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forced, we concluded that their supply of ammunition of all kinds
was getting short. The ordnance wagons being driven close up in

Ghickamauga. 405

rear of our lines our own cartridge-boxes were fully replenished, and
everything being in readiness orders were given to press the enemy
so as to engage his attention along the whole line, but to mak^ no
general assault till we could hear the result of an effort to be made to
break through the defences in front of Lucius Polk's brigade. As I
had been several times over the ground, I was sent with the orders
directing the assault by Brigadier-General Polk, and was instructed
to return with information as soon as assured of its success. Riding
by the side of General Lucius Polk, I witnessed the splendid charge
of the veterans of his brigade up the ridge held by Thomas. I never
witnessed a more enthusiastic and intrepid charge, and it carried
everything before it. What seemed to be a heavy skirmish line be-
hind logs was quickly destroyed and forced back on a front line of
log breastworks, and such was the impetuosity of the attack that our
men rushed up to and over these works driving the troops there, in
utter confusion, back on the main line. Here General L. E. Polk
said to me : " Go back and tell the old general that we have passed
two lines of breastworks, that we have got them on the jump, and I
am sure of carrying the main line " At the top of my horse's speed
I rode to where General Leonidas Polk waited in a small glade, near
Breckenridge's left. As I was seen approaching, Breckenridge,
Cheatham and other commanders present drew up on horseback
around General Polk, who immediately on receiving my report said
to those officers: " Push your commands forward, gentlemen, and as-
sault them vigorously along the whole line."

Away went generals and staff at full speed, and when the order to
advance reached our troops, who were expecting it, the stirring
Confederate yell arose and swelled to a full chorus along the whole
line as our men rushed to the charge.

General Thomas had probably drawn a large portion of his force
to support his extreme left, in order to prevent our driving him back
there and cutting him off from Chattanooga — leaving a weaker force
to hold the position behind the works, whose strength he had seen
tested earlier in the day. Whether the determination of General
Polk to attack the works in front of Cleburne was based upon this
supposition I know not, but it proved a Ibrtunate decision for us.
As our troops advanced they encountered the heavy force on
Thomas's extreme left, and our right was roughly handled. But by
this time Lucius Polk had broken through the line of works, and" as
the Federal line found itself attacked, right and left, in flank, as our

406 Southern Historical Society Papers.

troops passed through this opening, they broke froni the Hne and
fled precipitatelv. A considerable portion of Thomas's force on his
left, where Liddell had been repulsed, may have retired in compara-
tive order, but as his troops fell back from what was their original
front they were attacked in flank by our men who had charged over
the works, and with the victorious shouts of Longstreet's wing
sounding in their ears from one side, answered by the prolonged
yells of our wing on the other, the greater portion of the Federal
army was soon broken into a disorganized and panic-stricken mass
of fugitives. Such, at least, was their condition in front of the
troops with which I passed over their field works. I have read ac-
counts of this fight from the Federal side, and some from Confederate
officers who were with our left wing, in which it was stated that
Thomas withdrew his forces about dark. In our front they withdrew
before the charge of our troops over the breastworks, and the quan-
tity of small arms and accoutrements scattered in all directions,
limber-chests, caissons, and pieces of artillery abandoned where they
had been jammed in between trees and saplings in rapid flight, bore
conclusive testimony to the character of their withdrawal.

Darkness and the near approach of the two wings of our army
towards each other made it expedient to stop the pursuit of the fugi-

Your correspondent magnifies the number of men in Bragg's
arm3\ In one place he says Bragg lost "two-fifths of his 70,000
men." Further on he mentions his asking General Longstreet,
" Why did Bragg bring on the battle of the 19th with only 55,000
men, when he knew that you were on your way to reinforce him and
he would have 70,000 next day ? " So he states our force on the 19th
as 55,000 men, and 70,000 on the 20th. I have heretofore stated the
number engaged on our side on the 19th as less than 32,000, and
General Longstreet could have informed him that our whole eff^ective
force never exceeded 55,000 men, and deducting at least 6,000 lost in
Saturday's fignt, we had only about 49,000 men in the engagement
of the 20th of September. The official reports of the Federal com-
manders show their force on that day to have been 53, 550 men. Take
into consideration also the fact that this force was behind breast
works; some of which were of a very formidable character, and it
will be easily understood, by every one familiar with such matters,
that we fought against great odds.

