of his army to Richmond in no sense argued its entrance into her coveted defenses; and memories of Seven Pines, and of that other Cold Harbor, arose to comfort them.
In the North, great was the jubilee. It was asserted that Grant could now crush Lee and capture his stronghold at a single blow; that the present position was only the result of his splendid strategy and matchless daring; and the vapid boast, "I will fight it out on this line if it takes all summer"—actually uttered while he was blindly groping his way, by the left, to the Pamunkey!—was swallowed whole by the credulous masses of the North. They actually believed that Grant's position was one of choice, not of necessity; and that Lee's movement to cover Richmond from his erratic advance—though it ever presented an unbroken front to him, and frequently drove him back with heavy loss—was still a retreat!
Both sides can look now calmly and critically at this campaign—seemingly without a fixed plan, and really so hideously costly in blood. When Grant crossed the Rapidan, he could have had no other intention than to sweep Lee from his front; and either by a crushing victory, or a forced retreat, drive him toward Richmond. Failing signally at the Wilderness, he abandoned this original plan and took up the Fredericksburg line. Here again the disastrous days of Spottsylvania foiled him completely; and he struck for the Tappahannock and Fort Royal line. Lee's emphatic repulse of his movement on the North Anna again sent Grant across the Pamunkey; and into the very tracks of McClellan two years before!
But there was one vast difference. McClellan had reached this base with no loss. Grant, with all McClellan's experience to teach him, had not reached this point at a cost of less than 70,000 men!
Had he embarked his troops in transports and sailed up the river, Grant might have landed his army at the White House in twenty-four hours; and that without the firing of a shot. But he had chosen a route that was to prove him not only the greatest strategist of the age, but the most successful as well. The difference of the two was simply this: he took twenty-six days instead of one; he fought nine bloody engagements instead of none; he made four separate changes in his digested plan of advance; and he lost 70,000 men to gain a position a condemned general had occupied two years before without a skirmish!
But the people of the North did not see this. They were only allowed partial reports of losses and changes of plan; they were given exaggerated statements of the damage done to Lee and of his dire strait; and the fact of Grant's proximity to the Rebel Capital was made the signal for undue and premature rejoicing. He was already universally declared the captor of Richmond, by a people willing to accept a fact with no thought of its cost; to accept a result for the causes that produced it.
But Grant was now in a position when he could not afford to await the slow course of siege operations. He could not allow time for the hubbub at the North to die away and reflection to take its place. Blood to him was no thicker than water; and he must vindicate the boasts of his blind admirers—cost thousands of lives though it might. Once more he marshaled his re-enforced ranks, only to hurl them into the jaws of death. For though worn away by the fearful friction of numbers—melted slowly in the fiery furnace of battle—the little Confederate force sat behind its works, grim, defiant—dangerous as ever!
Could Grant crush out that handful by the pure weight of his fresh thousands—could he literally hurl enough flesh and blood against it to sweep it before him—then the key of every road to Richmond was in his hands! So, on the morning of the 3d of June, Hancock's corps rushed to the assault.
Impetuous and fierce, the charge broke Breckinridge's line. Fresh men poured in and, for a moment, the works were in the enemy's hands. But it was only for a moment. They rallied, relief came—the conflict was fierce and close—but it was short. When the smoke rose, Hancock's line was broken and retreating. Again and again he rallied it splendidly, only to be hurled back each time with deadlier slaughter. On the other points Warren and Burnside had been driven back with terrible loss; and along the whole southern line the death-dealing volley into the retreating ranks rang the joyous notes of victory. Grant had played the great stake of his campaign and lost it!
He had lost it completely, and in an incredibly short time. Near 30,000 men told the horrid story of that ferocious hurling of flesh and blood against earthworks. Near one-fifth of his whole force had paid for his last great blunder, while the Confederate loss was less than one-tenth his own!
Even McClellan's line had failed the sledge-hammer strategist, and nothing was left but to transfer his army to the south side of the James. Lingering with dogged pertinacity on his slow retreat—turning at every road leading to the prize he yearned for, only to be beaten back—Grant finally crossed the river with his whole force on the 13th of June.
The great campaign was over. It had been utterly foiled at every point; had been four times turned into a new channel only to be more signally broken; and had ended in a bloody and decisive defeat that left Grant no alternative but to give up his entire plan and try a new one on a totally different line. For the southern arms it had been one unbroken success from the Rapidan to Cold Harbor; for though sometimes badly hurt, the Confederates had never once been driven from an important position; had never once failed to turn the enemy from his chosen line of advance—and had disabled at the least calculation 120,000 of his men at the cost of less than 17,000 of their own!
Such was the southern view, at the moment, of this campaign of invasion; as unparalleled in the history of war, as was that of Stonewall Jackson in the Valley. Such is the view of southern thinkers, to-day; and it is backed by the clearest judgment and calmest criticism of the North.
That success was made the test of merit; that attrition at last wore away unre-enforced resistance; that highest honors in life, and national sorrow in death, were rewards of a man—truly great in many regards, if justly measured; all these are no proof that General Grant was either a strategist, or a thinker; no denial that his Rapidan campaign—equally in its planning and its carrying out—was a bald and needlessly-bloody failure!
And, realizing this at the supreme moment, can it be wondered that the people of Richmond, as well as the victorious little army, grew hopeful once more? Is it strange that—mingled with thanksgivings for deliverance, unremitting care of the precious wounded, and sorrow for the gallant dead of many a Virginia home—there rose a solemn joyousness over the result, that crowned the toil, the travail and the loss?
And so the South, unrefreshed but steadfast, girded her loins for the new wrestle with the foe, now felt to be implacable!
"THE LAND OF DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH."
It is essential to a clear understanding of the events, directly preceding the fall of the Confederacy, to pause here and glance at the means with which that result was so long delayed, but at last so fully accomplished.
From official northern sources, we learn that General Grant crossed the Rapidan with three corps, averaging over 47,000 men. Therefore, he must have fought the battles of the Wilderness with at least 140,000 men. At that time the total strength of General Lee's morning report did not show 46,000 men for duty. Between the Wilderness and Spottsylvania, Grant was re-enforced to the extent of near 48,000 picked men; and again at Cold Harbor with near 45,000 more. Northern figures admit an aggregate of 97,000 re-enforcement between the Rapidan and the James! In that time, Lee, by the junction of Breckinridge and all the fragments of brigades he could collect, received less than 16,000 re-enforcement; and even the junction with Beauregard scarcely swelled his total additions over 20,000.
Grant's army, too, was composed of the picked veterans of the North—for his Government had accepted large numbers of hundred-day men for local and garrison duty, that all the seasoned troops might be sent him. Yet with an aggregate force of 234,000 men, opposed to a total of less than 63,000, General Grant failed signally in the plan, or plans of his campaign—losing in twenty-six days, and nine heavy fights and several skirmishes, seven men for one of General Lee's!
Can any candid thinker analyze these results and then believe Grant a strategist—a great soldier—anything but a pertinacious fighter? Can one realize that anything but most obstinate bungling could have swung such an army round in a complete circle—at a loss of over one-half of its numbers—to a point it could have reached in twenty-four hours, without any loss whatever? For the soldiers of the North, in this disastrous series of blunders, fought with constancy and courage. Beaten day after day by unfailing troops in strong works, they ever came again straight at those impregnable positions, against which obstinate stolidity, or blind rage for blood, drove them to the slaughter. Hancock's men especially seemed to catch inspiration from their chivalric leader. Broken and beaten at the Wilderness—decimated at Spottsylvania, they still were first in the deadly hail of Cold Harbor—breaking our line and holding it for a moment. Sedgwick and Warren, too—though the victim of unjust prejudice, if not of conspiracy—managed their corps with signal ability, in those ceaseless killings into which Grant's "strategy" sent them.
