In asserting the right of secession, it has not been my wish to incite to its exercise. I recognize the fact that the war showed it to be impracticable, but this did not prove that it was wrong; and now, that it may not be again attempted, and the Union may promote the general welfare, it is needful that the truth, the whole truth, should be known, so that crimination and recrimination may forever cease, and then, on the basis of fraternity and faithful regard for the rights of the states, there may be written on the arch of the Union, “Esto Perpetua.”
Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 2, New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1881.
West point and secession.
By General D. H. Maury.
I wish I could have seen Dr. Curry before he sent his letter vindicating General Lee from breach of faith in returning to his natural allegiance to Virginia when that State withdrew from the Federal Union; I would have given him some facts which were very strangely unknown to our people, and were always ignored by our enemies.
When Mr. Calhoun was Secretary of War, in 1822, I believe, he caused a text-book to be introduced into the course of studies at West Point, known as Rawle on the constitution. This Rawle was a Northern lawyer of great ability, one of the very few who seem to have understood the true nature of the terms and conditions of the compact between the States constituting the Federal Union. His work–Commentaries on the constitution of the United States–breathes the very essence of States’-rights, and the right of secession is distinctly set forth by him. When we remember that only seven years had then elapsed since New York, Vermont, Connecticut, and, perhaps, other Northern States asserted this right, and threatened to exercise it or make dishonorable terms of peace with Great Britain unless the war was stopped, we can understand that Mr. Calhoun was not violating Northern sentiment in introducing Rawle on the Constitution at West Point. It there remained as a text-book till 1861, and Mr. Davis and Sidney Johnston, and General Joe Johnston and General Lee, and all the rest of us who retired with Virginia from the Federal Union, were not only obeying the plain instincts of our nature and dictates of duty, but we were obeying the very inculcations we had received in the National School. It is not probable that any of us ever read the constitution or any exposition of it except this work of Rawle, which we studied in our graduating year at West Point. I know I did not.
I am told that in 1861 the text-book was changed and the cadets are now taught out of a treatise on the constitution which teaches that secession is a crime.
And if any one of the present generation should resign on the secession of his native State, he will be in danger of being lawfully hanged.
Dabney H. Maury.
Richmond, VA. 1878.
I am more and more satisfied every day that the Federal Government does not intend to keep faith with us in the matter of prisoners or exchanges. I believe its officials are taxing their ingenuity to find out the most available methods of deceit and fraud. I received yesterday official evidence that some forty officers entitled long ago to their release, and who in fact are exchanged under existing agreements, are now imprisoned at Camp Chase, and yet the Federal Agent with an earnestness intended to be peculiarly impressive, assured me three days ago, that not one of these officers was confined in that place. Not one day passes that some evidence does not come to hand of Yankee fraud and mendacity. Four weeks ago the Federal Agent informed me in writing that it was not the intention of his Government to make any more arrests of non combatants in our territory, and yet more have been made since that declaration than during any previous equal space of time …
Col. Robert Ould, C.S.A. to President Jefferson Davis, March 1863.
The antithetical employment of such terms as ‘freedom’ and ‘slavery,’ or ‘antislavery’ and ‘pro-slavery,’ with reference to the principles and purposes of contending parties or rival sections, has had immense influence in misleading the opinions and sentiments of the world. The idea of freedom is captivating, that of slavery repellent, to the moral sense of mankind in general. It is easy, therefore, to understand the effect of applying the one set or terms to one party, the other to another, in a contest which has no just application whatever to the essential merits of freedom or slavery. Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.
Inasmuch as the questions growing out of the institution of negro servitude, or connected with it, will occupy a conspicuous place in what is to follow, it is important that the reader should have, at the very outset, a right understanding of the true nature and character of those questions. No subject has been more generally misunderstood or more persistently misrepresented. The institution itself has ceased to exist in the United States; the generation comprising all who took part in the controversies to which it gave rise, or for which it afforded a pretext, is passing away; and the misconceptions which have prevailed in our own country, and still more among foreigners remote from the field of contention, are likely to be perpetuated in the mind of posterity unless corrected before they become crystallized by tacit acquiescence. Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the the Confederate Government.
We arrived at Charlotte on April 18th; and I there received, at the moment of dismounting, a telegram announcing that President Lincoln had been assassinated. An influential citizen of the town, who had come to welcome me, was standing near me, and after remarking to him in a low voice that I had received sad intelligence, I handed the telegram to him. Some troopers had collected to see me; they called to the gentleman who had the dispatch to read it. He complied with their request, and a few only taking in the fact, but not appreciating the evil it portended, cheered, as was natural, at the news of the fall of one they considered as their most powerful foe. […] For an enemy so relentless in the war for our subjugation, we could not be expected to mourn; yet, in view of its political consequences, it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South. He had power over the Northern people, and was without personal malignity toward the people of the South. His successor was without power in the North, and the embodiment of malignity toward the Southern people, perhaps the more so because he had betrayed and deserted them in the hour of their need. Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 2, chapter 54.
