By early spring 1865 the citizens of Richmond had become used to the threat of capture by the Federal army whose soldiers the Richmond newspapers described with great imagination as the vilest of humanity. Richmond had endured some frighteningly close chances, and its inhabitants had grown accustomed to the sound of artillery fire from just ten miles outside the city. Their faith in Robert E. Lee was so complete that they knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he would never allow Richmond to be taken.
But the time had come for General Lee to consider just such a necessity. He had been able to hold back the Union forces for almost 10 months at Petersburg until his depleted forces were worn out and his supplies dwindled to nothing. Finally, he came to believe that he could best serve the Confederate cause by abandoning its capital. Furgurson records that Lee asked Lt. Gen. John B. Gordon for his opinion as to the Confederate Army’s next steps. Gordon advised that the Confederacy should seek peace terms. If the terms were not acceptable, Gordon argued, the army should leave Richmond and Petersburg and retreat south to join Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army in the Carolinas where their combined forces could concentrate on defeating the Union army under General William T. Sherman.
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