Our fallen heroes: an address delivered by Hon. A. M. Keiley, of Richmond, on “Memorial day,” at Loudon park, near Baltimore, June 5, 1879.
[As a rule we do not publish “memorial addresses,” because if we were to do so our Papers
would have room for nothing else.
But we are quite sure that our readers generally will thank us for printing the following appropriate and eloquent tribute of a gallant soldier to fallen comrades and to the cause for which they died.]
Of all the affecting pictures with which the great Greek
epic is filled, none, I think, equals in dramatic power and interest that which portrays the melancholy pilgrimage of Hector
's heavy-hearted sire to beg of the remorseless Achilles
, for sepulture, the mangled body of his gallant son. The unnumbered woes and impending fate of his country, the peril of his crown, the slaughter of his people, the extermination of his race — all are forgotten, as, bowing his venerable head in the dust, he clasps his enemy's knees, and, with piteous tears and trembling tongue, begs the poor privilege of rescuing from further humiliation his beloved dead.
In the spirit of old Priam's tenderness and woe, and sharing also Priam's pride, we are here to-day to fulfill a duty not unlike his own — a duty, solemn and pathetic beyond all other services that fall to mortal lot.
At the grave all earthly ills concentre, and Death is man's supreme failure; yet are we here to garland graves, and strew with flowers, failure.
It is an easy office, pleasant and not without profit, to kiss the hands that bear gifts: to crown with victorious laurels the front of success: to welcome conquering steps with triumphant hail: to
crook the pregnant hinges of the knee,
Where thrift may follow fawning.
But the hands we honor here to day are empty; our salutation is “farewell,” not “hail” ; not the vaunting bays, but sad-eyed immortelles form these garlands, and profit comes of scorn and slander, not of praise or even justice to these, our beloved dead!
So is it easy, borrowing enthusiasm from the splendors of success, and from the sympathies of those whom that success has benefited, to clothe with the glories of victory the tombs of those who made that victory possible; for such tombs themselves are trophies.
But we stand in the presence of one of these great cataclysms
of history, the, air still palpitating with its uncalmed passions, to honor its victims — sympathy with whose cause is crime, defence of whose course is treason.
There are also tombs before whose portals men bow with a sorrow close akin to joy — a grief which Time, the mighty soother, has not only tempered by his lengthened lapse, but to which that lapse has brought the crowning solace of complete, however tardy, vindication of the fallen, in the world's acquiescence in their cause and the world's admission of its transcendent value.
Thus men muse in Roman crypts before their thousand relics, august though ghastly, of imperial persecutions, and overleaping the centuries from the day when Numidian lions tore these living limbs asunder and the Appian Way
blazed from Rome
to Capua with their martyr fires, they quench their indignation at the merciless tyranny which doomed them, and lose their very pity at the doom itself, in contemplation of the final and full fruition of the martyrs' hopes — the final and consummate triumph of the cause for which they fell.
But all such inspirations fail us here.
Here, and wherever in all our Southern land like pious ceremonies honor our brothers' graves, neither Time nor Triumph dulls the keen pang of loss and disappointment.
We stand not only amid the fallen, but amid the apparent ruin of every hope for which they fell — confronted on every side with the symbols and consequences of that ruin, with absolute conviction that the discomfiture was utter, complete, irrevocable.
In the shadow of that mighty defeat whose chill gloom few rays of sympathy or even of justice have hitherto warmed or brightened, without hope of the reversal of the dread judgment which closed the record of their cause, we gather here to discharge the duty, doubly dear and imperative for the disaster which imposes it, of honoring the memory of these Confederate dead, and publishing our unquenchable affection for their names — and sorrow for their fate.
I need not aver in this presence that this pious service neither invites nor excuses any unpatriotic reopening of the closed accounts of our civil strife.
The grave, which prays charitable silence for the dead, exacts it for the living.
No discord should disturb the tranquility whose abode is here.
Before the awful revelation of death, how petty and contemptible are the antagonisms of life!
Nor need much time be wasted in eulogy of these buried heroes, easy as the task would be, and pleasant the office, and just the praise.
