Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/January/Editorial Department

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Southern Historical Society Papers: Volume 1 Number 1  (1876) 
Editorial Department
January 1876
 
Editorial Paragraphs
 

Our First Paper.

As intimated in the last annual report of the Executive Committee, we have decided that it will be best for the Southern Historical Society to do in the future its own publishing, and we send out our first number with the firm conviction that those who are interested in vindicating the truth of Confederate History will sustain the enterprise and make it a complete success.

It seemed appropriate that our first number should contain some discussion of the causes which led to the war, the motives which prompted the Southern States to attempt the establishment of a Confederacy of their own, and the spirit in which they entered upon and prosecuted the great contest for constitutional freedom. Accordingly, we present the able paper of the distinguished statesman (Hon. R. M. T. Hunter), who graced the United States Senate in its palmier days―the famous "Botetourt resolutions" of the distinguished jurist (Judge Allen), which produced a profound impression at the time they were first published, and deserve to be put in more permanent form―the Inaugural Address of President Davis, the classic English of which is only equaled by its sentiments of lofty patriotism and the address of the Confederate Congress, which is understood to have eminated from the able, facile pen of Hon. J. L. M. Curry, of Alabama, was signed by all of the members of Congress, and deserves to have a place in every vindication of the South.

 

 

The Southern Historical Society.

It may be well to give in this number a sketch of the origin, history, and objects of our Society, for the information of those unacquainted with them, and the following is therefore submitted:

On the 1st of May, 1869, a number of gentlemen in the city of New Orleans formed themselves into an Association under the style of the "Southern Historical Society," with a parent society to hold its seat in that city, and with the design of having affiliated societies in the States of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky, and the District of Columbia; but New Orleans was not found a favorable location for the parent society, and therefore, under the call of the said society, a Convention was held at the Montgomery White Sulphur Springs, in Virginia, on the 14th of August, 1873, by which the society was reorganized, with a change of the seat of the parent society to the city of Richmond, Virginia.

The following resolutions were adopted by the said convention:

Resolved, 1. That the headquarters of the Southern Historical Society be transferred to Richmond, Virginia.

2. That this convention, in order to carry out the purposes proposed by the Executive Committee of the Southern Historical Society, at New Orleans, proceed to reorganize the society, with the object and purposes set forth in the annexed paper, as modified, and to elect officers.

3. That this organization be retained on its present basis, and that the officers shall be a President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer, and Executive Committee, resident in the State of Virginia, and a Vice-President in each of the Southern States.

4. That each Vice-President shall be ex-officio president of the auxiliary State society, and is requested to organize the same and the affiliated local societies.

5. That the Secretary shall receive a salary to be fixed by the Executive Committee.

6. That the society adopt some financial scheme to raise funds to carry out the purposes of the organization and the publication of its historical material.

7. That the fee of annual membership be three dollars, and of life membership fifty dollars.

8. That the publication of the material collected be made either by means of a magazine, or by occasional volumes of transactions, as may be found most expedient.

9. That the society, as soon as reorganized, proceed to enroll members and to extend its membership.

10. That in all questions touching the organization of the society, when a division is called for, the vote shall be taken by States, and each State shall be entitled to two votes.

11. That the thanks of the convention be tendered to the editor and publishers of the Southern Magazine, for their publication of valuable contributions to the history of the Confederate War.

12. That this convention offer to General Early its thanks for his able and valuable address, and request a copy for publication with the proceedings of the convention, so that a wide circulation may be given to it.

The following is the paper referred to in the second resolution, being the general outline for the original organization of the society, as modified by the convention:

The Southern Historical Society is organized with the following general outline:

A parent society, to hold its seat and its archives in the city of Richmond, Virginia, with affiliated societies to be organized in all the States favorable to the object proposed; these in their turn branching into local organizations in the different townships―forming thus a wide fellowship of closely co-ordinated societies, with a common centre in the parent association in the said city.

The object proposed to be accomplished is the collection, classification, preservation, and final publication, in some form to be hereafter determined, of all the documents and facts bearing upon the eventful history of the past few years, illustrating the nature of the struggle from which the country has just emerged, defining and vindicating the principles which lay beneath it, and marking the stages through which it was conducted to its issue. It is not understood that this association shall be purely sectional, nor that its labors shall be of a partisan character.

Everything which relates to this critical period of our national history, pending the conflict, antecedent or subsequent to it, from the point of view of either, or of both the contestants; everything, in short, which shall vindicate the truth of history is to be industriously collated and filed.

