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 The men who hold the world at peace, as long as peace is tenable with honor, and who bear the burden of the battle when duty demands the sacrifice, are mankind's truest heroes and benefactors. And he who, being overtaken by adversity, meets it with equal fortitude and a reassuring hope, is indeed a noble example. This is his triple distinction—that he was a man of peace before the war, a hero in the war, a hero in fidelity and fortitude after the war, and the very incarnation of its glorious memories. It would doubtless be more entertaining for the passing hour did I rehearse the congenial reminiscences, incidents and anecdotes that cluster around the name of this unique, original and remarkable man, and did I depict the thrilling adventures and vivid scenes through which he passed. But this association has for its object the vindication of the truth of history. A people's right is the only just warrant for war, and the honor of the soldier's name is the only reward that war can bestow that is worthy to be cherished. General Early not only made history, he preserved history and wrote history, and he had that prophetic forecast that prefigured history before it was enacted. He was the vindicator of the people's right as well by pen as sword, and if I may collect from records and memories such testimony as will put in a faithful light the nobility of the man and the greatness of his deeds, I shall feel that I shall render to history its best tribute and be more content than were I to engage and charm your fancy. Follow me, then comrades, with some of the patience you have often shown upon the weary march. I will appeal to facts and by them shall hope to vindicate my theme.
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