Notes and Queries.
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” :
, 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
, 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.
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
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:
The “rebels more cruel” than Sherman
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:
But the following from our gallant friend, Major Parker
, seems to show that the honor really belonged to “Johnson's Battery
” of Richmond