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American Attilla

On the 18th of December1864 Lincoln’s general-in-chief Henry Halleck wrote Sherman: “Should you capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the place may be destroyed; and if a little salt should be sown upon its site, it may prevent the growth of future crops of nullification and secession.” Ironically, secession was first threatened by New England at the time of the Louisiana Purchase and in its 1814 Hartford convention; nullification of federal law was the very basis of the North’s prewar Personal Liberty Laws. In late 1864 and early 1865, Sherman’s 65,000 man army triumphantly plundered and destroyed Georgia and South Carolina with virtually no opponents except old men, women and children. General Joe Wheeler had 5,000 cavalry to merely harass Sherman with. The following was reprinted from a May 1873 article in Southern Magazine.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

American Attilla

“To [Halleck’s letter] General Sherman replies, December 24: “This war differs from European wars in this particular – we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people; and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.

I will bear in mind your hint as to Charleston, and don’t think “salt” will be necessary. The truth is, the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance on South Carolina. I almost tremble for her fate, but feel that she deserves all that seems to be in store for her.”

On the 23rd he writes to General Kilpatrick: “Let the whole people know the war is now against them, because their armies flee before us and do not defend their country or frontier as they should. It is pretty nonsense for Wheeler and Beauregard and such vain heroes to talk of our warring against women and children. If they claim to be men, they should defend their women and children and prevent us reaching their homes.”

If, therefore, an army defending their country can prevent invaders from reaching their homes and families, the latter have a right to that protection; but if the invaders can break through and reach these homes, [they] are justified in destroying women and children. Certainly this is a great advance on the doctrine and practice of the Dark Ages.

Is it any wonder that after reading [this] we fervently echo General Sherman’s devout aspiration: “I do wish the fine race of men that people our Northern States should rule and determine the future destiny of America?”

(Gleanings from General Sherman’s Dispatches, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XIII, William Jones, editor, 1885, Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1990, excerpts pp. 446-448)

Jul 3, 2018 - Antebellum Realities, Lost Cultures, Southern Conservatives, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots, Southern Women    Comments Off on “There Are Some Things Worse than Death”

“There Are Some Things Worse than Death”

The world of the Old South was deeply rooted in Greek civilization, and saw the glory of warriors as did Xenophon: “And when their fated end comes, they do not lie forgotten and without honor, but they are remembered and flourish eternally in men’s praises.” It was said then of family attachment that “one’s kin were indistinguishable from oneself” – the defense of the kin-related community was the brave man’s obligation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“There are Worse Things than Death”

“Among the attitudes brought from the Old World was the ancient system for determining who belonged among the worthy and who did not. The first signs of an archaic honor appeared in the forests – not where Hawthorne’s story opens, but in regions beyond the Alps, before Christ, before Rome. The ethic of honor had Indo-European origins.

From the wilderness of central Europe and Asia a succession of conquering tribes had come into prehistoric Greece, then, a millennia later, into Roman Gaul, Spain, Italy, and Great Britain, and finally, in the last upheaval, by sea from Scandinavia into parts of the once Roman world.

These peoples shared a number of ideas about how men and women should behave. They had thoughts in common about the nature of the human body, the mind, the soul, the meaning of life, time, natural order, and death. Myths, rituals, oaths, grave sites, artifacts, and most especially word roots all indicate a common fund of human perceptions that lasted in popular thought from antique to recent ages.

The overriding principle for these generations of human beings was an ethic almost entirely external in nature. It was easily comprehended and was considered physically demonstrable without resort to abstraction, without ambivalence or ambiguity. Differentiation of what belonged in the public or private realm were very imprecise [and evaluations] depended upon appearances, not upon cold logic. Southern whites retained something of that emphasis.

As Walker Percy, the contemporary novelist, once remarked about the South of not long ago, there was an “absence of a truly public zone” completely separate from the interior life of the family, so that the latter “came to coincide with the actual public space which it inhabited.” Family values differed not at all from public ones.