What perils they gladly encountered!
What wonders they achieved!
What odds they met!
Odds of numbers — their foe's strength being four-fold their own. Odds of appliances — so enormous that they sometimes had a grim ludicrousness about them.
Who, for example, will hereafter believe that, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the gravest apprehension was felt that the aspirations of millions of American citizens for freedom would have to be ignominiously abandoned for want of a supply of percussion caps
, or a single machine in the entire Confederacy for their manufacture?
Odds of training in those fields which have grown to such paramount consequence since war has come to be almost a mechanic art. Odds of resources, so pitiable that at the last their subsistence was often the uncrushed and uncooked grain they shared with their starving horses.
Yet how superb their courage!
Not only the courage that dares, but the grander courage that endures: not alone the heroism that braves death, but the higher heroism that laughs at despair.
How lofty their fortitude!
Whether on the soil of their own States, defending their own hearths, or pilgrims from Commonwealths a thousand miles away, whose hearths they should never see again; or exiles, like Maryland
's immortal children, in a banishment whose tenderest alternative was a dungeon, how these gallant souls kept their faith bright as their bayonets, and marched gaily to death as to high carnival!
Is not the whole earth filled with their story?
They might, indeed, have committed their fame, as did England
's smitten chancellor, “to men's charitable speeches, to foreign nations and the next ages” ; but there is no need.
Some even of their brave foes have done them justice, and all the world knows well the story of that immortal band, “with tattered uniforms but bright muskets, which for four years carried the Revolt on its bayonets, opposing a constant front to the mighty concentration of power brought against it; which, receiving terible blows, did not fail to give the like; and which, vital in all its parts, died only with its annihilation” --this band of rebels!
What vindication do they need from the reproach that may be thought to lurk in this epithet of “Rebel,” by which it is the fashion in certain quarters now to designate these brave sleepers?
Should the eternal seal that closes their ears be broken.
this day, the epithet would bring no blush to any cheek that moulders here, as it brings none to that of any true comrade who survives to defend them.
We are children of a common country whose cradle was Rebellion.
Read the history of all the Commonwealths that formed the Union
in the history of one.
Come with me to my own capital, where Virginia
has essayed to rouse the emulation of her children by erecting statues to the worthiest of those who, in the past, have made her famous.
Challenge them all, face to face, with the sentry's cry, and one answer alone will come from bronze or marble--“a Rebel,” --while crowning her Pantheon sits the world's synonym for every grace and virtue that ennobles man and adorns office — the arch-rebel of the eighteenth century — George Washington
A hundred years and more ago, when, as Pitt
said, “even the chimney-sweeps in London
streets talked boastingly of their subjects in America
was the uniform title of those despised subjects.
This sneer was the substitute for argument, which Camden
met in the Lords
, and Burke
in the Commons, as their eloquent voices were raised for justice to the Americans
of the last century.
“Disperse rebels” was the opening gun at Lexington
“Rebels” was the sneer of General Gage
, addressed to the brave lads of Boston Common.
It was the title by which Dunmore
attempted to stigmatize the burgesses of Virginia
, and Sir Henry Clinton
passionately denounced the patriotic women of New York.
At the base of every statue which gratitude has erected to patriotism in America
, you will find “rebel” written.
The springing shaft at Bunker Hill
, the modest slab which tells where Warren
fell, the monument which has given your fair city its proudest title, the fortresses which line our coast, the name of our country capital, the very streets of our cities — all proclaim America
's boundless debt to Rebels--not only to rebels who, like Hamilton
, gave their first love and service to the young republic;: but rebels who, like Franklin
, broke their oath of allegiance to become rebels
It was a rebellion that gave England
her Great Charter, habeas corpus
, her constitutional form, her parlimentary government.
It was a rebellion which, after a hundred years of fierce unrest, has blossomed in our own day upon the soil of France
into a republic,
which every well-wisher of liberty must pray may be perpetual It was a rebellion succeeding
that gave freedom to Holland
and prosperity to Naples
; it was a rebellion failing
that keeps Poland
dismembered and Ireland
If this was the appropriate time or place much might be said of the causes, many and far reaching, which induced the strife, and of the many errors industriously spread to degrade and disparage the lost cause in the esteem of the world; and one thing in that connection has need to be said.
