War Between the States

Assistant Secretary of War, Confederate States of America

Autograph Letter Signed


(1809-77) A native of Kentucky, he graduated in the West Point class of 1830. Two cadets who were at the military academy at the same time as Bledsoe, and who both figured prominently in his life, were Jefferson Davis (class of 1828) and Robert E. Lee (class of 1829). Upon his graduation he was commissioned brevet 2nd lieutenant, 7th U.S. Infantry, serving in Indian Territory. After two years of frontier duty he resigned his commission, on August 31, 1832. In 1833-34, he was adjunct professor of mathematics and teacher of French at Kenyon College, in Ohio, and in 1835-36, he was professor of mathematics at Miami University, in Ohio. After studying theology he was ordained a clergyman in the Protestant Episcopal Church, and was connected with various churches in Ohio until 1838. Having previously studied law, he began a practice in Springfield, Illinois, where his office was right next door to the one occupied by Abraham Lincoln. Bledsoe practiced in Springfield and in Washington until 1848. From 1848 until 1854, he was professor of mathematics and astronomy at the University of Mississippi, and he was professor at the University of Virginia from 1854 until 1861. In 1856, he published a defense of Southern life entitled, "An Essay on Liberty and Slavery." In 1861, he was named the Chief of the Bureau of War in the Confederate War Department, and then was appointed the Assistant Secretary of War. In 1863, he set sail for London in an attempt to influence the public opinion there to side with the Confederacy. He did not return to the United States until 1866, at which time he found his friend Jefferson Davis imprisoned, and facing charges of treason. Bledsoe then wrote one of his most important works titled, "Is Davis a Traitor; Or, Was Secession a Constitutional Right." Many credit Bledsoe's work with being very influential in preventing Jefferson Davis from being hung for treason. He then began editing the "Southern Review," a quarterly publication published in Baltimore, through which vehicle he continued to defend the South and its causes until his death. He justified secession as a constitutional right and slavery as a moral right sanctioned in the bible. He often quoted General Lee as stating, "You have a great work to do; and all look to you for our vindication."

Autograph Letter Signed: 2 1/2 pages, 7 x 8 3/4, in ink.

University M.[ississippi], June 17/52

My dear Sir,

I have not, as yet, made any arrangement for the publication of my Theodicy, on which I have expended so many years of intense labor. Many of my friends have made inquiries with respect to it, and expressed a great desire to see it in print, but you are the only person who has offered to do anything with a view to its publication. From the time you so kindly proposed to me to leave it with you, that you might make arrangements for its publication, I have felt a desire to dedicate the work to you, but that desire cannot be accomplished unless someone will undertake to publish it, and you should consent to my so doing. I will leave the whole matter in your hands, if you still feel disposed to procure a publisher. I shall be satisfied with any time you may agree upon with a publisher, no matter what they are, you may give one edition of a thousand or twelve hundred copies to any suitable publisher who will bring it out in a handsome style, or, if necessary, you may give away the whole copyright. Just do as you please, provided the work can be brought out in a handsome style, and with your consent, I shall take my great pleasure in dedicating it to you. Only do the best for me in your power, and I shall be more than satisfied. I have no hesitation in saying that I think this work will live. It will cast my small volume on the will entirely in the shade. I am thoroughly persuaded, that it will kindle a light amid the obscenities of theology, which posterity will not be willing to see extinguished. The manuscript of my Theology is in Dr. Sparrow’s possession. Please write as soon as you can. I wish to superintend the publication of the work, and I can only do so in the latter part of the month of July, and the month of August. If I can begin with August, that will do. I shall be in Washington about the 25th of July. My best regards to your good lady.

Very respectfully yours,
A.T. Bledsoe

[to] Rev. C.M. Butler, D.D.

Light age toning. Very fine. Desirable letter written by this prominent Confederate official and author.

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