BY Z. B. VANCE,
TWENTY-SIXTH REGIMENT N. C. T.1
I have thought I could not do better than to give such information as I could gather in regard to North Carolina and the great struggle between constitutional principles and a physical Union. If in doing so I shall appear somewhat in the character of a champion of my own State, I yet hope to be pardoned, both because such a position is not unbecoming a true son of the soil, and because it is almost the only theme with which I could deal without the consumption of more time and searching of records than my engagements would possibly permit.
I am induced to attempt this theme also because that owing to the reluctance with which North Carolina were into the secession movement, and because there was a considerable Union feeling still left there which made some manifestations of itself during the war, an impression has been sought so be made that she did not do altogether as much for the cause of the Confederacy as she might have done. And those who have assumed to write histories on the conflict so far, have either designedly fed this unjust impression by a studied silence on the subject or else they have been too much trammeled by the necessity of local panegyric to give ample motive to the whole South. I desire to remove this impression and to lay open the way for the truth of history.
Confessing frankly that the great leaders of the war were furnished by other States, whose glories are the common property of the whole South, I desire to show what is true, that in the number of soldiers furnished, in the discipline, courage and loyalty and difficult service of those soldiers, in amount of material and supplies contributed, in the good faith and moral support of her people at large, and in all the qualities which mark self- sacrifice, patriotism and devotion to duty, North Carolina is entitled to stand where her troops stood in battle, behind no State, but in the front rank of the Confederation, aligned and abreast with the best, the foremost and the bravest. And I regret exceedingly that many of the facts and figures I shall give are reproduced from memory, though I am quite sure they will approximate exactitude.
My familiarity with all the affairs of the State during the last three years of the war, was such as to enable me to state facts with reasonable certainty. The principal records of the State covering that period, in the Executive Department were seized and carried to Washington by the Federal authorities in 1865, where they yet remain. And though efforts have been made to that end, the officials would neither return the original nor permit copies to be made for the use of the State. No doubt such a course was designed to serve some great and wise State policy, though exactly what it was beyond the pleasure of irritating and disobliging our people, I have never been able to see. But so it is; we are utterly without official records in North Carolina concerning the most eventful period in our annals of 290 years2 .
It may be said that there were only eleven States wholly committed to the late war--Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee. Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri were only partially engaged, the great majority of their people remaining with the Union. Of these eleven, North Carolina occupied the following position at the beginning of the war: In extent of territory she was the seventh; in total population she was the fifth; in white population, the third; Virginia and Tennessee only exceeding her; in wealth she was the seventh; in the value of all farm products, the fourth ; in the production of cotton, the ninth ; in the production of corn, the fourth; of wheat, rye and oats, the third, and in the number of horses and cattle, the fourth. In manufactures of all kinds, she was the third; in the production of iron and material of war, about fourth, and in root crops, fisheries and naval stores, the first of the eleven.
Such, in brief, were her capacities and resources for sustaining a war as compared with her associates, Her material condition was in all respects good. Average wealth was considerable, and prosperity and comfort abounded. Her credit was excellent and her State schemes of internal improvement were advancing cautiously and prudently. The cultivation of cotton was advancing northward and that of tobacco was coming South; manufactures were growing and industry diversifying--the surest road to wealth and everything indeed was moving on a solid basis.
Politically, whilst our people were loyal to Southern institutions, they were eminently conservative and attached to the Union of the States. In considering what North Carolina did or did not do, in the war, this fact of her Union proclivities should never be forgotten. She was the last to move in the drama of secession, and went out at last more from a sense of duty to her sisters and the sympathies of neighborhood and blood, than from a deliberate conviction that it was good policy to do so. So late as February, 1861, her people solemnly declared, by a majority of many thousands, that they desired no convention to consider the propriety of seceding.
But after the fall of Sumter and the proclamation of President Lincoln calling upon her for troops, she hesitated no longer. On 20 May, 1861, eighty-six years after her first Declaration of Independence of Great Britain. she repealed the ordinance by which she became a member of the American Union and took her stand with the young Confederacy. None stood by that desperate venture with better faith or greater efficiency.
