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Our heroes and our anniversaries.

And why shall not the South have its heroes and its anniversaries? The South has its history; its traditions; its wrongs; its ruins; its victories; its defeats; its record of suffering and humiliation; its destruction and, worse still, its reconstruction. She has many cemeteries filled with her own patriotic dead, slain fighting her battles; and she has on her soil, beneath her bright skies, larger, more numerous, and more populous cemeteries, filled with brave men, slain in battle by the hands of her warriors.

Is there nothing worthy the song of the heroic muse in all this?

For four years the Confederate government floated its flag over every State beneath the Southern cross, and the Confederate armies carried their battle-flag in triumph from the Rio Grande almost to the capital of the Keystone State, and spread terror to the Great Lakes. Its little navy showed the strange colors of the new-born nation from the Northern sea to the equator, driving the American merchant marine from the high seas, until scarcely a ship engaged in commerce dared show the Stars and Stripes on the Atlantic ocean.

For four bloody years the Confederacy stood the shock of all the power and resources of the greatest republic on the face of the globe, and fought for independence on more than one hundred battle-fields, and at last, when her armies were worn away by attrition and her means of resistance exhausted, succumbed to ‘overwhelming numbers and resources.’ [373]

Vanquished, yet victorious;
Overcome, but not humiliated;
Defeated, but not dismayed.

Was there no heroism in all this? Heroes are not made to order. Deeds make heroes—imperishable deeds, born of virtue, courage, and patriotism. Genius may make men great; power and place may make men famous, but the crown which decks the brow of the true hero is more than genius can give or power and place can bestow.

If Robert E. Lee is not a hero in the highest and best sense of the word, can you point to a name on the pages of history more deserving the title? For four years he successfully led the armies of the Confederacy, proudly, grand, supremely great! In the sublime language of the gifted Senator Hill, of Georgia, ‘He possessed every virtue of all the other great commanders without their vices.’

He was a foe without hate,
A friend without treachery,
A soldier without cruelty,
And a victim without murmuring.

‘He was a public officer without vices, a private citizen without wrong, a neighbor without reproach, a Christian without hypocrisy, and a man without guilt. He was a Caesar without his ambition, Frederick without his tyranny, Napoleon without his selfishness, and Washington without his reward. He was as obedient to authority as a true king. He was as gentle as a woman in life, pure and modest as a virgin in thought, watchful as a Roman vestal in duty, submissive to law as Socrates, and as grand in battle as Achilles.’

And Stonewall Jackson! is he not a hero every inch from spur to plume? His fame is as bright as sun at the noon-day; as fixed and imperishable as the everlasting mountain peaks of his native State. When his spirit passed over the river and rested under the shade of the trees, the unspotted soul of a Christian hero went to its reward. Who denies that he was a military genius? Who says he was not an unselfish patriot? Who does not admit that he was as pure, as simple, and as free from guile as a little child? Amid the lurid lightnings, fierce passions, and dead thunders of the greatest civil war of modern times, when men's minds were full of evil machinations, and their hearts filled with hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, he laid down his life; and yet, strange to tell, not one word of unkindness or reproach assailed his memory. The most implacable [374] of our foes breathed no word of criticism or charged him with a single act or speech unbecoming a true Christian hero. If Stonewall Jackson was not a hero, then the history of the world, its wars and revolutions, its struggles for country and freedom, never knew a man worthy to wear that title.

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