Southern Historical Society: Its Origin and History

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Vol. XVIII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1890.

Maj. Gen.
Dabney Herndon Maury

The Southern Historical Society: Its Origin And History.
Transcribed by a kinsman, William Maury Morris II 1998.

By Maj. Gen. Dabney Herndon Maury

A wish has been expressed to the Secretary of the Southern Historical Society (the editor of its publication) that some account should be given of the origin and existence of the Society. Major-General Dabney Herndon Maury, in a letter dated November 3, 1890, writes:

"I feel a natural desire to record the history of the inception of the Southern Historical Society, which has accomplished a work so important for the Southern people.

"In May, 1868, I was a resident of New Orleans, surrounded by many comrades of the war between the States, with whom I daily exchanged recollections of that 'the greatest struggle for separate nationality the world has ever seen,' and I felt the importance to history and to our posterity of making, while we could, a record of the facts then fresh in the memories of the actors; and addressed myself to the work."

General Maury proceeds to state conferences in furtherance of his desire, as expressed, with Generals Braxton Bragg, Richard Taylor, and others.The progress of the movement is recorded in "Proceedings, Vol. I," of the Southern Historical Society, as follows:

"At a meeting held in the office of Messrs. Stuart, Norton & Co., in the city of New Orleans, at 7:30 o'clock P. M., Thursday, April 15, 1869, the following gentlemen were present:

  1. General Braxton Bragg,
  2. Major J. E. Austin,
  3. General Dabney Herndon Maury,
  4. Major B. M. Harrod,
  5. General Simon Bolivar Buckner,
  6. Captain S. H. Buck,
  7. Colonel A. L. Stuart,
  8. Captain George Norton,
  9. Mr. C. L. C. Dupuy."

The record continues that the meeting was called to order by General Maury, upon whose motion General Bragg was called to the chair. Mr. Dupuy, upon request, acted as secretary.

General Maury then stated as the purpose of the meeting the "considering the practicability of effecting an organization which might effect the collection and preservation of such papers and records as might be valuable in preserving a true history of the causes, events, and results of the late war between the Confederate States and the United States."

Generals Bragg, Buckner, and others further pressed the desirability of the organization proposed, urging that it would, "without doubt, secure the co-operation of intelligent and well-informed gentlemen residing in the different sections of the Southern States, and be the conservator of information which would be invaluable to the future historian, who, untrammeled by personal prejudices or partisan rancor, should undertake the laudable task of giving to the world a true history of the memorable conflict."

Upon motion of Major Harrod, the meeting was adjourned to reassemble at the same place on April 21st, following.

Pursuant to the above "a meeting of citizens" was held on the evening of April 21, 1869. General Bragg was called to the chair. "General Richard Taylor moved the appointment by the chair of a committee of five, who, together with the chairman, should embody a programme of the Association."

Upon motion of Major Cluskey, the number of the committee was increased to seven. The following members, whose names appear under the caption of the "Founders of Southern Historical Society, New Orleans, April 21, 1869," then enrolled themselves, by subscribing their names:

[Note: "What's in a name? Lots of History, genealogy, psychology, &c. What names are behind those mere initials? The following have names and links to their history substituted for initials when possible.—wmm 1998 & 2011]

  1. General Braxton Bragg General.
  2. General Richard Taylor Son of a U. S. President Zach. Taylor.
  3. Dabney Herndon Maury Major-General. All 3 names are ancestral surnames.
  4. Michael Walsh CluskeyGeneral.
  5. General Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox General.
  6. George Washington Gordon General.
  7. Benjamin Morgan Harrod Engineer
  8. John Sappington Marmaduke General.
  9. F. H. Farrar x
  10. Simon Bolivar Buckner Lieutenant-General; 30th Governor of Kentucky;
  11. Randall Lee Gibson U.S. Senator; Brigadier-General CSA
  12. A. L. Stuart,x
  13. H. N. Ogden, x
  14. B. J. Sage,
  15. F. H. Wigfall,
  16. George Norton,
  17. Fred. N. Ogden,
  18. John B. Sale,
  19. James Phelan,
  20. William H. Saunders,
  21. James Strawbridge,
  22. Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer D D. (1818-1902.)
  23. Thomas J. Semmes,
  24. Harry T. Hays,
  25. E. M. Hudson,
  26. J. N. Gallaher,
  27. Charles L. C. Dupuy,
  28. B. A. Pope, M. D.,
  29. William Joseph Jones, M. D.,
  30. B. F. Jones,
  31. Edward Joy,
  32. A. W. Bosworth,
  33. J. L. Feurman.
  34. Charles Chapotin,
  35. C. M. Conrad,
  36. J. F. Caldwell,
  37. General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard,
  38. H. Chapotin,
  39. S. E. Chaille, M. D.,
  40. (*) T. H. Richardson, M. D.,
  41. S. M. Bemiss, M. D.,
  42. Frank Hawthorn, M. D.,
  43. John J. O'Brien.
  44. G. Waggaman,
  45. William S. Pike,

At a meeting held at the rooms of the Howard Association, May 1, 1869, General Beauregard was called to the chair.

