May 2013 – Fresh Pickings from the Confederate Grapevine

I-LeonApril – I suppose the end is near, for there is no more hope for the South to gain her independence. On the 10th of this month we were told by an officer that all those who wished to get out of prison by taking the oath of allegiance to the United States could do so in a very few days. There was quite a consultation among the prisoners. On the morning of the 12th we heard that Lee had surrendered on the 9th, and about 400, myself with them, took the cursed oath and were given transportation to wherever we wanted to go. I took mine to New York City to my parents, whom I have not seen since 1858. Our cause is lost; our comrades who have given their lives for the independence of the South have died in vain; that is, the cause for which they gave their lives is lost, but they positively did not give their lives in vain. They gave it for a most righteous cause, even if the Cause was lost. Those that remain to see the end for which they fought – what have we left? Our sufferings and privations would be nothing had the end been otherwise, for we have suffered hunger, been without sufficient clothing, barefooted, lousy, and have suffered more than any one can believe, except soldiers of the Southern Confederacy. And the end of all is a desolated home to go to. When I commenced this diary of my life as a Confederate soldier I was full of hope for the speedy termination of the war, and our independence. I was not quite nineteen years old. I am now twenty-three. The four years that I have given to my country I do not regret, nor am I sorry for one day that I have given – my only regret is that we have lost that for which we fought. Nor do I for one moment think that we lost it by any other way than by being outnumbered at least five if not ten to one. The world was open to the enemy, but shut out to us. I shall now close this diary in sorrow, but to the last I will say that, although but a private, I still say our Cause was just, nor do I regret one thing that I have done to cripple the North.

In December of 1860 and January of 1861, many newspapers across the North and Midwest simply wanted to “let the South go in peace.” But the bankers, railroads and shippers soon informed the press of the financial implications of Southern independence. The editorial tune changed dramatically in February and March of 1861 to “No, we must NOT let the South go,” and “what about our shipping?” and “what about our revenue?” As the New York Times noted on March 30th,“We were divided and confused until our pockets were touched.” [ See Northern Editorials on Secession, Howard C. Perkins, ed., 1965] The North prevented southern independence because it threatened their financial interests. The South wanted independence for its own best interests, in the tradition of the American Founders. It sought peaceful separation, but fought in self-defense when invaded and blockaded. The Official Big Lie (a war to end slavery) was created and maintained to obscure the overthrow of the Founding Principles, and the true motivations that resulted in tragic and unnecessary death on an epic scale.

Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson

“Jackson was always a surprise. Nobody ever understood him, and nobody has ever been quite able to account for him. The members of his own staff, of whom I happen to have known one or two intimately, seem to have failed, quite as completely as the rest of the world, to penetrate his singular and contradictory character. His biographer, Mr. John Esten Cooke, read him more perfectly perhaps than anyone else, but even he, in writing of the hero, evidently views him from the outside. Dr. Dabney, another of Jackson’s historians, gives us a glimpse of the man, in one single aspect of his character, which may be a clue to the whole. “He says there are three kinds of courage, of which two only are bravery. These three varieties of courage are, first, that of the man who is simply insensible of danger; second, that of men who, understanding, appreciating, and fearing danger, meet it boldly nevertheless, from motives of pride; and third, the courage of men keenly alive to danger, who face it simply from a high sense of duty. Of this latter kind, the biographer tells us, was Jackson’s courage, and certainly there can be no better clue to his character than this. Whatever other mysteries there may have been about the man, it is clear that his well-nigh morbid devotion to duty was his ruling characteristic.”

Source: “A Rebel’s Recollections” by George Cary Eggleston, published 187, pages 150-151 Photo: Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson by Chris Collingwood.