previous next

Is the, ‘Eclectic history of the United States,’ written by Miss Thalheimer and published by Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co., Cincinnati, a fit book to be used in our schools?

A Review by J. Watm. Jones.

Paper no. I.

We propose to confine ourselves for the present to that part of this so-called ‘History’ which treats of the origin, progress, and results of the late ‘War between the States.’ At some future day we may take occasion to point out some of its ‘sins of omission and commission’ in its account of the Colonial, Revolutionary, and civil history of the country.

We will first give a few illustrations of the tone and spirit of the book, which its friends claim to be preeminently fair, non-partisan, and non-sectional.

1. Let any one turn to the account given (pp. 265-266) of the Kansas troubles and he will find that it is entirely one sided and partisan-telling of outrages committed by the pro-slavery party, aided by Missourians, and saying not one word about the ‘Emigrant Aid Societies’ of the North--the eloquent appeals of Mr. Beecher to ‘send Sharp's Rifles to Kansas instead of Bibles’-or the outrages committed by the Abolition party of Kansas.

2. The friends of the book think that it (p. 268) tells the truth when it says that John Brownhad no support’ in his raid, and that therefore the ‘rage of resentment’ through the South was uncalled for. We would advise them to read up on this question, and they will find that in the Senate of Massachusetts a motion to adjourn on the day of John Brown's execution in respect to his memory was lost by only three votes—that town bells were tolled, funeral sermons preached, and eulogies pronounced all over the North—that John Brown at once took his place in the pantheon of Abolition saints—and that the resentment of the South was justly aroused, not against this mad fanatic, but against his supporters, whose vanguard he led in invading the South to free the negroes whom their Fathers had sold to our Fathers, quietly pocketing the money, and only discovering the ‘crime of slavery’ after they had reaped its full benefits.

3. The book (p. 270) pronounces the firing on the Star of the West at Charlestonthe opening act of the civil war.’ On page 276, speaking of Lincoln's inaugural address, it says: ‘He threw [284] upon the politicians of the South the whole responsibility of the calamities which must follow the destruction of the Union, assuring them that there could be no conflict unless they themselves should choose to begin it,’ and (same page, 276,) then proceeds to give the account of the bombardment of Sumter, without one single hint of the circumstances under which the Confederates opened fire.

The author ignores the efforts of Virginia to keep the peace by calling the Peace Conference—the Crittenden compromise which was a Southern peace measure — the sending by South Carolina of peace commissioners, who were promised by Mr. Buchanan that ‘the status’ in Charleston harbor should not be disturbed, but who refused to order Major Anderson back, when, in violation of the compact, he removed by night from Moultrie to Sumter—the fact that the Star of the West was attempting to violate again the plain terms of the compact by reinforcing and provisioning Sumter—the fact that one of the very first acts of the Confederacy was to send commissioners to Washington ‘to treat with the Federal authorities for a peaceful and amicable adjustment upon the principles of equity and justice, of matters pertaining to the common property and public debt’—that Mr. Seward promised that Sumter should be evacuated, and assured the commissioners that ‘faith as to Sumter’ was ‘fully kept’ at the very time that a powerful fleet for its reinforcement, secretly fitted out, was almost within sight of its walls—that this expedition was persisted in, notwithstanding the Confederate commissioners assured Mr. Seward that it would be regarded as ‘a declaration of war against the Confederate States’—and that under all of the circumstances, therefore, the firing on Sumter was as purely an act of selfdefence as is to be found in all history.

4. On page 271 the author revives the old slander that secession cabinet officers of Mr. Buchanan filled Southern arsenals with arms taken from the North, and scattered the army and navy so that the South should be better prepared for war than the North.

Compare the statement given there—that ‘The National Government was paralized. Its navy was scattered to the most distant seas, and a great part of its cannon, rifles, and military stores were in Southern forts and arsenals, which were taken almost without exception by the authorities of the Confederate States’—with the statement in paragraph 497, pages 279-280, that the South ‘had begun the war with abundant supplies of money and material,’ [notice that the author here refers back to paragraph 484 for proof], and it seems perfectly clear that the book means to teach that secession ‘leaders [285] in the cabinet of Mr. Buchanan’ had stripped Northern arsenals to supply the South with arms, had scattered the navy in order to paralize the ‘National Government,’ and had really brought it about that the South was better prepared for the war than the North. This is a favorite theory with Northern writers, it is fully brought out in such books as Greely, Draper, Lossing, Moore's Rebellion Record and Badeau, which the author advises our children to read, and we are not surprised that she adopts it.

This theory is, of course, utterly untrue, and would seem to need no labored refutation; but if any one desires to go into the matter more fully, let him read the article on Confederate Ordnance, by the able and accomplished chief of the Department, General J. Gorgas, published in the January-February, ‘84, number of our Southern his-Torical Society papers, and they will find a thorough refutation of this slander, a precise statement of the very small number of arms with which the Confederacy begun the war, and a clear account of how we were not only without arms, but without arsenals, armories, founderies, percussion cap manufactories, machinery, powder mills, material, or even skilled workmen.