The Constitution was never submitted to the people of the United States in the aggregate, or as a people. No such political community as the people of the United States exists or ever did exist. There has never been any such thing as a vote of ‘the people of the United States in the aggregate’; no such people is recognized by the Constitution; no such political community has ever existed. […] The monstrous fiction that they acted as one people ‘in their aggregate capacity’ has not an atom of fact to serve as a basis.
Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 1, chapters 2, 3, and 4.
The Constitution was submitted to the States for their approval and ratification, and not to the people of the whole country, in the aggregate, and it was agreed to and ratified by the States as States, and not by the people of all the States in one aggregate mass.
Alexander Stephens, The War Between the States, Volume 1, col. 4.
That the ratification of the Constitution will be a federal and not a national act is obvious from this single consideration, that it is to result neither from the decision of a majority of the people of the Union nor from that of a majority of the States. It must result from the unanimous assent of the several States that are parties to it.
James Madison, The Federalist, xxxix.
Perhaps this is the night for prayer meeting, for the parsons taking advantage of this period of calm are indefatigable in their efforts to draw the soldiers together to sing psalms and assist at prayer; hundreds and thousands respond to their call & the woods for miles resound with the unscientific but earnest music of the rough veterans of Lee’s Army; in doleful contrast to the more enlivening notes of the initiated, the chorus of the ‘mourners’ may often be recognized, for conversions among the non religious members of the army are of daily occurrence and when they establish themselves upon the ‘mourners’ bench, it is evident to all how deep and loud is their repentance. There is something very solemn in these immense choruses of earnest voices, and there are, I am sure, hundreds of these honest soldiers truly sincere in believing that they are offering their most acceptable service to God; for they have never heard of the True Church, or if they have, their attention has not been sufficiently drawn to the right which She alone has of teaching mankind the only true mode of worship. Some of the parsons or chaplains are very zealous and persevering in assembling the soldiers to prayer, especially the chaplain of the eleventh Va, and the seventh. The chaplain of the eleventh Regt. held in high esteem by all, whether members of religion or not; for, they say, in times of action, he is as bold as the bravest and is to be seen in the first and fiercest battles consoling and assisting the wounded. Florence McCarthy of Richmond, Chaplain of the 7th Inf. is also distinguished for his preaching and zeal among the soldiers. They say he told his congregation the other day, that when they heard the doors and windows of the church slamming while the minister of God was preaching, they might be sure that the devil was at work trying to hinder the faithful from listening to the divine Word. Some might very naturally presume from this that his Satanic majesty was most at large during the blustering month of March than at any other time in the year. Joseph Durkin, S.J., ed., John Dooley, Confederate Soldier: His War Journal.
What do you propose, gentlemen of the Free-Soil party? Do you propose to better the condition of the slave? Not at all. What then do you propose? You say you are opposed to the expansion of slavery. […] Is the slave to be benefited by it? Not at all. What then do you propose? It is not humanity that influences you in the position which you now occupy before the country. […] It is that you may have an opportunity of cheating us that you want to limit slave territory within circumscribed bounds. It is that you may have a majority in the Congress of the United States and convert the Government into an engine of Northern aggrandizement. It is that your section may grow in power and prosperity upon treasures unjustly taken from the South, like the vampire bloated and gorged with the blood which it has secretly sucked from its victim. You desire to weaken the political power of the Southern states; and why? Because you want, by an unjust system of legislation, to promote the industry of the New England states, at the expense of the people of the South and their industry. Jefferson Davis, 1856 speech in U.S. Senate.
Come, all ye sons of freedom, and join our Southern band,
We are going to fight the Yankees and drive them from our land.
Justice is our motto and providence our guide,
So jump into the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.
Secession is our watchword, our rights we all demand;
To defend our homes and firesides, we pledge our hearts and hands;
Jeff Davis is our president, with Stephens by his side;
Brave Beauregard, our General, will join us in the ride.
Our wagon is the very best, the running gear is good;
Stuffed ’round the sides with cotton, and made of Southern wood.
Carolina is the driver, with Georgia by her side,
Virginia holds the flag up, and we’ll all take a ride.
There are Tennessee and Texas also in the ring;
They wouldn’t have a government where cotton wasn’t king.
Alabama and Florida have long ago replied;
Mississippi and Louisiana are anxious for the ride.
Old Lincoln and his Congressmen with Seward by his side,
Put old Scott in the wagon just for to take a ride.
McDowell was the driver, to cross Bull Run he tried,
But there he left the wagon for Beauregard to ride.
Manassas was the battleground. the field was fair and wide;
They Yankees thought they’d whip us out, and on to Richmond ride;
But when they met our “Dixie” boys, their danger they espied;
They wheeled about for Washington, and didn’t wait to ride.
