Sunday, July 20, 2014

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 236: James R. Gilmore [Edmund Kirke], Our Visit to Richmond (#236)

James R. Gilmore [Edmund Kirke], "Our Visit to Richmond" (1864) from The Civil War: The Final Year Told by Those Who Lived It:

Gilmore was one of two people who sent south to meet with the Confederates about a possible peace plan, a mission which was put in place (or expedited) by the fact that Horace Greeley was meeting in Canada with Confederates who had their own peace plan. In other words, the South looked like it was trying to make peace, which would make Lincoln look bad before the 1864 election; so this other mission went to make it clear that the South's--or at least Jefferson Davis's--idea of peace was nothing the north would want.

Again, it's always interesting, and sometimes a little sad, to read these stories from the past where we know how it all turns out. For instance, when Davis meets the two envoys and talks about how the Confederacy is not suffering and could still win--though is that (1) Davis not knowing the future or (2) Davis putting the best spin on things that he can?

There's also some material here that seems of its time: Gilmore paints Judah Benjamin as a slightly disreputable figure, with "a Jew face," and a noted lack of greatness; while Davis is clearly a great man who can sway his people. Though this is given a little tweak at the end when Gilmore seems to suggest that killing Davis would be one way to end the war.

Gilmore also has a little sense of humor, which is a nice bit of sugar to help this message go down: here's a joke about Georgia banks and mines and mosquitos--all of which bite--to soften you up for the real message of this piece, which is that the Union has to crush the Confederate government. It's a nice rhetorical move; and whether or not this piece had that much material effect on the war, we know how history turns out.

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