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Frederick Trevor Hill

It was to no very agreeable task that Lee was assigned at the outset of his command. The forces of the Confederacy were even less prepared to take the field than those of the United States, and for three months Lee was hard at work organizing and equipping the army for effective service.

The right man to conduct the Shenandoah campaign was already in the Army of the Potomac, but it was not until about a week after the failure of the Petersburg mine that circumstances enabled Grant to place General Philip Sheridan in charge of that important task.

Up to this time the war in the West had been largely an affair of skirmishes. A body of Union troops would find itself confronting a Confederate force, one of the two commanders would attack and a fight would follow; or the Confederates would march into a town and their opponents would attempt to drive them out of it, not because it was of any particular value, but because the other side held it. "See-a-head-and-hit-it" strategy governed the day and no plan worthy of the name had been adopted for conducting the war on scientific principles.

It would be impossible to imagine a more hopeless situation than that which had confronted Lee for many months.

While Lee's messenger was making his way toward the Union lines, Grant was riding rapidly to the front where his forces had foiled the Confederate cavalry. For more than a week he had been constantly in the saddle, moving from one point on his lines to another and begrudging even the time for food and sleep in his efforts to hasten the pursuit.

Grant did not waste any time in rejoicing over his success. The capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson was an important achievement but it was only one step toward the control of the Mississippi River, which was the main object of the campaign. The next step in that direction was toward Corinth a strategically important point in Mississippi, and he immediately concentrated his attention upon getting the army in position to attack that stronghold.

Desperate as their plight had been for many days, Lee's men had not wholly abandoned the hope of escape, but when their beloved commander returned from the Federal lines they saw by his face that the end had come, and crowding around him, they pressed his hands, even the strongest among them shedding bitter tears. For a time he was unable to respond in words to this touching demonstration, but finally, with a great effort, he mastered his emotion and bravely faced his comrades.

While Grant was earning a reputation as a fighting general in the West, Lee had been at a desk in Richmond attending to his duties as chief military adviser to the Confederate President, which prevented him from taking active part in any operations in the field. As a matter of fact, however, there had been no important engagements in the East, for "On to Richmond!" had become the war cry of the North, and all the energies of the Federal government had been centered on preparations for the capture of the Southern capital.

While Lee was passing the closing years of his life in tranquility, Grant was entering upon a stormy career in politics. But before he had any thought of the honors that lay before him he proved himself a good friend to the South and a really great American. Toward his late adversaries he maintained that the true policy was "to make friends of enemies," and by word and deed he earnestly strove to accomplish that result, never losing an opportunity to protect the people of the South from humiliation and injustice.

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