Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
A Confederate Soldier’s Opinion
The evacuation of Richmond was a sad blow to the tens of thousands whose blind faith in Lee had led them to believe that his army could suffer everything and still stand between Grant and the capital. But when he left the trenches of Petersburg not one man in a thousand in his army knew that the end was near. Indeed, they looked upon it as a move toward some new victory. Cavalry and artillery horses were mere skeletons, the army in rags and confederate money no better than brown paper, and yet when did those men fight better than in those last dark days? On the morning of the final surrender only a few men saw the shadow of the falling hammer which was to strike a last blow. Brigades which did not number 500 men, regiments which did not number 100, companies in which there were only six or seven private soldiers, girded themselves for another battle. The last skirmish line ever thrown out in front of Lee’s army was commanded by a captain now attached to the Virginia state government. With thirty men he pushed forward through the woods until stopped by three Federal lines of battle. The skirmishers halted in amazement. Look which way they would there were the lines of blue. Not a shot was fired. Instead of the crash of musketry there came the words: “No use, Johnny–Lee is going to surrender!”
It was the last day and the last hour. The principle of secession had been drowned in blood–rebellion had been wiped out. After that should have come peace and good-will. A hate born of war and enduring through years of peace is unworthy even of a savage. The confederacy was a bubble in which but few believed with all their heart. If secession meant separation from the North it meant separation from each other afterwards. It would be hard to find a score of intelligent men in the South to-day who have any arguments against a grand and glorious Union which shall be represented by a single flag.1
- ?. “A Confederate Soldier’s Opinion.” National Tribune 18 March 1882. 1:4. ↩