Open main menu

Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/224

This page needs to be proofread.


216 Southern Historical Society Papers.

sider such a radical measure, and many, not being- in our service, could not properly appreciate that it had become a matter of self- preservation that our ranks should be filled to meet, in some degree, the numerical superiority of the enemy consequently, it would raise a storm of indignation against him. And next that one of the corps of our army was without a lieutenant-general, that he, General Cleburne, had already achieved, unaided, a signal success at Ring- gold, for which he had received the thanks of Congress, and stood in reputation first among the major-generals, and might justly expect to be advanced to this vacancy, and I felt assured the publicity of this paper would be used detrimentally to him, and his chances of promotion destroyed.

To that he answered that a crisis was upon the South, the danger of which he was convinced could most quickly be averted in the way outlined, and feeling it to be his duty to bring this before the author- ities, he would try to do so, irrespective of any personal result. To my question as to whether or not the negroes would make efficient soldiers, he said that with reasonable and careful drilling, he had no doubt they would, and as deep as was his attachment to his present command he would cheerfully undertake that of a negro division in this emergency.

COPIES OF THE PLAN.

Under his instructions I made, from his notes, a plain copy of the document, which was read to, and free criticisms invited from mem- bers of his staff, one of whom, Major Calhoun Benham, strongly dis- sented, and asked for a copy with the purpose of writing a reply in opposition.

The division brigadiers were then called together, and my recol- lection is, that their endorsement was unanimous namely: Polk, Lowery, Govan, and Cranberry. Later, a meeting of the general officers of the army, including its commander, General Joseph E. Johnston, was held at General Hardee's headquarters, and the paper submitted. It was received with disapproval by several, and before this assemblage Major Benham read his letter of protest. Not hav- ing been present, I am unable to state the individual sentiment of the higher officers, but my impression is, that Generals Hardee and Johnston were favorably disposed, though the latter declined to for- ward it to the War Department, on the ground that it was more po- litical than military in tenor.

That was a sore disappointment to Cleburne, who supposed his