Nor was the immense superiority of numbers already shown, all. For this main advance—like every other of General Grant's—had co-operating columns all around it. Add to the men under his immediate command, those of the adjunct forces under his inspiration—Butler, 35,000, Hunter, 28,000 and Sigel, 10,000—and there foots up a grand total of 307,000 men!
We may, therefore, consider that General Lee, in the summer campaign of 1864, kept at bay and nullified the attack of 307,000 men with scarcely one-fifth their number; not exceeding 63,000!
 Some time after the notes were made, from which these figures are condensed, two articles on Grant's campaign appeared in print—one in the New York "World," the other, by Mr. Hugh Pleasants, in "The Land We Love" magazine. Writing from diametrically opposite standpoints, with data gathered from opposing sources, Mr. Pleasants and the "World" very nearly agree in their figuring; and it was gratifying to this author to find that both corroborated the above estimates to within very inconsiderable numbers. Later historical papers have not materially changed them; save, perhaps, some southern claims still further to reduce Lee's army.
While Grant was engaged in his pertinacious failures to flank Lee, General Sheridan—whose fame as a cavalry leader was already in the mouths of men in such pet names as "Little Phil" and "Cavalry Sheridan"—made a raid of considerable proportions toward Richmond. Flanking Lee upon the right, he proceeded over the North and South Anna, damaging the railroads at Beaver Dam and Ashland stations. Thence he moved toward Richmond, but was met at Yellow Tavern by General Stuart with a small body of his cavalry and a hastily-collected force of infantry. A sharp engagement resulted in forcing the enemy off; when he passed down the James to Turkey Island, where he joined Butler's forces.
But the fight had one result far more serious to the South—the death of General J. E. B. Stuart—the gallant and popular leader of Confederate cavalry; so ill to be spared in those days of watchful suspense to come, when General Lee keenly felt the loss of "the eyes of the army."
During the whole fight the sharp and continuous rattle of carbines, broken by the clear boom of field artillery, was distinctly heard in Richmond; and her defenseless women were long uncertain what the result would be. They knew nothing of the force that was attacking, nor of that which was defending their homes; every man was away save the aged and maimed—and the tortures of doubt and suspense were added to the accustomed strain of watching the end of the fight. When the news came there was deep thankfulness; but it was solemn and shadowed from the sorrow that craped the victory.
Meantime, General Sigel had threatened the Valley with a heavy force; but, in mid-May he had been met by General Breckinridge and was defeated with such loss of men and munitions, that he retreated precipitately across the Shenandoah. The co-operation of Sigel was virtually at an end.
But the more important co-operation had been equally unsuccessful. Simultaneously with Grant's passage of the Rapidan, General Butler, with an army of 35,000 men and a fleet of iron-clads, double-enders, gunboats and transports sufficient for a war with England, sailed up the James. This force was intended to proceed direct to Richmond, or to march into undefended Petersburg, as the case might seem best to warrant. The land forces disembarked at Bermuda Hundred and, after fortifying heavily on the line of Howlett's House, made serious demonstrations direct on Drewry's Bluff. Butler supposed that, the defenses being entirely uncovered by the drain of men for Lee's army, he could carry them with ease. In this hope he relied much upon the powerful aid of the fleet; but Admiral Lee, ascending in a double-ender, lost his pioneer-boat, the "Commodore Jones" and very nearly his own flag-ship, by a torpedo, opposite Signal Station. This stopped the advance of the fleet, as the river was supposed to be sown with torpedoes.
Nowise daunted, General Butler—like the true knight and chivalrous leader his entire career proves him to be—drew his line closer round the coveted stronghold. But on the 16th of May, Beauregard sallied out and struck the hero of New Orleans so suddenly and so sharply that he drove him, with heavy loss and utter demoralization, clear from his advanced lines to Bermuda Hundred. Only the miscarriage of a part of the plan, entrusted to a subordinate general, saved Butler's army from complete destruction.
As it was, he there remained "bottled up," until Grant's peculiar strategy had swung him round to Petersburg; and then the "bottle-imp" was released.
Seeing himself thus foiled on every hand—his magnificent plans utterly crushed, and his immense numbers unavailing—Grant struck into new combinations. Hunter had already penetrated into West Virginia as far as Staunton; and hounding on his men with the savagery of the bloodhound, was pushing on for Lynchburg and the railroad lines of supply adjacent to it. Grant at once detached Sheridan with a heavy force, to operate against the lines from Gordonsville and Charlottesville.
Simultaneously he, himself, was to strike a resistless blow at Petersburg; and thus with every avenue of supply cut off, the leaguered Capital must soon—from very weakness—drop into eager hands stretched out to grasp her.
On the 16th and 17th June, there were sharp and heavily-supported attacks upon portions of the Confederate line before Petersburg. The expectation evidently was to drive them in by sheer weight; for it was known only that part of Lee's forces had crossed the river, and the line was one of immense extent—requiring three times his whole force to man it effectively.
But, as ever before, General Grant underrated his enemy; and, as ever before, his cherished theory of giving six lives for one to gain his point failed. Both attacks were heavily repulsed. Still holding to that theory, however, Grant attacked the whole Confederate front at dawn of the 18th. Driven back with heavy slaughter, the men were again sent in. Four times that day they rallied and came well up to the works; and four times they were sent back reeling and bleeding. Even Grant's obstinacy could not drive them again into certain destruction; and the assault on Petersburg had failed utterly, at the cost of 14,000 men for the experiment.
On that same day, Hunter was driven back from an assault on Lynchburg, and sent in disgraceful rout through West Virginia.
Hampton, too, had done his share as ever in the long war. He had caught Sheridan at Trevellian's Station, and compelled him to retreat and entirely abandon his part of Grant's new programme; and a little later he came upon Kautz and Wilson—in a railroad raid below Petersburg—and defeated them disastrously, capturing their trains, artillery and a large proportion of their men.
Thus, by July, these rough and repeated lessons had taught even General Grant that hammering with flesh and blood upon earthworks was too costly; that barn-burning and railroad-tearing cavalry were not effectual to reduce the city that had so laughed to scorn his brilliant tactics of the left flank!
A more disgusted, if not a wiser man, he sat down and fortified for a regular siege; as fully convinced as ever that the blood of the soldiers was the seed of the war; as fixed in his theory that he could spare seven lives for one and gradually by this fearful "swapping, with boot," reduce the capital he had failed to win by soldierly methods or skillful combination.
And the southern people felt that was the test to be applied to them now. Bayonet and steel, rapine and torch had failed; but now the process of pulverizing was to come. "Southern blood!" was General Grant's war-cry—"Southern blood by the drop, if it take rivers of ours. Southern lives by the score—and we can well pay for them with the hundred!"
And, looking the alternative squarely in the face, the southern people for the last time girded their loins for the shock; feeling they could do what men might and when they could no longer do—they could die!
Once more the tide of battle had rolled away from Richmond; but it surged up, redder and rougher, against her sister city. And staunch little Petersburg braced herself to meet its advancing waves—ever offering to them her dauntless breast and ever riding above them, breathless but victorious. Old men with one foot in the grave—boys with one foot scarce out of the cradle, stood side by side, with the bronzed veterans of Lee's hundred fights. Women sat quiet, the shells of Grant's civilized warfare tearing through their houses and through the hospitals. And fearless for themselves, they worked steadily on, nursing the wounded and the sick; giving from their daily-decreasing store with self-forgetfulness; encouraging the weak by their presence and their courage.
