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THE facts of the War of the Confederates in America have been at the mercy of many temporary agents; they have been either confounded with sensational rumours, or discoloured by violent prejudices: in this condition they are not only not History, but false schools of present public opinion. By composing a severely just account of the War on the basis of cotemporary evidence-ascertaining and testing its facts, combining them in compact narrative, and illustrating them by careful analyses of the spirit of the press, not only in this country, but in Europe, the author aspires to place the history of the War above political misrepresentations, to draw it from disguises and concealments, and to make it complete in three departments: the record of facts; the accounts of public opinion existing with them; and the lessons their context should convey or inspire. These three are the just elements of History. If the author succeeds in what he proposes, he will have no reason to boast that he has produced any great literary wonder; but he will claim that he has made an important contribution to Truth, and done something to satisfy curiosity without "sensation," and to form public opinion without violence.
The author desires to add an explanation of the plan of composition he has pursued in the work. It is impossible to write history as an intelligible whole, and to secure its ends, without preserving a certain dramatic unity in the narrative. It is by such unity that the lesson of history is conveyed, and its impression properly effected; and to do this it becomes
necessary to discard from the narrative many small incidents, either episodal in their nature, or of no importance in the logical chain of events. With this view, the author has paid but little attention to small occurrences of the war which in no way affected its general fortunes, and has measured his accounts of battles and of other events by the actual extent of their influence on the grand issues of the contest. Instead of a confused chronological collection of events, he has sought to prepare for the reader a compact and logical narrative that will keep his attention close to the main movement of the story, and put instruction as to causes hand in hand with the information of events.