It is a proud assertion which I make to-day when I say that so far as I have been able to learn, North Carolina furnished more soldiers in proportion to white population, and more supplies and material in proportion to her means, for the support of that war, than any State of the Confederacy. I beg you to believe that this is not said with any spirit of offence to other Southern States, or of defiance toward the Government of the United States, but simply as a just eulogy upon the devotion of a people to what they considered a duty, in sustaining a cause, right or wrong, to which their faith was pledged.
The records of the Adjutant-General's office of the State will show that North Carolina sent into the service of the Confederacy
as volunteers, men at the outset 64,636
There were recruited by volunteers from time to time 21,608
And by conscripts . 18,585
Making in all, 104,829
regular troops from North Carolina in the Confederate service.
Besides these there were regular troops in the State service 3,203
Militia on home duty 2,962
Junior Reserves 4,217
Senior Reserves 5,686
Troops from North Carolina serving in regiments
of other States not borne on our rolls 8,103
Total of all grades 121,038
Of this number 107,932 were regular soldiers in the Confederate service. 3,203 were regular troops in the State service, and the remainder what may be termed "Land-wehr," doing garrison duty, guarding prisoners, arresting deserters, etc. These were organized as follows:
Sixty regiments of infantry, 6 regiments of cavalry, 3 regiments of artillery, 2 regiments of reserves--total, 71.
Four battalions of artillery, 4 battalions of cavalry, 3 battalions of infantry, 9 battalions of reserves-- total, 20, and 13 unattached companies, and 11 companies borne on our rolls serving in regiments from other States. These figures are official 3.
I do not know but what my assertion might be amended so as to claim that this is not relatively, but positively, more troops than any State put into service. At all events, I shall be glad if this brings forth the records of any sister State, and will submit when fairly beaten.
According to the report of Adjutant-General Cooper, the whole number of troops in the Confederate service was 600,000, of which North Carolina furnished largely more than one-sixth; one-tenth would have been about her share. Her total white population was in 1860, 629,942; of this she sent to the army more than one man to every six souls! 4
How they demeaned themselves in the field the bloody records of killed and wounded in all the great battles of the war bear melancholy testimony. In many of the severe conflicts on the soil of Virginia--notably in that of Fredericksburg-- a large majority of the casualties of the whole army were in the North Carolina troops, as appeared by the reports in the Richmond papers at that time.
One regiment, the Twenty-sixth North Carolina, at the battle of Gettysburg, which went in 900 rank and file, came out with but little over 100 men fit for duty. They lost no prisoners.
One company, 84 strong, made the unprecedented report that every man and officer in it was hit. and the Orderly Sergeant who made out the list, did it with a bullet through each leg.
The regiment commanded by General George B. Anderson (then Colonel), the Fourth North Carolina. at the battle of Seven Pines, lost 462 men. killed and wounded, out of 520. and 24 out of 27 officers.
Of the four divisions. D. H. Hill's, A. P. Hill's, Longstreet's and Jackson's, which assailed and put to rout McClellan's right on the Chickahominy, there were 99 regiments, of which 46 regiments were North Carolinians. This statement I make upon the authority of one of the division commanders.
At the dedication of the Confederate cemetery in Winchester, Virginia, some years ago, I was invited to deliver the oration. and the reason assigned by the committee for soliciting me for this task was that the North Carolina dead there exceeded the dead of any other State; showing that in all the glorious campaigns of Jackson, Ewell and Early, in that blood-drenched valley, North Carolina soldiers were either very numerous or else had an unusual share of the hard fighting; neither of which facts would be so much as suspected by reading the popular histories of those campaigns. Dead men do tell tales, and tales which can not be disputed.
Almost the only commands in Lee's army which were intact and serviceable at Appomattox, were North Carolina brigades, and the statement is made, and so far as I know without contradiction, that she surrendered twice as many muskets as any other State. At Greensboro, too, Hoke's Division, containing three brigades of North Carolina troops, in splendid condition and efficiency, constituted one-third or more of Johnston's entire army 5.
