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[283]

Annual reunion of the Virginia division, A. N. V.

On the evening of October 31st, the hall of the House of Delegates, in the historic old Capitol at Richmond, was crowded to its utmost capacity with such an audience as always greets these annual reunions. As one glanced through the throng, he could see on every side bronzed veterans of an hundred fights, who had written their names on bright pages of the history of the Confederacy — wearing worthily the “wreath and stars,” “the stars,” or “the bars” they won — or “the unknown hero” of the rank and file,who by splendid courage and patient endurance had done so much to make their leaders famous, and their own fame immortal. There, too, were many of the noble women who watched, and waited, and prayed at home, or were “ministering angels” in the hospitals, together with sons and daughters of noble sires.

The president of the Association (General W. H. F. Lee) called the Association to order, and at his request Rev. J. William Jones opened the exercises with prayer.

General Lee then gave the audience a hearty and cordial welcome, and said that these reunions were not only for the pleasure of comradeship which they afford, but also to perpetuate the heroic deeds of the mighty men who composed our grand old army. It was gratifying to see that the fame of these men grows brighter and brighter as the years go on, and we now wonder that such true valor, patriotism and virtue could have been so long hidden from the appreciation of the world.

He eloquently and earnestly insisted that although the battle had been finally lost, it is our privilege and our duty to perpetuate. the fame of our great army. He said that in selecting orators for these reunions the Executive Committee had endeavored not only to choose a suitable speaker, but also to have different States represented. Acting on this principle, they had elected this year General J. B. Kershaw, of the noble Palmetto State. As late as August he had written that unforeseen engagements would compel him to withdraw his consent to speak.

But the committee naturally turned to the old Second corps--“the right arm of the Army of Northern Virginia” --and ordered into their service a distinguished member of Stonewall Jackson's staff. He was happy to say that, even on this short notice, he had responded, and took pleasure in introducing, as orator of the evening, [284] Colonel William Allan, of Maryland, who was Chief of Ordnance of the Second corps, and came thoroughly equipped for his work.

Colonel Allan was greeted with hearty applause, and delivered a really superb address on Jackson's Valley campaign, which we will publish in full in our January number, and which will be found to be a most valuable contribution to the history of that army.

At the close of Colonel Allan's address, and on motion of General Early, the Association unanimously and enthusiastically voted to request Colonel Allan to furnish a copy of his address for publication in the Southern Historical Society Papers, and in pamphlet form; and the thanks of the Association were tendered him for his vivid, accurate and exceedingly valuable recital of that chapter of our history.

On motion of Colonel Charles S. Venable, the following old officers were unanimously re-elected: General W. H. F. Lee, President; General Robert Ransom, First Vice-President; General H. Heth, Second Vice-President; General A. L. Long, Third Vice-President; General William Terry, Fourth Vice-President; Captain D. P. McCorkle, Fifth Vice-President; Major Robert Stiles, Treasurer; Sergeants George L. Christian and Leroy S. Edwards, Secretaries. Executive Committee: General Bradley T. Johnson, Colonel Thomas H. Carter, Major W. K. Martin, Major T. A. Brander, Private C. McCarthy.

On motion of General B. T. Johnson, seconded by General W. B. Taliaferro, and endorsed by a number of others, Rev. J. William Jones was requested to prepare a volume containing the report of the original organization of the Association and the addresses at the Lee Memorial meeting — the address of Colonel Charles Marshall at the reunion in 1873; Colonel C. S. Venable in 1874; Major John W. Daniel in 1875; Captain W. Gordon McCabe in 1876; Private Leigh Robinson in 1877, and Colonel William Allan in 1878--together with a carefully prepared roster of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Mr. Jones signified his willingness to undertake the compilation at once.

The report of the Treasurer showed that there had passed through his hands for the relief of our comrades of the Louisiana division who were suffering from the fever plague, $3,270.96, and that other contributions, in money and provisions, sent direct to New Orleans swelled the aggregate contributed by the Virginia division to $4,260.96.


[285]

The Banquet

At the St. Claire Hotel which followed the public meeting was one of the most elegant affairs of the kind ever gotten up. The room and the tables were beautifully decorated — the bill of fare, admirably served, embraced all of the substantials and delicacies of the season, and formed a contrast to the “rations” we used to “draw” both amusing and refreshing to contemplate. General Lee presided with his accustomed dignity, ease and ready wit, and while all went “merry as a marriage bell” there was not a single case of intoxication and no disorder of any kind to mar the pleasure of the occasion.