Intimately related to brave conduct . . . was family protectiveness. [When] the Civil War began, Samuel David Sanders of Georgia mused about Confederate enlistment, “I would be disgraced if I staid at home, and unworthy of my revolutionary ancestors.” Moreover, these strictures kept the armies in the field.

Said a kinswoman of Mary Chestnut in 1865: “Are you like Aunt Mary? Would you be happier if all the men in the family were killed? To our amazement, quiet Miss C took up the cudgels – nobly. “Yes, if their life disgraced them. There are worse things than death.”

(Southern Honor, Ethics & Behavior in the Old South, Bertram Wyatt Brown, Oxford University Press, 1982, excerpts pp. 33-35)

This Sad Life in Vicksburg

The author below was Mary Ann Loughborough, the New York City-born wife of Colonel James Loughborough, assistant adjutant general to Major General Sterling Price. In mid-April 1863, Mary was visiting Vicksburg just as the enemy fleet had run past the defensive batteries on the Mississippi River and began subjecting the city to intense and indiscriminate bombardment.  For protection from this shelling, civilians dug caves in the clay hills which Vicksburg was built upon.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

How Sad This Life in Vicksburg

“Even the very animals seemed to share the general fear of a sudden and frightful death. The dogs would be seen in the midst of the noise to gallop up the street, and then to return, as if fear had maddened them. On hearing the descent of a shell, they would dart aside – then, as it exploded, sit down and howl in the most pitiful manner.

In the midst of other miserable thoughts, it came to my mind one day that these dogs’ hunger might become as much dreaded as wolves. The horses . . . would frequently strain the halter to its full length, rearing high in the air, with a loud snort of terror as a shell would explode near. I could hear them in the night cry out in the midst of the uproar, ending in a low, plaintive whinny of fear.

Sitting in [my] cave one evening, I heard the most heartrending screams and moans. I was told that a mother had taken a child into a cave about a hundred yards from us; and having laid it on its little bed, as the poor woman believed, in safety, she took her seat near the entrance of the cave.

A mortar shell came rushing through the air and fell with much force, entering the earth above the sleeping child – cutting through into the cave – oh! Most horrible sight to the mother – crushing in the upper part of the little sleeping head, and taking away the young innocent life without a look or word of passing love to be treasured in the mother’s heart.

I sat near the square of moonlight, silent and sorrowful, hearing the sobs and cries – hearing the moans of a mother for her dead child – the child that a few moments since lived to caress and love – speaking the tender words that endear so much the tie of mother and child.

How very sad this life in Vicksburg! – how little security we can feel, with so many around us seeing the morning light that will never more see the night! How blightingly the hand of warfare lay upon the town!

The moans of pain came slowly and more indistinct, until all was silent; and the bereaved mother slept, I hope – slept to find, on waking, a dull pressure of pain at her heart, and in the first collection of faculties will wonder what it is. Then her care for her child will return, and the new sorrow will again come to her – gone, forever gone!”

(My Cave Life in Vicksburg, By a Lady, Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1989 (original D. Appleton & Company, 1864), excerpts, pp. 71-75)

Grant Opens the Northwest to Cheap Water Freight

The bombardment of Vicksburg, Mississippi by Grant in mid-1863 took an enormous toll on the civilians in the city. From the book “My Cave Life in Vicksburg” (D. Appleton & Company, 1864), the author writes: “I was told a Negro woman, in walking through the yard, had been struck by a fragment of a shell, and instantly killed. The screams of the women of Vicksburg were the saddest I have ever heard. I cannot attempt to describe the thrill of pity, mingled with fear that pierced my soul, as suddenly vibrating through the air would come these shrieks – these pitiful moans! – sometimes almost simultaneously with the explosion of a shell.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grant Opens the Northwest to Cheaper Water Freight

“It was the twenty-fifth of May, three days after the assault on Vicksburg. Federal dead between the lines were “swelling to the stature of giants” and were making the air so unbearable that Confederates had sent out the request [to the enemy] that they be buried.

Under a white flag soldiers threw dirt on late comrades, while in the midst Sherman and a Confederate officer sat on a log. To all appearance, Sherman was callous toward death.

