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A grand meeting in New Orleans on the 25th of April in behalf of the Southern Historical Society.

[We make up from the New Orleans papers the following full report of the grand meeting which was held in New Orleans on the 25th of April in behalf of the Society, and for the brilliant success of which we owe hearty thanks to all concerned.]

The call made upon the people of New Orleans by the Southern Historical Society was nobly responded to by the large and brilliant audience which assembled at the French Opera House. Every seat in the parquette, every box and seat in the second tier were filled and the secondes and amphithreatre were crowded so that standing room was in anxious demand. The lobby on both sides was filled with gentlemen, peeping over each other's shoulders and listening with avidity and on tiptoe to the speakers.

So prompt were the people to assemble at the appointed hour that when 8 o'clock struck the house was fall and ready to greet the distinguished speakers.

Hon. Jefferson Davis, leaning on the arm of Governor Francis T. Nicholls, followed by Rev. Dr. B. M. Palmer, Rev. Dr. Meyer Gutheim, aud General George D. Johnston, and Judge Walters H. Rogers, first marched upon the stage by a side entrance and as soon as the venerable ex-President of the Southern Confederacy made his appearance every one in the audience arose and hat and handerchiefs were waved with loud cheers, which rose and continued fresher, louder and more exultant in their raptuous greeting, and were not spent until the full lapse of a quarter of an hour

As soon as the applause had ceased, Judge Walter H Rogers, in a [224] few words, proposed Governor Francis T. Nicholls as presiding officer, and this was received with unanimous and enthusiastic approbation.

Judge Rogers then called the following gentlemen to act as vice-presidents and secretaries:

Vice-Presidents.--Bertrand Beer, Robt. Colt, John B. Lallande, W. T. Vaudry, H. J. Hearsey, B. F. Eschelman, Thos. L. Airey, J. A. Chalaron, A. Baldwin, S. S. Chaille, Carleton Hunt, J. B. Woods, G. A. Breaux, W. A. Bell, Alfred Roman, H. N. Ogden, G. T. Beauregard, Samuel Logan, A. H. May, J. T. Scott, A. J. Witherspoon, J. B. Richardson, R. M. Walmsley, J. H. O'Connor, Walker Fearn, R. B. Todd, C. H. Parker, Chas. E. Fenner, J. B. Vinet, Page M. Baker, F. N. Ogden, F. S. Richardson, W. G. Vincent, C. H. Luzenberg, W. A. Johnson, W. T. Blakemore, Walter H. Rogers, J. J. Gidiere, George H. Braughn, James Buckner, H. S. Leovy, W. H. Holcombe, W. S. Mitchell, S. Delgado, Joseph Jones, J. G. Clarke, J. D. Bruns, J. Moore Wilson, John B. Lafitte, Fred P. Allen, J. S. Bradford, J. C. Eagan, Louis Bush, E. B. Wheelock, J. Jeffries, Lloyd R. Coleman, L. C. Levy, Adolph Meyer, John T. Hardie, F. P. Poche, T. L. Bayne, J. S. West Jr., John Andrews, R. H. Browne, Geo. W. Terrell, Wm. E. Huger, J. H. Oglesby, Warren Stone, E. M. Hudson, E. K. Converse, A. Goldthwaite, H. L. Lazarus, G. W. Cable, I. L. Leucht, F. R. Southmayd, Columbus H. Allen, H. D. Ogden, J. C. Morris, H. B. Stevens, W. J. Behon, R. B. Pleasants, Thos. R. Markham, John V. Moore, J. H. Maury, T. S. Kennedy, J. H. Wiendahl, I. L. Lyons, E. A. Burke, S. H. Boyd, J. W. Emmett, Chas. Macready, Thos. C. Herndon, H. A. Martin, J. C. Denis, S. H. Buck, J. Walker Coleman; T. F. Alleyn, Wm. Fagan, F. McGloin, Wm. Pierce, J. T. Harahan, John Fitzpatrick, A. Moulton, John Glynn Jr., M. D. Lagan, Adam Thompson, Archibald Mitchell, John Mc. Enery, A. J. Lewis, John G. Devereux, J. M. Bonner, J. D. Peet, R. W. Adams, Eugene May, A. A. Maginnis, Rev. Mr. Waters, A. W. Hyatt, H. Miller Thompson, J. B. Walton, B. T. Walshe, John Augustin, C. H. Tebault C. J. Leeds, R. H. Marr, P. N. Strong, Gideon Townsend, H. Abraham, J. I. Block, T. G. Richardson, H. M. Martin, Percy Roberts, J. D. Hill, Edw'd Villere, Rt. Rev. J. N. Galleher, W. F. Ogden, I. W. Patton, Frank Monroe, J. P. Davidson, I. H. Stauffer, Jesse K. Bell, E. D. Willett, Geo. Sebastian, G. A. Lanaux, Jules Aldige, L. Folger, Hon. E. J. Ellis, Carl Kohn, H. Dudley Coleman, N. H. Rightor, A. L. Tissot, W. M. Owen, James McConnell, I. N. Marks, Major B. H. H. Green, Henry C. Miller, John Chaffe, S. L. Stockman, Thos. J. Semmes, Howard McCaleb, Rev. F. A. Schoup. [225]