It is probable that Bragg's loss in killed and wounded was heavier

CKickamauga. 407

than that of Rosecranz. Fighting at such disadvantage our troops
suffered severely in the desperate charges against entrenched hues,
and there were points in open spaces in front of their works where an
active person might have crossed a considerable extent of ground on
the dead bodies of our men, which lay like fallen timber in newly
cleared land. I do not remember that I ever saw an offtcial report of
our loss, but I remember hearing it stated at headquarters as about

There is no doubt of the fact that the fruits of our hard-earned vic-
tory were thrown away by the failure to follow it up promptly. Our
troops were eager to advance, and could not understand the delay on
the battle-ground all next day. Finally, when we did move, it was not
direcdy on Chattanooga. Had the victory been followed up, as
advised by General Longstreet and General Forrest, there is little
doubt but that we would have taken Chattanooga at once, and,
probably, have broken up Rosecranz's army.

I was sent forward with communications to General Forrest on
Missionary Ridge, and heard him express the opinion that he could
drive the wreck of Rosecranz's army into or across the Tennessee
river with the cavalry force of our army alone. No one chafed at
our inactivity more than this hard-fighting cavalry general, and
more than once he sent back messages to General Bragg, urging the
importance of pushing the defeated enemy.

Becoming interested in the subject, under the influence of the " old-
soldier" habit of talking over past battles, I have written more than
I intended at the start. I regret that I have had to make so frequent
use of the pronoun " I, " but I trust I have not done so in a way to indi-
cate a want of proper modesty. I regret that a want of experience in
the role of newspaper correspondent makes it almost a necessity
for me to write in the first person. The details as to my personal
services in different commands in this engagement, are given to show
that I was so situated as to be able to see very much of the operations
of our troops, and those points, of which I have written minutely, are
indelibly fixed in my memory as an actor or eye-witness in the scenes.

Macon, Ga., April ^th, 188 j.

408 Southern Historical Society Papers.

Letter from President Davis on States' Rights.

The yackson (Miss.) Clarioji prints the following letter:

"Beauvoir, Mississippi, June 20, 1885.

" Colonel J. L. Power, Clarion Office :

"Dear Sir. — Among the less-inlormed persons at the North
there exists an opinion that the negro slave at the South was a mere
chattel, having neither rights nor immunities protected by law or
public opinion. Southern men knew such was not the case, and
others desiring to know could readily learn the fact. On that
error the lauded story of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' was ipunded, but it is
strange that a utilitarian and shrewd people did not ask why a slave,
especiallv valuable, was the object of privation and abuse? Had it
been a horse they would have been better able to judge, and would
most probably have rejected the story for its improbability. Many
attempts have been made to evade and misrepresent the exhaustive
opinion of Chief-Justice Taney in the ' Dred Scott' case, but it re-
mains unanswered.

"From the statement in regard to Fort Sumter, a child might sup-
pose that a foreign army had attacked the United States— certainly
could not learn that the State of .South Carolina was merely seeking
possession of a fort on her own soil, and claiming that her grant of
the site had become void.

"The tyrant's plea of necessity to excuse despotic usurpation is
offered for the unconstitutional act of emancipation, and the poor
resort to prejudice is invoked in the use of the epithet ' rebellion' —a
word inapplicable to States generally, and most especially so to the
sovereio;n members of a voluntary union. But, alas for their ancient
prestige, they have even lost the plural reference they had in the
Con.stitution, and seem so small to this utilizing tuition as to be de-
scribed by the neutral pronoun ' it !' Such language would be ap-
propriate to an imperial Government, which in absorbing territories
required the subjected inhabitants to swear allegiance to it.

" Ignorance and artifice have combined so to misrepresent the
matter of official oaths in the United .States that it may be well to
give the question more than a passing notice. When the 'sove-
reign, independent .States of America,' formed a constitutional com-
pact of union it was provided in the sixth article thereof that the
officers ' of the United .States and of the several States shall be bound

Lett er from President Davis on States' Rights. 409

by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution,' and by the law
of June I, 1789, the form of the required oath was prescribed as
follows : 'I, A B, do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be)
that I will support the Constitution of the United States.'

" That was the oath. The obligation was to support the Constitu-
tion. It created no new obligation, for the citizen already owed
allegiance to his respective State, and through her to the Union of
which she was a member. The conclusion is unavoidable that those
who did not support, but did not violate the Constitution, were they
who broke their official oaths. The General Government had only
the powers delegated to it by the States. The power to coerce a
State was not given, but emphatically refused. Therefore, to invade
a State, to overthrow its government by force of arms, was a palpa-
ble violation of the Constitution, which officers had sworn to support,
and thus to levy war against States which the Federal officers claimed
to be, notwithstanding their ordinances of secession, still in the
Union, was the treason defined in the third section of the third arti-
cle of the Constitution, the only treason recognized by the funda-
mental law of the United States.

' ' When our forefathers assumed for the several States they repre-
sented a separate and equal station among the powers of the earth,
the central idea around which their political institutions were grouped
was that sovereignty belonged to the people, inherent and inalienable;
therefore, that governments were their agents, instituted to secure
their rights, and 'deriving their just powers from the consent of the
governed, whence they draw the corollary that whenever any form of
government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the
people to alter or abolish it," etc. What was meant by the word
'people' in this connection is manifest from the circumstances. It
could only authoritatively refer to the distinct communities who, each
for itself, joined in the declaration and in the concurrent act of sepa-
ration from the government of Great Britain.

" By all that is revered in the memory of our Revolutionary sires,
and sacred in the principles they established, let not the children of
the United States be taught that our Federal Government is sove-
reign; that our sires, after having, by a long and bloody war, won
community-independence, used the power, not for the end sought,
but to transfer their allegiance, and by oath or otherwise bind their
posterity to be the subjects of another government, from which they
could only free themselves by force of arms.

"Respectfully, Jefferson Davis."

410 Soutliern Historical Society Papers.

Letter from Hon. James P. Holcombe to Secretary Benjamin.

Montreal, Canada East, June i8, it

Hoyi. JUDAH p. Benjamin, Richmond :

Mv Dear Sir, — I expect to finish my business in Canada in
time to reach HaHfax early in August, whence, if no instructions
meet me miposing other duties, I shall proceed directly to Ber
muda, and from that point into the Confederacy. Whilst the
condition of the country makes the probability of a speedy re-
union with my family most welcome, I would cheerfully protract
my stay abroad if I could thereby really advance any public
interest. Disqualified for all military service by physical infir-
mities, there is no wish so near my heart as to render aid in
some other form to the cause of our country. It has been fre-
quently suggested to me, by those whose opinions were entitled to
respect, that my studies in international law might be turned to some
good account in England. Almost every weekly steamer brings us
tidings of some novel question of neutral duty or belligerent right
which has just sprung up, involving interests of deep importance to
the Confederacy. Some admirable articles have appeared in the
hidex on points of public law, but its circulation is so limited that
we cannot keep the public mind properly informed, without address-
ing it through other organs. Cases are also frequently occurring like
that of the Chesapeake and the Gerrity, in which some more active
agency than the pen may be required. As I have no desire in the
premises except to find a place in which any capacity I may possess
for usefulness can be profitably employed, any view of the suggestion
which may be taken by you will be entirely satisfactory to me.
Whilst I think there are valuable results to be more promptly secured
by labor in this section, sooner or later some action must be taken by
foreign governments on this question, and it seems to me that, in
this connection, the public opinion of England is a matter of great
consequence to us.

Hoping that the enemy will be completely foiled in their new base
of operations as in their old ones,

I am, very truly yours, &c.,

James P. Holcombe.

Correspondence between Gov. Vance and Pres't Davis. 411

Correspondence between Governor Vance, of North Carolina, and President

Jefferson Davis.

[General Sherman's friends, in their vain efforts to extricate him
from the web of mendacity, which he has woven for himself in his
controversy with Mr. Davis, have been the occasion of the publica-
tion of a number of the letters of the great Confederate chief But
they all tend to brand Sherman's slander and make clearer President
Davis's position. The following are worth preserving:]

State of North Carolina,
Executive Department,
Raleigh^ December ^o, i86j.
His Excellency, Presideyit Davis:

My Dear Sir, — After a careful consideration of all the sources
of discontent in North Carolina, I have concluded that it will be per-
haps impossible to remove it, except by making some effort at nego-
tiation with the enemy. The recent action of the Federal House of
Representatives, though meaning very little, has greatly excited the
public hope that the Northern mind is looking towards peace. I am
promised by all men, who advocate this course, that if fair terms are
rejected, it will tend greatly to strengthen and intensify the war feel-
ing, and will rally all classes to a more cordial support of the govern-
ment. And although our position is well known, as demanding only
to be let alone, yet it seems to me that for the sake of humanity, with-
out having any weak or improper motives attributed to us, we might
with propriety constantly tender negotiations. In doing so, we would
keep conspicuously before the world a disclaimer of our responsi-
bility for the great slaughter of our race, and convince the humblest
of our citizens — who sometimes forget the actual situation — that the
government is tender of their lives and happiness, and would not
prolong their sufferings unnecessarily one moment. Though states-
men might regard this as useless, the people will not, and I think
our cause will be strengthened thereby. I have not suggested the
method of these negotiations or their terms. The effort to obtain
peace is the principal matter. Allow me to beg your earnest con-
sideration of this suggestion.

Very respecttully yours,
(Signed) Z. B. Vance.

412 Southern Historical Society Papers.

Executive Office, Richmond, January 8, 1864.

His Excellency, Z. B. Vance,

Governor of North Carolina, Raleigh, N. C:

Dear Sir, — I have received your letter of the 30th ult. contain-
ing suggestions of the measures to be adopted for the purpose of
removing " the sources of discontent " in North Carolina. The con-
tents of the letter are substantially the same as those of the letter
addressed by you to Senator Dortch, extracts of which were by
him read to me. * *

Apart from insuperable objection to the line of policy you pro-
pose (and to which I will presendy advert), I cannot see how the
mere material obstacles are to be surmounted. We have made
three distinct efforts to communicate with the authorities at Wash-
ington, and have been, invariably, unsuccessful. Commissioners
were sent before hostilities were begun, and the Washington govern-
ment refused to see them or hear what they had to say. A second
time I sent a military officer with a communication addressed by
myself to President Lincoln. The letter was received by General
Scott, who did not permit the officer to see Mr. Lincoln, but who
promised that an answer would be sent. No answer has ever been
received. The third time, a iew months ago, a gentleman was sent
whose position, character, and reputation were such as to insure his
reception, if the enemy were not determined to receive no proposal
whatever from this government. Vice-President Stephens made a
patriotic tender of his services in the hope of being able to promote
the cause of humanity, and although little belief was entertained of
his success, I ch'^erfully yielded to his suggestion, that the experi-
ment should be tried. The enemy refused to let him pass through
their lines or to hold any conference with them. He was stopped
before he even reached Fortress Monroe on his way to Washington,
To attempt again (in the face of these repeated rejections of all con-
ference with us), to send commissioners or agents to propose peace,
is to invite insult and contumely, and to subject ourselves to indig-
nity, without the slightest chance of being listened to. No true
citizen, no man who has our cause at heart can desire this, and the
good people of North Carolina would be the last to approve of such
an attempt, if aware of all the facts. So far from removing "sources
of discontent," such a course would receive as it would merit the
condemnation of those true patriots who have given their blood and
treasure to maintain the freedom, equality and independence which

Correspondence behveen Gov. Vance and Prest Davis. 413

descended to them from the immortal heroes of King's Mountain
and other battlefields of the Revolution.

If, then, proposals cannot be made through envoys because^ the
enemy would not receive them, how is it possible to communicate
our desire for peace otherwise than by the public announcements
contained in almost every message I ever sent to Congress. I can-
not recall, at this time, one instance in which I have failed to announce
that our only desire was peace, and the only terms which formed a
sine qtia non, were precisely those that you suggest, namely, ' ' a de-
mand only to be let alone."

But suppose it were practicable to obtain a conference through
commissioners, with the Government of President Lincoln, is it at
this moment that we are to consider it desirable, or even at all
practical ? Have we not just been apprised by that despot that we
can only expect his gracious pardon by emancipating all our slaves,
swearing allegiance and obedience to him and his proclamations,
and becoming in point of fact the slaves of our own negroes? Can
there be in North Carolina one citizen so fallen beneath the dignity of
his ancestors as to accept or enter into conference on the basis of
these terms? That there are a few traitors in the State who would
be willing to betray their fellow- citizens to such a degraded position
in the hope of being rewarded for treachery by an escape from the
common doom may be true. But I do not believe the vilest wretch
would accept such terms for himself.

I cannot conceive how the people of your State, than which none
has sent nobler or more gallant soldiers to the field of battle (one of
whom it is your honor to be), can have been deceived by anything
to which you refer in the recent action of the Federal House of Rep-
resentatives. I have seen no action of the house that does not in
dicate by a very decided majority the purpose of the enemy to refuse
all terms to the South except absolute, unconditional subjugation or
extermination. But if it were otherwise, how are we to treat with
the House of Representatives ? It is with Lincoln alone that we
could confer, and his own partisans at the North avow unequivocally
that his purpose, as his message and proclamation was to shut out
all hope that he would ever treat with us on any terms If we will
break up our government, dissolve the Confederacy, disband our
armies, emancipate our slaves, and take an oath of allegiance bind-
ing ourselves to obedience to him, and to disloyalty to our own
States, he proposes to pardon us, and not to plunder us of anything
more than the property already stolen from us and such slaves as still


414 Southern Historical Societij Papers.

remain. In order to render his proposals so insulting as to secure
their rejection, he joins to them a promise to support with his army
one-tenih of the people of any State who will attempt to set up a
government over the other nine- tenths, thus seeking- to sow dis-
cord and suspicion among the people of the several States, and to
excite them to civil war in furtherance of his ends.

I know well that it would be impossible to get your people, if they
possessed full knowledge of these facts, to consent that proposals
should now be made by us to those who control the Govern-
ment at Washington. Your own well known devotion to the great
cause of liberty and independence, to which we have all committed
whatever we have of earthly possessions, would induce you to take
the lead in repelling the bare thought of abject submission to the
enemy. Yet peace on other terms is now impossible. To obtain the
sole terms to which you or I could listen, this struggle must continue
until the enemy is beaten out of his vain confidence in our subjuga-
tion. Then, and not till then, will it be possible to treat of peace.
Till then all tender of terms to the enemy will be received as proof
that we are ready for submission, and will encourage him in the atro-
cious warfare which he is waging.

I fear much from the tenor of the news I receive from North Caro-
lina, that an attempt will be made by some bad men to inaugurate
movements which must be considererd as equivalent to " aid and
comfort to the enemy," and which all patriots should combine to put
down at any cost. You may count on my aid in every effort to spare
your State the scenes of civil war, which will devastate its homes if |
the designs ot these traitors be suffered to make headway. I know
you will place yourself in your legitimate position in the lead of those
who will not suffer the name of the old North State to be blackened
by such a stain. Will you pardon me for suggesting that my only
source of disquietude on the subject, has arisen from the fear that
you will delay too long the action, which now appears inevitable, and

Online LibrarySouthern Historical Society. cnSouthern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) → online text (page 43 of 61)