When he fell the tide of battle turned; turned everywhere upon that stricken field; turned throughout the whole campaign; turned even in the war itself.
As Pickett's men fell back they were swept by scythe-like fire from every gun and rifle that could mow them down. Not a single mounted officer remained; and of all the brave array that Pickett led three-fourths fell killed or wounded. The other fourth returned undaunted still, but only as the wreckage of a storm.
Lee's loss exceeded forty per cent of his command. Meade's loss fell short of thirty. But Meade was quite unable to pursue at once when Lee retired on the evening of the fourth. The opposing cavalry, under Pleasonton and Stuart respectively, had fought a flanking battle of their own, but without decisive result. So Lee could screen his retreat to the Potomac, where, however, his whole supply train might have been cut off if its escort under the steadfast Imboden had not been reinforced by every teamster who could pull a trigger.
Gettysburg and Vicksburg, coming together, of course raised the wildest expectations among the general public, expectations which found an unworthy welcome at Government headquarters, where Halleck wrote to Meade on the fourteenth: "The escape of Lee's army has created great dissatisfaction in the mind of the President." Meade at once replied: "The censure is, in my judgment, so undeserved that I most respectfully ask to be immediately relieved from the command of this army." Wiser counsels thereupon prevailed.
Lee and Meade maneuvered over the old Virginian scenes of action, each trying to outflank the other, and each being hampered by having to send reinforcements to their friends in Tennessee, where, as we have seen already, Bragg and Rosecrans were now maneuvering in front of Chattanooga. In October (after the Confederate victory of Chickamauga) Meade foiled Lee's attempt to bring on a Third Manassas. The campaign closed at Mine Run, where Lee repulsed Meade's attempted surprise in a three-day action, which began on the twenty-sixth of November, the morrow of Grant's three days at Chattanooga.
From this time forward the South was like a beleaguered city, certain to fall if not relieved, unless, indeed, the hearts of those who swayed the Northern vote should fail them at the next election.
CHAPTER IX. FARRAGUT AND THE NAVY: 1863-4
The Navy's task in '63 was complicated by the many foreign vessels that ran only between two neutral ports but broke bulk into blockade-runners at their own port of destination. For instance, a neutral vessel, with neutral crew and cargo, would leave a port in Europe for a neutral port in America, say, Nassau in the Bahamas or Matamoras on the Rio Grande. She could not be touched of course at either port or anywhere inside the three-mile limit. But international law accepted the doctrine of continuous voyage, by which contraband could be taken anywhere on the high seas, provided, of course, that the blockader could prove his case. If, for example, there were ten times as many goods going into Matamoras as could possibly be used through that port by Mexico, then the presumption was that nine-tenths were contraband. Presumption becoming proof by further evidence, the doctrine of continuous voyage could be used in favor of the blockaders who stopped the contraband at sea between the neutral ports. The blockade therefore required a double line of operation: one, the old line along' the Southern coast, the other, the new line out at sea, and preferably just beyond the three-mile limit outside the original port of departure, so as to kill the evil at its source. Nassau and Matamoras gave the coast blockade plenty of harassing work; Nassau because it was "handy to" the Atlantic ports, Matamoras because it was at the mouth of the Rio Grande, over the shoals of which the Union warships could not go to prevent contraband crossing into Texas, thence up to the Red River, down to the Mississippi (between the Confederate strongholds of Vicksburg and Port Hudson) and on to any other part of the South. But what may be called the highseas blockade was no less harassing, complicated as it was by the work of Confederate raiders.