Alexandria Gazette, Volume 90, Number 124, 24 May 1889
The laudable idea, conceived a year or two ago, of erecting a suitable monument to perpetuate to the memory of those of the historic Seventeenth Virginia regiment who yielded up their lives during the four years’ civil war, and which soon evolved into a fixed purpose, culminated today in the unveiling at the intersection of Prince and Washington streets of a memorial in their honor which would do credit to any city. The interest manifested in the erection of the monument had from the start been earnest, and while no intemperate zeal had been apparent, the originators and these engaged in the perfection of the work have evinced a determination and an indefatigable energy which augured its entire success from the first inception of the project. The various stages in the work have been chronicled in the Gazette from time to time; hence their repetition now is unnecessary : but as the day for the unveiling drew on almost the entire community enlisted in the enterprise, and the monument for some time has been the main theme of conversation.
Tbe joyful anticipation of tbe scenes of today has been more than realized, and at the conclusion of the ceremonies connected with the unveiling the vast assemblage parted from what will henceforth be considered a sacred spot both edified and instructed. The addresses of the renowned speakers were pathetic and entrancing, at times sending electrical thrills through the audience, as was evinced by the hurrahs and applause which so often rent the air.
The occasion far exceeded anything in the way of parade or open air meeting ever seen in Alexandria, the city from daybreak having put on its holiday attire. The population was soon doubled by the large influx of visitors and former residents from every point in the compass, and the streets presented an animated appearance. In addition to the extraordinarily large number landed by cars aud boats, parties from tbe neighboring Country in carriages and all sorts of vehicles poured into the streets from early morn, and by noon the neighborhood of the statue was packed by a huge mass of humanity. The weather was about as pleasant as could have been wished for — bright sunshine with the temperature low enough to render one comfortable.
There has been an interval of over three decades since a statue was erected through public spirit by Alexandrians, the last having been the beautiful and imposing shaft in Ivy Hill cemetery, reared, like the one displayed to the public today, to the memory of men who died in the faithful discharge of their duty — not, however, amid the clash of war, but in quenching the flame — men who had responded to the midnight alarm, and been buried under falling debris. May their memory, too, he ever green.
Children and grandchildren of the fallen heroes of the old Seventeenth mingled today in the assemblage around tbe monument which will henceforth perpetuate the memory of men who so nobly responded to the call of their native State while in the concourse the number who remembered or witnessed the hasty departure of the Alexandria companies from the same spot just twenty-eight years ago was by no means insignificant. There hasty partings had taken place — some, alas! final ones. In not a few instances tbe departure of loved ones was so hurried and abrupt that there was no time for parental adieux or blessings. Out of nearly four hundred who made their hasty exit, and of the number who later left for “Dixie,” ninety-seven were destined to return no more, and though over a quarter of a century has elapsed since they fell in the defence of their principles, Time, the soother of all our sorrows, has but partially blunted the edge of the poignant grief at the time experienced, and their memory still lives while their self-sacrificing spirit will continue to animate future generations — hereabouts, at least.
War to a large percentage of the present generation is only known through history; they were either unborn or two young to have witnessed the terrible fruits of carnage or to have realized the self abnegation of men who voluntarily shouldered their muskets in defense of what is sincerely believed to be sacred, and many there were who, while they stood around that monument today lapsed into a thoughtful mood, when the panorama of the scene of the four years’ conflict passed through their minds.
Tne point at which the monument has been placed is conceded to be the most central and at the same time the most appropriate in the city. As stated above, it was from this place that the Alexandria companies took their departure to join fortunes with their Southern brethren, and though several other localities had been suggested, the corner of Prince and Washington streets has ever been looked upon as the most suitable spot on which to place the memorial to the fallen heroes. The altitude and width of the latter thoroughfare rendering the monument more conspicious from a distance than would have been the case had it been placed in any other section of the city.
Crowds remained in close proximity to the monument all the morning, and as noon drew on, the time at which the procession formed, the streets in the neighborhood became almost impassible, while windows, porches, door steps and front and side yards of neighboring bouses were filled to repletion.
The various organizations which were to take part in the parade began assembling on Washington Street at 11 o’clock, and were assigned their respective positions in line by the chief marshal and his aides. At 12 o’clock the word of command was given and the proccession moved in the following order:
Chief Marshal, W. A. Smoot, and aids, Cols. Llewellyn Hexton and Edmund Berkley, and Mssrs J. M. Love, D.A. Windsor, T. C. Pitcher, and J. D. Hooe.
R E Lee Camp, Confederate Veterans of Alexandria.
Survivors of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States of Maryland.
Maury Camp, of Fredericksburg.
Clinton Hatcher Camp, of Leesburg.
Unattached Confederate Soldiers and Sailors, under command of Col. Arthur Herbert.
Carriages containing Gov Lee, General J. E Johnston, Capt. R.T. Daniel and Gen. M.D. Corse; Messrs. R. H. Caldwell, Casper Buarberl, Mayor Downham and J. Bell Bigger.
Alexandria Light Infantry, Capt. Geo. A Mushbach, Lieuts. Samuel L. Monroe and Albert Bryan.
National Fencibles, of Washington, Capt, C. S. Domer.
Washington Merchant Rifles, of Washington, Capt. Costinet.
Students of the Episcopal High School.
St. John’s Academy Cadets Bataillon, Will F. Carne, Captain Commanding ; Co A, Capt. Wm. H. Sweeney, Lieut. S. M. Lee; Co. B, Lieut. E C. Helphenstein.
Rathbone Division, Uniform Rank, K of P., of Alexandria, Va. –Commanded by Lieut. J S. Beach. Marshal, Al. Gibson. Pythian Division, No. 1, of Baltimore, and Washington Division, of Washington.
Osceola Tribe of Red Men, of Alexandria Va. Marshal, Fred Kaus
Carriages containing City Council and City officers and committee.
Chief Engineer, J. Carlin Creighton.
Friendship Fire Company, of Alexandria Va. Marshal, W. H. Smith.
Hydraulion Steam Fire Company, of AIexandria, Va., B. B. Smith, Marshal.
Relief Hook and Ladder Company, ofAlexandria, Va., J. Frank Carlin, Marshal.
Columbia Steam Fire Company, of Alexandria, Va. Geo. Uhler, Marshal.
The right of the procession rested on Cameron street, and the line of march was over the following route: Down Cameron to Fairfax, down Fairfax to King, up King to Payne, down Payne to Prince, down Prince to Columbus, down Columbus tc Duke, down Duke to Fairfax, up Fairfax to Prince, up Prince to St. Asaph, up St. Asaph to King, up King to Washington, out Washington to Oronoco, countermarch to Prince, where the unveiling ceremonies will take place.
Lee Camp was commanded by Lieut. Commander J.R. Zimmerman. The veterans wore citizens dress, drab slouch hats, bages, white gloves and carried canes.
Pickett-Buchanan Camp, of Norfolk; Maury Camp of Fredericksburg; Clinton Hatcher Camp, of Leesburg, and the other veterans in line were similarly dressed.
The Society of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States of Maryland, was under the command of Gen. B.T. Johnston. Their uniform was the regulation Confederate hat, and badges expressly for the occasion and they wore preceded by Charles’s band.
