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An address before the ladies' memorial Association.

With Glowing apostrophe to General T. J. Jackson, at Charlotte, N. C., May 10th, 1906.

By Hon. R. T. Bennett, Late Col. of the 14th N. C. Regiment, C. S. A.
[As to other addresses of Col. Bennett and notice of his admirable career, see Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXXIII, p. 65.—Ed.]

Madame President, Ladies of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Citizens:
When that illustrious man William Edward Gladstone lay in the crisis of his fate, which closed in his death May 18th, 1898, messages of sympathy from the foremost men of our Christian world were read to him, and he murmured at intervals, ‘Kindness, kindness, kindness!’ at length as prayers were ended he exclaimed, ‘Amen!’

There is sunshine in my soul to-day. You have given me manifestations of sympathy akin to affection.

An old man taken in the act of doing right is your guest to-day. I value beyond weights and measures the good opinion of our people, whether they be plain people, official people, or such as determine alone or in council public opinion, that mysterious and invisible power which no man can resist — more frequently right than any man can fathom or forecast. Need I pause to define public opinion as the conception of the best and foremost thought of the time, the day, the hour. It is not the cry of the multitude, ‘Crucify him! Release to us Barabbas,’ but of the still small voice, ‘Be just and fear not.’

I quiver with emotion in the presence of this audience, cultured and adorned with every embellishment of beauty. I reckon the [53] census of immortal events wrought here by the good limbs of our people.

I miss the lionhearted Jones, the intrepid Flemming, the unmatched Waring, glorious Greer, my virtuous friend John E. Brown, the steady Barringer and perennial Vance.

‘At their tombs my tributary tears I offer for my brethren's obsequies.’

I asked my wife if it would be risking too much with this assemblage of worthies to indulge my sense for humor. With Confederate precision she retorted against it and I am sworn to a severe demeanor.

I am not to herald discordant notes. Peace on earth to men of good will enthuses me. If I may twang the bow of Ulysses I recognize that you cannot annihilate the past. Verily you must not suspect me capable of infidelity to that past. Genius when young is divine.

Charles Dickens, the most pathetic of all English writers, in one of his letters from Rome, represents the early Christians of Rome as having sought and found sanctuary in the catacombs of the Eternal City, where they worshipped the God of the Christian. Their hiding place having been discovered, fathers, mothers were slain by the men of the law—the lynchers of the Apocalypse, the mot of the day.

The men who hang others upon the Statue of Liberty while professing a mission for free speech, freedom of conscience. The children of those slain for their faith witnessing the awful tragedy of fathers and mothers immolated, rush upon their tormentors crying aloud: ‘We are Christians.’ By an access of unspeakable tenderness they were lifted above fear and looked upon death as a mere incident of life.

Those of us who were completely possessed with the principles of 186—on fire with its scope and energy—--‘A burning bush.’

We are Confederates now henceforth eternally. Our methods of observation and reasoning now, as then, are the sheet anchor of our principles. We extenuate nothing—naught exaggerate in malice: Calumnies cast at the government are not our weapons.

Who would not love his country with all his might? Is she not made of our secular traditions, our unrivaled glories, our reverses, and of the genius of our great men, writers, thinkers, poets, [54] orators and captains crowned with victory or sanctified by misfortune? Is she not made of the brilliance of our cities, the charm of our villages of the soil, which covers the remains of our predecessors, of an industry whose power is miraculous, and of the earth which the workmen render fruitful? She is all this; the thought of her fills and possesses us, it makes our hearts beat, it uplifts our souls and dominating us, allows this high creation to be great in the world and respected.

A nation may succumb to force, but when her honor remains— eternal hope and lofty thoughts are not forbidden her if her children, ‘The Trustees of Posterity,’ the best asset of a State, cherish piously the cult of their country and the religion of their parents.

Old man Carlyle laughed until hoarse when it was read to him that the mob of New York city, resisting the draft of 1863, hanged negroes to lamp posts, while Lincoln and Stanton were proclaiming the war as waged for freedom. What irony! Alas, what destiny! Alas, the deep damnation of their taking off.

Wordsworth said of the persistency of the Spaniards against Napoleon:

‘That when a people are called suddenly to fight for their liberty, and are sorely pressed upon, their best field of battle is the floors upon which their children have played, the chambers where the family of each man has slept upon, or under the roofs by which they have been sheltered, in the gardens of their recreation, in the streets, or in the market place, before the altars of their temples, and among their congregated dwellings, blazing or uprooted.’

This is our Saints' day—two score and three years ago amid the tangled undergrowth at Chancellorsville, the wound which released his noble soul was inflicted. Never did the death of one man exercise such influence upon a nascent or established State. Gustavus Adolphus, the Lion of the North, the defender of the Christian religion, the great Turenne, the foremost tactician of his age, taken off by a stray shot—these were cruel blows—not comparable, however, to the death of that tempestuous Captain, God given, intoxicated with his mission. You have marvelled, no doubt, that he should have gone forward beyond his lines, as he did, I bring you the secret. The enemy staggering from the powerful stroke [55] inflicted by the rout of the afternoon, had recoiled within his lines and was making temporary field works against the onset of the morrow.

That great genius read through the darkness the trepidation of Hooker and decided to attack under cover of darkness. Trusting himself only, he ventured to find the weak joint in the enemy's armor. If he had come back to us as he went, we would have been hurled against Hooker, and the Army of the Potomac would have ceased to exist as a fighting unit.

I recall the march of Jackson's Corps from Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville the day before that battle—it was full of glories. Halting to rest along a narrow road, arms were stacked—in a line as crooked as the line of an old-fashioned Virginia fence. Suddenly the sound of a great multitude who had raised their voices in accord came over the tips of the bayonets. The very air of heaven seemed agitated—it was Nature's sympathy as in the total eclipse of the sun, the onrushing of the shadow has its herald on stronger air. The horse and his rider cross our vision. The simple Presbyterian Elder, anointed of God, with clenched teeth, a very statue, passes to his transfiguration.

No artist could express on canvas the face of that man in moments of excitement. I have been transported to the summit of action in battle by his presence. The gaudium certaminis. He was God's hermit.

It has been said of Adoniram Judson that his life was a perpetual incense to heaven. His example was worth to humanity all the money ever spent in the mission field.

How shall I appraise the influence of our illustrious captains and the obedience of their ragged cohorts! How shall I inventory their virtues!

The night before Chancellorsville my command laid close to the spot where the two foremost men of the army of Northern Virginia held high counsel over the situation. There General Lee, pointing to the Catherine Furnace Road, traced the detour around Hooker, and the morrow witnessed the execution of a great conceit of strategy in lofty vein.

And now as he passes to his rest, his face to heaven, he talks of elemental nature. [56]

‘Let us cross over the rivers and rest under the shade of the trees.’

I've called his name a statue, stern and vast
It rests enthroned upon the mighty past
Fit plinth for him whose image in the mind
Looms up as that of one by God designed.
Fit plinth in sooth! the mighty past for him
Whose simple name is glory's synonym!
Even fancy's self in her enchanted sleep
Can dream no future which may cease to keep
His name in guard, like sentinel, and cry
From time's great bastions, “It shall never die.”

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