Page images
[blocks in formation]

warrant the conclusion that the services of the Confederate armies would be fully, adequately and fairly presented. General Marcus J. Wright, formerly of the Confederate Army, has been continued as agent for the collection of the Confederate records, and his position in the work is next in importance to a position upon the board itself.

It may be well to observe in this connection that all Confederate matter is, and for some time has been, inserted in the volumes. Much of this is of so little importance as to warrant its rejection were it on the Union side; but the Confederate material is becoming so meager in amount, and so great is the desire of the board to present that side as fully as possible, that it has been determined to publish every scrap which can be procured which relates, even remotely, to the operations of the Confederate armies or to the workings of the Confederate Government, in its relation to the war. It will thus be seen that, as everything is published, there can be no partiality or unfairness in the presentation of that side in the volumes of the Official Records. Indeed, I have yet to learn that any charge of unfairness in this respect has ever been presented or even entertained.

The annual appropriations, which up to 1889 ranged from $50,000 to $100,000, were for three years raised to $267,980, but subsequent appropriations were considerably reduced.

On July 1, 1895, Maj. George B. Davis was relieved from duty on the board, having been assigned to the professorship of law at the United States Military Academy, and Maj. George W. Davis, Eleventh United States Infantry (now brigadier-general, United States Army), was detailed in his stead. The latter served as president of the board until June 1, 1898, when, having been appointed brigadier-general of volunteers and ordered to the tield, he was relieved, and Col. (now Brig. Gen.) Fred C. Ainsworth, Chief of the Record and Pension Office, War Department, succeeded him.

On September 21, 1898, the following order was issued by the War Department and governed the subsequent conduct of the work until its completion:

The act approved July 1, 1898 (sundry civil), in the section making appropriation for continuing the publication of the official records of the Union and Confederate Armies, provides that “no part of this appropriation shall be expended for the compensation of any person not actually and necessarily employed in the said work of preparation, publication, and distribution.” As much of the appropriation for the War Records Office as can be made available for putting the remaining volumes in type will be used for that purpose, and no portion of the appropriation will be expended for the compensation of any person whose employment is not absolutely necessary. The officer in charge will be held responsible for the strict enforcement of this requirement, and whenever, in his judgment, the services of any employé become unnecessary he will report the facts in the case to the Secretary of War.

The order of July 17, 1897, limiting the second (Prisoners of War) series to eight volumes, will be adhered to unless further progress in the work shall demonstrate that this can not be done without the exclusion of matter that is pertinent to the series, is clearly of historical value, and comes within the terms of existing law authorizing and governing the publication of the official records of the Union and Confederate Armies. The following rules will govern the publication of all matter that has not heretofore been published as a part of this series:

(1) No matter will be included except that relative to military prisoners, or prisoners arrested by the military authorities, and except correspondence conducted by

tina, 11pm 3D charges of (ruelty to l'nion prisoners during the war.

military control. The series, as prepared for publication, consists of eight volumes, which contain all the official documents, pertinent have been able to obtain and that are believed to be of any historical value or of Anthient general interest to justify their publication. and other papers relating to Henry Wirz, John H. Gee, and J. W. Duncan, Confedrate officers who were tried by military commissions, after the cessation of hostiliPREFACE.

XV ile military authorities or agents of exchange concerning the treatment or exchange ni porinners and kindred subjects.

2: So paper that is not clearly a record of the Union or Confederate Army, and na Tacord kept by, or pertaining to the operations of, any Department other than 'Le War Department will be included.

3. Nothing that has been printed, or should be printed, in any other series of the p. Hication will be duplicated, provided that the duplication can be avoided with a sing of spare, by the use of notes in brackets, or foot-notes, showing where the Luaties in question can be found.

) Nothing relative to any individual will be included, unless he be a very disnguisbeul one, or unless his case is intimately connected with some important subjenit of general historical interest.

151 No correspondence relative to a subject that can be fully, clearly, and fairly Iplained by printing official reports, orders, or statements will be included. This raztriction is intended to apply to correspondence that becomes historically valueless os reamen of the publication of other documents.

