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The noble women.

Wives, with their husbands and sons in the army, girls with their lovers, suffered all the agonies of apprehension, the calmer waiting for calamity, which might come at any moment, of which the soldiers knew nothing.

Who was it that ran the plantations and farms to make bread and meat for the soldiers in the field? Who nursed the wounded! Who denied themselves gladly to help the cause? Every gray jacket was a hero in their eyes; it was a passport into every house, and the best was his by right. Hands unused to toil were put to knitting socks and weaving cloth ‘for the soldiers.’ Everything was the ‘soldiers’—for once the men ruled the roost.

They were the inspiration of valor; the soldiers were fighting for them. To be worthy of such women was enough to inspire the most sluggish to deeds of heroism. In truth, a coward would have had a hard time with the Yankees before him and the women behind him.

The noble women were the genius of the cause, of its consecration to liberty.

And since the war they have borne defeat and humiliation nobly. They have encouraged and helped with unflinched courage; but for them the South might have sunk under depressing disasters. With such women to live for, even poverty and reconstruction could be endured.

All honor to the women of the South, past and present—our mothers, our wives, our daughters—God bless them. God bless those here to-day, for it is mainly to their efforts that the shaft before us has been erected. Too much cannot be said in their praise. Where so many deserve it, it is invidious to call the names of any. Let me make an exception of one so advanced in age and honors as Mrs. Eggleston. She was one of the Mothers of the Confederacy, who had sons and grandsons in the army. She was one of the first presidents of this association. Much is due to the lamented Mrs. Wright, who cared for the neglected state of the graves, and had headboards put up. And to the present president, Mrs. Stevens, who has carried on the work to completion. All honor to the ladies of Vicksburg! Those who have nobly contributed their united efforts. We unveil it before them, and leave it in their hands, to keep for posterity.

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