Southern Historical Society Papers.
  Vol. XXI. Pg 15-37.
Richmond, Va., January-December. 1893.
              Monument To The Confederate Dead At The University Of Virginia.

               Address by Major Robert Stiles, at the Dedication, June 7, 1893.
Surviving Comrades of the Confederate Armies,
 Citizen Soldiers of Virginia, Ladies and Gentlemen:
On the outskirts of the historic capital city of Virginia, between it and the great battle-fields, out of the midst of 16,000 graves, rises a simple granite shaft with this inscription:
"The epitaph of the Soldier who falls with his Country is written in the hearts of those who love the Right and honor the Brave."
To-day, in this silent camp, we unveil another sentinel stone, bearing this legend:
"Fate denied them Victory, but clothed them with glorious Immortality."
Both these monuments memorialize defeat, but what witness do they bear? What do they declare? Against what do they protest? What is their deepest significance?
The Oakwood monument reminds us that the brave may fall, the right may fail. This shaft, the silent orator of this occasion, claims glory for the vanquished, immortality of glory for the brave who have fallen in a cause that is lost. The one challenges that basest and most debasing of falsehoods, "Success is the test of merit." The other denies that darkest and most depressing of creeds, "Success is the measure of fame." Both are noble protests--the very marrow of true manhood. They do honor to human nature; they nerve it with indomitable valor for the battle of life. It is much to know that the victor does not always wear the laurel, nor the vanquished the chain. It is more to feel that the chain may be more glorious than the laurel.
By the verdict of history, the Persian monarch who carried the Pass of Thermopylae has fallen before Leonidas and his Spartans who fell in defence of it. Who now ranks Scipio above Hannibal, or Wellington above Napoleon? How many of you can so much as name the general who drove the great Corsican out of Russia?
The world no longer measures men or principles by apparent or immediate results. Many a noble chapter of purely human story has contributed to this uplifting; but, in highest development, this revolt against the tyranny of results, this emancipation from the worship of success, this soul-homage of the absolute right, are Christian faiths, born of Gethsemane and Calvary--the Cross and the Sepulchre.
Thirty years have passed since the bodies of these men returned to dust and their spirits returned to God who gave them. Standing here to-day, a survivor of the mighty conflict in which they fell, and looking backward over the heads of a generation knowing neither those days nor these men, I have an admission to make, which I do without grudging.
The world has been more just to the Confederate soldier; that is, it has been quicker to do him justice, than I, for one, anticipated. Who, today, vapors or hisses about" making treason odious," or "burying traitors in oblivion?" On the contrary, to the honor of our late enemies, the people of the Northern States, be it said, that to-day, many, if not most of them, accord honor, admiration--glory, if you please--to the dead or living soldier of the Confederacy who is worthy to receive them, as readily perhaps, and in as full measure, as to his gallant foe who fought or fell upon the Union side.
What has wrought this great change?
Mainly two things----and
Time was when men spoke of slavery as the cause of the war, or the determination of one section to dominate the Union. To-day intelligent citizens generally recognize as the real cause of the war an irreconcilable difference as to the construction of a written instrument, and the rights of the sovereign and independent States which ratified it. Candid men of all sections and all parties to-day admit that this difference of opinion was not only honest, but intelligent; that the question involved was, and is, one upon which men of equal intelligence might, and did, and do, honestly differ. May I be pardoned for advancing yet one step, and suggesting that there is at least a vague impression, in the minds of the majority of intelligent men the country over that, upon the great and burning question that divided us, the weight of the argument was with the South.
Let me not be misunderstood.
I am not here to deny that, by the war, in the words of a great thinker and writer of the North, "a result and settlement were come by, which few now regret and none resist." I am not here to suggest that, in the course of history, Omniscient and Almighty God has blundered. But I am here to insist and to remind you, in the words of the same great writer, that "possibly" the question that divided us" was one of those many questions that arise in history that cannot be answered unanimously by the intellect or reason or conscience of erring, finite man. Appeal must be had to force. Offences must needs come."
I cannot forbear quoting at length from this truly monumental oration, delivered on the field of Gettysburg, on the 3d day of July, 1888, by the Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, younger brother of the famous Henry Ward, at the dedication of a monument to the "Brooklyn Phalanx," Sixty-seventh Regiment New York Volunteers. My only regret is that it would not be altogether seemly for me to give you the address entire, substituting it in place of my own feeble utterances. While I read, do you marvel at and admire the audacious grasp of intellect, the dauntless courage of heart, the majestic elevation of soul, which could, upon such an occasion, in such presence, and amid such surroundings, so handle this great theme, surpassing even the balanced view of the historian a century hence, and attaining almost the absolute impartiality of the disembodied spirit clean escaped from the distorting atmosphere and relations of earth.
Says Mr. Beecher:
"The facts recited shall be as colorless as the items of a bookkeeper's balance-sheet.
"In 1776, thirteen colonies, by their representatives in Congress or convention, called 'God to witness the rectitude of our (their) intentions,' and declared themselves 'free and independent States.'
"In 1787, these free and independent States proposed a 'more perfect Union' in the name of the people. 'We, the people,' they said in their preamble to the proposed Constitution. But:
"In the last article, of the same Constitution, we read of 'the States ratifying the same' as establishing the Constitution between the States so ratifying.
"In 1788, by June, the States had so ratified the Constitution; and in 1789, an orderly Constitutional Government came into power, George Washington its executive.
