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In the preparation of this work it has been the writer's aim to present in it, with historical accuracy, authentic facts; to be fair and impartial in grouping them; and to be true and just in the conclusions necessarily drawn from them. While thus striving to be accurate, fair, and just, he has not thought it his duty to mince words, nor to refrain from "calling things by their right names;" neither has he sought to curry favor, in any quarter, by fulsome adulation on the one side, nor undue denunciation on the other, either of the living, or of the dead. But, while tracing the history of the Great Conspiracy, from its obscure birth in the brooding brains of a few ambitious men of the earliest days of our Republic, through the subsequent years of its devolution, down to the evil days of Nullification, and to the bitter and bloody period of armed Rebellion, or contemplating it in its still more recent and, perhaps, more sinister development, of to-day, he has conscientiously dealt with it, throughout, in the clear and penetrating light of the voluminous records so readily accessible at the seat of our National Government. So far as was practicable, he has endeavored to allow the chief characters in that Conspiracy—as well as the Union leaders, who, whether in Executive, Legislative, or Military service, devoted their best abilities and energies to its suppression—to speak for themselves, and thus while securing their own proper places in history, by a process of self-adjustment as it were, themselves to write down that history in their own language. If then there be found within these covers aught which may seem harsh to those directly or indirectly, nearly or remotely, connected with that Conspiracy, he may not unfairly exclaim: "Thou canst not say I did it." If he knows his own heart, the writer can truly declare, with his hand upon it, that it bears neither hatred, malice, nor uncharitableness, to those who, misled by the cunning secrecy of the Conspirators, and without an inkling or even a suspicion of their fell purposes, went manfully into the field, with a courage worthy of a better cause, and for four years of bloody conflict, believing that their cause was just, fought the armies of the Union, in a mad effort to destroy the best government yet devised by man upon this planet. And, perhaps, none can better understand than he, how hard, how very hard, it must be for men of strong nature and intense feeling, after taking a mistaken stand, and especially after carrying their conviction to the cannon's mouth, to acknowledge their error before the world. Hence, while he has endeavored truly to depict—or to let those who made history at the time help him to depict—the enormity of the offence of the armed Rebellion and of the heresies and plottings of certain Southern leaders precipitating it, yet not one word will be found, herein, condemnatory of those who, with manly candor, soldierly courage, and true patriotism, acknowledged that error when the ultimate arbitrament of the sword had decided against them. On the contrary, to all such as accept, in good faith, the results of the war of the Rebellion, the writer heartily holds out the hand of forgiveness for the past, and good fellowship for the future.
WASHINGTON, D. C.
April 15, 1886.
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