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[570]

Annual Reunion of the Virginia division Army of Northern Virginia Association.

A brilliant audience crowded the State Capitol at Richmond on the evening of November 1st, to hear the address of General A. M. Scales, of North Carolina, before the Virginia Division of the Army of Northern Virginia Association.

After prayer by the Chaplain, Dr. J. Wm. Jones, the President of the Association (General W. H. F. Lee) made an eloquent, and very felicitous address of welcome, and gracefully introduced ‘the gallant soldier who won his spurs in Virginia, and whose splendid brigade did much to make the glorious history of the Army of Northern Virginia, and win the imperishable fame of the soldiers of the old North State, whose blood enriched every battle-field in Virginia, and whose bodies sleep in every vale and on every hill-side.’

We regret that we are unable to publish in full General Scales's address on ‘The Battle of Fredericksburg,’ but the committee of the Association having accorded that privilege to our friends Carlton McCarthy & Co., Richmond, (from whom copies in pamphlet form can be had), we content ourselves now with saying that it was an able and eloquent description of one of the greatest victories of the war. We shall hereafter make copious extracts from it.

Nor can we now speak of the splendid banquet, at which admirable speeches were made by Colonel William Allan, of Maryland, Captain John Milledge, of Georgia, Rev. H. Melville Jackson, of Richmond, General Early, Judge Theo. S. Garnett, of Norfolk, Colonel Moore, of North Carolina, and others.

We are glad to be able to give in full the

Speech of Rev. H. Melville Jackson.

Our dead

We care not whence they came,
     Dear in their lifeless clay;
Whether unknown or known to fame,
     Their cause and country still the same-
They died-and wore the gray.


Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Army of Northern Virginia,—Having been no soldier, I feel always, on these festive occasions, as if I were an interloper — a sharer in pleasures I have not [571] helped to win—a spectator tolerated of your good courtesy. But to-night, when you assign to me the duty of responding to this sentiment, I meet you on common ground; for on the roll of the Confederate dead there are not wanting the names of those who were bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, and in the manner of whose living, and in the manner of whose death, dishonor or disgrace found neither part nor place. One, sir, a brother (and you will pardon me if I say he was a noble youth), perished in defence of the ocean gateway of North Carolina, and found his resting place beside the placid waters of Albemarle. So, therefore, I feel that others have achieved for me the right to speak of the Confederate dead.

And yet I would that the task of weaving for them to-night a tribute of honor, had been confided to capable hands—to the hands of him, for instance, whom we all expected to meet here to-night, and to whose facile pen we are indebted for the sentiment to which I am responding—I refer to the Poet-Priest of the South.

Sir, I never walk in yonder silent ‘city of the dead,’ where so many of your heroes lie buried in serried ranks, shoulder to shoulder, as they stood in life, and about whose silent bivouac no sentinels stand guard save the grand old oaks, without recalling his beautiful apostrophe:

Old trees, old trees, keep watch and ward
     Over each grass-grown bed.
'Tis a glory, old trees, to stand as guard
     Over our Southern dead.
Old trees, old trees, we shall pass away,
     Like the leaves you yearly shed,
But ye! lone sentinels, still must stay,
     Old trees, to guard “Our dead.”

I can well remember the impression made upon my mind when, as a child, I read the Grecian fable of that grim monster—the Minotaur—to be rended and devoured by whom, a yearly tribute of her noblest youths was exacted of queenly Athens; but I did not then understand, as I now know, that this was but a parable of life, symbolizing those terrible devastations which befall a people, and whose insatiable maw contents itself with none but the noblest and best. And O, my countrymen, what a holocaust of victims the Minotaur of War exacted of our fair land! From the banks of the Potomac to the golden shores of the Gulf, from the confines of the far West to the sparkling strand of the Atlantic, there fell the shadow of this [572] grief, as fell the shadow of the last plague on Egypt, when it was said, ‘there was not a house where there was not one dead.’ From many a home in the South, mothers looked out at the window, and like the Mother of Sisera, cried out through the lattice, ‘Why tarries he so long in his coming?’ but he for whom she strained her sight was mouldering into dust beneath the blood-stained sod of Virginia. Many a maiden of the South bade tearful farewell to some gallant youth, into whose eyes, dearer to her than the light of the sun, she should look no more, and whose warm breath upon her brow she should never feel again. They fell, gentlemen, noble sires and noble sons. They fell amidst the tempest and storm-wrack, and iron hail of battle; they fell gloriously, with their faces to the foe, and with the quenchless light of dauntless courage in their eyes. You remember them as they lay cold and stark on the morning after the battle, and you realized the feeling of the poet:

When all is over, it is humbling to tread
O'er the weltering field of the tombless dead.

And it is right that you should pause to night in the midst of your festivity to give a thought to those who fell where you passed safely through.

But we cannot follow them in our thought; they are ‘beyond the veil;’ they are on the other side of the mystery: and yet, is that old Scandinavian conception of their state the true one? and do those departed warriors nightly assemble, in some vast banqueting hall, as you are here assembled, to rehearse the stories of prodigy and valour gloriously exemplified in their career?

No; but if they did so meet, I can fancy that a favorite toast in their ghostly revels would be something like this: ‘There may be traitors among the living, but there are none among the dead.’

Or is that old Pagan conception the true one? and are the disembodied spirits of the unburied dead, or dead buried without appropriate funeral rites doomed to hover for a hundred years about the scenes of their earthly life? and if so, are their insubstantial tents pitched now on the plains of Manassas and along the Rapidan, and upon the banks of the Rappahannock? and are they here, in our midst, mingling their shadowy presence with our own in the revelry of this hour?

No; but if they were here, I should bid them speak. Speak, ye spirits of the immortal dead, and tell these, your survivors, that if they prove recreant to their country, or their cause, and that, so [573] long as chieftains lack appropriate memorials, and so long as heroes lack green graves, the dead have lasting grudge against the living.

Or if, as we Christians believe, they now sleep, awaiting the tap of the last reveille and the clarion call of the Archangel's trump, could voice of mine penetrate the solitude and silence of their resting-place, I should bid them sleep on! sleep on, ye brave, in peace! It may be that the Eternal Judge will look the more lightly upon your faults for that you were content to suffer and to die in behoof of a righteous cause.


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