"In 1860-'61, four of these very States that had formed the Union, with seven other States that had been added, assumed to ' retrace' their steps, and cease to be members of the Union. They formed or had come into the Union freely, voluntarily; they proposed to go out by the same door.
"Their reasons for this step need not be stated here and now. One thing at a time.
"A grave question of law and duty arose, deeper than the Constitution itself--viz.:
"Has a State that has once ratified the Federal Constitution and formed or come into the Union, a right to retrace her steps, and go out and apart, and be, as she was originally, free and independent?
"Where shall, where could, citizens look or listen for an answer to this question--conclusive, authoritative?
"For more than thirty years political doctrine and controversy had flamed around this question until the masses of population came unconsciously to a welding heat, and a local unity of sentiment upon one side and the other. Hot and united, the people were ready to act; and they acted.
"Eleven States, acting in an orderly manner, by conventions lawfully called, retraced their steps with accuracy, and supposed themselves to have become once more free and independent.
"They went on accordingly. The old partnership dissolved, they offered to 'divide the effects by negotiation.'
"Now it happened that certain ports, custom-houses, post-offices, and other real estate, lay within the bounds of these States, that supposed themselves once more free and independent. Real estate cannot be moved off. The soil remains in its place. It must be given over to the State within whose bounds it lies or stands. The United States officers must cease from function, surrender office, title, keys and cash.
"This logical demand was made, refused, enforced by arms, resisted, and a great civil war began."
Then, speaking for those graves and for these, as I, in his great name and stead, now speak for these graves and for those, Mr. Beecher continued:
"It is not known what those dead men think of the battle of Gettysburg, at whose cost it was fought.
"From out of bodies, shot, shattered, bloody, battered, the souls of men went forth mid dust and smoke and thunder to learn the lessons and the language of the dead. For three days their solemn exodus lasted along the paths of mystery.
"What salute or countersign these soldiers exchanged; what conference or controversy they set up; or with what awe and curiosity they moved along to meet their destiny, we may not say, we do not know.
"These, my countrymen, untimely dead, be soldiers all who did their duty. At call of magistrate, they took up arms; these to quell insurrection, these to repel invasion--all obediently and with courage. Thy judgments, O God, are true and righteous altogether. Let it be unto Thy servants according to the sincerity of their purpose, the courage of their endeavor, the multitude of Thy compassions and the bounty of Thy grace. The judgment of God has not yet been published."
Can we rise to this sublime height, the colorless empyrean from which this great thinker looks down upon the great struggle; or shall we publish our feeble, partial judgment, while the Omniscient "Judge of all the earth" withholds His?
One protest must be entered.
This man was victor; I was vanished. This man, or the regiment whose deeds he commemorates, was invader; I was invaded. As he himself says: "At call of magistrate they took up arms--these to quell insurrection, these to repel invasion."
Halt! "Invasion?" Yes. "Insurrection?" How? Against what?
"These to quell insurrection--these to repel invasion."
Mr. Beecher probably intended by these phrases merely to indicate the conflicting views of the combatants; yet it is none the less important to note that the first phrase proclaims a theory, as to which men may honestly differ--the second recites a fact, which no man can honestly question.
"These to quell insurrection!"
Can our "book-keeper" intend to discredit the "items" entered by his own hand upon his "balance-sheet." "Free and independent States, * * proposing, * * establishing, * * ratifying * * a more perfect union, * * forming or coming into this Union freely, voluntarily * * proposing to go out by the same door, * * acting in an orderly manner, by conventions lawfully called, retracing their steps with accuracy, * * the old partnership dissolved, offering to divide the effects by negotiation."
All this he recites. He does not, as he might have done, explain further that the phrase, "We, the people of the United States," in whose name the Constitution was ordained, was originally written, "We, the people of Massachusetts, Connecticut," &c., all the States ratifying being named seriatim; and that the change was made, for the sake of brevity and convenience, by the committee on style and language, who probably had no purpose and certainly had no power to change the meaning and construction of the instrument, by any change of its phraseology.
Nor does he mention the additional significant fact that the words, "United States" are so written in the original draft of the Declaration as to render it well nigh inconceivable that the signers regarded them as the baptismal name of a new Nation, and well nigh certain that they regarded the phrase rather as descriptive of the then condition of the pre-existing States; the adjective "united" beginning with a small "u," and the substantive "States," with a capital "S."
"These--to repel invasion."
There is a naked simplicity and sincerity of right in the man who defends his hearth-stone, which does not belong to him who invades it. Let it never be forgotten that this God-implanted, spontaneous, irrepressible right was on our side in the late war, and that it tore away from their quiet studies here, and hurried to the front, largely over one-half of the 604 students at this institution in the spring of '61; while there joined the first army of invasion, but 73 out of the 896 students on the roll of great Harvard the same year. It gave to the Confederate service, from '61 to '65, more than 2,000 men of our University, of whom it buried in soldiers's graves more than 400--while but 1,040 Harvard men served in the armies and navies of the United States during the four years of the war, and only 155 of these lost their lives in the service. (*) It carried with us, heart and soul, the members of a great political party which did not accept the "States' Rights" theory of the Constitution, nor believe in the" extra Constitutional" and "reserved" right of secession. It gave "Old Jubal" Early, and others like him, to the Army of Northern Virginia; and was even the make-weight that gave Virginia herself to the Southern Confederacy. It impelled to the Northern frontier of our invaded States the flower of our native manhood, while the invader hurled upon us, in overwhelming masses, hirelings from beyond the sea, knowing neither our language nor our institutions, and mercenary wretches bought like cattle in the shambles, under the gigantic "bounty system," a scheme originally devised with the view of purchasing the exemption from military service of men supposed to be worth more at home, but which finally offered accumulated bribes so alluring that even the stay-at-homes rushed to the front to secure them.