I mention these facts, not by way of ill-tempered or untasteful boasting, but by way of a proper self-assertion, a quality in which the people of my State are charged, and justly charged, with being deficient; and also because they testify to a state of things, which in the hands of a just and discriminating historian must greatly redound to the credit and honor of North Carolina.
For I shall not scruple to make the statement here which I have often made elsewhere, and I make it without the fear of giving offence to brave and great men, that the writers who have hastened to pen biographies of the great and illustrious leaders which Virginia gave to the Confederacy, have been too anxious to eulogize their heroes to give due attention to the forces which wrought their plans into such glorious results--the plain men whose deeds gave their leaders so much renown. The history of the British Kings had been often written, said Macaulay, but no one had ever written the history of the British people, which was the more useful to be learned.
So we are having many histories and biographies of the great generals and chieftains of our war, but we have not and are not likely to have soon, any history of the Confederate people of the thousands upon thousands who rushed forward under the banners of these chieftains; of the numbers who died; of the sufferings they endured, the sacrifices they made, of the labors of all classes performed; of the subsistence and material furnished by those not in the ranks; of their feelings, their hopes, patriotism and their despair. No history can be useful or instructive which gives us no glance into such things as these.
The broad, Catholic cosmopolitan history of this most remarkable struggle has yet to be written, wherein the story of the people shall be told ; wherein, when it is said how that a great general won a victory, it will also be mentioned what troops and where from who fought it for him; how the artisan in the shops, the ploughman in the field, the little girls in the factories, the mothers at the old hand looms, the herdsmen on the mountain's side, the miner in the earth's bowels, the drivers and brakesmen on the railroad engines, how all these felt, and strove, and suffered equally with the soldier, and yet without his stimulus of personal glory. Such a history would fill with content the palaces of the rich and the cottages of the poor, would imbue the humble masses with still greater patriotism, and our statesmen with a most useful knowledge; would remove local jealousies, and increase brotherly affection.
Having shown how North Carolina performed her duty to the Confederacy in furnishing soldiers, I desire to call attention heretofore corrected to the part she took in furnishing supplies and material. And here it would greatly interest the political economist were I able to give accurate instead of estimated figures, to consider what resources a people may exhibit under pressure of circumstances.
Every industry looking to the support of an army in the field, or the people at home, sprang forward with astonishing activity, especially those wherein we had formerly been dependent on foreign manufacturers. Like most of the Southern people, we were slavish tributaries to Northern and British manufacturers; the simplest article, in common use bore their impress, from a broom or an axe handle to a water bucket.
In the manufacture of cotton, North Carolina had less than $1,500,000 invested; in wool not over $300,000, perhaps not more in iron, and these latter were but small establishments for local accommodation. There was not a manufactory of arms worth mentioning in the State. Of cotton goods, not half a supply, even of the coarser sorts, were made for our own consumption; of woolen goods, scarcely a tenth; of iron, for ordinary purposes, not a twentieth; of shoes and leather, not a tenth part of home consumption, was supplied. Yet in less than twelve months we were not only filling that demand and furnishing large quantities for the army, but selling heavily to our Southern sisters.
When the capacity of the cotton and woolen mills began to be heavily taxed, the old-fashioned wheel, card and hand looms of our grand-mothers bloomed into fashion once more, and under the patriotic zeal of our mothers and daughters the whole land was musical with the sound of the spinning and the clack of the shuttle. When their hand cards gave out it was ascertained that there was no machinery in the South to renew the supply. But many thousands of pairs were imported through the blockade, as well as two sets of machinery for their manufacture, and the stock was abundantly renewed. Ere long, also, it was discovered that the card clothing and other destructible parts of the mills were giving out and could not be replaced in the Confederacy. This difficulty was also met by the importation of quantities of card clothing, belting and lubricating oils, which kept all the factories going till the end.
