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The Confederate soldier. a synopsis of an Address delivered before the Ladies' Memorial Association at Wilmington, North Carolina, May so, 1883.

by Honorable R. T. Bennett.

Col. 14th N. C. Infantry, C. S. A.

The following synopsis of Judge Bennett's address at Wilmington on memorial day is reprinted from the Star.

We have come to offer the tribute of gratitude to the men, dead and living, who followed the fortunes of the Confederacy from the [273] outbreak of the war until Palm Sunday in 1865, when the ragged regiments of the South, torn by hostile shot and shell, stacked their guns, lowered their banners, and, broken-hearted, dispersed, to find ruined homes and a country girded with sackcloth and sprinkled with ashes. This melancholy duty could not be performed on ground more fitting than this, hallowed as it is by the graves of our dead—footprints of angels-made memorable as it is by an assemblage of circumstances.

Eighteen miles away, as the ill-omened crow flies, are the remains of the last great artery which sustained the failing life of the Confederacy, until cut by the cruel surgery of the sword in January of 1865. The spirit of good or bad in men, while living and after death, is but the echo of their actions. Those who served in the armies of the Confederacy during its struggle with the Government carry in their hearts an unwritten memorial of the courage, valor and deeds of their comrades who, less fortunate than themselves, perished in that struggle. The feeling of comradeship, the sense of old help, of common peril—born only of the electric touch of elbows—will not suffer their memories to see corruption.

If we would transmit to other ages—to those who are to come after us—the precious remembrance of the men who fell under the Southern Cross amid the splendid agony of battle, we must resort to material monuments—to brass or marble.

It is the irony of fortune that if we were to yield to the strong emotions which struggle for utterance and give rein to our enthusiasm, our sentiments, candidly expressed, would provoke criticism, and be imputed to our people as proof of insubordination. Our lamentations must be expressed in sobs.

Pardon me, then, if I fail to touch the delicate nerve of sympathy in this concourse.

It is not probable that the historian will again chronicle the annals of a war in which the people crowded their leaders out of place and took the advance. The tendency now is to turn everything to commercial account. Then the votaries of law, medicine and philosophy, the artisans, the teeming thousands who work afield, moved by a common impulse, took up the line of march and poured a steady stream of patriotism to the scene of the conflict. The bishop exchanged the Episcopal mitre for the baton of a marshal; the men of God, whose province it is to inspire us with the sweet ideal of the Nazarene, joined the column of the march; and on the perilous edge [274] of battle breathed into the year of the dying soldier the words of eternal life.

Our people encamped upon the field; our youth, mature manhood, and age with lengthening shadows, all were there. And from home, woman—the best comfort of our imperfect condition—inspired us by her faith and trust in the justice of God and the righteousness of our cause. It was the tempestuous march of a principle as old as the government and as irrepressible as thought. Of such men were made the squadrons which under Stuart, who deserves to take rank with Kellerman, forced the circuit of McClellan's army while he thundered at the gates of Richmond and scored the first great ride of the war.

Of such were composed the battalions which under Jackson, who received his death wound a score of years ago in the tangled growth at Chancellorsville, about the exultant hour of victory, made the first great march of the war in the shadow of South mountain by the waters of the Shenandoah, and hurled the forces of the Government from the Valley. With these citizens Buchanan drove the beak of the Merrimac into the yielding timbers of the Congress and Cumberland, and startled nations.

Time, the balm of wounded hearts, has softened the agony of the last months of the appalling struggles between the States, and converted the ravishing anguish of defeat, of deaths, of losses infinite, into submission to the inevitable. We would not make those hearts bleed afresh by recounting the incidents which clothed our people with the weeds of mourning.

In Caesar's account of the battle of Pharsalia, he says that Crastinus, a centurion of the Tenth legion, already distinguished for his gallantry, called out:

Follow me, my comrades, and strike home for your general. This one battle remains to be fought and he will have his rights and we our liberty. ‘General,’ he said, looking to Caesar, ‘I shall earn your thanks to-day, dead or alive.’

We have seen a ragged Southern soldier, all unknown to fame, amid the angry shouting of hosts, touch the poverty of his uniform, and with a gentle farewell, uttered as he essayed some doubly perilous feat, go out into the eternal beyond. We await with the anguish of patience the coming historian who will do justice to these untitled dead.

With the world nothing succeeds like success, though attained in the subjugation of a free people, which we denounce here as the greatest crime of all the ages. [275]

We adopt the sentiment and language of Pericles in the celebrated oration over the dead who perished in the first campaign of the Peloponnesian war, delivered four hundred and thirty years before the birth of the author of the sweet Galilean vision:

But of these men there was none that either was made a coward by his wealth, from preferring the continued enjoyment of it; or shrank from danger through a hope suggested by poverty—namely, that he might yet escape it, and grow rich; but conceiving that vengence on their foes was more to be desired than these objects, and at the same time regarding this as the most glorious of hazards, they wished by risking it to be avenged on their enemies, and so to aim at procuring those advantages; committing to hope the uncertainty of success, but resolving to trust to action with regard to what was visible to themselves; and in that action, being minded rather to resist than die, than by surrendering to escape, they fled from the shame of a discreditable report, while they endured the brunt of the battle with their bodies; and after the shortest crisis, when at the very height of their fortune, were taken away from their glory rather than their fear.

Such did these men prove themselves as became the character of their country. I would not have you unmindful that the angel of death left his mark on other households than ours. Funeral insignia hang thick on the homes of the conquerors. The memory of their dead is cherished by the Government; their orphaned young, their widowed wives, their disabled survivors, are generously maintained at public expense. Our dead have no country except the unmarked empire of eternity; no flag except the weird cross borne at the head of the spectre host in the spirit land. Departed spirits of our expatriated dead, we salute you on the slopes of glory! ‘Lo! at their tomb my tributary tears I offer for my brethren's obsequies!’

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