6. Nothing that is unimportant, or that has little or no historical value, will be als led. To publish everything in the files of the Department that has any historsal value, however slight, would involve the publication, among other things, of the miltary histories of every officer and enlisted man who took part in the war, and wild fill many hundreds of volumes.

It is evident that Congress never intended 21e the work any such scope as that, but that it did intend to restrict it to the publication of records that are of general historical value and interest.

So voluminous document that has been printed and distributed by the United Nu'ts

, and can be conveniently described and referred to in a printed note, will be Lelule.

Stuuld any question arise as to the advisability of excluding from the publication, unvler the operation of the foregoing rules, any class of records or any particular docwinent that may be considered to be historically valuable, the question will be subTuited by the officer in charge of the War Records Office to the Secretary of War for

On December 1, 1898, the Board of Publication was dissolved in arvordance with a requirement in the appropriation act of July 1, 1898 Bu stat. L., 636), relating to the War Records Office, and thereafter the publication was conducted under the direction of General Ainsworth until the entire work was finished.

On December 6, 1898, Secretary Alger transmitted to both the Srnate and the House of Representatives the following communication:

The last volumes of the second series of the Records of the Union and Confed* rate Arinies are now in the hands of the printer. This series consists of correwmlence

, orders, reports, and returns of the Union and Confederate military authorities relative to prisoners of war and to State or political prisoners under

the series, that the compilers Among the documents included in this series are reports, correspondence, orders,

[ocr errors]

The papers selected

[blocks in formation]

for publication give a full history of each case, including the documentary evidence used at the trials so far as original and authentic record of that evidence has been found, together with the court-martial orders publishing the charges, specifications, findings, sentences, and action of reviewing authorities. But the daily record of the proceedings of these commissions, including the testimony of witnesses, has not been selected for publication because this matter, which is exceedingly voluminous, has not been thought to have sufficient historical value or to be of sufficient interest at the present time to justify its publication. The record of the most important of these trials, that of Henry Wirz, including a verbatim report of the testimony that was considered to be most important and a summary of that which was thought to be less so, has already been published in Executive Document No. 23, House of Representatives, Fortieth Congress, second session, so that there seems to be no good reason for republishing it. Gee was acquitted by the commission that tried him, and this disposition of his case deprived it of much of the interest it might otherwise have had. Duncan was acquitted of the charge of murder, but was convicted on minor charges and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. He is reported to have made his escape after about a year's confinement.

For the reasons indicated above I have not felt justified in directing that the record of the daily proceedings at the trials of Wirz, Gee, and Duncan should be published as a part of the Rebellion Records, but as the matter is one concerning which there may be some difference of opinion, it seems to me to be proper that the subject should be submitted to Congress for decision, and I accordingly do so.

If the record of the trials of these men should be published in extenso as a part of the Rebellion Records it will require the publication of three volumes of about 1,000 pages each, and will cost not less than $25,000. If this publication should be decided upon an appropriation of that amount should be made for the purpose and to prevent a corr

orresponding deficiency, which will otherwise ensue, in the appropriation for the War Records Office for the current fiscal year.

In the Senate the letter was referred, on December 7, to the Committee on Appropriations. In the House, on December 8, it was referred to the Committee on Printing. Neither branch of Congress took any further action in the matter and, consequently, the documents in question were not included in the work.

On July 1, 1899, by operation of law (act of February 24, 1899, 30 Stat. L., 871), the War Records Office was merged into the Record and Pension Office, in charge of General Ainsworth, and became a division of that office, designated the “Publication Branch," in immediate charge of Mr. Kirkley as chief of division.

Voluminous as is the completed publication, comprising 128 books and a copious atlas, it nevertheless fails to convey an adequate conception of the magnitude of the labor involved in its compilation and preparation. The majority of the papers printed exist in duplicate, if not in triplicate-originals sent and copies retained—all of which it was necessary to examine with great care in order to guard against omission and to ascertain the authenticity of documents selected for publication. The published papers form but a small fraction of the myriads that were rejected as immaterial, of no historical interest, or otherwise not within the scope of the work, but all of which required careful consideration to determine their ineligibility. The papers examined

