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The Townsend Library. National, State, and individual Records. 1860-1870.

Upon the election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency in 1860, when the first mutterings of the coming storm were heard, Mr. Thomas S. Townsend, of New York city, conceived the idea of collecting and arranging in a form for ready reference the chronicle of current events as it was given in the newspapers and magazines of the country, as well as the comments and addresses made, when the particulars were fresh in the minds of the writers and speakers of the day. This Historical Record and Encyclopoedia contains nearly everything concerning the great national conflict—not merely down to the end of battle-fields, but to the equally important strife connected with the reorganization of the National Union, by the readmission of the seceded States in 1870. And in this connection it is essential to remember that much very valuable information concerning men and things on all sides during the war, North as well as South, has been attainable only since the close of the war, as it has been elicited by discussions in Congress, in Legislatures, in Northern and Southern Historical Societies, in magazines such as the Southern Historical Society Papers, The Century, The Land We Love, The Southern Bivouac, and others with like distinctive features, and in the controversies of persons engaged on both sides since the close of the armed strife. No party bias has been allowed to interfere with the thorough compilation of the descriptive narratives, comments and reviews of correspondents, journalists, and public men of every conceivable creed—whether of the North or South.

This portion of the work occupies nearly one hundred immense folio volumes—forming a library in itself, and embracing as much printed matter as could be placed in about a thousand volumes of ordinary octavo size. As the arrangement is in four columns on each page, a curious statistician ‘calculated’ that ‘if the columns were arranged in a continuous line, they would measure nearly one hundred miles.’ [383]

The preparation of these volumes of the ‘Record’ has been, however, the least laborious portion of the work—only one—tenth of the time of the compiler having been occupied upon it—while nine-tenths have been devoted to the Encyclopoedia, which is an analysis of and guide to the contents of the immense collection. To study the history of any particular subject by means of the Record alone would be impossible; therefore, in order to make this great mass of information available for reference, the compiler decided that the mercantile principle of keeping accounts was the true one—to regard his ‘Record’ in the light of a merchant's day-book, then to journalize the contents of the ‘Record,’ and from the journals to redistribute the entries to their appropriate departments, in what a merchant would term his ledger, but which the compiler calls his Encyclopoedia. Each fact or statement in a report, or a letter, or in an editorial, has been separately entered in the journal. This portion of the work requires a journal of eight hundred pages to comprise an epitome of each volume of the ‘Record.’ These journals or waste-books are removed when their entries are systematically transferred to the various departments in the Encyclopoedia. We come now to the most important part of the work. The Encyclopoedia is not an index, but a compilation — a compendium of ‘The Record.’ a statement of each subject, or rather of all statements concerning each subject; so that the manifold and intricate episodes of the war—its origin, progress and results, can be developed instantaneously, and in all their relations, whether the subject refers to military matters, or finance, foreign relations, or individual actions. All are related with impartial completeness from all available sources of information, and will be found to satisfy all inquiry instantaneously. The Encyclopoedia will comprise about twenty-five volumes of 1,300 pages each of manuscript, equal in size to the largest bank ledger—all elegantly bound and lettered.

The key to the whole work is comprised in one volume, which gives ready reference to the statements in the whole collection.

The value of this work has been extensively attested by the most influential newspapers of the country, by scholars, public men and learned societies, and the foresight, skill and perseverance of Mr. Townsend commended in the most appreciative terms.

Of the work Rev. Irenaeus Prime, editor of the New York Observer, writes:

It is beyond dispute the most remarkable compilation of ancient or modern times—having no equal before or since the invention [384] of the art of printing—and further ages will prize it as one of the chief memorials of the first century of American Independence.

General G. T. Beauregard and other distinguished officers of both of the late contending armies of the North and South urge that ‘it: should be the property of the Nation’

An inspection of the synopsis of the record of the State of Virginia, which was sent the editor by Mr. Townsend, impresses the former as to the great and peculiar value of this portion of the work in its comprehension of incidents and details only elsewhere to be found in the newspapers and ephemeral books in which they originally appeared. The subject heads comprise ‘Virginia Before the War,’ ‘The Peace Convention,’ ‘State Conventions,’ ‘The Constitutional Convention,’ ‘The Federal Government in 1861,’ ‘The Legislatures,’ ‘Official State Documents,’ ‘Richmond Press on the War,’ ‘The Sequestration Act and its Results,’ ‘Law and Decisions,’ ‘Confederate Military Documents,’ ‘The French Tobacco,’ ‘The Execution of John T. Beall in New York,’ ‘The University of Virginia’ (gallantry of its students and professors), Jefferson College (service of its students and of Professor Hunter McGuire, M. D.), ‘The Dahlgren Raid,’ ‘Maps, Diagrams, Geographical Information,’ ‘Federal Military Documents’ (National Cemeteries in Virginia), ‘Loyalty in the State,’ ‘The Confederate Government and the State,’ ‘Personals, Obituaries, Arrests,’ etc., ‘The Specie and the Treasury of Virginia,’ ‘The War in Virginia,’ ‘Richmond’ (the siege of), ‘Norfolk’ (Geneeral Butler's Rule, etc.), ‘Saltville,’ ‘Hampton—Burning of the Town,’ ‘Slavery and Emancipation,’ ‘The Peace Question’ (efforts of the Committee of Nine), ‘Department of Confederate Regiments,’ ‘Department of Confederate Generals,’ ‘Biographical Sketches,’ etc.

At the last session of Congress a bill was reported in the House of Representatives for the purchase of this historical treasury at a cost of $30,000—this work upon which the patriotic and untiring compiler has been devotedly engaged for more than thirty years, and upon which, it is claimed, and credibly, that he has expended in money more than the sum proposed to be paid to him by the Government. In the United States Senate, September 17, 1891, the Hon. Wade Hampton, of South Carolina, thus urged its purchase:

I did not have the opportunity of hearing the remarks of the Senator from New York [Mr. Evarts], but I am somewhat familiar [385] with this compilation, knowing Mr. Townsend and having had some correspondence with him, and I have looked over the prospectus most carefully. I have arrived at the conclusion that it is very important that the Government should possess this work, from the fact that our librarian here, Mr. Spofford, has endorsed it in the very higest way, and in addition to his indorsement, I find that the Comte de Paris says:

It is a work of the greatest value, but seems beyond the strength of a single man in the limits of a single life.

General Grant says:

I heartily endorse the sentiments expressed by the Comte de Paris in his letter of July 27, 1883.

Governor Horatio Seymour speaks in the highest terms of the work.

Dr. Cogswell, the organizer and first Superintendent of the Astor Library, says:

As a chronological and synchronous record of the events it is more minute and more authentic than could be formed in any other way; and as documentary material for the historian of those events it is absolutely indispensable.

I need not go over the names of all the eminent men who have indorsed this work, but amongst others there is Colonel Duncan K. McRae, of the Confederate Army, and General Beauregard, and all the great northern newspapers.

This compilation is formed somewhat upon the principle of the Rebellion Record, but that work deals only with the military operations of both armies during the war, and, of course, a great many papers relating to that subject have been lost; but this gentleman commenced at the beginning of the war, and he made memoranda of all events that happened, and he has them now embraced in over one hundred volumes. I am satisfied that the history of the Government since the Buchanan administration to the present time cannot properly be prepared without a reference to this work. I hope, therefore, that we may obtain it and put it where it will be entirely safe and accessible—in the Library of Congress.

It is felt that when this important subject engages again the attention of Congress that it will not fail in support from the entire southern representation. The estimate of the value of this great work expressed by the distinguished Confederate chieftain must surely find concurrence.

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