flickering brilliance—the sunset of the Confederacy
—of the last essays of desperate courage to avert the inevitable;
And then, —the darkness fell!
Exhausted by the very persistence and success with which they had protracted an unequal contest, those skeleton battalions, still standing grimly by their colors, had nothing left of all that makes up the efficiency of armies except the invincible spirit which trial only tempers and that courage which rises with the demands upon it, in mercy and in justice to these incomparable veterans, the order for surrender was given.
But they had already won laurels not always placed upon the victor's brow.
And there was little room for triumph to the hosts that stood by in countless numbers and saw the thin procession of emaciated forms and worn faces, ‘in ragged jackets but bearing bright muskets,’ march out under the April sky to give a last salute to the leaders they had followed so well and the flag they had worshipped.
When that was furled, the last seal had been set upon the tragedy of the ages.
In place of the once magnificent armies were a few thousands of haggard, footsore and heartsore men, wending their painful ways towards ruined homes and desolated plains.
They had been first worshippers at the birth, they were the last mourners at the grave of the vanished nation.
Dear country of the soldier's dreams.
Hail and farewell!
The night falls upon a land of shrines and altars, peopled by ghosts and by memories.
Comrades,—To others than ourselves, and our own people, we cannot explain, and we would not make apology, that the four years we spent as soldiers of the Confederacy
, despite the trials and losses that attended and the unspeakable disaster that crowned them, are treasured in and sanctified to our heart of hearts as the best and proudest and dearest experiences of our life.
We could not forget them, if we would.
We would not forget them, if we could.
Nay, remembering and realizing all that struggle cost us—the priceless lives, the desolated firesides, the rapine, the pillage, the devastation, the impoverishment of war, and the political and social evils that caused the period of reconstruction—recalling all the agony of impotent heroism, of unavailing prayers, of unfruitful sacrifice,