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President Davis in reply to General Sherman.

[In our last issue, we noticed a slander which General W. T. Sherman was pleased to make against the ex-President of the Confederacy, and Mr. Davis's emphatic denial, and his challenge of Sherman to produce the proof.

The following letter, published in the Baltimore Sun, is not only an able and unanswerable reply to Sherman, but contains other matter which should have a place in our records, and be handed down for the use of the future historian. No wonder that General Sherman has thrown himself back on his dignity(?!), and declined to reply to this terrible but deserved excoriation.]

The letter of Mr. Davis.

my dear Sir—At various times and from many of my friends, I have been asked to furnish a reply to General W. T. Sherman's so-called report to the War Department, and which the United States Senate ordered to be printed as ‘Ex. Doc. No. 36, Forty-eighth Congress, second session.’ I have been compelled by many causes to postpone my reply to these invitations, and have in some instances declined, for the time being, to undertake the labor. A continuing sense of the great injustice done to me, and to the people I represented, by the Senate making the malicious assault of General [258] Sherman a public document, and giving to his slander the importance which necessarily attaches to an executive communication to the Senate, has recently caused the request for a reply by me to be pressed with very great earnestness. For this reason I have decided to furnish my reply to you for publication in the Baltimore Sun.

More than twenty years after the storm of war between the States had ceased and the waves of sectional strife had sunk to the condition of a calm, the public harmony was disturbed by a retired General of the army making a gratuitous and gross assault upon a private individual, living in absolute retirement, and who could only have attracted notice because he had been the representative of the Southern States which, organized into a confederacy, had been a party to the war.

The history of my public life bears evidence that I did all in my power to prevent the war; that I did nothing to precipitate collision; that I did not seek the post of Chief Executive, but advised my friends that I preferred not to fill it. That history General Sherman may slanderously assail by his statements, but he cannot alter its consistency; nor can the Republicans of the Senate change its unbroken story of faithful service to the Union of the Constitution until, by the command of my sovereign State, I withdrew as her ambassador from the United States Senate. For all the acts of my public life as President of the Confederate States I am responsible at the bar of history, and must accept her verdict, which I shall do without the least apprehension that it will be swayed from truth by the malicious falsehoods of General Sherman, even when stamped as an ‘Ex. Doc.’ by the United States Senate.

Before a gathering of ex-soldiers of the Union army, General Sherman took occasion in the fall of 1884, to make accusations against me and to assert that he had personal means of information not possessed by others, and particularly that he had seen a letter written by myself, that he knew my handwriting, and saw and identified my signature to the letter. The gravamen of his accusation was that the letter to which he referred ‘had passed between Jeff. Davis and a man whose name it would not do to mention, as he is now a member of the United States Senate,’ and that ‘in that letter he (I) said he would turn Lee's army against any State that might attempt to secede from the Southern Confederacy.’ The position of General of the United States army, which General Sherman had filled, demanded that immediate contradiction of that statement should be made, and to that end I published in the St Louis Republican the following denial:


Beauvoir, Mississippi, November 6, 1884.,
Editor St. Louis Republican:
dear Sir—I have to-night received the inclosed published account of remarks made by General W. T. Sherman, and ask the use of your columns to notice only so much as particularly refers to myself, and which is to be found in the following extracts:

The following is taken from the St. Louis Republican:

Frank P. Blair Post, G. A. R., opened their new hall, corner Seventeenth and Olive streets, last night.

General Sherman addressed the assemblage. He had read letters which he believed had never been published, and which very few people had seen. These letters showed the rebellion to be more than a mere secession—it was a conspiracy most dire. Letters which had passed between Jeff. Davis and a man whose name it would not do to mention, as he is now a member of the United States Senate, had been seen by the speaker and showed Davis's position. He was not a secessionist. His object in starting the rebellion was not merely for the secession of the South, but to have this section of the country so that he could use it as a fulcrum from which to fire out his shot at the other sections of the country and compel the people to do as he would have them. Jeff. Davis would have turned his hand against any State that would secede from the South after the South had seceded from the North. Had the rebellion succeeded, General Sherman said, the people of the North would have all been slaves.

Another account.

The following is from the Globe-Democrat's report:

Referring to the late war, he said it was not, as was generally understood, a war of secession from the United States, but a conspiracy. “I have been behind the curtain,” said he,

and I have seen letters that few others have seen, and have heard conversations that cannot be repeated, and I tell you that Jeff. Davis never was a secessionist. He was a conspirator. He did not care for separation from the United States. His object was to get a fulcrum from which to operate against the United States, and if he had succeeded he would to-day be the master spirit of the continent and you would be slaves. I have seen a letter from Jefferson Davis to a man whose name I cannot mention, because he is a United States Senator. I know Davis's writing and saw his signature, and in that letter he said he [260] would turn Lee's army against any State that might attempt to secede from the Southern Confederacy.

