The men Lee and Jackson led, and the life they lived.
Most of us were not men. We were smooth-faced boys.
Eternal boyhood has passed upon some of us. The rest of us have grown old—how old we would realize, if, from one of these graves, a comrade of the long ago could rise and take his place among us.
When we put on our gray jackets and left home, the boys we knew and loved were leaving too—each of us blessed and kissed by mother, and speeded by the prayers and benedictions of the parish minister and the church, and of every one that represented anything in the community worth living for or dying for. When we reached the army, by the time we settled into soldiers, we found ourselves blindly following the lead of one of greater and better than any other we had ever known—and we all felt that, with us was Right, before us was Duty, behind us was Home.
The world has said great things of us, and some of them must be true, for Lee
himself has said them too. We are not troubled about our reputation.
Some of us are where we can never lose it; others have not always lived worthy of it, but when heart and hope sink, because self respect is given away, we look back to what we were and what we did-despair is routed, and we raise our heads once more.
And what were we—what did we, in those days?
Shallow-pated fools-Nineteenth century fools-sneer at the life of the soldier.
We know better.
From the midst of the life about us to-day—the life of craft and guile and rottenness, of money-loving and money-getting—the life of push and drive and clutch and scrape for wealth, aye for bread—the hum-drum, dead-level, feeble, shallow, selfish life you live to-day-look back upon your soldier life.
Gaze upon it, in the hallowing light of the past.
The look will do you good, through and through.
One thing at least is clear.
If there is any part or portion of your life, in which you were where you should have been and did what you should have done—it is the great Olympiad
of 1861 to 1865, when you followed Joe Johnson
and Robert Lee
And what a life that following opened to us. Every experience, every effort, every emotion, was deep with all its depth, and strong with all its strength, and strained the soul.
Its perils and its sufferings, its heroism and its devotion—its pathos, its terror, its enthusiasm, its triumphs—all these were ecstacies and agonies, were earthquakes and tempests, compared with which the experiences of our life to-day are trite and tame indeed.