The Alexandria Light Infantry wore their handsome new uniforms of red coats, blue pantaloons, &c. This was the first time the company had ever appeared in Alexandria in their new uniforms and they attracted much attention.
The Washington Merchant Rifles wore a handsome uniform of dark blue pantaloons and grey coats and were a fine looking body of men.
The National Fencibles uniform consisted of dark green, trimmed with white — as handsome as any in the line.
The Cadet Corps of St. John’s Academy turned out fifty strong and carried its superb embroidered flag, presented some years ago by the young ladies of the Frederick Academy of the Visitation. The cadets wore their handsome uniform of gray trimmed with black and blue, cadet caps and formed two companies. Their fine marching and wheeling elicited mach applause.
Rathbone Division U. R. K. of P. wore their showy Pythian uniform with white helmets surmounted by red plumes. The other Pythian divisions were similarly uniformed and made a fine display.
Osceola Tribe of Red Men dressed in Indian costumes. They had in line a largo canoe filled with little girls prettily costumed which was a feature of the parade.
The Friendship Fire Company turned out fifty members. They wore the old firemen’s uniform, black pantaloons, red shirts, and firemen’s hats. The members drew their engine, which was tastefully decorated. On the engine were two children representing George aud Mary Washington.
Tho Hydraulion S. F. E. Company turned out about forty strong, in blue shirts and black pantaloons, and white helmets. It was preceded by the fine band of the 3rd Artillery and marshalled by Mr. Geo. T. Petty, the foreman, who carried the splendid silver trumpet won by the company nearly forty years ago. The hose carriage, drawn by two handsomely capirisoned gray horses was driven by Mr. Henry C. Phillips; the engine, drawn by four fine grays, had Mr. Thomas D. Dix, its veteran driver, at the ribbons. Neither was trimmed, but both were neatly varnished aud their metal work shone like gold.
The Relief Hook and Ladder Company had 25 men in line, dressed in black pantaloons. white shirts and firemen’s hats. The were headed by Eibner’s band, and marched in front of their truck, which was drawn by four horses driven by Mr. J.H. Clapdore. and for the first time, the truck was decorated. The decorations consisted of a bed of evergreens and white roses, with floral arches at each end, and a tower in the middle. Suspended from the dome of the tower was a handsome floral bell.
The Columbia Fire Company turned out in full force, having over 60 men in line. The Company was headed by Caldwell’s band. The engine, which was newly varnished and looked like new, was drawn by four bay horses, driven by Mr. Henry Posey. The reel was drawn by two horses driven by Mr. R. Rudd. On the reel was mounted a member representing a Confederate soldier dressed in full Confederate uniform. The hose carriage was drawn by the members, in uniform, with black pantaloons, red shirts and firemen’s hats . The engine was beautifully adorned with white flowers.
The display made by the firemen was thought by many to be the prettiest in the procession.
EXERCISES AT THE MONUMENT
After the procession had marched over the route it halted at the corner of Washington and Prince streets and the various commands gathered around the monument and in front of the grand stand. The assemblage was called to order by Capt. W. A. Smoot, who announced that the exercises would be opened with prayer by Rev. G.H. Norton, chaplain of the Camp. Dr. Norton then offered the following prayer:
O God, who art the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, the Almighty Ruler of Nations, we adore and magnify thy glorious name for all the great things which thou hast done for us. Wo tender thee thanks for the goodly heritage which thou has given us, for the civil and religious privileges which we enjoy, and for the multiplex manifestations of this favor towards us. Grant that we may show forth our thankfulness for these, thy mercies, by living in reverence of thy Almighty power and dominion, in humble reliance on thy goodness and mercy and in holy obedience to thy righteous laws. Preserve, we beseech thee, to our country the blessings of peace ; restore them to the nations deprived of them, and restore them to all the people of the earth. May the kingdom of the Prince of Peace come, and reigning in the hearts and lives of men unite them in holy fellowship.
May the memory of our departed heroes inspire us with patriotic devotion : may all hatred and strife be buried in their graves.
We implore thy blessing on all in legislative, judicial and executive authority, that they may have grace and wisdom so to discharge their duties as most effectually to promote Thy glory, and the peace, good order and welfare of these United States.
All which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord who liveth and reigneth, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Capt. Smoot introduced Capt B. Travers Daniel, of Richmond, who, on the part of the artist, Mr. J.A. Elder, of Richmond, turned over the monument to Lee Camp.
Capt. Daniel spoke as follows:
Mr Chairman, Gentlemen of the Committee, my Countrymen:
We are gathered together today to commemorate the deeds of some of the unknown heroes of our soil, unknown to the world at large; their memory circumscribed by the narrow circle of personal acquaintance and local tradition.
They belong to that grand army that sleeps in the bivouac of the dead throughout our State awaiting the universal reveille to answer at the final roll call for the deeds done in the body. This host cannot be enumerated or individualized, and, standing upon consecrated ground, where the bones of thousands repose marked only by wooden slabs surmounted by numerals stamped in zinc for epitaphs, we must render our homage to them en masse, as we regard with awe and admiration the countless billows of the sea. Their resolute endurance and matchless valor have served to fill the trump of Fame with the few great names that resound throughout the world, and will go sounding down the ages, while they themselves have been content to discharge their duty to their country and their God. to die and be forgotten of men.
And so it has ever been. Leonidas won imperishable renown at Thermopylae, but. the names of his devoted Spartan band perished with themselves in that dread slaughter. When the Imperial eagles of France swept victorious over the battle fields of Europe, the World stood amazed and dazzled by the military genius of him who reflected glory on his satellite marshals, while his soldiers fell with tho wild acclaim upon their dying lips — “Vive I’ Empreur! Vivo la France!” and sank into nameless graves. Your marble shaft that towers above our national Capital, piercing the empyrean, reminds us daily of that paragon of men, of whom a gifted eulogist of the North has aptly said — his mental and moral attributes were so justly poised, that his character reminded him of a perfect circle, all points of the circumference being equi-distant from the centre; ‘ but where is the muster-roll of Valley Forge; who were the men of the line that shared his triumph at Yorktown?
Much as this is to be regretted is inevitable. The night is made glorious by the starry firmament on high, yet of the myriads of these planets we can but single out the most luminous to name them; they pale their ineffectual fires before the broad beams of the queen of night, while she in turn disappears in the effulgence of the morning sun. And so the modest efforts of the multitude fade before the inspiration of genius. It is then eminently commendable to raise this cenotaph — to make this effort to rescue from oblivion the memory of these men, who consecrated their lives, their fortunes, and the worldly interests of those nearest and dearest to them to the most sacred cause that can animate the human breast; save and except the salvation of the immortal soul — the cause whose principles will survive until free government proves to be a failure, until the Republic is subverted and superceded by a despotism. They died in defence of “their altars and their fires,” and the right of their people to self-appointed constitutional government; they engaged in no war of conquest, they sought to ravish no foreign homes, they desired to depart in peace. They were incited by the same spirit thati inspired Washington, Jefferson, Henry, Hamilton, Hancock, and thoir confreres to guide to a successful issue the great rebellion of the last century, and to crown it as a revolution. And only those who are blinded by passion and sectional prejudice will fail to perceive the analogy. The independence of the colonies being thus established it was deemed wise and prudent to form a compact for mutual defence and support; and we all know in what throes and convulsions that government was born, and with what protracted reluctance some of the colonies contributed to it at all. The prophetic ken of the wisest discerned the elements of strife that ultimately rent the Union asunder. Virginia ratified the Constitution with hesitating pen in one hand, and in the other the Bill of Bights, reserving to herself all powers not expressly delegated to the Federal Government. And I challenge today the indication of a single line of that instrument inhibiting the Southern States from the course and the measures they in their majesty thought proper to adopt.