General Bragg, then, as chairman of the committee on organization (composed as follows: Hon. Charles M. Conrad, Rev. Dr. B. M. Palmer, Colonel C. A. Breaux, Hon. T. J. Semmes, Dr. J. Dickson Burns, Rev. J. N. Gallaher, B. F. Jones), made his report, which recommended that "the scope of the Society should be broad and general, embracing everything on both sides connected with the recent political and military movements and operations in our country, preceding, during and following the war," and that it be designated "The Southern Historical Society." It was provided that there should be a President, Vice-President, a Secretary and Treasurer, with an Advisory Committee to consist of the above named officers, ex-officio, and of four other members to be elected by the Society annually. "With a view to extend the influence of the Association," "the appointment of a Vice-President in each State" was advised.

It was urged that "much circumspection and judgment should be displayed in the office of Secretary, as the officer upon whom will devolve the labor and responsibility of conducting the most important work of the Society, and we must not expect to command the services of such a one, without compensation; but he should be the only paid officer of the Society."

A circular address was directed to be prepared and issued by the Secretary, setting forth the objects of the Society, etc.

The report was adopted.

Upon the nomination of Rev. Dr. B. M. Palmer, Dr. [William] Joseph Jones was elected Secretary and Treasurer. Rev. B. M. Palmer, D. D. was elected President; General Braxton Bragg, Vice-President, and the following gentlemen representing the "four professions," the Advisory Committee: J. Dickson Burns, Thomas J. Semmes, W. S. Pike, General Harry T. Hays. The initiation fee of members was fixed at $5.00, and the annual subscription $6.00.

At this meeting "A. L. Stuart" was "Acting Secretary." At a meeting held May 10, 1869, in the rooms of the Howard Association, an official circular drawn by the President, Rev. B. M. Palmer, D. D., was recommended by' the Advisory Committee, and adopted by the Society. At a meeting held June 14, 1869, the Secretary, Dr. Joseph Jones, submitted modifications of and additions to the circular, which were adopted.

The objects of the Society were therein stated with great perspicuity and comprehension. The desire was to obtain materials for a just and accurate history of the great struggle, and representative documents and circumstantial details were to be sought for throughout the Union.

The material gathered was to be classified and carefully arranged. Copies of the circular, in manuscript, were sent by the Secretary to the following Vice-Presidents of the Society for the several States, who had been appointed'

  • Virginia — General Robert E. Lee.
  • Maryland — Hon. Severn Teackle Wallis.
  • North Carolina — Lieutenant-General Daniel Harvey Hill.
  • South Carolina — Lieutenant-General Wade Hampton.
  • Georgia — Hon. Alexander H. Stephens.
  • Alabama — Admiral Raphael Semmes.
  • Tennessee — Governor Isham G. Harris.
  • Mississippi — Governor Benjamin G. Humphreys.
  • Texas — Colonel Ashbel Smith.
  • Kentucky — Major-General John Cabell Breckenridge.
  • Missouri — Colonel Trusten Polk.
  • Arkansas — Hon. A. H. Garland.
  • Florida — Hon. Stephen R. Mallory.
  • District of Columbia — William Wilson Corcoran.

In accordance with a resolution of the Society six thousand copies of the circular were printed, which were distributed throughout the South, partially by the aid of the several Vice-Presidents in the several States, to each of whom one hundred and fifty copies were sent. The circular was also generally reprinted in the newspapers and literary and medical magazines throughout the Southern States, and quite extensively in the Northern States.

At the meeting held the 14th of June, the Secretary, Rev. Joseph Jones D.D., also "presented for the consideration of the parent Society a Constitution or Plan of Permanent Organization of the Southern Historical Society, modelled upon the organic constitutions of other learned and scientific societies. On motion of General Maury, this "Plan" was received and referred to the Advisory Committee. It was finally and unanimously adopted, and manuscript copies were forwarded to the several Vice-Presidents of the States by the Secretary.