An abundant supply of cotton goods, and a full supply for the people, and a partial one for the army, of woolen, being thus provided, the remaining quota of woolen goods and leather findings were sought for abroad. By means of warrants based upon cotton and naval stores, an elegant long-legged steamer was purchased in the Clyde 6. She was built for a passenger boat to ply between Glasgow and Dublin, and was remarkably swift. Captain Crossan, who purchased her in connection with my financial agent, Mr. John White, ran her in at Wilmington with a full cargo in 1863, changed her name from Lord Clyde to the Ad-Vance. When her elegant saloons and passenger arrangements were cut away, she could carry with ease 800 bales of cotton and a double supply of coal. As cotton was worth in Liverpool then about 50 cents in gold, the facilities for purchasing abroad whatever we desired, is apparent. Before the port of Wilmington fell, this good vessel had successfully and without accident made eleven trips to Nassau, Bermuda and Halifax, through the Federal fleet, often coming through in open day. Captain Thomas Crossan, Captain Julius Guthrie, North Carolinians, and Captain Wylie, a Scotchman, were her successive commanders.
By reason of the abstraction or destruction of the Adjutant-General's record, as before remarked, I am unable to give an exact manifest of her several inward cargoes, but the following will give an idea of them: Large quantities of machinery supplies, 60,000 pairs of hand cards, 10,000 grain scythes, 200 barrels of blue stone for the wheat growers, leather and shoes for 250,000 pairs. 50,000 blankets, gray woolen cloth for at least 250,000 suits of uniforms, 12,000 overcoats ready made, 2,000 best Enfield rifles, with 100 rounds of fixed ammunition, 100,000 pounds bacon, 500 sacks of coffee for hospital use, $50.000 worth of medicines at gold prices, large quantities of lubricating oils. besides minor supplies of various kinds for the Charitable institutions of the State. Not only was the supply of shoes, blankets and clothing more than sufficient for the supply of North Carolina troops, but large quantities were turned over to the Confederate Government for the troops of other States.
In the winter succeeding the battle of Chickamaumga, I sent to General Longstreet's Corps, 14,000 suits of clothing complete. At the surrender of General Johnston, the State had on hand, ready made and in cloth, 92,000 suits of uniform, with great store of blankets, leather, etc., the greater part of which was distributed among the soldiers and people. To make good the warrants on which these purchases had been made abroad, the State purchased and had on hand in trust for the holders, 11,000 bales of cotton and 100,000 barrels of rosin. The cotton was partly destroyed before the war closed, the remainder, amounting to several thousand bales, was captured after peace was declared, by certain officers of the Federal army. The proceeds probably went into the United States Treasury, and probably not. Quien sabe.
This good vessel, the Ad-Vance, was finally captured on her twelfth trip, going out, by reason of unfit coal. She usually brought in enough Welsh coal, which being anthracite, made no smoke, to run her out again, but on this occasion she was compelled to give her supply to the cruiser Alabama, which was then in port, and to run out with North Carolina bituminous coal, which choked her flues, diminished her steam, and left a black column of smoke in her wake, by which she was easily followed and finally overtaken.
In addition to these supplies brought in from abroad, immense quantities of bacon, beef, flour and corn, were furnished from our own fields. I have no possible data for estimating these, but any one who is acquainted with the valley of the Roanoke, and the black, alluvial lowlands of Eastern North Carolina, will recognize what they can do in the production of corn when actively cultivated. And they and all the lands of this State were actively cultivated for the production of food.
I was told by General Joseph E. Johnston, that when his army was surrendered at Greensboro, he had in his depots in North Carolina, gathered in the State, five months' supplies for sixty-thousand men; and that for many months previous, General Lee's army had been almost entirely fed from North Carolina.
Public sentiment rigidly forbade the cultivation of any but limited crops of cotton and tobacco, and the distillation of grain was forbidden by law. Though perhaps mere brutum fulmen, in view of their constitutionality, these laws were cheerfully sustained by a patriotic public voice and were generally obeyed. The fields everywhere were green and golden with the corn and wheat.
Old men and women, in many cases, guided the plough whilst children followed with the hoe in the gaping furrows. The most serious conditions of life are oftentimes fruitful of amusement to those who have philosophy sufficient to grasp it; and the sufferings of those dark days were frequently illumined by the ludicrous. The prohibition upon distilling was regarded by many as a peculiar hardship. "Old Rye" grew to be worth its weight in silver, and "Mountain Dew" became as the nectar of the gods.
