Egyptian Building

Egyptian Building, Richmond, Virginia.
Egyptian Building, north-west (front) elevation.
Egyptian Building, from College Street, south-east (rear) elevation.
Cover of Sunday Magazine section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 19 July 1936, depicting the Egyptian Building.

Designed by noted Greek Revival architect Thomas S. Stewart of Philadelphia, the Egyptian Building is one of the finest examples of the rare “Egyptian Revival” style. The building was the first permanent home of the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College, which later became the Medical College of Virginia. The Egyptian Building has been in continuous use since its construction in 1845 and remains the oldest medical college building in the South. While the interior has since been extensively altered to accommodate administrative office space (with the notable exception of the 1930s lobby and ground floor lecture hall), the monumental exterior is extremely well preserved. The building once housed lecture rooms, a dissecting room, an infirmary, and hospital beds for medical and surgical cases.

Entrance to Egyptian Building, Richmond, Virginia.

In 1939, Richmond architects Baskervill & Son oversaw extensive restoration of the exterior of the building. Bernard Baruch, a wealthy industrialist, financed the restoration in memory of his father Dr. Simon Baruch, an 1862 graduate of the Medical College of Virginia and a Confederate surgeon in the War Between the States. The 270-seat Baruch Auditorium on the first floor dates to this renovation and is still in use. The restoration included remodeling the interior of the building to follow the Egyptian style. None of the original interiors survived.

Egyptian Building, detail of column capitals.
Egyptian Building, detail of east portico.
Egyptian Building, c. 1920s-1930s, with students or recent graduates?
Egyptian Building, prior to removal of ivy during 1939 restoration.

Detail of cast iron fence, with herm or mummy posts, by R. W. Barnes of Richmond.

What old Nassau Hall is to Princeton, what the Wren Building is to William and Mary, what the Rotunda is to the University of Virginia, the Egyptian Building is to the Medical College of Virginia. It is a shrine, a sanctuary of tradition, the physical embodiment of our genius. It is a spiritual heritage. In a world often accused of cold materialism, with an ideology of human self-sufficiency, and an adoration of objects that can be handled and seen, there is a need for things of the spirit, if science is to do more than make life safer, longer and more comfortable.

Dr. Wyndham Blanton at Founders’ Day exercises held at the Egyptian Building, 5 December 1940.

Mexico and Richmond

Abraham Lincoln once asked General Scott the question: “Why is it that you were once able to take the City of Mexico in three months with five thousand men, and we have been unable to take Richmond with one hundred thousand men?”

“I will tell you,” said General Scott. “The men who took us into the City of Mexico then are the same men who are keeping us out of Richmond now.”

In Plain Violation of the Constitution

Whereas, seven of the States formerly composing a part of the United States have, by authority of their people, solemnly resumed the powers granted by them to the United States, and have framed a Constitution and organized a Government for themselves, to which the people of those States are yielding willing obedience, and have so notified the President of the United States by all the formalities incident to such action, and thereby become to the United States a separate, independent and foreign power; and whereas, the Constitution of the United States has invested Congress with the sole power “to declare war,” and until such declaration is made, the President has no authority to call for an extraordinary force to wage offensive war against any foreign Power: and whereas, on the 15th inst., the President of the United States, in plain violation of the Constitution, issued a proclamation calling for a force of seventy-five thousand men, to cause the laws of the United States to be duly executed over a people who are no longer a part of the Union, and in said proclamation threatens to exert this unusual force to compel obedience to his mandates; and whereas, the General Assembly of Virginia, by a majority approaching to entire unanimity, declared at its last session that the State of Virginia would consider such an exertion of force as a virtual declaration of war, to be resisted by all the power at the command of Virginia; and subsequently the Convention now in session, representing the sovereignty of this State, has reaffirmed in substance the same policy, with almost equal unanimity; and whereas, the State of Virginia deeply sympathizes with the Southern States in the wrongs they have suffered, and in the position they have assumed; and having made earnest efforts peaceably to compose the differences which have severed the Union, and having failed in that attempt, through this unwarranted act on the part of the President; and it is believed that the influences which operate to produce this proclamation against the seceded States will be brought to bear upon this commonwealth, if she should exercise her undoubted right to resume the powers granted by her people, and it is due to the honor of Virginia that an improper exercise of force against her people should be repelled. Therefore I, JOHN LETCHER, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, have thought proper to order all armed volunteer regiments or companies within this State forthwith to hold themselves in readiness for immediate orders, and upon the reception of this proclamation to report to the Adjutant-General of the State their organization and numbers, and prepare themselves for efficient service. Such companies as are not armed and equipped will report that fact, that they may be properly supplied.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Commonwealth to be affixed, this 17th day of April, 1861, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth.

