Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 02.djvu/309
Defense of Petersburg.
THE TRIALS OF THE WINTER
that followed, History would fain avert her eyes. They were such as can never be forgotten by those who watched and waited—such as will never be credited by those who shall read the story hereafter in peace and plenty. To guard the long line of entrenchments from the Chickahominy to Hatcher's Run, there was now left but a gaunt remnant of that valiant host which had cheered Lee in the Wilderness as it passed to victory—which had hurled back nearly thrice its number at Cold Harbor, and wrought humiliation to the Army of the Potomac on a score of fields in this vigorous campaign.
Living on one-sixth of a ration of corn-meal and rancid pork*—remember, men and women of Richmond, that they more than, once offered to share that little with the starving poor of your beautiful city: thinly clad, their bodies indeed shivered under the freezing blasts of heaven, but their dauntless spirits cowered not under the fiery blasts of war. But there was to be added a pang deeper than the pang of hunger, sharper than the rigor of the elements or hurt of shot and steel. For now from the cotton-lands of Georgia and the rice-fields of Carolina, came borne on every blast the despairing cry which wives and little ones raised to wintry skies lit by baleful glare of burning homes, and the men of the "Old North State" bethought them of the happy homesteads which lay straight in the path of the ruthless conqueror, who was waging war with an audacious cruelty "capable of dishonoring a whole nation." A subtle enemy, till then well-nigh unknown, attacked in rear this army which still haughtily held its front, and men, with bated breath and cheeks flushing through their bronze, whispered the dread word, "DESERTION."
The historian, far removed from the passions of the time, may coldly measure out his censure, but we, comrades, bound to these men by countless proud traditions, can only cry with the old Hebrew prophet, "Alas! my brother!" and remember that these were valiant souls, too sorely tried.
Nor may I venture to portray the glorious vicissitudes of
THE BRIEF CAMPAIGN OF '65.
Foreign critics have censured Lee, who in February of this year was raised to the empty rank of General-in-Chief, because he did
.* This was the case for a considerable time in Hill's corps.