Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lee's Lost Cause: The Fall of the Army of Northern Virginia


At the end of February, some 68,000 Confederate soldiers answered the roll behind the line line of works, barely 56,000 of whom would have been ready to go into a fight. At that same moment, the two Union armies under Grant reported 118,000 present for duty. At the end of March, Grant would gain another 5,700 cavalry when Phil Sheridan came to him from the Shenandoah Valley, while Sheridan’s departure from the Valley freed fewer than 1,300 cavalry and artillery for Lee’s use.

-William Marvel, Lee’s Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox


Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 9, 1865, and the ‘apparent’ surrender of the Confederate States of America to the United States of America. The location, date, and event serve as one of the most charged images of the American Civil  War, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia laid down it arms to Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Potomac. What is forgotten in the myth of national reconciliation at the termination of war is the campaign before -- the one that preceded Lee's surrender -- when Grant chased his foe across western Virginia, forcing the southern general's surrender. For so much of the myth of Lee, who is a symbol of a noble, righteous South, is supported by the way he fought during the last campaign, yet was compelled to admit northern supremacy. The heroic qualities of Lee, demonstrably on display during this campaign, are used to support the myth of the Lost Cause. The Georgia Encyclopedia’s explanation of the Lost Cause serves the definition well:

The argument of the Lost Cause insists that the South fought nobly and against all odds not to preserve slavery but entirely for other reasons, such as the rights of states to govern themselves, and that southerners were forced to defend themselves against Northern aggression. When the idea of a Southern nation was defeated on the battlefield, the vision of a separate Southern people, with a distinct and noble cultural character, remained. The term culture religion refers to ideals that a given group of people desire to strengthen or restore, and Lost Cause religion sought to maintain the concept of a distinct, and superior, white southern culture against perceived attacks. Major components of religion include myth, symbol, and their expressions through rituals. The Lost Cause culture religion manifested all three.

Without the need of  particulars, Lee served as one of the living symbols of the Lost Cause. Much of his role relies upon the historical interpretation of his actions, a valiant soldier who fought until the bitter end.

However, of importance, is how much that myth relies on a mistaken account of Lee’s actions during the Appomattox Campaign, or at least partially inaccurate. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia did not surrender due to Northern supremacy of soldiers, but due to the Lee’s mistakes. If the southern supreme commander warrants inclusion in the Lost Cause, then his reasons for surrender cannot be used to support the South’s culture religion. Furthermore, his mistakes at Appomattox, while not detracting from his legacy as a military genius, need an examination. The Lost Cause’s “feet of clay” are Lee’s own excuses for losing the campaign, thus invalidating the myth and obfuscating the real story of the fall of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Failure and Retreat: Five Forks

Having nearly ruined his army in small, insignificant battles, Lieutenant General Grant prepared to extend the tenacious grip on Petersburg. The result would see his foil, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and Major General Robert E. Lee, gamble one last time to stop the inevitable onslaught. In the end, Lee would realize he could not stop Grant and the Union armies, so beginning the abandonment of the capital of the Confederacy.

Lee had made himself famous through the deployment of small mobile forces that won victory against far larger enemy attackers; and he planned to do the same again to prevent Grant from a military breakthrough. What force he scraped together had the most important job in all the Confederacy. It would need to be aggressive and actively seek out a decisive defeat of its targets. Not doing so would make every other success a failure. Battles, in Lee’s mind, were proactive affairs and not meant to correct earlier chances at success. They either succeeded in their immediate objective or they were abandoned; Antietam and Gettysburg serve as the best examples of his military philosophy and show what he would do if the battle failed to be decisive. He would retreat. The Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865, while similar in approach to earlier contests, stands in a different light, partly due to the static nature of the siege of Petersburg in early 1865. More importantly, the Battle of Five Forks that Lee gambled the fortunes of the Confederacy, if not the war, does not have any of the hallmarks of his earlier attempts to change the fortunes of his army outright. Instead, his plan for the Battle of Five Forks was the result of the earlier failure of General George Pickett to conclude an earlier fight that might have actually produced a decisive outcome. Lee planned the Battle of Five Forks to complete what Pickett did not accomplish. The battle forced him into a position where southern positions were their most vulnerable.

With 42,000 casualties, Grant might have overseen a wounded army, but it still had a dangerous lock on its foes, though the Union army under his command had not scored any remarkable victories. Yet engineers and laborers had still managed to create a vast network of trenches and other emplacements across the Virginia country side. The earthworks bound the Army of the Potomac to the Army of Northern Virginia. Neither seemed able to move; more importantly, Lee could not escape. Only the promise of the cessation of spring rains suggested that one side or the other would finally move out of their fortifications, and which side would would be the first to brave the muddied roads and strike out across the earthwork lines of forces. Since Grant knew Lee could not indefinitely stretch his defensive lines, it was Grant who moved first.

Union general Philip Sheridan, one-time commander of the Army of the Shenandoah, fresh from success in the valley of the same name, now attached to the command of Major General George G. Meade, served as the vanguard of a cavalry force to strike at Lee’s extreme right flank. Grant intended for Lee to witness the build-up of forces; for he counted on Lee’s observations of federal activity, expecting the Confederate commander-in-chief to respond by the adjustment of lines against the concentration of the Union strike force. Lee, however, intended to do much more than defend. Characteristically, Lee would go on the offensive. Perhaps Lee knew he would face Sheridan, who had rendered the Shenandoah Valley ineffective as a southern military region and Lee intended to hit hard, fast, and ruthlessly, sensing the urgency of the moment by the opponent his right flank faced. But while Lee’s creation of a mobile force, 10,000 strong, comprised mostly from the division of Major General George Pickett’s Virginians, seemed adroit in its position to attack the Union armies, the desperate position lay with Lee; for it was Grant, in his ability to mix-and-match numerically superior forces, from one army to the other, who demonstrated his advantages, while it was Lee who could barely respond with risky gambles. Perhaps aware of the difficulty of the objective, to challenge a Union buildup, Lee did not give command of the force to Pickett; he instead entrusted the leadership with his nephew Major General Fitzhugh Lee.