Nevertheless, it safe to affirm that in 1861, when the dim clouds of war loomed up in the North and came sweeping towards the South, there was no section of this broad continent more ardently attached to the Federal Government than Virginia. With generous heart and lavish hand she dedicated an empire of territory to its uses, her statesmen and philosophers had shaped the thought and legislation of the country, her military commanders had shed upon the brief page of its history a lustre that shewn throughout the world, the pride and traditions of the present generation were bound up in the Union.
The convention that assembled to deliberate upon the impending crisis revealed an overwhelming Union sentiment; the debate was long and earnest, calm and dignified. And not until a President installed by a sectional minority commanded her to supply a quota of 75,000 troops to aid in subjugating her sister State of the South with whom she was in perfect sympathy, and proclaimed the determination to march through her territory for that purpose, did Virginia annul the Federal compact. Then, and not until then, her bugle sounded from the Atlantic to the Alleghanies, echoing in every clime where her people sojourned, and her sons afar and near sprung to arms with unexampled alacrity and devotion. Students and artists in Europe, pioneers in the far West, merchants abroad for pleasure or profit, soldiers in the United States Army, and sailors in its Navy, dropped their present occupations and harkened to the summons. Raphael Semmes of the navy, J. E. B Stuart, that preux chevalier of cavalry, Joseph E.Johnston, high in Federal command, bound by every tie of interest and life-long association to the government, casting a lingering look of affection to the star spangled banner hastened to place themselves side by side with many others similarly situated under tbe stars and bars, the emblem of a nation newly born in the panoply of war, like Minerva springing full armed from the head of Jove. Thomas J. Jackson walked from the lecture room at the Virginia Military Institute, where he looked to pass the remainder of his life in the education of youth, took down the sword, which, under the victorious folds of the star and stripes, had flashed in the face of the Mexican foe, and brought it to his mother Virginia. Robert E. Lee, putting aside the proffer of supreme command of the confident and imperious invader turned to walk the path of duty and defeat, and to achieve a fame that blazons through the world, compelling respect and admiration from the bitterest foe.
Then a nation of freemen surged to the front, and the most splendid army that ever marched to victory, unsullied by levy or conscription, stood to arms upon their native soil. It is needless to rehearse the long and desperate struggle that ensued. It is familiar to us all. But this has been stigmatized as “rebellion.”
“Rebellion! foul dishonoring word,
Whose wrongful blight so oft have stained
The holiest cause that tongue or sword
Of mortals ever lost or gained.
How many a spirit born to bless
Hath sunk beneath that withering name,
Whom but a day’s — an hour’s success
Had wafted to eternal fame!”
But what manner of rebellion was this. Rebellion by whom, and against whom? Rebellion of the Creator against creature? A nation living under a written constitution, with all the autonomy of organized governments and an army in the field to defend it, may be defeated but cannot rebel. Poland was wiped from the roll of nations by the mailed hand of power, but freedom did not die with Kosciusko. Treason! that was “to be made odious ”
My friend, the cause cannot be made odious, for which a million Christian women suffered famine for four long years, and gave up their dear ones to slaughter, while their constant prayers ascended like incense to Almighty God for its success, the cause whose exponents and exemplars were such men as Stuart, and Johnston and Jackson, and Lee, and ex-President Jefferson Davis. Clarum et venerabile nomen!
It is a moral and mental contradiction to charge that these men of unquestioned purity and ability could confederate in a heinous crime. Nor do those who make the charge believe it, and I want no stronger evidence that these injurious terms are merely employed as a shibboleth of hatred and vituperation than the fact that when the Southern cause was overwhelmed by unlimited resources and countless numbers, and these representative men were in the absolute power of the victor, he did not dare to execute them as traitors, because it would have shocked the moral sense of the civilized world, and history would have recorded the names of the perpetrators of the outrage upon the roll of infamy and upon the same page with Carnot, Marat, and Robespierre.
I have deemed it meet and appropriate to the occasion to reiterate these sentiments, so often expressed before, in vindication of our dead comrades and in justification of the survivors, who have no apologies or retractions to make for the part they played in that bloody drama, which had a continent for a stage and the world for an audience. But the contest can never be revived by force of arms. The civil and political questions involved were submitted to the arbitrament of the sword, with disastrous result to us, and we are content to let the dead past bury its dead, and turn our faces towards the living duties of the present and the future. And it is a matter of general congratulation that as time wears on and the passions engendered by the war subside into cooler judgment, social and commercial intercourse between sections of the country are cultivated more than ever before, the motives on either side are better understood and more generally appreciated; that the aspersions and imprecations cast upon the Southern people are confined to a narrowing circle of self-seeking politicians and rabid enthusiasts, most of whom are citizens in time of war and warriors in time of peace. And let me say here that it remains for the people of the North to make this a homogenous and harmonious nation. Let us hope then that in the near future impertinent intermedling of one section with the domestic affairs of another will cease — that all vindictive legislation will be wiped from the statute book until not one individual will remain disfranchised — not one will stand an alien in the land of his birth — not one who may not greet the emblem of his country with the fond acclaim —
Forever float that standard sheet!
Where stands the foe but falls before us.
With freedom’s soil beneath our feet
And freedom’s banner waving o’er us!
I will not further trench upon the province of the gifted orator and soldier who is to succeed me, and who is the high priest of these ceremonies. He will enlarge upon this theme with his characteristic eloquence and enthusiasm. But I couid not pass the shrine of my devotion without casting my votive offering.
I have the honor to be the spokesman of the two, distinguished artists, whose combined genius has produced the work of art we are here to dedicate. I was selected by them for no aptitude that I possess for the pleasing task assigned me, but because of my ardent sympathy with the subject, and our personal friendship of many years.
Although acting as their mouthpiece I shall take the liberty to refer to them in terms that may shock their modesty, but fall far beneath their merits.
The name of John A. Elder will fall familiarly upon the ears of many of this audience. Born and reared in the historic town of Fredericksburg, he early evinced that bent of genius which in maturer years has made him the great battle painter of the South. When but a youth he repaired to Dusseldorf, at that time one of the most renowned schools of art in Europe, and there he became the favorite pupil and intimate friend of that eminent artist Leutze. Returning to his native State after perfecting himself in his profession he shared the fortunes of his people during the civil war, and has since employed his pencil to illustrate their valor, and to portray their leaders, and history will associate him with Robert E. Lee as David with Napoleon, and Stewart with Washington. His identification with his people’s cause, his participation in all their hopes and disappointments, suggested the picture, ‘Appomattox’ which adorns the library of our State capitol. It represents in one typical figure the South in its overthrow — not in the persons of its leaders, but in one of that ‘honored few,” who in thousands returned to their ruined homes to face the future with no ray from the past to inspire or guide them. The imposing figure stands alone on a desolate field — cast down, but not destroyed.” On the resolute face, in the firm pose of the foot, the tense grasp of the hand, which closes on no weapon save his own right arm, there is vigor yet. And in this image of deleat there is all the life and purpose which have restored tho overturned civilization of our country, and from the ruins of war have raised a structure of which we are justly proud. This is the idea which Elder has embodied in this picture, and by a happy accident he was in the act of modelling this subject in the clay, when the scheme wan inaugurated of erecting a memorial to the Confederate dead of Alexandria. He submitted his design to your committee who adopted it without hesitation, and ordered its reproduction in bronze and of heroic size. Being less of a sculptor than a painter he called to his aid his friend, Casper Buberl.
