Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/249

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239
Editorial Paragraphs
 
Editorial Paragraphs
 

The History of our Relations with the "Record Office" at Washington is told in the following card, which has been published in the daily papers, and ought, perhaps, to go into our records:

Richmond, September 26, 1878.

There have been so many inaccurate statements made in reference to the Archive Office at Washington, and its relations to the Southern Historical Society, that I deem it proper to give a brief history of the whole transaction.

At the convention to reorganize our Society, held at the Montgomery White Sulphur Springs in August, 1873, a resolution was adopted instructing the Secretary to make application to the authorities at Washington for access to the Confederate archives collected there. As, however, it was known that all such applications on the part of our Confederate officers had been refused, we hesitated to make the application until in November, 1875, the then Secretary of War, General Belknap, opened a correspondence with our Society, as the result of an interview which the Secretary of the Society had with his private secretary (Dr. Barnard). This correspondence resulted in nothing, as the Secretary of War insisted upon our simply giving him copies of such parts of our archives as he might desire without any equivalent, and our Committee, on the other hand, were unwilling that "the reciprocity should all be on one side," and insisted upon an exchange of documents. In January, 1877, Dr. Barnard, by the direction of the then Secretary of War, Hon. Don. Cameron, reopened the correspondence; but as no better terms were offered us we again declined to turn over our archives to the inspection and use of the War Department unless there should be full reciprocation.

The course of the War Department very naturally excited the fear that there was no purpose to deal fairly with Confederate documents in the proposed publication of the "Official History of the Rebellion."

We were loth to make any further move in the matter, and had not done so, although we had been gratified to learn that Secretary McCrary had been pursuing a more liberal policy towards some of our friends.

Under date of August 7, 1878, however, we received a letter from General Marcus J. Wright, late of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, in which he announced his appointment as "an agent of the War Department for the collection, &c., of the Confederate records of the war," and stated that he was authorized by the Secretary of War to say "that any duly-accredited agents of the Southern Historical Society will be allowed access to the Confederate archives, to consult them, and to take copies for historical purposes." This offer, made voluntarily and without conditions, was all that we had ever asked, and was in the highest degree gratifying to our Committee.

We, of course, responded in the same spirit, and cordially reciprocated by tendering the War Department free access to our archives, and the privilege of copying anything they might wish. General Wright at once came to Richmond, and had a very satisfactory interview with the Secretary and other members of our Executive Committee. We went to work to prepare an accurate catalogue of our official documents, carefully arranged in chronological order, so that, by commparison with the catalogue of the War Department, it might be seen what was wanted to complete the files of each collection.

This catalogue was completed on Monday last, and I took it on to Washington, where I had a most satisfactory interview with Adjutant-General