This public assault, under the covert plea that it is based upon evidence which regard for a United States Senator does not permit him to present, will, to honorable minds, suggest the idea of irresponsible slander.

It is thus devolved upon me to say that the allegation of my ever having written such a letter as is described is unqualifiedly false, and the assertion that I had any purpose or wish to destroy the liberty and equal rights of any State, either North or South, is a reckless, shameless falsehood, especially because it was generally known that for many years before, as well as during the war between the States, I was an earnest advocate of the strict construction State rights theory of Mr. Jefferson. What motive other than personal malignity can be conceived for so gross a libel?

If General Sherman has access to any letters purporting to have been written by me which will sustain his accusations, let him produce them or wear the brand of a base slanderer.

Yours, respectfully,

The publication of the above letter attracted very general notice, and two interviews were had with General Sherman by reporters of the Globe-Democrat and from the St. Louis Chronicle. In the Globe-Democrat of November 25, 1884, General Sherman is reported as having said: ‘Whatever explanation I make will be made over my, own signature. I do not propose to get into a fight with Jeff. Davis. * * When a man makes a newspaper statement he is never sure of being quoted correctly, but when he makes a statement in his own handwriting, he is sure of being placed in the right place.’

The St. Louis Chronicle of November 24, 1884, reports General Sherman as saying: ‘This is an affair between two gentlemen. I will take my time about it and write to Mr. Davis himself. We will settle the matter between us.’ When asked by the reporter, ‘Have the papers misrepresented you in your remarks before the Frank Blair Post, G. A. R.?’ He replied, ‘I say nothing about that. My reply to Mr. Davis will not be through the newspapers. They are not the arbiters of this question, nor the go-between for any dispute. I have nothing more to say.’

It is hardly necessary for me to say that General Sherman did not write to me, and we have not settled the matter between us otherwise [261] than as I settled it by denouncing his statement as false and himself as a slanderer. There the matter would have rested so far as I was concerned, and anything that Sherman, on his own responsibility, might have afterwards said would have been treated by me with that silence which the mendacious utterings of an irresponsible slanderer deserved. But when the War Department of the United States was made the custodian of his slander, and the Republican Senators became its endorsers, and the statements made at the Frank Blair Post were lifted into official importance, it became a duty, alike to myself and to the people I represented, to follow the slanders with my denial, and to expose alike its author and his endorsers.

The United States Senate, by resolution offered by Senator Hawley, and debated during January 12 and 13, 1885, called upon the President of the United States ‘to communicate to the Senate a historical statement concerning the public policy of the executive department of the Confederate States during the late war of the rebellion, reported to have been lately filed in the War Department by General William T. Sherman.’ It was by means of that resolution that the slander was revived, and its utterer enabled to mould together a pretended foundation for his baseless utterance at the Frank Blair Post. While the matter was fresh in the memory and under the searching inquiry of the newspaper reporters, General Sherman represented that he could not consistently give the name of the Senator to whom he said the letter had been written, and after every Senator from the Southern States had denied receiving any such letter, and many of them had expressed their belief that no such letter ever had been in existence, he failed to sustain his assertion by the production of proof of the existence of a letter from me such as he had alleged he had seen. After such full denial both by myself, the reputed writer, and by every Senator who could have been the receiver of that pretended letter, the Senate offered an opportunity to General Sherman to unload his slander deposited in the War Department, and to spread the vile mass on the files of the United States Senate.

In the interval between the meeting at the Frank Blair Post in November, 1884, and January 6, 1885, Dr. H. C. Robbins, of Cresson, Ogle county, Illinois, loaned Sherman a letter, which he said had been written by the late Alexander H. Stephens to the late Herschel V. Johnson, both now dead. Sherman being unable to verify his authority for the assertion made by him at the Frank Blair Post, this Stephens-Johnson letter was to be substituted for the Davis letter, which, with the circumstantiality needful to one having little credibility, [262] Sherman said he had seen, knew to be mine from his acquaintance with my handwriting, and appended to which he identified my signature.

In view of the peremptory demand made for the letter, and in the absence of any answer as to where or when or in whose possession it was seen, a gentleman might hesitate to decide whether subterfuge were more paltry or absurd.

