"The order was issued through these officers" (the corps commanders) "To their subordinate commanders, and from them descended through the wonted channels; but no man stirred, and the immobile lines pronounced a verdict, silent, yet emphatic, against further slaughter. The loss on the Union side in this sanguinary action was more than thirteen thousand, while on the part of the Confederates it is doubtful whether it reached that many hundreds."
Colonel Walter H. Taylor, in his "Four Years with General Lee," says:
"Soon after this, he (Grant) abandoned his chosen line of operations, and moved his army to the south side of the James River. The struggle from Wilderness to this point covers a period of about one month, during which time there had been an almost daily encounter of hostile arms, and the Army of Northern Virginia had placed hors de combat of the army under General Grant a number equal to its entire numerical strength at the commencement of the campaign, and, notwithstanding its own heavy losses and the reinforcements received by the enemy, still presented an impregnable front to its opponent, and constituted and insuperable barrier to General Grant's 'On to Richmond.'"
Thus after thirty days of marching, starving, fighting, and with a loss of more than sixty thousand men, General Grant reached the James River, near Petersburg, which he could have done at any time he so desired without the loss of a single man. The baffling of our determined foe so successfully raised the spirits of our rank and file, and their confidence in their commander knew no bounds.
The two armies now commenced a contest which could end only one way. If General Lee had been permitted to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond, to fall back upon some interior point, nearer supplies for man and beast and within supporting distance of the remaining forces of the Confederacy, the surrender would certainly have been put off--possibly never have taken place--and the result of the war changed. The Army of the Potomac placed itself on the James, through whose channel it had easy access to the wide world whence to secure for itself an unlimited supply of men and munitions of war. General Lee, with a line thirty miles long to defend and with only 35,000 men to hold it, with no chance of reinforcements, no reserves with which to fill up the ranks lessened daily by death in battle and by disease, had to sit still and see his army, on half rations or less, melt away because it was deemed advisable by his government, for political and other purposes, to hold Richmond, the Confederacy's capital.
In an article by Lord Wolseley, in "Macmillan's Magazine," he says:
"Lee was opposed to the final defense of Richmond that was urged upon him for political, not military reasons. It was a great strategic error. General Grant's large army of men was easily fed, and its daily losses easily recruited from a near base; whereas, if it had been drawn into the interior after the little army with which Lee endeavoured to protect Richmond, its fighting strength would have been largely reduced by the detachments required to guard a long line of communications through a hostile country."
During the nine months the siege of Petersburg lasted, I saw my father but seldom. His headquarters were near the town, my command was on the extreme right of the army, and during the winter, in order to get forage, we were moved still further away, close to the border of North Carolina. During this summer, I had occasion, once or twice, to report to him at his headquarters, once about July 1st by his special order. I remember how we all racked our brains to account for this order, which was for me to report "at once to the commanding general," and many wild guesses were made by my young companions as to what was to become of me. Their surmises extended from my being shot for unlawful foraging to my being sent on a mission abroad to solicit the recognition of our independence. I reported at once, and found my father expecting me, with a bed prepared. It was characteristic of him that he never said a word about what I was wanted for until he was ready with full instructions. I was fed at once, for I was still hungry, my bed was shown me, and I was told to rest and sleep well, as he wanted me in the morning, and that I would need all my strength.