There never was a more unfounded slander than the averment that the motive which welded the Southern
people into a solid mass of revolt, was devotion to, or even defence of slavery.
It would be as false, as unjust and as unphilosophical, to describe the first rebellion as a contest for free tea, or a flame fed by a three-penny stamp on a lawyer's declaration.
Not one in twenty of those who lie here, or in any Southern cemetery, owned or ever expected to own a slave.
As little is it true that the illustration or enforcement of any abstract theory of government, inspired the great sacrifices of the South
Men make, voluntarily, no such sacrifices for abstractions; and this war, on the part of the South
, was eminently a volunteer war: no similar unanimity of popular support can be claimed for any appeal to arms in modern history.
For the right of secession, save as an incident to the higher right to which I shall presently refer, a corporal's guard would not have followed the recruiter's drum in any Southern State.
Undoubtedly it happened here, as in all great political movements, that personal, local and, in a word, petty purposes, contributed their trifling streamlets to swell the flood, and colored, when they did not control, the course of many who participated in the strife.
But the great consuming tide that bore aloft and onward that mighty though ill-starred movement for self-government, was born, like the master tides of the ocean, of two great impulses--one political, the other social--one the sturdy and cherished outgrowth of American freedom — a principle discredited now in many ways and many quarters, but destined to regain its sway in this Republic, as surely as the Republic
is destined to become and remain the home of ordered liberty.
The other a plant of hardier growth, of deeper root and lustier limbs, an exotic in no land, or clime, or age. One the love of State--the other the love of Home.
has made one valuable contribution to political
science, to governmental method, it is embraced and formulated in that derided phrase, “State sovereignty” --the independence, not of the Republic
, but the independence of States
“ These United Colonies are and of right ought to be,” not a free and independent nation, but “free and independent States,” was the challenge of our fathers to a British King
, in their Declaration of Independence
, and the form in which they clothed their brave summons for room and recognition amid the sovereign states of the earth.
“Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence,” is the sentence which opens the first constitution of the United States
; and the second constitution, not expressing the same thought in equivalent language, trembled long on the verge of rejection on that account, and was finally supplemented by twelve amendments, every one of which is an assertion, in one form or another, of the idea of State independence.
When the first rebellion was over, and the belligerents authenticated peace by solemn treaty, the first article of that memorable covenant proclaimed, in unmistakable terms, the same principle, and published in official form the character of the communities which Great Britain
had vainly attempted to conquer.
His Britanic Majesty acknowledges the United States
, naming them State by State, to be “free, sovereign and independent States.”
Nor is there an official act or utterance of the cotemporaries of the foundation of the Government
, which gives the color of authority to the consolidation theories now so prevalent.
True, the tide now sets otherwise, and the representatives of great Commonwealths shamefully vie with each other in abasement of their mother States at the foot of this new idol, called “The nation” --a name unheard of in the better days.
But let us not be disheartened.
This imperial tendency is at once a heresy and an anachronism in American politics.
At present its oppressions fall indeed on those who are familiar with oppression and powerless to prevent it, and whose remonstrances win but little heed; but it is, at the same time, debauching public sentiment, dwarfing the sense and love of independence, and developing public evil in ways and places which will, sooner or later, constrain that heed.
Under its influence, a familiar tradition of executive tenure, sanctioned by the highest authority and universal observance, is scoffed at as a superstition.
Congress is asked to engraft a monarchical form of communication between the legislative and
executive branches of the Government
, upon our simple republican system.
The extravagance and corruptions of imperialism pollute every fountain of power and patronage.
A distinguished representative American tenders a costly site for a monument to Andre
the spy, in appropriate recognition of his services in warring against State independence.
And the present year is seen to be a favorable occasion to rescue from oblivion and give to the world a Tory history of the Revolution of 1776, buried for a century, but warmed into life by this prevailing fallacy, which assures it consideration, if not sympathy.
