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Meeting at the White Sulphur Springs.

On the 15th of August, at 11 o'clock A. M., a large crowd assembled in the ball-room of the famous Greenbrier White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in response to the announcement that General J. R. Chalmers, of Mississippi, would deliver an address before the Southern Historical Society.

It was a brilliant assemblage, composed of a large number of prominent ex-Confederates representing every State, many of the most gallant soldiers of the different armies of the Confederacy, prominent citizens of every profession, a bright galaxy of belles and beaux and a number of ladies and gentlemen from the North.

General W. H. F. Lee called the meeting to order, and on his motion General D. H. Maury was invited to preside, and Dr. J. William Jones to act as secretary. At the request of the President, Rev. Dr. M. D. Hoge, of Richmond, offered a fervent and appropriate prayer.

General Maury then spoke as follows:

Remarks of General Maury.

In 1868, a few Confederate officers of the Western and Southern armies organized in New Orleans the Southern Historical Society, for the purpose of collecting and preserving for the uses of history [450] the authentic records of our “War between the States,” then scattered and perishing in private hands all through the country.

In August, 1873--by the request of its founders — the Society was reorganized by a convention held at the Montgomery White Sulphur Springs and its domicil transferred to Richmond. Since that time the progress of our work has been marked by increased energy and success. The State of Virginia gave us an office in her capitol, and we hold there the most valuable and important collection of historical documents relating to the causes, the conduct and the consequences of the great civil war now in existence. Historians in Europe, as well as in America, have learned this fact and are availing themselves of it.

The “Archive Bureau” at Washington recognizes it, and the present Secretary of War has, with an enlightened liberality worthy of his high office, given us free access to all of the historical archives of the Government, while he receives from us as freely copies of all documents needed to complete the files of his office.

By this co-operation the most complete data attainable will be secured for the future historian, who will transmit to posterity the story of the greatest civil conflict that has ever divided a Christian people.

We have availed ourselves of the presence of this high company, assembled from all parts of our common country, to invite you to listen to the story of the character and career of one of the most remarkable Americans that ever lived.

It was my privilege to have been much associated with him — to have closely observed his conduct during the war and since its close. At one time he came under my command, and it is with peculiar satisfaction that I now remember my first and only instructions to him. They were in these words: “General, I charge you with the defence of North Mississippi. In doing this I wish you to feel untrammeled in your action by any reference to me. I cannot spare you a man, but let me know when I can aid you with supplies. And rest assured that you shall have full credit for the success I know you will achieve, and that I will be responsible for any disasters which may befall.” He cleared Mississippi in a few weeks of every enemy.

I congratulate you that on this occasion we shall learn about the character and campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest from his next in command--one of his most tried and trusted generals, who was himself an eyewitness of and an active participant in many of the glorious actions he will recount.

I have the pleasure of introducing to you General James R. Chalmers, of Mississippi, who gallantly rode with Forrest in the days of war, and now efficiently serves his State and country in the councils of the nation.

General Chalmers was received with loud applause, and was frequently interrupted with applause as he delivered the following eloquent sketch of


Forrest and his campaigns.

Gentlemen of the Southern Historical Society:
Believing it to be the duty of each Southern participant in the great war of secession to contribute his pebble to the monumental pile you are building up for Confederate history, I have gladly accepted your invitation to address you on this occasion. We may expect our opponents to color unfavorably for us, if not to mistate the facts as to the cause and the conduct of that war; and it is due to ourselves, to our dead comrades and to our posterity, that we should leave behind us such material for the future historian as will enable him to do us justice if he will. We should seek no controversy as to its cause or its conduct, but should never shrink from its defence when the occasion demands it. All we ask is an impartial statement in history of our cause, as we understood it; and it devolves on the survivors of the struggle to correct whatever we believe to be erroneous statements in regard to it, whenever and wherever they are made.

Casus belli.

“The right to judge of infractions of the constitution and the mode and measure of redress,” were no new questions in our politics. They were discussed in the conventions which formed the constitution, and subsequently whenever the General Government was supposed by usurpation of power to infringe on rights reserved to the people of the States united. Massachusetts threatened secession in the war of 1812, when her commerce was crippled; South Carolina threatened nullification in 1832, when a high protective tariff discriminated heavily against her interest. Every State of the North practiced nullification against the fugitive slave laws as fast as they came under the control of the Republican party. Eleven States of the South attempted to practice secession when the General Government fell into the hands of the Republican party, whose leaders had denounced the constitution as “a covenant with the devil,” and the Union as a “league with hell.” No honorable man can read the last speech of Jefferson Davis, in the United States Senate, or the letters of Sidney Johnston and Robert E. Lee, when about to resign their positions in the United States army, and say that the Confederate leaders left the Union “from choice or on light occasion.” They loved the Union formed of States united by the constitution; they feared a Union consolidated in the hands of men who denounced the constitution. They seceded not, as falsely charged, “to shoot the Union to death,” but mainly to preserve alive the institution of slavery, guaranteed by the constitution of the United States, and which they feared would be destroyed by the Republican party. Time has proved that their fears were not without foundation. Mr. Lincoln and two-thirds of his party in Congress then denied any purpose to destroy slavery, [452] but every Republican leader now shamelessly boast that this was the great object of the war.

Secession dead.

The democracy under Jackson denied the right of secession; the great majority of Southern Democrats under Calhoun believed in it. The attempt to secede resulted in war. The right of secession was decided against us by the wager of battle. We yield obedience to the judgment without even a desire to set aside the verdict. The property we sought to save was destroyed by war, and we have now neither the interest nor the inclination to assert the right, even though it were freely admitted to exist. Slavery is dead, and no Southern statesman would restore it if he could. Its destruction was perhaps as necessary to the preservation of the Union as the death of Christ was necessary to the salvation of man. But while we rejoice that the plan of salvation was accomplished, no Christian loves the Judas who for money betrayed Him with a kiss, nor the Pontius Pilate who dared not resist the clamor of the mob, crying for his crucifixion, nor the fierce fanatics who drove the nails into His flesh. And no Southern man can love the John Logans and Ben. Butlers, who were devoted disciples of secession until the hour came, and then betrayed us for office; nor the weakness of Andrew Johnson, who permitted the murder of Wirz and Mrs. Surrat; nor the fierce fanatics who dissolved the Union they professed to save, changed the constitution they pretended to fight for, and by reconstruction laws placed intelligence and virtue under the heels of ignorance and vice.

While the loss of life was fearful and the destruction of property greatly to be deplored, there was much in the war of secession that will be remembered with pride by both Union men and Confederates.

The very fact that there was a war growing out of a question of constitutional rights, should be a source of pride, as evidence that no large body of our people will ignobly submit to what they believe to be a violation of their rights. When Northern men believed it necessary to fight for the Union, we honor those who fought and those who died for their faith. When Southern men fought for their constitutional property and rights, he deserves to be a tyrant's slave who does not honor those who fought and fell for a cause they believed to be right. But while we would cherish all its glorious memories and point our children to the brilliant examples of valor on both sides in the war, we have no desire to revive the bitter hates of the strife.

Belief in secession a source of weakness.

The majority in the South had been educated to believe that secession was the remedy to which a State might peaceably resort in the last extremity to redress actual or apparent wrongs, and that [453] the time for its exercise had come. One-half, if not two-thirds, of the South further believed that after perhaps a skirmish or two over the forts in the South, the North would, as Greeley expressed it, “permit the erring sisters to go in peace.”

We did not anticipate a war of much magnitude, and were totally unprepared for it. The arms that were moved South in Buchanan's administration were old-fashioned guns, removed at the express request of the Ordnance Department to make room for new and better arms; and the charge that they were removed by Secretary Floyd in anticipation of war, is as ridiculous as it is false. The idea that we were engaged in peaceable secession was not only prevalent in the South, but led to what will be regarded by the student of military operations as fatal and palpable military blunders.

Had we realized in the beginning that we were engaged in a great revolution, and not a peaceful effort to secede and form a new Union, we would have had no constitutional scruples about seizing or purchasing cotton, and establishing, when there was no blockade to prevent, a basis of credit in Europe that would have given us unlimited supplies and sinews of war. But no warrant of authority could be found for such a proceeding in the constitution, which Southern men carried with them into secession as the children of Israel carried the ark of covenant into the wilderness; and statesmen, withdrawing from threatened usurpation of power in the old Union, could not begin a new Union by usurpation of power themselves. If we had not believed in the right of peaceable secession, and had not respected the rights of States which had not declared for it, the disastrous blunder in selecting the sites of Forts Henry and Donelson, the key to our centre, would not have been made. Tennessee would have been sooner occupied, and Kentucky and Missouri might never have been lost to our cause. If Mr. Davis had not believed that he was engaged in building up a new Union under all the forms of law and order, he would have been free to place himself at the head of his troops, and the briliant military genius displayed at Buena Vista, at the head of an invading army of natural soldiers, might have won greater victories on wider fields.

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