From Corinth I accompanied the division commanded by General Stanley. I had known this officer in Missouri, in the first year of the war, when he claimed to be very “conservative” in his views. During the campaign with General Lyon he expressed himself opposed to a warfare that should produce a change in the social status at the South. When I met him at Corinth he was very “radical” in sentiment, and in favor of a thorough destruction of the “peculiar institution.” He declared that he had liberated his own slaves, and was determined to set free all the slaves of any other person that might come in his way. He rejoiced that the war had not ended during the six months following the fall of Fort Sumter, as we should then have allowed slavery to exist, which would have rendered us liable to another rebellion whenever the Southern leaders chose to make it. We could only be taught by the logic of events, and it would take two or three years of war to educate the country to a proper understanding of our position.
It required a war of greater magnitude than was generally expected at the outset. In 1861 there were few people who would have consented to interfere with “slavery in the States.” The number of these persons was greater in 1862, but it was not until 1864 that the anti-slavery sentiment took firm hold of the public mind. In 1861 the voice of Missouri would have favored the retention of the old system. In 1864 that State became almost as radical as Massachusetts. The change in public sentiment elsewhere was nearly as great.
During the march from Corinth to Grand Junction, I had frequent opportunity for conversing with the people along the route. There were few able-bodied men at home. It was the invariable answer, when we asked the whereabouts of any citizen, “He’s away.” Inquiry would bring a reluctant confession that he had gone to the Rebel army. Occasionally a woman would boast that she had sent her husband to fight for his rights and the rights of his State. The violation of State rights and the infringement upon personal prerogative were charged upon the National Government as the causes of the war. Some of the women displayed considerable skill in arguing the question of secession, but their arguments were generally mingled with invective. The majority were unable to make any discussion whatever.
“What’s you-uns come down here to fight we-uns for?” said one of the women whose husband was in the Rebel army. “We-uns never did you-uns no hurt.” (This addition of a syllable to the personal pronouns of the second and third persons is common in some parts of the South, while in others it will not be heard.)
“Well,” said General Stanley, “we came down here because we were obliged to come. Your people commenced a war, and we are trying to help you end it.”
“We-uns didn’t want to fight, no-how. You-uns went and made the war so as to steal our niggers.”
The woman acknowledged that neither her husband nor herself ever owned negroes, or ever expected to do so. She knew nothing about Fort Sumter, and only knew that the North elected one President and the South another, on the same occasion. The South only wanted its president to rule its own region, but the North wanted to extend its control over the whole country, so as to steal the negroes. Hence arose the war.