The next attempt at deception was to represent the war records in confusion, but this device failed as signally as had the other misrepresentations of General Sherman. On the 12th of December, five days after the publication of his certificate, the following press telegram swept that subterfuge away from him:

Washington, D. C, December 12.—The statement that the rebellion archives, now in the War Department, are in confusion, and that if the Davis letter, to which General Sherman has referred, were there, it would take much time, and involve great search to find it, is erroneous. The archives have all been gone over thoroughly in the preparation of the War Records in progress of publication, and persons in charge of the archives, and who have a knowledge of their contents, say that no such letter as that spoken of by General Sherman is now there, or has ever been there.

It is apparent, then, that Sherman never saw any such letter of mine as that which he said he had read and identified by my signature, and that the Stephens-Johnson letter was acquired after the speech had been made, and was seized upon to create a pretext upon which he could excuse his falsehood. The conclusive proof which had come to light by denials from Senators of having received from me any such letter, and by their denying that they had ever heard any such opinions expressed by me, placed Sherman in a dilemma from which to advance involved further falsehood, and from which retreat was only possible with humiliation and disgrace. He selected the easier course, and went forward with falsehood attending every step. In his letter to the War Department, of January 6, 1885, he says he found my letter at Raleigh, North Carolina, saying:

‘Among the books collected at the palace in Raleigh was a clerk's or secretary's copy-book, containing loose sheets and letters, among which was the particular letter of Mr. Davis to which I referred in my St. Louis speech, and notwithstanding,’ he said, ‘I gave it little attention at the time,’ yet he claimed twenty odd years after that he could recall its expressions and repeat its purport. He said that the [263] Stephens-Johnson letter was the letter, and here's the original, but he reported to the War Department that ‘the particular letter of Mr. Davis’ was found by him in Raleigh.

Senator Vance, upon hearing of the alleged Raleigh letter, promptly denied all knowledge of it, and wrote to the Washington Post, under date of December 13, 1885, that:

‘Every letter ever written to me on a political topic by President Davis is to be found faithfully copied on the official letter-books of the executive department of North Carolina. Those letter-books were taken from me by General Sherman's troops at the closing of the war, and are now in possession of the War Department in this city. Aside from the letter-books, General Sherman never saw any letter addressed to me by President Davis. Although I have not seen those books and read their contents in almost twenty years, I am quite sure that no such letter can be found there. I could not have forgotten such a letter had it been received by me. The suggestion, therefore, that I am the person referred to in General Sherman's statement is entirely untrue. The attempt of some newspapers to give probability to this suggestion, by alleging that I was in bitter hostility whilst Governor of North Carolina to the administration of Mr. Davis, is based also upon a misrepresentation of the facts.’

Senator Vance at the same time sent to the Washington Post a copy of my letter to him of date November 1, 1862, which he said

contains no such expression as a threat against States attempting to secede from the Confederacy, but does contain this expression: I feel grateful to you for the cordial manner in which you have sustained every proposition connected with the public defence. This much is due to truth. I do not wish to pose as a martyr to the circumstances of those times, or as one ready to turn upon his associates after defeat. I desire to take my full share of responsibility for anything I did and said during those unhappy times.

Great as were the abilities, and high as were the courage and faithfulness of Mr. Davis, I have no disposition to load him with all the misfortunes of defeat.

Before the publication of the above letter from Senator Vance in the Washington Post, interviews with Senator Vance had developed the fact that a correspondence had taken place during the war between Governor Vance and myself, and at that General Sherman also grasped as the foundation for his slander. A St. Louis Republican reporter, on the 15th of December, 1884, asked General Sherman, ‘Was Senator Vance, the Senator referred to in your [264] speech at the opening of the new headquarters of the Frank Blair Post?’ ‘Well, sir,’ said General Sherman, very slowly, ‘I won't say that he wasn't.’

My alleged Raleigh letter has never been found. Sherman says it was sent to Nashville, Savannah, Washington and St. Louis, and may have been finally burned in Chicago in the great fire in 1871. But in all its travels no other person but Sherman saw it; not a single officer at any headquarters has been produced who read it, and it passes belief that in the excitement of the closing days of the war, and during my imprisonment, when every letter of mine was carefully examined to find evidence upon which to convict and destroy me, that not an officer at all those headquarters should have read that letter. Every fair-minded man must therefore conclude that General Sherman stated at the Grand Army Post a willful and deliberate falsehood, and that his motive had its inspiration in that mean malice which has characterized his acts and writings in other respects towards the Southern people.

A man so lost to every sense of truth deserved to receive the contempt of every one who values veracity, but Senator Hawley, in offering the resolution above quoted, said: ‘Personally, however, he did not hesitate to say that in a controversy between Jefferson Davis and General Sherman he (Mr. Hawley) was on General Sherman's side all the time.’ High qualification that for an United States Senator, who may sit a judge in the Court of Impeachment, the highest tribunal of the land.