The chain of command would lead to another set of problems later on, mainly in the memory of the Confederacy, and how the South would explain the last days of the Confederacy within the larger narrative of the Lost Cause. Pickett’s loss of nerve to capitalize on early successes made Lee part of the narrative that enshrined Lee as a symbol of southern resoluteness; he appears blameless, while Pickett is the scapegoat. At least militarily speaking, a harsh assessment of the perfumed and coifed Virginian is appropriate; Pickett definitely had his chance at some type of substantial glory; for while he was not in command of the larger force, his first actions did prove successful. On March 31, the mobile force had stopped Sheridan’s first probes of the right flank. But when reinforcements arrived, coming from the Union Fifth Corps led by Major General Gouverneur K. Warren, Pickett withdrew and headed back to the southern entrenchments, feeling it wiser to fight there, then possibly face an outflanking from Fifth Corps on his exposed left flank. Lee was horrified that the earlier successes came up with nothing. Sheridan had not only driven back Pickett’s Virginians, he was gifted the field by the Virginian’s move to entrenchments, exposing the entire right flank of the Confederate lines.

Grant could now order an attack along all lines, which he did, and Lee now helplessly watched those simultaneous federal assaults stretch his already weakened defensive lines. Sheridan and Warren continued the attack; and by April 1, Lee knew, perhaps blaming Pickett, that the battle had been lost and Petersburg had lost its connection to the South Side Railroad. With that loss, there was no reason to hold Petersburg. No hold on Petersburg in the south meant Richmond in the north could not be defended. In the early morning of April 2, Lee wrote to President Davis of the Confederate States of America. The capital of the Confederacy, Richmond, must be abandoned.


The Escape from Petersburg and Richmond

The Confederate lines held by a thread in front of Petersburg, while in other places, where the the destruction of the Norfolk Light Infantry took place on the epicenter of the Union attack, the defenses collapsed and the refugees of the fighting began to collide with the remnants of the battle at Five Forks. Lee would plan for night time moves along the last railroad, the Richmond & Danville line. Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s fresh troops were brought from Richmond to hold back the Union advances along all lines. While smoke rose from the tobacco warehouses of Petersburg, set fire by the southern retreat, Longstreet’s forces held their ground. Part of the reason the Union attack did not aggressively pursue was for fear of Lee’s intentions; no one knew where he meant to go, and a counter-attack by the southern supreme commander was not entirely ruled out.

While the Confederate government of President Jefferson Davis left the capital aboard a single train, the long-planned course of retreat took four paths out of the trenches around Petersburg and Richmond, which they had protected for almost nine and one-half months:

General James Longstreet’s First Corps, along with General Richard S. Ewell’s Reserve Corps, would leave the Richmond defenses and cross to the south side of the James River. General William Mahone, whose division held the Howlett Line between the James and Appomattox Rivers across Bermuda Hundred,  moved inland to Chesterfield Court House. General Lee, with General John B. Gordon’s Second Corps and the remnants of Hill’s Third Corps, passed through the “Cockade City” and crossed to the north bank of the Appomattox. Finally, those cut off at Five Forks and by the breakthrough in the lines west of the city, would stay south of the Appomattox River.

While Lee had long prepared for this army to escape the trenches and head west to unite with Johnston’s army in North Carolina, the lines of retreat his army would take still needed to overcome two major obstacles of logistics, the crossing of the Appomattox River and the delivery of mass supplies via train. If the river crossings could be forded, if the footbridges could be held -- if the pontoon bridges worked as planned -- the four intrepid forces would reunite at the Amelia Court House, where a train with loaded supplies would await them. On paper the exercise merely meant a thirty mile march. In reality, act required expert handling of materials to make the march possible. Under Lee’s leadership, and the trained experience of his quartermasters, the Army of Northern Virginia could in past times be counted on to complete coordinated actions of troop-and-supply movements. Lee saw how inactivity in the trenches worked against his mobile forces at Five Forks; he now would see how nearly ten months of sedentary life would work against his army’s ability to move and be supplied.

A Controversy over Supplies

Supporters of Robert E. Lee, as well as historians, have long maintained that the next events were not the fault of the heroic southern leader. But if the ultimate defeat of the Confederacy belonged to the southern politicians like Davis, then the narrative of the Lost Cause has problems with the next sequence of events; for if Lee was not responsible for the weather, he was surely obligated to keep abreast of operations within his general staff. That he did not know of the failure to get a pontoon bridge at Genito Road, in order to cross the Appomattox, says more about Lee’s condition as a leader in the last days of the Army of Northern Virginia. He could not be blamed for the high waters on the river, the last rains of the spring having risen the levels of the Appomattox, making it difficult to cross in places. However, he could have modified the places to cross; but this belies the same problems he had with the supply of a pontoon bridge at Genito Road. Lee was going by an old plan of escape; and it proved inflexible to the demands of the moment. Apologists would suggest that Lee had no other choice. If so, he had more control over his quartermaster staff than anything else in this campaign, and he did not know that the absence of his chief of staff, Walter Taylor, on the first day of the retreat, would impact the ability to move supplies to the Amelia Court House.

Two things are clear about the delay that would impact the Army of Northern Virginia: the delay of Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell’s Richmond column across the Appomattox at Genito Road was the major reason for the delay at Amelia, wasting the one day head start and allowing Grant to position the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James in the path of the Confederate retreat from the capital; and Lee’s quartermaster staff never successfully communicated the need for the transport of supplies to Amelia. The reserve stores in Richmond never received the information. The pontoon bridge at Genito Road can be partly blamed on Lee; for a man with a reputation of remarkable feats of military engineering, he should have made himself aware of the failure to have a pontoon bridge sent to Genito Road; the high waters of the river were not under his control, though his plans should have allowed for better crossings over the swollen waters. However, the fiasco at the Amelia Court House that forced him to wait another day in the hope of future supplies was doubly the fault of Lee. After the war, he would blame faceless functionaries for the lack of supplies, when in reality he was in charge of a staff that failed to address the most basic of needs for an army, military supplies.

