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CHAPTER XIV-THE SOUTHERN PEOPLE
80. In the Confederate Congress (1862-1863)
BY REPRESENTATIVE REUBEN DAVIS (1889)
For Davis, see No. 58 above. — Bibliography: Channing and Hart, Guide, §§ 204,
HUS dawned upon Richmond and the South the morning of the 22d of February , appointed for the ceremonial of inauguration and the meeting of the two houses of Congress.
I have been often spoken of as a man of an over-sanguine temperament, prone to see things through the medium of my hopes rather than of my fears, but I will confess that at this time I could not be accused of any undue cheerfulness of spirit. Every step taken up to that time had been, as I thought, defeated by tardiness of movement and inadequate preparation, and I could discover no indications of an improved system for the future.
In a conversation which I had about this time with Mr. Benjamin, the secretary of war, he said to me, "There is no doubt that the Southern Confederacy will be recognized by England in ninety days, and that ends the war." I asked him if he would not, in the mean time, make vigorous preparations, and endeavor to drive the enemy out of Ten
He replied that it was wholly unnecessary. I then said that even if recognition by England was certain, and that it would certainly end the war, there might be grave questions to be considered, and grave consequences to be provided for. As for example, if the peace should be declared, each party would, of course, claim all the territory held when the war closed. Was Mr. Benjamin prepared to give up Tennessee and Kentucky?
His answer was, "We shall hold from the Memphis and Charleston Road south, and the Northern States can keep what is north of that
line." I was astonished by this reply, and told him plainly that if we could hope for no better result than he promised, I, for one, would rather go back in the Union without further bloodshed.
Speaker Bocock was prompt in reporting committees, and I was put upon the military committee. . . . After a few days, I discovered, with sincere regret, that I could not honestly declare myself in harmony with the other members of the committee or with the administration. There was a radical and irreconcilable difference in our views upon all the questions and measures of the war. This sprang from the fact that I was for a bold, aggressive policy, while they advocated caution and delay.
I believed that our only hope was to concentrate all the forces we could raise into two great invading columns, and then boldly carry the war into the enemy's country. I argued that it depended largely upon which side took the initiative steps, which section should be invaded, wasted, and destroyed.
Other members of the committee were confident that the war would be ended in ninety days, and they were opposed to what they considered useless expense. The cry of the demagogue rang long and loud, "The poor people must not be taxed." This is a favorite watchword for those who court popularity, and I have heard it used with some success both before and since that time.
Realizing this condition of affairs, I made application to the House to be relieved from further connection with the committee, upon the ground that I was an obstacle to its progress. I was excused, and had not afterwards any connection with any committee. . .
. . . In the fall of 1863 a bill was introduced into the House, exempting from military service any man who owned twenty negroes. It was referred to a committee, and reported back favorably, and a speech of half an hour in length made in support of the bill.
I replied in a speech of the same length in opposition.
I then called for the ayes and noes. The call was granted as a favor to me, and, perhaps, in some derision of the foreseen result. I was very earnest in my opposition to the bill, and warned the House that to pass such a measure would be to disband the army. My vote was the only one cast against it, the House voting for it with some clamor and vociferation. There was some laughter over my isolated stand-point, but I said, “Laugh on, my merry gentlemen, in a short time you will laugh on the wrong side of your faces!"
A few members afterwards changed their votes to "No." The effect of the bill was just what might have been anticipated. No sooner was the news carried to the army than the soldiers became infuriated. The officers had great difficulty in keeping the army together until Congress could meet and repeal the obnoxious law.
I remember well what a scene we had when Congress met, and the Speaker announced the House ready for business. Fifty members sprang to their feet, and offered resolutions to repeal this law, each eager to be before all others in his recantation. The Speaker recognized Mr. Dowdle, of Alabama, sent from some point on the Coosa River. The rules were suspended, and the resolution hastily passed.
It was my turn to laugh then. . . .
After the fall of Fort Donelson, and the surrender of the troops under command of General Floyd, General Sidney Johnston fell back from Bowling Green to Nashville, pursued by the large force under General Buell.
General Johnston reached Nashville successfully, but was so overmatched that he continued his retreat to Murfreesboro. The Tennessee delegations, at this intelligence, became so wild with rage that they demanded the instant removal of General Johnston. They were frantic with grief and rage, and would listen to no reason.
The President stood firm. He declared that if General Johnston was not an able general, not one could be found in the Confederacy. The most violent attacks and savage denunciations were made against him.
Now I had been at Bowling Green for two months, and had learned there not only to feel confidence in General Johnston's ability and devotion to the cause, but to understand something of the difficulties of his position. I knew how small his army was, and how unwilling the war department had been to allow him reinforcements. He had stood for months with a mere handful of men, badly armed and equipped, and so poorly fed that the men were hardly fit for duty, before a large force, splendidly appointed and furnished with abundant supplies.
Knowing all this, I felt bound to defend General Johnston to the extent of my ability. In my speech I denounced the whole policy of the war, and the stupendous folly of the provisional Congress in entering upon a gigantic conflict with such puerile and inadequate preparation.
This speech gave great offence to the administration, so that I had afterwards no influence, nor indeed much personal intercourse, with
heads of government. I felt from that time that I was a mere spectator in the final acts of our tragedy.
In May, 1864 , I became satisfied that the immense augmentation of the enemy's military resources, already so disproportioned to our own, took away almost every hope of success still remaining in our hearts.
The only hope I could see - and it was born of desperation — was in concentrating our entire forces into two invading columns; one under General R. E. Lee in Virginia, and the other at Tullahoma in Tennessee. I went to the adjutant-general's department, and was informed that it would be possible to supply General Lee with two hundred and fifty thousand efficient soldiers. This would necessitate the abandonment of every defensive point in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, and the calling in of quartermasters, commissioners, and their laborers. It was also stated that a force of equal magnitude could be furnished General Johnston at Tullahoma. This would require the abandonment of Vicksburg, Fort Hudson, Mobile, and other points in Mississippi and elsewhere.
For this purpose I prepared a bill, providing that these measures should be carried out, and that General Lee should move, as soon as the result was accomplished, upon some point on the Potomac, and carry out the scheme of invasion. Also that General Johnston should advance upon General Buell, then near Nashville, driving him, if possible, across the Ohio River, and making every effort to invade the enemy's country. I endeavored to show that this movement by General Johnston would force General Grant to abandon Vicksburg and the whole South, and put himself upon his own territory to repel invasion. Two such armies on the Potomac and Ohio rivers would have driven the enemy to divide their forces into several grand divisions to defend important points, and left Lee and Johns[t]on to choose their points of attack, or to remain in camp until some adjustment of difficulties could be negotiated. I urged these measures with what little force of argument I possessed, though with small hope of success. The bill received but two votes besides my own.
Upon the announcement of this result, I sat down at my desk and wrote out my resignation, and sent a copy to the speaker, and one to the governor.
Reuben Davis, Recollections of Mississippi and Mississippians (Boston, etc., 1891), 429-437 passim.
81. Home Life of a Southern Lady (1862-1865)
BY MRS. VICTORIA VIRGINIA CLAYTON (1899)
Mrs. Clayton was the wife of a prominent lawyer and planter in Alabama before the Civil War. During the war her husband rose to the rank of major-general in the Confederate army; on the restoration of peace he became a state judge, and later president of the University of Alabama. — Bibliography as in No. 80 above.
HILE my husband was at the front doing active service, suffer
ing fatigue, privations, and the many ills attendant on a soldier's life, I was at home struggling to keep the family comfortable.
We were blockaded on every side, could get nothing from without, so had to make everything at home; and having been heretofore only an agricultural people, it became necessary for every home to be supplied with spinning wheels and the old-fashioned loom, in order to manufacture clothing for the members of the family. This was no small undertaking. I knew nothing about spinning and weaving cloth. I had to learn myself, and then to teach the negroes. Fortunately for me, most of the negroes knew how to spin thread, the first step towards clothmaking. Our work was hard and continuous. To this we did not object, but our hearts sorrowed for our loved ones in the field.
Our home was situated a mile from the town of Clayton. On going to town one day I discovered a small bridge over which we had to pass that needed repairing. It was almost impassable. I went home, called some of our men, and gave them instructions to get up the necessary articles and put the bridge in condition to be passed over safely. I was there giving instructions about the work, when an old gentleman, our Probate Judge, came along. He stopped to see what we were doing. When satisfied, he said to me:
"Madam, I think we will never be conquered, possessing such noble women as we do." . . .
There was no white person on the plantation beside myself and children, the oldest of whom was attending school in Eufaula, as our Clayton schools were closed, and my time was so occupied that it was impossible for me to teach my children. Four small children and myself constituted the white family at home.
I entrusted the planting and cultivation of the various crops to old Joe. He had been my husband's nurse in infancy, and we always loved and trusted him. I kept a gentle saddle horse, and occasionally,