Even "New Dip" became precious, and was rolled as a sweet morsel-under our rebel tongues. Yet, true to their character of the most law-abiding people on the continent, all respected the act of Assembly. Many thirsting souls, however, fancied that I was invested with that illegal power, the exercise of which lost James II his crown, of dispensing with the laws, and petitioned me accordingly for a dispensation. The excuses given were various. One had much sickness in his family, and would I permit him to make a small "run" for medicine? Another wanted to make just enough "to go in camphor;" and still another gave it as his solemn opinion that it was going to be a terrible bad season for snakes, and they must have a little on hand in case of bites!
Finally one man wrote me, with an implied slander on my appetite, shocking to think of even now, that he only wanted to make ten gallons, and if I would give the permission he would send me a quart! I replied in all seriousness that I could not think of violating my official oath for less than a gallon. That broke the trade.
In addition to providing for the soldiers in the field, there was still a more difficult task in providing for the destitute at home, a task which I think the military men did not appreciate properly. For the comfort of soldiers traveling to and fro, wayside hospitals or inns were established at Weldon, Goldsboro, Wilmington, Raleigh, Greensboro, Salisbury, Charlotte, and other chief points. Here the sick, the wounded and the furloughed were entertained. But there were thousands of the families of the poor, whose only supporters were in the army, and whom we were in duty bound to care for and keep from suffering.
Not only did justice and humanity require this, but good policy as well: When the paper which the husband in the army received became so depreciated that it would buy the wife and children no bread, the strength and confidence of the Confederacy began to weaken at once. No cause, however just, no enthusiasm, however zealous, could long withstand the cry of wife and children for food. To meet this necessity, granaries were established at several points in the State, and corn distributed in the most needy districts; committees were appointed in each county to look after the needy, and commissioners selected, whose sole duty it was to provide salt.
The State became for the time a grand Almoner, and though from the very nature of the task it was impossible to effect the object completely, yet it is my opinion that no part performed in that great struggle was more deserving of praise than that effort which North Carolina made to provide for the poor families of those who were fighting for her independence on distant fields. These efforts went to the very gist of our success. Nor were these confined to the public authorities. Private charities and liberality abounded. Each county has its list of neighborhood heroes, gray-headed, quiet men, whose victories were won over the greedy passions of gain and the temptations of avarice.
They are pointed out yet as the men who would sell no corn except to soldiers' wives, widows or mothers; who would sell no leather from their tanyards except to put shoes on their feet, and who did not raise in price or discount their money. All honor to such men. And let history make mention of it as a fact, that in thus serving God they were likewise rendering a service to their country quite as great as that of the armed soldiers, and far greater than that of the brawling politicians. Nor did they stop with the giving of their goods.
Courage and patriotism usually go hand in hand with kindness of heart. Such an instance comes to my mind now in the person of old Thomas Calton, of Burke county, whose humble name I venture, to give as worthy of all honor and remembrance, and as a good sample of the grand but unglorified class of men among us who preserve the savor of good citizenship and ennoble our humanity, he not only gave his goods to sustain women and children, but gave all his sons, five in number, to the cause.
One by one they fell until at length a letter arrived, telling that the youngest and the last, the bright-haired, blue-eyed Benjamin of the hearth, had fallen also. Kind friends deputed an old neighbor to take the letter to him, and break the distressing news as gentle as possible. When made aware of his desolation, he made no complaint, uttered no exclamation of heart-broken despair, but called his son-in-law, a delicate, feeble man, who had been discharged by the army surgeons, and said, whilst his frail body trembled with emotion, and tears rolled down his aged cheeks: "Get your knapsack, William; the ranks must be filled!" Surely it may be said that the pure soul which can thus triumph over nature, like him that ruleth himself is greater than he who taketh a city!
Such were the efforts made in North Carolina, public and private, to avert the calamities of war and to sustain the spirits of the people. I attribute the comparatively great efficiency of the North Carolina troops to these efforts. In my opinion the causes of our ultimate failure begun by neglect of those at home. Our civil administrators lost the cause of the South.