Near the close of the great conflict I was standing on the roadside, not far from the city of Petersburg, a prisoner of war, and very near General Custis Lee, both of us having been captured in the battle of Sailor's Creek. We were watching the march of the never-ending columns of Grant's infantry. The very earth seemed shaking with their ceaseless tramp. Suddenly, a general officer, whose name and appearance I distinctly recall, left the column and riding up to us, dismounted and greeted General Lee with effusion. They had been classmates, I think, at West Point.
When the first salutations and inquiries had been exchanged the Federal officer, calling Lee's attention to the command just then passing, said with evident pride: "General, these are my men. Superb soldiers, you see. There's a great difference between your experience and ours in this respect. The best part of your people volunteered early, brought out by patriotism, enthusiasm, and that sort of thing. The best part of our people have just come out, brought out by the heavy bounties."
No bitter fling is intended by the recital of this incident. It but accentuates strongly the distinction between invaders and invaded. No one of us questions for a moment that there were thousands of brave men in the Federal army who entered it impelled by a lofty sense of duty--the duty, as they regarded it, of preserving the Union formed by the fathers and cemented by their blood. For all these, with all our heart and soul, we lift to heaven the noble prayer of Mr. Beecher's matchless oration: "Thy judgments, O God, are true and righteous altogether. Let it be unto Thy servants according to the sincerity of their purpose, the courage of their endeavor, the multitude of Thy compassions, and the bounty of Thy grace."
have contributed more, perhaps, than any and all other influences to a just appreciation of the Southern cause and the Southern soldier by the world at large. We refer not so much to their fame as generals as to their character as men.
The South has learned to appreciate in some adequate measure the inspiring and regenerating influence of two such exemplars upon her rising generation; but has she taken note of the measureless debt of gratitude she owes these peerless sons, for the impression their ineffable purity and piety and consecration have made upon the outside world, and the world's estimate of the cause these heroes represented and the soldiery they led? Who could recklessly condemn the cause to which Robert Lee gave his sword and Stonewall Jackson his life? Who can fail to honor soldiers who fought or fell where Lee and Jackson led?
It is impressive to note how these two men and these two names stand related to each other and to the Confederate cause. Each preeminent, yet without rivalry; the entire nature of each a contrast to, and yet the complement of, the other. If a single name be selected to represent us and our soldiery, it is "Lee," because of the matchless perfection of his character and his supreme command. If two be mentioned, they are "Lee and Jackson." If a triumvirate, these are two of the three, whoever be the third. If a list be named, they head the list. Who that ever saw the two together but felt his being stirred as never by any other sight.
It was at Savage Station, Monday morning, June 30, 1862. I had retired a little from the line, and was half reclining at the foot of a huge pine that stood on the edge of the Williamsburg road. Hearing the jingle of cavalry accoutrements toward the Chickahominy, I looked up and saw a large mounted escort, and, riding considerably in advance and already close upon me, a solitary horseman, whom I instantly recognized as the great wizard of the marvellous "Valley Campaign," which had so thrilled the army and the country.
Jackson and the little sorrel stopped in the middle of the road, probably not fifty feet off, while his staff halted perhaps a hundred and fifty yards or more in his rear. He sat stark and stiff in the saddle. Horse and rider appeared worn down to the lowest point of flesh consistent with effective service. His hair, skin, eyes, and clothes were all one neutral dust tint, and his badges of rank so dulled and tarnished as to be scarcely perceptible. The "mangy little cadet cap" was pulled so low in front that the visor just cut the glint of his eye-balls.
A ghastly scene was spread just across the road hard by. The Seventeenth and Twenty-first Mississippi, of Barksdale's brigade, had been ordered into the woods about dusk the evening before, and told not to fire into the first line they met; but the poor fellows ran into a Federal brigade, and were shocked and staggered by a deadly volley. Splendid soldiers that they were, they obeyed orders, held their own fire, laid down and took the enemy's. Almost every man struck was killed, and every man killed was shot through the brain. Their comrades had gone into the woods as soon as it was light, brought out the bodies and laid them in rows, with hands crossed upon their breasts, but eyes wide-staring. A sickly summer rain had fallen in the night, and the faces of the dead were bleached with more than death's pallor. Every eye-ball was strained upward toward the spot where the bullet had crashed through the skull, and every forehead stained with ooze and trickle of blood. Men were passing through the silent lines, bending low, seeking in the distorted faces to identify their friends.
Jackson glanced a moment toward this scene. Not a muscle quivered. "Eyes front!" and he resumed his steady gaze down the road toward Richmond. He was the ideal of concentration--imperturbable, resistless. I remember feeling that, if he were not a very good man he would be a very bad one. By a ludicrous turn of the association of ideas, the old darkey minister's illustration of faith flashed through my brain--" Bredren, if de Lord tell me to jump through a stone wall, I's gwine to jump at it; jumpin' at it 'longs to me, goin' through it 'longs to God." The man before me would have jumped at anything the Lord told him to jump through.
