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Captain Francis Huger Harleston.

By Rev. (General) Ellison Capers.
[The following address was delivered at ‘the Citadel,’ Charleston, S. C., on the occasion of the unveiling of the Mural Tablet erected to the memory of Captain Francis Huger Harleston, and both as a tribute from a gallant soldier to one of Sumter's heroic defenders, and as the delineation of the character of a fair specimen of ‘the men who wore the gray,’ it is worthy of preservation.]

In April, 1860, seven young gentlemen graduated from this academy:

Francis Huger Harleston, A. J. Norris, A. S. Gaillard, William E. Stoney, S. S. Kirby and Frank deCaradeuc.

With high hopes and happy hearts they formed their class on commencement day for the last time, and taking their place in rear of the escort of their fellow-cadets, marched out of the archway, to the Hibernian Hall.

A brilliant audience, in fullest sympathy with the occasion, greeted the procession.

As I recall the scene to-day, though twenty-four years have passed, it seems as but yesterday!

When life is crowded with duties and cares, time is not recorded in its rapid flight, and the years come and go without our notice.

And what years we have known since that commencement-day! Who of us who heard Harleston's valedictory dreamed of the future that was immediately before those young men?

Who of us imagined that within four years five of the seven were to seal their devotion to Carolina with their heart's blood, dying as true heroes die, at the post of their duty?

DeCaradeuc, in Virginia; Erwin, on Sullivan's Island; Kirby, at Rivers' Bridge, on the Saltkehatchie; Gaillard, mortally wounded at Bentonville; Frank Harleston, at Fort Sumter!

And if Stoney and Norris are not with their classmates to-day, in the silent bivouac of the gallant dead, it is not because they did not freely offer their lives to their country.

Graduating in April, 1860, but a few months elapsed before South Carolina called her sons to arms.

Harleston's class promptly answered the summons.

The cadets were sent to Morris' Island, and charged with the duty [362] of building a battery facing ‘ship channel,’ and preventing supplies and reinforcements from reaching Sumter by that route.

Obeying an impulse alike of duty and affection, Harleston went over to the island and asked his old superintendent, from whose hands he had but just received the diploma awarded to the first honor graduate, to be allowed to take his place in the ranks of the corps he had recently commanded as Cadet Captain. A cordial greeting was given him, and Major Stevens published an order accepting his services and assigning him the post of Acting Adjutant.

Thus began the career of the young soldier, whose memory is cherished and honored by his friends to-day.

A gallant career! Begun in devotion to his friends and his State, sustained with high honor through the terrible experiences of a siege in some respects the most remarkable which military history records, and ended by an act of quiet yet sublime self-sacrifice!

He deemed a death for honor sweet,
And sohe fell.

As he lay in the fort, his comrades took from his jacket-pocket, a piece of paper, on which he had but recently written these words:

The brave die never;
     In death they but exchange their
Country's arms for more.
     Their country's heart.

And if from their sacred home, beyond the clash and jar and discords of this brief life, the gallant dead see us, and know us, take my testimony to-day, my friends, when I tell you, that we, who knew and loved those men, knew full well how sweet and holy their satisfaction when they see this becoming memorial in honor of one who so well deserved his place in the affections of his friends.

Aye, more—if Harleston's unselfish spirit knows aught that we have done, how sweet the satisfaction to realize the fulfilment of his own cherished hope, and to know that here, where his character was formed, and his purpose of duty fixed! Here; where manly men and boys are preparing for life's high trusts, here in the city for whose safety he gave his life, and here, from the living offerings of his personal friends we have met to testify, that he and his brave comrades have indeed ‘exchanged their country's arms for more, their country's heart.’

I rejoice in the holy impulse of affection that suggested this memorial [363] tablet to the beloved memory of Frank Harleston, and honor the friendship that consecrates it to-day.

As in life his character was an example most worthy of our imitation, so in death may this memorial in his honor teach us from its pure and chaste inscription of a duty, yet unfulfilled, which we owe to the dead of our Alma Mater, who with Harleston, laid down their lives, rather than neglect their duty to us and to the State.

The University of North Carolina has erected a Memorial Hall, and dedicated it to the memory of her sons who have died in the honorable fulfilment of their responsibilities, whatever their callings in life!

Fellow-graduates, ex-cadets, and cadets of the South Carolina Military Academy, citizens of Old Charleston, yes, Carolinians all, shall we not write on these walls, in Parian marble, the names of Tew, and Gendron Palmer, and Jenkins, and Charley Haskell, and Jim Nance, and McCreary, and Randall Craft, and Mason Smith, and Datterer, and the other honored names of the gallant men who died in the service of their country.

If he had been spared to his friends and his State, no one of us could take a heartier interest in the discharge of this sacred duty than the brave soldier whose name we have inscribed on this beautiful tablet.

My friends, there is a deeper lesson for us and our children in these memorials to our dead than the natural gratification of surviving friendship and love.

They bear us witness that the sons of Carolina do not blush for the history of their State!

A land without dead heroes is a land without aspirations and hopes!

A State without monuments is a State without examples!

History may record the failures, or the mistakes, or the unwisdom of a people, and the perusal of such chapters may disappoint while they instruct us; but while that history inscribes the record of virtue and valor, and illustrates the power of conscientious self-sacrifice, so long as it tells the story of patience, and courage, and fortitude, and faith!—that history can never be the badge of a people's dishonor.

He dishonors himself who does not respect it, and he alone is unblessed by its lessons and its examples, who treats its memory with disregard.

