Greetings Cosmic Americans!
As you all know, my current project involves Union Civil War veterans who migrated west - to places like California and Oregon. So naturally, I turned to the William S. Rosecrans collection at UCLA. Rosecrans, former commander of the Army of the Cumberland, moved to Los Angeles after the war and dipped his beak into all kinds of things including the promotion of railroads and heavy investment in land ventures.
I came across an interesting correspondence in that collection that I thought I would share here. It turns out, General Rosecrans was not in sympathy with the government’s policy towards the southern states in the immediate postwar years. The radical measures enacted for the reconstruction of the South seemed, to him, harsh and vindictive. In August, 1868, he wrote General Robert E. Lee requesting him to confer with leading citizens of the southern states and prepare a statement that would reflect the wishes and sentiments of his people with regard to the future of the South. General Lee’s reply is known as the White Sulphur Springs Letter.
Here is a segment of the letter dated August 26, 1868 - concerning former slaves:
It is true that the people of the South, in common with a large majority of the people of the North & West, are, for obvious reasons, inflexibly opposed to any system of laws which would place the political powers of the country in the hands of the negro race. But this opposition springs from no feeling of enmity, but from a deep seated conviction that at present, the negroes have nether the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power. They would inevitably become the victims of demagogues, who for selfish purposes, would mislead them to the serious injury of the public. The great want of the South is peace. The people earnestly desire tranquility & a restoration of the Union. They deprecate disorder and excitement is the most serious obstacle to their prosperity.
This letter is indicative of Lee's public position on freedmen and the restoration of the Union. Privately he spent his days in bitter reflection. But when he conferred with former enemies on public statements, he often took up this conciliatory tone of moderation.
The collection is rich with others' response to the letter - published throughout the South. Nathan Bedford Forrest, P. G. T. Beauregard, and John Brown Gordon number among the many former Rebels who wrote Rosecrans in support of both the letter and Rosecrans's efforts to to initiate correspondence with Lee on the subject. Even Lee himself wrote a brief note of thanks (I'm holding Lee's letter in the picture on the left...cool, yes?).
So as I wade deeper in to the historical record - expect more little tidbits like this one. I am sure there are zillions right around the corner.