But not alone the fierce sounds immediately around them claimed the attention of the people of the Capital. From North Georgia came the hoarse echo of renewed strife; and they felt, in sober truth, more immediate anxiety for the result there than at their own doors. Inured to danger and made familiar with its near approach, the people of Virginia looked calmly forward to the most fearful shock of battle, if it was nothing more. They knew the crushing force of Grant's numbers, but the danger was tangible and they could see a possible issue out of it, through blood and sacrifice. But they knew and felt that Atlanta was the back door to Richmond. Let the enemy once enter that and divide the spinal column of the Confederacy, and what hope was there! For a brief space the maimed and dying body might writhe with final strength; the quivering arms strike fierce, spasmodic blows; but no nourishment could come—the end must be death—and death from inanition!
The people knew and felt this fully. They were perfectly aware that, should Atlanta fall and the enemy penetrate to our rear lines of communication, the cause was lost. We might make a fierce resistance for the moment; but without supplies, all organized plan must cease. And the wildest hope indulged in that event was the possibility of a detached and guerrilla warfare that would make the country untenable.
Therefore, every eye was turned toward Dalton, where Johnston's little army now was—every ear was strained to catch the first echo of the thunder about to roll so ominously among the Georgia mountains.
Upon General Grant's elevation to the chief command, General W. T. Sherman had been left in charge in the West. Not discouraged by the failure of Grant's quadruple advance, two months before, Sherman divided his army—like that operating on the Rapidan—into three corps. Thomas, leading the center, or direct advance; Schofield, the left on the North-east, and McPherson the right on the South-west—he moved upon Dalton, almost simultaneously with Grant's passage of the Rapidan. And like Grant, he essayed a flank movement; but with far different result.
There was another point of similarity—the great disparity of numbers. Sherman could not have had in all, far short of 80,000 men; while Johnston's greatest exertions could not collect at Dalton an effective force of 35,000. Many of these, too, were local troops and raw levies, green and undisciplined; while Sherman's forces were the flower of the western army.
Such were the points of similarity; but there was one great difference known to the Confederate leaders and people. Sherman would use every advantage of strategy and combination, rather than attempt the sledge-hammer style of attack developed by Grant. And there was more to be dreaded from his quiet and cautious approach—with its accompanying care for human life, that would preserve his army—than from any direct assault, however vigorous. This was proved at the very outset; for his advance on Dalton was a piece of military tact that—unlike Grant's at the Wilderness—was founded upon sound calculation. McPherson was thrown so far round to the South-west as seriously to threaten Johnston's communications; and by the 8th of June, the latter was forced to evacuate Dalton and retire down Resaca Valley toward the line of the Etowah river.
This movement was accomplished with quiet and perfect ease; keeping ever a steady front to the enemy, pressing rapidly on.
Feeling that the fate of the whole cause was now vested in the little army left him to defend the great key—Atlanta—Johnston was great enough to resist the opportunities for glorious battle; to give up, without a struggle—which could only entail resultless waste of men—the rich tracts so valuable to us; to offer himself to the condemnation of unthinking censure—all to insure the safety of that vital organ of Confederate life.
On the 14th June, the enemy pressed heavily against temporary works in Resaca Valley and was twice repulsed, with heavy loss. Then Johnston turned upon him and gained a decisive advantage—driving him two miles. On the two succeeding days, his attempts amounted to scarcely more than skirmishes; and on the third our troops resumed, unmolested, their retreat along the line of the Etowah. By the end of the month Johnston had taken up a strong position, with his center resting upon Kenesaw Mountain; while the enemy had thrown up works, at some points nearer even than those at Petersburg.
At dawn on the 27th, Sherman attacked along the whole line, directing his main strength to Kenesaw Mountain. He was repulsed decisively on both flanks and with especial slaughter in the center; losing over 3,500 men. Next day Cleburne's division defeated McPherson's corps in a severe fight, inflicting even heavier loss than it had sustained at Kenesaw Mountain. But these fights—while retarding the enemy's advance and causing him a loss three times our own—were all nullified by Sherman's effective use of that flanking process, so strangely misused by his rival in Virginia. Those movements were but those of pawns upon the board; while the serious check to Johnston at Dalton—the flank movement upon his right—was repeated here. On the 4th of July he was flanked out of his mountain fastnesses and was falling back upon Atlanta.
There is no stronger proof of the hold General Johnston had upon the masses of the people and of their respectful confidence in his great ability, than their reception of this news. They had watched his long retreat almost without a fight; had seen the enemy penetrate almost to the heart of Georgia, occupying rich tracts of our most productive land, just ready for the harvest; and finally had heard him thundering at the very gates of Atlanta—to enter which they felt were death to us. And yet the people never murmured at their general, nor at the army he commanded. There was an unshaken conviction that he was doing his best; that his best was the best. But the Government had not forgotten nor forgiven General Johnston; and for wholly inexplicable reasons, he was summarily transferred from his command and replaced by General Hood, on the 18th of July.
People could not see the ground for Johnston's removal; for he had followed the very same line that had earned General Lee the wildest enthusiasm of the people, even while it gave him almost supreme control of the military power of the Confederacy. Lee had fallen back to his proper base—so had Johnston. The former had faced far greater odds and had inflicted far heavier punishment upon the enemy; but the latter had contended against strategic ability rather than blind force—against human sagacity rather than brute courage. And if Johnston had inflicted less damage, his wise abstinence from battle had saved many lives, invaluable now; and in the end he had placed his army in almost impregnable works around the great prize he was to guard. Foreseeing the result of his opponent's strategy, he had nullified it by seeking the position into which he would finally have been forced.
So far, the Virginia and the Georgia campaigns had been markedly similar in conduct and result. Both armies, driven by overwhelming numbers, had drawn their lines around their last strongholds; and there kept their enemy at bay. And had General Johnston been allowed to reap the reward of his clear foresight and patient abstinence—who can tell but the festering Lazarus might yet have risen whole, and defied the vast wealth of aggression hurled against it?
The universal and outspoken disgust of the people at the removal of Johnston, was in no sense referable to their objection to his successor. General Hood had forced their highest admiration, and bought their warmest wishes, with his brilliant courageous and his freely-offered blood. They knew him to be dauntless, chivalrous and beloved by his men; and, even if untried in a great command, they were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. His first movements, too—seemingly so brilliant and dashing, compared to the more steady but resultful ones of Johnston—produced a thrill of pride and hope with all the people, save the thoughtful few, who felt we could not afford now to buy glory and victory unless it tended to the one result—safety.
On the 20th July Hood assumed the offensive. He struck the enemy's right heavily and with success; repeating the blow upon his extreme left, on the 22d. The advantage on both days was with the Confederates; they drove the enemy from his works, captured several thousand prisoners, and killed and wounded over 3,000 men. But there was no solid gain in these fights; and, the enemy shifting his line after them further to the east, there was another furious battle on the 28th day of July.
In this Hood was less successful, losing heavily and gaining little or no ground. The results of the fights at Atlanta were briefly these: Hood had broken the long and sagacious defensive course; the people were perhaps inspirited at the cost of over 4,000 invaluable men; and the enemy was taught that we were too weak to drive him from his line, or even to make any solid impression on him.
Feeling this—and secure in a line of communication with his base—Sherman sat doggedly and grimly down before Atlanta. He felt he could wait.
But the end came, before even the Federal leader could have expected. After the fights at Atlanta, Hood feared the cutting of his communications. He was fearful, lest the system that had forced Johnston from Dalton and Kenesaw Mountain might be made available against him here; and the very means he had adopted to prevent it precipitated the disaster. He divided his forces into two distinct armies—sending one, under Lieutenant-General Hardee, to Jonesboro, twenty-two miles away!
Sherman, aware of the movement—which had in fact resulted from his threatening of Hood's flank—forced his superior numbers wedge-like into the gap, and effectually separated the wings. Then he struck in detail. Hardee, at Jonesboro, failed to make any impression upon him on the 1st of September, while Hood—weakened and unable to check his movements on the left—was forced, on the 31st August, to decide upon the evacuation of Atlanta!