It is doubtless true, that an accepted history can never be written in the midst of the stormy events of which that history is composed, nor by the agents through whose efficiency they were wrought. The strong passions which are evoked in every human conflict disturb the vision and warp the judgment, in the scales of whose criticism the necessary facts are to be weighed―even the relative importance of these facts cannot be measured by those who are in too close proximity. Scope must be afforded for the development of the remote issues before they can be brought under the range of a philosophical apprehension; and the secret thread be discovered, running through all history, upon which its single facts crystalize in the unity of some great Providential plan.

The generations of the disinterested must succeed the generations of the prejudiced before history, properly termed such, can be written. This, precisely, is the work we now attempt, to construct the archives in which shall be collected these memoirs to serve for future history.

It is believed that invaluable documents are scattered over the whole land, in loose sheets, perhaps lying in the portfolios of private gentlemen, and only preserved as souvenirs of their own parts in the historic drama.

Existing in forms so perishable, regarded, it may be, only as so much waste paper, by those into whose hands they must fall, no delay should be suffered in their collection and preservation.

There is doubtless, too, much that is yet unwritten floating only in the memories of the living, which if not speedily rescued will be swallowed in the oblivion of the grave, but which, if reduced to record and collated, would afford the key to many a cypher, in a little while to become unintelligible for want of interpretation.

All this various material, gathered from every section, will need to be industriously classified and arranged, and finally deposited in the central archives of the society, under the care of appropriate guardians.

To this task of collection we invite the immediate attention and co-operation of our copatriots throughout the South, to facilitate which we propose the organization of State and district associations, that our whole people may be brought in harmony of action in this important matter.

The rapid changes through which the institutions of the country are now passing, and the still more stupendous revolutions in the opinions of men, remind us that we stand to-day upon the outer verge of a great historic cycle, within which a completed past will shortly be enclosed. Another cycle may touch its circumference, but the events it shall embrace will be gathered around another historic centre, and the future historian will pronounce that in stepping from the one to the other he has entered upon another and separate volume of the nation's record.

Let us, who are soon to be in that past to which we properly belong, see there are no gaps in the record.

Thus shall we discharge a duty to the fathers whose principles we inherit; to the children, who will then know whether to honor or to dishonor the sires that begot them; and, above all, to the dead heroes sleeping on the vast battle plains, from the Susquehannah to the Rio Grande, whose epitaph history yet waits to engrave upon their tombs.

The funds raised by initiation-fees, assessments, donations and lectures, after defraying the current expenses, will be appropriated to the safe keeping of the archives, and publication of the transactions.

For the accomplishment of these ends contributions are respectfully solicited from all parties interested in the establishment and prosperity of the Southern Historical Society.

Contributions to the archives and library of the society are respectfully solicited under the following specific divisions:

1. The histories and historical collections of the individual States from the earliest periods to the present time, including travels, journals and maps.

2. Complete files of the newspapers, periodicals, literary, scientific and medical journals of the Southern States, from the earliest times to the present day, including especially the period of the recent American civil war.

3. Geological, topographical, agricultural, manufacturing and commercial reports, illustrating the statistics, climate, soil, resources, products and commerce of the Southern States.

4. Works, speeches, sermons and discourses relating to the recent conflict and political changes. Congressional and State reports during the recent war.

5. Official reports and descriptions, by officers and privates and newspaper correspondents and eye-witnesses of campaigns, military operations, battles and sieges.

6. Military maps.

7. Reports upon the munitions, arms and equipments, organization, number and losses of the various branches of the Southern armies―infantry, artillery, cavalry, ordnance and commissary and quartermaster departments.

8. Reports of the Adjutant-General of the late C. S. A., and of the Adjutant-Generals of the armies, departments, districts and States, showing the resources of the individual States, the available fighting population, the number, organization and losses of the forces called into actual service.

9. Naval operations of the Confederate States.

10. Operations of the Nitre and Mining Bureau.

11. Commercial operations.

12. Foreign relations, diplomatic correspondence, etc.

13. Currency.

14. Medical statistics and medical reports.

15. Names of all officers, soldiers and sailors in the military and naval service of the Confederate States who were killed in battle or died of disease or wounds.

16. Names of all wounded officers, soldiers and sailors. The nature of the wounds should be attached to each name; also the loss of one or more limbs should be carefully noted.

17. Published reports and manuscripts relating to civil prisoners held during the war.

18. All matters, published or unpublished, relating to the treatment, diseases, mortality, and exchange of prisoners of war.

19. The conduct of the hostile armies in the Southern States. Private and public losses during the war. Treatment of citizens by hostile forces.

20. Southern poetry, ballads, songs, etc.

The following are the officers of the Southern Historical Society under the reorganization:

Parent Society, Richmond, Va.―Gen. Jubal A. Early, President; Hon. Robert M. T. Hunter, Vice-President; Rev. J. Wm. Jones, Secretary and Treasurer.

