Four Years With General Lee
FIRST DIVISION—MAJOR-GENERAL G. W. SMITH.
SECOND DIVISION—MAJOR-GENERAL LONGSTREET.
THIRD DIVISION—MAJOR-GENERAL MAGRUDER.
FOURTH DIVISION—MAJOR-GENERAL D. H. HILL.
I then examined carefully all the field and monthly re turns of the “Department of Northern Virginia” on file in the Archive-Office, and copied therefrom the following extracts, which make an authoritative statement of the strength of the army commanded by General Lee at the periods named:
By reference to the returns of the Federal armies of the 1st of March, 1865, as given in the report of the Secretary of War to the Thirty-ninth Congress (vol. v., p. 55), I find that General Grant had available at that date, the Army of the Potomac under General Meade, one hundred and three thousand two hundred and seventy-three present for duty; the army in the “Department of Virginia” under General Ord, numbering forty-five thousand nine hundred and eighty-six; and the cavalry force of the Middle Military Division under General Sheridan, twelve thousand nine hundred and eighty strong: making an effective total of all arms of one hundred and sixty-two thousand two hundred and thirty-nine.
There is no return of the Army of Northern Virginia on file in the Archive-Office, at Washington, of later date than that last given. It will be seen that on the 28th of February, 1865, General Lee had available thirty-nine thousand eight hundred and seventy-nine muskets. During the month of March the army lost heavily. In the assault made by General Gordon's troops on the line of the enemy, on the 25th, the Confederate loss was between twenty-five hundred and three thousand. The loss to the army by desertion, in the last thirty days of the siege, was three thousand men; an average of one hundred per day. On the 31st of March, General Lee had therefore but thirty-three thousand muskets, with which to defend a line over thirty miles in length—one thousand men to the mile!
In the engagement at Five Forks on the 1st of April, the divisions of Pickett and Bushrod Johnson were well-nigh annihilated by the Federal turning force, under Sheridan and Warren, which overwhelmed them; the loss sustained there reached seven thousand men.1 In the encounters at other points on the 31st of March and the 1st of April, and in the general assault on the lines made on the 2d of April, the loss was very heavy, perhaps six thousand men. So that, when General Lee withdrew his army from the lines during the night of the 2d of April, he had not over twenty thousand muskets available. The cavalry had also suffered heavily, and, of all arms, not over twenty-five thousand men began the retreat that terminated at Appomattox Court-House.
Speaking in behalf of my former comrades of the Army of Northern Virginia, I here rest our case, and declare our readiness to accept the judgment of the world, as to the genius and skill of the commander, and the valor and endurance of the men, who fought so nobly and fell so bravely, full of honors, though denied success.
In what I have written, I have endeavored, first, to assist in making clear some matters touching the history of General Lee, heretofore shrouded in obscurity or doubt; secondly, to present a statement of the strength of the army which he commanded, that could be relied upon as accurate.
In regard to the first branch of my undertaking, I need not that others should remind me of the imperfect manner of its execution; but, of the matter, and of the spirit in which I addressed myself to the work, I claim that my only aim has been historic accuracy. Indeed, I have written as if under the supervision of General Lee himself, fully realizing that, were that illustrious man now living, he would scorn any advantage obtained through injustice to others, or the sacrifice of truth: and this conviction has been present to my mind as a controlling force through my entire narrative.
In regard to the second branch of my subject, I feel assured that the statement of the strength of the Confederate army has been presented in such form as to command the confidence of all. Startling to some as the disparity in numbers between the two armies on certain occasions may appear, it is nevertheless established upon incontrovertible evidence, and makes pardonable the emotions of pride with which the soldier of the Army of Northern Virginia points to the achievements of that incomparable body of soldiery, under its peerless and immortal leader. Had he lived, I have shown that it was his purpose to prepare for the benefit of posterity, and as a just tribute to the courage and endurance of his men, a true statement of the odds against which they had to contend. What the designs of an inscrutable but all-wise Providence prevented him from doing, in this particular, I have had the temerity to attempt, and now submit the result of my labor to the judgment of my countrymen, in the hope that in criticising my work they will not lose sight of the purpose by which I have been actuated, or the spirit in which I have performed my task.
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