But we need have no fear for the future.
The rugged, sinewy strength that comes of love of State
has not fulfilled its mission, much less outlived its usefulness, in our country.
Indeed, it never bore more rich and weighty fruit than in the very war which seemed to have destroyed it. At the bottom, it was the true source of the most enduring forces elicited in that struggle.
The storm of sentimental enthusiasm for the flag, which gave fiery birth to the earliest efforts for the Union
, died like a prairie conflagration.
A ninety days volunteer was its concrete expression.
It was loyalty to States
that on both sides fed the steady, consuming flames of battle, and fed them to the end. It was the labor of States that overthrew the South
, and that defended it. It was the tough fibre of State allegiance that bore the exhausting strain of the contest.
It was the old, fundamental doctrine of State allegiance that menaced the life of the Union
, and it was that also which saved it.
Not only were powerful Union minorities in every Southern State constrained by loyalty to this principle to take their stand against their convictions of what was politic and best and wisest, but it is notorious that the great border States, without which the war would have been a fiasco, never wavered in their prayers and labors to maintain the Union
, until the proclamation of April 15, 1861, summoned them to the decision of the momentous inquiry, “Is this a Union of affection and interest, or a Union of force?” --a question whose other and fundamental form was, “Is the citizen's first allegiance due his State?”
All who lie here and crave our memorial offering, gave their lives in attestation of their allegiance to their States.
And here in their midst, and in the presence of many who fought to uphold a contrary theory, I dare aver that in that fruitful vine of State loyalty, and there alone, we shall find a means and mode of reconciliation, which, as it wounds not self-respect and honor, may be perfect and perpetual — a consummation wished by all save those wretched
traders in strife, who, having labored painfully to induce the conflict, surpassed even those toils in their successful efforts to shirk its perils while it lasted and prolong its hates after it is dead — those patriots by proxy, who put the profits of their country's agony in their own pockets, and encountered its perils by a substitute.
For myself I find reconciliation easy with him who says, “I answered the summons of Massachusetts
,” for I answered the summons of Virginia
, and hers alone.
Each year this platform of reconciliation will more and more assert itself, as each year the Government
will more and more conform to its original conceptions.
Even now, with constantly increasing courage and frequency,. we hear the voice of protest against the fatal tendencies of the warengendered theories of American republicanism; and here, in the presence of these heroic dead, I salute every such warning note as a tribute of praise to their memory, none the less valuable for being undesigned.
Wherever, in all this land, a patriot tongue or pen gives expression to the theory of our government propounded in the Declaration of Independence
, and formulated in our constitution; wherever an indignant protest is issued against the debauching tendency to erect the substance, and anticipate the forms of imperialism in the place of the democracy our fathers fought to found; wherever a judicial tribunal, passing upon the rights of citizens and States, republishes the old but ever-obligatory and ever-valuable confession of our political faith, that “the Federal Government
is one of limited powers,” and “that the powers not delegated to it, nor prohibited to the States by the constitution, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people” --then, my dead comrades, a wreath is laid, albeit by an enemy, on your humble graves, and a vindication, the weightier for being unconscious, is offered to your memories.
Those, indeed, write and speak for the common faith: you died for it
: and in these days of shallow convictions, when opinion masquerades as belief, and speculation as fact, what State in Christendom is so rich in its heritage of heroism that it can afford to part with the fame, much less dishonor the memory, of citizens who were willing, for loyalty to a principle, to surrender ease and comfort, security and life!
Such was the first controlling motive of the rank and file of the South
in the late war. Nobler far, and higher — of wider scope and more pervasive influences — was the second grand motive of their
action — and here, too, I doubt not, as in the former case, their brave foes shared the influence.
A few weeks since I noticed in the foremost of England
's illustrated papers, a picture, representing a naked and rudely armed native of Zululand, wounded, resting on one knee, and surrounded by such numbers of his enemies as made resistance and escape equally impossible.
