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[190]

Virginias efforts for peace.

We can only briefly allude to the noble efforts made by Virginia, through the ‘Peace Congress,’ to avert the conflict, and how these efforts were rejected almost with contempt by the North. Mr. Lunt, speaking of this noble action on the part of the ‘Mother of Presidents,’ as he calls Virginia, says:

It was like a firebrand suddenly presented at the portals of the Republican Magazine, and the whole energy of the radicals was at once enlisted to make it of no effect.

Several of the Northern States sent no Commissioners to this Congress at all; others, like Massachusetts, only sent them at the last moment, and then sent only such as were known to be opposed to any compromise or conciliation.

The following letter of Senator Chandler, of Michigan, indicates too clearly the feelings of the Republican party at that time to require comment. It is dated February 11th, 1861, a week after the Congress assembled, and addressed to the Governor of his State. He says:

Governor Bingham (the other Senator from Michigan) and myself telegraphed to you on Saturday, at the request of Massachusetts and New York, to send delegates to the Peace Compromise Congress. They admit that we were right and they were wrong, that no Republican State should have sent delegates, but they are here and can't get away. Ohio, Indiana and Rhode Island are caving in, and there is some danger of Illinois; and now they beg us, for God's sake to come to their rescue and save the Republican party from rupture. I hope you will send stiff-backed men or none. The whole thing was gotten up against my judgment and advice, and will end in thin smoke. Still I hope as a matter of courtesy to some of our erring brethren, that you will send the delegates.

Truly your friend,

P. S.—Some of the Manufacturing States think that a fight would be awful. Without a little blood-letting, this Union will not, in my estimation, be worth a curse.


Mr. Lunt says: [191]

If this truly eloquent and statesmanlike epistle does not express the views of the Republican managers at the time, it does at least indicate with sufficient clearness their relations towards the Peace conference and the determined purpose of the radicals to have “a fight,” and it furthermore foreshadows the actual direction given to future events.


Held out to the last.

But I cannot protract this discussion further. Suffice it to say, that Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas did not secede, until Mr. Lincoln had actually declared war against the seven Cotton and Gulf States, then forming the Southern Confederacy, and called on these four States to furnish their quota of the seventy-five thousand troops called for by him to coerce these States. This act, on Mr. Lincoln's part, was without any real authority of law, and nothing short of the most flagrant usurpation, Congress alone having the power to declare war under the Constitution. He refused to convene Congress to consider the grave issues then confronting the country. But when it did assemble, on the 4th of July, 1861, he tried to have his illegal usurpation validated; but Congress, although then having a Republican majority, refused to consider the resolution introduced for that purpose. The four States above named, led by Virginia, only left the Union then, after exhausting every honorable effort to remain in it, and only when they had to determine to fight with or against their sisters of the South. This was the dire alternative presented to them, and how could they hesitate longer what to do?

In the busy, bustling, practical times in which we live, it will doubtless be asked by many, and, with some show of plausibility, why we gather up, and present to the world, all this array of testimony concerning a cause, which is almost universally known as the ‘lost cause,’ and a conflict, which ended more than thirty-five years ago? Does it not, they ask, only tend to rekindle the embers of sectional strife, and can thus only do harm? You, our comrades, know that such is not our purpose or desire. Our reasons have been very briefly stated. It is the truth that constrains. The apologists for the North, using all the vehicles of falsehood, are insistent in spreading the poison; with it the antidote must go. If others attribute to us wrong motives in this matter, we are sorry, but we have no apologies to make to any such. We admit that the Confederate war is ended; that slavery and secession are forever dead, [192] and we have no desire to revive them. We recognize, too, that this whole country is one country and our country. We desire that, government and people doing that which is right, it may become in truth a glorious land, and may remain a glorious inheritance to our children and our children's children. But we believe the true way to preserve it as such an inheritance is to perpetuate in it the principles for which the Confederate soldier fought—the principles of Constitutional liberty, and of local self-government—or, as Mr. Davis puts it, ‘the rights of their sires won in the Revolution, the State sovereignty, freedom, and independence, which were left to us, as an inheritance to their posterity forever.’ This definition, a distinguished Massachusetts writer says, is ‘the whole case, and not only a statement, but a complete justification of the Confederate cause, to all who are acquainted with the origin and character of the American Union.’

