Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/200

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190
Southern Historical Society Papers.
Editorial Paragraphs

Dr. Thompson's Report of Captain Mangole's Lecture on General Lee and Dr. Curry's reply in our August number, has elicited a very gratifying letter from Captain Mangole, in which, it will be seen, he clearly shows that Dr. Thompson did not report him correctly.

The Secretary sent Captain Mangole advance proof-sheets of Dr. Curry's review, and took the liberty in his letter of asking the accomplished soldier what Confederate authorities he had access to in the preparation of his "History of the Civil War in America." Captain Mangole's reply was not intended for publication, but is so candid and so valuable, as illustrating the importance of our being able to furnish material to those who desire to know and to tell the truth of our history, that we trust he will pardon us for giving his letter in full:

Cassel, August 16th, 1878.

Rev. Dr. J. William Jones, Secretary Southern Historical Society:

Dear Sir—Some days ago, when I was about to start on a little journey, I received a letter from you dated July 9th, together with a number of pamphlets concerning different episodes of the late civil war. Enclosed were the advanced proof-sheets of an article by Rev. J. L. M. Curry, commenting on an article which Rev. Dr. Thompson, of Berlin, had published in the Independent.

You will permit me to write a few words in answer to Rev. Dr. Curry's statement concerning my notion of General Lee's resignation, as stated in Dr. Thompson's paper. Before I begin, I must beg you, however, to keep in mind that I am writing in a foreign language, and that I cannot express my views so clearly and precisely as I could in my own language.

Dr. Curry says in his paper: "This matter of breach of faith, so quietly assumed in this accusation by Captain Mangole and Dr. Thompson, turns entirely upon the character of our government."

Nothing has been farther from me than to "quietly assume the accusation of breach of faith." It is true I have said that we (the Prussian officers), according to our understanding, could never comprehend how an officer could ever feel called upon to decide on which side he will fight, if one of the two contending parties carries the flag to which he has pledged his faith and allegiance by a solemn oath, and that, therefore, to our understanding, the decision of Lee would always remain incomprehensible. This part of my lecture, no doubt, gave origin to Dr. Thompson's remark, that to a Prussian officer the violation of an oath appears a crime so damnable as to be inconceivable. Now, I do not pretend to say that a Prussian officer is any more sensitive to the guilt of the violation of an oath than any other honorable man, and by the very emphasis I put on the words—our understanding—I meant to induce the hearer to refrain from judging and condemning Lee, as there must be circumstances veiled to our understanding, which, if fully known and appreciated by us, would let Lee's decision appear in another light than that of the violation of an oath. Moreover, I then went on to say (and I translate the following paragraph literally from the MS. of my lecture): "The more incomprehensible it is to us that Lee came to this and not to the opposite decision, the more it becomes our duty to seek an explanation; and if we consider all the circumstances, we think we are justified in saying that a