The muzzle of a foeman's pistol touched his cheek, and he easily recognized that only a moment of life remained to him, but he filled it with a sentence worthy of a Regulus or a Cato: “Yesterday you learned how a Zulu can fight; learn now, how a Zulu can die.”
What, in its last analysis, was the subtle spirit that blazed forth in that barbarian's noble defiance?
Let me ask further: What was it that nerved the immortal three hundred to bar with their living bodies the Persian
's march on trembling Sparta
What was it that held aloft the heaven-given banner under which Constantine
strove so gallantly to stay the flood of Rome
What was it that bore along in wondrous triumph that square of crimson silk which floated beneath the imperial eagles from the Ganges
to the Tweed?
What was it that inspired the Dutch
burghers in the seventeenth century to whelm their fields under the sea, and Russian
princes to fire their palaces in the nineteenth?
What made a Swiss peasant sow his living body with Austrian
spears, and a French country girl exchange the safe companionship of her herds for the lead of armies — for camp, and seige — for battle and the stake?
What was the sufficing inspiration of these, and a thousand kindred heroisms, with which the story of the world is full?
Love of country — not because it is fertile, for sterile Sparta
gave it more resplendent growth than teeming Egypt
; not because it is powerful, for imperial Rome
never gave more glorious illustration of its force than did some of the savage tribes she easily subdued; not because it is beautiful, for the flat and weary plains of Holland
witnessed a devotion as glorious as ever hallowed classic Attica
or lovely France
; not even because it is free, for out of the depths of a long inheritance of slavery have flashed at times such fires of patriot fervor that all the world, looking on, has prayed and hoped that they might prove the dawn of Liberty.
Not these considerations or attributes, not any nor all of these, gave vigorous birth and growth to such great sacrifices for fatherland.
It was a sentiment, older and stronger than all the governments that are or have been — old as gray Time and wide as the pulsing sea — the great taproot of patriotism — fountain and centre
of all the social and civil virtues and sacrifices which make life beauteous and government strong — the love of our country because it holds our home!
For us and for these our comrades — the Confederate
dead — the late war was emphatically a war for home.
Even the slaves understood it, and to their undying honor, acted on it. To us the war shambles of the world were closed.
No bounty enticed recruits.
No emigrant ships flocked to our shores, burdened with patriots.
It was La Vendee
on the theatre of a continent.
These twin sentiments, fellow citizens, love of State and love of home, were the giant arms, compensating for poverty, weakness, starvation, disaster, wounds and death, which for four immortal years bore aloft that tattered standard, which flashed athwart the pathway of the nations like a hot meteor across the tranquil courses of the stars — which floated over Stuart
's knightly plume — which fell in folds of woe on Stonewall Jackson
's bier, and whose last furling broke the heart of Lee
Great and powerful as our Republic is, it cannot afford to despise the strength born of these influences, or dispense with the aid of those who honor and yield to them.
And let us never forget that naught but manly justice — the American
love of fair play — is needed to yoke these influences, powerful and pervasive, to the burdened car of the common progress.
These Southern Commonwealths have never, indeed, been famous as money-getters, or inventors, or manufacturers; but we claim, with some pardonable pride, that they have never been laggards in patriotism.
Whether in the first rebellion, when they camped by colonies in Massachusetts
for her defence; or in 1812, when, without a sailor or a ship, they enlisted under the banner of “Free trade and sailor's rights” ; or in 1846, when they bore off their full share of the laurels of the Mexican
war — the trumpet has never summoned them in vain.
And whenever this Government again becomes to them a symbol and surety of justice, and the phrase “equal, sovereign and independent States” ceases to be a mockery; when those who rule a powerful party in this country no longer regard the South
as an Ireland to be insulted, or an India to be robbed — then again will these Commonwealths prove as of old a powerful factor in the advancement of the safety, honor and interests of the Union
, and, most of all, in the scrupulous maintenance of its muniments of liberty.
How strongly all things tend to summon us to such generous oblivion of our late antagonisms!
But a week since I passed by the remains of the most formidable fortress erected on the soil of Virginia
for her defence during the war, and its menacing form, that once trembled with the discharge of the heaviest seige guns, had become a very evangel of peace.
