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Annual meeting of Southern Historical Society, October 28th and 29th, 1878.

In the absence of Hon. J. S. C. Blackburn, of Kentucky, who had been prevented by unforseen engagements from fulfilling his promise to deliver our annual address, the Society was very fortunate in securing the services of Rev. Dr. J. L. Burrows, of Louisville, Kentucky, a resident of Richmond during the war.

The hall of the House of Delegates was crowded with fair women and brave men, and scattered through the audience were some of our most prominent Confederates.

The President of the Society, General J. A. Early, presided.

After an appropriate prayer by Rev. Dr. Tupper, General Early, in a few well-chosen words, introduced Dr. Burrows to the audience.

With a facecious statement of the circumstances under which he had consented to take the place of the distinguished orator (Hon. J. S. C. Blackburn), Dr. Burrows introduced his theme--“evacuation day in Richmond--” by saying:

But I may be permitted to add to these preliminary remarks that [242] my sincere and earnest interest in the objects for which this Society was organized helped to gain my consent. The true history of the great war has not been and perhaps cannot be yet written; and it never will be written without careful study of the materials stored in the archives of this Society. The demonstrable facts already collated and shaped concerning the relative numbers of the contending forces, concerning the treatment of prisoners of war, and the principles that governed the exchanges of such prisoners, will never again be misrepresented and distorted as in the past, save by excuseless ignorance or inveterate prejudice. This Society has rectified all that material as well as much other.

Not often have conquered provinces had opportunity, permission or intelligence to write their own history. We have all, and I trust will use them wisely. Norman annalists have awarded scant justice to Saxon valor. The picture of the lion with a human foot on the outside of his throat was not painted by the lion. For the honor of these Southern States, for fidelity to truth, for a fair showing in the future history of the world, this Society — because it is the only one formed or needed for such purposes — should, in my judgment, be encouraged in its work by the liberal contribution in materials, facts, letters, reports, papers, reminiscences and money to procure them from all who love “fair play.”

After a vivid description of the natural and artificial defences of Richmond, Dr. Burrows said:

You will not wonder much, then, that those of us who lived in Richmond during the years of the uncivil war felt ourselves comfortably safe.

It is true that several times since the war I have been profoundly humiliated by my own lamentable lack of perspicuity and foresight. I have met so many people who saw so clearly beforehand how the conflict must of necessity end, and I did not. It mortifies one's intellectual pride, depresses him with a sense of his own mental inferiority, to be assured by a far-looking seer, “Why, I saw how all must end from the beginning. I predicted two years before that Richmond would fall and the Confederacy collapse. I told Mrs. Partington so, and I told Mrs. Grundy so.” So, after all was over, said some of my Richmond and other neighbors.

It was very unkind not to tell me, I answer them. Why, neighbor! You talked to me many times over war news and prospects, but I can't recall any of these vaticinations. Why, don't you remember I said to you once. Well, that is another humiliation! I don't remember! My memory must leak, and all those prognostications have oozed out.

There was another thing a little incomprehensible to me in connection with this foresight. How did it happen that these people who foresaw the crash so long and clearly had so many Confederate bills and bonds on hand when it came? It must have been sublime [243] patriotism that impelled them to sell houses and farms and invest in Confederate securities, which they plainly foresaw must be utterly worthless in a year or two. Grand magnanimity, to sacrifice so disinterestedly for a cause they knew all the time to be hopeless!

It is very distressing to me that my outlook was so limited, and that my memory is so unfaithful. The only comfort I can gleam is that, if my memory is so unreliable, it is just possible that some other people may have short memories, too.

It may bring me down very low in your estimation, and indicate a stupid lack of sense, but in honesty I am compelled to confess that I had no glimmering foresight of the cataclysm. I felt quite confident that the Day of Judgment would come before Richmond would pass into the possession of the enemy, and I felt sure that they would have important business elsewhere about that time. And a day of judgment did come first, too, or a day about as near like it as my imagination can compass.

That this confidence was not without some warrant in 1865 what I have said about our defences will justify. There had been many bold attempts made to capture Richmond. Generals Scott, McDowell, McClellan, Burnside, Hooker, Pope and Grant had all tried it with immense forces at command, and all had failed. Rushing raids, led by Stoneman, Kilpatrick, Dahlgren and Sheridan, had been checked short of the objective point. There seemed to be no getting “On to Richmond.” General Grant had been “fighting it out on that line” longer than “all summer.”