A moment later and his gaze was rewarded. A magnificent staff approached from the direction of Richmond, and riding at its head, superbly mounted, a prince, aye, a demi-god. At that time General Lee was one of the handsomest of men, especially on horseback, and that morning every detail of the dress and equipment of himself and horse was absolute perfection. When he recognized Jackson he rode forward with a courier, his staff halting. As he gracefully <shv21_24>dismounted, handing his bridle rein to his attendant, and advanced, drawing the gauntlet from his right hand, Jackson flung himself off his horse and advanced to meet him, little sorrel trotting back to the staff, where a courier secured him.
The two generals greeted each other warmly, but wasted no time upon the greeting. They stood facing each other, some thirty feet from where I lay, Lee's left side and back toward me, Jackson's right and front. He began talking in a jerky, impetuous way, meanwhile drawing a diagram on the ground with the toe of his right boot. He traced two sides of a triangle with promptness and decision; then, starting at the end of the second line, began to draw a third projected toward the first. This line he traced slowly and with hesitation, alternately looking up at Lee's face and down at his diagram, meanwhile talking earnestly; and when at last the third line crossed the first and the triangle was complete, he raised his foot and stamped it down with emphasis, saying, "We've got him." Then instantly signalled for his horse, and when he came, vaulted awkwardly into the saddle, and was gone.
Lee looked after him a moment, the courier brought his horse, he mounted, and he and his staff rode away.
The third line was never drawn--so we never "got" McClellan. I question if any other man witnessed this interview: certainly no other was as near the two generals. At times I could hear their words, though they were uttered, for the most part, in the low tones of close and earnest conference. As the two faced each other, except that the difference in height was not great, the contrast between them could not have been more striking in feature, figure, dress, voice, style, bearing, manner--everything, in short, that expressed the essential being of the men. It was the Cavalier and the Puritan in intensest embodiment. These two great roots and stocks of British manhood had borne each its consummate flower, in the rank soil of the New World.
The most eloquent tongues and pens of two continents have labored to present, with fitting eulogy, the character and career of the great Cavalier, who is to-day recognized, the world over--as the representative of the soldiery of the South. Not only is it true of him that he uniformly acted from the highest motive presented to his soul--but, so impressive and all-compelling was the majesty of his virtue, that it is doubtful whether any one ever questioned this. It is perhaps not too much to say, that the common consensus of Christendom--friend and foe and neutral--ranks him as one of the greatest captains of the ages, and attributes to him more of the noblest virtues and powers, with less of the ordinary weakness and littleness, of humanity, than to any other representative man in history.
Indeed, if commissioned to select a man to represent the race, in a congress of universal being, whither would you turn to find a loftier representative than Robert Edward Lee?
What now of our marvellous Round-head?
This certainly, that the world believes in his intense religion and his supreme genius for war, and receives every fresh revelation of him, with something of the profound and eager interest that attaches to the abnormal and the miraculous. In explaining the apparent presumption of this humble contribution, I cannot avoid the egotism of a personal explanation.
Probably no two general officers in the Confederate service knew more of the inner being of Stonewall Jackson and his characteristics as a soldier, than General D. H. Hill and General Ewell--the former his brother-in-law, the latter his trusted lieutenant. It was my privilege to be honored with the personal friendship of both these officers--General Hill early in the war, General Ewell later. Both talked freely with me of Jackson, and I eagerly absorbed from both all I could concerning him.
General Hill, during the winter of '61-'2, frequently expressed to me his unbounded confidence in Jackson's unbounded genius, and predicted that, if the war should last six years, and Jackson live so long, he would be in supreme command.
Dear, queer, chivalric, lovable "Dick Ewell" first worshipped Stonewall Jackson, and then Stonewall Jackson's God. With his own lips he told me, what is related with slight variation in Mrs. Jackson's life of her husband, that the first religious impression of which he was ever conscious took the form of a desire to get hold of the wondrous power which inspired his great commander, after prayer. Elymas the sorcerer, Simon Magus, if you please--but dear old Dick's simony led him up to "pure and undefiled religion." Ewell used to say the secret of Jackson's success as a soldier lay in his emphasis of the maxim, "Time is everything in war"--more than numbers, preparation, armament--more even than all these and all else.
I am satisfied this is but part of the secret.
My father was a minister of the gospel, but possessed strong military instincts, and would have made a superb soldier. He was a sort of chaplain-general in the Army of Northern Virginia; and spent much of his time and did much of his work in the lightning corps of Jackson. Being an intense christian and an intense Calvinist, he and Jackson became warm friends, and he was much at headquarters, even in the general's tent.
I distinctly recall his saying, "If required to state wherein Jackson differed most from other men, and wherein lay the great secret of his power, I should say--he came nearer putting God in God's place than any other human soul I ever met."
The statement is as strongly characteristic of my father in form, as I believe it to be of Stonewall Jackson in spirit. This is what the world roughly termed his "fatalism,"--but it is also what inspired and empowered his life with a sense of divine mission and divine support, solemnized it with a sense of infinite responsibility, and steadied it by complete dependence upon Divine Providence and entire submission to the divine decrees.
When Jackson hurled his columns against his enemies, it was in the strength of "The God of armies and of battles," and the war cry of his soul was "The Lord! The Lord! strong and mighty:--The Lord! The Lord! mighty in battle." While the cannon thundered and the battle smoke hung low, and the result trembled in the balance, his confident reliance was "The Lord God omnipotent reigneth." When victory perched upon his banners and the day was ours, his shout of triumph ever rose, "Now glory to the Lord of Hosts."