JOHN LETCHER.

All Richmond Was Astir

But one spring day in April, 1861, all Richmond was astir. Schools were broken up, and knots of excited men gathered at every street corner. Sumter had been fired upon, and Lincoln had ordered the men of Virginia to rush upon their brethren of the South and put the rebellion down. Now “the die was cast,” our lot was with theirs, and come weal or woe, we would fight for independence. How merrily the sunbeams danced that day! how proud we children were of the great preparation for the illumination that night!—how few recked of the great underthrob of misery, grief and want! Every patriotic citizen had his house ablaze with a thousand lights, and the dark ones were marked. I remember distinctly my father taking us to see the Exchange Hotel and Ballard House with the glass balcony, stretching over the street and connecting the two houses, all glittering and reflecting the crystal lights. To us it was a great spectacle, and our hearts swelled with pride to think we could say to our tyrants: “Thus far shalt thou come, and no further.”

The excitement permeated the schools, and those of our number who lived in the dark houses, or the non-illuminators, were dubbed “Yankees,” “Abolitionists” and “Black Republicans,” and virtually ostracised. Saturdays we would spend in the lecture-rooms of the different churches we attended, where our mothers and grown-up sisters were busy plying the needle, and cutting out clothes for the soldier boys, and indulging in such talk about the vile usurpers as would fire our young hearts with indignation. Snatches of song improvised for the emergency—”Maryland, my Maryland,” “John Brown’s Body,” “There’s life in the Old Land Yet,” &c.— grew as familiar as “I want to be an Angel.” In fact, we had a parody which ran thus:

I want to be a soldier,
And with the soldiers stand,
A knapsack on my shoulder,
And musket in my hand;
And there beside Jeff Davis,
So glorious and so brave,
I’ll whip the cussed Yankee
And drive him to his grave.

But what were our boys doing while the girls were sewing up sand-bags to fortify Drewry’s Bluff? It seemed the “Demon of Destruction” was possessing the whole land. The boys were keeping their patriotism warm by playing “Yank” and “Reb” in mock battles, and so sorely did these young archers wound each other that steps had to be taken by the city authorities toward the suppression of these hostilities. I remember being on Church Hill on one occasion, when the rowdies from Rocketts, calling themselves Yankees, came upon our boys who were unarmed. Immediately our party of little girls flew to a coal-house near, which happened to be open for replenishing, and filling our little aprons with the dusky diamonds ran into the midst of a hot battle, screaming with all the enthusiasm of our young natures, “Kill them! kill them!” We bound up heads and filled pockets with “ammunition” till our nurses, noticing our escapade, came to carry us to our mammas to be punished for soiling our dresses.

— Miss Sallie Hunt, of Lynchburg, Va.; from “Our Women in the War.” The Lives They Lived; The Deaths They Died, Charleston: The News and Courier Book Presses, 1885.

