Southern Generals Writing a Book for the North


Fitzhugh Lee                                 John T Morgan


The American Soldier in the Civil War: A Pictorial History  was published by Stanley-Bradley Publishing Company of New York City in 1895.  The book was bound by H.S. Smith in Philadelphia.  However, if we are to discuss the origins of this book, it is most interesting to talk about two of its authors.  

The book was written by five men, namely: Rossiter Johnson, Fitzhugh Lee, John T Morgan, John Clark Ridpath, and George L. Kilmer.  Rossiter Johnson, John Ridpath, and George Kilmer were all rather lesser known authors and/or historians, but the other two men, Fitzhugh Lee and John T. Morgan, were decorated generals during the Civil War. Interestingly enough, not only were these two men generals during the Civil War, they were generals for the South.  Why would two generals from the South write a book that was published, bound, and distributed by companies based in the North?  

Before I try and answer this question, it is important to give short biographies of the men. John T. Morgan was born in Athens Tennessee in 1827.  However, at a young age he and his family moved to Alabama, the state with which he is most associated.  With Alabama voted to secede from the Union, Morgan enlisted as a private with the Cahaba Rifles and saw his first action in the Summer of 1861.  Morgan shot up the ranks of the Confederate Army and in November of 1863, he was officially promoted to Brigadier General of Cavalry in the 51st Alabama Partisan Rangers.  His division mostly fought in the Western Theatre during the war.  Following the war, Morgan would be elected to the US senate in 1977 representing Alabama, a seat he held onto for thirty years until he died in 1907.  It is to be noted that John T. Morgan was an outspoken racist, a slaveholder, and a supporter of Jim Crow laws in the South following the abolition of slavery.  During his time in senate, he worked tirelessly to repeal the fifteenth amendment that made denying voting rights based on race illegal.  It is also rumored that he rose to be “The Grand Dragon” of the Klu Klux Klan in Alabama, which is the equivalent to being a governor of a state’s Klu Klux Klan chapter.  While this has been alleged, there is no physical evidence to suggest that it is true.

Fitzhugh Lee was born in Virginia in 1835 and is the nephew of the Commanding General of the Confederate Army, General Robert E. Lee.  Fitzhugh’s rise to prominence in the Confederate Army was considerably easier than that of John Morgan.  Lee graduated from West Point in 1856 and was made 2nd Lieutenant to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment of the US Army.  However upon the secession of Virginia from The Union, Lee joined The 1st Virginia Cavalry of The Confederate Army, a regiment in which he would achieve the rank of Major General.  His leadership was extremely useful in the Confederate’s Maryland campaign and during the battle of Gettysburg.  He is also noted for leading the final Confederate Charge at the battle of Appomattox on April 9, 1865, which was one of the final battles of the Civil War.

Following the War, Lee would go on to be the governor of Virginia, a diplomat in Cuba, and would be one of the few Confederate generals to be recommissioned as an officer within the US army.  Aside from that, Lee also served on the Board of The US military academy at West Point.  Lee later died in the capital of the country he once fought against, Washington DC, in January of 1890.

This leads us back to the question of why would confederate generals write a book that was produced and distributed by Northerners?  This could be for a couple of reasons.  The first reason is that perhaps these generals were trying to get back into the good graces of the American government following the war.  Many of those that fought for the south did not want to do so because they hated the Union.  Many soldiers, in fact, loved the Union.  One of the most prominent of these men is Robert E. Lee, the Uncle of Fitzhugh Lee who is quoted as saying, “I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the four millions of slaves in the South, I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native State?”  Upon the Northern victory, these men felt the need to make amends with their former enemy.  Fitzhugh Lee even made a speech at the Battle of Bunker Hill 100th year anniversary in Boston honoring those who fell in the American Revolution.  The fact that he wrote a book honoring Union soldiers makes sense because he and his family still loved their country.

While Morgan was less vocal about his passion for his country, I believe he still loved his country.  While yes, his idea of bettering the US was perverse, he wanted to work to make the country his idea of better.  While a member of the senate, he was vocal about his support for the annexation of Hawaii and other land grab initiatives.  Now, this entailed stealing Hawaii from its native inhabitants and trying to take away rights from people of color, which are in no way the goals of a good person, but he believed this would improve the country, and he fought to do so.  Publishing works like The American Soldier in the Civil War: A Pictorial History was a good way to stay in the good graces of the Union and to stay in government, so he could continue to work for his country.