Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/109

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Life and < '/m meter of Robert E. Ln\ !:>

the Appomattox where for the first and only time in the game of strategy, the Federal general fairly stole a march upon his opponent but where Beauregard with a brilliant audacity, not yet sufficiently recognized, defended the position against great odds until the lost time was repaired the situation seemed to Grant or Meade to jus- tify a renewal of those clashes of solid lines upon well-manned earth- works to which the Federal army had already sacrificed so many lives and so much morale. The result was disastrious as usual, and again the army and Northern public murmured at what they deemed a reckless expenditure of blood. And then the taciturn and persistent Union commander announced in general orders that no more assaults upon intrenched lines would be made. The engineers were brought up, the great guns were sent for, and the siege of Pe- tersburg was set on foot.

The operations progressed with varying fortunes through the months of summer and autumn. Gradually the clasp of the be- siegers grew closer and closer around the beleaguered army. There were some days of great glory for the Confederates. Longstreet held the north shore and the approaches to Richmond with a grip not to be shaken. Mahone and his division won fame in no scant measure at the Crater and on the Weldon road. Heth and Hamp- ton broke through Hancock's ranks at Reams' Station and captured many prisoners, colors and guns. The cavalry wrought wonders on the flanks. But further and further westward crept that fateful left flank of the Federal army. It was badly punished in each extension, but every inch of ground that Warren gained he held.

Dark days were upon us. The shadow of the inevitable was be- ginning to obscure the bow of hope. 'Twas as the winter fell that I first observed the deepened lines of care that not all the serenity of a soul at peace with God and itself could smooth from the coun- tenance of General Lee. The raven hair of four years before was already bleached into silver, and though too thorough a gentleman to betray abstraction, his speech, except on business, was rare. In fact, at this period the perils and privations of the troops were never absent from his thought. So patient of privation himself, he was indignant at what he believed to be the neglect of the supply depart- ment in furnishing clothing and provisions to the men. The Secre- tary of War made petulant inquiry of the General as to the cause of such frequent desertions from the ranks. His curt endorsement, amply justified by the facts, evinced his grave displeasure. "I sup-