A Disgraceful Race

We soon learned all the particulars of the memorable battle; how the festive congressmen had come with their wives, daughters, and sweethearts, on the outskirts of the army, seated in luxurious carriages, with hampers packed with champagne and all good things, to regale themselves withal, as from a safe place they would view the triumphant career of their Invincibles as they made the rebels bite the dust, and then to march over their traitorous corpses to Richmond. There, there was to be a grand ball; ladies had provided themselves with magnificent dresses, certainly expecting, after the battle was over, and the rebels were wiped out, to proceed serenely on their way to the Confederate Capital without meeting an obstacle.

When the “rebels” had been reinforced by the arch-rebels, Johnston and Jackson, with their wornout but gallant men, and when the Federals with their splendid army had turned and were frantically flying before those same “rebels,” they cared for nothing but to get away. The flight of that panic-stricken mob has often been described, and by many pens, none however so graphic as that which after treating of their disgraceful race, styled them the “Bull Runners”; the London Punch was, I believe, the author of that appropriate name.

Cornelia Peake McDonald, A Diary with Reminiscences of the War and Refugee Life in the Shenandoah Valley, 1860-1865.

FLIGHT OF DOODLES.

I come from old Manassas with a pocketful of fun,
I killed forty Yankees with a single barreled gun;
It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Big Yankee, little Yankee, all run or die!

I saw all the Yankees at Bull Run,
They fought like the devil when the battle first begun.
But it don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
They took to their heels, boys — you oughta seen ’em fly!

I saw Old Fuss-and-Feathers Scott, twenty miles away,
His horses both stuck up their ears — you oughta hear ’em neigh;
But it don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Old Scott fled like the devil, boys — root hog or die!

I then saw a “Tiger” from the Old Cresecent City,
He cut down the Yankees without any pity;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
We whipped the Yankee boys and made the boobies cry.

I saw South Carolina, the first in The Cause,
Shake the dirty Yankees till she broke all their jaws;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
South Carolina give ’em hell, boys — root hog or die!

I saw old Virginia, standing firm and true,
She fought mighty hard to whip a mighty dirty crew;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Old Virginia’s blood and thunder — root hog or die!

I saw old Georgia, the next in the van,
She cut down the Yankees almost to a man;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Georgia fought the fight, boys — root hog or die!

I saw Alabama in the middle of the storm,
She stood like a giant in the contest so warm;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Alabama fought the Yankees, boys, till the last one did fly!

I saw Texas go in with a smile,
But I tell you what it is, she made the Yankees bile.
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Texas is the devil, boys — root hog or die!

I saw North Carolina in the deepest of the battle.
She knocked down the Yankees and made their bones rattle;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
North Carolina’s got the grit, boys — root hog or die!

Old Florida came in with a terrible shout,
She frightened all the Yankees till their eyes stuck out;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Florida’s death on Yankees, boys — root hog or die!

— Anonymous.

Rowdies, Cut-throats, and Burglars

Federal troops drill on the grounds of the United States Capitol in 1861. (Library of Congress)
Federal troops drill on the grounds of the United States Capitol in 1861. (Library of Congress)

One of the most melancholy features of the horrible and bloody strife into which this country is about to be involved consists in the fact that the very best portion of the population of the South will be required to meet in mortal combat, in great part, the very worst population of the North. Whenever the South shall lose a soldier, it will lose a valuable citizen, whose loss will be sensibly felt, whereas the North would be benefitted if a large portion of its soldiers would never return from the battle-field. The flower of Southern honor and chivalry will cross swords with rowdies, cut-throats and burglars from the corrupt cesspools of Northern cities.–the South sends into the field honorable, honest, moral and virtuous soldiers, the North such desperadoes, and dangerous men as she is afraid to keep at home. As an illustration of the spirit of our people, and the kind of men who are volunteering their services to the State, we will mention the fact that a number of Minsters of the Gospel who are distinguished for talents, cultivation, eloquence and piety, have exchanged the “sacred desk” for the soldier’s tent.