General Grant, according to Federal official reports, carefully collected and collated and published by your efficient Secretary, had started from the Rapidan in May, 1864, with 141,160 men of all arms, with reserves numbering 137,672 men, most of whom were called to the front during the summer, making a grand total of 278,832 men. To meet this host General Lee had under command less than 50,000 men; and in his whole Department of Northern Virginia, which included the garrisons around Richmond and the troops in the Valley, his field-returns for the last of April, 1864, show 52,626 troops present for duty. Including the little army under General Beauregard's command, watching General Butler's force, and all who joined General Lee's army during the campaign, the official returns prove that the Confederate forces were every day outnumbered in the ratio of four to one. Grant had spent the whole dreary winter, too, in dismal trenches on the outside. We imagined Richmond to be about the safest place in the Confederacy. Had not we the three lines of entrenchments, between us and the enemy, with General Lee and our boys guarding them, and now they were standing well! within shouting distance of each other along the lines for about thirty miles?

Dr. Burrows then gave a series of most vivid pictures of scenes ain the evacuation of Richmond, to which no synopsis can do justice. [244] He was frequently interrupted by applause or roars of laughter at his good hits. He took his seat amid loud applause, and was warmly congratulated at its close.

General Early made a few remarks, in which he spoke of the great value of the work of the Society.

The business meeting held at the same place on Tuesday night, October 28th, was one of interest, though not very largely attended. General Early presided, and the report of the Executive Committee was read as follows by the Secretary: <

Sixth annual report of the Executive Committee of the Southern Historical Society for year ending October 29th, 1878.

In greeting the members of our Society, assembled in annual meeting, and in presenting a report of our transactions during the year, your Committee feel satisfied that they bring a record of success and progress in the past and brightening prospects for the future, which will be gratifying to all lovers of the truth.

But before presenting a report of our year's work, it may be well to give a brief sketch of the

Origin and history of our Society.

In the early part of 1869, General D. H. Maury suggested to a number of gentlemen in New Orleans, the propriety of organizing a Society for the purpose of collating, preserving and finally publishing such material as would vindicate the truth of Confederate history. After a number of conferences, the Southern Historical Society was formally organized on the 1st of May, 1869, by the following gentlemen: Generals Braxton Bragg, R. Taylor, Dabney H. Maury, C. M. Wilcox, J. S. Marmaduke, S. B. Buckner, G. T. Beauregard, R. L. Gibson and Harry T. Hays, M. W. Cluskey, G. W. Gordon, B. M. Harrod, F. H. Farrar, A. L. Stuart, H. N. Ogden, B. J. Sage, F. H. Wigfall, Major George O. Norton, Frederick N. Ogden, John B. Sale, James Phelan, William H. Saunders, Rev. J. N. Gallaher, Charles L. C. Dupuy, B. A. Pope, M. D., Joseph Jones, M. D., B. F. Jonas, Edward Ivy, A. W. Basworth, S. E. Chaille, M. D., S. M. Bemiss, M. D., Frank Hawthorne, M. D., James Strawbridge, Rev. B. M. Palmer, D. D., Honorable Thomas J. Semmes, E. M. Hudson, Charles Chapohn, Honorable C. M. Conrad, J. F. Caldwell, H. Chapata and John J. O'Brien. Rev. Dr. B. M. Palmer was elected president, and Joseph Jones, M. D., secretary, and vice-presidents were elected for each State of the Confederacy. Important work was done, and [245] valuable material was collected by the Society in New Orleans; but its most active friends were finally led to the conclusion that its interests would be promoted by a change of domicil and of certain features of its organization.

Accordingly the Executive Committee of the Society issued a call for a convention of its friends to assemble at the Montgomery White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, on the 14th of August, 1873, and sent a communication to that convention urging that the domicil of the Society be changed, a new organization effected and certain alterations made in its working.

In response to this call a large and enthusiastic convention, composed of delegates from twelve States, and embracing some of the most distinguished soldiers and civilians of the Confederacy, assembled, and unanimously voted to remove the headquarters of the Society to Richmond, and to adopt our present plan of organization.

The Executive Committee met in Richmond soon after and put on foot plans for the vigorous prosecution of the objects of the Society; but they begun their work with an almost empty treasury and with all of the natural difficulties which beset such an enterprise. The experience of the Committee at New Orleans had demonstrated the importance of some means of publication, and accordingly a contract was made by which the Southern Magazine of Baltimore was adopted as the organ of the Society. After an unsatisfactory working of this arrangement (by which we published twenty pages each month) from January, 1874, to July, 1875, it was abandoned, and the Society was without an organ until January, 1876, when we started the Southern Historical Society Papers.

By special act of the Virginia Legislature and the courtesy of the Governor of the Commonwealth we were assigned an excellent office on the Library floor of the State capitol, where our archives are as safe as those of the State, and where we have had some special facilities for the prosecution of our work.

The annual reports of the Society, heretofore published, have exhibited the steady progress made in the accumulation of material, the publication of valuable papers and the extension of the influence of the Society.

We are most happy to be able to report that during

The past year

we have made more real progress, and have been able to place the [246] Society on a firmer basis, than ever before. Our membership is now larger than ever; our receipts for the year have been $1,592.96 greater than during any previous year; we have received most valuable contributions to our archives; we have been granted free access to the Archive office of the War Department, and our Papers have grown in favor, while the importance of our work is more widely appreciated than ever before.

Material on hand.

The detailed statements of previous reports, and our published acknowledgments of contributions made from time to time to our archives, preclude the necessity of any catalogue here. But we have completed a carefully compiled catalogue of our official reports, and are now preparing a similar one of all of our other material, which we invite our friends to inspect as making a most gratifying exhibit of how, without the means of purchasing anything, the patriotic liberality of our friends has enabled us to make in a short time a collection much larger and more valuable than many upon which thousands of dollars and years of time have been expended.

The value of our collection may be seen from the simple statement that we shall be able to supply the Archive Bureau at Washington with many important additions to their collection.

But we still urge our friends to send us (either as a donation or a loan) everything which can shed light on the “war between the States.”


We have continued to issue regularly our monthly (Southern Historical Society Papers), and are glad to report an increased subscription and a growing appreciation of the value of the publication. Not only at the South, but also at the North and in Europe our Papers are being recognized as of the highest authority. Our five bound volumes and our Treatment of prisoners are being gradually placed on the shelves of the leading public libraries of the country, and we again urge our friends to aid us in thus putting our volumes where they will be permanently accessible to seekers after historic truth.

We contemplate increasing the size of our monthly and making other important improvements just so soon as our subscription list will justify, and we appeal to our friends to help in extending our [247] circulation. We certainly agree with the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, that “no library, public or private, which pretends to historical fulness can afford to be without these volumes.”

Confederate archives at Washington.

We published in the November number of the Papers so full an account of our relations with the “Archive Bureau,” and our efforts to obtain access to the documents, &c., on file there, that little need be said here concerning it. We continue to receive from General Townsend and his subordinates every kindness and courtesy, and our arrangements for the exchange of papers are entirely satisfactory.

It will be readily seen that this access to the “Record office,” while it greatly increases our facilities for obtaining the material for a true history of the war, will impose upon us additional work, and at the same time render it more desirable that our friends should furnish us increased means for copying and publishing the records for the use of the future historian.


There have been in the whole history of publication enterprises in the South few harder years than this. Besides the general poverty of our people, the yellow fever scourge has cut off a large part of our territory, disarranged our mails, and directed into channels of relief for the needy money which might have otherwise come into our treasury. And yet the following table of receipts will show that the past year has been the most prosperous one which the Society has had:

We received for the year ending in October, 1874$1,546 02
We received for the year ending in October, 18751,258 80
We received for the year ending in October, 18764,246 30
We received for the year ending in October, 18774,744 45
We received for the year ending in October, 18786,337 41

Thus it will be seen that, in spite of hard times, our receipts have been $1,592.96 more than during any previous year.

And we have so far reduced our expenses that during the past year our receipts have considerably exceeded our current expenditures, and but for the debt with which we begun our fiscal year, we would now be able to report our obligations all met and money in the treasury. But we greatly need more funds to enable us to [248] enlarge our operations, and we appeal to our friends everywhere to help us as they are able.

If you cannot imitate the noble liberality of Mr. Corcoran, who has given us $500 a year for the past three years, you can at least help to circulate our publications and extend our list of subscribers.


We are satisfied that if we could secure reliable and efficient canvassers in every State we could soon swell our membership by thousands. General George D. Johnston, of Alabama, has, in a canvass of four months in Tennessee and Kentucky, demonstrated what can be done in this direction, and Colonel Z. Davis, of South Carolina, has done efficient work in his State.

In conclusion,

we would express our increasing sense of the importance of the work committed to our charge, and renew our pledge to use our best endeavors to meet the obligations and discharge the duties of our trust.

By order of the Executive Committee.

The report was unanimously adopted.

General Maury announced the death of Colonel D. W. Floweree, of Vicksburg, a life-member of the Society, and paid an appropriate tribute to his memory — the Society voting to spread appropriate resolutions on the record.

Earnest remarks in reference to the interests of the Society were made by Generals D. H. Maury, W. B. Taliaferro, J. A. Early and Marcus J. Wright, Colonel C. S. Venable, General J. G. Field and others.

There was a general expression of gratification at the prosperous and hopeful condition of the Society.

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