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Patriotic letters of Confederate leaders.

If it is fair to judge a cause by its representative men, then Confederates have no reason to be ashamed of the exponents of their principles.

We give below several letters, which show the high, patriotic [50] motives which animated our leaders, and which deserve a place in the history of the times, as illustrating the character of the “Rebels” and “Traitors” who were moving spirits in our struggle.

We quote the following from the columns of the Richmond Enquirer of November 21st, 1861:

A high courtesy from across the waters.

We have the pleasure of publishing below a very interesting correspondence between the Grand Duke Constantine, Grand Admiral of Russia, and a distinguished citizen of our own State. It will be read with pleasure and pride. Pleasure, that so eminent a person in a distant empire should have paid such homage to science in the person of one of our own philosophers; and pride, that the flattering and generous proffer should have been so nobly responded to.

In the eyes of the wise and good, such respect as the Grand Admiral has thus exhibited for learning, adds a grace to royalty, and sheds lustre upon diadems. But this exhibition, we are informed, is only characteristic of him; for, of all the Princes of Europe, the Grand Duke of Russia is by far the most renowned for enlightened, liberal and progressive sentiments.

There is, indeed, no government in the world which is doing more for the advancement of science than the Russian Government is at this moment. In everything that relates to the sea, the improvement of navigation or the navy, her Grand Admiral is sure to be found where he ought to be, in the van, taking an enlightened and an active part. His largesses to science are dispensed with a princely munificence.

A private letter has, we understand, been received from a member of his household explaining in detail the exact relations in which he desires Lieutenant Maury to be placed towards the Government of Russia. They are those of perfect freedom. The pay and perquisites which he received in Washington are to be repeated in Russia without conditions. Should he desire to renew there the researches which have been interrupted in Washington, the most ample means and facilities for so doing are to be placed at his disposal; and should he at any time desire to return to America, he will be perfectly at liberty to do so. Indeed, it is desired that he should occupy very much such a position in Russia as Humboldt did in Prussia.

A most delicate and graceful compliment is this tb our fellow-citizen; like that precious quality that is “mightiest in the mightiest,” this invitation “blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

The reply of Lieutenant Maury is such as becomes the patriot. His first duty is to his country. When his native State is in danger and calls to him, he recognizes it as no time to seek ease and advantage in a distant land. The wooings even of philosophy are, under such circumstances, less attractive than the rude thunderings [51] of war. No time for visiting when the invader threatens the homesteads! Liberty and independence secured and peace established, he will appropriately manifest his high appreciation of the courtesy with which he has been honored. Till then he returns his thanks. Such is the spirit which his letter breaths, and it is in harmony with that of the people of his State and of the Confederacy.

Here is the correspondence:

St. Petersburg, 27th July, 1861. [8th August.]
My Dear Captain Maury--The news of your having left a service which is so much indebted to your great and successful labors, has made a very painful impression on me and my companions-in-arms. Your indefatigable researches have unveiled the great laws which rule the winds and currents of the ocean, and have placed your name amongst those which will be ever mentioned with feelings of gratitude and respect, not only by professional men, but by all those who pride themselves in the great and noble attainments of the human race. That your name is well known in Russia, I need scarcely add, and, though “barbarians,” as we are still sometimes called, we have been taught to honor in your person disinterested and eminent services to science and mankind.

Sincerely deploring the inactivity into which the present political whirlpool in your country has plunged you, I deem myself called upon to invite you to take up your residence in this country, where you may in peace continue your favorite and useful occupations.

Your position here will be a perfectly independent one. You will be bound by no conditions or engagements, and you will always be at liberty to steer home across the ocean, in the event of your not preferring to cast anchor in our remote corner of the Baltic.

As regards your material welfare, I beg to assure you that everything will be done by me to make your new home comfortable and agreeable, whilst at the same time the necessary means will be offered you to enable you to continue your scientific pursuits in the way you have been accustomed to.

I shall now be awaiting your reply, hoping to have the pleasure of soon seeing here so distinguished an officer, whose personal acquaintance it has always been my desire to make, and whom Russia will be proud to welcome on her soil.

Believe me, my dear Captain Maury, your sincere well wisher,

Constantine, Grand Admiral of Russia.

Richmond, Va., 29th October, 1861.
Admiral — Your letter reached me only a few days ago. It fills me with emotions.

In it I am offered the hospitalities of a great and powerful Empire, with the Grand Admiral of its fleets for patron and friend. Inducements are held out such as none but the most magnanimous [52] of Princes could offer, and such as nothing but a stern sense of duty may withstand.

