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1889 One Hundred Years Ago

March 2023
1min read

The quarter-century that had passed since Appomattox had begun its healing work on the bitter feelings left in the wake of the Civil War. On March 30 Harper’s Weekly denounced a Republican reader who had written to the editor complaining about the behavior of some Democratic politicians in West Virginia. The correspondent called for Harper’s to chide the West Virginians (and thereby prove to him the magazine’s “love of fair play”). Instead the editors took him to task for keeping alive old animosities: he was “evidently under the delusion that any word in regard to the Southern States which is not contemptuous and hostile shows a servile disposition. Our corresDondent should make an effort to comprehend his country, and ‘to know the time of day.’ He is still groping in the Dark Ages. We are not fighting slavery now, nor waging the war for the Union. We are not trying to misunderstand, but to understand. Slavery is gone. The war is over. It is to-day, not yesterday. But here and there a Rip Van Winkle like our correspondent raises his head and hears with bewilderment that it is not the year 1859, but thirty years later.”

As an illustration of the sort of maganimity the 188Os required, the magazine spoke of a series of recent parties given in New York and elsewhere to raise money for the National Confederate Soldiers’ Home. The former President Rutherford Hayes, a Union veteran who had been wounded at South Mountain and had campaigned with Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley and fought at Winchester, sent a check with a note saying that anything that could be done for the comfort of his sometime enemies “is surely in the pathway both of humanity and patriotism.” Ulysses S. Grant’s son also wrote the sponsors: “General Grant’s kindly feeling toward the Southern people, though they were once his enemies, is Mrs. Grant’s reason for sending the enclosed check. She wishes you success in your efforts.”

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