An incident related by my father strikingly exhibits the connection between this religious or sentimental basis of his military system, and the theoretical and practical development of it. The details are not very distinct; but, as I now remember, Jackson was present at an informal military conference, probably not at his own headquarters. My father, observing the council from a little distance, noticed that, as soon as Jackson had uttered a very few words, his head dropped upon his breast, and he evidently slept. He was several times appealed to, and each time had to be wakened. After the conference had broken up, an explanation of his singular conduct being asked, his reply not only illustrates and enforces what has just been said, but presents a powerful photograph of this unique being, and his own statement of the fundamental proposition of his theory of war. <shv21_27>
The entire recital was so remarkable that it made an indelible impression upon me, and I am confident of substantial if not verbal accuracy in the reproduction of it. Jackson replied--
"I always have one single, simple opinion. Doctor, and that is to attack the enemy wherever we find him. God has not endowed me with the power of impressing my views upon other people, and when I have stated them, I have done all I can for the conference. Besides, I am not then in charge of the troops. For the time, that responsibility is on the second in command, and I can go to sleep with a free mind, a thing I cannot often do."
Strange, solitary soul; called into council with others it sinks quietly to rest, because for once absolutely free from responsibility. Having nothing it can give, others have nothing it can get. His only councils are held with "The Wonderful" and only "Counsellor," "in the secret place of the Most High," and when he emerges thence to execute "what God hath showed him in the mount," his wisdom confounds his adversaries and his might overwhelms them.
Glance for a moment at his Valley campaign. It is enough to say of my figures that they are those of Col. William Allan, who, if he had lived, would have been the historian of our war.
The entire force under Jackson at no time exceeded 17,000 men, it varied from 4,500 to 17,000--while the aggregate of the forces operating against him varied from 25,000 to 60,000. Take, as your major premise, this enormous disparity in numbers--as your minor premise, the incontrovertible, historic fact that, in every one of his battles (with the single exception of Kernstown), he outnumbered his adversary on the actual field of combat. What must be your conclusion? If, as Napoleon said, "war is rapid and skillful concentration," then Stonewall Jackson is the genius of war.
Take another element. It is almost too familiar to deserve mention, that the forced marches of his "foot cavalry" generally put him at the point of attack before his enemy was prepared to receive him; but, rapid marching alone furnishes no adequate explanation of the consternation of surprise, the mingled frenzy and paralysis of amazement, with which his attacks were sometimes received. The explanation lies in a single statement--whenever circumstances admitted of it he attacked with the head of his column, he fired the first musket that got upon the ground.
After such study as I have been able to give the matter, I am inclined to believe this feature more essentially characteristic of his military system, and more the secret of his success than any other single element. Obviously, there is amazing audacity in it, and, except under the guidance of genius, amazing peril as well; but, thus directed, incalculable and resistless power.
The fundamental maxim of war requires that the column should be fully up, on the ground and deployed into line, before the attack begins. With a column of from ten to fifteen thousand men, in our broken and wooded country, this would probably require and consume say from two to four hours, which are hours of warning and preparation to your adversary. Jacksons's tactics often annihilated these hours--simply snatched them away from his opponent. Knowing where Jackson was a given time before, it was a safe and sure calculation that, the muskets that rudely broke the quiet of the Federal camp or the order of the Federal march could not be his. In accordance with the rules of war, being at Strasburg last night at dark, he simply could not be here at daylight this morning. Tested by these rules he is not here, and yet he is actually here, in overwhelming force and devastating fury. The first result is surprise amounting to stupefaction--the second, that impression prominent in the official reports of his defeated opponents--"The rebels were constantly and heavily reinforced all through the engagement." No, no! Banks, Milroy, Fremont--it was only "old Jack's" long column, electrified by the volleys that startled you from your blankets, and double quicking up into line and into battle.
Now, then, let us formulate Jackson's system of war.
1st. The religious or subjective basis. Intense realization of the sovereignty of God, with its normal effect upon the powers of his soul and the habits of his life.
2d. Ceaseless, aggressive activity, keeping the fighting fibre of his men from fatty degeneration, and keeping his opponents in a state of nervous alarm and dread.
3d. Celerity of movement--under the guidance of supreme military genius--resulting in rapid and victorious concentration of his own forces and fatal surprise to his foes.
4th. Attack with the head of his column, accentuating the consternation of his adversaries, and following up his first advantage with constantly augmenting force.
Most of us were not men. We were smooth-faced boys. Eternal boyhood has passed upon some of us. The rest of us have grown old--how old we would realize, if, from one of these graves, a comrade of the long ago could rise and take his place among us.
When we put on our gray jackets and left home, the boys we knew and loved were leaving too--each of us blessed and kissed by mother, and speeded by the prayers and benedictions of the parish minister and the church, and of every one that represented anything in the community worth living for or dying for. When we reached the army, by the time we settled into soldiers, we found ourselves blindly following the lead of one of greater and better than any other we had ever known--and we all felt that, with us was Right, before us was Duty, behind us was Home.
The world has said great things of us, and some of them must be true, for Lee himself has said them too. We are not troubled about our reputation. Some of us are where we can never lose it; others have not always lived worthy of it, but when heart and hope sink, because self respect is given away, we look back to what we were and what we did--despair is routed, and we raise our heads once more.
