In the spring of 1865, the American Civil War was reaching its conclusion. The blood continued to flow but the outcome was no longer in doubt. The Confederacy was crumbling, its army starving, and the Union troops far outnumbered them in the field.

On April 11, General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Army of Tennessee learned that General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox. 

To Johnston, that was devastating news. He and Lee knew that any hope that the South had for continuing the war, hinged on their two forces linking up near the North Carolina-Virginia state line. Johnston, who still commanded over 90,000 troops, however, was now outnumbered by his enemy by 18 to 1. 

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was still harboring delusional ideas of raising a huge army of former deserters, somehow equipping and supplying them — while Confederate troops already in the field were going bare — and defeating the Union.