Letters from the South

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Letters from the South
by Carl Schurz
In the summer of 1865, immediately after the end of the Civil War, at the behest of Andrew Johnson, then President of the United States, Carl Schurz toured several of the states of the South to assess the situation there. In addition to his reports to the President, and his noteworthy final report, Schurz also wrote anonymous articles for the Boston Daily Advertiser reporting on his travels in a more popular vein. A paragraph in Chapter VI from Volume Three of his Reminiscences, discussing his correspondence with the President, mentions these letters:

. . . I received on the 6th of September a telegram simply announcing the receipt of my ‘dispatch of the 30th ultimo,’ probably meaning my letter from Vicksburg. And then nothing more; not a word indicating the President's policy, or his wishes or his approval or disapproval of my conduct. But meanwhile I had found a short paragraph in a New Orleans paper telegraphed from Washington, only a few lines, stating that the President was dissatisfied with me, and that I was especially blamed for having written to the newspapers instead of informing him. I believed I saw in this news paragraph an inspiration from the White House. Acting upon that supposition I at once wrote to the President reminding him that I had not sought this mission to the South, but had accepted it thinking that I might do the country some service; that the charge that I had reported to the newspapers instead of to the President, was simply absurd; that I had written to the President a series of elaborate reports; that I had, indeed, written a few letters to a newspaper, but that this was well understood by the Secretary of War when he made the arrangements for my journey; that the compensation set out for me — a mere War-Department-clerk's salary — was utterly insufficient to cover the expenses incidental to my travels, aside from transportation and subsistence, among which incidentals was a considerable extra premium on my life insurance on account of my travels so far South during the summer; that, as the Secretary of War understood and appreciated, I had to earn something in some way to make my journey financially possible; that my newspaper letters contained nothing that should have been treated as official secrets, but incidents of travel, anecdotes, picturesque views of Southern conditions with some reflections thereon, mostly things which would not find proper elaboration in official reports, — and all this quite anonymous so as not to have the slightest official character; and finally that I had a right to feel myself entitled to protection against such imputations as the newspaper paragraph in question contained.

Reminiscences of Carl Schurz, Volume Three, Chapter VI, p. 195.

A search of the Boston Daily Advertiser for this period (Vol. 106) turned up five letters Schurz had written followed by two letters to the editor (by others) commenting on their contents. (Complicating things a bit was the fact that the issue number printed on the front page was incorrect for several issues, but the date was always correct. The correct issue numbers are given below, but, with this problem, the date will be the most reliable guide.) Schurz used a lot of the contents of these letters in the above-mentioned chapter of his Reminiscences, but there are things here and there which did not find their way into the Reminiscences or the final report. The articles were always found on page two of the Advertiser in the second or third column. The letters and contents are below:


“Letters from the South”
from Carl Schurz
to the Boston Daily Advertiser


Issue No. Title Issue Date
No. 25 The Sea Islands and Free Labor July 31, 1865
No. 28 II  Charleston August 3, 1865
No. 30 III  The Contract System August 5, 1865
No. 32 IV  The “Unconquered” Class August 8, 1865
No. 42 Free Labor and Education August 19, 1865
No. 45 Letters to the editor (2) August 23, 1865


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).