The day will never come in South Carolina, my friends, when her [364] loyal sons will hold her traditions of honor in disesteem. The defence of Charleston, in which Captain Frank Harleston bore his faithful part, will ever be as honored and as honorable as the defense of Charleston nearly a hundred years before it. Fort Sumter is as bright a star on the shield of Carolina as the Palmetto Fort of 1776!

The names of the officers and men who for four years defended Fort Sumter against the combined and continued assaults of the army and navy of the United States will never be forgotten in South Carolina.

They will live in hallowed recollection of their splendid conduct, in admiration of their skill and courage, and in grateful memory of their self-sacrifice.

It was the lot of Harleston to give his life in illustration of the principles of duty that had formed the basis of his education and training.

How simple the details of a cadet's life! How often the call to the duty of the hour!

And how deep the lessons are written in the character of those cadets, who refusing to be driven to their tasks, move with spirit and heart, at the tap of the steel, and take up the duty as an obligation too sacred to be shunned or shirked. This is my recollection of Harleston. We were fellow-cadets and friends, and I had the honor for a short time, of being his instructor; and I recall him today as I knew and loved him then; modest, firm, manly, gentle, intelligent, true!

The call of duty to Frank was the call of honor.

And, young gentlemen, the cheerful discharge of duty brought him deserved honor here, at the Citadel; yonder, at Fort Sumter; and wreathes his name and memory with these fresh and beautiful chaplets of flowers.

The Governor of the State gave him an appointment as First Lieutenant in the immortal First Regiment South Carolina Regular Artillery, in February, 1861. In January, 1862, he was promoted Captain of Company D., and assigned to duty at Fort Sumter.

I cannot enter at this hour into a recital of the incidents of that duty. They belong to the history of the defence of Fort Sumter; a defence which has no parallel in our great struggle, and which, in some respects, has no parallel in military history. You, who did not see and know Fort Sumter before the 10th of July, 1863, can form no idea of its lofty battlements and towering walls, from the simple earth-work you see to-day! [365]

The fort was destroyed, the guns dismounted, the barracks burned over the soldiers' heads, and, later on, the magazine exploded, the dead and wounded strewing the ground, while the heaviest artillery of the age continuously concentrated its fire against the ruin, and assault after assault attempted its capture; yet Fort Sumter never surrendered!

When, at last, after defying the army and navy of the United States for four years, and with Fort Moultrie and the forts and batteries of the harbor, and the Confederate army on the islands and the main, all the defenders of Charleston were ordered to North Carolina for the final struggle, then, sir, (to Major T. A. Huguenin,) did you, as the last commander of the fort, withdraw your brave comrades from that immortal post.

<*> can well imagine the feelings of those men as they quietly got into the boats, and, with muffled oars, rowed away to Charleston!

It was the last and the final chapter in a glorious history!

I turn back a few of the pages of that history to read you of one incident which, with hundreds like it, make it a sacred history to us. I will read you the story as it has been written by a very faithful pen.1

Your own hearts, your own sense of what is worthy in conduct, and faithful and true in courage, and hallowed and holy in self-sacrifice, will not let the lesson pass. This chaste and simple tablet will keep its memory sacred here.

The officers and cadets of his Alma Mater will never let the story be forgotten, while its lesson of unostentatious faithfulness and duty will become an inspiration to every cadet who, like Captain Harleston, answers the call of the hour with the spirit of a true and patient heart.

On the 21st of November, 1863, Captain Harleston's last term of duty expired at Fort Sumter, and his company was relieved by another.

‘Having obtained a much-desired furlough, he intended, as soon as he was released, to go up to Columbia and visit his family, who were joyfully awaiting his arrival. He had written to his mother, “I will be with you to-night.” ’

Colonel Elliott, who commanded the fort at the time, asked him to remain a few days longer, ‘until the dark nights were past,’ confidingin the vigilance and ability of Harleston. [366]

He readily and cheerfully acceded to this complimentary request as he always did to the call of every duty. * * * *

At 4 o'clock on the morning of November 24th 1863, a sentinel reported to him that the tide had washed aside some of the chevauxde-frise that protected the surface of the fort from assault, and he at once proceeded to examine the condition of those defences.

Whilst inspecting them, on the outside of Sumter, a shell burst near him, and he was terribly mangled.

He lay there for fifteen minutes, on the wet rocks, then, finding that he did not return, they sought for him, and found him in his agony.

‘He was borne into the fort that he had fought for so gallantly, and his heart's blood flowed upon her stones, consecrating them by that crimson baptism.’

Four hours of intense suffering, borne in unmurmuring fortitude, and the death ‘he deemed for honor sweet’ came to his relief, and Frank Harleston's duty was done!

Friends and comrades bore his body, dressed in his uniform, to the church-yard at Stansberry, on the Cooper river, and he was laid to rest by the side of kindred dust—in the flower of his youth, the pride of his family, the brave among the bravest, the true among the truest; the gentle, the modest, the strong and faithful soldier2—one of the self-sacrificing heroes of Fort Sumter.

The Tablet was unveiled by Miss Anna Colcock and Miss Harriet Lowndes Rhett.

1 Memoir by Miss Claudine Rhett in the Southern Historical Papers.

2 Note.—The Tablet is of pure, white marble, chaste and beautiful in its execution, and bears this inscription:

Laurae Parenii Coronatus.

Francis Huger Harleston, Captain of Cadets;
     First Honor Graduate of the S. C. M. A., 1860;
Captain 1st Reg't S. C. Artillery, C. S. A. Regulars;
     Killed on duty at Fort Sumter, Nov. 24, 1863.
Aged 24 years.
     Erected by His Friends.

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