I leave Mr. Hawley by General Sherman's side, with no desire whatever to have either one or the other on my side. Senator Conger denied my equal citizenship with Sherman until ‘something’ is done by me; if that ‘something’ to be done is to take such part as that filled by Sherman and his indorsers on this occasion, the described inequality must ever remain. Another Senator (Ingalls) evinced very great indignation because ‘the Democratic party had in debate in the Senate taken sides with Jefferson Davis,’ and that ‘they had always indorsed him, always approved his course, and had declared that there was nothing wrong in his record that would convince posterity that he was not a man of honor and a patriot,’ and that ‘the Senator from Alabama (Mr. Morgan) and the Senator from Missouri (Mr. Vest) had taken occasion to inform the Senate that there were millions of people in the United States to day who loved Jefferson Davis, and to whom Jefferson Davis was endeared by the memory of common hardships, common privations and common [265] calamities.’ It is not surprising that such expressions of confidence and regard should have been drawn out in a debate upon a resolution which had for its purpose the indorsement by the Senate of a mean slander, which was known to be unfounded in truth, and important only as covering with the mantle of the Senate the mendacity of a retired General of the army.

The Senate having given vitality to Sherman's slander, a full reply to the opinions and expressions therein is made, so that hereafter it may derive no credit even from its official character.

The so-called ‘historical statement concerning the public policy of the executive department of the Confederate States,’ as Sherman's letter to the War Department is headed in that ‘Ex. Doc.,’ opens with the following statement: ‘That I (Sheriman) had seen papers which convinced me that even Mr. Davis, the President of the Southern Confederacy, had, during the progress of the war, changed his State rights doctrines, and had threatened to use force-even Lee's army—should any State of the Confederacy attempt to secede from that government.’ With the mental process by which General Sherman is ‘convinced,’ I have no concern, but the ‘papers’ in which he alleged that I ‘threatened’ to use force against the States of the Confederacy, ought to be tangible and producible, and in an ‘historical statement,’ the Senate ought to have demanded the production of the proofs, and on the failure to produce them, and after denial by Senators who Sherman alleged had received them, such an ‘historical statement,’ already branded with falsehood and unsupported by evidence, ought to have been rejected with only wonder how it got before the Senate.

In the absence of all authority for the statement, or of any creditable witness, General Sherman asserts that I abandoned my State rights doctrine, the unsupported assertion of a man whose reputation for veracity is not good, and who could have had no personal knowledge, must weigh light as a feather against all the testimony of my official life, as well as against the recollections of all those most intimately connected with me, not a few of whom criticised my strict adherence to the Constitution and laws. His reiteration, even ‘a thousand times,’ will fail to convince any reasonable man that he did not know he never had seen any ‘papers’ written by me threatening to use the army against any State of the Confederacy.

In this connection, I may refer to my action when Kentucky was invaded by the United States army and her people prevented by military power from acting for themselves on the question of secession. [266] My personal friend and family physician, Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett, of Washington city, in a letter of the 17th of January last, recalls to my memory the application of himself and other friends to me to send military aid into Kentucky, there to support the friends of the Southern States. My letter of January 22d to Dr. Garnett, explains the principles that guided me on that occasion. In that letter I said:

Yours of the 17th instant has this day been received, and to your inquiry I reply that, though it is not in my power to recite the language employed in response to you and others who urged me to send Confederate troops into Kentucky to prevent the Federal government from intimidating the Legislature and people of that State by a military occupation, and thus to prevent Kentucky from passing an ordinance of secession, I do well remember that to you, as to others, I answered substantially that I would not do such violence to the rights of the State. No one could have felt a deeper interest or more affectionate regard for Kentucky than I did, and it may well be that I did not believe the people of Kentucky, the State especially distinguished in the early period of her history for the assertion of State rights and State remedies, could be driven from the maintenance of a creed which had ever been her point of pride.

My answer, as correctly stated by you, shows that my decision was not based on expediency, and however reluctant I may have been to reject the advice of yourself and other friends, in whose judgment and sincerity I had implicit confidence, I would not, for all the considerations involved, disregard the limitations of our Constitution and violate the cardinal principle which had been the guiding star of my political life.