Yes, we repeat, this is our country, and of it, we would say, with Virginia's dead Laureate at the Yorktown celebration:

Give us back the ties of Yorktown,
     Perish all the modern hates,
Let us stand together, brothers,
     In defiance of the Fates,
For the safety of the Union
     Is the safety of the States.

At Appomattox, the Confederate flag was furled, and we are content to let it stay so forever. There is enough of glory and sacrifice encircled in its folds, not only to enshrine it in our hearts forever; but the very trump of fame must be silenced when it ceases to proclaim the splendid achievements over which that flag floated.


Battle-field, not a forum.

But, Appomottox was not a judicial forum; it was only a battlefield, a test of physical force, where the starving remnant of the Army of Northern Virginia, ‘wearied with victory,’ surrendered to ‘overwhelming numbers and resources.’ We make no appeal from that judgment, on the issue of force. But when we see the victors in that contest, meeting year by year and using the superior means at their command, to publish to the world, that they were right and that we were wrong, in that contest, saying that we were ‘Rebels’ and ‘traitors,’ in defending our homes and firesides against their cruel invasion, that we had no legal right to withdraw from the Union, when we only asked to be let alone, and that we [193] brought on that war; we say when these, and other wicked and false charges are brought against us from year to year, and the attempt is systematically made to teach our children, that these things are true, and therefore, that we do not deserve their sympathy and respect, because of our alleged wicked and unjustifiable course in that war and in bringing it on—then it becomes our duty, not only to ourselves and our children, but to the thousands of brave men and women who gave their lives a ‘free — will offering,’ in defence of the principles for which we fought, to vindicate the justice of our cause, and to do this, we have to appeal only to the bar of truth and of justice


The truth will live.

We know the Muse of History may be, and often is, startled from her propriety for a time; but she will soon regain her equipoise. Our late enemy has unwittingly furnished the great reservoir from which the truth can be drawn, not only in what they have said about us and our cause, both before and since the war; but in the more than the one hundred volumes of the official records published under the authority of Congress. We are content to await, ‘with calm confidence,’ the results of the appeal to these sources.

We have, as already stated, in this report, attempted to vindicate our cause, by referring to testimony furnished almost entirely from the speeches and writings of our adversaries, both before and since the war. We believe we have succeeded in doing this. Nay, the judgment, both of the justice of our cause and the conduct of the war, on our part, has been written for us, and that too by the hand of a Massachusetts man. He says of us:

‘Such exalted character and achievement are not all in vain. Though the Confederacy fell as an actual physical power, she lives illustrated by them, eternally in her just cause—the cause of Constitutional liberty.’

Then, in the language of the Virginia Laureate again, we say:

Then stand up, oh my countrymen,
     And unto God give thanks
On mountains and on hillsides
     And by sloping river banks,
Thank God, that you were worthy
     Of the grand Confederate ranks.

[194] Since your last year's Report was mainly directed to the vindication of our people from the false charge that we went to war to perpetuate slavery, we have thought we could render no more valuable service in this Report, than to show—(1) That we were right on the real question involved in the contest; and (2) That notwithstanding this, and the further fact, that the South had never violated the Constitution, whilst the North had confessedly repeatedly done so; nay, that fourteen of the sixteen Free States had not only nullified, but had defied acts of Congress passed in pursuance of the Constitution, and the decisions of the Supreme Court sustaining those acts, and that the North, and not the South, had brought on the war. We believe we have established these propositions by evidence furnished by our late adversaries; and the last, by that of Mr. Lincoln himself. On this testimony, we think we can afford to rest our case. And we believe that the evidence furnished in our last Report, and in this, will establish the justice, both of our cause and of the conduct of our people in reference to the war.