This fatal movement was accomplished on the evening of the 1st of September, without further loss; but the key to the Confederate cause—the sole barrier to the onward sweep of Sherman to the ocean—was in his hands at last!
There may have been causes operating on General Hood that were not known to the people; for the results and their motive was shrouded in silence. His dispatch announcing the fall of the most important point was very brief; stating in a few lines that Hardee, having failed against the enemy at Jonesboro, while he could not oppose his flank movement at Atlanta, he had given up that city. Even later—when General Hood published his report of the Atlanta campaign—he differs in essential points from General Johnston, and neither his theories nor their carrying out are made comprehensible to the public.
There was a terrible shock to the people of the South in the fall of Atlanta. They knew its importance so fully that its loss was the more keenly felt. There came sudden revulsion from the hope that had begun once again to throb in the public pulse. The loud murmurs that had arisen after other defeats were wanting now; but a sullen and increasing gloom seemed to settle over the majority of the people. It was as though they were stunned by the violence of the shock and felt already its paralyzing influence. It was in vain that a ten days' truce was granted by the victorious enemy, during which Mr. Davis visited the army and spoke brave words of future victory. The people had now lost all faith in Mr. Davis and his methods; and they sullenly refused to accept the happy auguries of victory he drew from crushing defeat. Even the army itself—while still doggedly determined to strike its hardest to the bitter end—began to feel that it was fighting against hope.
And in that ten days' truce there was little chance for those worn and wasted battalions to recuperate. There were no fresh men to send to their aid; few, indeed, were the supplies that could be forwarded them. But they looked into the darkness ahead steadily and calmly; they might not see their path in it, but they were ready to march without the path. And even as they watched and waited, so at Petersburg and Richmond a small but sleepless David watched the grim Goliath, stretched in its huge bulk before their gates. Ceaselessly the trains flashed back and forth over the iron link between those two cities—now Siamese-twinned with a vital bond of endurance and endeavor. Petersburg, sitting defiant in her circle of fire, worked grimly, ceaselessly—with what hope she might! and Richmond worked for her, feeling that every drop of blood she lost was from her own veins as well.
And so for many weary months the deadly strain went on; and the twin cities—stretched upon the rack—bore the torture as their past training had taught the world they must—nobly and well!
DIES IRAE—DIES ILLA.
It is nowise within the scope of these sketches to detail that memorable siege of Petersburg, lasting nearly one year. It were needless to relate here, how—for more than ten months—that long southern line of defense, constantly threatened and almost as constantly assailed, was held. Men know now that it was not by strength, but by sleepless watch and dogged endurance, that less than 30,000 worn men—so dotted along works extending near forty miles, that at points there was one soldier to every rod of earthwork—held their own, even against the earlier onsets. Men now realize why the Federal general—failing in every separate effort to buy a key-position, even at the cost of six lives for one—was forced to sit down sullenly and wait the slow, but sure, process of attrition.
These matters are now stamped upon the minds of readers, on both sides of the Potomac. In the North they had voluminous reports of every detail; and the cessation of interest elsewhere gave full leisure to study them. In the South, 30,000 earnest historians from the trenches were sought, each one by eager crowds; and the story of every cannonade and skirmish and charge, told in honest but homely words, was burned into the memory of intent listeners.
Slowly that summer wore itself away. Steadily that bloody history traced itself out; punctuated, now by many a fierce and sudden rush of crowding Federals—ever beaten back with frightful loss; again by rare sorties from our line, when our leaders saw the chance to strike some telling blow.
But spite of care in those leaders and superhuman endurance in the men, the southern troops were worn with watching and steadily melting away. Close, ceaseless fighting thinned their ranks; there were no more men—even the youngest of the land, or its first borns—to take the places of the lost veterans. General Grant's words were strictly true—"the South had robbed the cradle and the grave!" The boasted army of the North, led by her latest-chosen champion and strategist, was kept at bay by a skeleton of veterans, barely held together by the worn-out sinews and undeveloped muscle of old age and infancy.
Then the fall of Atlanta came!
The people were not to be deceived by platitudes about "strategic purposes," or empty nothings about "a campaign to nullify it." They had gotten now beyond that; and saw the terrible blow that had been dealt them in all its naked strength. They felt that an army that had failed to check Sherman, when it was behind strong works, would hardly do so in the open field. They felt that he could now at his leisure bore into the coveted heart of our territory; that the long-attempted "bisection of the rebellion" was accomplished; that further aid, or supplies, from that section was impossible. And then the people of Richmond turned once more with unfailing pride, but lessening hope, toward the decreasing bands that still held their own gates secure. But they saw how the deadly strain was telling upon these; that the end was near.
But even now there was no weak yielding—no despairing cry among the southern people. They looked at the coming end steadily and unflinchingly; and now, for the first time, they began to speculate upon the possible loss of their beloved Capital. It was rumored in Richmond that General Lee had told the President that the lines were longer than he could hold; that the sole hope was to evacuate the town and collect the armies at some interior point for a final struggle that might yet sever the bonds, ever closing tighter and tighter upon us. And the rumor added that Mr. Davis peremptorily and definitely rejected this counsel; declaring that he would hold the city, at any cost and any risk.
For once—whatever cause they had to credit these reports—the popular voice was louder on the side of the unpopular President than on that of the idolized general. The tremendous efforts to capture the Capital; the superhuman exertions made to defend it in the last four years, had made Richmond the cause! People argued that if Richmond was lost, the State of Virginia was lost, too; that there was no point in North Carolina where the army could make a stand, for even that "interior line" then became a frontier. Beyond this the people felt the moral effect of such a step; and that the army, as such, could never be carried out of Virginia. And with the ceaseless discussion of this question, came the first yearnings for peace propositions.
To this extremity, the South had been confident and fixed in her views. Cheated of her hopes of foreign intervention, she had yet believed her ability to work out her own oracle; through blood and toil—even ruin, perhaps—but still to force a peace at last. But now the popular voice was raised in answer to the vague words of peace that found their way over the Potomac. If there be any desire in the North for cessation of this strife, said the people, for God's sake let us meet it half way. Even the Congress seemed impressed with the necessity of meeting any overtures from the North, before it was too late and our dire strait should be known there. But it was already too late; and the resultless mission of Mr. Stephens to Fortress Monroe proved that the Washington Government now saw plainly that it could force upon us the terms it made the show of offering.
The failure of this mission, no less than the great mystery in which the Government endeavored to wrap it, produced a decided gloom among the thinking classes; and it reacted upon the army as well. The soldiers now began to lose hope for the first time. They saw they were fighting a hydra; for as fast as they lopped off heads in any direction, fresh ones sprang up in others. They began, for the first time, to feel the contest unequal; and this depressing thought—added to the still greater privations following the loss of Georgia—made desertion fearfully common, and threatened to destroy, by that cause, an army that had withstood every device of the enemy.
And so the fall wore into winter; and the news from General Hood's lines only added to the gloom. After the truce of ten days, following the fall of Atlanta, Hood had moved around and gotten almost in Sherman's rear. For a moment there was great exultation, for it was believed he would destroy the enemy's communications and then attack him, or force an attack on ground of his own choosing. Great was the astonishment and great the disappointment, when Hood moved rapidly to Dalton and thence into Alabama, leaving the whole country south of Virginia entirely open, defenseless, and at Sherman's mercy.
And, as usual, in moments of general distress, Mr. Davis was blamed for the move. He had, it was said, removed Joe Johnston at the very moment his patient sagacity was to bear its fruits; he had been in Hood's camp and had of course planned this campaign—a wilder and more disastrous one than the detachment of Longstreet, for Knoxville. Whosesoever may have been the plan, and whatever may have been its ultimate object, it failed utterly in diverting Sherman from the swoop for which he had so long hovered. For, while the small bulwark of Georgia was removed—and sent in Quixotic joust against distant windmills—the threatening force, relieved from all restraint, and fearing no want of supplies in her fertile fields, pressed down, "Marching thro' Georgia."
Meantime Hood, with no more serious opposition than an occasional skirmish, crossed the Tennessee at Florence, about the middle of November. The enemy fell back before him, toward Nashville, until it seemed as if his intent was to draw Hood further and further away from the real point of action—Sherman's advance. On the 30th of November, however, Thomas made a stand at Franklin; and then resulted a terrific battle, in which the Confederates held the field, with the loss of one-third of the army. Six of our generals lay amid their gallant dead on that unhappy field; seven more were disabled by wounds, and one was a prisoner. The enemy's loss was stated at far less than ours; and he retired into Nashville, to which place our army laid siege on the 1st of December.
Weakened by the long march and more by the terrible losses of Franklin; ill-supplied and half-fed, Hood's army was compelled to rely upon the enemy's want of supplies driving him out. On the 15th of December he attacked our whole line, so furiously as to break it at every point. Hood's defeat was complete; he lost his whole artillery—over fifty pieces—most of his ordnance and many of his supply trains. In the dreadful retreat that followed, General Forrest's vigorous covering alone saved the remnant of that devoted army; and on the 23d of January, 1865—when he had brought them once more into temporary safety—General Hood issued a farewell order, stating that he was relieved at his own request.
Gallant, frank and fearless even in adversity, he did not shirk the responsibility of the campaign; declaring, that disastrous and bitter as it had been, he had believed it best.
So ended all real resistance in the South and West. The enemy had gained the back door to Richmond, had shattered its supports and had marched on to the rear of those strongholds that had so long defied his power from the sea.
It was but a question of time, when Charleston and Savannah should fall; and even the most hopeful could see that Virginia was the only soil on which resistance still walked erect.
Meanwhile, the winter was passing in Richmond in most singular gayety. Though the hostile lines were so close that the pickets could "chaff" each other without raising their voices, still both had learned that direct attacks in front were not practicable; and such was the state of the roads all around Petersburg, that no movement out of works could be attempted. Therefore more active fighting had for the moment ceased; numbers of young officers could get to Richmond, for a few days at a time; and these came worn and tired from camp and famished for society and gayety of some sort. And the younger ladies of Richmond—ready as they ever were to aid and comfort the soldier boys with needle, with bandage, or with lint—were quite as ready now to do all they could in plans for mutual pleasure.
They only felt the strain was for the moment remitted; they recked not that it was to come to-morrow for the final crush; and they enjoyed to-day with all the recklessness of long restraint.
Parties were of nightly occurrence. Not the brilliant and generous festivals of the olden days of Richmond, but joyous and gay assemblages of a hundred young people, who danced as though the music of shells had never replaced that of the old negro fiddler—who chatted and laughed as if there were no to-morrow, with its certain skirmish, and its possible blanket for winding-sheet. For the beaux at these gatherings were not only the officers on leave from Petersburg; the lines drawn close to the city furnished many an acquisition, who would willingly do ten miles in and out, on horseback through the slush and snow, for one deux temps with "somebody in particular."
And many a brave fellow had ridden direct from the ball-room into the fight. I can well recall poor H. now, as he looked when last I saw him in life. Ruddy and joyous, with his handsome face one glow of pleasure, he vaulted gaily to his saddle under the bright moon at midnight. Curbing his restive horse, and waving a kiss to the bright faces pressed against the frosty pane, his clear au revoir! echoed through the silent street, and he was off.
Next morning a country cart brought his lifeless body down Main street, with the small blue mark of a bullet in the middle of the smooth, clear, boyish brow. Never leaving his saddle, he had ridden into a picket fight, and a chance shot had cut short the life of so much promise.
But it is not meant that these parties entailed any waste of those supplies, vital alike to citizen and soldier. They were known as "Starvations;" and all refreshments whatever were forbidden, save what could be drawn from the huge pitcher of "Jeems' River" water, surrounded with its varied and many-shaped drinking utensils. Many of these, even in the houses of the best provided, were of common blown glass, with a greenish tinge that suggested a most bilious condition of the blower. The music was furnished by some of the ancient negro minstrels—so dear to the juvenile southern heart in days gone by; or more frequently by the delicate fingers of some petted and favored belle. And never, amid the blare of the best trained bands, the popping of champagne, and the clatter of forks over pate de foies gras, was there more genuine enjoyment and more courtly chivalry to the beau sexe, than at these primitive soirees.
The "Starvations" were not the only amusements. Amateur theatricals and tableaux again became the rage in midwinter; and talent of no contemptible grade was displayed on many an impromptu stage. And that especial pet horror of supersensitive godliness—the godless German cotillion—even forced itself into the gayeties of the winter. Great was the wrath of the elect against all amusements of the kind—but chiefest among outrages was this graceless German. But despite the denunciations, the ridicule, and even the active intervention of one or two ministers, the young soldiers and their chosen partners whirled away as though they had never heard a slander or a sermon.
I have already endeavored to show how a certain class in Richmond deprecated gayety of all kinds two years before. These, of course, objected now; and another class still was loud and violent against it. But, said the dancers, we do the fighting—we are the ones who are killed—and if we don't object, why in the deuce should you? Cooped up in camp, with mud and musty bacon for living, and the whistling of Minies and whooing of shells for episode, we long for some pleasure when we can get off. This is the sole enjoyment we have, and we go back better men in every way for it.
This was rather unanswerable argument; and the younger ladies were all willing to back it; so malgre long faces and a seeming want of the unities, the dancing went on.
We have heard a great deal post-bellum bathos about that strange mixture of gay waltzes, and rumble of dead-cart and ambulance; but one must have heard the sounds together before he can judge; and no one who was not in and of that peculiar, and entirely abnormal, state of society, can understand either its construction, or its demands.
But the short spasm of gayety, after all, was only the fitful and feverish symptom of the deadly weakness of the body politic. It was merely superficial; and under it was a fixed and impenetrable gloom. The desertions from the army were assuming fearful proportions, that no legislation or executive rigor could diminish; supplies of bare food were becoming frightfully scarce, and even the wealthiest began to be pinched for necessaries of life; and over all brooded the dread cloud of a speedy evacuation of the city.
Every day saw brigades double-quicking back and forth through the suburbs; the continuous scream of steam-whistles told of movement, here and there; and every indication showed that the numbers of men were inadequate to man the vast extent of the lines. As the spring opened, this became more and more apparent. There was no general attack, but a few brigades would be thrown against some ill-defended work here; and almost simultaneously the undefended lines there would have a force hurled against them. It almost seemed that the enemy, aware of our weakness, was determined to wear out our men by constant action, before he struck his heavy blow. How dear the wearied, starving men made these partial attacks cost him, already his own reports have told.
March came, and with it, orders to remove all government property that could possibly be spared from daily need. First the archives and papers went; then the heavier stores, machinery and guns, and supplies not in use; then the small reserve of medical stores was sent to Danville, or Greensboro. And, at last, the already short supplies of commissary stores were lessened by removal—and the people knew their Capital was at last to be given up!
The time was not known—some said April, some the first of May; but the families of the President and Cabinet had followed the stores; the female Department clerks had been removed to Columbia—and there was no doubt of the fact. After four years of dire endeavor and unparalleled endurance, the Capital of the South was lost!
In their extremity the people said little, but hope left them utterly. In the army or out, there were few, indeed—and no Virginians—but believed the cause was lost when the army marched away.
Richmond was Virginia—was the cause!
