act of Congress. In addition to this, my rank was expressly recognized by Congress also, in the resolutions adopted by that body returning the thanks of Congress to General Johnston, to General Beauregard, and to the officers of the Army for the victory of Manassas. * Thus matters stood when the recent nominations were made. But one additional names was offered, that of A. S. Johnston. His commission in the Army of the United States had been that of colonel. I, as resigning the higher rank in that Army, was by the provisions of the act of Congress of the 14th of March, 1861, and the plighted faith of the Government of the Confederate States, the general first in rank in their armies. By that act and that of May 16, 1861, the rank would stand thus: J. E. Johnson, S. Cooper, A. S. Johnston, R. E. Lee, G. T. Beauregard. I held and I claim to hold my rank as general under the act of May 16, 1861. I was a general thenceforth or never. I had the full authority of the constitutional Government of the Confederate States to sustain me. Heretofore those who disputed my authority as general have done so because they denied the existence of the Government whose officer I claimed to be. Now that Government joins the hostile power in denying my authority. When I sent back the missives of the Government of the United States, because they ignored the Government which I served and acknowledged, I little thought that one of the acts of that Government would be to ignore me as its officer by trampling upon its own solemn legislative and executive action. I was a general from and after the 16th day of May, 1861. The nomination seeks to annual the irrevocable past, and to make me such only from the 4th day of July. The present and, so far as human legislation may operate, the future may be controlled by Congress.
Human power cannot affect the past. Congress may vacate my commission and reduce me to the ranks. It cannot make it true that I was not a genera day of July, 1861. The effect of the course pursued is this: It transfers me from the position of first in rank to that of fourth. The relative rank of the others amongst themselves is unaltered. It is plain, then, that this is a blow aimed at me only. It reduces my rank in the grade I hold. This has never been done heretofore in the regular service in America but by the sentence of a court-martial, as a punishment and a disgrace for some military offense. It seeks to tarnish my fair fame as a soldier and a man, earned by more than thirty years of laborious and perilous service. I had but this, the scars of many wounds, all honestly taken in my front and in the front of battle, and my father's Revolutionary sword. It was delivered to me from his venerated hand, without a stain of dishonor. Its blade is still unblemished as when it passed from his hand to mine. I drew it in this war, not for rank or fame, but to defend the sacred soil, the homes and hearths, the women and children; aye, and the men of my mother Virginia, my native South. It may hereafter be the sword of a general leading armies, or of a private volunteers, but while I live and have an arm to wield it shall never be sheathed until the freedom, independence, and full rights of the South are achieved. When that is done it may well be a matter of small concern to the Government, to Congress, or to the country what my rank or lot may be. I shall be satisfied if my country stands among the powers of the world free, powerful, and victorious, and that I, a general, a lieutenant, or a volunteer soldier, have borne
*See Series I, VOL. LI, Part II, p. 215.