The Civil War Coming
to an End
8000 men; but every man able to bear arms was still
resolute and ready for battle. There were present three times that many
enrolled Confederates; but two thirds of them were so enfeebled by hunger, so
wasted by sickness, and so foot-sore from constant marching that it was
difficult for them to keep up with the army. They were wholly unfit for duty.
It is important to note this fact as explaining the great difference in the
number of those who fought and those who were to be fed.
There was nothing unnatural or censurable in
all this. The Confederates who clung to those pieces of battered bunting knew
they would never again wave as martial ensigns above embattled hosts; but they
wanted to keep them, just as they wanted to keep the old canteen with a
bullet-hole through it, or the rusty gray jacket that had been torn by
canister. They loved those flags, and will love them forever, as mementoes of
the unparalleled struggle. They cherish them because they represent the
consecration and courage not only of Lee's army but of all the Southern armies,
because they symbolize the bloodshed and the glory of nearly a thousand battles.
As we reached the designated point, the arms were
stacked and the battle-flags were folded. Those sad and suffering men, many of
them weeping as they saw the old banners laid upon the stacked guns like
trappings on the coffin of their dead hopes, at once gathered in compact mass
around me. Sitting on my horse in the midst of them, I spoke to them for the
last time as their commander. In all my past life I had never undertaken to
speak where my own emotions were so literally overwhelming. I counseled such
course of action as I believed most conducive to the welfare of the South and
of the whole country. I told them of my own grief, which almost stifled
utterance, and that I realized most keenly the sorrow that was breaking their
hearts, and appreciated fully the countless and stupendous barriers across the
paths they were to tread.