With Sherman already in possession of Charleston and Savannah, and the army unable to do aught but retreat sullenly before him—with Virginia gone, and the Confederacy narrowed down to North Carolina, a strip of Alabama and the trans-Mississippi—what hope was left?
After General Johnston had been relieved at Atlanta, the Department had managed, on one reason or another, to shelve him until now. The public voice was loudly raised against the injustice done the man they admired most of all the bright galaxy of the South; and even Congress woke from its stupor long enough to demand for the great soldier a place to use his sword. This was in January; but still the government did not respond, and it was not until the 23d February that he was restored to command. Then—with the shattered remnant of his army, augmented, but not strengthened by the fragments of flying garrisons—he could only fall back before the victorious progress of that "Great March" he might effectually have checked, on its threshold at Atlanta.
Deep gloom—thick darkness that might be felt—settled upon the whole people. Hope went out utterly, and despair—mingled with rage and anguish as the news from the "Great March" came in—took its place in every heart. But in every heart there was bitter sorrow, humiliation—but no fear. As Richmond became more and more empty, and the time to abandon her drew nearer and nearer, her people made what provision they might to meet the enemy they had scorned so long. One class and one alone, showed any sign of fear—the human vultures so long fattened on the dead and dying—the speculators.
With every preparation long since made for the event—with cellars and attics stored with tobacco and other merchandise—with Confederate blood-money converted into gold—these Shylocks now shivered in anticipation of the coming greenbacks, for abject dread of the bluebacks that were to bring them. There is one gleam of satisfaction through the gloom of the great fire—it partly purified the city of these vermin and the foul nests they had made themselves.
All seemed ready during March, and the people watched every movement, listened for every sound, that might indicate actual evacuation. Each morning the city rose from its feverish sleep, uncertain whether, or not, the army had withdrawn in the stillness of the night.
During all this fitful suspense there was no general fight along the lines, and from time to time hope would flicker up, and for the moment throw the shadows into shape of a possible victory—a saving blow for the storm-racked ship of state, now her decks had been cleared for desperate action. Then it would down, down again, lower than before.
With the end of March the enemy made new combinations. His whole disjointed attacks had been against the South Side road, the main artery of supply and retreat. He had ceased organized attacks on the works, and sought only to strike the communications. Now, Sheridan, with a formidable force, was sent to Five Forks; and Richmond heard, on the first day of April, of desperate fighting between him and Pickett.
Next morning, the 2d April, rose as bright a Sunday as had shone in all Richmond that spring. The churches were crowded, and plainly-dressed women—most of them in mourning—passed into their pews with pale, sad faces, on which grief and anxiety had both set their handwriting. There were few men, and most of these came in noisily upon crutches, or pale and worn with fever.
It was no holiday gathering of perfumed and bedizened godliness, that Sunday in Richmond. Earnest men and women had come to the house of God, to ask His protection and His blessing, yet a little longer, for the dear ones that very moment battling so hotly for the worshipers.
In the midst of a prayer at Dr. Hoge's church, a courier entered softly, and advancing to Mr. Davis, handed him a telegram. Noiselessly, and with no show of emotion, Mr. Davis left the church, followed by a member of his staff. A moment after another quietly said a few words to the minister; and then the quick apprehensions of the congregation were aroused. Like an electric shock they felt the truth, even before Dr. Hoge stopped the services and informed them that Richmond would be evacuated that night; and counseled they had best go home and prepare to meet the dreadful to-morrow. The news spread like wildfire. Grant had struck that Sunday morning—had forced the lines, and General Lee was evacuating Petersburg!
The day of wrath had come.
Hastily the few remaining necessaries of the several departments were packed, and sent toward Danville, either by railroad or wagon. Ordnance supplies, that could not be moved, were rolled into the canal; commissary stores were thrown open, and their hoarded contents distributed to the eager crowds. And strange crowds they were. Fragile, delicate women staggered under the heavy loads they bore to suffering children at home; the pale wife clutched hungrily at the huge ham, or the bag of coffee, for the wounded hero, pining at home for such a delicacy. Children were there with outstretched hands, crying for what they could carry; and hoary-headed men tugged wearily at the barrels of pork, flour, or sugar they strove to roll before their weak arms.
Later in the evening, as the excitement increased, fierce crowds of skulking men, and coarse, half-drunken women, gathered before the stores. Half-starved and desperate, they swore and fought among themselves over the spoils they seized. Orders had been given to destroy the whisky at once; but, either from lingering tenderness, or from the hurry of the movement, they were only partially obeyed.
Now the uncontrolled swarms of men and women—especially the wharf rats at Rockett's where the navy storehouses were—seized the liquor and became more and more maddened by it. In some places where the barrels were stove, the whisky ran in the gutters ankle deep; and here half-drunken women, and children even, fought, to dip up the coveted fluid in tin pans, buckets, or any vessel available.
Meanwhile, preparation went on rapidly; the President and Cabinet left for the South—General Breckinridge, Secretary of War, alone remaining to direct the details of evacuation. Everything was ready for the few remaining troops to withdraw, leaving the works on the northern side of the James unoccupied, before daylight. Then the officer with the burning party went his rounds, putting the torch to every armory, machine-shop and storehouse belonging to the Government. By midnight these had begun to burn briskly; one lurid glare shot upward to the sky, from the river; then another and another. The gunboats had been fired, and their crews, passing to the shore equipped for camp, followed the line of the retreating army up the river bank.
Who, that was in it, will ever forget that bitter night? Husbands hastily arranged what plans they might, for the safety of families they were forced to leave behind; women crept out into the midnight, to conceal the little jewelry, money or silver left them, fearing general sack of the city and treachery of even the most trusted negroes. For none knew but that a brutal and drunken mob might be let loose upon the hated, long-coveted Capital, in their power at last! None knew but that the black rule of Butler might be re-enacted—excelled; and women—who had sat calm and restful, while the battle of Seven Pines and the roar of Seven Days, and the later Cold Harbor, shook their windows—now broke down under that dreadful parting with the last defenders of their hearths! Death and flame they had never blanched before; but the nameless terrors of passing under the Yankee yoke vanquished them now.
Pitiful were leave-takings of fathers with their children, husbands with new-made brides, lovers with those who clung to them in even greater helplessness. Ties welded in moments of danger and doubt—in moments of pleasure, precious from their rarity—all must be severed now, for none knew how long—perhaps forever! For man, nor woman, might pierce the black veil before the future. Only the vague oppression was there, that all was over at last; that days to come might mean protracted, bloody mountain warfare—captivity, death, separation eternal!
So men went forth into the black midnight, to what fate they dreamed not, leaving those loved beyond self to what fate they dared not dream!
But even in that supreme hour—true to her nature and true to her past—the woman of Richmond thought of her hero-soldier; not of herself. The last crust in the home was thrust into his reluctant hand; the last bottle of rare old wine slyly slipped into his haversack. Every man in gray was a brother-in-heart to every woman that night!
Long after midnight, I rode by a well-remembered porch, where all that was brightest and gayest of Richmond's youth had passed many happy hours. There was Styles Staple; his joyous face clouded now, his glib tongue mute—with two weeping girls clinging to his hands. Solemnly he bent down; pressed his lips to each pure forehead, in a kiss that was a sacrament—threw himself into their mother's arms, as she had been his own as well; then, with a wrench, broke away and hurled himself into saddle. There was a black frown on Staple's face, as he rode up by me; and I heard a sound—part sob; more heart-deep oath—tear out of his throat. If the Recording Angel caught it, too, I dare swear there was no record against him for it, when—thirty hours later—he answered to his name before the Great Roll-Call! For no more knightly lips will ever press those pure brows; no more loyal soul went to its rest, out of that dire retreat.
