« AnteriorContinuar »
ILLUSTRATED BY MANY HUNDRED ENGRAVINGS ON WOOD, BY LOSSING AND
GEORGE W. CHILDS, PUBLISHER,
SOUTHWEST CORNER SIXTH AND CHESTNUT STREETS.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1866,
BY BENSON J. LOSSING,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern
HE task of making a record of the events of the late Civil War in our Republic is not a pleasant one for an American citizen. It would be more consonant with his wishes to bury in oblivion all knowledge of those events which compose the materials of the sorrowful story of a strife among his brethren, of terrible energy and woeful operations. But that privilege is denied him. The din of the conflict was heard all over the world, and people of all nations were spectators of the scene. The fact cannot be hidden. It has become a part of the history of the inhabitants of the earth, and will forever occupy a conspicuous place in the annals of mankind. What remains for the American citizen to do, is to see that the stylus of history shall make a truthful record.
I imposed upon myself the task of making, so far as my ability and an honest purpose would permit, a correct delineation of the events of the conflict, carefully drawn by the pen and pencil, for the consideration and advantage of posterity. I entitle my work "A History of the Civil War," but I ask for it no higher consideration than that of a faithful CHRONICLE, having the form of history, and aspiring to perform its highest duty, namely: to inspire mankind with a love of justice and a hatred of its opposite, and of every thing that impedes the onward and upward march of humanity.
Taking it for granted that the reader, with the facts plainly set before him, is capable of forming just conclusions, I have confined my labors chiefly to the recording of those facts; and have only given opinions and speculations concerning their relations, and the evident motives of the chief actors in the drama; sufficient for hints for thought and premises for reasoning, without enlarging
into argument or endeavoring to forestall the judgment. For the assistance of that judgment, there will be found in the concluding chapter of this work an outline history of the settlement of our country; of the growth of the nation; of the system of slave-labor, and its influence upon society; of the cotton-plant, and its relations and power; of immigration from Europe, and its results; and of the alienation of feeling produced by controversies on the subject of slavery. These are elements of the great Cause, of which the civil war was the Effect.
Satisfied that the Rebellion was the work of a few ambitious men, who for selfish purposes, and without excuse, conspired to overthrow the Republic, I have given prominence to their sayings and those of their co-workers and abettors, not with a partisan spirit, to keep animosities alive (for I would gladly blot their utterances from the memory of man), but that posterity may know, and profit by the knowledge, how and by whom the people of a group of States were deceived, and cruelly wronged, and arrayed against their government, which has been seldom accused, and never convicted, of a single act of injustice or oppression.' It seemed just to the loyal people of the land everywhere to make this record, and in their name to disclaim these utterances as being any indication of the spirit and temper of the American people.
The Republic has survived the strife within its bosom, and it now bears on, in the great procession of nations, its precious burden of Free Institutions and Democratic Ideas, as nobly and vigorously as ever. The Union has been preserved, and its broad mantle of Love and Charity covers all its children with its ample folds. There should be no more strife-no more alienations; for the true interest of each individual of the family is the highest interest of all. If the sorrowful Past may not be forgotten (and it is best that it should not be forgotten), let the remembrance of it be a chastening monitor and tutor; and let all who feel aggrieved be willing to forgive.
Wishing to secure the advantages of a personal knowledge, by actual examination, of the principal battle-fields of the war, and the topography of the regions over which the great armies moved, and to make sketches of whatever might seem useful as illustrations of the subject, I did not begin the preparation of this work for the
1 See speech of Alexander H. Stephens at Milledgeville, Georgia, November 14, 1860, noticed on pages 53 to 57. inclusive, of this volume.