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 perhaps specially characteristic of our Confederate struggle, of which I desire to speak with emphasis, because, as I believe, there has never been any just or general appreciation of it, and the little there was seems to be fading away. I refer to the more than human heroism of the private soldiers of our armies who remainded faithful under the unspeakable pressure of letters and messages revealing suffering, starvation and despair, at home. The men who felt this strain most were husbands of young wives and fathers of young chileren, whom they had supported by their labor, manual or mental. As the lines of public communication in the Confederacy were more and more broken and destroyed, the situation of such families became more desperate, and their appeals more and more piteous, to their only earthly helpers, who were far, far away filling their places in ‘the thin gray line.’ Meanwhile the enemy sent secretly into our camps, often by our own pickets, circulars offering our men indefinite parole, with free transportation to their homes. If ever there was such a thing as a ‘conflict of duties,’ that conflict was presented to these men. If ever the strain of such a conflict was great enough to unsettle a man's reason and break a man's heart-strings, these men were subjected to that strain. I cannot express to you the intensity of my feeling on this subject. I cannot reveal to you the unutterable revelations of this anguish, which have been made to these ears and these eyes. Ask any Confederate officer who commanded troops in the latter part of the war and who was loved and trusted by his men. He will tell you of letters which it would have seared your very eye balls to read, but that they could not be read without bedewing and bedimming tears—letters marked oftimes by the pathos which labored and imperfect penmanship imparts, and always by the power which agony inspires—letters in which a wife and mother, crazed by her starving children's cries for bread, demanded of a husband and father to choose between his God—imposed obligations to her and to them, and his allegiance to his country, his duty as a soldier—declared, that, if the stronger party prove recreant to the marriage vow, the weaker should no longer be bound by it—that if he come not at once, he need never come—that she will never see him more, never recognize him again as the husband of her heart or the father of her children.
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