Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 14.djvu/268
Southern Historical Society Papers
bility, 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