21 January 1865: “the feeling owing on people that negroes right to be considered, is gaining strength daily”

Item Description: A letter written to Walter Lenoir from his cousin W. Bingham regarding the opening of his school, and his hopes for creating the moral character of the boys there. Walter Lenoir was a lawyer during the Civil War, and much of his correspondence relates to the politics of the time. Bingham discusses the outcome of several skirmishes as well as the feelings on the issues that started the war in confederate congress. He feels that many people would be willing to compromise on key issues (i.e. slavery) as long as they can be granted independence at the end of the war.

Item Citation: Folder 156, in the Lenoir Family Papers #426, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Transcription (of handwritten portions):

Capt. W. W. Lenoir Forks of Pigeon N.C. 

Oaks, 21 Jan. 1865

Dear Cousin Wat, 

It is Sat. night, 10 Pm a hard weeks work just finished; but as harder ones are to come for the next Thurs. for a fear, + I am pregnant with a letter + must deliver myself, I will answer you of the 3rd. Glad you approve our plan of a military-classical school. I am doubtful from the experiment thus far made, of the advantage of military discipline hereafter. 

The less rules the better + military discipline creates so many “mala prohibita” which are not “mala in se” that boys’ ideas of right + wrong become confused, + military schools are generally young hells; though this is great measure due to negligence in the professors + the absence of timbers. What Burns says of drink may justs be sain of “birch”

“Leegr me on birch; it gies us man
than either school or college; (without it)
It gies us wit, it gies us lean, 
and pangs us for ‘o’ knowledge” 

We give boys demerit marks on their hides as well as their reports; this, with the help of religious precepts canst much impressed will, with God’s blessing keep our boys right. But I think I have said this before. But if you want to see beautiful order + discipline in a school, come down when we are fairly under way. Men think, apparently, that none but an army man can have enough military education to conduct such a school; but I shall show that this is false notion. I mean to have as good a military school, + as well , disciplined + instructed a corps of cadets as any in the land, as far as I go. 

The English Grammar progresses slowly. I wish it possible to use advanced sheets with the next class, if the Publishers can get them ready for me. I shall make the best look I can, but know far too little of English to make one satisfaction to myself. I am studying the history of the language, + trying to produce a work at once simple, philosophence, thorough, but it is a big job. 

The rascals! what a pity you couldn’t have whipped them off. If I could have taken them in the rear with some of my boys they would have paid dear for the cowardly assault. A house to make a fight in ought to have all entrances removed, + all trees armed it cut down; the doors + windows barricaded with boys, + loopholes made elsewhere. Three men well armed in such a house can hold it against 20; but without fences + trees for cover, there is nothing to do but surrender. Of course when the scoundrels are caught no army is troubled with them. And to think that such knaves are encouraged by men who call themselves legislators! The foolish, traitorous, + wicked attacks upon the Gov’t, which occupied much of the first of this session of the General Assembly, invited the attack on Wilmington, make the Yankees believe that they had what press vigorously other would find friends enough. I was in Raleigh Thursday, seeing bodies whipped. I verily believe that if Gen. Lee don’t clear out the legislators they will call a convention in less than 3 weeks, which, in less than a month its assembly will seel us. 

God made Judas for a good purpose + I suppose these traitors are made for a good purpose likewise. Could I get at the leaders of them, they would never be drowned. The Progress + Standard we braying openly for a convention to take the state back to Lincoln, or what amounts to the same thing. If Fisher fell through treachery + cowardice. Several assualts had been gallantly repulsed, + while the enemy were preparing of the final one, a Cap’t Brogman, with about 300 men of the 3rd reg’t, deserted to the enemy; we surrendered without orders, delivering up the sully-port; whereupon a S.C. reg’t of Hagood’s brig., seeing themselves outflanked, took to their heels. Whiting made a desperate  fight with the rest, several times tearing down the enemy’s flag; but was soon overpowered. Whether Wilmington will fall or not, is yet to be seen. Gen. Bragg says he will hold it at all hazards. 

But dark as the prospect is, I don’t despair, + see, or think I see, a ray of light. Foreign powers are getting alarmed lest the Yankees succeed in a grand military mischief-maker on this continent + summons of an early recognition are rife at the north. From Seward’s manifest + what has lately transpired in the Confederate Congress. I believe that a proposition has been made to abolish slavery on condition of an independence being acknowledged transports opened the assertions on the past Grant that the war is not for slavery, has always seemed to me significant, the feeling owing on people that negroes right to be considered, is gaining strength daily, that among slave holders Emancipation in any shape will be too with to the negro, but best for us, at last in the border states. All well send love. If namesaker’s the handsomest boy in the class. 

In haste, your aff’ cousin, 

W. Bingham



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