Two hours after midnight, all was ready; and all was still, save the muffled roll of distant wagons and, here and there, the sharp call of a bugle. Now and again, the bright glare, above the smoke round the whole horizon, would pale before a vivid, dazzling flash; followed by swaying tremble of the earth and a roar, hoarsely dull; and one more ship of the little navy was a thing of the past.
Later still came to the steady tramp of soldiers—to be heard for the last time in those streets, though its echo may sound down all time! The last scene of the somber drama had begun; and the skeleton battery-supports filed by like specters, now in the gloom, now in the glare of one of the hundred fires. No sound but the muffled word of command came from their ranks; every head was bowed and over many a cheek—tanned by the blaze of the fight and furrowed by winter night-watches—the first tear it had ever known rolled noiselessly, to drop in the beloved dust they were shaking from their feet.
Next came gaunt men, guiding half-starved horses that toiled along with rumbling field-pieces; voiceless now and impotent, as once, to welcome the advancing foe. And finally the cavalry pickets came in, with little show of order; passed across the last bridge and fired it behind them. Over its burning timbers rode General Breckinridge and his staff;—the last group of Confederates was gone;—Richmond was evacuated!
Dies irae—dies illa!
AFTER THE DEATH BLOW WAS DEALT.
Just as dawn broke through the smoke-eddies over the deserted Capital, the morning after its evacuation, two carriages crept through the empty streets, toward the fortifications. In them—grave-faced and sad—sat the Mayor of Richmond and a committee of her council, carrying the formal surrender to the Federal commander on the northern bank of the James.
Many a sad, a few terrified, faces peered at them through closed shutters; but the eager groups about the fires, striving still to secure scraps from the flames, never paused for a glance at the men who bore the form of the already accomplished fact.
Before long, eager watchers from Chimborazo Heights saw bluecoats rise dim over the distant crest. Then came the clatter of cavalry, sabers drawn and at a trot; still cautiously feeling their way into the long-coveted stronghold. Behind followed artillery and infantry in compact column, up the River Road, through Rockett's to Capitol Square. There they halted; raised the Stars-and-stripes on the staff from which the Stars-and-bars had floated—often in their very sight—for four weary, bitter years!
It was a solemn and gloomy march; little resembling the people's idea of triumphal entry into a captured city. The troops were quiet, showing little elation; their officers anxious and watchful ever; and dead silence reigned around them, broken only by the roar and hiss of flames, or the sharp explosion as they reached some magazine. Not a cheer broke the stillness; and even the wrangling, half-drunken bummers round the fires slunk sullenly away; while but few negroes showed their faces, and those ashen-black from indefinite fear; their great mouths gaping and white eyes rolling in curious dread that took away their faculty for noise.
By the time Weitzel's brigade of occupation had been posted—and several regiments massed on the Capitol—the fire had become general. Intending only to destroy munitions and supplies of war—the firing party had been more hasty than discreet. A strong breeze sprang up, off the river, and warehouse followed warehouse into the line of the flames. Old, dry and crammed with cotton, or other inflammable material, these burned like tinder; and at many points, whole blocks were on fire.
A dense pall of smoke hovered low over the entire city; and through it shone huge eddies of flames and sparks, carrying great blazing planks and rafters whirling over the shriveling buildings. Little by little these drew closer together; and by noon, one vast, livid flame roared and screamed before the wind, from Tenth street to Rockett's; licking its red tongue around all in its reach and drawing the hope—the very life of thousands into its relentless maw!
Should the wind shift, that rapidly-gaining fire would sweep uptown and devour the whole city; but, while the few men left looked on in dismayed apathy, deliverance came from the enemy. The regiments in Capitol Square stacked arms; were formed into fire-squads; and sped at once to points of danger. Down the deserted streets these marched; now hidden by eddying smoke—again showing like silhouettes, against the vivid glare behind them. Once at their points for work, the men went at it with a will; and—so strong was force of discipline—with no single attempt at plunder reported!
Military training never had better vindication than on that fearful day; for its bonds must have been strong indeed, to hold that army, suddenly in possession of city so coveted—so defiant—so deadly, for four long years.
Whatever the citizens may vaguely have expected from Grant's army, what they received from it that day was aid—protection—safety! Demoralized and distracted by sorrow and imminent danger; with almost every male absent—with no organization and no means to fight the new and terrible enemy—the great bulk of Richmond's population might have been houseless that night, but for the disciplined promptitude of the Union troops. The men worked with good will; their officers, with ubiquitous energy. If the fire could not be stayed, at any particular point, a squad entered each house, bore its contents to a safe distance; and there a guard was placed over them.
Sad and singular groups were there, too. Richmond's best and tenderest nurtured women moved among their household gods, hastily piled in the streets, selecting this or that sacred object, to carry it in their own hands—where? Poor families, utterly beggared, sat wringing their hands amid the wreck of what was left, homeless and hopeless; while, here and there, the shattered remnant of a soldier was borne, on a stretcher in kindly, if hostile, hands, through clouds of smoke and mourning relatives to some safer point.
Ever blacker and more dense floated the smoke-pall over the deserted city; ever louder and more near roared the hungry flames. And constantly, through all that dreadful day, the whoo! of shells from magazines, followed by the thud of explosion, cut the dull roar of the fire. For—whether through negligence or want of time—charged shells of all sizes had been left in the many ordnance stores when the torch was applied. These narrow brick chambers—now white hot and with a furnace-blast through them—swept the heaviest shells like cinders over the burning district. Rising high in air, with hissing fuses, they burst at many points, adding new terrors to the infernal scene; and some of them, borne far beyond the fire's limit, burst over the houses, tearing and igniting their dry roofs.
Slowly the day, filled with its hideous sights and sounds, wore on; and slowly the perseverance of man told against the devouring element. The fire was, at last, kept within its own bounds; then gradually forced backward, to leave a charred, steaming belt between it and the unharmed town. Within this, the flames still leaped and writhed and wrangled in their devilish glee; but Richmond was now comparatively safe, and her wretched inhabitants might think of food and rest. Little had they recked of either for many a dread hour past!
The provost-marshal, that unfailing adjunct to every occupation, had fixed his office at the court-house. There a mixed and singular crowd waited gloomily, or jostled eagerly, for speech of the autocrat of the hour. Captured officers stood quietly apart, or peered out earnestly through the smoke drifts, while their commitments to Libby Prison were made out; anxious and wan women, of every sphere in life, besieged the clerk preparing "protection papers;" while a fussy official, of higher grade, gave assurance to every one that guards should be placed about their homes. For the deserted women of Richmond dreaded not only the presence of the victorious enemy, but also that of the drunken and brutalized "bummers" and deserters who stayed behind their own army.
The guards were really stationed as promptly as was practicable; the fire-brigade men were sent to quarters; pickets in blue patroled the outskirts; and, by nightfall, the proud Capital of the Southern Confederacy was only a Federal barrack!
For two days after their entrance the Union army might have supposed they had captured a city of the dead. The houses were all tightly closed, shutters fastened and curtains drawn down; and an occasional blue-coated sentry in porch, or front yard, was the sole sign of life. In the streets it was little different. Crowds of soldiers moved curiously from point to point, large numbers of negroes mixing with them—anxious to assist their new found brotherhood, but wearing most awkwardly their vested rights. Here and there a gray jacket would appear for a moment—the pale and worn face above it watching with anxious eyes the unused scene; then it would disappear again. This was all. The Federals had full sweep of the city—with its silent streets and its still smoking district, charred and blackened; where, for acre after acre, only fragments of walls remained, and where tall chimney stacks, gaunt and tottering, pointed to heaven in witness against the useless sacrifice.
For two days this lasted. The curious soldiers lounged about the silent town, the burned desert still sent up its clouds of close, fetid smoke; the ladies of Richmond remained close prisoners. Then necessity drove them out, to seek food, or some means to obtain it; to visit the sick left behind; or to make charitable visits to those who might be even less provided than themselves.