The spectacle of Vicksburg’s bombardment delighted Sherman’s artistic eye. On clear nights he saw pickets sitting on their rifle-pit embankments, staring at the grandest pyrotechnics they had ever beheld – thin red trails of light, sparkling like comets’ tails, soaring into the sky to halt, then curve downward to vanish among the housetops of the dark city. After a pause, a jarring concussion would come on the wind.

From land and river Union siege guns and navy mortars were throwing shells with burning fuses. Privates of the Twelfth Wisconsin said that their Negro cooks lay so flat during a bombardment that soldiers mistook them for rubber blankets and carried them to camp over their shoulders at the day’s end.

Surrender came on July 4 [1863], Grant paroling 31,600 wasted Confederates in the knowledge that the great majority, sick of the war, would go home never to shoulder arms again. Up North, men were declaring that they had always had faith in Grant, the Northwest was happy because the Wall Street railroaders were now due to get their com-uppance – the cheap water freights could soon be resumed.”

(Sherman, Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 284-287; 291)

Self-Sacrifice at the Front

By mid-1864, the State of Virginia had been overrun for several years by armies and crops confiscated, devastated or burned by the enemy, and civilians especially suffered greatly.  Daniel Sutherland writes in Seasons of War (1995) of enemy troops reverting “to their old habits of living off the civilian population, still justified, by [Northern General John] Pope’s orders.  If the new wave of brigandage has been less extensive than the first orgy, that is only because less remains to be stolen or vandalized.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Self-Sacrifice at the Front

“One noteworthy example of the self-sacrifice of our soldiers is remembered with especial pride.

On June 15 and 17, 1864, the women and children of Richmond had been suffering for food, and the Thirtieth Virginia [Regiment] sent them one day’s rations of flour, pork, bacon and veal, not from their abundance, but by going without the day’s ration themselves.

“Yet,” said a journal of that time, “despatches from General Lee show that nearly every regiment in his army has re-enlisted for the war.”

On April 30th, when we were threatened on every side, and encompassed so perfectly that we could only hope for a miracle to overcome our foes, Mr. Davis’s health declined from loss of sleep so that he forgot to eat, and I resumed the practice of carrying him something at one-o’clock.”

(Jefferson Davis, Varina Howell Davis, Belford Company, 1890, Vol. II, excerpt, page 496)

The War Against North Carolina Civilians

After Sherman’s 65,000-man army entered North Carolina in early March, 1865, eighteen-year-old Janie Smith wrote friend Janie Robeson of nearby Bladen County and described the invasion of her home in Lebanon, North Carolina. This was near the battle of Averasboro, where Lt. Gen. William Hardee’s 10,000 man army former garrison troops stopped the battle-hardened veterans of Sherman’s left wing. All of Janie’s brothers were in Confederate service.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The War Against North Carolina Civilians

“Where home used to be. April 12, 1865:

Your precious letter, my dear Janie, was received night before last, and the pleasure that it afforded me, and indeed the whole family, I leave for you to imagine, [and I am thankful] when I hear that my friends are left with the necessities of life, and unpolluted by the touch of Sherman’s Hell-hounds.

My experience since we parted has indeed been sad . . . Our own army came first and enjoyed the cream of the country and left but little for the enemy . . . [and] such an army of patriots fighting for their hearthstones is not to be conquered by such fiends incarnate as fill the ranks of Sherman’s army. Our political sky does seem darkened with a fearful cloud, but when compared with the situation of our fore-fathers, I can but take courage.

[At] about four o’clock the Yankees came charging, yelling and howling. They just knocked down all such like mad cattle. Right into the house, breaking open bureau drawers of all kinds faster than I could unlock. They cursed us for having hid everything and made bold threats if certain things were not brought to light, but all to no effect. They took Pa’s hat and stuck him pretty badly with a bayonet to make him disclose something . . . The Negroes are bitterly prejudiced to his minions. They were treated, if possible, worse than the white people, all their provisions taken and their clothes destroyed and some carried off.

