May 3, 2024 - American Military Genius, Race and the South, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Fiscally-Responsible Future Confederate General

Fiscally-Responsible Future Confederate General

Basil W. Duke of Kentucky first achieved notoriety as a colonel and second-in-command to brother-in-law General John Hunt Morgan. Upon Morgan’s death in September 1864, Duke assumed command; during President Jefferson Davis’s flight from Richmond, he was escorted by some of Duke’s cavalry. Below he speaks of Albert Sidney Johnston who he considered to be one of the great men who defended the American South.

Fiscally-Responsible Future Confederate General

“He was appointed paymaster in the United States Army, October 31, 1849. The appointment gave him the nominal rank of major but conferred no authority or command. It necessitated, however, much travelling and upon the frontiers of Texas where his duties were performed, a great deal of arduous work, not unaccompanied by danger. He accepted the office only because he hoped it would assist him ultimately to enter [front line command].

In 1853 he sold his plantation, which he had greatly improved, upon terms which enabled him to discharge his entire indebtedness; but, by a curious freak of fortune, he had no sooner obtained relief from a condition which had long oppressed him than he was confronted with another which threatened him even more seriously.

He discovered that someone was systematically plundering the US government funds placed in his charge. His accounts were kept very carefully, and he could detect almost the exact dates at which the money was taken, although he failed for some months to catch the thief. As much as $1700 were stolen from the fund in 1853. He made no report of these losses to the US government but bore them himself; thereby forfeiting the almost entire benefit of his meager salary, besides being harassed with the constant fear that the robberies might eventually amount to sums so large that that he would not be able to replace them.

All efforts to discover the perpetrator of the thefts was for a long time unavailing, although every device and the utmost vigilance was employed; but in 1855 they were brought home to a Negro servant of General Johnston, who had been for years in constant attendance upon him, was a great favorite and implicitly trusted.

Indignation against the Negro was strongly aroused among all who had known of these peculations, and there was a general clamor for his exemplary punishment. General Johnston was urged to compel him to reveal the names of his accomplices, as it was believed that other parties had incited him to the thefts.

General Johnston would not listen to this suggestion. “Evidence so obtained is worthless,” he said, “is worthless. Besides the whipping will not restore what is lost; and it will not benefit the Negro whom a lifetime of king treatment has not made honest. It would be a mere act of revenge to which I cannot consent.”

His friends, however, insisted that the Negro should be sold so that the proceeds of the sale might in part replace the money he had stolen. General Johnston agreed to do this permitting the Negro to select his new master but informing the purchaser of the crime he had committed.”

(The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, 1911. Cooper Square Press, 2001. pp. 110-111.)

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