Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Most Wretched and Abject People on the Face of the Earth

This entry comes from A Gentleman and an Officer: A Military and Social History of James B. Griffin's Civil War, Judith N. McArthur and Orville Vernon Burton, eds., and can be found at
W.W. Norton and Company's website at: A Gentleman and and Officer .

"James B. Griffin (1825–1881) was not one of the towering figures of the Confederacy, nor was he simply a soldier in the ranks: he was a southern gentleman, like many others, who went to war to defend his rights and to liberate the South from the North's attempts to subjugate her."  He was a lieutenant colonel at the time he wrote this letter, and was attended by two slaves, Ned and Abram.

In this excerpt Griffin imagines what life will be like if the North wins the war. . . .

Camp of the Legion
February 26th 1862

My Darling Leila
 . . . We cannot see, My Darling, into the future, but I trust & have confidance in our people to believe, that if the unprincipled North shall persist in her policy of Subjugating the South, that we, who are able to resist them, will continue to do so, until we grow old and worn out in the service, and that then, our Sons will take the arms from our hands, and spend their lives, if necessary, in battling for Liberty and independence. 
As for my part, If this trouble should not be settled satisfactorily to us sooner—I would be proud of the thought that our youngest Boy—Yes Darling little Jimmie, will after awhile be able and I trust willing to take his Father's place in the field, and fight until he dies, rather than, be a Slave, Yea worse than a Slave to Yankee Masters—

Have you ever anticipated, My Darling, what would be our probable condition, if we should be conquered in this war? The picture is really too horrible to contemplate. In the first place, the tremendous war tax, which will have accumulated, on the northern Government, would be paid entirely and exclusively by the property belonging to the Southerners. And more than this we would be an humbled, down trodden and disgraced, people. Not entitled to the respect of any body, and have no respect for ourselves. In fact we would be the most wretched and abject people on the face of the Earth. Just be what our Northern Masters say we may be. Would you, My Darling, desire to live, if this was the case? would you be willing to leave your Children under such a government? No—I know you would sacrifice every comfort on earth, rather than submit to it. . . .

A Confederate soldier, from the Library of Congress Collection

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Great Lever That Moves This World

This entry comes from David White English, Private, Company E, Fifty-First Illinois Infantry, and the letter can be found in its entirety at the 51st Illinois Regiment Website.    

English was an optimist, as you will see from excepts of his letter that follow.  

While he was with his regiment, he was never sick, always there, and could be counted on.  Then, on September 5, 1852 he was sent to the hospital and permanently discharged from the service 10 days later.  It appears that he was kicked by a mule causing a double hernia.

Let not my going war depress your spirits in the least. You can always refer to it with pride that your good man, enlisted in the grand Army of the Union for the defense of our glorious country's flag which our fathers left us. Refer to it often to the children while I am gone, and have them read the histories of the wars which you have, viz: Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and others, to see how our ancestors went through so many hardships while we apparently live at our ease, not fearing to be attacked by the enemy at any point, and when we make a blow, we take all their supplies, and as many of the enemy as possible escape with their lives, glad to abandon every thing for the sake of their own lives.

.. . .I will bring my letter to a close, appealing to you to stand by the great lever that moves this world of mankind - Hope - "hope on - hope ever." All things will come out right.

A portion of David White English's Letter