a prayer on their lips, but no tear in their eyes, bade them good-bye and God-speed in the day of battle.
Never, in truth, had any soldiery such unanimity of thought, purpose and feeling as the infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia.
In its ranks the professional man, the student and the farmer, the merchant and the mechanic, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, fought side by side, animated by the same principles, sustained by the same hopes, sharing the same hardships and equally loyal to the same great cause, the defense of their country, their firesides and their homes, and the vindication of constitutional freedom guarded by constitutional law.
A hundred years and more ago, the most profound political philosopher and the most accomplished orator of modern times said of their forefathers, that “these people of the Southern Colonies
are much more strongly, and with a higher and more stubborn spirit attached to liberty than those to the northward. * * * In other countries the people more simple, of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil and judge of the pressure of the grievance, by the badness of the principle.
They augur misgovernment at a distance, and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.”
These words of Mr. Burke
are as applicable to the soldiers of 1861-5 as to their patriot sires of 1776.
Their strong love of liberty and keen appreciation of its blessings, their sturdy self-reliance and habits of rule, exaggerated doubtless by the peculiar conditions of Southern society, gave them a conscious self-respect, a spirit of personal independence, a sense of their own importance, an individuality and pride that made each man feel as if the fate of every battle hung on his single arm.
Thoroughly satisfied of the justice of their cause, animated by the loftiest patriotism, shrinking from no hardships, regardless of every danger, impatient only of the restraints of military discipline and the distinctions of military rank, in war and “in peace which hath its victories no less renowned than war,” they have illustrated every virtue that dignifies and ennobles man; and when sectional prejudices and strife-engendered passions shall have passed away, their unparalleled achievments appreciated and applauded by friends and foes alike, will be garnered up in the great store-house of history as part and parcel of these χτήματα εζ αει,
those eternal possessions which constitute a nation's crowning glory.
But, Mr. Chairman
, the lateness of the hour not the poverty of my theme, warns me to forbear; and, as the toast to which I have ventured this unworthy response is the last in regular order this evening, I hope