The Rev. Dr. B. M. Smith and Rev. Dr. R. L. Dabney, Professors of the “Union Theological Seminary,” Rev. Dr. Moses Hoge, Pastor of the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Richmond city, and Rev. Dr. Pendleton, Rector of the Episcopal Church in Lexington, all of whom are well known in this county, have connected themselves with volunteer companies. Dr. Pendleton is now Captain of an Artillery Company in Lexington, being elected to supply the vacancy caused by the promotion of Capt. McCausland to the post of lieutenant Colonel of Volunteers. As Dr. Pendleton is a graduate of West Point, and has served several years in the army, he will no doubt make a good and efficient officer.–Though the conflict may be terrible, we do no doubt that, in time, the Northern “Apollyon” will succumb to the Southern “Christian,” and that our brave soldiery who go forth clad in the panoply of a just cause, will return with their banners–though “tattered and torn”–wreathed with the laurels of victory.

Staunton Spectator, 14 May 1861, p. 2, c. 3.

Let It Be Told

Great Seal of the Confederate States of America, lithograph by Andrew B. Graham, Washington, 1911.
Great Seal of the Confederate States of America, lithograph by Andrew B. Graham, Washington, 1911.

When the South declared in consequence of all these things they would leave the Union unless something was done to assure their protection and justice within it, the whole air resounded with the taunts of Northern members of Congress and the Northern press, taunting them for their weakness and impotence, and threatening to overwhelm them by their superior power, until State after State fell from them in utter despair. Let it be told how a Confederacy was thus formed, small in point of numbers, consisting of eight millions of whites, and about four millions of slaves, without commerce, without manufactures, and almost without accumulated capital, and without allies — which Confederacy staked its all upon an issue of arms with a union of more than twenty millions of men homogeneous in character and pursuits, and which, abounding in all those things of which the others were so much in want, and although nominally without professed allies was yet substantially assisted by the whole world, which, although professing to be impartial, respected a paper blockade, which of itself was almost fatal to a people without ships of war, and to which they had not quietly submitted heretofore. Nor could they have done so then but for the idea that they were indirectly assisting in a war against slavery. What was to be the effect of all this, foreigners did not then understand, or their course might have been different; nor did the North foresee the terrible nature of the contest in which they were about to embark, or they might have paused before entering into it. But let the whole story be told, that the world and the country may behold the entire consequences of such a strife before they provoke another like it. Let us hear the history of that famous day at Bull Run, when Northern men and Northern women, as if upon some review or gala occasion, followed their army out from Washington to see it overwhelm the poor, despised South, whose sons were recklessly assembled together, as they supposed, to be routed and ruined by the superior forces which they stood up to encounter. Let all mankind hear how bloody was the reception which they met, until they broke and fled in wild despair, even more surprised than frightened, if possible, to find the men in gray capable of such stern resistance. Let the course of these heroic men be followed after they fell into the master-hands of Lee, for more than four years over the soil of Virginia, as they trod in triumph with feet red with the blood of their enemies, and as they hurled back the invading forces, sometimes four, sometimes three, and never less than two to one, reeking with their own blood and red with carnage; now driving McClellan into the James River and clear away from Richmond; now hurling Burnside across the Rappahannock river in bloody repulse from the good town of Fredericksburg. Let it be told how these same men in gray flanked the superior hosts of the North under Hooker, and drove them away in wild and bewildering flight, having lost their confidence in numbers, and believing it impossible to make themselves superior in strength so long as there was a Lee to plan, or a Jackson to lead these brave men in the charge, whose wild cheer always betokened courage and victory so long as they had food and clothing, and maintained heart and hope; or still following them in their bloody march, let us pause with them at Cold Harbor, where they repulsed Grant’s assault and piled so high the Federal dead that, as the rumor runs, the authorities at Washington despaired of success, and resolved to abandon the contest and agree to a division of the Union, a determination which they only revoked upon the receipt of encouraging news from the Southwest. But we must not leave the story there; we must follow it to the last sad results, until the tapestry is quite reversed. We must follow it to its final close, when without food, without clothes, and an unsufficient supply of arms, Lee surrendered his hardy and battered regiments with eight thousand muskets in their hands, whilst the rolls bore twenty-two thousand upon their face. And thus when it was impossible to maintain any further contest upon even plausible terms, the army was surrendered and the cause was lost.