They left no living thing in Smithville but the people. One old hen played sick and thus saved her neck, but lost all of her children. The Yankees would run all over the yard to catch the little things to squeeze to death.

Every nook and corner of the premises was searched and the things that they didn’t use were burned or torn into strings. No house but the blacksmith shop was burned, but into the flames they threw every tool, plow, etc., that was on the place. The battlefield does not compare with [the Yankees] in point of stench.

I don’t believe they have been washed since the day they were born. I was too angry to eat or sleep . . . Gen. Slocum with two other hyenas of his rank, rode up with his body-guard and introduced themselves with great pomp, but I never noticed them at all.

Sis Susan was sick in bed and they searched the very pillows that she was lying on, and keeping up such a noise, tearing up and breaking to pieces, that the Generals couldn’t hear themselves talk, but not a time did they try to prevent it. They got all of my stockings and some of our collars and handkerchiefs. If I ever see a Yankee woman, I intend to whip her and take the clothes off her very back.”

(Janie Smith’s Letter (excerpts), Mrs. Thomas H. Webb Collection, NC Division of Archives & History)

Resistance Fighters Against the Industrial Machine

William B. Elliott was a resident of Pasquotank County in northeastern North Carolina who enlisted at the age of 20, on May 4th, 1861. Captured by enemy forces at Roanoke Island in early 1862, he was exchanged in August of that year. William joined the small local resistance force fighting against enemy troops from New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and local black men seized for Northern service.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Resistance Fighters Against the Industrial Machine

“After William was exchanged in August, 1862, he renewed former friendships. While doing so, he learned of another resistance unit being formed in adjacent, and occupied, Camden County. Residents of counties bordering on the northern shores of Albemarle Sound, had been living under the shadow of Union occupation since mid-summer of 1861. In Camden County, there was Captain Willis B. Sanderlin, who commanded on of these shadowy partisan units.

In the middle of May [1863], the occupation forces again felt the sting from the valiant guerilla defenders [when the] Union steamers, Emily and Arrow, were captured by partisans at Currituck Sound, on May 15, 1863.

Every army of occupation has attempted to suppress civilians by acts of depredation. Not only were crops, livestock, and personal property confiscated, but also Federal wrath was directed at civilians themselves. [A North Carolina House of Representatives committee investigated enemy outrages and noted the depredations] of Brig. General Edward A. Wild, commanding all Negro soldiers, who occupied Camden and Pasquotank counties.

A citizen, Daniel Bright, was hung, by the roadside just north of Elizabeth City. Bright was a former soldier of the Sixty-second Georgia Regiment, with authority of Governor Vance to raise a company in Pasquotank for local defense. [The partisans] captured two of General Wild’s Negro soldiers . . . [and one], was hung as reprisal for the hanging of Daniel Bright.

Federal retaliation was directed against Mrs. Elizabeth Weeks, wife of Private Pender Weeks, and Mrs. Phoebe Munden, wife of Lt. W.J. Munden, of Captain John T. Elliott’s company. Both were taken hostage, abused, humiliated, and physically mistreated in public, then taken to Norfolk for imprisonment.

Dwellings in both counties were burned [by the enemy] . . . An aged gentleman of 70 years, Gregory, was taken hostage, all his property burned, and while a prisoner he suffered a seizure . . . endured great pain, dying a few days later.

Meager Confederate defensive forces, coupled with insufficient arms and provisions, matched against the Union industrial machine, would, had the truth been known, portend the future.

As October and November [1863] passed, all Union activity increased [and] Federal units scoured the countryside in search of horses, carts, fuel, forage, and contrabands. The Federals were becoming increasingly outraged for their inability to exterminate the guerillas.

[An official report stated that] ”General Benjamin Butler intends to exterminate all guerillas east of . . . Chowan River . . . and will use every means . . . to do so.” The General well emphasized the Union resolve, with warning for residents to: “give information against them (the guerillas) to the military . . . by assisting them (the guerillas) on their way with food and . . . transportation, you can save yourselves . . . the necessity of visitations from the Negro troops.”