And what were we--what did we, in those days? Shallow-pated fools--Nineteenth century fools--sneer at the life of the soldier. We know better. From the midst of the life about us to-day---the life of craft and guile and rottenness, of money-loving and money-getting--the life of push and drive and clutch and scrape for wealth, aye for bread--the hum-drum, dead-level, feeble, shallow, selfish life you live to-day--look back upon your soldier life. Gaze upon it, in the hallowing light of the past. The look will do you good, through and through. One thing at least is clear. If there is any part or portion of your life, in which you were where you should have been and did what you should have done--it is the great Olympiad of '61 to '65, when you followed Joe Johnson and Robert Lee.
And what a life that following opened to us. Every experience, every effort, every emotion, was deep with all its depth, and strong with all its strength, and strained the soul. Its perils and its sufferings, its heroism and its devotion--its pathos, its terror, its enthusiasm, its triumphs--all these were ecstasies and agonies, were earthquakes and tempests, compared with which the experiences of our life to-day are trite and tame indeed.
You who witnessed the spring-burst of battle at Chancellorsville or the Wilderness, or red battle's high and splendid noon at Manassas or Gettysburg--tell me! what have you felt or looked on since, that is not pitifully small in comparison. If, on such a field, you chanced to see Robert Lee ride, with uncovered head, along the front of one of his old fighting divisions, to you surely I need not enlarge upon the thrilling inspirations in the life of the Confederate soldier.
A single scene from this room of memory's picture gallery.
We had been ordered out of Fredericksburg. Burnside's great siege guns were belching forth death and ruin upon the old town, from the Stafford heights. Barksdale's Mississippians had been hospitably received by the inhabitants, and their blood was up in their defense. The Twenty-first Mississippi was the last regiment to leave the city. The last detachment was under the command of Lane Brandon, my quondum classmate at Yale. In skirmishing with the head of the Federal column--led, I think, by the Twentieth Massachusetts-Brandon captured a few prisoners, and learned that the advance company was commanded by Abbott, who had been his chum at Harvard Law School, when the war began.
He lost his head completely. He refused to retire before Abbott. He fought him fiercely, and was actually driving him back. In this he was violating orders, and breaking our plan of battle. He was put under arrest, and his subaltern brought the command out of town.
Buck Denman, a Mississippi bear hunter and a superb specimen of manhood, was color-sergeant of the Twenty-first and a member of Brandon's company. He was tall and straight, broad-shouldered and deep-chested, had an eye like an eagle and a voice like a bull of Bashan, and was full of pluck and power as a panther. He was rough as a bear in manner, but withal, a noble, tender-hearted fellow, and a splendid soldier.
The enemy finding the way now clear, were coming up the street, full company front, with flags flying and bands playing, while the great shells from the siege guns were bursting over their heads and dashing their hurtling fragments after our retreating skirmishers.
Buck was behind the comer of a house, taking sight for a last shot. Just as his finger trembled on the trigger, a little three-year-old, fair-haired baby-girl toddled out of an alley, accompanied by a Newfoundland dog, and gave chase to a big shell that was rolling lazily along the pavement, she clapping her little hands and the dog snapping <shv21_31>and barking furiously at the shell. Buck's hand dropped from the trigger. He dashed it across his eyes to dispel the mist and make sure he hadn't passed over the river and wasn't seeing his own baby-girl in a vision. No, there is the baby, amid the hell of shot and shell, and here come the Yankees. A moment, and he has grounded his gun, dashed out into the storm, swept his great right arm around the baby, gained cover again, and, baby clasped to his breast and musket trailed in his left hand, is trotting after the boys up to Marye's heights.
And there, behind that historic stone wall and in the lines hard by, all those hours and days of terror, was that baby kept; her fierce nurses taking turns patting her, while the storm of battle raged and shrieked--and, at night, wrestling with each other for the boon and benediction of her quiet breathing under their blankets. Never was baby so tended and cared for. They scoured the country side for milk, and conjured up their best skill to prepare dainty viands for her little ladyship.
When the struggle was over and the enemy had withdrawn to his strongholds across the river and Barksdale was ordered to reoccupy the town, the Twenty-first Mississippi, having held the post of danger in the rear, was given the place of honor in the van and led the column. There was a long halt, the brigade and regimental staff hurrying to and fro. The regimental colors could not be found.
Denman stood about the middle of the regiment, baby in arms. Suddenly he sprang to the front. Swinging her aloft above his head, her little garments fluttering like the folds of a banner, he shouted, "Forward Twenty-first, here are your colors"--and, without further order, off started the brigade toward the town, yelling as only Barksdale's men could yell. They were passing through a street fearfully shattered by the enemy's fire, and were shouting their very souls out; but--let Buck himself describe the last scene in the drama:
"I was holding the baby high, Adjutant, with both arms, when, above all the racket, I heard a woman's scream. The next thing I knew I was covered with calico, and she fainted on my breast. I caught her before she fell, and laying her down gently, put her baby on her bosom. She was most the prettiest thing I ever looked at, and her eyes were shut,--and--and--I hope God'll forgive me, but I kissed her just once."
"And what shall we more say, for the time would fail us" to illustrate all the noble features of the soldier life. There is however one, perhaps specially characteristic of our Confederate struggle, of which I desire to speak with emphasis, because, as I believe, there has never been any just or general appreciation of it, and the little there was seems to be fading away.