Executive Committee.― Gen. Dabney H. Maury, Chairman; Col. Charles S. Venable, Col. Wm. Preston Johnson, Col. Robert E. Withers, Col. Joseph Mayo, Col. Geo. W. Munford, Lt. Col. Archer Anderson, Maj. Robert Stiles, Geo. L. Christian, Esq.

Vice-Presidents of States.―Gen. Isaac R. Trimble, Maryland; Gov. Zebulon B. Vance, North Carolina; Gen. M. C. Butler, South Carolina; Gen. A. H. Colquit, Georgia; Admiral R. Semmes, Alabama; Col. W. Call, Florida; Gen. Wm. T. Martin, Mississippi; Gen. J. B. Hood, Louisiana; Col. T. M. Jack, Texas; Hon. A. H. Garland, Arkansas; Gov. Isham G. Harris, Tennessee; Gen. J. S. Marmaduke, Missouri; Gen. S. B. Buckner, Kentucky; W. W. Corcoran, Esq., District of Columbia.

The secretary elected by the society (Col. Geo. W. Munford) faithfully carried out his instructions until other public duties constrained him to resign, and the present incumbent was elected.

The Legislature of Virginia passed a bill giving the society such quarters in the State capitol as the Governor and Superintendent of Public Buildings might assign them, and we have thus secured an excellent office, where our archives are as safe as those of the State. The work of collecting material has steadily progressed, and the degree of success which has attended the effort may be inferred from the following very general summary of material on hand made in the last annual report of the Executive Committee:

"In the way of official reports we have a very nearly complete set of all the reports printed by the Confederate departments, embracing messages of the President and Heads of Departments, reports of battles, statutes at large of Congress, acts and resolutions of the Senate and House of Representatives; general orders of the Adjutant-General's department, and a large collection of reports of the several State governments. We have in MSS. a full set of reports of Longstreet's corps; all of Ewell's reports from the opening of the campaign of '63 to the close of the war; all of the papers of General J. E. B. Stuart; a full set of the papers of General S. D. Lee's corps, and a large number of most valuable reports of other officers of the different armies of the Confederacy. We have a complete set of the reports of the Committee on the Conduct of the War to the United States Congress, which embraces testimony of the leading Federal Generals on nearly every one of their campaigns and battles; and we have also a number of other Federal official reports, and are arranging to get the whole of them. We are indebted to General A. A. Humphries, Chief of Engineers of the United States army, for a set of beautiful maps illustrating the movements of the armies, and for the courteous promise of adding other maps to those sent. We have in MS. a full sketch of the history of Longstreet's corps, by General E. P. Alexander, and a number of MS. narratives of other commands, campaigns, and movements, written by those whose position and reliability render them very valuable. Dr. J. R. Stevenson has given us a MS. fully vindicating the Confederate authorities from the charge of cruelty to Federal prisoners. We have a very large collection of pamphlets, published during the war and since, which throw light on our history. We have full bound files of the New York Herald and Tribune for the years of the war, and also files of several Richmond papers for the same period. General Early has presented us with a bound volume of articles written by himself on various matters pertaining to the war, and the secretaries have earnestly sought to gather and preserve everything which appears in the press and seems of any value.

"We have on our shelves many of the books that have been written about the war, and are arranging to secure all that can be of any possible value to the future historian. In fine, we have already in our archives invaluable material for the history of every part of the war. We have the promise of valuable additions, and we hope soon to have a complete arsenal from which the defender of our cause may draw any desired weapon."

The Executive Committee feel that they may congratulate the Society and our friends everywhere on what we have already accomplished, and may confidently appeal to all lovers of truth for help in extending the good work in which we are engaged.

 

 

How Our Friends Can Help Us.

1. Become members of the Society by sending the Secretary $50 for a Life member's certificate, or $3 for an Annual membership.

2. If you are already an annual member, see that your renewal fees are regularly paid.

3. Talk to your friends about the Society, and endeavor to induce them to become members.

4. Send us, and try to induce others to send us, material for our archives―such as is indicated above.

5. Many may find it convenient to make contributions of money to enable the Society to carry on its work. If you cannot contribute as much as Mr. Corcoran's liberal donation of $500 per annum, you may aid us by donations of smaller sums.

 

 

An Explanation.

The Secretary has recently sent out to all members who are in arrears to the Society a request for payment, and has received from several gentlemen replies to the effect that they only subscribed for one year. The terms of membership in the Society are such that we take it for granted that a member desires to continue his membership unless he notifies the Secretary to the contrary before the expiration of his subscription. By remembering this our annual members can save both the Secretary and themselves trouble. But where the notification has not been sent, we hope that members will find it convenient and agreeable to remit promptly the amount of the annual fee.

 

 

Our Connection with the Southern Magazine.