And when it is remembered that the white population upon which the Confederacy could draw was even nominally but a little more than 7,000,000—but really only 5,000,000—while the Northern Government had a white population of more than 20,000,000, with the rest of the world as their recruiting ground, that the North was the great manufacturing region, and that the Northwest was accustomed to furnish the cotton States with the bulk of their provisions, it seems amazing for any one to argue that the South was in any respect better prepared for war than the North, save in the morale of her soldiers and the patriotic devotion of her noble women.

5. We insist that it is untrue as stated (p. 277) that Missouri, Kentucky and Marylandrefused to secede,’ in the light of General Lyon's operations in Missouri, the arrest and imprisonment of the secession members of the Maryland Legislature, and the pinning of Kentucky to the Union by Federal bayonets.

6. All of the ingenious twisting possible cannot make the account of the Baltimore riot (p. 277) fair, in view of the well-established facts that the troops fired first on the citizens, in response to their jeers and the throwing of several stones from the crowd, and that the attempt to make this Massachusetts regiment the representatives of the patriots who were fired on by British soldiers at Lexington in 1775, exactly reverses and falsifies the truth of history. These Massachusetts [286] soldiers were the invaders, and the unarmed citizens of Baltimore (nine of whom were killed and a number wounded, while only two soldiers were killed and several wounded) were the patriotic defenders of their homes; the soldiers were the representatives of despotic power, and the citizens of patriots struggling for independence.

7. The statement (p. 278) that ‘a majority of the people’ of West Virginia ‘were attached to the Union’ is utterly untrue, in view of the fact that only 20,000 votes were cast against secession in the whole limits of old Virginia. And certainly our children should not be taught, even by implication, that this infamous division of Virginia territory—this ‘political rape’—was in any sense justifiable.

8. We call attention to the outrage, at the bottom of page 281, of teaching our children that in the death of Abraham Lincoln ‘The South felt that it had lost its best friend;’ . . . . . and that ‘his name is fitly coupled with that of Washington, and the martyred President will ever remain sacred in the memory of the American people.’ This is in the same spirit as the statement (p. 309) that Phil. Sheridan was ‘the most able cavalry leader of the war’—that Sherman's ‘march to the sea’ (p. 310) was ‘one of the most celebrated events of history’—that, ‘considering his surroundings and the place of his birth, Geo. H. Thomas's adherence to the Union (p. 303) is remarkable’—that ‘the characteristics of E. M. Stanton's administration (p. 327) were integrity, energy, determination, singleness of purpose, and the power to comprehend the magnitude of the rebellion and the labor and cost in blood and treasure involved in suppressing it’—that Grant's ‘generalship at Chattanooga is considered by military authorities the masterpiece of the war,’ and the horrible sacrifice of his men in the campaign of 1864 justifiable, and that President Hayes, in making his appointments, (p. 339) consulted ‘the service of the public rather than that of the politicians,’ and regulated ‘both his appointments and dismissals by questions of personal worth.’

And in this connection we call especial attention to the general scope and bearing of the biographical sketches given in the book— eleven very tame sketches of Confederates, and twenty-six sketches of Federals, most of the latter glowing eulogies.

It will not do to say that the sketches are chiefly of Generals commanding armies, for many of the Federals sketched would not come under this head, while a number of Confederates who commanded armies, such as John B. Floyd, Henry A. Wise. J. A. Early, John B. Hood, S. D. Lee, Leonidas Polk, Stirling Price, Earl Van Dorn, [287] Kirby Smith, Dick Taylor, Hardee, &c., are omitted. The truth is the Confederates largely outnumbered the Federals in men worthy of places in general history, and for Southern schools it is unpardonable to omit such names as Ashby, Stuart, Forrest, Hampton, Ewell, A. P. Hill, Pat. Cleburne, M. F. Maury, Buchanan, and scores of others who should be household words among our people.

The sketches of Lee and Jackson are the only ones which make any pretence to being even fairly appreciative, (and they are both utterly unworthy of their subjects,) and that of Lee is marred by inexcusable blunders in his name, and place of birth, in giving him the position of commander-in-chief of the Confederate armies in 1862, and in apologizing for his ‘grave mistake’ in invading Pennsylvania, in 1863, on the ground that he yielded ‘his own judgment and advice to a higher political power,’ whereas the facts are that this campaign was undertaken not only with General Lee's full appobation, but at his own suggestion, and that it would have culminated in a brilliant success, and in the Independence of the Confederacy, but for the failure of others.

9. We insist that the statement about the ‘plundered Kentuckians’ (p. 286) is false, and that if it were true it would be unfair to introduce it without also bringing out, as the book fails to do, the universal plundering done by Federal troops in the South, and the orders of General Lee in Pennsylvania.

10. The statements on pages 295-296 that Mr. Lincoln acted in good faith as to slavery (notwithstanding he said in his inaugural address that he had no right or disposition to interfere with it), and that ‘the South’ had declared slavery to be ‘the corner-stone’ of the Confederacy, are so palpably untrue as to need no discussion. The quotation from Mr. Stephens (whose utterances were very far from being those of ‘the South’), might be met by quoting the declaration of General Lee, that ‘if the slaves of the South were mine, I would free them at once to avert this war,’ and by other facts which we have not time to give.

Our printers admonish us that we have no more space, and we must reserve for our next other illustrations of the miserable stuff which some of the children of the South are learning.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1864 AD (1)
1863 AD (1)
1862 AD (1)
1775 AD (1)
February (1)
January (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: