Comrades, though divided from “Our dead,” we are not dissevered.
For while not of those — nor would I be — who believe that
Ever near us, though unseen,
Their dear immortal spirits tread,
while I cannot think that they are roused from their rest
On fame's eternal camping-ground,
and sent forth on this weary and anxious patrol, keeping watch and ward over our miseries, follies and sins, I yet believe, finding my warrant in that book that tells us that the angels of God are his ministering messengers of love and mercy, that these same angels, who take the tear and the prayer of penitence above, so that Heaven's arches resound with notes of joy over the repenting, that they also bear word of us to ours who are gone before, telling them how, with toil and wrestle, we are yet struggling up toward the better land and the blessed life, and telling, too, that they, though dead, are living in our hearts and on our lips.
In such a faith there is set a stimulus to our endeavors so to live that our lives here may waken joy in hearts that love us there.
And in the light of such a faith, it is not overbold or strained to say that, doubtless, to-night the hearts of heroes who have passed over the river and await us on the other side are made glad by our remembrance, as, gathered here, we honor their names, their virtues and their deeds.
And, comrades, one word more.
The time will come when this association will have reached its maximum; when our president shall no more report, as he has done to-night, an increase in our number; when there will be no more new members.
And then will our contraction begin.
From that day will date our decline.
One by one the veterans who survive, dropping from our thinning ranks, will diminish our ever-decreasing roll.
And there will be a day when the last survivor, on this the night of our annual reunion, shall enter our hall alone.
God grant that, then, as with the trembling grasp of age, he lifts to his lips the glass of remembrance, and dreading to break the solemn stillness in which he sits, faintly whispers to his own ear his last toast--“My” (no longer “our” ) “My dead” --that, then and there, as his eye passes over the long roll, and he folds it for a final report, he may send it up indorsed and approved, writing on it: “These, my comrades, in war
, died on the field of honor, in peace
, at the post of duty, and are living in the fields of glory.”