The use made by General Sherman of an extract from a ‘Southern paper’ as evidence that I encouraged expressions of hostility to State sovereignty, and thus was preparing to subvert the very Confederacy of which I was President, has drawn forth from Mr. Nat. Tyler, the surviving editor of the Richmond (Va.) Enquirer, the following letter:

dear Sir:—My attention has been called to an extract from the Richmond Enquirer, which has been incorporated by General W. T. Sherman in his letter of January 6, 1885, to the Secretary of War, and I have been asked if that extract is genuine. I have no means at hand for ascertaining whether or not the extract is from the [267] Enquirer; but, after carefully reading it, I am disposed to regard it as genuine. It truthfully represents the views of the editorial management of the Enquirer at that time. I witnessed the extraordinary efforts which the United States authorities were making for our conquest and subjugation, and I considered it to be the duty of our people to make like sacrifices for safety and liberty. The “convention” referred to in the extract was the convention proposed in North Carolina in the early part of 1864, in the contest for Governor, between Mr. Holden and Governor Vance, and which had for its object to give opportunity of action to the incipient treason which was rife in that State under the leadership of Mr. Holden. The article from the Enquirer was intended to support Governor Vance and the Confederate cause, which the management of the paper regarded as paramount to all other considerations. I did not presume to speak for you or your administration, but to utter what I believed every true Confederate to hold—that the public defence demanded the exercise of every energy, and that all that hindered that defence should be swept away and remitted to more peaceful occasions.

The Enquirer is the “public journal” to which Mr. Stephens referred in his letter to Hon. H. V. Johnson, and which he represents as the “organ” of your administration. I very distinctly remember his coming to the office and lecturing the editors on their support of the measures for the public defence; but, as his views were visionary and impracticable, his temper excited and his influence under a cloud, we gave to his person all respect and to his advice the least attention that was possible. He was a good man and a true and zealous Confederate, but his “balance” was decidedly out of plumb in the last year of the war, and in politics he wabbled whenever he discussed public affairs. I have always believed if you had assumed “absolute power,” shot deserters and hung traitors, seized supplies and brought to the front every man capable of bearing arms, that a different result of the war might have been obtained. But your very sensitive respect for Constitution and law, for the rights and sovereignties of States, is attested by the fact that the wildest license was allowed to the press, and that, right under your nose, to use Mr. Stephens's expression, the Examiner daily expressed sentiments of opposition to your measures, which, if any newspaper in the United States had dared to publish against Mr. Lincoln's recommendations, its editor would have been promptly imprisoned. By any comparison that can be made between your administration and that of President Lincoln, history will award to you far more respect for the essential [268] features of personal liberty, for deference paid to State authority, and for respect shown for constitutional restraint.

With the best wishes for your continued good health, I am, dear sir, your sincere friend,

It is apparent that this so-called ‘historical statement’ had been seen by Republican Senators, and that they were not ignorant of its real character when the Hawley resolution was under discussion in the Senate. Those Senators then knew that General Sherman had, in his letter of January 6, 1885, to the Secretary of War, changed the issue between us from one of veracity to a rambling, shuffling discussion of a ‘conspiracy’ and of ‘conspirators’ in the winter of 1860-61, and that which at the Frank Blair Post may have been ‘a white lie,’ not intended for publication, came before the Senate as an ‘historical statement,’ bolstered with other falsehoods equally without foundation or support in anything written or uttered by me. It now survives as an ‘Ex. Doc.’ of picturesque prevarication.

I know nothing of any ‘conspiracy’ or of any ‘conspirators.’ There was no secrecy about any of the political affairs which led to the secession of the States in 1860-1. There was no possibility of any concealment. The people were advised by the press, they acted knowingly, and the results, through all their various phases, were necessarily known to the people, by whom they were ratified and confirmed. To talk now of conspiracy and conspirators is shallow nonsense, and notwithstanding Sherman says that he ‘was approached by a number of the Knights of the Golden Circle,’ that accusation will be dismissed as the coinage of political demagogues. If Sherman was approached by ‘conspirators’ they knew their man; they may have heard of his conversation at Vicksburg, his expressions of approval of Southern action, his talk of the ‘d——d Yankees’ to Governor Roper, and such expressions, and may have regarded him as a fit conspirator with themselves. No man ever insulted me by approaching me with suggestions of conspiracy.

As to the action taken at the conference of some of the Southern Senators in January, 1861, and which is introduced in this ‘historical statement’ as evidence of a ‘conspiracy,’ it is only necessary to say to those Senators who, in the debate on the Hawley resolution, referred to the letter of D. L. Yulee to Joseph Finnegan, and the resolutions attached thereto, that the resolutions were forwarded to the conventions of the States then in session, and that they were the [269] resolutions of Senators representing those States conveying to the conventions of the States the views of the Senators. Those resolutions were not discovered by General Sherman; they were not dug up from beneath the sod in any yard through which he marched. They were necessarily public since they were sent to conventions of the States, and they were printed in the newspapers. To speak of such action as a conspiracy, as Senator Sherman did in the debate on the Hawley resolution, shows to what defence he was driven to assist his brother out of the mire of mendacity in which he was floundering.