One Step Ahead: Grant Chases Lee

Grant could not ascertain what Lee intended to do with the Army of Northern Virginia, but Grant could accomplish one thing, and in doing so, doom Lee, the best general of the Confederacy, and the only reason the South had not surrendered to the North. By positioning forces well ahead of Lee, mainly in the effort to block any progress to unite Confederate forces with those in North Carolina, Grant could defeat Lee; he could end the war -- hopefully -- right there and then. For he feared so much a prolonged war in Virginia and North Carolina, that Grant was not wholly worried about where Lee intended to consolidate his spread out army, as it was dispersed by the chaos of retreat, the drubbing at Five Forks, and confused by the constant desertions that had begun to afflict the Army of Northern Virginia. He only needed to stay between Virginia and North Carolina.

Sheridan's riders led the way, pressing closely on the cavalry and infantry that had escaped from the collapsed right flank. Supporting Sheridan were foot soldiers from the Fifth Corps, now led by Brevet Major General Charles Griffin in the place of Gouverneur K. Warren, who had been relieved of command by Sheridan immediately after Five Forks. Closing up behind these were the Second and Sixth Corps, also with the Army of the Potomac, along with units from the Army of the James's all-white Twenty-fourth and all-black Twenty-fifth Corps. Taking up the rear was the Ninth Corps, which had orders to garrison Petersburg and to secure the supply lines reaching westward to keep pace with the hard-marching troops.

While Grant soon learned from Sheridan’s scouts that Lee’s disparate forces were on their way to Amelia Court House, he did not command the federal pursuers to cross the Appomattox River and follow immediately after them. Instead, the route best used was to follow a parallel course. The reason was to keep the remnants of Lee’s army from taking a southern course. Major General George G. Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, argued against this course; but it did not matter. Grant’s mind was made up; and luck proved him right in his plan. When the Confederates led by General Ewell were prevented from crossing at Genito Road -- along with other causes of delays across the risen river -- the head start that started as a full day, until it became twelve hours, was entirely lost by the failure to cross the river with all-speed. The final positioning of Union troops to block all southern progress, to soon happen at the railroad junction at Jetersville, took place while a paralysis, as one of Lee’s staff called it, afflicted the supreme commander of all southern armies; the delay at Amelia for want of supplies that never came was, even in Lee’s words years later, a “fatal delay.”

Condition of Armies

At this point in the campaign it was discipline that dictated cohesion during pursuit or retreat, with the southerner Ewell shrugging off the problem at Genito Road to instead plank Goode’s Bridge Road, which Longstreet’s rear guard forces used to cross the Appomattox, holding together an ordered retreat towards the pre-arranged point of consolidation at Amelia; General Philip Sheridan, whom Grant had chosen to act as vanguard, could be simultaneously aggressive in attack and pursuit. Sheridan worked cooly to seize the advantage against Lee, keeping one of his three divisions to take up position to block the railroad near Jetersville, south of Amelia. He was also able to motivate a fast-charging Fifth Corps that followed behind his command. Having replaced the ‘ineffective’ Warren with Charles Griffin, Sheridan was able to demonstrate to his troops that, regardless of whom was in command, he expected aggressiveness in the field. This example provided its own type of force to create cohesive behavior, despite the privatizations of combat, such as a lack of foodstuff.

Both sides, North and South, were in the same predicament, fighting in terrain that had been little fought over in the years of the war, charging far ahead of their lines of supply, where the ability to forage food and other materials from the countryside were tantamount to victory, or not completely falling apart as an operational army in the field; Lee did so out of desperation, issuing a proclamation, “Citizens of Amelia County, Va...meat, beef, cattle, sheep, hogs, flour, meal, corn, and provender in any quantity that can be spared.” For the Union forces, both Sheridan’s, and Meade’s with the Army of the Potomac, the fast pursuit of Confederate retreaters meant that foraging, not supply wagons, would supply their armies. Amidst the trials of living off the land, Sheridan, perhaps following the example set forth by Grant, and even Sherman, continued to act aggressively; his cavalry struggled to do more than merely harass the tail of the crippled Confederate corps; they wanted to defeat them.

Again, command over operations in the field proved the difference in the campaign, with Lee, stalled at Amelia, while Grant, in the appointment of Sheridan as his vanguard, able to administer an effective use of all commands to continue a pursuit; and ultimately, when the situation presented itself, Grant could give battle to the wounded Army of Northern Virginia. Sheridan was able to utilize parts of combines forces, both from the Army of the James, and the Potomac, for the pursuit of Lee. The Confederate supreme commander did not only fail have his full army to fulfill his orders; in the kindest words, the hero of Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, did not fully possess the wits to know that he could not stay at Amelia Court House to wait for supplies. Knowing as he did that his army was strung out along the roads towards the rendezvous place, he knew the tactical position. The delay allowed Sheridan to strip cavalry from his command, led by the young brigadier Ranald Mackenzie, and get closer to Anderson’s lagging troops; at the same time, Sheridan’s knowledge of Lee’s scattered forces gave him the confidence to follow Grant’s plan to get men ahead of the Army of Northern Virginia; and with Union Major General George Crook led his cavalry -- and the Fifth Corps’ infantry and artillery -- west every hour, joined by General Joshua Chamberlain’s brigade. Towards Jetersville, the railroad junction, they meant to go. By reaching the place, it would mean blocking Lee’s plan to follow the railroad and take away all Confederate hopes of immediate supplies. Instead, Lee allowed himself to be out-generalled; again, he knew enough of the situation, not only the position of his own strung-out soldiers, but the location of Mackenzie’s forward cavalry, giving away the objective of Crook and Chamberlain to reach Jetersville before the Confederate army. He could accomplish this through the use of his own scouts, created and trained in a western theater of guerilla war, called “Jessie’s Scouts,” and finally taking their place in an eastern front where military intelligence had once worked against the Union armies, but now, fully used by Sheridan, would ultimately lead to Lee’s surrender.

During the Appomattox Campaign the scouts proved to be of invaluable assistance to General Sheridan and the Federal cavalry. They began the campaign by capturing General Rufus Barringer, a Confederate cavalry commander from North Carolina, and his staff as they were looking for a comfortable camp for the night near Namozine Church. The scouts then proceeded to capture a dispatch from General Robert E. Lee requesting supplies to be sent to his army at Amelia Court House. Sheridan had the scouts send the message, but his cavalry were to capture the supplies for themselves. The scouts, even though they worked in groups of three or four, were responsible for leading numerous rebels to capture.

