The Confederate Spelling Book was written by Richard McAllister Smith (1819-1870), and included “Reading Lessons for the Young, Adapted to the Use of Schools or for Private Instruction.” It was a companion book to the Confederate First Reader of Prose and Poetry,and was designed “to instruct the pupils, and at the same time to elevate their ideas and form correct tastes and instill proper sentiments.”
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865
Biblical Basis of Learning in the Confederacy
“The Confederate Spelling Book propounds its philosophy in its preface: “It is a delusion which has gained some foothold with the unreflecting, that a child should not be made to memorize what it does not in all respects understand. Nature has rebuked this idea by developing the memory in advance of the understanding.”
According to the Confederate Spelling Book, teachers of the Confederacy received no little assist in discipline and conduct from the teachings of the Bible. Interspersed with delightful dissertations on such subjects as the pleasures of traveling by steamboat are frequent admonishments supported by references to the Good Book.
The speller cites scripture such as “The Bible tells us that liars cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” A favorite admonishment was “God made all nature cheerful and he intended we should be cheerful also. Cheerfulness does not teach us to be giddy, and boisterous and rude, but to observe a pleasant and polite demeanor toward all whom we meet.”
(Plantation Heritage in Upcountry, South Carolina, Kenneth and Blanche Marsh, Biltmore Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 32-110)