The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Leslie Combs, November 6th, 1863


Near Chattanooga, Nov. 6, 1863.

Geo. D. Prentice, Editor of the Louisville Journal:
In your paper of November 3d I see a letter signed by Mr. Leslie Combs, in which the following allusion is made to me: “Our children have fought in every battlefield, and never one fled as Carl Schurz and his gang of freedom-shriekers did at Chancellorsville.” I am not in the habit of replying to calumny and abuse springing from the impure inspirations of party spirit; but General Leslie Combs being a man of note, I deem it proper to avail myself of this opportunity to stop a slander which political enemies seem bent upon sustaining by frequent repetition.

I wish therefore to say, that in asserting that “Carl Schurz fled at Chancellorsville,” Mr. Combs lies. I choose the word “lies”—although with extreme reluctance and regret—upon due consideration of its meaning; for, if Mr. Leslie Combs has inquired into the facts, he must know that he is saying what is false; and, if he has made no such inquiry, then he gives with unpardonable levity the sanction of his name to a statement which is most injurious to another man's reputation, and which he does not know to be true. I wish to add that in saying, “Mr. Leslie Combs lies,” I hold myself responsible for what I say.

This may seem equivalent to a challenge, and so it is. I do not, however, mean to fight a duel with Mr. Leslie Combs. Being a good pistol-shot, I might perhaps easily kill him, which I should not like to do; or, if he is equally skillful, he might kill me—and I should be sorry to die on so trifling an occasion; or we might not hurt each other, and then it would be a farce. Besides, I am opposed to dueling on principle.

But I challenge Mr. Leslie Combs to a different kind of a contest, which will be preferable to a common duel as a test of personal courage. I invite him to the hospitality of my headquarters in the camp of the Army of the Cumberland. I will share with him my tent, my blankets, my meals; but I invite him also to accompany me personally in the next battle, and not to leave me a single moment. There Mr. Leslie Combs may determine whether he will have the heart to repeat that calumny, or whether it would not be better for him and more honorable to retract it.

I trust, sir, you will give this letter the same publicity which you accorded to that of Mr. Leslie Combs.

Yours respectfully,
Carl Schurz.