It was the opinion of that conference, in 1861, that secession was the only remedy left to the States; that every effort to preserve peace had failed, mainly through the action of that portion of the Republican party which refused all propositions for adjustment made by those who sought, in January, 1861, to justify confidence, insure peace, and preserve the Union. In the same month in which that conference was held, I served on a committee raised by the Senate to seek some possible mode of quelling the excitement that then existed. That committee was composed of the three political divisions of the Senate, and it was considered useless to report any measure which did not receive the concurrence of at least a majority of each division. The Republican Senators rejected every proposition that promised pacification, and the committee reported to the Senate that their consultation was a failure. Was there less conspiracy in the Republican Senators combining to prevent pacification than there was in Southern Senators uniting in conference to advise the conventions of their States that their cause was hopeless in Washington? Mr. Douglas, of Illinois, assailed the Republican side of the Senate for their refusal to accept any terms that were offered to them, and demanded to know what they proposed to do, and in that connection referred to Senator Toombs and myself as having been willing to accept the line of 36° 30′, or the Missouri Compromise, and that the Republican Senators rejected the proposition. Which were the conspirators, the Senators who offered the Missouri Compromise for the sake of peace, or the Senators who rejected that offering in order to enjoy a little blood-letting? The venerable Senator Crittenden, of the Committee, used all his power and influence on the side of the peaceful efforts of the Southern Senators, and not unfrequently expressed himself in the most decided terms as to the conduct of the opposition. Party necessity may attribute the actions of the Southern Senators to conspiracy, but history will treat the actors of those [270] days as they deserve, and to her verdict, in common with my compatriots in that trying hour, the issue is referred.

The epithets which Senator Sherman in the debate applied to myself, are his mode of retaliation for my denunciation of his brother. I have been compelled to prove General Sherman to be a falsifier and a slanderer in order to protect my character and reputation from his willful and unscrupulous mendacity. If his brother, the Senator, felt the sting of that exposure, and his epithets are any relief, I am con tent that he shall go on the record as denouncing me as a ‘traitor’ because I have proved his brother to be a liar.

As the Republican party renounced the issue of treason when it abandoned my trial in 1867, not at my instance, but in face of my defiance, its leaders of the present day but stultify themselves in the cry of traitor which they raise at the mention of my name. This is more a matter of traffic than of argument, but as it serves to keep alive the issues and prejudices of the war period, it is a device which, as politicians, they may not like to abandon It is not surprising that the politicians of a party which, in the mad fury of its passions, deliberately hung a harmless and helpless woman, should continue to keep warm their malice against an old soldier, and long a civil official, by the frequent use of epithets. If it affords them any relief, it costs me so little concern that it would be uncharitable to deny them the enjoyment they take in hurling epithets at me, a game in which any fishwoman might successfully compete.

The Senate, when about to give its sanction to General Sherman's ‘historical statement,’ ought, in fairness, to have demanded of him the production of the verifying letters, papers, and information within his knowledge or possession. He says in that ‘Ex. Doc.’: ‘But of him (myself) I have personal knowledge, not meant for publication, but to become a part of the “Traditions of the civil war,” which the Grand Army of the Republic will preserve.’ What fair and honorable purpose could the Senate have had in sanctioning such a base and infamous innuendo, as that above quoted from page 3 of the ‘Ex. Doc.?’ If that ‘personal knowledge’ is withheld from publication for the purposes of future slanders, surely the Senate ought not to have made itself a party to that malice which hides its slanders until their subject shall have passed away, and contradiction and exposure become difficult, if not impossible. But I am not apprehensive of Sherman's additions to the ‘Traditions of the Civil War;’ he stands pilloried before the public and all future history as [271] an imbecile scold or an infamous slanderer—as either, he is harm less.

The statement on page 3, that a box containing private papers of mine was found at the house of my brother, Joseph E. Davis, is untrue. The error in the place where a box was seized by his pillagers would not have been material if made by a truthful man, but when an habitual falsifier falls into even a slight error of locality, it is not surprising that he should be suspected of having intentionally fixed upon my brother's residence to give point and probability to some other falsehood. The box of papers was found at a farmer's house several miles away from my brother's, and the box did not contain a single letter written to me or by me at Montgomery. Therefore Sherman's statement that he abstracted from that box three letters which had been written to me by loyal officers of the United States army, and returned to the writers to protect them from the suspicion of complicity with the Government at Montgomery, can have no other foundation in truth than, probably, the discovery of letters written at former times and received by me before the inauguration of the Confederate Government at Montgomery.