The Tennessee boys are in the field, eager for the fray;
They can whip the Yankee boys three to one, they say;
And when they get in conflict with Davis by their side,
They’ll pitch into the Yankee boys and then you’ll see them slide.
Our cause is just and holy, our men are brave and true;
We’ll whip the Lincoln cutthroats is all we have to do.
God bless our noble army; in Him we all confide;
So jump into the wagon and we’ll all take a ride.
— The Southern Wagon (1861).
Less than two weeks ago the President of the United States, in a public address, is reported as using these words: “They said that Grant had not the military genius that other generals displayed in the war. To my mind, his mind and brain represented the very genius of war to suppress the rebellion, because it was his mind that grasped the thought that until we had fought it out with our brave opponents and met them in the field and fought them as soldiers, until we convinced them by our strength that the battle was hopeless, we could not expect to have a united country. And therefore, from the time he began in Belmont until he accomplished the surrender of Lee, at Appomattox, he fought not cities, not points of strategy, but he fought the enemy, and he fought, and fought, and fought, until he wore out the opposition, because only by wearing them out could he hope to bring about the condition in which there would be a complete peace.”
Here is, at last, a practical acknowledgment in public by the President of the United States to a Northern audience of the truth of the oft-repeated, concise statement of the case. We were not whipped, but we were worn out whipping the enemy! We read that these words of the President were applauded. How many of that audience understood what he so adroitly said about “the enemy” and about “wearing out the opposition?” The inference would naturally be drawn that he fought the armies of Lee and Johnston; but how? Lee was defending Richmond and Petersburg, and Johnston was holding points of strategy; and we read: “He fought not cities, not points of strategy — he fought the enemy!” Who were the enemy? Some of the enemy were prisoners of war, nearly starving amid plenty, while a greater number of Northern prisoners, nearly starving, because we had very little with which to feed our soldiers in the field, were dying in Southern prisons. But under no condition would they agree to exchange prisoners. Why not? Because it kept Southern soldiers off the field to guard them, and every Northern prisoner helped to eat the remnant of food in the South. They even refused to take home their sick and dying prisoners when urged to do so, none being asked in return.
This week a monument will be unveiled at Andersonville, Ga., to Major Henry Wirz, C. S. A. It will be recalled that he was executed, in the time of peace, while under the protection of a parole. “He was condemned to an ignominious death on charges of excessive cruelty to Federal prisoners. He indignantly spurned a pardon proffered on condition that he would incriminate President Davis.” These words are upon his monument. But note, my brethren, the following words are on the other side of his monument: “It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. At this particular time to release all rebel prisoners would insure Sherman’s defeat and would compromise our safety here. Aug. 18th, 1864. Ulysses S. Grant.”
Who were the enemy? Follow in the wake of the army in the Valley of Virginia in ‘64. View the beautiful plantations on the lower James. Follow Sherman’s army in its march to the sea, and read the general’s report of how he fought the enemy. Burning barns, milch cows, which furnished sustenance for babes and sucklings shot and left to decay in the pastures; fowls shot and left in the barnyard; fields of grain, the hope of food for the winter, deliberately destroyed and trodden under foot; stacks of straw and hay lighting up the darkness of night!
The result was 9,000 ragged, starving heroes, eating parched corn, march from Richmond to Appomattox. And the surrender of Lee is accomplished! This was “the very genius of war that suppressed the rebellion.” Yes, “they fought, and fought, and fought, till they wore out the opposition.” But whom did they fight, and how? The Army of Northern Virginia is to pass through Maryland into Pennsylvania. Strict orders are given that all private property is to be respected, and noncombatants are in no way to be molested. The orders are signed by R. E. Lee, General.
The battle of Gettysburg has been fought; Lee’s army is marching through the enemy’s country on the retreat. As he is riding along, sustaining by his matchless bearing the courage of his tired army, he sees that some one has thrown down a worm fence around a Pennsylvanian’s wheatfield. He dismounts, and with the bridle of his horse over his arm, he puts up that fence, rail by rail, that he may protect the private property of the enemy! Evidently Lee did not have that kind of the “very genius of war that suppressed the rebellion.” My brethren, these are facts; and for our part, we are not ashamed of them! And we must see to it that history gives facts. Not that we would keep alive the embers of strife — God forbid! But we would preserve the truth. We would have our children and our children’s children know, not that we fought bravely in a cause that was not just, and that we were magnanimously forgiven by a generous foe, because we did it ignorantly in unbelief, because we thought we were right; we would not have it believed that we fought on equal terms, and in the same way they fought; but that we could not be conquered, even by vastly superior numbers and inexhaustible resources, till the women and children of the South as well as the armies in the field were brought to the verge of starvation by the systematic destruction of the necessities of life. I tell you we are not true to the memory of our brave soldiers who died for us if we suppress the facts for the sake of peace!
— From sermon preached by Rev. R. A. Goodwin on 9 May 1909, before the Oakwood Memorial Association, old St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia.