AFTER the surrender of the Confederate armies engaged in the
war between the States, General Lee undertook to write of the campaigns of the
Army of Northern Virginia while under his command, and asked such assistance as
I could give in supplying reports, despatches, and letters of his, the
originals of which had been lost or destroyed. Under the impression that they
could not be put to better use, such as were in hand were packed and sent. He
gave up the work, and after a few years his death made it impossible that the
world should receive the story of the Confederate campaigns in Virginia from
the noble mind that controlled them.
Possibly, had I not expected our commander to write, I
should have written myself a decade or so earlier. But the world is now better
prepared to receive the account of events as the records show them.
While I am so constituted, temperamentally, as to have
viewed the great struggle then as I view it now, I do not know that others
night have so regarded it at the earlier periods to which I refer.
I believe that now, more fully than then, the public is
ready to receive, in the spirit in which it is written, the story which I
It is not my purpose to philosophize upon the war, but I
cannot refrain from expressing my profound thankfulness that Providence has
spared me till such time as I can see the asperities of the great conflict
softened, its passions entering upon the sleep of oblivion, only its
noblerif less immediateresults springing into virile and vast life.
I believe there is to-day, because of the war, a broader and deeper patriotism
in all Americans; that patriotism throb the heart and pulses the being as
ardently of the South Carolinian as of the Massachusetts Puritan; that the
Liberty Bell, even now, as I write, on its Southern pilgrimage, will be as
reverently received and as devotedly loved in Atlanta and Charleston as in
Philadelphia and Boston. And to stimulate and evolve this noble sentiment all
the more, what we need is the resumption of fraternity, the hearty restoration
and cordial cultivation of neighborly, brotherly relations, faith in Jehovah,
and respect for each other; and God grant that the happy vision that delighted
the soul of the sweet singer of Israel may rest like a benediction upon the
North and the South, upon the Blue and the Gray.
The spirit in which this work has been conceived, and in
which I have conscientiously labored to carry it out, is one of sincerity and
fairness. As an actor in, and an eyewitness of, the events of 1861-65, I have
endeavored to perform my humble share of duty in passing the materials of
history to those who may give them place in the records of the nation,not
of the South nor of the North, but in the history of the United Nation.
It is with such magnified view of the responsibility of saying the truth that I
I yield to no one as a champion of the Southern soldier
wherever he may have fought and in whatever army, and I do not think I shall be
charged more now than in war-time with " underestimating the enemy." Honor to
all! If I speak with some particularity of the First Corps of the Army of
Northern Virginia, it must be ascribed in part to the affection of a commander,
and in part to my desire to relieve its brave officers and men in the ranks
from unjust aspersions. After General Lee's death, various writers on the
Southern cause combined with one accord to hold the First Corps and its
commander responsible for all adversity that befell the army. I being under the
political ban, and the political passions and prejudices of the times running
high, they had no difficulty in spreading their misrepresentations South and
North until some people, through their mere reiteration, came to accept them as
facts. I simply present the facts concerning the First Corps in all fulness and
fairness, attested by indisputable authorities, that the public may judge
between it and its detractors.
That the South had just cause for war in protecting and
defending lawful property is proved by the sequel. This narrative will show
that its chances of success were fair.
In the accounts of battles and movements, the official War
Records supply in a measure the place of lost papers, and afford a great mass
of most trustworthy statistics. I am under obligations to General E. P.
Alexander, General G. M. Sorrel, Colonel Osmun Latrobe, Colonel J. W. Fairfax,
Colonel T. J. Goree, Colonel Erasmus Taylor, and Colonel J. C. Haskell for many
To Major George B. Davis and Mr. L. J. Perry, of the War
Records office, I am under obligations for invaluable assistance; as also to
Mr. Alfred Mathews of Philadelphia, for material aid in revising the manuscript
of these memoirs.