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A Soldier's Recollections

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A Soldier's Recollections

 

A Soldier's Recollections: Leaves from the Diary of a Young Confederate: With an Oration on the Motives and Aims of the Soldiers of the South
McKim, Randolph Harrison
361 pgs.

Randolph Harrison McKim, born in 1842 in Baltimore, Maryland, was the son of a prominent businessman. McKim attended the University of Virginia until the Civil War began, at which time he joined the Confederate army. McKim served in First Maryland Infantry and as chaplain for the Second Virginia Cavalry.

In A Soldier's Recollections: Leaves from the Diary of a Young Confederate (1910) McKim recounts his Civil War experiences. After recounting the arguments that led to the war, McKim disputes the idea that slavery caused the South to secede from the Union. Drawing from passages in his diary, McKim then tells about the several battles he fought in, and stories about prominent Confederate soldiers and generals, including General G. Steuart of the First Maryland Infantry. He discusses the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg in depth, analyzing the strategies employed by both sides. In this analysis, he defends General J. E. B. Stuart's decisions at Gettysburg.

From the Preface:

I HAVE set down in the pages that follow some of my experiences and observations during my service with the Army of Northern Virginia, first as a private soldier, then as a staff officer, and finally as a chaplain in the field. I served in the ranks under Gen. Jos. E. Johnston and Gen. Thos. J. Jackson; as a staff officer under Brigadier-Gen. Geo. H. Steuart in the army of Gen. R. E. Lee; and as a chaplain in the Second Virginia Cavalry under Col. Thos. T. Munford, in the brigade of Gen. Fitzhugh Lee.

It has not been my purpose to write a history of the campaigns in which I took so humble a part, but simply to present a few pen and ink sketches of the life and experience of a Confederate soldier, in the hope that I may thereby contribute in some small degree to a better understanding of the spirit of the epoch--both of the soldiers who fought the battles, and of the people on whose behalf they dared and suffered what they did.

In telling this plain and unvarnished story I have been aided by the diary, or rather the diaries, which I kept during the war, and from which I have freely quoted, just as they were written, without recasting the sentences, or improving the style, or toning down the sentiments they contain. The thoughts and the opinions expressed, and the often crude form in which they are cast, are just those of a young soldier, jotted down on the march, or by the camp-fire, or in the quiescent intervals of battle, without any thought that they would ever be put into print. This I have done believing that I would thus best attain my object, --to show the mind and the life of the Confederate soldier as they were while the struggle was going on. But there was a hiatus in my material. My diary for the larger part of one of the four years of the war was lost, and therefore I have omitted those months from my narrative.

I have also tried to give the point of view of the young men of the South in espousing the cause of the Confederacy, and to remove some misapprehensions still entertained in regard to the motives which animated the men who followed the banner of the Southern Cross.

In connection with the Gettysburg campaign, I have undertaken to discuss the much mooted question of the action of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, with the cavalry under his command. This I have felt constrained to do because of the view (erroneous, as I believe) presented by Col. John S. Mosby in his recent book on the subject.

I have also reproduced an article written many years ago by request, and published in the Southern Historical Society Magazine, telling the story of the part taken at Gettysburg by the Third Brigade of Johnson's Division, Ewell's Corps. And in the Appendix I have placed an Oration upon the Motives and Aims of the Soldiers of the South, delivered in 1904 before the United Confederate Veterans.

Fully sensible how much I stand in need of the reader's indulgent good-will as he follows me in this simple story of an obscure soldier's life in the Army of Northern Virginia, I still hope that what I have recorded may, here and there, throw a side-light on the conditions under which the Confederate soldier lived and fought those four stern, fateful years, and give fresh emphasis to his purity of motive and his heroic constancy in danger and adversity.

One closing word as to the spirit in which I have undertaken this modest contribution to the literature of the Civil War. I am not, in these pages, brooding over the ashes of the past. The soldiers of the Southern Cross have long ago bowed to the decree of Almighty God in the issue of the great conflict. His will is wiser and better than ours. We thank God that to-day the sun shines on a truly reunited country. We love our Southland; we are Southern men; but we are glad that sectionalism is dead and buried, and we claim our full part in working out the great destiny that lies before the American people. We may not forget --we veterans of the Civil War--that the best of our life and work lies behind us: morituri salutamus. But whatever of life remains to us we have long ago dedicated to the service of our common country. We joyfully accept our share in the responsibilities, the opportunities, the strenuous conflicts, of the future, against foes within and without, for the moral and material glory of our country. We are Americans in every fibre; and nothing that pertains to the honor, to the welfare, to the glory, of America is foreign to us.

 

A Soldier's Recollections
by Randolph Harrison McKim
361 pgs.
Hardback (Leather bound) - $45.00
Paperback - $35.00
CD-ROM - $15.00
EBOOK - $9.49



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