We regret that we have space for only the regular toasts, the names of the respondents, and two of the speeches:

1. The Army of Northern Virginia--

They marched throa long and stormy nights,
     They bore the brunt of an hundred fights,
And their courage never failed;
     Hunger and cold and the summer's heat
They felt on the march and long retreat,
     Yet their brave hearts never quailed.

General Joseph E. Johnston was to have responded, but was unavoidably absent.

2. The Cavalry--Their representative, General J. E. B. Stuart. The daughters of his loved Virginia keep green the hero's grave. May her sons imitate his example and emulate his virtues.

Many a tale of triumph won
     Shalt breath his name in memory's ear;
Long will Virginia mourn a son
     Without reproach or fear.

Captain E. A. Goggin.

3. The Artillery--

Aha! A song for the bugle's tongue,
     For the bugle to sing before us,
When our gleaming guns, like clarions,
     Shall thunder the battle-chorus!

Judge William I. Clopton.

4. The Infantry--

Sweeps from the woods the bold array,
     Not their's to falter in the fray;
No men more sternly trained than they
     To meet their deadly doom.

Hon. A. M. Keiley. [286]

5. The Army of Tennessee--

The pennon droops that led the sacred band
     Along the crimson field;
The meteor-blade sinks from the nerveless hand
     Over the spotless shield.

General Marcus J. Wright.

6. The Dead--

They need no tears who lived a noble life,
     We will not weep for them — who died so well,
But we will gather round the hearth and tell
     The story of their strife.
Such homage suits them well--
     Better than funeral pomps or passing bell.

Governor Holliday.

7. The Women of the South--

Their angel hands the wounded cheered,
     Did all that woman ever dares--
When hopes and homes had disappeared
     They gave us tears — and smiles — and prayers.

Private R. B. Berkeley.


Speech of Hon. A. M. Keiley.

At the request of a number who heard it, as well as in accordance with our own wishes, we give in full Hon. A. M. Keiley's splendid word-portrait of the Model infantryman.

After a facetious hit at the cavalry, and bringing down the house by saying that he had never been able to determine exactly which was the more pleasant duty, to charge the artillery of the enemy, or support your own, and that he had rather support a wife and twelve children than to do either, Mr. Keiley said:

But I do not propose to make response to this sentiment by any attempt to contrast the achievements of this branch of the Army of Northern Virginia with those of the cavalry or artillery. That immortal army won fame enough for all. Let me rather acknowledge the compliment by drawing a picture — most inadequate as it must be — of a great comrade, who, whatever may have been the arm in which he was trained, won the laurels, forever unfading, by which his name will be handed down the ages, in a career which entitles me to claim him as the Model Infantryman of the Confederacy.

It was on the morning of Friday, May 1st, 1863, that I saw him last in life: a rugged face, stained and seamed like some buried bronze, marked by the corroding sweep of centuries — a face with none of the advertisements of genius about it, as though nature had scorned to mar its crag-like grandeur with one factitious [287] grace — a gnarled face, rough as mountain oaks must look to puling willows — silent, as the pulsing sea is silent, not with the rest of feebleness, but with the God-like balance of powers, infinite and resistless — thoughtful, with that concentred thought in whose consuming heat things vain and frivolous shrivel and evaporate like autumn leaves in forest fires — ambitious, with an ambition passing vulgar thirsts, as pride passes vanity; as love, friendliness; an ambition which even some friends have denied him, because it was of a sort for which the measure and standard were to them all unknown — brave, with that superb courage which dares without knowing that it dares — wise, with a wisdom that defied surprise, and never encountered the unexpected — fertile, inventive, exhaustless; of resource prodigious, and patient endurance more prodigious — of such faculty and such achievement that in a public life scantily reaching two and twenty months in all, the dull earth was bursting with his fame, borne by the winds, the ships of the air, which no blockade could chain.

A shadow darkened his grave face that bright May morn — not of doubt or disappointment, for by some strange power of soul he laid upon Heaven in absolute content all the issues of his life. Perchance it was the shade of the wing of the death angel between him and the sun — that sun before whose second return he was to be smitten; smitten to the death by those who would have rather thrust their hands, like Caius Mucius, into fiercest flames than willingly have wounded a button on his faded coat.

