Their country was their only heritage.
The mothers and wives and daughters buckled on the belts, and sent husbands and sons and brothers forth, and women toiled for the bread and spun the raiment of “little ones” of “shanty
” homes in country, or of shops in town, whilst their champions of defense were in their country's camps, or marches, or trenches, or battles!
They faithfully followed leaders whom they trusted and honored.
Nor Cabinets, nor Congress, nor Commissariat, nor Quartermaster's Department, nor speculators, nor spies, nor renegades, nor enemy's emissaries, nor poverty, nor privation, nor heat, nor cold, nor sufferings, nor toil, nor danger, nor wounds, nor death could impair their constancy!
They fought with a devout confidence and courage which was unconquerable save by starvation, blockade, overwhelming numbers, foreign dupes and mercenaries, Yankeedom, Negrodom, and death!
Prodigies of valor, miracles of victories, undoubted and undoubting devotion and endurance to the last, entitled them to honors of surrender which gilded the arms of their victors and extorted from them even cheers on the battle-field where at last they yielded for peace!
Alas! how many thousands had fallen before their few surviving comrades laid down their arms!
Of these men of the ranks their beloved leader, General R. E. Lee
, said to me, during the last winter on the lines: “Sir, the men of this war who will deserve the most honor and gratitude are not the men of rank, but the men of the ranks
I cordially concurred in the justice and truth of the compliment, for I had seen them tried on the rocks of Coal river
, of Gauley
and the Pocotalico.
I had tested their endurance in the marches and countermarches, and scouting and skirmishing, of the Kanawha Valley
; I had seen them in a first fight and victory against all odds at Scary
, and their last stand against greater odds on the Sewall mountains
; I had seen their constancy and courage proved at Hawk's Nest
, at Honey Creek
, at Big Creek
, at Carnifax Ferry, and at Camp Defiance, in Northwest Virginia
I had seen them leap with alacrity to the defense of Roanoke Island
, knowing when they went that they could not return but as captives or corpses.
I have seen them in the “Slaughter
pen” there slay twice their own numbers before they stacked the arms for which they had no amunition.
I have seen them employ their leisure and amuse their ennui
's farm by mechanic arts for the army of a blockaded country!
I have seen their efficiency on the peninsulas of the James
, and of the Chickahominy
I have seen their successful strategy at Williamsburg
and Whitaker's Mill
, and their steadiness in the din of metal at Malvern Hill