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Notes and Queries.

“Manufacturing history.” who runs the machine?

We clip the following from the Army and Navy journal in order that our readers may see the style, and “historic calmness” with which grave historic questions are being treated by those who charge the Southern Historical Society with being engaged in a “literary conspiracy,” which has “turned it into something like a bureau for the falsification of history” :

Jefferson Davis, by his ponderous special pleading in favor of secession in his recently published volumes, has challenged anew the spirit of criticism upon the Southern political leaders which was set at rest for a time by the general disposition to cultivate good fellowship with our erring sisters whom we loved too well to suffer them to depart in peace.” Among the rejoinders to Davis's work one appears in the Atlantic for September and one in the North American Review. In the latter, the writer, Rossiter Johnson, refers to the fact that in the case of every insurrection against slavery — like Nat Turner's and John Brown's — the insurgents suffered the extreme penalty of the law, while in all others, like Shay's rebellion, Fries's, and the whiskey war, they were either pardoned outright or only very mildly punished. He also says sarcastically:

The atrocities of Andersonville were explained into nothingness long ago. The boys in blue lay on flowery beds of ease within that spacious and airy stockade, listening dreamily to the purl of the crystal brook that babbled at their feet, while the boys in gray at Elmira were suffering the tortures of the Inquisition. Lee, who never won an offensive battle, was the great general of the war. Grant was a blunderer — always blundering into success. General Sherman set fire to Columbia with his own hands, foolishly applying the torch before he had had any opportunity for plunder, while General Early burned his fingers in efforts to put out the fire at Chambersburg. General Butler stole all the silver spoons in New Orleans, but General Floyd was as honest as the day is long.


He vigorously protests against what he characterizes as a sort of literary conspiracy on the part of Southern writers “to glorify the achievement which they didn't achieve, to change the apparent motive of the war, to magnify the genius of the rebel generals, and belittle their conquerors — an endeavor to write into respectability the meanest of causes, and invest with a glamor of heroism the most inexcusable of crimes.” “ This disposition,” he says, “first showed itself in the careful substitution of the term “civil war” instead of “rebellion,” uniformly adopted by many standard publications to avoid offending any of their readers. It is true that it was a civil war, and we might generalize still more of its character out of sight by using the invention of a celebrated satirist, and calling it an “onpleasantnis.” Specifically, it was a rebellion and nothing else. It never rose to the character of a revolution, for it never had possession of the capital or the public archives, never stopped the wheels of the Government for a single day, was suppressed in the end, and attained none of its objects. It is always good rhetoric, and generally good policy to call things by the most specific name they will bear. Then came careful corrections of figures. The Confederate General So-and-so only had so many men at such a battle, instead of the larger number he has always been credited with, and only lost so many, while his Federal antagonist had three times the number, and lost two and a half times as many as the records of the War Department say he did. Then, by some ingenious course of reasoning, a battle that has been scored as a victory for the national troops is shown to have been a sort of quiet triumph for the rebels. And this goes on till the reader wonders what became of all the men who were raked into the Confederate service by the wholesale conscriptions, and why the “cause” that won such a succession of victories was not finally successful. This literary conspiracy — which appears to have taken possession of the Historical Society at Richmond, and turned it into something like a bureau for the falsification of history — has culminated in the publication by Jefferson Davis of two large volumes, intended to set forth what he and his Confederacy tried to do for the cause of liberty, and how it happened that the powers of despotism defeated his beneficent plans.”

Now we do not care to reply to these “glittering generalities.” When Mr. Rossiter Johnson (we are not informed what part he took in “crushing the rebellion” ), or any one else, points out any particular in which we have been guilty of a “falsification of history,” we promise to confess our error, and do all in our power to correct it. But, to be frank, we confess that we should be slow to accept the guidance of a man who shows such profound ignorance as to say that Lee “never won an offensive battle,” [we wonder what he calls “Seven days” around Richmond, Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, the first days in the Wilderness, Reams's Station, etc.?], and who shows a spirit that would revive the fabrications with which Northern writers flooded the world during and just after the war, and would remand the chief “Rebels” to prison, or the hangman.

General Sherman “Manufacturing history.”