— Hon. R. M. T. Hunter in an address to the Southern Historical Society (as reorganised), at the Capitol, Richmond, 27 October 1874.

A Great Conflagration Is Apprehended

Currier & Ives, The Fall of Richmond, Va. on the Night of April 2d. 1865.
Currier & Ives, The Fall of Richmond, Va. on the Night of April 2d. 1865.

April 3d.—Another clear and bright morning. It was a quiet night, with its million of stars. And yet how few could sleep, in anticipation of the entrance of the enemy! But no enemy came until 9 a.m., when some 500 were posted at the Capitol Square. They had been waited upon previously by the City Council, and the surrender of the city stipulated—to occur this morning. They were asked to post guards for the protection of property from pillage, etc., and promised to do so.

At dawn there were two tremendous explosions, seeming to startle the very earth, and crashing the glass throughout the western end of the city. One of these was the blowing up of the magazine, near the new almshouse—the other probably the destruction of an iron-clad ram. But subsequently there were others. I was sleeping soundly when awakened by them.

All night long they were burning the papers of the Second Auditor’s office in the street—claims of the survivors of deceased soldiers, accounts of contractors, etc.

At 7 a.m. Committees appointed by the city government visited the liquor shops and had the spirits (such as they could find) destroyed. The streets ran with liquor; and women and boys, black and white, were seen filling pitchers and buckets from the gutters.

A lady sold me a bushel of potatoes in Broad Street for $75, Confederate States money—$5 less than the price a few days ago. I bought them at her request. And some of the shops gave clothing to our last retiring guards.

Goods, etc. at the government depots were distributed to the poor, to a limited extent, there being a limited amount.

A dark volume of smoke rises from the southeastern section of the city, and spreads like a pall over the zenith. It proceeds from the tobacco warehouse, ignited, I suppose, hours ago, and now just bursting forth.

At 8½ a.m. The armory, arsenal, and laboratory (Seventh and Canal Streets), which had been previously fired, gave forth terrific sounds from thousands of bursting shells. This continued for more than an hour. Some fragments of shell fell within a few hundred yards of my house.

The pavements are filled with pulverized glass.

Some of the great flour mills have taken fire from the burning government warehouses, and the flames are spreading through the lower part of the city. A great conflagration is apprehended.

The doors of the government bakery (Clay Street) were thrown open this morning, and flour and crackers were freely distributed, until the little stock was exhausted. I got a barrel of the latter, paying a negro man $5 to wheel it home—a short distance.

Ten a.m. A battery (United States) passed my house, Clay Street, and proceeded toward Camp Lee. Soon after the officers returned, when I asked the one in command if guards would be placed in this part of the city to prevent disturbance, etc. He paused, with his suite, and answered that such was the intention, and that every precaution would be used to preserve order. He said the only disturbances were caused by our people. I asked if there was any disturbance. He pointed to the black columns of smoke rising from the eastern part of the city, and referred to the incessant bursting of shell. I remarked that the storehouses had doubtless been ignited hours previously. To this he assented, and assuring me that they did not intend to disturb us, rode on. But immediately meeting two negro women laden with plunder, they wheeled them to the right about, and marched them off, to the manifest chagrin of the newly emancipated citizens.

Eleven a.m. I walked down Brad Street to the Capitol Square. The street was filled with negro troops, cavalry and infantry, and were cheered by hundreds of negroes at the corners.

I met Mr. T. Cropper (lawyer from the E. Shore) driving a one-horse wagon containing his bedding and other property of his quarters. He said he had just been burnt out—at Belom’s Block—and that St. Paul’s Church (Episcopal) was, he thought, on fire. This I found incorrect; but Dr. Reed’s (Presbyterian) was in ruins. The leaping and lapping flames were roaring in Main Street up to Ninth; and Goddin’s Building (late General Post-Office) was on fire, as well as all the houses in Governor Street up to Franklin.