I refer to the more than human heroism of the private soldiers of our armies who remained faithful under the unspeakable pressure of letters and messages revealing suffering, starvation and despair, at home.
The men who felt this strain most were husbands of young wives and fathers of young children, whom they had supported by their labor, manual or mental. As the lines of public communication in the Confederacy were more and more broken and destroyed, the situation of such families became more desperate, and their appeals more and more piteous, to their only earthly helpers, who were far, far away filling their places in "the thin gray line." Meanwhile the enemy sent secretly into our camps, often by our own pickets, circulars offering our men indefinite parole, with free transportation to their homes.
If ever there was such a thing as a "conflict of duties," that conflict was presented to these men. If ever the strain of such a conflict was great enough to unsettle a man's reason and break a man's heart-strings, these men were subjected to that strain. I cannot express to you the intensity of my feeling on this subject. I cannot reveal to you the unutterable revelations of this anguish, which have been made to these ears and these eyes.
Ask any Confederate officer who commanded troops in the latter part of the war and who was loved and trusted by his men. He will tell you of letters which it would have seared your very eye balls to read, but that they could not be read without bedewing and bedimming tears--letters marked ofttimes by the pathos which labored and imperfect penmanship imparts, and always by the power which agony inspires--letters in which a wife and mother, crazed by her starving children's cries for bread, demanded of a husband and father to choose between his God--imposed obligations to her and to them, and his allegiance to his country, his duty as a soldier--declared, that, if the stronger party prove recreant to the marriage vow, the weaker should no longer be bound by it--that if he come not at once, he need never come--that she will never see him more, never recognize him again as the husband of her heart or the father of her children.
Many a noble officer, reading such a letter with a poor fellow of his command, at night fall, has realized how inadequate and powerless was the best sympathy and advice and comfort he could give, and when at next morning's roll call, that man failed to answer to his name, has felt far more of pity than of condemnation. Soldiers would not prevent the departure of a comrade who was known to have received such a letter. Officers of court martials, compelled by sense of duty to order the execution as a deserter of a man absent without leave under such circumstances, have confessed to me, with awful emphasis, that they shuddered, as if accessories before the fact to murder. Nay more--when a man stood upright under such a strain, and, thereafter, his life a living death, yet steadfast trod its hateful round of camp and march and battle, it was even a relief to his commanding officer, when the foeman's merciful bullet let the agonized spirit out of the miserable body, to see his arms fly up wildly, and to catch, as it were, his death cry--"Thank God! this hell is past."
During the winter of '64-'5, two or three of General Alexander's field officers, First Corps Artillery, A. N. V., were sent to Chaffin's Bluff, for the purpose of toning up the garrison there, which had been demoralized by the disaster at Fort Harrison, the capture of their commanding officer and other untoward incidents. The morale of the men had decidedly improved before the final crash came, but that was enough to try the mettle even of the best troops in the highest condition. The men of the fleet and of the James river defenses were ordered to leave the river about midnight of the 2d of April, exploding magazines and ironclads, and joining the Army of Northern Virginia on its retreat. The troops at Chaffin's, having been long in garrison, and rightly deeming this the beginning of the end, were greatly shaken by the orders, and the sublime terrors of that fearful night certainly did nothing to steady them.
The explosions began just as we got across the river. When the magazines at Chaffin's and Drury's Bluffs went off, the solid earth shuddered convulsively; but, as the iron-clads--one after another--exploded, it seemed as if the very dome of heaven would be shattered down upon us. Earth and air and the black sky glared in the lurid light. Columns and towers and pinnacles of flame shot upward to an amazing height, from which, on all sides, the ignited shell flew on arcs of fire and burst as if bombarding heaven. I distinctly remember feeling that, after this, I could never more be startled--no, not by the catastrophes of the last Great Day.
I walked in rear of the battalion to prevent straggling, and, as the successive flashes illumined the cimmerian darkness, the blanched faces and staring eyes turned backward upon me spoke volumes of nervous demoralization. I felt that a hare might shatter the column.
We halted at daylight at a country cross-road in Chesterfield to allow other bodies of troops to pass, the bulk of my men lying down and falling asleep in a grove; but, seeing others about a well in the yard of a farm house over the way, I deemed it best to go there to see that nothing was unnecessarily disturbed.
I sat in the porch, where were also sitting an old couple evidently the joint head of the establishment, and a young woman dressed in black, apparently their daughter, and, as I soon learned, a soldier's widow. My coat was badly torn, and the young woman kindly offering to mend it, I thanked her, and, taking it off, handed it to her. While we were chatting, and groups of men sitting on the steps and lying about the yard, the door of the house opened and another young woman appeared. She was almost beautiful, was plainly but neatly dressed, and had her hat on. She had evidently been weeping, and her face was deadly pale. Turning to the old lady as she came out, she said, cutting her words off short: "Mother, tell him if he passes by here, he is no husband of mine," and turned again to leave the porch. I rose, and placing myself directly in front of her, extended my arm to prevent her escape. She drew back with surprise and indignation. The men were alert on the instant, and battle was joined.
"What do you mean, sir?" she cried.
"I mean, madam," I replied, "that you are sending your husband word to desert, and that I cannot permit you to do this in the presence of my men."
"Indeed! and who asked your permission, sir? And pray, sir, is he your husband or mine?"
