By John Richard Dennett
This vintage record initially seemed as a chain of articles within the kingdom among July eight, 1865, and April eleven, 1866. Dennett traveled in seven states—Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi—at the very starting of Reconstruction. His remarkably prophetic account of the lately defeated South is an enormous resource for the heritage of this transition.
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We all, whether we owned slaves or not, believed that coercion was mere tyranny, and that we ought not to submit to it. No, sir, I believe that if the North were to engage in foreign war, or in any way to need the help of the South during the lifetime of the present generation, ninety-nine men in a hundred throughout the South would take up arms against the Washington Government. I have no doubt of that, sir. " He believed all Southerners felt so; from the meanest private in the army up to the highest men in the land, up to General Lee, all felt that the South had been most deeply injured.
We endured the encroachments of the North upon our rights, and then quietly 20 John Richard Dennett availed ourselves of the reserved right of secession. We fired upon Sumter. True; but not till Sumter had become a South Carolinian fort, in which you maintained our enemies. Few men at the South owned slaves. We wanted to leave you. At first I voted for what was then called a Union candidate for the State Convention. We elected him by a large majority. We thought it would not be necessary to secede.
Up or down the narrow valley I could see no dwelling and no cultivated field. On a little knoll near the bed of the creek was a dark-red fort of earth standing out distinct amid the green. High aloft on our left hand broken fragments of trestle-work projected into the empty air between the last pillars of the bridge. We passed over a little bridge of logs, whose timbers were blackened by fire and burnt nearly through. In the open wagon in which I was riding an old North Carolinian, dressed in homespun, sat silent upon a rough John Richard Dennett board coffin containing the corpse of his son, and his seat was shared by two wounded Confederate soldiers.