Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/374

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368 Southern Historical Society Papers.

One who saw him, writes*, "As he listened to the receding fire of the foe, the brightness of his eye showed the satisfaction with which he looked on the restored spirits of his old comrades in arms ; and I was touched by the affectionate manner in which he ministered to the comfort of, and the words of cheer which he gave to a number of wounded men who were carried by. I could then well understand the affection which was demonstrated by them at every sight of him."

In 1875, Sherman wrote : " With the knowledge now possessed of his small force, I, of course, committed an error in not overwhelming Johnston's army on the 2ist of March, 1865." It was the ascen- dancy of the few over the many. In the last ditch Johnston's vic- tory had been won when there was little left beyond the field he had filled with his valor. His cynical fate poured all its craft into this last scoff, which left the truth illustrious when it could no more avail a perishing cause. It was as if his brow were torn with a mock crown at last.

Sherman now moved on to Goldsboro and effected the junction with Schofield, which could no longer be prevented.

Johnston marched to the vicinity of Raleigh, and disposed his troops, so that Sherman could not go forward to Virginia without exposing his flanks ; while at the same time he placed himself so as to facilitate his junction with Lee, whenever the time should come to unite once more the two who rode into Vera Cruz together, for their last salutation of devoted valor. The respect which these successive revelations of resource and energy excited, is, perhaps, illustrated in the terms which on the i8th of April, Sherman accord- ed to Johnston, and which had they been ratified, would have saved the South the sorrow, and the North the shame of the Reconstruction Era. The current of events chose otherwise ; but once more John- ston did all that sagacity could do to stem the current. To the last there was no spot upon his breastplate which his adversary's steel had pierced ; none which there was undue eagerness to challenge. From crown to sole he blazed in complete proof. At the end, his line was an undefeated and unbroken line. When the Great Umpire threw down his warder, the defense of North Carolina, cov- ered with dust and bloody sweat, was standing with firm-planted feet against assault. There it was standing when the edifice of the Con- federacy fell the last wall of its strength. It was bearing aloft its ensigns, " torn but flying," when the earth under it opened. Doubt-

  • Captain Wm. E. Earle.