THE victories of Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga had placed the Federal armies on a long and firm line from the Potomac, through Western Virginia, to Knoxville and Chattanooga, thence to Memphis and down the Mississippi. The blockade was growing tighter. It is the general opinion of historians that President Davis ought to have abandoned so hopeless a struggle and that heavy responsibility lies on his shoulders for the continuance of bloodshed. Military writers suggest that the South had still a hope, rather a forlorn hope, in staking everything on a big offensive movement; this meant giving up all attempt to hold on to the ports and territories still in the hands of Confederate forces, concentrating every available man under Lee, and trusting him to spread such terror and devastation in the North that it would raise a demand for the suspension of hostilities. From a military point of view the idea is attractive, and it would certainly have appealed to Stonewall Jackson. Two years earlier it might have been something more than a forlorn hope. But the Southern President had missed his chances when he refused to give Lee sufficient troops for the former invasions; he clung obstinately to the belief that a defensive attitude would wear out the patience of the Northerners. He was not far wrong as regards some of them -- but he was dead wrong about those who counted, including Grant, the Union Army, and Lincoln.
The victories in the last six months of '63 had done something more than place the Federals on a strong