It was our immortal infantrymen — who emulated with his foot soldiers the swift surprises of the trooper; who deployed artillery like skirmishers.

When next I saw him, not many days thereafter, our hero lay in yonder capitol, cold, coffined and dead. About his bier bronzed and maimed men, who had faced a hundred deaths without a quickening pulse, stood weeping — weeping with passionate tempest of grief, as women weep over their first born, when the sweet eyes, brighter to them than evening stars, are glazing, and the loved prattle to which the songs of the Seraphs were in their ears discord is only a faint, fading, far-off echo.

He had passed over the river. He had met “the last enemy.” He was dead!

Dead, with his harness on him,
     Rigid and cold and white;
Marking the place of the vanguard
     Still in the ancient fight.

Dead, but the end was fitting,
     First in the ranks he led--

Ah, what sad prophecy in the lines which follow, as we remember how our fortunes waned after Chancellorsville!--

Dead, but the end was fitting,
     First in the ranks he led,
And he marked the height of his nation's gain,
     As he lay in his harness — dead!


[288]

Speech of General Marcus J. Wright.

As a representative of our gallant comrades of the West, General Wright was warmly greeted, and made the following appropriate response:
As a member of the Army of Tennessee, which I believe has not heretofore had a representative at any of your reunions, I thank you sincerely for the toast just proposed.

It gives me great pleasure to meet on this occasion the comrades and friends of Lee and Jackson — honored alike by the survivors of the Army of Northern Virginia and of the Army of Tennessee--names destined to live for all time to come.

It is pleasant to me, as a representative of the Army of Tennessee, to tell you how sincerely the survivors of that army cherish and revere the names and memories of their great commanders. They feel a just pride that on the historic field of Shiloh they were led by that great commander Albert Sidney Johnston, a man “whose life was one long sacrifice to conscience, and even that life on a woeful Sabbath did he yield as a holocaust at his country's need.” They point with pride to the heroic Bishop--General Leonidas Polk, who, as citizen, clergyman, general, was “without fear and without reproach.”

They remember the devotion of the brave, patriotic and indefatigable General Braxton Bragg. All of these now “sleep the sleep that knows no wakening.” “They rest in honor — mourned by a bereaved people, having in life been true to themselves, their people and their God.”

The pennon droops that led the sacred band
     Along the crimson field;
The meteor-blade sinks from the nerveless hand
     Over the spotless shield.

The survivors of the Army of Tennessee remember with admiration and devotion that brave, chivalrous and splendid soldier, who so often led and inspired them in battle--General G. T. Beauregard. But there was yet another commander of the Army of Tennessee, not unknown to the Army of Northern Virginia, a native of the Old Dominion — a soldier of national fame — a general whose name inspired the greatest confidence and enthusiasm in that army — a man whom we all delight to honor--General Joseph E. Johnston.

It is a beautiful exemplification of the better side of human nature, that after the fierce contests of battle are ended the contending survivors are willing to do justice to their opponents, and to give each other due credit for their gallantry; nor is it less to be commended that though armies may be unsuccessful, the survivors no less admire the heroism and skill of the great men who led them — both living and dead — and that this admiration is not confined [289] to the unsuccessful, but is equally participated in by those who met them on the bloody field and measured lances with them.

The great names of the late war are not the property of any State or section, but belong to the whole country, and to the Anglo-Saxon race.

Great men never die,
Their bones may sodden in the sun,
Their heads be hung on castle gates and city walls,
But still their spirits walk abroad.

Again, gentlemen, permit me to thank you for your kind remembrance of the Army of Tennessee, and to again assure you that it is a pleasure to meet you to-night.

Then followed a number of volunteer toasts, which were in turn happily responded to by Colonel James Lingan, President of the Louisiana Division, Army of Tennessee Association; Dr. Carrington, late of the Confederate States navy; Colonel F. R. Farrar ( “Johnny Reb” ), of Amelia; General Fitz. Lee; Rev. H. Melville Jackson, of Richmond; Major R. W. Hunter, of Winchester, formerly of the Staff of General Edward Johnson, and General John B. Gordon, and General J. A. Early, who always brings down the house.

The whole occasion was indeed a joyous one, which renewed many glorious memories and revived hallowed associations which we would not “willingly let die.”

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