Had it been equal in ability and tact to that displayed by our military administration--had the civilian done his part so well as the soldier--very different would have been the result. I do not mean by this to attack Mr. Davis and his ministers. By no means. They doubtless did what men could, situated as they were. I mean that the class of men to whom the management of public sentiment in a democratic government is usually entrusted, failed of their part. The morale of our people at the beginning and for two years thereafter was excellent ; and if it had been sustained I maintain that we could have won nothwithstanding the fearful disparity of numbers and means. But it was not kept up; and to that defective statesmanship which permitted the popular enthusiasm to die out and even aided to extinguish it, must be attributed our ill success. Few of our political leaders comprehended the situation at all when the troubles began.
In the first place the war was resorted to in order to avoid anticipated, not existing evils; and the great mass of mankind who do not read Burke and Hallam are only stirred permanently and deeply by present oppressions which they feel. Had a tenth of the outrages perpetrated since the war been inflicted upon us, or even attempted, before a blow had been stricken, there would have been no flagging of popular enthusiasm, no desertion, no Appomattox, no military satrapies instead of States under the Constitution.
In the second place, the war once begun, our leaders either did not grasp the magnitude of the struggle, or with an unwise want of candor concealed it as much as possible from the popular intelligence, which reacted most injuriously upon the cause. A frank avowal that the war would be long and desperate, and a call for volunteers to serve through its whole duration would have brought out the entire military strength of our people as well as the call for six months. This shortsighted policy had to be repaired by a conscript act, and although it was necessary at the time, the blunder of those who created the necessity remains the same. Our people never recovered from the damper inflicted on their enthusiasm by the anomalous spectacle of beholding men hunted down and tied to make them fight for freedom and independence!
Suffering and disappointment began to produce discontent at home. Little was done to allay this feeling. All eyes were turned to the army. The majority of our civic talent took service there, where as a general thing exultant politicians were buried without a corresponding resurrection of great generals. The civic talent which remained at home mistook to a wonderful extent, the temper of our people in other respects.
The Northern masses were kept up to the war pitch by appeals for the preservation of the Union. It was a stirring war cry; filled with the most sacred associations of our fathers and their great deeds, and attuned to the proudest glories moral, and physical, of the American citizen. We had no slogan half so thrilling. Our denunciation of abolition operated only upon the comparatively few who reflected upon its consequences and foresaw the evils of a violated Constitution. Seven-tenths of our people owned no slaves, and to say the least of it, felt no great and enduring enthusiasm for its preservation, especially when it seemed to them that it was in no danger. Our statesmen were not wise enough to put the issue on any other ground. In brief, it was not so arranged as that the causes of the war took hold upon the popular heart, and the real wonder is, that, sustained mainly by sectional pride and a manly, war-like spirit, the contest lasted so long as it did.
Again: when our currency depreciated so that it would not pay the government which issued it, a tithe law was enacted, seizing the people's goods by way of taxes whilst their pockets were filled with the government promises to pay. Then there came another law exempting from militia duty those who owned a certain number of slaves; an exceedingly injurious measure for which no possible advantage could atone. These sources of discontent, added to much suffering at home soon put matters beyond the remedial agency of the wisest statesmanship. Enthusiasm died out; confidence fled. Desertion began, and the deserter's place was filled by more conscripts. The result was that not only were the discontent and suffering increased, but the just ratio between those who labor at home and those who serve in the field and consume, was destroyed; so that the larger the army became the weaker it grew; lacking the healthy strength of well organized communities behind it.
Since the formation of States on the basis of civilization, and the barbarian tribes ceased to wage war by migrating into the territory of their enemies, there is perhaps no instance of a community stript so bare of its industrial and productive forces as was the South in 1864. Prussia during the seven years war is perhaps an exception to this assertion; I can not remember any other. From many districts--county sub-divisions--in North Carolina, I had, during 1864, petitions signed by women alone, praying that A. B. might not be ordered away, as he was the only able-bodied man in their district, to protect them, grind their grain, etc. But for our slaves, society could not then have moved on at all.