Lee, by his own decision to stay at Amelia, doomed the Army of Northern Virginia. Sheridan, on the other hand, adroitly used his field intelligence and the ability to round up commands, making sure that by the morning of April 5th, “three corps of the Army of the Potomac and four divisions of Union cavalry slept near Jetersville that night.”


The Battle of Sailor’s Creek

Desperate maneuvers were born of anxious thoughts, by both Union and Confederate commanders; for the knowledge of Lee’s plans, compelled Grant to send Sheridan as a counter to enemy movements and intentions, starting a battle that in its earlier moments revealed the Confederates ability to still fight, but in the end convinced Union pursuers that the end of the war could come if, as Sheridan said to Lincoln, the “thing was pressed.”

While the Army of Northern Virginia had not tasted victory in nearly two years, it was willing to trust their captain, Lee, one more time and challenge their federal nemeses. But first he needed to get his army near Farmville, located near the South Side railroad line, where supplies could be transported. On the morning of the sixth, Longstreet, Lee’s “old war horse,” drove his four divisions hard in the direction of Deatonville.

In the van of Lee’s column was General James Longstreet’s combined First and Third Corps, followed by Richard Anderson’s small corps of Generals Pickett and Bushrod Johnson’s divisions, then General Richard S. Ewell’s Reserve Corps made up of Richmond garrison troops, the main wagon train, and finally General John B. Gordon’s Second Corps acting as rearguard.

Sheridan’s forward forces, probing and witnessing this large retreat, suspected that Lee now moved his entire infantry, a conclusion that set up the an engagement between the forces at Amelia Springs, another inconclusive engagement that merely prolonged the agony of the Army of Northern Virginia. Sheridan feared the presence of Lee’s corps on the Deatonville Road, seeing in their movements a threat against Major General Ord’s rear, who would be threatened if Longstreet did, indeed, swing back to Burkesville Junction. His response guaranteed two things of consequence about the future battle, first of all setting in motion the federal pursuers and interceptors.

It would be the Federal II Corps that spied Gordon’s troops passing near Amelia Springs at daybreak on the 6th and set out in immediate pursuit. Following on a parallel road to the south of the one that the Confederates were moving on was fast riding blue cavalry under General Sheridan. Close behind them would be General Horatio G. Wright’s VI Corps leaving from their trenched position at Jetersville.

The second issue about the confrontation was the nature of the battle; for it would be three separate engagements that took place, giving the engagement the appearance of a large conflagration, when in fact, it was the nature of the spread out forces of the Army of Northern Virginia that allowed the Union to defend, then attack, the Confederates in a piecemeal action. Lee’s knowledge that he had been checked at Jetersville meant he would make decisions that started the events around Sailor’s Creek, a tributary of the Appomattox to the north, which was seemed unfordablable by Lee’s admission, and which Lee knew he had only two places to cross at, Farmville and High Bridge. His belief would cost in doubly, first in time, seeing the need to cross at selected spots, so giving orders to hold up the movements of soldiers, and secondly, thinking the Union could not cross anywhere else on the river, a misconception that Longstreet warned Lee about and Sheridan would prove at various times.

Lee watched his divided army struggle to move and fight back efforts to weaken its cohesion. With his back to the river, Lee had to fight now, even though major gaps appeared between corps and brigades, as the Army of Northern Virginia no longer stood as a whole. Sheridan’s cavalry made sure that the southern host never fully united. As the Confederates attempted to march west, the Union cavalry under Sheridan kept pace with them, running parallel to their position, and launching hit-and-run attacks the entire time. Of importance to the sequence of events, the southern commands of Gen. Richard Anderson, Gen. Richard Ewell and Gen. John Gordon all halted their marches to make preparations for a large Union assault. Never did they fully unite. When it did not arrive and they resumed their marches, a larger gap now appeared in the lines, mainly between Anderson and all forces further west. The break was exploited by Sheridan’s vanguard, commanded by General George Custer, who moved his cavalry division into the gap, effectively separating Anderson and two other corps from the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee’s “black day,” as historians call this event, was set to begin.

At Holt’s Corner, Ewell made another fateful decision, as he waited for the federal assault that never came and, fearing any more delays, ordered his supply wagons to separate from his own, and head northwest to arrive at Danville, the next of Lee’s objectives after Farmville. While Ewell took his time at Holt’s Corner, mindful of maintaining a defensive perimeter, and fearful of a federal attack, Gordon’s artillery went along with the baggage. Ewell would not have artillery when needed most; and the federal Second Corps never broke contact with them, heading in the northwest direction, chasing after the supply trains, and gaining an important advantage, the high ground east of Little Sailor’s Creek. Now Union cavalry confronted Anderson and federal infantry faced off against Ewell, effectively boxing both in rebel commands, who now would fight back-to-back, with neither able to support the other.

Ewell had no artillery with him and so was unable to reply when, at 5:15 P.M., a row of 20 Yankee cannon lined up along the ridge opposite his position opened a concentrated fire that lasted for more than 30 minutes. A Maryland officer on the receiving end of the barrage recalled the "shot sometimes plowing the ground, sometimes crashing through the trees, and not infrequently striking in the line, killing two or more at once." Behind the curtain of powder smoke Federal battle lines took shape. At 6:00 P.M. the guns fell silent and the infantry formations began to advance.

While Longstreet arrived at Rice’s Depot, he was separated from the rest to the east. He, along with Lee, never knew about the fight at Sailor’s Creek. When the supreme commander of southern arms finally did witness the aftermath of the battle, when the remnants of his army joined the western segment, Lee would finally know much more than just what he had missed. He would comprehend the mortal longevity of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Battle came at Sailor's Creek from the aggressive move of Custer into the gaps between the three separated Confederate corps. Anderson, having realized his predicament, chose to make a stand at a crossroads of farms owned by the Harper and Anderson families. Ewell maneuvered his force to the southwest side of the creek. Back to back the two corps and their adjuncts would fight. The Union artillery under the command of General Horatio Wright fired on Ewell immediately, whose men were forced to take cover, unable to return a fusillade of shells on the federals. Simultaneously, Sheridan gave his subordinate the chance to attack Anderson through the use of three cavalry divisions; Custer would partially get the honor, along with generals Thomas Devin and George Crook. Anderson, however, possessed an artillery, and he would use it, point blank against any frontal charge.