The grass of Capitol Square is covered with parcels of goods snatched from the raging conflagration, and each parcel guarded by a Federal soldier.

A general officer rode up and asked me what building that was—pointing to the old stone United States Custom House—late Treasury and State Departments, also the President’s office. He said, “Then it is fire-proof, and the fire will be arrested in this direction.” He said he was sorry to behold such destruction; and regretted that there was not an adequate supply of engines and other apparatus.

Shells are still bursting in the ashes of the armory, etc.

All the stores are closed; most of the largest (in Main Street) have been burned.

There are supposed to be 10,000 negro troops at Camp Lee, west of my dwelling.

An officer told me, 3 p.m., that a white brigade will picket the city to-night; and he assured the ladies standing near that there would not be a particle of danger of molestation. After 9 p.m., all will be required to remain in their houses. Soldiers or citizens, after that hour, will be arrested. He said we had done ourselves great injury by the fire, the lower part of the city being in ashes, and declared that the United States troops had no hand in it. I acquitted them of the deed, and told him that the fire had spread from the tobacco warehouses and military depots, fired by our troops as a military necessity.

Four p.m. Thirty-four guns announced the arrival of President Lincoln. He flitted through the mass of human beings in Capitol Square, his carriage drawn by four horses, preceded by out-riders, motioning the people, etc. out of the way, and followed by a mounted guard of thirty. The cortege passed rapidly, precisely as I had seen royal parties ride in Europe.

— Diary of John B. Jones, 2 April 1865.

A Regular and General Musical Education

Sheet Music: Dixie’s Land, c. 1859, by Daniel Decatur Emmett, Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 Em 645 a1.
Sheet Music: Dixie’s Land, c. 1859, by Daniel Decatur Emmett, Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 Em 645 a1.

No one can tell us, we verily believe, why vocal music ought not to be a branch of common school education in Virginia, just as much as in Prussia. A resolution that it should be so, entered into this day, by those who have power to carry their resolutions into execution, would be a greater blessing to the State, we verily believe, than either of the railroads which have been chartered, or have received legislative donation this winter. It would be a direct contribution to the children of the land, of a large mass of solid enjoyment, of an innocent character, and worth more to them than an ingot to each, massy as they could bear home, of Californian gold. But we know our country too well to hope that such is going to be case very soon. It will probably be long, before that very obvious idea, very obvious when distinctly looked at, that music is a branch of common education, and one of the most valuable branches, will be admitted into the craniums of the old-world people, — health and long life to their honours! — who yet linger among us, and who are averse to one-half the means and instrumentalities of a genuine civilization, either as sinful things, or as new and proud inventions. In default of a regular and general musical education, such as ought to be given to both sexes, let us try diligently the best practical means — singing schools — if the teacher be not a stray Yankee — singing societies, singing classes of all descriptions. There are no happier re-unions of young people than such.

Southern Literary Messenger, Volume XIX, no. 2, April 1853 (Richmond, Virginia).

Our Cause Is Just and Holy

Confederate Second National Flag carried by the Consolidated 6th & 7th Arkansas Infantry Regiment.
Confederate Second National Flag carried by the Consolidated 6th & 7th Arkansas Infantry Regiment.

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).

We Are Not Ashamed!

First National Confederate Flag attributed to “Hart’s Battery” -- otherwise known as the “Dallas Artillery” as it was organized at Dallas, Arkansas (Polk County) in August 1861.
First National Confederate Flag attributed to “Hart’s Battery” — otherwise known as the “Dallas Artillery” as it was organized at Dallas, Arkansas (Polk County) in August 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.

1201 East Clay Street

Executive Mansion of the Confederate States of America, Richmond, Virginia, 1862/1863.
Executive Mansion of the Confederate States of America, Richmond, Virginia, circa 1862/1863.