This "Plan" or "Constitution" was subscribed to by the following members, in the order here given:

Harry T. Hays, Dabney H. Maury, A. B. Bacon, Ch. Chapotin, H. Chapotin, Henry Ginder, Charles L. C. Dupuy, A. W. Bosworth, F. R. Southmayd, Geo. W. Logan, Jr., Samuel Logan, M. D., Rufus R. Rhodes, H. N. Jenkins, F. H. Wigfall, James Strawbridge, Wm. Palfrey, C. M. Wilcox, Edward Peychaud, G. T. Beauregard, Braxton Bragg, B. J. Sage, W. C. Black, Benj. M. Palmer, D. D. Colcock, John Turpin, Henry V. Ogden, R. Q. Mallard, Hugh McClosky, Edward Ivy, Wm. S. Pike, J. N. Brown, Robt. Lewis, Henry M. Smith, Charles B. Singleton, James B. Price, John W. Caldwell, M. D.

At a meeting of the Society held June 13, 1870, in the rooms of the Howard Association, the Secretary and Treasurer submitted his official report for the year ending May 9, 1870.

The total receipts of the Society had been $310. They had been derived in sums of $5 and $10, paid in variously by the following members:

Charles Chapotin, Henry Chapotin, Thomas L. Semmes, B. M. Palmer, John Goleverien, T. R. Southmayd, B. W. Harrod, Braxton Bragg, Towson Ellis, Dabney H. Maury, George Norton, G. Waggaman, George W. Logan, A. W. Bosworth, Samuel Logan, M. D., D. Warren Brickell, M. D., Harry T. Hays, A. B. Bacon, J. Strawbridge, T. N. Ogden, Henry Ginder, Charles L. C. Dupuy, Wm. Palfrey, Rufus R. Rhodes, H. N. Jenkins, C. M. Wilcox, Edward Peychaud, Rev. R. Q. Mallard, J. S. Bernard, T.C. Herndon, W. C. Black, D. D. Colcock, B. J. Sage, G. T. Beauregard, H. F. Beauregard, F. H. Wigfall, W. J. Pike, John Rennard, Ed. Palfrey, John Finney, W. M. Goodrich, Col. Edmund Fontaine, Hugh McClosky, Thomas A. Adams.

There had been expended by the Secretary and Treasurer the sum of $313.50, of which $85 had been for books ordered for the library of the Society, and the remaining $218.50 in necessary incidental expenses--stationery, postage, printing, advertising, etc. Propositions from several publishers of magazines to print the documents or transactions of the Society had been discussed, and various efforts had been made to secure lectures by prominent ex-officers of the Confederate Army, but the present compiler is without information as to the printing of any such matter or the delivery of any lecture.

In the report of Dr. Jones he urges correspondence with the various surviving officers of the late Confederate States Army, and the securing from them of documentary material, personal reminiscences, etc.

The election of officers of the Society was then held. Dr. Palmer declining re-election, General Braxton Bragg was elected President, and General Dabney H. Maury, Vice-President. Dr. Joseph Jones was nominated by General Hays as Secretary and Treasurer.

"Dr. Jones returned his thanks to the Southern Historical Society for the honor which had been conferred on him, and said that he had accepted the office from a similar interest in a work in which he had been engaged since the inception of the American Civil War--viz.: the preservation of all authentic Southern records. The labor during the first year in the organization of the Southern Historical Society--of the conduction of the correspondence, although numerous and exacting--had been cheerfully borne as due to a sacred cause, but justice to the Association compelled him to say that his professional engagements and duties were such that it would be impossible for him any longer to expend the large amount of time necessary for the performance of the duties of Secretary and Treasurer."

Dr. Jones was also then in very feeble health.

"On motion of General Harry T. Hays, the thanks of the Society were tendered to Dr. Joseph Jones for the valuable services rendered the Southern Historical Society during the past twelve months for the able and efficient manner in which he had performed the duties of Secretary and Treasurer."

Colonel James Strawbridge was then elected Secretary and Treasurer.

At a meeting held December 12, 1870, Colonel James Strawbridge resigned the office of Secretary and Treasurer. The next recorded meeting is dated July 10, 1871, at which were present ten members. Rev. B. M. Palmer, D. D., presided. He was elected President, General G. T. Beauregard, Vice-President, and the following the Executive Committee of the Society: Rev. B. M. Palmer, D. D., General D. H. Maury, General G. T. Beauregard, General Cadmus M. Wilcox, B. J. Sage. It was "unanimously" resolved that "a salary of $500 per annum be attached to the office of Secretary and Treasurer." The minutes are signed by "F. R. Southmayd, Secretary pro tem." Dr. J. W. Caldwell was elected Secretary and Treasurer of the Society. At a meeting held October 9, 1871, General Jubal A. Early was elected Vice-President for the State of Virginia, vice General R. E. Lee, deceased.

At a meeting held June 10, 1872, the Secretary and Treasurer reported the receipts of the Society as $708, and the expenditures as $426.75, including salary to himself for six months. Balance on hand, $281.25. The officers of the Society were re-elected.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).