Three letters from Edmund C. Burnett, Carnegie Institution of Washington, to Julien C. Yonge, editor of the Florida Hist...


Material Information

Three letters from Edmund C. Burnett, Carnegie Institution of Washington, to Julien C. Yonge, editor of the Florida Historical Quarterly, January-February 1940
Physical Description:
Burnett, Edmund Cody 1864-1949
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Box: 1


Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States of America -- Washington, D.C.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
sobekcm - AA00005245_00001
System ID:

Full Text




January: 4, 1940.

i..r. Julien C. "onge,
Editor of Florida Histobical Quarterly,
Pensacola, Florida.

I.1y dear 'Ir. Yonge:

A short time before the death of my good friend
Dr. James A. Robertson I mentioned to him that I had two small groups
of letters thvt might be of some interest to Floridians, and he sug-
gested that I bring them to your attention.

One of these groups consists chiefly of letters written b,; a young
minister of the Baptist church, who appears to have taken up a pasto-
rate in Fensacola in January, 1858, and died there in the autumn of
1860. There are, I believe, some eight or ten letters written from Tensa
cola, and I;ome.of them relate in part to conditions there. Earlier let-
ters from him ( 1851-1857) were written from places in Georgia and Ala-
bama, The '.-riter "~'.s Rev. Zechariah G. Henderson.

Another group of letters( 1859-1866) are by Paul McCormick, a plan-
ter, resident of the Lakeland region (his post office v;ss Miicanopy),
although some of the later letters are from Flemington and Jack.onville.
A nuner of the letters are partly concerned with business and business
conditions, while t\:o or three of thoLe in 1861 touch uon the secession
of Florida and the beginning of the war. ( 1 was writing frc! ': memory,
and turning to the letters, I find that only one -was written in 1861,
April 15. I also find that the lest letter -was written in 1863.).

would d the Florida historicall 'uarterl be interest in publishing
these letters ? I ma-y mention that I have just publishedd in the Georgia
Historical .uarterly ( September and December, a group of letters from
tv.o of my uncles who were killed in the war for Southern inde ,ndence,
and that I az nov: preparing for the same journal another small group
of similar letters.

Very truly yours,

ZfftU.^1 C. '7i) U.Tf^




February 17, 1940.

r My dear Mr. Yonge:

If I have been somewhat dilatory in responding to
your very courteous letter of February 5, please change it to my in-
nate propensity not to turn aside from a main objective. As a boy on
my father's farm I used to see men lay off the first corn row across
the bottom. The man's eye would be fixed on some distant object, and,
if he ever let his eye wander, he would run a crooked row. I spoke of
my propensity as innate, but it may have been acquired from the expe-
rience I have mentioned.

I have thought that the best means of affording you a basis on
which you could reach a reasoned decision as to whether you would
wish to publish the letters of which I have spoken would be to offer
you a sight of one group of them.,. I happen to have copies of the
Paul MoOormiok letters of which I spoke, and I am enclosing those
copies with this letter.
I do not deem the letters to be of large historical importance,
but I have thought that some of the side-lights they cast on events
and conditions of the time may be of some value. At the same time,
I will not withhold from you that my desire to have them published
is not motivated solely by my interest in history, as both of us, I
am convinced, conceive of history. I do not know a better way of
expressing what I confess is in the back of my head than by saying
my motive in some measure is to put on record some fragments of the
family annals.
For that reason, then, I should prefer that the letters be printed
entire, even though considerable portions of them would probably
have no interest for persons outside the family circle. And that
leads me to confide to you that the family circle is a rather large
one. In short, one of my objectives is genealogical as distinct from
the strictly historical.
And that leads me to make a rather general observation. Of the local
historical journals published in the South only those published in
Virginia, so far as i recall, have opened their pages to genealogical
articles or communications. We pious historians are prone to pass
those pages by with cold disdain, and I do not a little of that dis-
daining myself. It happens to be one of my tasks to designate for
the American Historical Review the so-called "Noteworthy Articles"
mentioned in each issue( that is, in the field of United States his-
tory), and it is a rare thing that I deem a genealogical contribu-
tion noteworthy.
Indeed, if we had in the South journals devoted exclusively to
genealogy, I should be gratified to see all genealogical matter ex-
cluded from historical journals. As matters stand, however, I see a

good practical reason for the inclusion of genealogical departments in
magazines, such, for instance, as the Virginia Magazine of History and
Biography and the William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Mag-
azine. There are many people who will subscribe for these journals
chiefly, if not solely, because of their genealogical pages. And Vir-
ginia has no monopoly of genealogical interest. The pages of these
Virginia magazines themselves afford abundant evidence of a desire
in the states South of Virginia for a genealogical medium. And so, I
raise the question whether historical magazines like the Florida His-
torical Quarterly and the Georgia Historical Quarterly might not widen
their respective fields by means of a modicum of indulgence to the
genealogists or should I say, ancestor hunters ? Please do not mis-
take me. I am not offering this as a conviction, but merely as a query.