[blocks in formation]

were well-nigh beyond computation, being counted not by documents or boxes, but by tons, roomfuls or the contents of buildings. The volunteer records of discontinued commands (being the books and apers turned in by volunteer officers when mustered out) filled a large four-story warehouse; the Confederate records alone crowded an entire three-story building; the papers to be examined in the AdjutantGeneral's Office occupied a third of the old War Department building; military telegrams were almost countless, a single collection of Union dispatches alone containing over 2,000,000; all these, as well as the files of the Secretary's office and the various bureaus of the War Department, had to be carefully read and considered, paper by paper, and, if deemed proper for publication, copied and compared. In addition, thousands of individual contributions of original documents of the war period were received from time to time from officers and others throughout the country, either as loans or as donations to the Government; in many instances the collections thus donated or loaned were of formidable dimensions. In all such cases thorough examination and consideration were required to prevent duplication of matter and to establish not only the accuracy of copies but the authenticity of original documents. Missing links had to be traced by exhaustive correspondence and other research to secure completeness of the work av each volume appeared.

During the progress of the work the Department has received many communications inviting attention to supposed errors or discrepancies in the published records. In some cases the alleged errors were manifestly those of the compiler, copyist, proof reader or printer, and all these have been corrected so far as they have been discovered by the Department or brought to its attention. But in nearly every case it has been found that the errors, if errors they are, that have been discovered in the published records, exist in the original papers themselves, and these the Department has refrained from changing or correcting in any way.

The papers have been published as they existed during the war, all errors and discrepancies included, in order that the reader may have before him the exact data upon which the participants in the war based their action.

A uniform style of composition has been adopted, and this has necessitated certain unimportant departures from the original records in such minor items as those of spelling, punctuation, abbreviation and capitalization, but these changes are merely typographical. As a general rule numbers under 100 have been spelled, and all above ninety-nine have been printed in figures, an exception to the rule being that in statistical matter, such as that relating to strength of commands, captures, and losses, the numbers have been printed in figures. Signatures have been printed as written, save that in cases of obscurity

[blocks in formation]

arising from incompleteness of names sufficient of the lacking names has been supplied in brackets to identify the signers. Headings have been reduced to a standard, and some missing parts of headings have been supplied by bracketed insertions. Paragraphing has not been strictly followed as in the original documents, short paragraphs having been consolidated, wherever practicable, to economize space. “ Burgh ” has been uniformly printed “burg," " boro” has been printed “ borough,” and other similar typographical rules for uniformity of spelling have been followed, but the greatest caution has been invariably observed to guard against any change in the language or meaning of the documents.

It will thus be seen that any error (other than typographical) that may have been made by an officer in an original official communication will appear in the printed record. The Department has declined to permit corrections of these errors, as such a course would open up endless controversies and uselessly prolong the period of publication. Therefore, not assuming to decide or express an opinion upon the correctness of statements made or matter contained in the several volumes, the Department has striven to present the papers as they were actually written and acted upon officially, leaving to the student and historian the task of investigating controversies and deciding disputes.

Many interesting papers that have come to the attention of the Department have been reluctantly rejected from the publication because of the impossibility of establishing the authenticity of the papers beyond a reasonable doubt. Extreme care has been taken in this respect, and if the publication be in any way incomplete by reason of the withholding of documents whose authenticity could not be clearly established the standard of accuracy of the work is the higher because of such action.

The printing of the work for distribution was begun under the act approved June 16, 1880 (21 Stat. L., 269), which provided for the printing and binding, under direction of the Secretary of War, of 10,000 copies of a compilation of the Official Records, Union and Confederate, of the war of the rebellion, so far as the same may be ready for publication during the fiscal year,” and that “of said number 7,000 copies shall be for the use of the House of Representatives, 2,000 copies for the use of the Senate, and 1,000 copies for the use of the Executive Departments." Under this act the Department proceeded to publish the first five volumes, which, with the exception of the 1,000 copies allotted to the use of the Executive Departments and distributed by the Secretary of War, and those sold by the Public · Printer, were distributed by the Senators, Representatives and Delegates in the Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh Congresses through the folding rooms of the Senate and House of Representatives. All subsequent volumes of the regular edition were distributed by the

« PreviousContinue »