I have dwelt thus long on the reasons for my assertion that our cause was lost at home and not in the field, in order to excuse the emphasis which I have given to domestic affairs in North Carolina during this period, and the efforts which we made to remove these springs of discontent. They are not unworthy of your notice, though not so exciting as stories of battles and sieges, because they go to the root of the matter. And although we were not entirely successful in feeding all the poor and keeping down all discontent, yet much was done, and we had the proud satisfaction of knowing that more soldiers, in better condition, hailing from Old North Carolina were standing by the great Virginia Chieftains, Lee and Johnston, when the bugle sounded the melancholy notes of surrender, than from any other State of the Confederacy.
When it is remembered that North Carolina was devoted to the Union, and rejected secession until the very last, that much has been said about an unruly, disloyal Union element in her midst during the war, and that she has been accused of having an unusual amount of desertions from her ranks, it will be admitted, I trust, that we have a right to be proud that we are thus vindicated by the facts and figures. Surely no portion of the Southern people can show a brighter record, a nobler devotion to good faith and order.
So great was the prevalence of this unjust impression, that North Carolina could be easily detached from her duty to her confederates, that it seems there were some who presumed upon it for important purposes. Soon after the failure of the Fortress Monroe or Hampton Roads conference, I was visited by Governor Graham (whose death we so recently deplore), who was then a Senator of the Confederate States. After giving all the particulars of that conference which had not appeared in the papers, and the prevailing impressions of congressional circles about Richmond, etc., he informed me that a number of leading gentlemen there, despairing of obtaining peace through Mr. Davis, and believing the end inevitable and not distant, had requested him to visit me and urge me as Governor of North Carolina, to take steps for making separate terms with Mr. Lincoln, and thus inaugurate the conclusion. That he had agreed to lay their request before me without promising to add his personal advice thereto. I asked who these gentlemen were, and with some reluctance he gave me their names, chiefly Senators and Representatives in the Confederate Congress. I asked why these gentlemen did not begin negotiations for their own States with the enemy, and if they would come out in the papers with this request to me. He said they could not take the initiative, they were so surrounded at home, and so trammelled by pledges, etc., as to render it impossible! I declined the proposition, of course, and asked him to say to those gentlemen, with my compliments, that in the mountains where I was raised, when a man was whipped he had to do his own hollowing; that the technical word "enough" could not be cried by proxy. This piece of secret history will serve to show that there was a faintness of heart and a smiting together of knees in other parts of the South outside of North Carolina 7.
There are among us unnatural sons of the soil, who being enlightened by the knowledge-inspiring sweets of Federal flesh-pots denounce publications vindicating our record during the war as evincing a purpose to keep alive the fires of sectional bitterness, and feed a spirit of ill-faith toward our present duties. Again, there are others in our midst, timid souls, abounding in those good intentions which are said to consist of the paving stones of a certain nether locality, who say they fear these charges are just or at least our action looks that way, and had better cease for that reason. I cannot agree with either. I am sure such imputations are libellous.
The preservation of the truth--especially the truth of history--challenges the interest of all mankind. To set forth the real deeds which we and our associates enacted, and the real issues before us as the only proper motives which incited to their performance, is a solemn duty we owe to ourselves and to posterity. It is especially due to our own posterity--to those who are to succeed us as citizens of the United States under a peculiar and most complicated system of government.
The light which our conflict will afford them in grappling with many difficulties of the future, will be as a lamp to their feet, if our story be truly told; but if falsely related, it would prove a delusion and a snare. False history must teach false lessons, and false indeed would have been the verdict of the muse had it been inspired alone by the bitter rantings and partisan war cries of one side; and that side, too, making history, or trying to make history, for the purpose of keeping itself in power. But after a season, bold and representative men begin gradually to creep into the National Legislature and other positions where their voices may be heard. Both sides now make statements; contention arises, and from its fiery heats, so alarming to the timid, comes forth the precious gems of truth, pure and glorified, whose lessons, like the leaves of the tree of life, are for the healing of the nations.
