Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 04.djvu/318

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

limited to the Danville road. The present capacity of that road is insufficient to bring supplies adequate to the support of the army of Northern Virginia, and the continuance of that road at even its existing condition cannot be relied on. It can render no assistance in facilitating the movement of troops.  *   *   *  The Chief of Ordnance reports that he has a supply of 25,000 arms, He has been dependent on a foreign market for one-half of the arms used. This source is nearly cut off." It was quite cut off a few days after by the fall of Fort Fisher, the only port through which we could introduce supplies from abroad.

How came the country to be so bare of the supplies necessary for the efficient prosecution of the war. When we seceded the country had gathered in a large crop of cotton—between four and five millions of bales. That amount of cotton, in my opinion, would have exchanged for food, clothing, arms, medical stores, and all the necessary supplies in abundance for the war—enough, probably, to have enabled General Lee, with the troops which he handled with such consummate ability, to have conquered a peace upon fair terms. But those who believed "that cotton was king" had an extravagant notion of its value, and a queer theory as to its use. They believed that the Government ought to acquire it, and sell it to supply its wants. An impracticable view, in my opinion. Government makes a poor trader, in peace or in war, and could not have commanded the means to utilize such a crop. But the people and the Government were in favor of prohibiting private individuals from using the article by selling it where it would bring the most, and exercised a strict surveillance over the subject. On the contrary, the only mode of effecting the exchange spoken of above was through private individuals, and if this had been allowed and encouraged early in the war, as ought to have been done, that exchange might have been made—if not wholly, to a great extent—and the horrors of the war much abated.

Whilst this state of things continued, those abroad who had accumulated cotton profited by the blockade, and had no interest to raise it. The time when the wants of the cotton market would make both Yankees and English count upon raising the blockade never came, and the cotton remained on hand, for the most part with but little benefit to any one—reminding me of an old woman I once heard of, who, coming into possession of some money unex-