Secretaries.--M. McNamara, C. H. Lavillebeuvre, Thos. H. Clark, Chas. F. Buck, John J. Fitzpatrick, Branch K. Miller, Jos. D. Taylor, R. H. Brunet Jr., John K. Renaud.

Governor Francis T. Nicholls

then stepped forward, and in a few appropriate and pithy remarks explained the objects of the meeting and the purposes of the Southern Historical Society. He spoke of the importance of the work undertaken by this small band of laborers, who, if they receive the proper help, will rescue from oblivion and slander, the record of the heroes who did their best for the right. After an eloquent peroration he introduced to the audience the

Hon. Jefferson Davis.

When the venerable soldier and statesman arose to respond to the introduction, deafening cheers greeted him and, by a common impulse, the whole assembly stood up in exulting reverence and respect. Mr. Davis, as soon as the applause permitted, delivered, first in a low voice, which gradually warmed up to inspiriting tones, the following address:

Address of President Davis.

Ladies and Gentlemen,--It would be more than superfluous to address to a New Orleans audience any argument in favor of the preservation of the history of our Confederate struggle. Your course is too well known, marked by too many deeds both in war and in peace, to render it at all doubtful that your hearts beat time to the cause for which so many of your bravest and best have died.

The early colony of Louisiana consisted of men who were refugees from conquest, and who, guided by patriotism and sustained by valor, plunged into the wilderness to make for themselves a new home. Their descendants have shown from that day to this the same characteristics which marked their fathers.

I believe it has been generally conceded, and I think most truly, that never was a people more universally gallant than the Creoles of Louisiana. [Applause.]

At the very first call of the late war your citizens rushed forth to the defense of their country, and you gave of your sons the first who reduced the fort that threatened to blockade a Southern harbor. And he, in the first great battle of Manassas, so distinguished himself as to be [226] promoted on the field to the highest grade in the Confederate army. Such was your Beauregard. [Applause.]

It would consume the whole evening were I to attempt to enumerate the list. You have seen standing before you here to introduce me one who went forth to the battle in the vigor of manhood, who lost a limb, and waited but for convalescence,1 when he again hastened to the field, and sacrificed another limb. [Applause.] What is left of him is more precious to you still, like Sibylline leaves, growing in value as they were reduced in bulk.

But when the war was over, then the fair daughters of Louisiana (it is always the women who are first in good work), originated that plan of decorating the graves of the Confederate dead, paying to them annually a tribute of flowers, which, in their beauty and recurring vitality, best express the everlasting love you bear toward the dead.

Then here, in New Orleans, was organized the Historical Society, with a view to preserving the records of the Confederate war. That Society has been removed, but still looks back to this the place of its birth. Here, where more than in any other city, you had been swept by the besom of desolation — where you had been more terribly pillaged than any other town that had been overrun — here have arisen more monuments to the Confederate heroes than in any other city of the South. Glorious New Orleans! You have the right to be proud of the past, and we have the right to be expectant of you in the future, for there is yet a higher and more immediate duty to perform. Monuments may crumble, their inscriptions may be defaced by time, but the records, the little slips of paper which contain the memorial of what is past will live forever. To collect and preserve these records is, therefore, our highest duty. They are said to be in danger. The Southern Historical Society appeals to you now. They appeal to you in the midst of your disaster, when your country has been overwhelmed by a flood, and when there is a want of means to supply the necessities of your people. Still the Historical Society comes to Louisiana as the first place, in which they ask that the Confederate records should be perfected and protected. I do not doubt that you will respond to the extent of your ability; that you will here inaugurate a movement which, growing and extending from city to city and year to year, will render certain the preservation of those archives, the value of which it is impossible to compute. It is a duty we owe to the dead — the dead who died for us, but whose memories can never die. It is a duty we owe to [227] posterity to see that our children shall know the virtues and rise worthy of their sires; to see that the sons grow up worthy of their noble mothers — those mothers who never faltered through all the hours of trial through which we passed. [Applause.]