A home in the bosom of my family on the banks of the Neva, where, in the midst of books, and surrounded by friends, I am, without care for the morrow, to have the most princely means and facilities for prosecuting those studies and continuing those philosophical labors in which I take most delight. All the advantages that I enjoyed in Washington are, with a larger discretion, to be offered me in Russia.

Surely a more flattering invitation could not be uttered! Certainly it could not reach a more grateful heart. I have slept upon it. It is becoming that I should be candid, and, in a few words, frankly state the circumstances by which I find myself surrounded.

The State of Virginia gave me birth within her borders; among many friends, the nearest of kin, and troops of excellent neighbors, my children are planting their vine and fig tree; on her green bosom are the graves of my fathers; the political whirlpool from which your kind forethought sought to rescue me has already drawn her into fierce and bloody war.

In 1788, when this State accepted the Federal Constitution and entered the American Union, she did so with the formal declaration that she reserved to herself the right to withdraw from it for cause and resume those powers and attributes of sovereignty which she had never ceded away, but only “delegated” for certain definite and specific purposes.

When the President elect commenced to set at naught the very objects of the constitution, and without authority of law, proceeded to issue his proclamation of 15th of April last, Virginia, in the exercise of that reserved right, decided that the time had come when her safety, her dignity and honor required her to resume those “delegated” powers and withdraw from the Union. She did so. She then straightway called upon her sons in the Federal service to retire therefrom and come to her relief.

This call found me in the midst of those quiet physical researches at the Observatory in Washington, which I am now, with so much delicacy of thought and goodness of heart, invited to resume in Russia. Having been brought up in the school of State-Rights, where we had for masters the greatest statesmen of America, and among them Mr. Madison, the wisest of them all, I could not, and did not hesitate. I recognized this call, considered it mandatory, and formally renouncing all allegiance to the broken Union, hastened over to the south side of the Potomac, there to renew to fatherland those vows of fealty, service and devotion which the State of Virginia had permitted me to pledge to the Federal Union, so long only as by serving it, I might serve her.

Thus my sword has been tendered in her cause, and the tender has been accepted. Her soil is invaded, the enemy is actually at her gates, and here I am, contending as the fathers of the Republic did, for the right of self-government and those very principles for [53] the maintenance of which Washington fought when this, his native State, was a colony of Great Britain.

The path of duty and of honor is therefore plain. By following it with the devotion and loyalty of a true sailor, I shall, I am persuaded, have the glorious and proud recompense that is contained in the “well-done” of the Gand Admiral of Russia and his noble “companions in arms.”

When the invader is expelled, and as soon thereafter as the State will grant me leave, I promise myself the pleasure of a trip across the Atlantic, and shall hasten to Russia, that I may there in person, on the banks of the Neva, have the honor and the pleasure of expressing to her Grand Admiral the sentiments of respect and esteem with which his oft repeated acts of kindness and the generous encouragements that he has afforded me in the pursuits of science has inspired his obedient servant,

M. F. Maury, Commander Confederate States Navy. To H. I. H. the Grand Duke Constantine, Grand Admiral of Russia, St. Petersburg.

The following correspondence went the rounds of the press several months ago, but it should by all means be put in more permanent form:

General Lee's letter offering to Resign--Mr. Davis' reply.
Secret history.

[From the Mobile (Alabama) Sycle, January 29.]
Scribner's monthly for February has an article entitled A piece of secret history, by Colonel Charles C. Jones, Jr., of the late Confederate army, containing the following letter from General Robert E. Lee, written about a month after the disaster of Gettysburg, and offering to resign his command:

camp Orange, August 8, 1863.
Mr. President--Your letters of 28th July and 2d August have been received, and I have waited for a leisure hour to reply, but I fear that will never come. I am extremely obliged to you for the attention given to the wants of this army, and the efforts made to supply them. Our absentees are returning, and I hope the earnest and beautiful appeal made to the country in your proclamation may stir up the whole people, and that they may see their duty and perform it. Nothing is wanted but that their fortitude should equal their bravery to insure the success of our cause. We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to prevent our falling into greater disasters. Our people have only to be true and united, to bear manfully the misfortunes incident to war, and all will come right in the end.

I know how prone we are to censure, and how ready to blame others for the non-fulfilment of our expectations. This is unbecoming [54] in a generous people, and I grieve to see its expression. The general remedy for the want of success in a military commander is his removal. This is natural, and in many instances proper; for no matter what may be the ability of the officer, if he loses the confidence of his troops disaster must sooner or later ensue.

