A Suffering Devotion to the Cause of Independence
The winter of 1864-1865 found Pickett’s Division cold and hungry, and opposed by well-fed and equipped war machine. Unable to defeat the starving American army that resembled Washington’s at Valley Forge, the mercenaries of the North tried the psychological warfare of propaganda leaflets.
Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
A Suffering Devotion To The Cause of Independence:
"The cold winter winds began to be felt in the close of the November days….The men were not only thinly-clad, but some, at least, had but little clothing of any kind and a large number were without shoes; and when the first blasts of winter came numbers could be seen shivering over the small fires they were allowed to kindle.
Famine stared them in the face; the ration being from one-eight to one-fourth of a pound of bacon and one pint of unsheived corn meal a day, and occasionally a few beans or peas. With empty stomachs, naked bodies and frozen fingers, these men clutched their guns with an aim so steady and deadly that the men on the other side were exceedingly cautious how they lifted their heads from behind their sheltered places.
(T)hese heroic men, who loved their cause better than life stood to their posts, and defied the enemy to the last. The enemy, by general orders and circular letters which they managed to send and scatter among the Confederate soldiers, offered all manner of inducements to have them desert their country; but, as a rule, such offers were indignantly spurned. The consecration of the Southern women to the cause for which their husbands, sons, brothers, and sweethearts struggled and suffered, is beyond the power of the pen to describe. The hardships of these women were equal to, and often greater than that of the shivering, freezing and starving soldier in the field. They had not only given these men to the cause, but, in fact, themselves too; for they remained at home and labored in the fields, went to the mill, the blacksmith shops, lived on cornbread and sorghum molasses, and gave practically every pound of meat, flour and all the vegetables they could raise to the men in the army, whom they encouraged to duty in every possible way. They manufactured largely their own clothing, out of material that they had produced with their own hands; and would have scorned any woman who would wear northern manufactured goods…"
Through this long, cold, dreary winter, Pickett’s Division—less than five thousand strong—held the line which, in length, was not less than four miles; being not many beyond one thousand men to the mile; only a good skirmish line; over which the enemy, by a bold, determined charge, could at any time have gone. It is certain that if the Federal line in front of Pickett’s men had been as weak, and held by as few men as that of Pickett, they would have either been prisoners before the 1st day of January 1865, or have been driven into the James River and drowned."
(A History of Middle New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory, David E. Johnston, Standard Printing, 1906, pp. 285-288)