Clad almost invariably in deep mourning—with heavy veils invariably hiding their faces—the broken-hearted daughters of the Capital moved like shadows of the past, through the places that were theirs no longer. There was no ostentation of disdain for their conquerors—no assumption of horror if they passed a group of Federals—no affected brushing of the skirt from the contact with the blue. There was only deep and real dejection—sorrow bearing too heavily on brain and heart to make an outward show—to even note smaller annoyances that might else have proved so keen. If forced into collision, or communication, with the northern officers, ladies were courteous as cold; they made no parade of hatred, but there was that in their cold dignity which spoke plainly of impassable barriers.
And, to their credit be it spoken, the soldiers of the North respected the distress they could but see; the bitterness they could not misunderstand. They made few approaches toward forcing their society—even where billeted in the houses of the citizens, keeping aloof and never intruding on the family circle.
For several days the water-approaches to the city could not be cleared from the obstructions sunk in them; all railroad communication was destroyed, and the whole population was dependent upon the slender support of the wagon trains. Few even of the wealthiest families had been able to make provision ahead; scarcely any one had either gold, or greenbacks; and suffering became actual and pinching. Then came the order that the Federal commissary was to issue rations to those needing them. Pinching themselves, as they did; preferring to subsist on the slenderest food that would sustain life, to accepting the charity of the enemy—many of those suffering women were driven by sheer hunger—by the threatened starvation of their children, or of the loved wounded ones near them—to seek the proffered bounty. They forced their way into the surging, fighting crowd of greasy and tattered negroes, of dark-faced "bummers" and "loyal" residents—and they received small rations of cornmeal and codfish; bearing them home to be eaten with what bitter seasoning they might of tears from pain and humiliation.
The direst destitution of the war had been nothing to this. With their own people around them, with hope and love to sustain them, the women of Richmond did not wince under the pinch of want. But now, surrounded by enemies, with not a pound of flour, or a cent of currency, actual starvation—as well as humiliation—stared them in the face. The few who went to draw rations, sat down in blank despair. They could not make up their minds to go again. The fewer still, who had the least surplus from immediate wants, distributed it freely; and a cup of sugar from a slender stock was bartered here for a few slices of the hoarded ham, or a pound or two of necessary meal.
Meantime, sutlers, peddlers and hucksters swarmed in like locusts, on the very first steamers up the river. They crowded Broad street, the unburned stores on Main, and even the alleyways, with great piles of every known thing that could be put up in tin. They had calculated on a rich harvest; but they had reckoned without their host. There was no money in Richmond to spend with them; and after a profitless sojourn, they took up their tin cans, and one by one returned North—certainly wiser and, possibly, better men. It was peculiar to note the universality of southern sympathy among these traders. There was scarcely one among them who didn't think the war "a darned shame;" they were intensely sympathetic and all came from South of the Pennsylvania line. But the supporters, either of their principles, or their trade, were the few lucky negroes who could collect "stamps," in never so small qualities; and to such the sutlers were a joy forever.
Shut off entirely from any communication with their retreating troops and mingling so little with their captors, Richmond people got only most startling and unreliable rumors from the army. Clinging, with the tenacity of the drowning, to the least straw of hope, they would not yet give up utterly that army they had looked on so long as invincible—that cause, which was more than life to them! Though they knew the country around was filled with deserters and stragglers; though the Federals had brigades lying round Richmond in perfect idleness—still for a time the rumor gained credit that General Lee had turned on his pursuer, at Amelia Court House, and gained a decisive victory over him. Then came the more positive news that Ewell was cut off with 13,000 men; and, finally, on the 9th of April, Richmond heard that Lee had surrendered. Surely as this result should have been looked forward to—gradually as the popular mind had been led to it—still it came as a blow of terrific suddenness. The people refused to believe it—they said it was a Yankee trick; and when the salute of one hundred guns rang out from forts and shipping, they still said, bitterly, it was a ruse to make them commit themselves.
Gradually they came to accept the inevitable; and, as the last ray of hope died out, its place was filled with the intense yearning to know the fate of those lost and loved ones—to know if they had died at the bitter ending, or lived to be borne away into captivity. Forgetting pride, hostility—all but their anxiety for those so precious to them now—the women caught at every shred of information; questioned ignorant soldiers eagerly; and listened patiently to the intelligible news the officers were only too willing to give. And at last these rumors assumed tangible form—there was no longer any room to doubt. General Lee, weakened by desertion and breaking down of his men—by General Ewell's capture and by the sense of hopelessness of further resistance, had on the morning of the 9th of April, surrendered 24,000 men—including the volunteer citizens, and the naval brigade of all the Richmond ship's-crews—and with them 8,000 muskets! Such, too, was the condition of the horses that the Federals refused even to drive them away from their stands. Little need, indeed, had there been for those extra brigades around the city.
Then Richmond, sitting like Rachel in her desolation, waited for the return of her vanquished—heroes still to her. News came of the general parole; and every sound across the river—every cloud of dust at the pontoon bridge—was the signal for a rush to doorstep and porch. Days passed and the women—not realizing the great difficulties of transportation—grew impatient to clasp their loved ones once more to their hearts. False outcries were made every hour, only to result in sickening disappointment and suspense. At last the evening of the third day came and, just at dusk, a single horseman turned slowly into deserted Franklin street.
Making no effort to urge his jaded beast, travel-stained and weary himself, he let the reins fall from his hands and his head droop upon his chest. It was some time before any one noticed that he wore the beloved gray—that he was Major B., one of the bravest and most staunch of the noble youth Richmond had sent out at the first. Like electricity the knowledge ran from house to house—"Tom B. has come! The army is coming!"
Windows, doorsteps and curbstones became alive at the words—each woman had known him from childhood—had known him joyous, and frank, and ever gay. Each longed to ask for husband, son, or brother; but all held back as they saw the dropped head, and felt his sorrow too deep to be disturbed.
At last one fair wife, surrounded by her young children, stepped into the road and spoke. The ice was broken. The soldier was surrounded; fair faces quivering with suspense, looked up to his, as soft voices begged for news of—"somebody's darling;" and tender hands even patted the starved beast that had borne the hero home! The broad chest heaved as it would burst, a great sob shook the stalwart frame, and a huge teardrop rolled down the cheek that had never changed color in the hottest flashes of the fight. And then the sturdy soldier—conquering his emotion but with no shame for it—told all he could and lightened many a heavy heart. And up to his own door they walked by his side, bareheaded and in the roadway, and there they left him alone to be folded in the embrace of the mother to whom he still was "glorious in the dust."
Next morning a small group of horsemen appeared on the further side of the pontoons. By some strange intuition, it was known that General Lee was among them, and a crowd collected all along the route he would take, silent and bareheaded. There was no excitement, no hurrahing; but, as the great chief passed, a deep, loving murmur, greater than these, rose from the very hearts of the crowd. Taking off his hat and simply bowing his head, the man great in adversity passed silently to his own door; it closed upon him, and his people had seen him for the last time in his battle harness.
Later others came, by scores and hundreds; many a household was made glad that could not show a crust for dinner; and then for days Franklin street lived again. Once more the beloved gray was everywhere, and once more bright eyes regained a little of their brightness, as they looked upon it.
Then suddenly the reins were tightened. On the morning of the 14th, the news of Lincoln's murder fell like a thunderclap upon victor and vanquished in Richmond. At first the news was not credited; then an indignant denial swelled up from the universal heart, that it was for southern vengeance, or that southern men could have sympathy in so vile an act. The sword and not the dagger was the weapon the South had proved she could use; and through the length and breadth of the conquered land was a universal condemnation of the deed.