Buberl, a Bohemian by birth, came to our shores a poor and unknown youth, not even understanding the language of the country, but conscious of the power within him, and imbued with that indomitable spirit which commands recognition and reward. Modest and retiring, but patient and diligent, he has at length forged ahead to the front rank of his profession. Apart from the pecuniary gain, it has been his earnest desire for many years to have an example of his work within the limits of the Old Dominion, and he seized this opportunity with avidity. With the adaptability of genius, he caught the motive of Elder’s conception and made it his own.
The result of this collaboration is a masterpiece of the plastic art, original in design, perfect in execution, which will be an enduring object of pride and admiration, not only to the City of Alexandria, but to the entire Commonwealth. As the youth of the present and future generations shall gaze upon this noble effigy, their bosoms will swell with emotion to reflect that it stands here to commemorate heroic deeds of their own people, who, though they sleep in nameless graves, live still in our grateful memories.
Go, strew his ashes to the wind
Whose heart and voice have served mankind,
And is he dead, whose glorious mind
Lifts thine on high?
To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die!
And when such battle-scarred veterans as Corse and Marye and Herbert and Hooe and McKnight and Bryant and Sergeant Murray and Zimmerman repair to this sacred spot, I see their faces kindle with the gaudium certaminis of old, their eyes flash, then soften, and then glisten with the tears of affection as they read the names inscribed upon this pedestal. The Sangster brothers, boys in years, but men in character and courage. One was the first of his command to yield up his young life at Bull Run a willing sacrifice for his native State. The other fell at Second Manassas in sight of the spot where his brother had fallen.
Wm. T. Morrill, gentle, modest and brave, color sergeant of the old Seventeenth Virginia, riddied with bullets at Seven Pines, while bearing the Southern standard far to the front of his line of battle.
A. J. Humphreys a model citizen and soldier, Captain of the Alexandria Riflemen, who fell at Williamsburg while cheering his comrades on to victory with conspicuous gallantry, where all were brave.
I would like to call this roll of honor through, W. E Gray, John F. Addison, and Samuel B.Paul, all killed in the momentous battle of Seven Pines and buried by their comrades in a captured redoubt while the bursting shells and rattling musketry made appropriate requiem for the gallant dead, and their mortal remains still repose in that soil, hallowed by the blood of patriot heroes:
How sleep the brave who sink to rest
By all their country’s wishes bless!
When spring with dewy fingers cold
Returns to deck their hallowed mold
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy’s feet hath ever trod,
By fairy bands their knell is rung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung.
There Honor comes, a pilgrim gray
To bless the turf that wraps their clay,
And Freedom shall a while repair
To dwell a weeping hermit there.
And now Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Committee, in the name and on behalf of John A. Elder and Casper Buberl I formally tender, and consign to your charge and keeping this work, feeling confident that these artists have fulfilled their promise in its execution to your satisfaction.
When Capt. Daniel concluded his remarks, Miss Virginia Corse, daughter of Gen. M. D Corse drew the cords and the monument, which had up to this time been veiled, was exposed to view.
The unveiling was received with shouts of applause and the playing of music by the bands.
Capt Smoot then introduced Gov. Lee, who on behalf of Lee Camp received the monument and delivered the oration of the day. Governor Lee spoke as follows:
Mr. Chairman! Ladies and Gentlemen: This great gathering of noble women and brave men tells our people in cannon tones that though the sun went down behind the hills, and the wind behind the clouds at Appomattox twenty four years ago the memories of the men who fell with their faces to their foe, are still enshrined in the hearts of their living comrades. Today Federal and Confederate soldiers are citizens of one country; over their head flies one flag and a common destiny is revealed to both, as the curtain rises on the future and exhibits to the gaze of the world 60,000,000 people living in peace, and equally interested in all that pertains to the common glory of the American Republic.
Ceremonies by Northern organizations in honor of the devotion to the union of the States by Federal soldiers are right and proper; and celebrations in the South by Southern soldiers in honor of the memory of those who died in the defence of their States, their homes and their people, should be equally recognized as the merited tribute to their valor, and in no sense inconsistent with all the responsibilities and duties that now devolve upon States and individuals with equal force.
With pride In the history of the whole country, 1 shall speak to you today as a citizen of one of its parts, an Inhabitant of a State that sought in 1861 to establish with sympathetic sister States another Confederacy on this continent, and in doing so I feel your hearts beat in unison with mine, when I exclaim in the glowing words of the Irish patriot:
“Do you ask me, My Lords, if in my life-time, I have thought any treason or done any crime that should call to my cheek as I stand alone here the hot blush of shame, or the paleness of fear . Though I stood by my grave to receive my death blow, before God, and mankind, I would answer you, No!
Over one hundred and fifty-seven years ago, a child was born in Virginia, who in turn carved out with bright blade the independence of a great Republic.
In an “old field schoolhouse” with the Sexton of his parish for his first master, the first faint fires of an education began which were destined to produce a flame of liberty to enlighten a world.
At sixteen years of age the boy’s school-days were over. He had been taught reading, writing, arithmetic and surveying, and in that time he had written fifty-seven rules of behavior in company and in conversation for his own guidance, the last of which reads:
“Remember to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire — conscience.”
Throughout his future glorious career that motto guided his feet and lighted his pathway until he saw with his countrymen, the star in the horizon which pointed to freedom and the blessings it secured.
His martial spirit received its first recognition by commission from the Royal Governor Dlnwlddie of Virginia, as Adjutant-General of one of the military divisions of the colony and as early as 1754, at 22 years of age, we find him fighting for nine hours against the superior numbers of the French at Great Meadows.
In this historical old town but a few squares away, he met the English General Braddock, upon his arrival from “Old England,” with his regiments of British regulars, and joyfully accepted the position of aide-de camp upon his staff.
We can almost fancy, we can see him now as he rode through your city by Braddock’s side, and over the road which still bears that General’s name in the adjoining counties with which so many of us are familiar.
On the bloody held of the Monongahela, he was the only mounted officer who was not killed or wounded, though history tells us that four bullets passed through his clothes and two horses were shot under him.
The picture I draw at this period, is not complete, unless we go a step farther and follow the youthful hero and point him out at 26 years of age planting the flag of his King on the smoking ruins of Fort Duquesne, then claimed as a part of Virginia and afterwards called Fort Pitt after the great Minister of England.
How his youthful heart must have adored the flag in defence of which his maiden sword so famously flashed. How he must have loved the fluttering folds of the red cross of St. George which had been for so many ages the boast of heraldry and pride of power.
