The Tragic Conflict: The Civil War and Reconstruction

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

29
Southern Morale: A Patriot's View

Edward A. Pollard

In the winter of 1864-65, intelligent minds in the Confederacy became, for the first time, impressed with the idea that its victory and independence were no longer certain conclusions, and conceived a painful distrust as to the issues of the war.

General Lee, a man who used few words, and had the faculty of going directly to the point of a discussion, and putting sagacious judgments in plain phrases, once said of the conduct of the people of the Confederacy in the war, that "they were, only half in earnest." But this remark, unlike most of Lee's judgments, was only half true. No one can doubt that the Confederates had been thoroughly and terribly in earnest in the first periods of the war; and if, in its later periods, they appeared to lack earnestness, the truth was they did not lack it so much as they did confidence in their rulers, and a disposition to continue the war under an Administration whose squanderings anti make-shifts turned all the sacrifices of the people to naught. In the later periods of the terrible conflict through which the Confederacy had passed, its moral condition was peculiar. All confidence in the Administration at Richmond was gone; the people were heart-broken; they had been cheated too often by the highly colored prophecies of President Davis, and those boastful predictions which are unfailing characteristics of the weak mind; they saw that their sacrifices were squandered, and their most patriotic efforts misapplied; they were so far demoralized by want of confidence in their authorities, and in some instances by positive antipathy to them, that it may be said that in the last periods of the war, a majority of the people of the Confederacy actually deprecated any single success, and did not desire a victory to their arms which might give a new occasion of prolongation of the war -- for having already taken it for granted as hopeless, they prayed in their hearts that it would be closed at the earliest moment. They did not desire the delay of any mere fluctuations of fortune,

EDWARD A. POLLARD, The Last Year of the War ( New York, 1866), Ch. x.

-373-

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