"...I dislike to send letters within reach of the enemy, as they might serve, if captured, to bring distress on others. But you must sometimes cast your thoughts on the Army of Northern Virginia, and never forget it in your prayers. It is preparing for a great struggle, but I pray and trust that the great God, mighty to deliver, will spread over it His almighty arms, and drive its enemies before it...."
One perceives from these letters how clearly my father foresaw the storm that was so soon to burst upon him. He used every means within his power to increase and strengthen his army to meet it, and he continually urged the authorities at Richmond to make preparations in the way of supplies of ammunition, rations, and clothing.
I shall not attempt to describe any part of this campaign except in a very general way. It has been well written up by both sides, and what was done by the Army of Northern Virginia we all know. I saw my father only once or twice, to speak to him, during the thirty odd days from the Wilderness to Petersburg, but, in common with all his soldiers, I felt that he was ever near, that he could be entirely trusted with the care of us, that he would not fail us, that it would all end well. The feeling of trust that we had in him was simply sublime. When I say "we," I mean the men of my age and standing, officers and privates alike. Older heads may have begun to see the "beginning of the end" when they saw that slaughter and defeat did not deter our enemy, but made him the more determined in his "hammering" process; but it never occurred to me, and to thousands and thousands like me, that there was any occasion for uneasiness. We firmly believed that "Marse Robert," as his soldiers lovingly called him, would bring us out of this trouble all right.
When Grant reached Spottsylvania Court House, he sent all of his cavalry, under Sheridan, to break our communications. They were met at Yellow Tavern, six miles from Richmond, by General Stuart, with three brigades of Confederate cavalry, and were attacked so fiercely that they were held there nearly all day, giving time for the troops around Richmond to concentrate for the defense of the city.
In this fight General Stuart fell mortally wounded, and he died the next day in Richmond. The death of our noted cavalry leader was a great blow to our cause--a loss second only to that of Jackson.
Captain W. Gordon McCabe writes me:
"I was sitting on my horse very near to General Lee, who was talking to my colonel, William Johnson Pegram, when a courier galloped up with the despatch announcing that Stuart had been mortally wounded and was dying. General Lee was evidently greatly affected, and said slowly, as he folded up the despatch, 'General Stuart has been mortally wounded: a most valuable and able officer.' Then, after a moment, he added in a voice of deep feeling 'HE NEVER BROUGHT ME A PIECE OF FALSE INFORMATION'--turned and looked away. What praise dearer to a soldier's heart could fall from the lips of the commanding general touching his Chief of Cavalry! These simple words of Lee constitute, I think, the fittest inscription for the monument that is soon to be erected to the memory of the great cavalry leader of the 'Army of Northern Virginia.'"
In a letter from my father to my mother, dated Spottsylvania Court House, May 16th, he says: