IN THEIR OWN WORDS December 30, 1860

Stiles/Akin

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IN THEIR OWN WORDS

December 30, 1860
Alexander Stephens replied to Abraham Lincoln’s letter of December 22. The two had served in Congress together, and for now, considered themselves friends. Stephens explained that he also wanted to preserve the Union, but went on to explain the reasons the South was so concerned:

… Dear Sir,—Yours of the 22d instant was received two days ago. I hold it and appreciate it as you intended. Personally, I am not your enemy,—far from it; and however widely we may differ politically, yet I trust we both have an earnest desire to preserve and maintain the Union of the States if it can be done upon the principles and furtherance of the objects for which it was formed. It was with such feelings on my part that I suggested to you in my former note the heavy responsibility now resting upon you, and with the same feelings, I will now take the liberty of saying, in all frankness and earnestness, that this great object can never be obtained by force. This is my settled conviction. Consider the opinion, weigh it, and pass upon it for yourself. An error on this point may lead to the most disastrous consequences. I will also add, that in my judgment the people of the South do not entertain any fears that a Republican Administration, or at least the one about to be inaugurated, would attempt to interfere directly and immediately with slavery in the States. Their apprehension and disquietude do not spring from that source. They do not arise from the fact of the known anti-slavery opinions of the President-elect. Washington, Jefferson, and other Presidents are generally admitted to have been anti-slavery in sentiment. But in those days anti-slavery did not enter as an element into party organizations. … I would have you understand me as being not a personal enemy, but as one who would have you do what you can to save our common country. A word ‘fitly spoken’ by you now would indeed be like ‘apples of gold in pictures of silver.’ I entreat you to be not deceived as to the nature and extent of the danger, nor as to the remedy. Conciliation and harmony, in my judgment, can never be established by force. Nor can the Union under the Constitution be maintained by force. The Union was formed by the consent of independent sovereign States. Ultimate sovereignty still resides with them separately, which can be resumed, and will be, if their safety, tranquility, and security, in their judgment, require it. Under our system, as I view it, there is no rightful power in the General Government to coerce a State, in case any one of them should throw herself upon her reserved rights and resume the full exercise of her sovereign powers. Force may perpetuate a Union. That depends upon the contingencies of war. But such a Union would not be the Union of the Constitution. It would be nothing short of a consolidated despotism. Excuse me for giving you these views. Excuse the strong language used. Nothing but the deep interest I feel in the prospect of the most alarming dangers now threatening our common country could induce me to do it. Consider well what I write, and let it have such weight with you as in your judgment, under all the responsibility resting upon you, it merits.


December 30, 1861
Letter Told of Growing Hatred Between North and South
A Georgia soldier in Virginia wrote home to his wife, telling her of the hatred building between the opposing sides in the war, and of his respect for the new Union commander.

“…Every day it is becoming more and more apparent that the long-smouldering hatred of the two nations equals in intensity anything of the kind recorded in history. The Yankees are fighting for subjugation, for conquest, for power. It is natural that we should now hate each other. We have routed their armies; they have been foiled of the anticipated results of this or that grand expedition, of this or that invading host. With a mandacity that finds no parallel amongst the lairs of ancient Crete, they have attributed their reverses to our superiority of numbers, to masked batteries, to incompetent officers, to whatever might tend to soothe the bitterness of defeat and disappointment. But mark, they invariably enlist more powerful armies; they pour out treasure by hundreds of millions; they raise new military idols into command. They humbled McDowell and dismissed, decently dismissed, the hoary-headed old traitor Scott to give place to the young McClellan, the most dangerous man with whom we have to contend. For he is full of genius and resource. …” Source: Anita B. Sams (ed.), With Unabated Trust: Major Henry McDaniel’s Love Letters from Confederate Battlefields as Treasured in Hester McDaniel’s Bonnet Box(The Historical Society of Walton County, Inc., 1977), p. 43.

December 30, 1862
A soldier writing home told of the great victory at the Battle of Fredericksburg, coupled with the sad news of the loss of one of his friends.

“…It was one of the grandest victories that our army has ever gained. While the enemy’s force was double that of our’s, we had the advantage of position and our men were in entrenchments. The result was every attack they made, they were repulsed with great loss. Our men being in their rifle pits and behind stone fences on the side of a bluff, the enemy to advance were compelled to advance through an open field. The line of battle was about four miles long. … It was while we were in our entrenchments that my much esteemed friend R.W. Milner received his fatal wound. He had taken the canteens of several of his company to bring water. While passing after water in the rear of our line, he was struck with a cannon ball about three inches below the shoulder of his left arm, taking it almost entirely off, …Dr. Banks amputated his arm at the shoulder joint. He died the same night about 12 o’clock. …” Source: Mills Lane (ed.), “Dear Mother: Don’t grieve about me. If I get killed, I’ll only be dead.”: Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War(Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), pp. 208-210.

December 30, 1863
A Georgia soldier then stationed in Florida wrote home to his wife, telling her they were about to move, and how he experienced a dreary Christmas Day.

My Dear Wife Yours of Dec. 20th came safe to hand. It gave me the extreme pleasure of hearing wonce more that you was all well and doing well. This leaves me in good health with the exception of the toothache occasionally which troubles me a goodeal at knight. I recd the paper that you sent me in your letter. We have recd orders to cook 3 days rations to be ready to move sume whare at a minutes warning but we know not whare it will be. Col. Evans thinks however we will go to Savannah the first place and from there we may go to Charleston. You can direct your letters as you hav been doing here to fore. If we do move I will inform you as soon as we arrive to hour place of destination. I written to George a few days ago. We had a vary dull Christmas here in camps. It was raining all most incesantly and the wind blew vary hard for a bowt 12 hours or more. If you can se any chance to send my comforter to Collumbus do so. Send it to Greenwood & Gray, office in care of Lieutenant Russel who belongs to hour company and he will bring it to me. You may rap me up a little red pepper and sume sage in the same bundle as I know you have plenty of each. Send it thare by the 7th or 8th of January as Lt. Russel will start to the Redgement about the 10th of January. He told me he would bring it if you would send it to Greenwood & Gray office. Rap it well and have it markt to me. Get whoever carrys it to town to get them to mark it as they will understand how better than you would. If they could se Russel and give it to him it would be safe as he would mark it himself. Peddy will not get to come home as we expected he would in January as they hav quit granting furloughs here for the preasant. You can se by that if I fail to get my comforter by Russel that I may not get it attawl or at least not soon. I must close for this time as I am in a hurry to mail my letter in time to go on dress parade. Kiss the children for me and give my love to all enquiring friends. I remain yours as ever until death. Source: The Letters of Edmond Hardy Jones, Private, 64th Georgia

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