regarded as decidedly demoralizing, and it had passed into a proverb: ‘The worse the man the better the soldier,’ against which the examples of Hedley Vickars
, Colonel Gardiner
and other Christian soldiers were cited in vain.
It is not for a moment denied that these fears were well-founded, and that as a rule the influence of an army is demoralizing.
Its very object is to destroy life, and its scenes of carnage unquestionably tend, if not properly used, to blunt the moral perceptions, and harden in iniquity.
And, then, absence from the influences of home and church, and the restraints of society, coupled with the common idea that things which would be criminal at other times are allowable in the army—all tend to raise the floodgates of immorality and vice.
I shall give no rose-colored picture in these sketches, but shall frankly admit that vices common to most armies were, alas!
but too prevalent in our own, and that many of our most skilful officers and bravest men blotted their fair name by open vice or secret sin.
But I shall be able to show, on the other hand, that Jesus was
in our camps with wonderful power, and that no army in all history—not even Cromwell
's ‘Roundheads’—had in it as much of real, evangelical religion and devout piety as the Army of Northern Virginia.
I shall not discuss in these pages the causes of the great ‘War between the States,’ or revive any of its, ‘buried issues.’
Let its stormy passions, its animosities, its bitter memories be buried forever beneath the wave of forgetfulness.
And let us thank God that men who ‘wore the blue’ and men who ‘wore the gray’ may meet once more in friendly reunion—that older brethren, North and South, long alienated, have come to ‘see eye to eye,’ and to realize that they had only been ‘looking at the opposite sides of the shield’—that younger men have no alienations to reconcile, no bitter memories of a stormy past to efface—that the day is hastening when the North
and the South
shall be more ready to do justice to each other's motives —that the day has come when a Confederate soldier, on a Boston platform, or a Federal soldier, to a Charleston audience, may
Shoulder his crutch
And fight his battles o'er again,
while those who were once his enemies, now his friends, stand with uncovered head, or cheer to the echo his story of heroic deeds.