I have been prompted by these reflections more than once since my return from Pennsylvania to propose to your Excellency the propriety of selecting another commander for this army. I have seen and heard of expressions of discontent in the public journals at the result of the expedition. I do not know how far this feeling extends in the army. My brother officers have been too kind to report it, and so far the troops have been too generous to exhibit it. It is fair, however, to suppose that it does exist, and success is so necessary to us that nothing should be risked to secure it. I therefore, in all sincerity, request your Excellency to take measures to supply my place. I do this with the more earnestness, because no one is more aware than myself of my inability for the duties of my position. I cannot even accomplish what I myself desire. How can I fulfil the expectations of others? In addition, I sensibly feel the growing failure of my bodily strength. I have not yet recovered from the attack I experienced the past spring. I am becoming more and more incapable of exertion, and am thus prevented from making the personal examinations and giving the personal supervision to the operations in the field which I feel to be necessary. I am so dull, that in making use of the eyes of others I am frequently misled. Everything, therefore, points to the advantages to be derived from a new commander, and I the more anxiously urge the matter upon your Excellency from my belief that a younger and abler man than myself can readily be obtained. I know that he will have as gallant and brave an army as ever existed to second his efforts, and it would be the happiest day of my life to see at its head a worthy leader--one that would accomplish more than I could perform, and all that I have wished. I hope your Excellency will attribute my request to the true reason — the desire to serve my country and to do all in my power to insure the success of her righteous cause.

I have no complaints to make of any one but myself. I have received nothing but kindness from those above me, and the most considerate attention from my comrades and companions in arms. To your Excellency I am specially indebted for uniform kindness and consideration. You have done everything in your power to aid me in the work committed to my charge without omitting anything to promote the general welfare. I pray that your efforts may at length be crowned with success, and that you may long live to enjoy the thanks of a grateful people.

With sentiments of great esteem,

I am, very respectfully and truly yours,


It so happens that we have in our possession the reply of President Davis to the above letter. Although its publication at this time was not contemplated, yet, since General Lee's letter has been made public, there is no reason for withholding the answer. We append it with the omission of only one sentence, which does not affect its general significance. The correspondence will illustrate the relations which prevailed between the two distinguished patriots, and is alike honorable to both:

President Davis's answer.

Richmond, Va., August 11, 1863.
General R. E. Lee, Commanding Army of Northern Virginia:
Yours of the 8th instant has just been received. I am glad that you concur so entirely with me as to the wants of our country in this trying hour, and am happy to add that after the first depression consequent upon our diasters in the West, indications have appeared that our people will exhibit that fortitude which we agree in believing is alone needful to secure ultimate success.

It well became Sydney Johnston, when overwhelmed by a senseless clamor, to admit the rule that success is the test of merit; and yet there has been nothing which I have found to require a greater effort of patience than to bear the criticisms of the ignorant, who pronounce everything a failure which does not equal their expectations or desires, and can see no good result which is not in the line of their own imaginings. I admit the propriety of your conclusions that an officer who loses the confidence of his troops should have his position changed, whatever may be his ability, but when I read the sentence I was not at all prepared for the application you were about to make. Expressions of discontent in the public journals furnish but little evidence of the sentiment of the army. I wish it were otherwise, even though all the abuse of myself should be accepted as the results of honest observation.

Were you capable of stooping to it, you could easily surround yourself with those who would fill the press with your laudations, and seek to exalt you for what you had not done, rather than detract from the achievements which will make you and your army the subject of history and object of the world's admiration for generations to come.

I am truly sorry to know that you still feel the effects of the illness you suffered last spring, and can readily understand the embarrassments you experience in using the eyes of others, having been so much accustomed to make your own reconnoissances. Practice will, however, do much to relieve that embarrassment, and the minute knowledge of the country which you had acquired will render you less dependent for topographical information.

But suppose, my dear friend, that I were to admit, with all their implications, the points which you present, where am I to find that new commander who is to possess the greater ability which [56] you believe to be required? I do not doubt the readiness with which you would give way to one who could accomplish all that you have wished, and you will do me the justice to believe that if Providence should kindly offer such a person for our use I would not hesitate to avail [myself] of his services.

My sight is not sufficiently penetrating to discover such hidden merit, if it exists, and I have but used to you the language of sober earnestness, when I have impressed upon you the propriety of avoiding all unnecessary exposure to danger, because I felt our country could not bear to lose you. To ask me to substitute you by some one in my judgment more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army, or of the reflecting men of the country, is to demand an impossibility.

It only remains for me to hope that you will take all possible care of yourself, that your health and strength may be entirely restored, and that the Lord will preserve you for the important duties devolved upon you in the struggle of our suffering country for the independence which we have engaged in war to maintain.

As ever, very respectfully and truly,

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