In June, 1861, Dr. Russell, the correspondent of the London Times, was ascending the Mississippi in a steamboat, on board of which was a body of Confederate troops, several of whom were sick, and lay along the deck helpless. Being an old campaigner, he had his medicine-chest with him, and he was thus enabled to administer to these men the medicines which he supposed their cases required. One huge fellow, attenuated to a skeleton by dysentery, who appears to have been aware of his benefactor’s connection with the press, gasped out these words:
“Stranger, remember, if I die, that I am Robert Tallon of Tishimingo County, and that I died for States’ Rights. See, now, they put that in the papers, won’t you? Robert Tallon died for States’ Rights.”
Having thus spoken, he turned over on his blanket, and was silent. Dr. Russell assures his readers that this man only expressed the nearly unanimous feeling of the Southern people at the outbreak of the war. He had been ten weeks travelling in the Southern States, and he declared that the people had but one battle-cry,—“States’ Rights, and death to those who make war upon them!” About the same time, we remember, there was a paragraph going the rounds of the newspapers which related a conversation said to have taken place between a Northern man and a Southern boy. The boy happening to use the word “country,” the Northerner asked him, “What is your country?” To which the boy instantly and haughtily replied, “SOUTH CAROLINA!”
Such anecdotes as these were to most of us here at the North a revelation. The majority of the Northern people actually did not know of the existence of such a feeling as that expressed by the Carolina boy, nor of the doctrine enunciated by the dying soldier. If every boy in the Northern States old enough to understand the question had been asked, What is your country? every one of them, without a moment’s hesitation, would have quietly answered in substance thus: “Why, the United States, of course";—and the only feeling excited by the question would have been one of surprise that it should have been asked. And with regard to that “battle-cry” of States’ Rights, seven tenths of the voters of the North hardly knew what a Southern man meant when he pronounced the words. Thus we presented to the world the curious spectacle of a people so ignorant of one another, so little homogeneous, that nearly all on one side of an imaginary line were willing to risk their lives for an idea which the inhabitants on the other side of the line not only did not entertain, but knew nothing about. We observe something similar in the British empire. The ordinary Englishman does not know what it is of which Ireland complains, and if an Irishman is asked the name of his country, he does not pronounce any of the names which imply the merging of his native isle in the realm of Britain.