"He is your husband, madam, but these are my soldiers. They and I belong to the same army with your husband, and I cannot suffer you or anyone, unchallenged, to send such a demoralizing message in their hearing."
"Army! do you call this mob of retreating cowards an army? Soldiers! if you are soldiers, why don't you stand and flight the savage wolves that are coming upon us defenceless women and children?"
"We don't stand and fight, madam, because we are soldiers, and have to obey orders; but, if the enemy should appear on that hill this moment, I think you would find that these men are soldiers, and willing to die in defence of women and children."
"Quite a fine speech, sir, but rather cheap to utter, since you very well know the Yankees are not here, and won't be till you've had time to get your precious carcasses out of the way. Besides, sir, this thing is over, and has been for some time. The government has now actually run off, bag and baggage--the Lord knows where--and there is no longer any government or any country for my husband to owe allegiance to. He does owe allegiance to me, and to his starving children, and if he doesn't observe this allegiance now, when I need him, he needn't attempt it hereafter, when he wants me."
The woman was quick as a flash and cold as steel. She was getting the better of me. She saw it, I felt it, and, worst of all, the men saw and felt it, too, and had gathered thick, and pressed up close, all around the porch. There must have been a hundred or more of them, all eagerly listening and evidently leaning strongly to the woman's side.
This would never do.
I tried every avenue of approach to that woman's heart. It was either congealed by suffering, or else it was encased in adamant. She had parried every thrust, repelled every advance, and was now standing defiant, with her arms folded across her breast, rather courting further attack. I was desperate, and, with the nonchalance of pure desperation--no stroke of genius--I asked the soldier-question: "What command does your husband belong to?"
She started a little, and there was a slight trace of color in her face, as she replied, with a slight tone of pride in her voice.
"He belongs to the Stonewall Brigade, sir." (*)
I felt, rather than thought it--but, had I really found her heart? We would see.
"When did he join it?"
A little deeper flush, a little stronger emphasis of pride.
"He joined it in the spring of '61, sir."
Yes, I was sure of it now. Her eyes had gazed straight into mine--her head inclined and her eye-lids drooped a little now, and there was something in her face that was not pain and was not fight, So I let myself out a little, and turning to the men, said:
"Men, if her husband joined the Stonewall Brigade in '61, and has been in the army ever since, I reckon he's a good soldier."
I turned to look at her. It was all over. Her wifehood had conquered. She had not been addressed this time, yet she answered instantly, with head raised high, face flushing, eyes flashing.
"General Lee hasn't a better in his army."
As she uttered these words, she put her hand in her bosom, and drawing out a folded paper, extended it toward me, saying:
"If you doubt it, look at that."
Before her hand reached mine, she drew it back, seeming to have changed her mind--but I caught her wrist, and, without much resistance on her part, possessed myself of the paper. It had been much thumbed and was much worn. It was hardly legible, but I made it out. Again I turned to the men.
"Take your hats off, boys, I want you to hear this with uncovered heads"--and then I read an endorsement on an application for furlough, in which General Lee himself had signed a recommendation of this woman's husband for a furlough of special length, on account of special gallantry in battle.
During the reading of this paper, the woman was transfigured, glorified. No Madonna of old master was ever more sweetly radiant with all that appeals to what is best and holiest in man. Her bosom rose and fell with deep, quiet sighs--her eyes rained gentle, happy tears.
The men felt it all--all. They were all gazing upon her, but the dross was clean purified out of them. There was not, upon any one of their faces, an expression that would have brought a blush to the cheek of the purest womanhood on earth. I turned once more to the soldier's wife:
"This little paper is your most precious jewel, isn't it?"
"It is."
"And the love of him whose manly courage and devotion won this tribute is the best blessing God ever gave you--isn't it?"
"It is."
"And yet, for the brief ecstacy of one kiss, you would disgrace this hero husband of yours, stain all his noble reputation, and turn this priceless little paper to bitterness; for, the rear-guard would hunt him from his own cottage, in half an hour, a deserter and a coward."
Not a sound could be heard save her hurried breathing. The rest of us held even our breath.
Suddenly, with a gasp of recovered consciousness, she snatched the paper from my hand, put it back hurriedly in her bosom, and, turning once more to her mother, said:
"Mother, tell him not to come."
I stepped aside at once. She left the porch, glided down the path to the gate, crossed the road, surmounted the fence with easy grace, climbed the hill, and, as she disappeared in the weedy pathway, I caught up my hat and said:
"Now men, give her three cheers."
Such cheers! O, God! shall I ever again hear a cheer which bears a man's whole soul in it?
I could have hurled that battalion against an embattled world.
Comrades, we are about to unveil a monument to "The Confederate Dead," but one interesting feature of this occasion is its tender association with a Confederate, thank God, yet living.
When little Sallie Baker shall draw aside yonder veil and reveal the noble figure behind it her act will also serve to recall the pathetic figure of the hero father to whose superb gallantry she owes her distinguished part in the ceremonies of this hour--comrade James B. Baker, a soldier who never faltered till he fell, and who has borne his wounds as bravely as he had worn his sword.
And now, we leave this holy acre, we close this holy hour. We turn again to what we call "Life"; we leave these gallant brothers whom we call "Dead." Yes, leave them here in silence, and with God.
God will distill the gentlest dews of heaven upon these flowers He will direct the mildest stars of heaven upon these graves. God and his angels will guard their repose until the roses bloom again, then we will return, renewing our flowers and our faith.