It is due to the memory of the late Alexander H. Stephens, whose letter to Herschel V. Johnson has been made the foundation for this vile assault upon myself, to say, that if the letter is genuine, and has not been altered to serve Sherman's malice against myself, that it was written under excitement and when disappointment and apprehension of our overthrow had influenced his judgment and opinion, and that this private letter, written under its attending circumstances, never intended for publication, and expressing hasty opinions, will not be allowed to cast its shadow over the carefully-prepared history of the war which Mr. Stephens has left to inform posterity of his views of public men and measures. I will be pardoned for extracting from Mr. Stephens's ‘War between the States’ remarks complimentary to myself, since they completely refute the purpose for which the Johnson letter has been produced. In Volume II, pages 624-5, commenting upon the meeting at the African church, in Richmond, after the unsuccessful effort for peace in Hampton Roads, Mr. Stephens says:

Many who had heard this master of oratory in his most brilliant displays in the Senate and on the hustings said they never before saw Mr. Davis so really majestic! The occasion and the effects of the speech, as well as all the circumstances under which it was made, [272] caused the minds of not a few to revert to appeals by Rienzi and Demosthenes.

However much I admired the heroism of the sentiment expressed, yet in his general views or policy to be pursued in the then situation I could not concur. I doubt not that all—the President, the Cabinet and Congress—did the very best they could, from their own convictions of what was best to be done at the time.

In the same volume, on page 657, Mr. Stephens speaks of me as a man ‘of very strong convictions and great earnestness of purpose.’ In a conversation had during the summer of 1863, which was reduced to writing at the time, Mr. Stephens said:

‘The hardships growing out of our military arrangements are not the fault of the President; * * * they are due to his subordinates.’

In October of the same year, (‘Life of A. H. Stephens,’ by Johnson & Browne, pages 445-47,) he wrote to a friend who had asked what would be his probable course in the event of the death of myself, as follows:

‘I should regard the death of the President as the greatest possible public calamity. What I should do I know not.: A large number of prominent and active men in the country * * would distrust my ability to conduct affairs successfully. They have now, and would have, no confidence in my judgment or capacity for the position that such an untimely misfortune would cast upon me.’

These passages (and others might be selected from the writings of Mr. Stephens since the war) bear voluntary and involuntary testimony to my character and motives, and more than answer the complaints contained in the letter to Mr. H. V. Johnson, and in the canvass just preceding his death. Mr. Stephens said that the only difference between us during the war was as to the policy of shipping the cotton crop of 1861 to Europe. That criticism, when made by another, was fully answered by Mr. Trenholm and Mr. Memminger, the two secretaries of the Confederate States treasury, in which they very clearly showed that the cotton crop of 1861 had been mainly exported before the Confederate government was formed, and that if reference was made to any later crop, the Confederacy had no ships in which to export it, and the blockade prevented, to a great extent, foreign ships from taking the cotton out.

The ‘secret message,’ which is printed in this ‘historical statement,’ was communicated to the Confederate States Congress, and [273] recommended the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. The reasons for that recommendation are fully set forth in the message. It was an application to Congress for authority to suspend the writ, and it was within the constitutional power of Congress to grant the authority. It was a measure of public defence against schemes and plots of enemies which could not be reached under the process of law. On two occasions was that extraordinary remedy resorted to, and each was by authority of Congress. But even when the writ was suspended, no head of any cabinet department kept a ‘little bell,’ the tinkle of which consigned to prison men like Teackle Wallis, George William Brown, John Merryman, Charles Howard, Judge Carmichael dragged off the bench, and which became as fearful to the people as the letters-de cachet of the tyrants of Paris. Martial law followed the army of the United States, and provost marshals were often the judges that passed upon the person and property of ladies, children and old men, and the venerable Chief Justice Taney was not spared the humiliation of seeing even the Supreme Court of the United States brought to understand that the civil had become subordinate to the military authority.

The conscript law in the Confederate States, and the draft in the United States, were measures adopted by the respective Congresses, and not acts of either Mr. Lincoln or myself. They were both measures of public defence, intended to equalize the burden of military duty, as far as it was compatible with the public defence. As well might we leave revenue to be provided by voluntary contribution, instead of by general taxation, or the roads to be worked by the willing and industrious, instead of distributing the burden equitably over the whole people. Yet the Senators that called for this ‘historical statement’ will hardly hold that President Lincoln was seeking a dictatorship because he enforced the draft.

