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Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1862,
BY WEST & JOHNSTON,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Confederate States for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Ir is scarcely necessary to state that the following pages have been written without any thing like literary ambition. They have been composed by the author, with but little aid, within the short period of three months, and in the midst of exacting occupations in the editorial department of a daily newspaper.
These explanations are not made to disarm criticism. purpose is only to define the claim which the author's work makes at the bar of public criticism. He does not pretend to have written a brilliant or elaborate book; but he does claim to have composed, without seeking after literary ornaments, or taxing his style with intellectual refinements, a compact, faith ful, and independent popular narrative of the events of the first year of the existing war.
The author acknowledges some assistance from Mr. B. M. DEWITT, in the collection of materials. He has but little other of obligation to express, except to his publishers, Messrs. WEST & JOHNSTON, of Richmond, to whom he would make a public acknowledgment for their generous encouragement, liberality, and enterprising endeavors, which have enabled him, under many inauspicious circumstances, to complete his work.
Richmond, Virginia, July, 1862.
THE author, in presenting to the public a second edition of his work, has taken occasion to correct some errors, to make material annotations, and to add a supplementary chapter, tracing the progress and developments of the war from the concluding point of the first year of its history to the period of publication.
He desires to make his grateful acknowledgments for the favor with which his work has already been received by the public; for numerous kind notices of the newspaper press, and for words of encouragement spoken by many whom he is proud to call his friends. The success with which his work has so far met, being unprecedented, he believes, in the literary enterprises of the South, has surprised and gratified the author. He protests, however, that, under any circumstances, he has but little literary vanity to be inflated; that he composed his work in haste, with neither time nor purpose to polish his style, or to captivate the taste of readers, and that he is content to ascribe the success of his book to the fact that, though rudely written and imperfect in many particulars, it is, as he believes, honest, fair, independent, and outspoken.
While such has been the general character of the reception given his book by the public, the author is sensible that some attacks have been made upon it from malicious and disappointed sources, and that the honest record which he has attempted of the truth of history, has been encountered by many unjust, ignorant, and contemptible criticisms, emanating mainly from favorites of the government and literary slatterns in the Departments. The author has made no attempt to conciliate either these creatures or their masters; he is not in the habit of toadying to great men, and courting such public whores as "official" newspapers; he is under no obligations to any man living to flatter him, to tell lies, or to abate any thing from the honest convictions of his mind. He proposed to write an independent history of some of the events of the existing war. He is willing for his work to be judged by the strictest rule of truth; he asks no favors for it, in point of accuracy; he only protests against a rule of criticism, which exalts paid panegyric above honest truth, and reduces the level of the historian to that of the scrubs and scribblers who write poetry and puffs in newspaper corners.
The flatterer's idea of the history of the present war would no doubt be to plaster the government with praises; to hide all the faults of the people of the South while gilding their virtues; to make, for a consideration, "especial mention" of all the small trash in the army; to coat his puffs thickly with fine writing and tremendous adjectives; and to place over the whole painted and gilded mass of falsehood, the figure of Mr. Jefferson Davis, as the second Daniel come to judgment. The author has no ambition to gratify in these literary elegances.
In the eyes of the historian the person of Mr. Jefferson Davis is no more sacred than that of the meanest agent in human affairs. The author has not been disposed to insult the dignity of office by coarse speeches; he recognizes a certain propriety of style even in attacking the grossest public abuses; but, while he has avoided indecency and heat of language, and has, on the other hand, not attempted the elegance and elevation of the literary artist, he trusts that he has given his opinions of the government and public persons with the decent but fearless and uncompromising freedom of the conscientious historian. He is certain that he has given these opinions without prejudice against the Administration in this war. The danger is, in such a contest as we are waging, that we will be too favorably and generously disposed towards the government, rather than prejudiced against it-that we will be blind to its faults, rather than eager and exacting in their exposure.
The author is aware that the views expressed in this work of the autocracy of President Davis, and the extraordinary absorption in himself of all the offices of the government, have been resented with much temper by critics in some of the newspapers. He would ask these persons who are so anxious to vindicate the character of Mr. Davis in this respect, for a single instance in the history of the war, where the Cabinet has interposed any views of its own, addressed any counsel to the government, or been any thing more than a collection of dummies. In all our experience hitherto of republican government, we hear of views of the Cabinet and the counsel of this or that member. In this war these common observations are lacking; the Cabinet is dumb or absolutely servile; we have never heard a syllable from it on a single question of national importance, and the voice of the President alone decides the conduct of the war, distributes the patronage of the government, and forces into practice the constitutional fiction of himself being the commander-in-chief of our armies. These facts are notorious in the streets of Richmond.
The Cabinet of President Davis has really no constitutional existence The Cabinet has many objects to serve in our system of government. I was designed as a check to Executive power; it was intended to cul and collect the wisdom of the country in the management of public af