Since the 1st of July, 1875, the Southern Historical Society has had no connection whatever with the Southern Magazine, published by the Messrs. Turnbull, Baltimore. All communications for the Society should, therefore, be addressed to the Secretary at Richmond, Va.

 

 

General E. P. Alexander's History of Longstreet's Corps.

In response to numerous inquiries, we will state that we propose to resume and to complete the publication of General Alexander's narrative, which was so abruptly broken off in the last July number of the Southern Magazine.

 

 

Subscribe or Renew.

We send this number to every member of the Society whose name appears on our books, and to a large number of persons who have never been members. But we desire them to understand distinctly our terms: We propose to send our papers only to members who pay their fees, and to subscribers who pay annually in advance. Let our annual members, therefore, promptly remit their renewal fee, and our friends who propose to become members of the Society, or subscribers to our papers, do so at once.

 

 

Book Notices.

Books sent the Society from time to time will be briefly noticed in our Monthly.

We have recently received the following:

From Dr. H. T. Barnard, clerk in the War Department, sixteen volumes of Reports of the Secretary of War, from 1865 to 1875.

While not as valuable as the reports of the Secretary during the years of the war (a full set of which we are anxious to secure), they are still very important additions to our collection, as they mark the military history of "Reconstruction."

Report of Major-General J. G. Barnard, Colonel of Engineers United States Army, on the Defences of Washington.

This book is gotton up in beautiful style; illustrated with maps, plans of fortifications, &c., and gives a very interesting description of the origin, progress, and detailed history of the defences of Washington.

There are, of course, some things in it which any intelligent Confederate will detect as mistakes, but it is evidently the work of an able soldier, and is a very valuable contribution to the history of those great campaigns which threatened the capture of Washington. General Barnard falls into the common error of all Federal writers in greatly overestimating the numbers of the several Confederate armies to which he has occasion to allude; but we have come to regard that as almost a necessity with both civilians and soldiers on that side.

This book completely refutes the popular idea of the defenceless condition of Washington at the time of General Early's advance on it in 1864, and shows that he acted with proper prudence in not making a more serious attack upon very formidable works which were defended by a force much larger than his own little army.

From Colonel Wm. Allan, formerly Chief of Ordnance Second Corps Army Northern Virginia, we have received "Chancellorsville," by Major Jed. Hotchkiss and Colonel Wm. Allan. This is a very able and valuable contribution to the history of the Virginia battle-fields. The narrative is clear, accurate and vigorous, and the maps are in every respect admirable. The book is gotten up in the best style of D. Van Nostrand, New York, and should have a place in the library of every military student.

The Battle of Gettysburg. By Samuel P. Bates. Philadelphia: Davis & Co. 1875.

We are indebted to the publishers for a copy of this book, which has received the highest enconiums of Northern military critics, and may be accepted as a standard work on the Federal side. Colonel John P. Nicholson, of Philadelphia, pronounces it "the fullest, fairest, and most accurate" account of the great battle yet published, and others are equally decided in its praise. A book thus recommended must be worth reading, in order to see a standard Northern history, if for no other reason. We have read it with interest, and may, at some future time, publish a full review of it. We can only say now that the author seems to have bestowed on it a great deal of labor, and has produced a book of historic value which will be widely read. It was not remarkable, perhaps, that Federal commanders during the war should have so egregiously overestimated our numbers; but it is entirely inexcusable that a historian at this day (with easy access to the official reports of the Confederate generals) should commit the same blunders. Mr. Bates puts Hill's corps at Fredericksburg at 30,000 men, Stuart's cavalry at Brandy Station at 12,000, the force that environed Milroy at Winchester at 60,000, and General Lee's entire force at Gettysburg at 107,000 men. Now the truth is that these figures are most inexcusable exaggerations. General Lee's entire force at Gettysburg was not quite 57,000 men. Ah! if our grand old chieftain had commanded the numbers which Northern generals and Northern writers attribute to him, then the story of Gettysburg and of the war would have been far different.

Sherman's Historical Raid. By H. V. Boynton. Cincinnati: Wilstach, Boynton & Co.

The author has kindly sent us a copy of this able and scathing review of Sherman's Memoirs, and we have read it with very great interest.

He shows most conclusively from the official records that Sherman has done great injustice to Grant, Buel, Rosencranz, Thomas, McPherson, Schofield, and almost every other officer to whom he alludes in his book, and he carries the war into Africa by severely criticising Sherman's generalship, upon some of his most important fields, and showing that he was actually saved from terrible disaster again and again by the very men whom he now disparages.

We cannot, of course, accept all that General Boynton has written; but we rejoice to see this well merited rebuke to "the General of the Army," who not only makes himself "the hero of his own story," but oversteps all bounds of delicacy and propriety (not to say common decency), and well illustrates in his Memoirs the proverb, "Oh! that mine enemy would write a book."