This ‘historical statement’ might have been enlarged and extended by the Senate, and made to embrace the deliberate misrepresentation by General Sherman of the communication to him by Colonel J. D Stevenson, in regard to Albert Sidney Johnston's command in San Francisco. In a letter to Colonel William H. Knight, of Cincinnati, Ohio, dated October 28, 1884, General Sherman asserted that ‘Colonel J. D. Stevenson, now living in San Francisco, has often told me that he had cautioned the Government as to a plot or conspiracy, through the department commander, Albert Sidney Johnston, to deliver possession of the forts, etc., to men in California sympathizing with the rebels in the South, and he thinks [274] it was by his advice that the President (Lincoln) sent General E. V. Sumner to relieve Johnston of his command before the conspiracy was consummated.’ That statement of Sherman, the veteran Colonel J. D. Stevenson promptly and emphatically denied, saying: ‘The history of this matter was published fully and in detail in the San Francisco Evening Post in its issue of October 9, 1880. What reports General Keyes may have made to the authorities at Washington, I do not know; but that the removal of General Johnston was the means of preventing a Pacific republic, I do not for an instant believe; for neither at the time of General Sumner's taking command and relieving General Johnston, nor at any time afterward, do I believe any uprising or conspiracy was contemplated.’ Colonel Stevenson adds that General Sumner held General Albert Sidney Johnston to be ‘a soldier, a gentleman and an honorable man; he is incapable of betraying a trust.’ That slander against General Albert Sidney Johnston was as equally unnecessary and as uncalled for as the wholly gratuitous assault upon myself.

General Grant himself has not been exempt from Sherman's malice. To Colonel Scott, Sherman wrote, ‘if C. J. Smith had lived Grant would have disappeared to history.’ This remarkable statement was published by General Fry and pointedly and emphatically denied by General Sherman. Prompt to slander, he is equally quick to deny his language. The letter of Sherman, dated September 6, 1883, was written to Colonel Scott, now of the War Record office. The denial of Sherman has caused the publication of the letter and exposure of his hypocrisy in recent laudation of the dead chieftain.

The deliberate falsehood which Sherman inserted in his official report, that Columbia, South Carolina, had been burned by General Wade Hampton, was afterwards confessed in his ‘Memoirs’ to have been ‘distinctly charged on General Wade Hampton to shake the faith of his people in him.’ Even when confessing one falsehood he deliberately coined another, and on the same page of his ‘Memoirs’ said that the fire ‘was accidental,’ when he knew, from the letter of General Stone, who commanded the Provost Guard in Columbia, that the fire was not accidental. How much more he knew, he may in future ‘Memoirs’ or ‘statements’ reveal.

Can any man imagine less moral character, less conception of truth, less regard for what an official report should contain, than is shown by Sherman deliberately concocting a falsehood for the dishonorable purpose of shaking the faith of the people of South Carolina in their fellow-citizen, General Wade Hampton? His election to be Governor [275] of that State by the votes of a larger majority of her people of every race than was ever polled before or since; his elevation to the Senate of the United States, and the respect, admiration and regard which is shown to him, must be particularly vexing to the Shermans, and may have suggested to the General to ‘hedge’ in his ‘Memoirs’ and confess his wrong doing. Such an act of penance, if it brought true and genuine repentance, would have protected the memory of Albert Sidney Johnston, the fame of General Grant and my own reputation from the slanders which called forth this exposure. It would also have prevented the United States Senate from having indorsed a falsehood, which is liable to be confessed when another volume of ‘Memoirs’ shall be prepared.

I have in this vindication, not of myself only, but also of the people who honored me with the highest official position in their gift, been compelled to group together instances of repeated falsehoods deliberately spoken and written by General Sherman—the Blair Post slander of myself, the defamation of the character of General Albert Sidney Johnston, the disparagement of the military fame of General Grant, and the shameful and corrupt charge against General Hampton. I have prepared this examination and exposure only because the Senate of the United States has given to Sherman's slander an indorsement which gives it whatever claims it may have to attention and of power to mislead in the future. Having specifically stamped the statement as false, having proved its author to be an habitual slanderer, and not having a partisan secretary to make a place for this notice of a personal tirade, which was neither an official report nor record made during the war, so as to entitle it to be received at the office of archives, I submit it to the public through the columns of a newspaper which discountenances foul play and misrepresentation, and which was kind and just to me in saying in its issue of January 14, 1885:

‘The Sherman statement was altogether one-sided; Mr. Davis had yet to be heard from, and for the Republicans of the Senate to force a snap judgment upon the Sherman statement without hearing what Mr. Davis had to say about it, smacks more of the political partisan than of the fair-minded adversary.’ The public, through The Sun, has this, my reply, and can dispense its ‘even-handed justice’ with full knowledge of the facts.

Very sincerely yours,

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