I have spoken of genealogy as a means of widening the circulation
of historical magazines; but I am inclined to believe( and this comes
close to a conviction) that a great many people, beginning with only
a genealogical interest, would gradually be led into the kingdom of
history. A lot of fellow-travelers ( Go( forgive me for drawing on
communism for a figure of speech.) would in all likelihood become con-

I had no intention at the outset of launching into any such disqui-
sition; therefore I here and now turn back to the main theme.

With regard to editing the letters, in the event that you should
elect to publish them, I should aim to identify the people mentioned,
in so far as I might find it practicable to do so, including brief
sketches of such as seemed to deserve more than a passing notice.
For instance, there is Judge McGahagin, member of the secession con-
vention, and the two Abner McCormicks, brother and son of Paul Mo-
Cormick. Both had parts in the war, one of them ( I am not quite cer-
tain at the moment which), as a lieutenant-colonel, having had a
prominent part in the Florida campaign.

I presume you exchange with the Georgia Historical Quarterly; there-
fore, if you have the recent issues at hand, a glance at my contribu-
tion to the September and December issues will give you an idea of
how I should treat these letters.

In my previous letter I spoke also of another group of letters, those
of Rev. Zeohariah G. Henderson, the last three years of whose life was
as a pastor in Pensacola. These letters have not been copied, and in
any event they can be considered later. Professor Coulter has indicated
that he can probably find place for them in the Georgia Historical
Quarterly later; but I am just now about to send him a closely related
group to those recently printed, and besides I am dangling over his
head a body of some eighty letters written by a surgeon in the Confed-
erate army. These latter have an undoubted historical interest.

Sincerely yours, t e cLnvd C.- TS
Mr. Julien C. Yonge,
1924 East Jackson Street, Pensacola, Florida.





Mr. Julien C. Yonge, Editor February 26, 1940.
Florida Historical Quarterly,
1924 East Jackson Street,
Pensaoola, Florida.

Dear Mr. Yonge:

Cast as you are betwixt the desert and the deep sea (ob-
serve, please, that I have slightly altered the ancient aphorism), you
are certainly doing remarkably well with the Florida Historical Quar-
terly. I had scarcely supposed the subscriptions would more than pay
for the paper and the printing of the Quarterly. My conjecture that
the addition of a genealogical department would increase the number of
subscribers was conjecture only; I have no facts on which to base an
estimate. I am not myself a genealogist ( the Lord forbid!), even if
do on occasion dig a little around the family tree. ( Please do not
pull the Bible on me. I have never been so rash as to dung it!)

ies of.the letters of the ~ ohariah Hendera
_written from Pensacola, 185- but, when I saI find a bit of
,Ie maea few extracts from the letters that
might possibly interest your readers. I will endeavor to bear it in

You are very good to speak in commendatory terms of the family let-
ters printed in the Georgia Historical Quarterly. They do tell a
tragic story for any one who is interested in that great tragedy known
in this latutude as the Civil War, but in the South preferably called
by other names. I have since regreted that I did not publish the Light-
foot and Cody letters as one series; for they were all of the same
household. Three boys, all in their "teens, from one family, went off
to the war and did not return,
Just how great an interest in the war still abides in the deep
South I have little means of knowing. I have obtained an impression
that, now that about all are gone who actually took part in the war,
interest in the contest had somewhat subsided. The popularity of "Gone
with the Wind" would, however, indicate that the gruesome aspects of
the war will still lure people, North as well as South. I have person-
ally one regret stirred anew by that story. My father served in the
hospitals all through the Atlanta campaign, and my regret is that of
the numerous letters that he wrote my mother during the period only
one has survived, so far as I have been able to discover. That one,
written from Marietta just before the retreat on Atlanta, I printed in
the Georgia Historical Quarterly of June, 1937.
If I were a court, you would charge me with the offense of obiter
dicta. Therefore I out short my dicta.
Sincerely yours,

-4aW 0 Ci %)L^W