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Notes and Queries.

Did General Lee offer his sword ‘only to Virginia,’ in the great ‘war between the States’?

This is a somewhat popular idea which is intimated in the statements of Governor Anderson, in Colonel Bullitt's paper, in our last number. But the truth is, that while General Lee held his first allegiance as due to his native State, awaited calmly her action before deciding on his own course, and expressed his purpose, on leaving the United States army, of never drawing his sword again save in her defence, yet the whole Confederacy had the warm affections and loyal service of this devoted patriot. [524]

The late Vice-President Stephens said that when he was sent to Richmond to induce Virginia, after her secession, to cast in her fortunes with the Southern Confederacy, he found an able, zealous and very influential coadjutor in General Lee.

In his address at the great ‘Lee Memorial’ meeting in Richmond, in November, 1870, President Davis said, among other eloquent utterances: ‘Here he now sleeps, in the land he loved so well, and that land is not Virginia only, for they do injustice to Lee who believe he fought only for Virginia. He was ready to go anywhere, on any service, for the good of his country, and his heart was as broad as the fifteen States struggling for the principles that our forefathers fought for in the Revolution of 1776.’

And those whose privilege it was to hear the great chieftain talk most freely of the cause for which he fought, bear the most emphatic testimony that it was ‘the independence of the South,’ ‘the triumph of constitutional freedom,’ for which he struggled so nobly. His letters also are filled with expressions which show beyond cavil that R. E. Lee was as loyal to the flag of the Confederacy as to that of his native State--as true to all of the States of the Confederacy as to the one in which he had ‘a local habitation and a name.’ Two Witnesses on Prison Mortality at Elmira.

We should have printed before this the following letter but for the pressure upon our pages:

Dear Sir,—I was captured near Spotsylvania Courthouse, Va., May 19th, 1864, and carried to Point Lookout, where I remained until July 4, 1864, when I was transferred to Elmira, New York. While there I was employed in the prison hospital. Dr. E. F. Sanger, Surgeon in charge of the hospital, showed me great kindness, for which I have ever been grateful. During a recent visit to Bangor, Maine, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Doctor, and while conversing with him the subject of the mortality among the prisoners, both North and South, came up. I asked Dr. Sanger whether or not he had a record of the percentage of deaths at the hospital in Elmira. He told me that he had, and kindly allowed me to copy from his journal the following figures: [525]

“Number of prisoners received at Elmira, from July, 1864, to May, 1865, 12,121; transferred, 4,273; released, 4,741; died, 2,933; unaccounted for, 174.” Of this number about twenty escaped from the prison by tunneling under the fence—what became of the others is not known. Thinking that these figures will be of interest to the readers of the Southern Historical Society Papers, I send them to you to use as you may see fit.

Very respectfully yours,

J. S. Hutchinson, Pastor M. E. Church, South, Fredericksburg, Va. (Formerly private Company F, Tenth Regiment Va. Infantry).

It will be seen that these figures substantially confirm those in the following extract from a statement made by Hon. A. M. Keiley, of Richmond, Va., and published by us in Vol. I, p. 268 of our Papers.

At Andersonville the mortality averaged a thousand a month out of thirty-six thousand, or one thirty-sixth. At Elmira it was three hundred and eighty-six out of nine thousand five hundred, or one twenty-fifth of the whole. At Elmira it was four per cent.; at Andersonville less than three per cent. If the mortality at Andersonville had been as great as at Elmira the deaths should have been one thousand four hundred and forty per month, or fifty per cent. more than they were.

‘I speak by the card respecting these matters, having kept the morning return of deaths for the last month and a half of my life in Elmira, and transferred the figures to my diary, which lies before me: and this, be it remembered, in a country where food was cheap and abundant; where all the appliances of the remedial art were to be had on mere requisition; where there was no military necessity requiring the government to sacrifice almost every consideration to the inaccessibility of the prison and the securing of the prisoners, and where Nature had furnished every possible requisite for salubrity.’ Losses of the Army of the Potomac:

In his oration before the veterans of the Army of the Potomac, at their last reunion, Major Maginnis gave an estimate of losses of this army, which we think can be shown to be greatly below the real figures, but we give his figures as a most eloquent tribute to [526] the prowess of the Army of Northern Virginia, and the skill of our great commander:

He said: ‘From May, 1861, to March, 1864, the losses of the Army of the Potomac were, in killed, 15,220; wounded, 65,850; captured, 31,378; in all, 112,448. From May 1, 1864, to April 9, 1865, killed, 12,500; wounded, 69,500; captured or missing, 28,000; aggregate, 110,000. From the beginning to the close of the war, killed, 27,720; wounded, 155,652; captured or missing, 59,378. A grand aggregate of 242,750. Added those who died of gunshot wounds, the number of men who lost their lives in action in the Army of the Potomac was 48,902, probably one-half of all who died from wounds on the field of battle in all the armies of the United States.’

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