We carefully preserved General Sherman's speech before the “Army of the Potomac,” and although his new version of the “burning of Columbia” has been fully refuted by articles we had previously published [see vol. VII, pp. 156, 185 and 249, and vol. VIII, p. 202], we purpose, at an early day, to take up the question again and to show not only that General Sherman, in his several accounts, palpably contradicts [380] himself, but that he is guilty of an unmistakable “falsification of history.” But meantime we will give him the benefit of the following characteristic letter:

My Dear Friend,--I have your ardent and enthusiastic letter of June 13, and am glad you were pleased at my speech at the meeting last week of the Society of the Army of the Potomac at Hartford, Conn. I believe we have conquered the rebellion, and made possible the grand developments our country is already experiencing; and I believe we ought to write its history, and not allow those who surrendered to write their old worn-out theories and impose them on strangers as a truthful account of what they could not help. We must speak and write, else Europe will be left to infer that we conquered not by courage, skill and patriotic devotion, but by brute force and by cruelty. The reverse was the fact. The rebels were notoriously more cruel than our men. We never could work up our men to the terrible earnestness of the Southern forces. Their murdering of Union fugitives, burning of Lawrence, Chambersburg, Paducah, etc., were all right in their eyes; and if we burned an old cotton gin or shed it was barbarism. I am tired of such perversion, and will resist it always.

Truly your friend,

The “rebels more cruel” than Sherman's men! They burnt towns and General Sherman only “an old cotton gin” occasionally!! And this to prevent “rebels” from succeeding in their “literary conspiracy” to “manufacture history” !!! Will the reader please recall Esop's fable of the lamb who muddied the stream so the wolf could not drink? Or better still will he please read Sherman's Memoirs, Nichol's “Great March to the sea,” or the newspapers of that day. Since this question of the “Conduct of the war” has been revived we propose to take it up and ventilate it, when some choice extracts from General Sherman's orders will show the sincerity of his present utterances.

Riding through South Carolina several years ago in company with a distinguished Confederate General he pointed to the chimneys of burnt houses and called them “Sherman's sentinels left to guard the scenes of his vandalism,” and alluding to his attempt to shirk the responsibility of burning Columbia, he said: “If I had burned nineteen towns (as Sherman confesses he did) I should not care a straw if they did charge, or prove, I had burned the twentieth.”

But, perhaps, the explanation of General Sherman's anxiety is to be found in a letter we have recently received from another gentleman of world-wide reputation who says: “Sherman's recent attempts to relieve himself of the odium of the burning of Columbia, furnish the best evidence of returning virtue I have seen in the man.”

What Confederate battery fired the last gun at Appomattox C. H.?

A correspondent having given this honor to the battery then commanded by the gallant Major Jas. D. Cumming, of North Carolina, he wrote at once the following manly disclaimer:

New York, April 5th, 1881.
Editor Review:--In your issue of 31st ult. I note a communication signed “Confederate,” [381] which unjustly claims for my old battery the distinguished honor of firing the last shot in the army of Northern Virginia.

Your correspondent is mistaken. This honor has never been claimed by myself or any member of the battery as far as I know, and I think it an act of justice to correct any such impression. While the old battery was more than once named in “general orders” and frequently complimented by Generals Beauregard, Hoke, Pettigrew and others, and I feel proud of its record, I cannot claim for myself what is due some other gallant commander.


But the following from our gallant friend, Major Parker, seems to show that the honor really belonged to “Johnson's Battery” of Richmond:

* * * * * *

The “last artillery shot” was not fired by a battery “stationed in the yard of Mr. Peers,” but by a Richmond battery known as “Johnson's battery,” and once commanded by the late Major Marmaduke Johnson, of this city. On the occasion referred to this battery was commanded by our popular sheriff, Captain John W. Wright. While waiting for orders to advance with my artillery on the morning of the 9th of April, Lieutenant James Grattan, also of this city, and who was at that time acting as adjutant to my battalion, returned from the front, and, with his eyes full of tears, said: “Major, the army cannot advance; can't you open the way with your artillery.” We had not been able to haul enough ammunition from the lines near Petersburg for one hour's active firing, and for six days neither man nor horse had received a single ration from the quartermaster, yet, if anything was to be attempted, here seemed to be the occasion. Riding forward to select a position for the artillery, we had gone but a short distance when, to our surprise and mortification, we found ourselves in the presence of Generals Gordon and Custar, surrounded by a large staff. A glance told the story. The firing was still going on, especially on the left. So soon as recognized by General Gordon, I was ordered to cause the firing to cease. I directed Adjutant Grattan to go to the right while I went to the left, and ascending a hill found “Johnson's battery,” commanded, as before stated, by Captain Wright, actively engaged, and when the order was given to “cease firing” the question came from many anxious, trembling lips, “What for? What's the matter?” The reply sent a pang of anguish to every heart too deep for utterance. With the last deep-toned and defiant sound sent forth by this brave Richmond battery, the great heart of the noble Army of Northern Virginia had ceased to beat forever; and then there “was stillness as of death.”

* * * * * *

Wm. W. Parker, Late Major of Artillery, C. S. A. Richmond, Va.

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