In the homage paid, to this day, at their tombs by fair women and brave men, among them men once foes who came as friends, a homage paid through floral offerings symbolizing love and peace, our association offered our dead the highest tribute.
What said that pair of scales set there in silent but expressive beauty?
“Weighed in the balances they were not found wanting.”
Comrades, I know that as the words of our toast arrest our ears, tender memories are awakened in our hearts — memories of men whose hearts were knit to ours in the camp, the march, the bivouac, the siege and the battle.
And as Shiloh
, and Murfreesboro
, and Chickamauga
, and Chattanooga
, and Vicksburg
, and Atlanta
, and Franklin
, and Nashville
, and Mansfield
, and Pleasant Hill
, pass before us, familiar forms and faces appear instinct with the life and bright with the light that was the strength and the joy of those camping and campaigning days.
And some of them, alas I we see bathed in their blood, shrouded in their blankets and laid away in their nameless graves.
Well do I recall our charges up Franklin
's fatal slope, and remember how, the day after, as their chaplain, with Scripture and prayer, I buried seventy of the best and bravest of my brigade, placed side by side in the long trenches that were their common grave.
And that fight at Peach Tree Creek
, above Atlanta
, where, of our 1,230 that went in, but 650 came out. Ah!
how often, as we entered those fields of slaughter, looking along our devoted ranks, the pathos and power of those lines, in which a master of words commemorates Waterloo
, thrilled my soul as prophecies of that awaiting us:
And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves
Dewy with Nature's tear-drops, as they pass
Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves,
Over the unreturning brave, alas!
Ere evening to be trodden like the grass,
Which now beneath them but above shall grow
In its next verdure, when this fiery mass
Of living valor rolling on the foe,
And burning with high hope, shall moulder cold and low.
Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
Last eve in beauty's circle proudly gay,
The midnight brought the signal sound of strife,
The noon the marshaling to arms — the day
Battle's magnificently stern array.
The thunder clouds close o'er it, which, when rent,
The earth is covered thick with other clay,
Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent,
Rider and horse, friend, foe — in one red burial blent.