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It covers a period of nearly "three-score years and ten," spent under a variety of conditions, embracing: childhood; school days; college, university and seminary life; a visit in youth to Ireland, the home of my ancestors; travel and study abroad at a later period; pastoral work in Amelia, Farmville and Lynchburg, Virginia; service in the army of the Confederate States as lieutenant and chaplain; the progress and close of the Civil War and of Reconstruction in Virginia; a period of service as Secretary of Missions of the Southern Presbyterian Church (1872-1883), including Reconstruction in South Carolina (1872-5); presidency of Hampden-Sidney College (1883-1904), and membership in the Constitutional Convention of Virginia (1901-2). It includes residences outside of my native State in Edinburgh, Scotland; Columbia, South Carolina; and Baltimore, Maryland.
It is written in plain, colloquial style, without reference to rhetorical effect, as my life has been spent in the discharge of plain duty, mostly among plain people, by whom, chiefly, it will be read, when read at all. Some of the recollections are of things told me by friends and relatives, and I have endeavored to state everything with absolute accuracy; others, to a considerable extent, are sustained by written and printed documents in my possession or accessible to me. I trust it may prove useful to some of my fellow-men. If so, it will be the occasion of thanksgiving in my declining years.