Histories in our Schools.

The several histories, used in schools, were so fully discussed in our last Report, that we deem it unnecessary to add anything further on that subject. We are gratified to be able to report, that the two works, adversely criticised in our last Report, viz: Fiske's and Cooper, Estill & Lemon's Histories, respectively, have found but little favor with the School Boards of our State. This is shown by the fact, that out of the 18 counties and corporations in the State but one has adopted Fiske's, and that one has purchased a supply of Jones' History, to be used by the pupils in studying the history pertaining to the war. That Cooper, Estill & Lemon's History is now only used in six places; whilst all the other counties and corporations (with the exception of one, which uses Hansell's), use either Mrs. Lee's or Dr. Jones' Histories, or the two conjointly, the relative use of these being as follows: Lee's, 68; Jones', 25; Lee and Jones, conjointly, 17.

It will thus be seen, that the danger apprehended from the use of the two works criticised, is reduced to the minimum. But we must not be satisfied until that danger is entirely removed by the abolishment of these books from the list of those adopted for use, by our State Board of Education. We are informed by this Board, that it can do nothing in this direction pending the terms of the existing [195] contracts with the publishers of these works, which contracts expire on July 31st, 1902. But we are also informed, that under the provisions of a law passed prior to the making of these contracts, it is competent for County and City School Boards, to change the textbooks on the history of the United States whenever they deem it proper to do so. We would, therefore, urge these local boards to stop the use of the two works criticised in our last report at once.


Composed of good men.

It is also most gratifying to us to state, what you, perhaps, already know, that all three of the members of our State Board of Education, are not only native and true Virginians, but men devoted to the principles for which we fought, and that they, and each of them, stand ready to co-operate with us, as far as they can legally and properly do so, in having our children taught ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,’ in regard to the war, and the causes which led to it. We would ask for nothing more, and we should ask for nothing less, from any source.

We repeat the recommendation heretofore made, both to this Camp and to the United Confederate Veterans, that separate chairs of American history be established in all of our principal Southern Colleges, so that the youth of our land may be taught the truth as to the formation of this government, and of the principles for which their fathers fought for the establishment and maintenance of Constitutional liberty in our land.

Our attention has recently been called to the fact that in none of the histories used in our schools, is any mention made (certainly none compared with what it deserves) of the splendid services rendered our cause by the devoted and gallant band led by Colonel John S. Mosby. This organization, whilst forming a part of General Lee's Army, and at all times subject to his orders, was to all intents and purposes an independent command. We believe, that for its numbers and resources, it performed as gallant, faithful and efficient services as any other command in any part of our armies, and that no history of our cause is at all complete, that fails to give some general idea, at the least, of the deeds of devotion and daring performed by this gallant band and its intrepid leader.


Union of our fathers.

We sometimes hear (not often, it is true, but still too often) from [196] those who were once Confederate soldiers themselves, or from the children of Confederates, such expressions as—‘We are glad the South did not succeed in her struggle for independence.’ ‘We are glad that slavery is abolished,’ &c.

We wish to express our sincere sorrow and regret, that any of our people should so far forget themselves as to indulge in any such remarks. In the first place, we think they are utterly uncalled for, and in bad taste. In the second place, to some extent, they reflect upon the Confederate cause, and those who defended that cause; and in the third place, it seems to us, if our own self-respect does not forever seal our lips against such expressions, that the memories of a sacred past, the blood of the thousands and tens of thousands of those who died, the tears, the toils, the wounds, and the innumerable sacrifices of both the living and the dead, that were freely given for the success of that cause, would be an appeal against such expressions, that could not be resisted. If all that is meant by the first of these expressions is, that the speaker means to say, ‘He is glad that the ‘Union of our Fathers’ is preserved,’ then we can unite with him in rejoicing at this, if this is the ‘Union of our Fathers,’ as to which we have the gravest doubts. But be this as it may; we have never believed that the subjugation of the South or the success of the North, was either necessary, or the best way to preserve and perpetuate the ‘Union of our Fathers.’