His first commission came from the British throne, through its Royal Governor, and he had sworn to protect and defend the banner of”Old England.” It was his flag and on that November morning of the year 1758 when he saw it floating to the breeze of victory, we can fancy his whole being thrilled with patriotic emotion.
But a change comes. The flag he so bravely fought for in his opinion became tbe emblem of oppression, and represented in his young heart British tyranny and not American freedom. Virginia calls him to her side, and he comes, he comes. His sword must make good the words traced by Jefferson’s pen!
From 1775 to 1781 his allegiance was given to another flag, and in his majestic might, he fought to overthrow the emblem of his youthful days. At Fort Duquesne he placed the French by the English flag; while at Yorktown he saw the French and American flags float in triumph over that historic field, where but a short time before proudly flew the ensign of Great Britain.
But yesterday in the greatest city of this great country there was a magnificent demonstration in Centennial commemoration of the inauguration of the First President of the United states.
In its grand harbor vessels were sailing under the flags of different nations, and the French flag and the English jack vied with the stars and stripes in celebrating this great historic event on one day; while on the next, fifty thousand troops marched in solid column, to be followed on still another day by the greatest industrial-parade that the world has ever seen. What a magnificent tribute to the glorious services of the young Colonel in the British army, and the great American Captain of his age. Long live the memory of George Washington!
A century ago the English called him a rebel, but they recognize now that the celestial fire which Washington called “conscience.” was burning in his breast when he turned his sword against his King and fought for the liberty of Virginia and her sister colonies.
And now the comparison I propose to draw , the ties of blood perhaps should prevent, but I know not how better to illustrate what I desire to say.
Seventy-five years after the birth of Washington, in the same county in Virginia, another child was born, being like Washington, bone of the bone, and flesh of the flesh of the ‘Old Dominion.” He, too, displayed a fondness for the life of the soldier, and at an early age entered the military service of his country. On every occasion with the greatest pride he upheld its flag, from the love of the country whose emblem it was.
Upon the burning sands of Old Mexico, he maintained its glory, and fought with all the ability he possessed, to plant the Stars and Stripes upon tbe Capitol of the Montezumas.
The flag of the country was his banner, and he loved it. and rejoiced in the brilliancy of the stars in their bed of blue. But, when the bugle of his native State, like the horn of the Alpine chief summoned her sons to her side to defend her, in the exercise of a right not denied her by the Constitution of the United States, a right reserved by her when she ratified that instrument, he transferred his allegiance from the flag to whose fame he had contributed at least something, and drew his sword for his native State his home, and his own immediate people. What a struggle, too, we know it cost him.
It Washington was a rebel so was Robert E. Lee, in the opinion of some. The crown of success was bound to the brow of one and the chains of defeat encompassed the other, but their conscientious devotion to the cause each espoused remain the same, and neither victory nor disaster can dim one ray in their respective careers.
There was in both (says a Northern republican journal) the same wonderful balance of faculties; the same personal pride joined to exquisite consideration for others; the same fierce courage under outward calm; the same physical grandeur of proportion and dignity of bearing; the same blending of patrician and democrat. And if Lee had been, like Washington, a successful rebel, he might have been called upon to imitate him in the establishment of the confederacy on a permanent basis.”
Old Alexandria claims an equal interest in the life of both. If one lived upon one side of her limits the other resided about an equal distance upon the other. Your people were indeed their people, and your God was their God; for where you lodged them, there they lodged also.
Today we meet here to dedicate a monument to the men who followed even to the death the plume of their commander. God grant the time may speedily come when the survivors of the contending armies of the war between the States may everywhere recognize that the conscience which Washington calls ‘celestial fire’ guided the motives of the soldiers of each army, whether they fought for the blue, or died in defence of the gray, and even as the flags of England and America entwined in loving embrace to commemorate the renown of the great Washington, so may every section of what is now a common country, remembering the valor and heroism of the soldiers who fought on either side from 1861 to 1865 were American soldiers and were splendid illustrations of American prowess . Rejoice with me that the smoke of battle has vanished and the roar of hostile guns is no longer heard.
The campfires are extinguished and the crown of peace glistens from the brows of the living who are here to unveil a monument to their dead. But what a different scene was presented on this spot and on this very day twenty-eight years ago. Before them was gilded yon house tops with its first golden glitter, one sharp crack of a ride at Cazenove’s wharf gave notice to the people of Alexandria that the red clouds of war which had been gathering over their homes were about to burst, and that the inevitable separation of combatants and noncombatants must at once result for Alexandria was only an outpost to be evacuated on the advance of the Federal troops. To arms, Major Corse! Where is Capt. Marye with his Alexandria Riflemen? But a few days ago he was here receiving a beautiful silk flag from the ladies of the town.
To the eloquent address of your late well-known townsman, Francis L. Smith, who presented the banner at the request of the ladies, he responded, he told me, “In a few inappropriate remarks.” Fall in, Capt. Arthur Herbert with the Old Dominion Rifles! Rally Capt. Devaughn with the Mt. Vernon Guards, and dress your Alexandria Artillery, Capt. [?] Kemper! This spot was the point of rendezvous and here, too, were the Loudoun Guards and the Warrenton Rifles, and from this street those six companies with Capt. Shaffer’s company from Washington marched to join their Comrades at Manassas, some destined never to return, others, to come back to their homes but not until after four long, weary, fiery years of war. A little later on that memorable day Col. Ellsworth , who had torn down the Southern flag from the “Marshall House” was a corpse, while Jackson, true to his word, had died with it as his winding sheet. Ah, the goodbyes that were said upon that celebrated morning to father, mother, and sister, to wife and sweetheart and oh, what changes were in store for all. Major Corse grew into Gen. Corse, and fighting on every field displayed heroic courage and unfaltering devotion. Thank God, the old hero is with us today and is able to participate in this celebration in memory of his dead comrades; for he too christened his maiden sword in Mexico under the star-spangled banner, and he, too, promptly at the call of his State swore to defend the flag of the Confederacy. Capt. Marye is here, too, as Col. Marye, with more legs now, counting the two wooden, than he stood on when he made that memorable speech to the ladies and with reputation second to no soldier for untiring courage and bravery. Capt. Arthur Herbert is here as Col. Herbert whose cool and sagacious behaviour from Bull Run to Appomattox was only equalled by the conscientious discharge of all his duties. And so I might go on down the long list which includes such means Hooe, Bryant, Snowden, Knox, Stuart, Perry, Smoot, Robinson, Washington, Fowler, Ballinger, Powell, Fairfax, Warfield, Barbour, Lunt, Fitzhugh, Sangster, Green, Johnston, Addison and so many others who faithfully performed their duties as Confederate Soldiers. Alas, some of these gallant spirits who marched away on the 24th of May, 1861, we miss, we mourn, and remember at this hour. Dr. M.M. Lewis, your regimental and brigade surgeon, whose resolution and courage was only equalled by his professional skill is sleeping peacefully in yonder graveyard greatly lamented by city and State. Maj. George W. Brent, Capt. James Steuart, Capt. S.W. Presstman I recall as among those now absent and whose reputation seems to grow brighter as remember their lives and services. Gallant Jack Humphreys fell when he fought and was buried like a soldier, upon the field of battle at Williamsburg. And so I might name other officers, while many gallant privates whose deeds are especially called to mind by your monument, are not but a handful of dust in the land of their choice, a name in song and story and fame to shout with a trumpet voice, “Dead, dead on the field of glory.” Oh, no, we cannot forget them today nor does the South or Virginia fail to remember them. We deeply sympathize with their relatives who sustained so great a loss, for we know how dear they must have been to them.