They who now sleep in the grave cannot be benefitted, it is true, by anything we may do; their cause has gone before a higher tribunal than any earthly judgment-seat, but their children and children's children are to be benefitted by preserving the record of what they did, and, more than all, the moral with which they did it. As for me — I speak only for myself — our cause was so just, so sacred, that had I known all that has come to pass, had I known what was to be inflicted upon me, all that my country was to suffer, all that our posterity was to endure, I would do it all over again. [Great applause.]

It is to me most desirable that the conduct of our men in defense of that cause should be so presented to the world as to leave no stain upon it. They went through trials which might have corrupted weaker men, and yet thoughout the war I never went into an army without finding their camp engaged in prayer. After the war was over, see how many of these men who bore muskets in the ranks became ministers of the Gospel. It is your good foutune to have one presiding over your diocese now, and who is the successor of one who drew his last breath on the field of battle, the glorious holy Bishop Polk!

It is not necessary that we should have recorded what is conceded by all the world, that our men were brave, that they had a power of endurance and self-denial which was remarkable, but if you would have your children rise to the high plane you desire them to occupy, you must add the evidence of their father's chivalry and forbearance from that staining crime of the soldier, plunder, under all the circumstances of the war. True that we did not invade to any great extent, though we did to some. It is a fact which I am happy to remember that when our army invaded the enemy's country, their property was safe. I draw no comparisons, as I am speaking now of our people and of our country. If somebody else did not behave as well, let it rest. [Laughter.]

We had no army at the opening of the war; our defenders were not professional soldiers. They were men who left their wives, children and peaceful occupations, and, at the first call of their country, seized such arms as they could gather, and rallied around their flag like a wall of fire to defend the rights their fathers left them. Could there be cause more sacred than this? If there be anything that justifies human war, it is defense of country, of family, of constitutional rights. [Applause.] [228]

If I be asked, as is possible, why do you wish to perpetuate these bitter memories? I say, in no spirit of vengeance, with no desire for vainglory, with no wish for sectional exaltation, but that the posterity of men such as I have described, may rise equal to their parents, higher if possible, and that the South may exhibit for all time to come the noble qualities which her sons have heretofore manifested. [Applause.]

Examples to posterity of the cardinal virtues of mankind they lived for humanity, and it is only by preserving your records, by gathering those incidents which are apt to be forgotten, that you can hope to convey to future generations an exact idea of the men who served through our struggle. It is not enough to say that some General won a battle; that don't teach you his character. It is not enough to say where some army displayed great valor, stormed a work or defended one. Show the character of the men, how they behaved in the field and in the camp. For this you should collect and collate such evidence as our worthy riend, General Nicholls, has said it was the object of this Society to gather.

The highest quality of man is self-sacrifice.

The man who gives his life for another, who surrenders all his earthly prospects that his fellow men may be benefitted, has most followed that grand exemplar who was given as a model for weak humanity. That we had many men in the Confederate service who forgot self in the defence of right, it is the purpose of this Society, by collecting the evidence, to show to the world.

I constantly find myself impelled to drift into comparative narration, which I wish to avoid. Let it suffice to say that I would have our children's children to know not only that our cause was just, (that may be historically established), but to have them know that the men who sustained it were worthy of the cause for which they fought. These are the great objects for which your co-operation is invoked.

The other side has written, and is writing, their statement of the case. We wish to present ours also, that the future historian by considering both may deduce the unbiased statement, which no contemporary could make.

I will frankly acknowledge that I would distrust the man who served the Confederate cause and was capable of giving a disinterested account of it. [Applause.] If he bad any heart it must be on his own side. I would not give twopence for a man whose heart was so cold that he could be quite impartial. You remember the fable of the lion who, seeing a statue which represented a lion prostrate, and a man victorious, bending over him, said that if a lion had made the statue, [229] the figures would have been reversed. We want our side of the war so fully and exactly stated, that the men who come after us may compare and do justice in the case.

You all know how utterly unprepared we were when we engaged in the war, without money, without an army, without credit, without arms or ammunition, or factories to make them. We went into the struggle relying solely on brave hearts, strong arms, and, unfortunately many relying on deciding the issue by argument. When they found they were mistaken — that it was the dread ordeal of battle by which the question was to be settled — they shrank not from it, and I do contend their valor was equaled only by the moral of their conduct throughout the struggle. The unanimity of our people and the heroism of our soldiers has caused us to be the admiration of the world. They know the disadvantages under which we fought; they know the great achievements which we did. But there is much that is not known. You may ask the school-boy in the lowest form, who commanded at the Pass of Thermopylae. He can tell you. But my friends there are few in this audience who, if I asked them, could tell me who commanded at Sabine Pass. And yet, that battle of Sabine Pass was more remarkable than the battle of Thermopylae, and when it has orators and poets to celebrate it, will be so esteemed by mankind.