Wright, satisfied by a bombardment lasting a half hour, released his men for a change across the swollen creek. Their ragged line tentatively reformed across the difficult terrain and ran into Ewell's men, who, having dug themselves into the earth, now rose and gave a volley that caused the Union line to break and fall back. When the federals finally reformed and re-assaulted Ewell with great difficulty, only the use of hand-to-hand fighting resolved the hour, giving the Union more than a victory over Ewell's shattered corps, but also the capture of six rebel generals. Not only was Ewell captured, so too was Lee's son, Curtis Lee, along with 3,000 ragged southern foot soldiers. Anderson's command also finally broke; and them, along with what was left of Ewell's corps, retreated as a disorganized mob. Towards Rice's Depot they intended to go, and down the valley of Big Sailor's Creek they went. Lee stood on a knoll to oversee the creek, with the knowledge coming late about the battle, only to see the refugees of the Confederate defeat. He could only come to one conclusion in that instant, saying "My God! Has the army been dissolved?" Using the parlance of historians, this was truly Lee’s “black day.”

In a fight defined by big and little creeks, taking place on the compact parcels of family farms, Gordon, in charge of the supply train that had sped Ewell's much-needed artillery away, was now forced to defend his line of wagons on the high ground above Lockett's farm, knowing that the Second Corps under command of Major General Andrew Humphrey would soon attack. Gordon was not wrong, though he was able to hold his ground, until the supremacy of numbers of northern soldiers accomplished a flanking movement against his position and presented Gordon with only one decision, retreat. At the end of this engagement of the battle, 1,700 prisoners and 200 wagons now belonged to Humphrey's corps. Gordon's Corps, however, in their retreat, chose another route, one that would figure importantly in the coming end story of the Army of Northern Virginia. The retreat over High Bridge, an untouched railroad bridge upon stone columns, crossing the Appomattox River, would serve as an important place in the campaign. Already, the federals gave chase to the retreating mass of dissolution that had once been the great Army of Northern Virginia. Due to the relentless pursuit, once again the Confederate armies had little time to rest and collect supplies from the recently arrived wagons. While the segments of the Army of Northern Virginia attempted to consolidate on the northwest bank of the river, attempting all the time to hold off federal cavalry in pursuit, the supply trains were sent down the line to Appomattox Station thirty miles away. Lee had thought if he could get his army across the river and destroy all four bridges, the Union pursuers would be stalled and his army could escape and gain a reprieve. The issue at High Bridge would have grave consequences for the Confederacy's future status as a nation.


Battle of High Bridge

“The roving representative of (Union) Signal Corps befriended an ailing, lice-infested South Carolinian with whom he reached the approach to High Bridge, begged a meal, and collapsed on the ground. Hundreds like them wandered in shadows around the army’s campfires, beyond the calls of their captains but unwilling, yet, to forsake the army altogether.”

A great many southern soldiers now hovered around the camps of their army, following but not obeying orders, just close enough to hope that supplies might arrive and they could eat. The shattering defeat at Sailor’s Creek also showed that the Army of Northern Virginia could no longer stand and fight. The loss permanently wounded the army, costing it the last advantage the Lee’s vaunted soldiers still had -- a belief in their invincibility. When the first divisions of Lee’s army retreated across High Bridge, the ragged remnants of the army followed. Since the majority could no longer be considered soldiers but refugees, the mishandlement of the burning of High Bridge makes more sense.

Lee knew what Grant intended to do, and the realization must have chilled him; for Grant would do all he could to get ahead of Lee, obstruct his western escape, and end the war in Virginia. Everything counted on the ability to get across the river; and more importantly, how well the Confederates could destroy those bridges also mattered. If that was completed, then Lee could get as far as Lynchburg or Roanoke, then link up with Johnston in North Carolina. Lee faced, however, the greatest of odds, for the Union army only needed to use one wing of its army to block the Confederates at their intended destination, and with the other wing, pin the southern army down, north of the river, dooming the Army of Northern Virginia for all time.

While federal pursuit cut short the distribution of the only thing keeping the army intact -- the promise of supplies -- the real problem at High Bridge was the abject level of disorganization that undercut the Confederate commands. Not minding the starvation that plagued the stomachs of southern soldiers, the state of demoralization that caused an infestation of desertion now meant that most time was spent by the rebels to police one another. Efforts to retard the bleeding of men worked against the Confederates at High Bridge, watering down the urgency of the retreat across the bridge and making sure the hour of its destruction would be delayed too. The constant halt, identification, and appraisal of the intents of every brigade that crossed the bridge dangerously slowed all traffic.

The realization of hopelessness by the southern commanders also worked to undermine the attention to the retreat and reunion at Appomattox, a situation not helped by Grant's own knowledge of his foes desperation and his own willingness to use diplomatic channels to weaken the Confederate resolve to fight. When knowledge came of Grant's first letter to Lee, an appeal to the sanity of surrender, first given to General William Mahone by Union Brigadier General Seth Williams, assistant general to Grant. Perhaps helped by knowledge of the letter, more and more officers under Lee began to see the hopelessness of a war that looked more and more as a contrived affair. First, Mahone, Anderson, and Gordon broached the anathema topic -- surrender. They saw capitulation as likely, if not inevitable.  In much more stronger terms, the majority of them saw the war's hopelessness, and the junior generals put a plan in play to approach Lee with the proposal. Since Anderson served under Longstreet, and "Old Pete" was the closest to Lee, Anderson went to Longstreet to go to Lee. While this went on, the officers prepared for the destruction of the bridges. To plan for surrender while simultaneously planning to fight on are not two things that can take place together without one getting in the way with the other. Conflicted thoughts only reinforced the disorganized nature of the Army of Northern Virginia; and then the time came to destroy the bridges came, the army failed.