“God knows best, he was somebody’s love,
Somebody’s heart enshrined him here,
Somebody wafted his name above,
Morning and night on the wings of prayer.
Somebody wept as he marched away
Looking so handsome, brave, and grand.
Somebody’s kiss on his forehead lay
Somebody clung to his parting hand.
Somebody has watched and waited for him.
Yearning to hold him again to her heart.
And there he lies, the blue eyes dim,
The child-like smiling lips apart.
Tenderly bury the fair young dead,
Pausing to drop on his grave a tear.
Carve on the wooden slab o’er his head,
Somebody’s darling lies, buried here.”
Oh, the woes of war are hard to bare. We picture the heroic mother as she bids goodbye to her soldier boy and tells him in the Spartan mandate to come back with his shield or upon it. The brush of reality does not color the picture too highly where this devoted parent is represented bending over the body of her loved and lost one, and exclaiming from the very veins of her heart. “I would not exchange my dead son for any living one in Christendom.” Of such mothers only brave men could be born, and so the Southern soldier stood steady in war, though shot and shell poured upon him like torrents [?] cloud. and illustrated upon every field the highest type of physical courage. Your statue represents, as it should, the private soldier of the war. The men who fought, not for money, it was worthless not for food and clothing, alas they were of quality and quantity of the poorest kind — who left their homes behind as well as the hearts of those dearest to them in and struggled through four year because they had faith in the cause they were so gallantly defending.
What did these men of Alexandria and their associates in the army do? Did they not give to Beauregard the first Manassas? Did they not entwine laurel wreath of fame on the brow of Joe Johnston at Seven Pines, and cause the waters of the Shenandoah to eternally murmur the name and fame of Stonewall Jackson? Who hurled the lines of McClellan back from in front of Richmond? Who drove Pope before them at second Manassas like mists before the sea born gale. Do not you remember how splendidly 35,000 of them stood before 87,000 Federals at Sharpsburg and how rapidly recoiled the blue waves of [?] Federals under Burnside at Fredericksburg rolled against 78,000 Confederates? What of Chancellorsville where the Confederate strength was [?] and the Federals 132,000; where fell greatest of God’s commanders?’ Then comes Gettysburg where 62,000 Confederates fought 105,000 Federals in superior position, and though repulsed, waited all day hoping and expecting an attack. Shall I tell you about the Wilderness campaign, where at its commencement the Confederate strength 64,000 and the Federal commander had 141,000? During that campaign Gen. Lee received 14,000 reinforcements giving him 78,000, the aggregate of all troops engaged from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, while Gen. Grant received 51,000 reinforcements, making the aggregate of the number of troops employed in his operations from the Radian to the James River, 192,000. What a wonderful record those private soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia made. The track of their heroic slain lies from the mountains of Pennsylvania to the hills of Appomattox, and upon every battle field they trod with firm steps the fiery path of Mars. No towering monumental shafts rear their lofty spires towards heaven in commemoration of their name and fame. Righteous treasures are not nationally expended to guard their solemn resting places. The loving mantle of governmental authority does not spread its capacious fold around the graves of the dead or the homes of the living, but upon their states and comrades the solemn obligation rests to preserve to the memories of the one and and to alleviate the trials and [?] of the other. If they did not win success we feel that interlaced amid the wail of woe, wrapped up in the blood stained sheaves of life brightening the bones that bleach upon the field of carnage, drying up the purple of the crimson sod, binding up the wounds of the mourning heart, to the comforting thought that by their deed, they have written honor, courage, and heroism upon the feather of the Southern plume that floated above the storm of war.
Let us see if our men of ours war measure by historical comparison with the great soldiers of other days. Four hundred and eighty years before the birth of our Savior, Xerxes after four years of preparation marched with over one million of men and twelve hundred war ships to invade Greece. In front of this vast army were the “Immortals, ” the most superb division of infantry in all Asia, primal men bearing pomegranates of solid silver on the butts of their spears. Next came the trusted horse guards of the commander-in-chief. A thousand men with their spears decorated with apples of gold, and behind followed the armed representatives of forty-six nationalities. Their route entered a detile in the mountains where the cliffs of Mount [?] almost touched the sea. On one side of the narrow causeway was a deed, treacherous, impassable morass; on the other side the jagged edges of the mountain. It was the celebrated pass of Thermopylae. Here, Leonidas of Sparta, with three hundred men from his own city, and about four thousand from other parts of Greece, defied the mighty king of Persia. After the erection of a tower from whose top Xerxes might see the men of Greece slain, the attack began. For two days Persia and Sparta were locked in deadly embrace while the pass of Thermopylae grew stronger by ramparts erected by the dead bodies of the Persians. On the third day, through a forgotten and undefended pass in the mountains some distance away, a large body of Persians was thrown in the rear of Leonidas. Most of the soldiers escaped, but their leader with his three hundred Spartans together with seven or eight hundred Thespians and Thebans preferring death to dishonor, hurled his small force with irresistible fury upon the Persian center in his front and soon their generals and trusted chiefs were falling before this thousand splendid spearmen. Xerxes himself in the lookout tower, was in danger. Two of his brothers were killed and he was hastily carried to the rear. This reckless charge could not last long. Leonidas, fighting like a lion, was mortally wounded and the little band was forced back within the pass and was overpowered by superior numbers. Thermopylae was won but not until the last drop of blood of its defenders was poured out upon its rocks. It was a splendid exhibition of courage and magnificent daring, but was it war? Turn now to the battle of Waterloo where 68,000 men under the Iron Duke resisted the onslaught of 72,000 Frenchmen under the greatest master of war the world had produced, until Blucher’s arrival with 52,000 reinforcements gave him the victory. [?] select a single period of that battle. It is the hour just before night threw her sable shroud upon dead and dying, when Napoleon decided to make one more desperate attempt to break the lines of Wellington and to crown with victory the “Sacred Eagles” of France. Ten battalions of the famous “Imperial Guard” were ordered up and formed in two columns of attack. At the head of the right column Ney, the bravest of the brave. In front of the other Druot (?) and Morand. What a grand sight it must have been to see this superb body of men pass to the front in their great bearskin shakos and blue coats faced with red, over which their white belts were crossed. How proudly they stepped in their white breeches and gaiters! Napoleon rode to a little [?] in front that he might see these men march by upon whose prowess the fate of an empire trembled, and as he pointed to the fiery crest in front, he was answered by a hoarse response from every veterans, “Vive l’Empereur!” Time is too limited for me to go over the instance of this thing magnificent charge. I cannot stop to tell you Ney’s horse being shot under him, how splendidly he led on foot, backing up the hill, facing his men and waving his sword. How the summit was reached and these men of iron broke through the line of British guns until a voice rang out high and clear amid the din of battle, Up Guards and at them.” It was indeed a grand proof of soldierly valor, but wasn’t in accordance with the science of war to attack an enemy superior in numbers and position so far away from the support of their comrades.
