80 Southern Historical Society Papers.
They are not to be regarded as made up of merely detached and independent marches and battles springing from the haphazard order of events, but are, from first to last, the development of a uniform and consistent plan of operations, based on the profoundest science of strategy, and having in view the accomplishment of a specific pur- pose. That purpose may be announced at once to have been the de- fence of Richmond. Richmond was not merely important as being the capital of the Confederacy, but also as being the grand centre of depots, arsenals and military manufactures necessary to the support of an army operating north of it, and as the only point having railroad connections with the South sufficient for transportation of necessary supplies.
The position of the Federal capital on the banks of the Potomac, and the exposure of the southern border of the United States along the line of Maryland and Pennsylvania, made it of transcendent im- portance that the country intervening between Richmond and Wash- ington should be made and kept, as far as possible, the theatre of the war. The retirement of the Confederate forces from Kentucky, Ten nessee and Missouri, thus practically relieving the Southern border of the United States from menace in that direction, had removed a great source of alarm to them, and had liberated for operations at other points the vast forces which would have been required for the defence of that line. Had we been forced to retire from Virginia also, besides the immense moral and material loss, the removal of the seat of war entirely away from the Northern capital and territory would have freed the large forces constantl)^ engaged in their protec- tion to concentrate around us in a narrowing circle of fire, eventuating inevitably in our ultimate destruction. The Confederacy fell with the forced evacuation of Richmond. It is certain it could not long have survived its earlier voluntary abandonment.
The task of defending Richmond was, as I have said, the task of Lee ; and it was the most difficult one ever assigned to any soldier. The prime necessity was to avoid a siege. Once shut up in the forti- fications of Richmond, the city was lost, for the difficulties of its de- fence would have been insuperable ; because it would have involved the protection of long lines of railroad, without which the army could not be sustained, and in view of the enormous forces which could have been concentrated by the enemy, this would have been impossible.
Yet conceive the difficulty of avoiding such a siege, when you re- flect that by the undisputed possession of the James and York rivers,