The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

Bookmark and Share

from the institution the fate of all others lying in the route of a conquering army, Gov. Swain was appointed by Gov. Vance one of the commissioners to General Sherman to preserve the Capital and University.

        After the war he visited New York and Washington to interest northern capitalists as to the financial condition of the University, and was greatly instrumental in securing the land scrip donated by Congress for agricultural schools.

        But the election of 1868 adopted the new Constitution, and destroyed what war had spared. The doors of the University was closed by negro troops, and with the venerable president, fell, unwept, without a crime.

        "This was the unkindest cut of all." This unexpected blow completely prostrated Gov. Swain; his energies seemed subdued, and he seemed suddenly to grow old, losing all his vivacity and elasticity.

        The able tribute to the memory of Gov. Swain by his life-long friend Gov. Vance evinces the deep affection of the latter, which has been so liberally drawn on, and this feeling was fully reciprocated by "his gentle, patriotic, and distinguished preceptor."

        In a letter which I received from Gov. Swain when at West Point as one of the board of visitors to the United States Military Academy at that place, dated 16th June, 1865, he writes thus:

        "I have been detained here much longer than I expected; I cannot leave earlier than Monday next, and be in Washington on Wednesday. I will be very anxious to see Gov. Vance. Will it not be in your power to obtain for me permission from the War Department to do so, in anticipation of my arrival? I have been hoping constantly to hear of his receiving permission to return home. Please write to me immediately to New York. I will probably have only a day to spend in Washington, and during that day I must see Gov. Vance

"I remain very truly yours,

"D. L. Swain."

        I procured for him the desired permit, and together we went to the Carroll Prison, where we met in the same place the Governors of three sovereign States "in durance vile," Gov. Vance, Gov. Brown, of Virginia, and Gov. Letcher, of Virginia. The cause of the visit of Gov. Swain to Washington at this time (20th May, 1865,) was an invitation from the President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, extended also to B. F. Moore, and William Eaton, to consult in regard to "Reconstruction of the Union."

        This was no idle compliment. The country had just ended a long, exhausting and desolating war. The President, Lincoln, had been murdered by an assassin; every branch of industry was paralyzed; the commerce of a nation destroyed, and confusion and dismay pervaded every section. That the President should call from their homes men who had never figured in the field or the forum, but only known as pure, honorable and conscientious men, was evidence of his sagacity and of their high character.

        They met the President on 22d May, 1865, at his office in the Treasury. Neither of them personally knew the President, and I introduced them. I then was about to retire when the President requested me to remain and participate in the consultation. No questions of more vital importance to the South since the foundation of the Government were ever discussed. All of those who participated in that conference have gone. No account has ever been published of their deliberations. From my diary of that date I extract the following:

        "Saturday, 20th May, 1865.--Mr. A. G. Allen, editor of the National Intelligencer, met me on the street and informed me that Gov. Vance, of our State, had been brought to the city, a prisoner of war, and that I might do good by going to see him, and that Gov. Swain was at the Ebbitt House and wished to see me. I went to the Ebbitt House and found Gov.
Page 59 of 471
Index - Contents
Featured Books & CD-ROMS