Now let us transfer our attention to the North Valley of the plains of Balaclava in October, 1854. This valley so famous now because in it the English cavalry charged, lay in parallelogram-shape with two short sides, and two long sides, all four of them being rising ground; it was like a huge canal-basin with the water out. To the west upon one of the short sides was a broad upland called the Chersonese; to the East upon the other short side was an elevated divide known as Mount Hasford; on the most Northern of its long sides was the Fifdionkine heights while upon the south side was the causeway upon whose crest ran the road to Sevastopol.
Thirty-five years ago on that ever to be remembered 25th October, a glittering group of horsemen in gorgeous uniforms sat upon their splendid steeds on the Chersonese heights overlooking this quiet valley. They were Lord Raglan and General Canrobert, the English and French commanders, with their stiff corps. Down the bluff, at their feet, with their backs to them and their faces to the upper valley. In line mounted, was the celebrated English cavalry division under Lord Lucan. The brigade on the right was what was known as “The Heavies” commanded by that splendid officer General Scarlett.
On the left was the celebrated “Light Brigade” commanded by the Earl of Cardigan. Each of these two brigades consisted of five small regiments.
At the upper end of this valley, on the heights, forming what we have described as the Eastern short side of the parallelogram , was a Cossack battery of 12 guns, supported by a large force of Russian cavalry. The two long sides nearest to this point and opposite to each other, were crowned by Russian artillery and riflemen; while the corresponding positions upon the long sides near the heights occupied by the English and French commanders where held by their troops.
Early that morning the Russians had surprised the Turkish troops, whom it must be remembered in this campaign were allies of the English and French and had driven them out of their lines on the Southern long side, known as the “Causeway Heights,” which lay to the right of the English cavalry as they faced them.
Already on that day, Scarlett with his fourth and fifth dragoon guards, and the “Royals,” “Scots’ Greys,” and [?] had had an encounter with the Russian cavalry which reflected great credit upon that brigade and its fine leader.
At the hour to which I direct your attention, the Russian infantry were vacating the Turkish lines they had been temporarily occupying, and were moving more to the eastward, where their support lay. Lord Ragland from his position on the Chersonese Heights saw them hitching horse to the captured guns to carry them away. They were English guns, though taken in the Turkish line, and must not be lost. At once the following order was sent to Lord Lucan, who sat quietly on his horse in front of his two brigades in the valley at his feet. “Cavalry to advance, and take advantage of any opportunity to recover the heights” (meaning those to the right which the Russians had taken in the morning). But Lucan delayed his advance so long that the British commander sent his this order signed by his chief of staff:
“Lord Ragland wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns.”
It was entrusted to that superb cavalry soldier Captain Louis Nolan, not only the best horseman in the army, but a model soldier in all respects. Nolan on his beautiful horse rode with the wings of the wind down the descent and around the flank of the cavalry until he reined up in front of Lord Lucan, and saluting, presented Lord Lucan’s order:
“It is Lord Raglan’s desire,” said he, “that the cavalry should attack immediately.”
“Attack where?” asked Lucan. “There is your enemy, and there are your guns” replied Nolan, pointing over his shoulder, for facing the cavalry, his back was turned toward the valley.
Lord Raglan meant, and Nolan expressed his meaning, the guns to their right-front. Lucan professed to think he was ordered to charge the guns at the other end of the valley, so selecting the “Light Brigade” to do it he gave that order to Cardigan. “I obey” said the proud Earl, “but I point out to you the Russians have a battery in our front, and batteries and riflemen on either flank.” “I know it,” was the reply of Lucan, “but Lord Raglan orders it.” The “Light Brigade” was formed in three ranks for the charge, in the first was the thirteenth Light Dragoons, and the superb “Death or Glory Squadrons” of the Seventeenth Lancers, as they have been called; next came the Eighth Hussars , or the “Royal Irish” and the Fourth Dragoons, and in the third line as a support to the other two, was the celebrated Eleventh Hussars, sometimes called “The Prince of Wales’ Own,” or the “Cherry Pants;” every man in it was as brave as a lion, and as proud as a king.
The advance was sounded, and slowly at a walk moved out the 600. In front of the line rode Cardigan, glittering in gold-trimmed pelisse and crimson trousers, the uniform of his old regiment, the Eleventh Hussars.
Already they have reached the point in the valley opposite to the Causeway, where the guns are being carried away — a quarter wheel to the right, a charge up the slope free from the rocks and tree, and they would be among the guns — but see Cardigan is passing the point and looks not to Heights upon his right-flank. Raglan from his elevated position is wondering where his cavalry is going. Just then he hears the clear notes of the bugle floating through the air from the valley below, and the British Army commander rejoices, because he thinks it means a change of direction to the right. Alas! It was not that. Cardigan had ordered the trot to be sounded, and now the whole brigade is moving at a rapid gait down the valley, and
“Into the jaws of death,
Into the mouth of hell.”
Can nothing be done? Around Lord Raglan the staff officers leap into the saddle, ready and anxious to attempt to turn Cardigan back. “Strong brave men burst into tears of rage and dismay,” for the “Light Brigade” has started into the Valley of Death.” Stop them! Who can? “Forward the Light Brigade,” thundered Cardigan.
“Was there a man dismayed?
No, though the soldier knew
Some one had blundered,
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why;
Theirs but to do and die.”
Darker and darker grows the valley, louder and louder the cannon roar, brighter and brighter the rifles flash, men and horses are falling now — “Steady!” cries the Commander, “Keep back on the right” — “Back left flank” — and in the increasing storm of shot and shell, riderless horses and dying troopers are everywhere seen.
The “Death or Glory Squadrons,” and the “Lancers” quicken their pace to reach sooner their enemy, but Cardigan, grand that day in all that constitutes glory of a bold leader, orders them back to the trot. Now they are within a few hundred yards of the 12 gun Cossack battery — the bugle sounds the charge — reins are loosened, sabres flash in the air, and the horse fly over the intervening space — “they are charging an army, while all the world wondered.” The Poet Laureate of England beautifully says:
“Plunged into the battery smoke,
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre-stroke
Shattered and sundered.”
On through the black mist they go, and with a ringing charge burst upon the cavalry supports behind the hill:
“Then they rode back, but
Not the six hundred
Grand and glorious, was it not?
When can their glory fade?
Six-hundred and seventy-three horsemen rode up that blood-stained valley — one-hundred and ninety-five rode back. The battery was captured, but there were no supports at hand. These dauntless troops were surrounded on all sides, and when this fact became apparent, they were enveloped in a perfect hell of fire, and forced to retreat up the corpse-strewn valley. “C-est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre.” It is magnificent, but it is not war, said the enthusiastic Frenchman.
Such are some of the celebrated charges in the annals of other nations, where though officers blundered, the private soldiers with unfading glory wrote high upon the records of their country, their undying fame.
In our day, have we any instance which can rival not only the daring deeds I have described, but where the private soldiers did their full duty even though they must have known that,
“Some one had blundered.”
Leave Thermopylae, Waterloo and Balaklava, and go with me to the red heights of Gettysburg. It is the 3rd of July 1863, two hostile armies were in parallel lines and had been fighting for two days.