On the secession of Mississippi, her Convention sent a Commissioner from that State to Maryland, who, at that time, it may be sure, expressed the real objects sought to be obtained by secession by the great body of the Southern people. He said:

Secession is not intended to break up the present Government, but to perpetuate it. We do not propose to go out by way of destroying the Union, as our fathers gave it to us, but we go out for the purpose of getting further guarantees and security for our rights, &c.


Might have been better.

And so we believe, that with the success of the South, the ‘Union of our Fathers,’ which the South was the principal factor in forming, and to which she was far more attached than the North, would have been restored and re-established; that in this Union the South would have been again the dominant people, the controlling power, and that its administration of the Government in that Union would have been [197] along constitutional and just lines, and not through Military Districts, attempted Confiscations, Force Bills, and other oppressive and illegal methods, such as characterized the conduct of the North for four years after the war in its alleged restoration of a Union which it denied had ever been dissolved.

As to the abolition of slavery: Whilst we know of no one in the South who does not rejoice, that this has been accomplished, we know of no one, anywhere, so lost to every sense of right and justice, as not to condemn the iniquitous way in which this was done. But we feel confident that no matter how the war had ended, it would have resulted in the freedom of slave, and as surely with the success of the South as with that of the North, although perhaps not so promptly.

We are warranted in this conclusion, from several considerations —(1) It was conclusively shown in our last Report, that we did not fight for the continuation of slavery, and that a large majority of our soldiers were non-slaveholders; (2) That our great leader, General Lee, had freed his slaves before the war, whilst General Grant held on to his until they were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation; and (3) Whilst Mr. Lincoln issued that proclamation, he said in his first inaugural:

‘I have no purpose directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.’


Emancipation of slaves.

With the success of the South, we believe emancipation would have followed by some method of compensation for the property rights in slaves, just as the North had received compensation for the same property, when held by it. Certainly it would not have been accomplished by putting the whites under the heel of the blacks, as was attempted by the North. In the contest between Lincoln and McClellan, in 1864, the people of the North were nearly equally divided on the issues involved in the war, Lincoln having received 2,200,000 votes in that contest, whilst McClellan received 1,800,000 (in round numbers). We know too, that Lincoln was not only a ‘minority’ President, but a big ‘minority’ President, his opponents having received a million more votes in 1860 than he received. So that, with a divided North, and a united South, on the principles for which we contended, if the South had been successful in the war, her people would have dominated and controlled this country for [198] the last thirty-five years, as they did the first seventy years of its existence, and, in our opinion, both the country and the South would have been benefited by that domination and control.

Again, think of the difference between the South being made to pay the war debt, and pensions of the North, and the latter having to pay those of the former. And again, we reason, that if the South, in all the serfdom and oppression in which she was left by the results of the war, has accomplished what she has—(she has made greater material advances in proportion than any other section)— what could she not have done, if she had been the conqueror instead of the conquered?

We simply allude to these material facts, with the hope that these, and every consideration dictated by self-respect, love of, and loyalty to, a sacred and glorious past, will prevent a repetition of the expressions of which we, as representatives of the Confederate cause and people, justly complain, and against which we earnestly protest.

Committee on Publishing a School History for Use in Our Public and Private Schools. Geo. L. Christian, Acting Chairman, R. T. Barton, Rev. B. D. Tucker, R. S. B. Smith, John W. Fulton, Carter R. Bishop, John W. Daniel, T. H. Edwards, M. W. Hazelwood, R. A. Brock, James Mann, W. H. Hurkamp, Micajah woods, Thomas Ellett, Secretary.

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