The disparity of numbers was greater, the inequality of arms was greater. When an iron-clad fleet came to pass the Sabine so as to invade the interior of Texas, an Irish Lieutenant, with forty-two men behind a little mud fort, having only field guns for its armament, held them in check. When he asked for instructions he was told he had better retire. But this gallant man said: “We will never retire 1”

[The speaker went on to relate how the Irish Lieutenant, Dowling, had captured two of the war vessels on September 9, 1863, and taken a great number of prisoners.]

It is our duty to keep the memory of our heroes green. Yet they belong not to us alone; they belong to the whole country; they belong to America. And we do not seek to deprive “Americans” of the glory of such heroes as we have produced. Nor were their services rendered in our war those only which claim grateful remembrance. There was pious Jackson, the man, who, when he was waiting for the troops to move up would, under a storm of bullets, be lost in ejaculatory prayer: the man who, when he bent over a wounded comrade, would feel a woman's weakness creep into his eyes: the man who came like a thunderbolt when his friends most needed him, and his enemies least expected his coming, was the same who had marched into the valley of Mexico to sustain the flag of the United States. That man [230] who had been the terror of the enemy in the hour of battle but was as peaceful as a lamb after the conflict, when he found he was on a bed of death, calmly folded his arms, resigning his soul to God and saying: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” We do not claim to appropriate all his glory, but we hold dear every part of him that nobody else wants.

And there was Lee, the calm, faithful, far-seeing, dauntless Lee. As a soldier and engineer he penetrated the Mexican pedrigal and discovered a route by which the army must be led. To him more than to anybody else must be ascribed the capture of the city of Mexico.

We do not wish to wholly appropriate the glory of Lee but will willingly share it with those who have an equal right to it, and we would rather they should claim some share of the grand conduct of Lee at Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, and everywhere that soldiers met soldiers against mighty odds.

There was the great General Sidney Johnston, distinguished in the Black Hawk war and the siege of Monterey, holding a position in the army with a rank beyond his age and prospects the most inviting to a soldier, he surrendered everything in order to vindicate the principles he believed to be true, and came with nothing but his right arm and his good sword to offer his services to the Confederacy.

Never was man more true to his duty, more devoted to his cause, or more sincere in his purposes, as was shown in the hour of his death, when, on the field of Shiloh, having driven the enemy from every position before him save one, which he saw must be carried to make the victory complete, he led a column to storm it, receiving a death wound from which the life-blood was pouring, he recked not of himself, but thinking, feeling only of his country and its cause, rode on until he fell lifeless from his horse.

May not the Genius of Patriotism as she bent over the form of the soldier so pure, so true, so devoted, have dropped a tear on a sacrifice so untimely slain upon her altar? Then I repeat it, such men do not belong to us alone. Shall their memories fade, and rising generations not feel the influence of such grand examples? May it not well come to pass that in some hour of the country's need, future generations, aware of the grandeur and the virtue of those men, will in a moment of disaster cry out like the ancient Scot:

O for an hour of Wallace wight
Or well-trained Bruce
To lead the fight,
And cry St. Andrew and our right.


In some future struggle when the energy of the country may be taxed to its utmost, will you then find such men as those who have illustrated our recent history? They may arise, and that result will certainly be promoted by the course which has been advocated here to-night. Let the rising generation learn what their fathers did, and let them learn the still better lesson to emulate not only the deeds, but the motives which prompted them. May God grant that sons even greater than their fathers may rise whenever their country needs them to defend her cause. [Applause.]

Though the gallantry and capacity of the Confederate troops was so often and so brilliantly exhibited as to be undeniable and undenied, yet we have been inconsistently charged with cruelty to prisoners. I say inconsistently, because brave men are never cruel to those who are helpless and in their power. The fact is, we used our best efforts to alleviate the sufferings of the prisoners held by us. That they languished and died in prison was their misfortune and ours also. There were physical and climatic causes which we could not alter. We were wanting in supplies of the proper medicines and the kind of food to which the prisoners were accustomed. As the number of prisoners accumulated beyond what could have been anticipated, there was not a sufficient shelter for them. Disease was the consequence, and the medicine required could not be obtained because the enemy had made it contraband. It is a burning shame that the slander was ever circulated which imputed to us cruelty to those who were in our power. Enough has been collected and published on this subject to convince any fair, disinterested mind, but let us not stop until the facts have been so established that not even malignity and slanderous falsehood can fail to be silenced and abashed. Let the testimony of reliable persons who were in our prisons be taken, especially the evidence of those who came to me as a delegation from the prisoners at Andersonville, and whom I sent on parole to Washington to plead for the execution of the cartel for the exchange of prisoners. In due time they came back to report that they could not get an audience. Their conduct in observing their parole proved their honorable character, and must entitle them to credence. Let these and all other pertinent facts be added to the testimony already of record, so that the odious accusations about Andersonville shall not be thrown in the faces of our children and our children's children.

