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The beleaguered town, girdled with steel and fire,

bore herself with proud and lofty port, worthy her renown in other wars, and the fires of her ancient patriotism, quickened by the hot breath of peril, blazed forth with such surpassing brightness [270] as pierced the darkness of that gloomy night; nor could “the driving storm of war,” which beat so pitilessly upon this heroic city for well-nigh a twelvemonth, ever quench the blaze which, even to the end, shone as a flaming beacon to the people of the vexed Commonwealth and to anxious patriots, who from afar watched the issues of the unequal contest. Her men fitted to bear arms were yonder with Lee's veterans, and now her women, suddenly environed by all the dread realities of war, discovered a constancy and heroism befiting the wives and mothers of such valiant soldiers. Some, watching in the hospitals, cheered on the convalescents, who, when the sounds of battle grew nearer, rose like faithful soldiers to join their comrades; others, hurrying along the deserted streets, the silence of which was ever and anon sharply broken by screaming shell, streamed far out on the highways to meet the wounded and bear them to patriot homes. Nor shall we wonder at this devotion, for in the very beginning of those eventful days, these noble women, hanging for a few brief moments on the necks of gray-haired grandsires, or pressing the mother-kiss upon the brows of eager boys, had bidden them, with eyes brimming with prayerful tears, to go and serve the State upon the outer works; and surely, when thus duty and honor had weighed down the scale of natural love, they had learned, with an agony which man can never measure, that life itself must be accounted as a worthless thing when the safety of a nation is at stake.

That it is no fancy picture, comrades, which I have drawn for you, is attested by that battle-tablet in old Blandford Church, which records the names of the gray-haired men who fell in defence of their native town; while, if you will pardon a personal allusion, it afterwards came to me, as a schoolmaster, to teach some of these veterans' lads, who every day came to class with empty sleeves pinned across their breasts.

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W. H. F. Lee (1)
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