The Union officers under Grant were not confused in their determination to catch up with Lee. The pursuit hectically continued, as federal officers who could not keep pace were removed and replaced with officers who could continue to apply the pressure. The goal meant all haste, and the Union commanders began to operate with a secret, unsaid knowledge that, if they could only get one corps across the river, Lee’s army would have no rest. Humphrey's 2nd Corps was chosen to make the crossing at High Bridge. The first northern brigades made it across the bridge -- finally inflamed by the efforts of Confederate engineers -- and attempted to save the bridge; the Confederates realized that the bridge was captured and, knowing the seriousness of the situation, Mahone counterattacked the small brigade of northerners. Pressed against the burning bridge, Union artillery fired back at the desperate rebel charge, and Barlow's 3rd Brigade crossed across the bridge en masse, smashing the Confederate counterattack, who retreated along Longstreet's lines. The bridge was now secure and the Union armies could continue to pursue and pressure. If the officers in the Army of Northern Virginia had not known about inevitability of collapse, they knew it now. Grant would not let up, nor would his officers. Lee's army still fought, even at times inflicting great harm on the Union pursuers, but the news of a possible truce overtook the minds of the Confederate soldiers. But it was not the news of the failure at High Bridge that doomed the southern mind and forced them to accept the end of the war. The arrival of Sheridan and Ord at Appomattox Station would force Lee to accept surrender.


The Surrender Begins

The exhausted nature of the Confederate retreat and Lee's obsessive drive to cross the river both worked to form an illusionary image of the reality of the campaign; getting over the river would not solve all his problems, nor prevent the Union pursuers to continue the plan to entrap the Army of Northern Virginia. Again, the federals determination to pursue and trap their foes made river crossings dangerous operations, but not impossible. Along with the Sheridan’s success at commanding forces across water obstacles, the loss of High Bridge merely mocked Lee's mistaken picture of the situation; the presence of various federal brigades and corps, across the river, in all sectors, and in preparation to converge on Lee again, further worked to taunt the southern supreme commander, reminding him the end was near.

The chase Grant commanded his armies to continue consisted of three columns: the 2nd Corps under Humphrey that crossed High Bridge, infantry from Ord's Army of the James, preceded by George Crook's cavalry division, and two other divisions of Sheridan's cavalry; all headed west, with the Army of the James just south of Farmville, and Sheridan's horsemen prepared to take up a blocking position in from of Danville. The rebel forces they immediately faced belonged to Gordon and Mahone, who took a defensive position around Cumberland Church, the right flank covered by Longstreet and Lee's nephew, Fitzhugh Lee, who were doubly responsible to screen the supply wagon inroute to the northwest. Fights immediately took place in this desperate position around Cumberland Church, nothing of any significance, but enough to take the attention off more important federal movements of the 2nd Corps, heading in a northwesterly direction, who also moved to block all of Lee's options, and also, cover the railroad that Lee desperately needed. And the supreme commander felt the pressure on all fronts; Humphrey's forces fought the southern rear guard, who fought with all desperation.

The intensity of the chase gave way to a larger battle at the Cumberland Church. Humphrey encountered concentrated rebel resistance in the early afternoon of April 7. The southerners must have sensed the urgency of the hour, as their lines never broke under the pressure of a series of relentless attacks. Perhaps inspired by the sight of continued resistance that looked more haphazard and broken on every viewing of battlefields, Grant's intuition to the thoughts of his opponent, played itself out. He knew Lee would have considered the Army of Northern Virginia broken. Yet even he did not know what Lee thought, he knew his own thoughts; and perhaps he dwelt on the loss of more northern soldiers -- 571 casualties occurred at Cumberland Church. Grant would say upon his arrival at Farmville that the time had come to offer Lee terms of surrender. Later that day, a note was composed with Grant's typical straightforward delivery.

"The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate army known as the Army of Northern Virginia."

Lee, informed by his own lieutenants of the need to seek terms, was prepared to start a dialogue with Grant. His reply to Grant spoke to the one issue both commanders wanted to escape, the continuation of bloodshed.

"I have rec'd your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of N. Va.—I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, & therefore before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender."

Lee brooked no intent to surrender, knowing that the fight at Cumberland Church was a sideshow to the important task at hand, escape along the Lynchburg Stage Road and facing the predictable bottleneck of traffic that would result from Longstreet and his own's marches. To pull off an organized retreat and move with all haste towards a supply depot yet-to-be determined, meant soldiers must move quickly, but not give up the ability to instantly give battle. The Army of Northern Virginia could barely accomplish either of those tasks, let alone fight-and-run simultaneously.

Many of his men were moving in a dull fog, barely conscious of their surroundings. A cavalryman assigned to straggler patrol was aghast at the sight of the soldiers "who had thrown away their arms and knapsacks [and were] lying prone on the ground along the roadside, too much exhausted to march further, and only waiting for the enemy to come and pick them up as prisoners."

The next set of events involved Lee's last attempt to fix the morale of his struggling army; and his decisions would attract future criticism among detractors who, by their vociferous opinions of Lee relieving Anderson, Johnson, and Pickett of their commands, did not use the inviolability of Lee's generalship for the construction of the Lost Cause. However, it must be noted that around this time Lee's judgement of the future of the conflict looked suspiciously muddled, as his belief in the cause seemed to have clouded his own perspective. While he removed generals, other senior officers had already approached him about the idea of listening to Grant's peace proposals. After listening to Brigadier General William Pendleton explain his reticent position, Lee answered, and quite differently than he had before.

“I trust it has not come to that! We certainly have too many brave men to think of laying down our arms. They still fight with great spirit, whereas the enemy does not. And, besides, if I were to intimate to General Grant that I would listen to terms, he would at once regard it as such an evidence of weakness that he would demand unconditional surrender—and sooner than that I am resolved to die. Indeed, we must all determine to die at our posts.”

Tremors of capitulation in the Army of Northern Virginia did not bode well for Lee’s promise that his army could fight a brave Union opponent; for their determination at the very least to pursue the Confederates showed a willingness to confront their enemies. By April 8, the federal 6th Corps had moved across the Appomattox River, perhaps its skirmishers glimpsing the sight of Union general Humphrey, on his hands and knees, looking through his spectacles at the ground in an attempt to discover any sign of the westward direction of the Army of Northern Virginia.

To Grant's credit, he personally realized that Lee's response possessed enough for him to write again, continuing the dialogue.

"Your note of last evening in reply of mine of same date, asking the condition on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon, namely: that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms again against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received."

Grant must have been affected by the contents of his letter, for the act left him no solace and only seemed to prolong, or at least intensify the stress he felt to end the war now, knowing that as long as Lee kept an army in the field, the killing would continue.