Time's mellowing influence has been felt on both sides of the Susquehanna, and our people sincerely appreciate the kindness shown to them in time of pestilence, and more recently in time of flood. It is the [232] characteristic of the brave and generous always gratefully to acknowledge any kindness they receive.

I trust that these mellowing influences may grow stronger and that at no distant day those offensive epithets which, in view of our history, it was an abuse of the English language to employ, may cease to be part of the Northern vocabulary. Those who must live together should cultivate cointelligence and mutual respect, in order to which not one side only but both must be heard. The Southern people are not revengeful, the fact is they are not capable of lasting hate which is the child of fear, therefore brave men do not hate like cowards. [Applause.]

Here, where the Historical Society began, in an hour of utter desolation, it is here also in another period of disaster that I find you assembled to determine what can be done to preserve this Society and increase its usefulness.

If you succeed in giving impulse to such an organization as will preserve this Society, you will add another feather to the wing which I trust will bear you to prosperity and happiness. You will have another claim to the admiration of those who honor virtue, and who feel gratitude for your generosity, and to us Confederates you will be, if possible, doubly dear. Here in the neighborhood of the Southern cross, that emblem in the skies of our sign upon earth, that likeness of the battle flag which our men so often followed, here where the Society began, it is meet that the Society should be preserved. In any event you are entitled to much credit, and now I bear a free testimony in your favor.

My friends, it is somewhat difficult for a Confederate whose heart-love lies buried in the grave of our cause, to speak to you on a subject which revives the memories of that period, and to speak with that forbearance which the occasion requires.

I have tried to do so, and all I can say is that, if I have exceeded the proper limit, you don't know how hard I have tried to keep within it. [Applause.]

Now, my friends, ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you that the same affectionate regard, the same hope for you, the same belief in your prosperity, the same high expectations of New Orleans, which I have so often declared, will follow me in the few remaining days I may yet live among you. [Great applause.]

Mr. Davis was frequently applauded throughout the delivery of his address, and was cheered to the echo as he took his seat. He was also presented with a magnificent floral tribute, which he gracefully received amid the tumultuous applause of the crowd. [233]

Then followed addresses by Rev. J. K. Gutheim, General George D. Johnston, and Rev. Dr. B. M. Palmer, which were in the happiest vein of these distinguished orators, and which we had purposed publishing in this number, but that the printer warns us that we will not have room. They will appear next month.

The meeting was, in every way, a magnificent success, and its pecuniary results — a full statement of which we will publish in our next — were in the highest degree gratifying.

Our especial thanks are tendered to the committee of ladies--Mrs. Percy Roberts, Mrs. Alfred Roman, Mrs. F. N. Ogden, Mrs. Francis T. Nicholls, Mrs. W. A. Johnson, Mrs. S. H. Boyd, and Miss Claudine Rhett--whose indifatigable labors were so essential to the success of the meeting--Judge Walter H. Rogers, who, to his reputation as a gallant soldier, now adds that of the able and pure jurist--ex-Governor F. T. Nicholls, the maimed veteran who serves his country and the cause of truth as faithfully now as when he followed the standard of Lee and Jackson--ex-President Davis, the able statesman, pure patriot and finished orator, who has always given to the Society his warm sympathy and ready help--Rev. J. K. Gutheim, who finds in the history of his Ancient People, Israel, an eloquent parallel in the history of the Confederacy--Rev. Dr. B. M. Palmer, who was the first President of the Society, and whose eloquent tongue has always been ready to plead the cause of historic truth--General F. N. Ogden, who kindly acted as treasurer for the ladies — the press of New Orleans, who have shown a ready zeal in the enterprise, which is highly appreciated, and many others, too numerous to mention, who contributed in various ways to the success of this grand meeting.

We need scarcely add, that our accomplished and efficient General Agent, General George D. Johnston, deserves high praise for the untiring energy and wise tact with which he arranged for the meeting, and is following up the interest awakened in the great city of New Orleans in behalf of this Society, which found there its first home, and receives there a new “send off” on its career of usefulness in vindicating the name and fame of the land and cause we love so well.

1 Reference here was to General Nicholls, subsequently Governor of Louisiana.

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