The report of the History Committee below expressed concern that “tens of thousands of boys and girls are growing up into manhood and womanhood throughout the South, with improper ideas concerning the struggle between the States; and with distorted conceptions concerning the causes” of the war. They sought remedies for this deplorable state of affairs.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
History Should Revere the Truth
“We have asked each member of our committee to urge upon each camp in his State the importance of gathering reliable data for the use of the future historian. This is a sacred duty that we owe to the living and to the dead and to those who are yet unborn. The establishment of truth is never wrong.
When we realize, as all of us must, that from the gloom of overwhelming defeat at the hands of superior numbers a righteous cause arises and appeals to posterity to render the verdict in accordance with the truth, loyalty to the memories of our dead, patriotism, and self-respect all urge us to go forward in our work till we are amply repaid for all of our labors by a glorious consummation of our undertaking.
Your committee has made an earnest effort to ascertain what United States histories are used in the schools of this republic. We have, so far, not found a single Southern history north of the Ohio and Potomac Rivers. I
In the South thousands of schools use Northern histories. We do not condemn any work solely on the ground that it is a Northern publication . . . What we desire placed in the hands of the millions of American youth is a work that metes out exact justice to both sections of our great country; a work that tells the truth, and nothing but the truth.
Below, we give an extract from an article recently written by a man of Northern birth, Northern education, and Northern principles. The subject that he discusses is “Unfair School Histories.” In speaking of some recent Southern publications, he objects to them because they glorify the South rather than the whole Union. He says:
“It cannot be supposed that such histories will have a permanent place in any school of our land, but why are they adopted in preference to those hitherto in use? Because the books of Northern authorship exhibit an offensive and unfair sectional bias. Northerners may not see it, but it is there. Our school histories seem to need revision.
Do our [Northern] textbooks impress the fact that slavery existed in many of the northern States also in the early years of the century? That it was New England votes, combined with those of the extreme South, that prolonged the slave trade twenty years, against the protest of the middle South? Do our school children realize that secession was boldly and widely advocated in New England in 1814?
Do they think of the Southern leaders as high-minded, noble, and devout men, who fought with consummate bravery? Are we clearly taught that many of those leaders were in favor of the gradual abolition of slavery? That the questions involved were open to honest differences of opinion? That financial considerations unconsciously biased the views of both North and South on slavery?
The truest history, as well as the most patriotic, is that which gives great emphasis to the heroism and honesty, the manliness and Christian character, of the combatants on both sides. No history is worth a place in our schools that is not written in this spirit.
We therefore recommend that there be a committee of three in each State to work in conjunction with similar committees from the Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy. Let each committee find out what histories are used in the different counties; find out their inaccuracies, and point them out to the various county boards of education and to the people generally.
Patriots everywhere recognize the fact that the continued denunciation and misrepresentation of any part of a common people is a danger to all, and an infamy to all. Let the histories that our children study revere the truth, and we shall be satisfied. Let them record that . . . the South stood on lines of self-defense in battle and in doctrine . . . that the South fought honestly and fearlessly, and that when its banner was furled upon its folds not a stain was there to mar its beauty.”
(United Sons of Confederate Veterans, Report of the History Committee, Confederate Veteran, January 1900, pp. 18-20)