Both supreme commanders of the North and the South faced innumerable pressures, and for a second, the campaign potentially lay in the hands of the junior officers. Lee's commands were in flux due to his relievement of generals; Grant did not have that problem. His subordinate Sheridan capably resumed the search for a position that would, once and for all, end the flight and resistance of the Army of Northern Virginia. Sheridan's excellent intelligent scouts told of the supply trains at Appomattox Station waiting for the hungry southern soldiers. Knowing this, Sheridan raced on, knowing that   he could finally trap Lee and seemingly doom the Confederacy, once and for all. Ord's command of the Army of the James, joined by the 5th Corps under Griffin, must have sensed the opportunity too. For Ord implored his men to march hard, promising that with long, hard march, victory would come and the campaign would end.

Most likely Grant was aware of the desertions that leaked from Longstreet’s vanguard, which no officers prevented; for the Illinoian field marshal saw the evidence of a desperate opponent when he traveled up the road to meet General Meade, the path littered with the detritus of the Confederate retreat, “in the roadway lay pistols, rifles, cooking utensils, personal baggage, camp equipment of every description, and frequently the carcasses of horses and mules that had succumbed to hunger, overwork, or the bullets of sympathetic soldiers.” Arguably, in these fields of despair, Grant saw hope that temporarily elevated his mood. It was a personal, if not temporary, tranquility, one his officers had no time for comforting thoughts; their only mission, especially that of Sheridan’s and Ord’s, was to race ahead of Lee, an act that was purely Grant in its application. The pursuers left their supply lines and sent foragers into the land to procure food, supplies, and mounts, much in the same fashion as Grant during the Vicksburg Campaign, or Sherman’s campaign against Georgia and South Carolina. The sudden presence of these “bummers” might have been known to Lee, darkening his mood, and nowhere close to Grant’s good spirits. In a countryside suddenly swarmed with blue-jacketed skirmishers, Lee designed on Sheridan’s terrible purpose, one the federal cavalry chief was close to completing: the interception of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Station. The stage was set for the last series of fights around Appomattox Station and Lee’s final decision.


The Battles of Appomattox Station and Courthouse

The first to arrive at Appomattox Station was Sheridan's mounts, and in the lead, Custer, who, upon seeing the four supply trains that awaited Lee's starved army, gave orders to engineers to spirit the trains away before a suspected-large Confederate force appeared. The nearby rebels did not disappoint, raining shells down on the federal horsemen at the station. With the cries of "The Yankees are coming," the Reserve Artillery of Brigadier General Rueben Lindsay Walker suddenly alert and prepared to scare off Custer's intrusion. The battle quickly began to take shape, along the same time as another southern supply train arrived, with Walker joined by Talcott's Engineers serving as infantry, General Martin Gary's Cavalry Brigade alongside them, and nearly 100 hundred artillerymen, now with guns pressed into their hands to hold a semi-circle defensive line. Neither side could operate well in the bad conditions of the terrain: the Confederates were stymied by a lack of organization that was characteristic of an ad hoc defense by engineers and artillerymen; Custer's ordered-charges moved clumsily over the grounds. The condition of opposing lines explained the sequence of battle, as Custer ordered charge after charge into southern grapeshot, each one repulsed yet attempted again, for the Confederates could not mount any type of organized counter-offensive to capture the field.

The Union sides got the worst of things, taking massive shots of canister, vainly moving forwards against walls of iron they feared to fully approach. While the success of the southern artillery did not lead to a full retreat of their foes, the rebels could themselves escape the federal envelopment of their position. But as darkness fell upon the field of battle, the northern horsemen continued to organize, persistent in their determination to seize the station and doom the Army of Northern Virginia. Yet the Union soldiers continued to attack, and eventually, through the blast of canons, they were able to capture the terrible artillery guns and, while the death toll of southerners is not known, the reduction of their forces by 1000 soldiers -- prisoners -- severely depleting numbers of an army that could ill afford any losses. The worst for the South, though, was the capture of the station, completely overrun by the 15th New York Cavalry, who, under directions of Lieutenant Colonel August Root, gained the Lynchburg-Richmond Stage Road, captured more of the supply wagon of the Army of Northern Virginia. The successful assault ended badly for Root, however, who died in a hail of bullets from desperate Alabamians. The rest of his New Yorkers were forced to retreat from nearby courthouse. But even when leaving the field, they never stopped in the seizure of prisoners and the killing of southern mules, further reducing the ability of the Confederate host to supply an army that was already chronically under-supplied.

A five hour battle at Appomattox Station did more than take away Lee's supplies, the capture of the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road meant the northerners commanded the high ground west of the Appomattox Court House, directly across the planned line of Lee's western march. Lee, after a war meeting, decided that an assault along the stage road would open up his army's escape, for he believed that only federal cavalry blocked the way. What Lee did not know was the forced nighttime march of Ord, and his three corps of the Army of the James, was close at hand.

Lee was ready to move, and took the last steps to consolidating forces, trading out soldiers from one brigade to make another, and removing the last commands from the generals who no longer possessed viable battle-ready commands; the moves he would make against former lieutenants such as Pickett would endure long after the arguments about the nature of Lee's surrender, but for what Lee had planned - a last desperate breakout - he still possessed an army of 30,000, while far outnumbered by the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James,  the Confederate desertions that sapped the strength of the southern host, making up the traditional stories used to describe Lee's heroic but honorable surrender, should not be viewed as a sudden development that doomed the Army of Northern Virginia, but instead, looked on as the final outcome of Lee's mistakes to fully prepare his staff for the army's escape and, to compound the problem of executing the retreat, Lee's commands to wait for supplies to reach his soldiers. Failing that, his army dwindled immediately, some sources saying that nearly seventy-five percent of his brave Virginians abandoned Lee. Even with the Virginians willingness to desert for their nearby homes, he could field 30,000 soldiers. The remainder of this men most likely did not desert, not for belief in final Confederate victory, but for the fact many hailed from the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. They stayed with Lee in the hope of finding food, and in failing to secure a place to get supplies, Lee let them down. Now he asked once more of them, to attack and break the Union stranglehold on their position. But it should be mentioned that, even while he planned for an assault, he and Grant continued their dialogue, with the Union supreme commander rebuffing his offer for a general truce of the entire war, insistent that Lee must disband his entire army, and that was all. With knowledge that Grant would accept a truce, a move that would stop the bloodshed and, possibly, deliver supplies to the starved soldiers, Lee chose the second option - the costly option - to enter once again into the "sea of blood" he once professed a desire to avoid at all costs.

