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[190]

Editorial Paragraphs.


Dr. Thompson's report of Captain Mangole's lecture on General Lee and Dr. Curry's reply in our August number, has elicited a very gratifying letter from Captain Mangole, in which, it will be seen, he clearly shows that Dr. Thompson did not report him correctly.

The Secretary sent Captain Mangole advance proof-sheets of Dr. Curry's review, and took the liberty in his letter of asking the accomplished soldier what Confederate authorities he had access to in the preparation of his History of the civil War in America. Captain Mangole's reply was not intended for publication, but is so candid and so valuable, as illustrating the importance of our being able to furnish material to those who desire to know and to tell the truth of our history, that we trust he will pardon us for giving his letter in full:

Cassel, August 16th, 1878.
Rev. Dr. J. William Jones, Secretary Southern Historical Society:
Dear Sir — Some days ago, when I was about to start on a little journey, I received a letter from you dated July 9th, together with a number of pamphlets concerning different episodes of the late civil war. Enclosed were the advanced proof-sheets of an article by Rev. J. L. M. Curry, commenting on an article which Rev. Dr. Thompson, of Berlin, had published in the Independent.

You will permit me to write a few words in answer to Rev. Dr. Curry's statement concerning my notion of General Lee's resignation, as stated in Dr. Thompson's paper. Before I begin, I must beg you, however, to keep in mind that I am writing in a foreign language, and that I cannot express my views so clearly and precisely as I could in my own language.

Dr. Curry says in his paper: “This matter of breach of faith, so quietly assumed in this accusation by Captain Mangole and Dr. Thompson, turns entirely upon the character of our government.”

Nothing has been farther from me than to “quietly assume the accusation of breach of faith.” It is true I have said that we (the Prussian officers), according to our understanding, could never comprehend how an officer could ever feel called upon to decide on which side he will fight, if one of the two contending parties carries the flag to which he has pledged his faith and allegiance by a solemn oath, and that, therefore, to our understanding, the decision of Lee would always remain incomprehensible. This part of my lecture, no doubt, gave origin to Dr. Thompson's remark, that to a Prussian officer the violation of an oath appears a crime so damnable as to be inconceivable. Now, I do not pretend to say that a Prussian officer is any more sensitive to the guilt, of the violation of an oath than any other honorable man, and by the very emphasis I put on the words--our understanding--I meant to induce the hearer to refrain from judging and condemning Lee, as there must be circumstances veiled to our understanding, which, if fully known and appreciated by us, would let Lee's decision appear in another light than that of the violation of an oath. Moreover, I then went on to say (and I translate the following paragraph literally from the Ms. of my lecture): “The more incomprehensible it is to us that Lee came to this and not to the opposite decision, the more it becomes our duty to seek an explanation; and if we consider all the circumstances, we think we are justified in saying that a [191] man who gave to his son, just admitted to the military academy, as a leading motto for his professional career the beautiful words: ‘ Duty is the sublimest word of our language,’ --could follow only that path, which, after earnest reflection, he was convinced his duty commanded him to follow. This conclusion is warranted by the stainless purity of his character, which makes his image as a man so noble and sublime; it is warranted by his truly Christian disposition and his simple, almost childlike piety. But if we should want Further proof, we could find it in the answer he gave, when, after the war, he was asked directly by the Reconstruction Committee what were his personal views on the question of secession: ‘ It was my view,’ he said, ‘ that the act of Virginia, in withdrawing herself from the United States, carried me along with it as a citizen of Virginia, and that her laws and acts were binding on me.’ ” I think that is sufficient to show to you and Dr. Curry that it never entered my mind to quietly assume the accusation of the violation of an oath on the part of Lee. Let me now turn to the other contents of your very kind letter. You ask me what Confederate authorities I have access to in preparing my book on the civil war. I frankly admit that the Southern sources have until now been flowing very scantily. I am in posession of and have consulted the following works:

Pollard's Lost Cause, and Southern History of the War; Biographies of Lee, by McCabe and Cook; Biography of “StonewallJackson, by Cook; Life of Jefferson Davis, by Pollard; Battle-fields of Virginia, by----; History of Morgan's Cavalry, by Basil W. Duke; A Rebel War-clerk's Diary, by Jones, and General Joseph E. Johnston's Narrative. I think that is about all I have. I have ordered lately the latest biography of Lee, which has come out this spring, by Marshall, if I am not mistaken. You may be sure it has been my earnest desire to be as impartial as possible, and it has been a source of constant vexation, but it seemed next to impossible to get at any reliable and extensive military history of the great struggle, written from a Southern standpoint. For instance, I have only the first volume of the Confederate reports of battles, published by order of Congress. (I forgot to mention this above.) You are so very kind as to offer to furnish me everything in your power, and you may be sure I shall accept whatever you send with the greatest gratitude, and shall make the most conscientious and impartial use of it. Up to the present there has appeared only one volume of my book, which brings the history of the war to the close of 1861. Nothing more will be printed before the manuscript of the whole is finished, and it seems tome now more than likely that I shall then suppress the first volume and write that over again also. So you see everything you can send to me will be made use of, and in the most careful and unbiased way. I dare say the monthly papers of your Society contain treasures for the historian, at least if I am justified in judging from the two numbers you were kind enough to send me; and I can only repeat, what I have said before, that everything you send me shall be received with great gratitude, and be used to the best advantage. Hoping that this letter is only the beginning of a relation from which I hope the greatest furtherance of my object, to give my German brother-officers a reliable and impartial history of the great struggle,

I remain, dear sir, yours, very respectfully,



Free access to the Archive Bureau at Washington has been a long-felt desideratum by every seeker after the truth. Our readers were advised of the failure of our efforts in this direction during the administration of the War Department by Secretaries Belknap and Cameron.

We had made no further application, but had been gratified to hear that a more liberal policy seemed to characterize the present administration — that [192] Secretary McCrary seemed disposed to allow our people more privileges than we had ever had before — and that Colonel Scott, who had been put in charge of the archives, seemed to be a gentleman of very liberal views.

We are glad to be able to announce to the Society and to our friends generally, that our Committee has received from General Marcus J. Wright (a gallant soldier of the Army of Tennessee), who has been employed as an agent of the Archive Bureau, a letter, in which he says that the Secretary of War authorizes him to tender any agent of the Southern Historical Society free access to the archives, and the privilege of copying anything needed for historical purposes. This proffer (made voluntarily and without conditions) will be appreciated by our friends.

Of course our Committee have cordially accepted and reciprocated the kind offer. The War Department seems very anxious to complete its files of Confederate documents, and we should be glad to do anything in our power to aid in this, as it is obviously very important that the Confederacy should be fully represented in any publication of documents which may be made. If parties have original Mss. which they are unwilling to part with, we would be very glad to take charge of them until copies could be made, both for our Society and the War Department, when they could be returned to the owners.


The yellow fever scourge has excited wide sympathy, and the response to appeals for help has been general and liberal. We have been especially touched by an appeal from the Louisiana Division of the Army of Northern Virginia Association. This organization (of which Governor Nichols is President) is striving to help its members or their families, who are in need because of this fearful malady, and surely their comrades everywhere will esteem it a privilege to aid them in their noble work. The Virginia Division, Army of Northern Virginia, are moving in the matter, and we appeal to all who may read this to send a contribution.

Remittances may be made direct to John H. Murray, Treasurer, 155 Canal Street, New Orleans, or, if more convenient, we will cheerfully receive and forward any sums that may be sent to our office.


Books received.

The University Publishing Company, New York, has kindly sent us Swinton's Army of the Potomac, Lee's Memoirs of the War of 1776, and Holmes' History of the United States. We shall hereafter review these books, but may only say now that they are gotten up in the highest style of the book-makers' art, and reflect credit on this company, which is laboring: with such success to furnish our people with “non-partisan school books.”

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