The previous operations had demonstrated the fact that the Northern army was superior in numbers, and position, was acting on interior lines and had both flanks so posted and protected as almost to be impregnable.
The commander of the Southern army could do one of two things — retreat or attack. It is too late now to get around either flank of the army in his front, or to attack either of them with a probability of success, so a jutting point of the cemetery-ridge was selected, where there was a slight depression over which a road runs. The Southern wedge must be driven in, and through the Federal left center there.
If the federal army could be cut in two and the separate wings overwhelmed in detail, the battle would be decisive and the victorious army might march to a point between Baltimore and Philadelphia involving as possible results, the fall of Washington and Baltimore, and large reinforcements from Maryland. It was a splendid conception, Napoleonic in its audacity and worth of the genius of the old masters of war. “The South was within a stone’s throw of peace at Gettysburg,” says a writer. This battle turned the military tide for it was practically lost to the Confederate troops. The waters of Southern success had reached their high water mark and from that time continued to ebb until lost in the sea of eternity.
Gens. Longstreet, A.P. Hill, and Ewell were the corps commanders at Gettysburg. To the first named was committed the assault. Col. Taylor, Gen. Lee’s adjutant general, as well as Cols. Venable and Long of the same staff are on record as saying that they know it was planned by Lee for Longstreet to assault with his whole corps, to be supported by half of A.P. Hill’s corps, that being the next in line to his left and Hill in his official report says that he was ordered to send one half of his corps as a “support to Longstreet’s corps” in such assault. It was the army commander’s intention to leave to the chief of his first corps the tactical formation for attack, but whether the advance was a platoon, then a company, then a regiment to be followed by brigades and divisions, it was clearly his purpose that the whole corps should support the advance guard reinforced by half of the next corps; aye if necessary with the whole army. He did not specify by name certain divisions to assault. Such matters of detail are generally left to subordinate commanders. As the column of attack was organized, there was no more chance of writing success upon its brave banners than that the three hundred Spartans could kill Persians by the million, or six hundred horsemen ride over the ramparts of Sevastopol, or the wings of the French eagles of the old Guard of Napoleon could victoriously flap over the whole army of Wellington. Examine the formation of the charging column. Two brigades of Pickett’s division, Kemper’s and Garnett’s, with Heth’s division under Pettigrew, were placed in the front line. Armistead’s brigade of Pickett’s division was in the second line as well as the brigades of Lane and Scales under General Trimble, who were behind Pettigrew’s right. Wilcox’s brigade was placed on the extreme right of the line and it seems was charged with the duty of protecting the right marching flank of the column from attack. He marched too much to the right and did not participate in the charge. So it appears there were five brigades in the front line supported by three brigades in the rear. One of Gen. Pickett’s brigades, under our gallant Gen. Corse, was left in Virginia at Hanover Junction. The three brigades present numbered about 4,900 men. Hill’s brigade had suffered much on the first day’s fight, and were depleted.
They probably numbered with the two brigades in their rear between seven and eight thousand men. This would make the attacking force at the start a little over twelve thousand, but the distance was so far and the ground so clear, the artillery fire in front and on both flanks so terrible that by the time these devoted troops got within musket range, their numbers had great decreased.
A tremendous cannonade preceded this movement which exhausted the ammunition of the Confederates, a fact which Gen. Lee says he did not know when the assault took place. The Federals replied for a time, but divining the fire of the artillery was the prelude to an infantry charge, wisely ceased firing and reserved further shots for the attacking column. The troops were now ordered forward and the steel-tipped lines of gray began their march over the plain of death and up to heights of destruction. How grandly these veterans went down the slope and how magnificently and with what steadiness they advanced up line while both armies watched and wondered. This small force was charging, too, into the “jaws of death” and into the “mouth of hell.” Round shot and shell, case shot and canister rained upon them as the whole line of Cemetery Ridge burst into a fiery flame. As men fall, the lines are closed and these matchless men continue their wild charge. Hancock’s corps is in their front, Meade’s headquarters are just behind his position. It looks as if the left centre of the Federal army would be pierced, but if so could it be held? Standards’ Vermonters are now pouring a galling fire into the right line held by Kemper. Three regiments of Pennsylvania troops which manned the wall in front are rolled up and rolled away by the impetus of the fierce attack. Brave old Armistead who has been leading his portion of the line with his on the point of his sword, so that amid the dense smoke his hat men might follow him as the men followed the white plume of Novaire so many years ago, has leaped the wall and is in among the guns and gunners of Cushing’s battery. There this brave hero is killed and Cushing falls almost simultaneously by his side. Galant Garnett is killed, while courageous Kemper is severely wounded and suffers today from the wound. Men of five brigades have broken through the first Federal line and hurling themselves on the second. Alas! their small numbers are known and they are hemmed in on three sides, for Hancock and Gibbons are rushing up fresh troops. The death storm swept over them, and all is lost save honor. This, too, was a grand and glorious proof of human valor. This, too, was magnificent, but was this, too, war? What good could Leonidas expect by the sacrifice of his band of heroes, and why should Napoleon grow desperate and march his Old Guard to death and destruction? Why, Lord Lucan , did you misunderstand your orders and plunge your six hundred in the valley of death, and why was this small force sent some thousand yards away from the comrades and friends, and supports? Where was McLaw’s division and where was Hood’s, headed by his splendid Texans? What does Gen. Lee mean when he replies to a trusted staff officer who told him the assault was not made as he intended, by saying, “I know it, I know it,” and what was he thinking of when he told Professor White of Washington and Lee University, “Had I had Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg, I would have won a great victory.” Oh, no, military critics, the Confederate commander did not lose his head or that equipoise which so characterized him. His plans were well conceived, the execution defective.
And now it only remains for me to accept in behalf of the Lee Camp, this superb representation of the private soldiers of the Southern army, the creation of the genius of our own Elder supplemented by the skill of Buberl. May it ever stand in lasting attestation that they deserved the words of their commander inscribed on the face of its pedestal, “They died in the consciousness of duty faithfully performed.”
Alexandria will guard this statue with sacred care. I know I voice the sentiment of her people whenever they visit the graves of their dead soldiers, when I say with the poet:
“Rest on embalmed and sainted dead,
Dear as the blood ye gave,
No impious footsteps here shall tread,
The herbiage of your grave.
Nor shall your glory be forgot,
While fame her records keep,
And honor points the hallowed spot,
Where valor proudly sleeps.
Yon figure of bronze on voiceful stone,
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanishing year has flown,
The story how he fell.
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter’s blight,
Nor times remorseless doom
Shall dim one ray of holy light
That gilds your glorious tomb.”
When Gov. Lee concluded his speech, calls were made for Gen. J.E. Johnston. Gen. Johnston responded in a few words, saying he only wished to tell his hearers that he was the friend of the two men in war in whom the people of Alexandria were most interested — Gen. Robert E. Lee and his brother, Capt. S.S. Lee, the Governor’s father.
At the conclusion of Gen. Johnston’s remarks a benediction was pronounced by Rev. K[?] Nelson, and the assemblage disbursed.
After the ceremonies the speakers and distinguished visitors were escorted to the Braddock House where a handsome banquet had provided by Lee Camp.
The citizens committee took charge of the visiting organizations and escorted them to the City Hall where a bountiful banquet was spread.