(A Tarheel Confederate and His Family, Robert Garrison Elliott, RGE Publications, 1989, excerpts, pp. 14-26; 32)

 

Confederate Monument Entrusted to Public Servants

The following is a news account of the unveiling of the Confederate Monument in Lumberton, North Carolina in 1907, a scene replicated across the South in similar ceremonies which honored the service and sacrifice of Southern men who left their homes and families to defend their State and country.  It is important to note that these monuments were left to the custody of public authorities who were expected to provide perpetual care and faithfully honor the men who gave their lives for political freedom and liberty.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Robeson County Confederate Monument Unveiling, Friday, 10 May, 1907

(Transcribed from The Robesonian of 13 May, 1907.)

“The most notable day in the history of Robeson county was the unveiling of the Confederate monument on Friday, the Tenth of May. This occasion had long been looked forward to, and by daybreak people were gathering from every direction. Carriages, buggies, wagons, carts, automobiles, wheels and every kind of vehicle was put in use on that day to bring the people interested.

By ten ‘clock it was with difficulty that one could make his way along the streets. Never before has such an immense crowd been assembled in Robeson county. No drinking, no misbehavior of any kind was witnessed that day. A matter of much comment was the splendid appearance of those present. Robeson well has a right to feel proud of her citizenship.

The streets and public buildings of the town were elaborately and beautifully decorated in national colors, and suspended across Main Street, banners were hung with the word “Welcome” on them in letters to catch the eye of every passerby. On the corner of Fifth and Main Streets, a booth was beautifully decorated, and here the badges of the day were bestowed upon the Veterans.

Governor [Robert B.] Glenn was met at the train at 10 o’clock, and driven in a carriage to the handsome home of Col. N. A. McLean. The Red Springs Daughters of the Confederacy were met at the station and taken to the home of Mr. & Mrs. McIntyre, where a splendid reception was tendered them.

The parade started at 11 o’clock at the Waverly hotel, in charge of Capt. A. J. McKinnon, chief marshal. First came the marshals, numbering about 75, on prancing horses with sashes of national colors flying in the breeze, making as fine an appearance of any body of horsemen could desire; following in succession came the Lumberton and Maxton brass bands, making every pulse [quicken] as they steadily marched and played stirring martial music; [then] the Maxton Guards, Lumber Bridge Infantry, Camps Ryan Hoke and Rowland [of the] United Confederate Veterans, numbering about five hundred, led by Capt. [James] I. Metts of Wilmington . . . the old Confederate flag of the Fifty-first [North Carolina] Regiment was borne by Gen. S. J. Cobb, marching to the time of the music and wearing with pride their badges of honor.

The sight of these veterans, the men who faced death long ago for their country and future generations [inspired] the hearts of all, and too, it was a scene of pathos. Some who received lifelong injuries, and others who faced the guns and death so fearlessly in the 60’s are bowed with age, but from the eyes of these worn veterans, flashed the fires of old time courage and vigor. As they marched along cheer after cheer arose from the vast throng and the enthusiasm was great.

Last in the parade came the floats of Maxton, Red Springs, Fairmont, Lumberton, and several others, all beautifully and tastefully decorated in national colors. The individuality of the different floats was striking; not one in arrangement bore any resemblance to another, yet all were beautifully planned and decorated.

In the Maxton float was Miss Bonnie Dixie McBryde, and sponsors. After marching around the town, the parade proceeded to the court house square, where they halted and Governor Glenn, Miss McBryde and others who were to take part in the program, were assembled on the improvised rostrum beside the monument, in the midst of the gaze of thousands of curious, interested eyes.

The seats arranged on the grounds of the court house square, were soon filled with veterans, and th4 masses were gathered as closely around the platform as possible, in order that they might hear each word that fe4ll from the lips of their beloved and honored governor.

Mr. Stephen McIntyre was master of ceremonies, fittingly welcomed the visitors and expressed [the] regret of the committee that the monument was not complete; the statue having failed to arrive in time for erection.