Cavalry continued to show up to block Lee's passage, defended by breastwork positions of dirt and fence rails, and lead by Brevet Brigadier General Charles Smith, who immediately looked to force the nearby rebels into submission, directing Lieutenant's James H. Lord's cannon's to fire into the enemy camps. The barrage did not prevent the Confederates from forming lines to attack; Major General John B. Gordon created a line of battle with General Clement Evans on the left, General James Walker in the center, General Bryan Grimes on the right, and General division in a second line; General Fitz Lee cavalry divisions of Rooney Lee, Tom Rosser and Tom Mumford prepared themselves; all were supported by General Armistead Long's artillery. Before 8 am, the lines moved forward in a left wheel motion, all along the line giving an eerie rebel yell. Almost immediately, Smith's line began to collapse in slow motion, allowing Confederates to capture guns, and for a brief time look upon an open road. Knowing that Smith's line faced the reality of a general outflanking, the rebel horsemen charged forward to fully gain the rear of the stage road. Behind the northern lines, events took place quickly; McKenzie's small division of cavalry moved forward, along with Colonel Samuel B. Young's move to support Smith's left. However, the rebels, thoroughly emboldened to know the road lay in their grasp, drove back the Union cavalry, while the southern soldiers opened the stage road to the south and a North Carolina brigade commanded by William Cox advanced along the road in a western direction.

Ord's hard charging corps of the Army of the James arrived at this point in time, taking on the southern guns at great cost to their exposed flanks. But the full weight of federal power began to make itself known, falling on the Confederate assault, and changing the course of the battle; Brigadier General John Turner's Division from the 24th Corps and Colonel William Woodward's brigade of Colored Troops supported Foster's right; the gap was filled between the two divisions immediately, who began to move in concert against the rebel assault. The Confederates began to unravel and, seeing this, their commander Gordon, sent a message to Lee, one the southern supreme commander might have known would come, even before the battle.

“Tell General Lee that my command has been fought to a frazzle and unless Longstreet can unite in the movement, or prevent these forces from coming upon my rear, I can not long go forward.”
Gordon learned quickly how much more would threaten to disintegrate his ranks, and he moved against the presence of more corps, first coming against him from the south, from Major General Charles Griffin's 5th Corps, and to their extreme right the approach of the 185th New York and 198th Pennsylvania infantries, both commanded by Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain. Gordon left what he could in the field, barely 25 men, to delay the federal pursuit, while the remainder of his corps reformed on the east side of the Appomattox RIver. At this moment, white flags of truce began to appear along the line. Some skirmishing continued, as both sides prepared for the resumption of battle. But a profound event had begun to take shape, as soldiers yelled up and down the line about the sight white flags, and all from the Confederates. The final battle long dreaded to announce the end of the Army of Northern Virginia never arrived. Instead, by the actions on April 8-9, the Union 2nd and 6th Corps soon had joined their fighting colleagues in the field and, with the gain of the strategic ground, could now force Lee to surrender. For the 500 total killed and wounded, the hour came too late. No one knew it, other than Lee, and maybe Grant, but the last senseless battles at the Appomattox Station and Courthouse had ended the war.
For Grant the headache that had long afflicted him on this day went away when Lee sent word to Grant, initiating a conversation that Lee would have traded for “a thousand deaths.” He made sure to hurry with all haste to Lee’s position at the Appomattox Courthouse. Grant’s own reputable lieutenant Sheridan, who had done so much to force Lee’s surrender, now completed the task through the notification of all commands that Grant was enroute to Lee to decide the finalize terms of surrender. The truce was obeyed by all sides, who sat in sight of one another, in-wait for the end of the campaign, and little fanfare greeted the last time the guns of the Army of Northern Virginia would fire on the Army of the Potomac. Just stunned silence.
At the Appomattox Courthouse, another event would be written; and for the legend of Lee and the Confederacy, another battle would be waged for the memory of the war. Arguably, the victor of the war would also be decided, though not in any way that Lee or Grant, nor the soldiers of either side, would have guessed. Since the Union had prevailed over the Confederacy, the North and the South must be united, and for that happen, the meaning of the war would need defining, or more appropriately, redefining. But no one could have imagined that yet; and no one who fought in that war, or for that matter, the Appomattox Campaign, would recognize the later history of the fighting in the first week of April 1865. The reimaging of the war, the myth of the Lost Cause, and the ‘godhead’ of Robert E. Lee immediately happened after the Appomattox Campaign.
Lee must have known what military advantages he still possessed on the eve of his evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, even if his army was outnumbered by his implacable nemesis Grant, and even if Lee had had doubts about his current officers. The plan to abandon the trenches and escape to North Carolina, to unite with Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, defeat Sherman, and destroy Grant might have seemed a long shot, but he had accomplished impossible feats before. If anything, Lee not only lost confidence in his army at the Battles of Five Forks and Sailor’s Creek, he showed, through his mishandling of the preparation to cross rivers and the decision to halt at Amelia Court House, a lack of self-confidence, or at least the same decisive decision making he showed earlier in the war. Lee deserves respect as one of the greatest military minds in U.S. history, if not in the world, but his mistakes during the Appomattox Campaign -- understandable given the impossible situation of the South during the war -- show that he was not invincible. Some would argue that he showed his mortality at Gettysburg, or even Antietam, and they would be right, but only on the grounds of the limits of his powers and the overreach of his hubris, to will his army to victory and conclude the war once and for all. But what happened at Appomattox, with his decision to surrender his army, under the belief that he was outnumbered, which later supporters would corroborate by inflating northern arms or deflating southern ones, cannot be used to support the biggest part of the myth of the Lost Cause, which the South has used for so long to argue about its moral victory in the war: the divinity of Robert E. Lee, soldier and gentleman. No, the image of Lee fighting on to the last, supported by a loyal army that he also believed in, succumbs to logic, and Lee the righteous figure of Southern manhood, also ‘dies.’ Lasty, the myth of the Lost Cause, that describes a South fighting for a noble cause, defeated by superior manpower and northern industry, also must perish.

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