Surely, there is in our story food to satisfy the reflective and to fire the hearts of the brave, for many generations; how that written constitutions which men are sworn to support, are yet as feathers in the gale before the fierce passions excited by interest, sectional hatred, and religious bigotry, and that the only hope of freedom is, after all, when her anchors take hold deep down in the hearts of men; how that a simple agricultural people, unused to war, without manufactures, without ships, shut out from the world and supposed to be effeminated and degenerated by African slavery, yet waged a four years contest against four times their numbers, and ten times their means, supplementing all their necessities, and improvising all their material almost out of dreary wastes of chaos; how that their generals wrought out campaigns not discreditable to the genius of Hannibal, Caius Julius, Marlborough and Napoleon; whilst their gently nurtured soldiers fought and marched and endured with the courage of the Grecian phalanx, the steadiness of the Roman Legion, and the endurance of the British Lion--and all because the Southern people had preserved the lofty souls and gallant spirits of their ancestry; had treasured up the traditions of chivalry and personal honor which their fathers had bequeathed them as the highest glory of a race, instead, of the heaping together of dollars; the great lesson which this age is striving to forget, that States will be as their men are, that men will be as their souls are, sordid or lofty as they are taught: And if there be any man among us, North or South, who feels that the truth of this cruel war should not be known, or that it is dangerous to honor that courage and patriotism which extend to the giving of life in its support, in any cause which a Christian soldier could maintain; or that unfaithfulness to present duty is bred from a reverencing of the memory of those who died to preserve their faith; with such I have no desire to harmonize, the good opinion of all such I can afford to despise. We know that the glorious profession of arms is of the highest importance to a State; and a skill to wield the sword and the manhood to fight battles are cardinal elements of successful civilization. All peace and mental cultivation produce effeminate Greeks of the lower empire. All war and physical development produce the Goth and the Hun. But when the martial and the civil spirit are judiciously combined, the highest types of human progress are brought forth.
ZEBULON B. VANCE,
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W: VA.,
18 August, 1875.
1 This is the speech made by Gov. Vance at White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., 18 August, 1875. It is reprinted here as a valuable contribution to the history of North Carolina Troops 1861-'65 --Ed.
2 Since then, copies of those letter books have been furnished to the State.--ED.
3 Governor Vance's figures are official as far as they go but he omits some data then not known to him. A fuller and more complete statement of the number of regiments and number of troops furnished by this State will be found in the article "Number of Troops Furnished by North Carolina" in Vol. 5 of this work.--ED.
4 In fact, more then one in every five. ED
5 In his estimate of the proportion of North Carolinians at the two surrenders, Gov. Vance unintentionally overstates the facts in favor of his State, though of course in honest reliance upon the information before him.--Ed.
6 It is but justice to state here that the idea of obtaining supplies in this way, was suggested to me by Gen. J. G. Martin, then Adjutant General of the State. It was his practical ability which shaped the outline of the scheme, though he bad returned to active service in the Confederate army before its fruits were reaped. Z.B.V.
7 Since the synopsis of this was published, I have received a letter from an esteemed friend in Hillsboro', N C. who says he had a conversation with Gov. Graham on the same subject, and that his recollection is that the proposition made to me was, that I should take steps to withdraw the North Carolina troops from Gen. Lee's army, which would force him to surrender and thus end the war. It may be that my friend's recollection is correct. I am quite sure. however, that substantially I was requested to take separate and independent action to end the contest, and I do not regard the difference between my friend's statement and my own as very material, I have also been surprised to learn that this statement was construed by many as a personal reflection, both on Gov. Graham and the gentlemen who entrusted him with the message. Surely nothing could have been further from my intention. It was understood at Richmond. as 1 learned, that Mr. Davis neither could nor would negotiate any treaty which involved the destruction of his own government, and as Gen. Lee could only hold out a few days or weeks longer, it was deemed important by those gentlemen to undertake action by the States separately. I was only indignant that those, who were so lively in the beginning of the fight and reflected so severely on North Carolina for her tardiness. should undertake to make her the scape goat of defeat. I did not regard it as a treacherous or dishonorable proposition, but as one which would have put our State in a false position, if accepted by me. Z.B.V.
This remarkable speech by Governor Vance is quoted in its entirety and may be found in North Carolina Regiments, by Walter Clark, 1901, Volume IV, pages 663-481. Paragraphs have been added for clarity.
Derick S. Hartshorn - ©2008