He spoke of the energy and determination and devotion of those who had caused the monument to be erected, [and] in glowing terms of commendation, making mention of our worthy county Treasurer, M.G. McKenzie, who for the past ten years had labored toward the end which is at last attained.

The choir sang in ringing voices, the old but ever new song, the “Old North State,” after which Miss Bonnie McBryde, the accomplished and attractive young daughter of Capt. Thomas A. McBryde, pulled the cord that caused the white veil to fall, revealing the monument, standing there in solemn grandeur, to the eager gaze of thousands. A wild, joyous cheer rose from the throats of all, mingling with a dozen factory whistles and the military salute, three volley being fired.

Miss Katie Lee McKinnon then beautifully recited “The Conquered Banner.” Miss McKinnon is a reciter of exceptional ability, and her very successful effort was warmly appreciated and brought tears to the eyes of many, as she spoke in thrilling tones.

Governor Glenn was presented by Mr. S. McIntyre, who said that no introduction of Governor R.B. Glenn was needed, for his name throughout the State was synonymous with progress and advancement, intellectual and moral. He welcomed him to the county of Robeson in most admirable and suitable words.

Governor Glenn arose and addressed the people . . . his kind benevolent countenance won the hearts of the spectators from the beginning [and a] hush fell on that vast throng and all listened with bated breath to one of the most masterly efforts ever produced in Robeson. He assured his hearers in the beginning that the purpose of the gathering was not only to unveil the monument erected to those who had met death in a noble cause, but to give a hearty handshake to those who still linger, and to instill noble aspirations and loyalty in the hearts of the coming generations. He paid a most splendid and touching tribute to the veterans who sat facing him, that the world has never seen braver or more worthy soldiers than those who followed Lee and Jackson from 1861 to 1865; that none were more deserving than those who went from North Carolina, the Tar Heel State, the grandest commonwealth south of the Mason and Dixon line.

In glowing terms that inspired his hearers, he spoke of the glorious deeds done in the 60s by the gallant sons of the Old North State. His recitals of the deeds done by the North Carolina sons at Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg [and] Appomattox was thrilling and carried the thoughts of listening veterans back, – back, to the cruel hardships of war. North Carolina, he said, entered the great struggle unwillingly, but once started, there was no turning back. Always in the midst of the battle, with a never-faltering courage, they deserved the highest tribute which could be paid them.

While Governor Glenn said the men of the South were brave and noble, he said the women were even more so. Without the courage and never failing sympathy of the good women of the South, they could never have held out [against the enemy] as they did.

In his closing remarks he besought the veterans to live lives of honor and such as would entitle them to enter and belong to the Great Army and serve under the banner of the Great Captain. He urged the young people that they live such lives as will make them worthy of the responsibilities of the future, [and] that they might worthily take the places of the older ones when they should pass away and be able to finish the task committed to their care with honor.

When Governor Glenn took his seat, there arose cheer after cheer [and] the people were most enthusiastic in their enjoyment and appreciation of his powerful address.

Crosses of Honor were presented to 15 Veterans when the address closed. After which, the monument was formally turned over to the custody and care of the commissioners of Robeson county, and Rev. C.H. Durham dismissed the audience.

An elaborate dinner was spread on tables in the court house yard where the veterans and military were served dinner. At 4:50PM the Daughters of the Confederacy visited the graves of Confederate soldiers which they covered with many beautiful flowers. The occasion was one which will live long in the memories of all who attended. It was the biggest day Lumberton has ever known. The crowd was estimated at seven thousand people.”

 

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

Antebellum Southern concepts of manners and personal honor set a very high standard in education with the logical expectation that this would result in a more enlightened society and government.  Even code duello was seen to have a “decorous influence” on manners, as it made men careful in their conduct toward each other through personal honor and accountability.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

“[The official historian of the University of Virginia noted that the bulk of pre-Civil War graduates] . . . were of “the planting class.” Analysis of their post-college careers and modes of life led him to say that they were men who “kept alive in their country homes that loyal devotion to family, that chivalrous respect for womanhood, that considered tenderness for weakness, that high recognition of the claims of hospitality, that reverence for religion, and that quick sensitiveness upon all questions of personal integrity and honor, which they had inherited from their fathers.”