The thunders of its parting shot had scarcely died away in vanishing echoes before kindly nature, with Divine diligence, began to hide the scars of strife.
Winter's frost vied with Summer's rains in beating down every sharp and angry lineament which marked it; and where these great levelers had encountered obstacles too powerful to be overthrown, earth's gay magician, laughing Spring, had smitten the brown soil with her fairy wand and summoned a mantle of green to cover every wound of war. The white blossoms of berries, and the pale blue of wild violets, spangled the frowning embrasures of the guns, and a thousand twittering swallows, tunneling the fort's grim face with the long archways to their nests, made the air alive with their merry reveille
as we passed.
And where should this lesson of peace have freer utterance and more solemn and attentive heed than in the presence of the dead of either section?
Side by side on a hundred battlefields these children of a common mother still are lying.
The grass which covers the blue grave and the gray mingles its leaves above and interlaces its roots below.
One verdure adorns them through the long summer, and the snowy pall of winter which shrouds them both is woven of continuous threads.
The shadows these humble hillocks cast may end in homes, and darken hearts separated by the width of a continent, but they begin together, and their origin is one.
Their tenants however once divided and discordant, slumber now in eternal amity.
Let us give ear to the lesson.
The mighty and irreversible judgment of concluded war has determined that we who survive shall be and remain one people.
With sacramental blood and fire that union has been ordained, and nothing is now needed to crown it with a happiness and prosperity rivaling its best estate, but the simple recognition that the strife is past — so long past that the face of continental Europe
has twice been changed by bloody, almost universal war, since our arms were stacked and our banners furled.
And surely we have a domain large enough to inhabit in peace.
We said as Abram to Lot, “Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me,” and you would not. Let us also forever say, with the patriarch, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between thee and me, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen., for we be brethren
Under the burden of colossal war, colossal debt, colossal corruption, the young Republic staggers indeed, but she never falls; and despite them all, she stands to-day in every element of enduring power, and chiefly in that master element — Liberty — easily first amid the states of Christendom.
Is not the maintenance of that power, the transmission of that priceless boon, worthy the sacrifice of a passion or a prejudice — above all, of a revenge?
I said in opening that of all the beautiful pictures in Homer
's immortal poem, the chief has ever seemed to me that which portrays the sad journeying of “God-like Hector
's” father to beg the mangled body of his son from his merciless slayer; but in that rich picture, filled as it is with an infinite pathos, no scene so moves the heart as that which exhibits the fierce son of Peleus
, saddened and softened by memories conjured up by the aged Priam
, of his own far-off home, mingling his tears with those of his foeman, and after his charged heart had thus unburdened itself, tenderly raising the body he had trailed around the plains of Troy
in savage rage, and, refusing all aid of others, reverently placing it with his own hands on the car which was to transport it to Ilium, and the rites of sepulture.
One day the people of this Union may rise to the height of this heathen's magnanimity.
Until then to you,soldiers and sailors of the Confederacy
, this pious office, begun by Baltimore
's immortal women, in secrecy and stealth, in peril of insult and peril of dungeon, is confidently committed.
, which, two hundred years ago, was baptized with the proud title of the “Land of the Sanctuary” ; to Maryland
, renowned for her welcome to the stranger among a people with whom hospitality is a habit; to the State
of that Maryland
line which in our first rebellion answered roll-call in every battle from Brooklyn Heights
, and always answered with honor; to Maryland
, whose gallant sons in the strife which filled these graves bore its burdens and braved its perils with a gay courage worthy the palmiest days of chivalry — we commit our dead.
Guard them, Maryland
If a tithe of the surpassing devotion, fervent courage, the quenchless affection, the indomitable purpose of Baltimore
's immortal mothers and daughters, shall inspire the hearts which now-continue their labors here, then, indeed, will this sacred trust be ever well fulfilled — until that day, happy for the glory and greatness of the Union
, when the graves of all her gallant dead shall be our free Republic's common care, as their dauntless courage is her common glory.