Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 15.djvu/6
river to-night if practicable. I have sent preparatory orders to all the offi- cers, and will be able to tell by night whether or not we can remain here another day ; but I think every hour now adds to our difficulties. I regret to be obliged to write such a hurried letter to your Excellency, but I am in the presence of the enemy, endeavoring to resist his advance. I am, most respectfully and truly yours,
[Signed] R. E. LEE, General,
Colonel Taylor continues :
"After a gallant resistance, our troops were retired to the second or inner line of defence around the city of Petersburg, and there main- tained their line till nightfall. By the dawn of day next morning the lines had been evacuated and the gallant, but sadly reduced Army of Northern Virginia had made good its way in its retreat westwardly toward Amelia Courthouse. The intention was to take the direction of Danville, and turn to our advantage the good line for resistance offered by the Dan and Staunton rivers. The activity of the Fed- eral cavalry and the want of supplies compelled a different course, and the retreat was continued up the Southside railroad toward Lynchburg. "
In this trying retreat, the skeleton mules and horses were scarce able to drag the scantily loaded wagons and the artillery through the miry roads. Every article that burdened them that could be dispensed with was abandoned, and food for horse and man was finally the same unshelled corn three ears of which was distributed as a soldier's ration.
Being convinced of the hopelessness of further resistance, the corps commanders of the army held a conference on Thursday night, April 6th, the result of which was that they commissioned General W. N. Pendleton (Chief of Artillery) to inform General Lee that in their judgment the time had come when negotiations should be opened with General Grant.
"General Pendleton thus describes the interview: 'General Lee was lying on the ground. No other heard the conversation between him and myself. He received my communication with the reply : ' Oh, no, I trust it has not come to that ; ' and added, ' General, we have yet too many bold men to think of laying down our arms. The enemy do not fight with spirit, while our boys still do. Besides, if I were to say a. word to the Federal commander he would regard it as such a confession of weakness as to make it the occasion of de- manding unconditional surrender a proposal to which I will never listen. I have resolved to die first ; and that, if it comes to that, we