The cult of manners in the Old Dominion was so intertwined with the concepts of personal honor and integrity that all appeared part of a single theme. The diary notes of a young Virginian, attending VMI, contained the following passage, inserted as a kind of conclusion to the entries for the year 1842. It was set off in quotation marks:

“Among the many branches of education, that which tends to make deep impressions of virtue ought to be a fundamental object in a well-regulated government. For depravity of manners will render ineffectual the most salutary laws; and in the midst of opulence, what other means to prevent such depravity, but only a virtuous discipline?”

In this climate of opinion, with its emphasis on manners and personal integrity, the famous “Honor System” of American academic life first appeared. The founders were two professors at the University of Virginia; George Tucker, romantic litterateur before his appointment to the chair of moral philosophy; and his relative, Henry St. George Tucker, distinguished jurist before settling at Charlottesville as a teacher of law.

Judge Tucker submitted the epochal resolution to the faculty in 1842 that, at all future written examinations, the students should certify on their honor the receiving of no improper assistance. Later, this pledge was extended to include the imparting as well as the accepting of aid.

While visiting Richmond in 1853, Frederick Law Olmsted observed the importance of the cult of manners there. He added this observation to his travel diary, “In manners, I notice that between man and man, more ceremony and form is sustained in familiar conversations than well-bred people commonly use at the North.”

(Romanticism in the Old South, Rollin G. Osterweiss, LSU Press, 1971, excerpt, pp. 87-88)

The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man

The Southern was said to the “the apotheosis of the lowbrow in manners. His speech is wrecked on a false ideal of freedom and ease; his traditions are huddled up under aggression and haste; his manners are sacrificed to a false democracy.” It was also said that it takes three generations to make a gentleman, and that he is trained in the heart as a scholar is trained in the mind. Ellen Glasgow wrote in her “Virginia” in 1913 regarding the vanishing Southern lady that “the less a Southern girl knew about life, the better prepared she was to deal with it.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man

“As the shifting social scene swims before my eyes, I realize that two of the most picturesque figures of the past have almost disappeared, the Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man. There are a few survivals of the Southern Lady, but their voices are growing fainter.

The old-time Southern Lady with purring and ceremonious manners was the queen of what has been called the moonshine and magnolia era. The memory of her is like the faint perfume of old roses, a little sweet, a little melancholy, a little suggestive of decay. Her mind ran in deep groves and her manners were brocaded. The worst of it was that she had many spurious imitators who lacked her charm.

The Grand Old Man type has disappeared from village life in the South. He was an institution. He had form, background, and color. He was often a lawyer and politician, in frock coat and high hat. He was sometimes an old-line Whig of the Henry Clay school. An old-line Whig has been described by somebody as a man who wore a ruffled shirt and drank a lot of whiskey. The Grand Old Man’s more remote ancestors fought the Indians and the British; he and his more immediate relatives fought the Yankees.

He will tell over and over the story of his grandfather who was stood up by a group of Tories after King’s Mountain and threatened with death unless he gave certain information; of how his grandfather looked down the gun barrels and told them to “shoot and be damned.”

The Grand Old Man most likely had an old uniform and a sword somewhere in the house, the uniform to be buried in and the sword to hang over the fireplace. If his grandchildren today were asked about the sword, they would probably display indifference and ignorance. To them Gettysburg is little more than a name – a name they have heard too often.

But the history of that sword, lying dormant for years in their brains, will perhaps come to life in their later years and whisper in their ears its story of courage and sacrifice.

The Grand Old Man was undoubtedly a social force in his day. He was ceremonious, courteous, deliberate, positive, and a trifle pompous. If he ever posed, he was not conscious of it. He always knew to a certainty what the government should have done and what it should do. His opinions always hardened his convictions. But this stalwart and picturesque figure has faded out. If there be any of his kind left, they are today little more than museum pieces.

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, excerpt, pp. 271-272)

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