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The courage of the Confederate soldier.

by Rev. J. B. Hawthorne, D. D.
At the reunion of the Richmond Howitzers, on the 13th of December last, Dr. Hawthorne was called on to respond to the following toast:

The Confederate dead. Their courage was inspired by their convictions of right and their love of country.

He said:

Courage is not peculiar to man. The lion has it; the eagle has it; the serpent has it. In a very limited degree even the worm and the insect have it. Of mere brute courage the savage has more than the civilized man; the drunken man more than the sober man; and the villain more than the virtuous man. Of this courage the army of Grant had more than the army of Lee.

A man who has much of it fights well anywhere. It is a matter of small consequence to him under which flag he fights. In his feelings he knows no country — no East, no West, no North, no South. His voice is simply for war — war anywhere — war for any cause. What did the average immigrant soldier know about “States rights?” What did he know of the history of the controversy which culminated in war? About all he knew, or cared to know was, that he should “fight mit Seigle,” and receive rations and twelve dollars per month for his services. I have heard it said that in the battle of Shiloh there was a company of New Orleans “roughs” who fought the first day with great desperation on the Confederate side, and the second day they fought with equal desperation on the Federal side. It is a real satisfaction to know that this body of our Southern army was so small that it is hardly worthy of mention.

There is a courage inspired by hatred. There are men who go to war with the spleen of dragons in their breasts. They neither fear God nor regard man; they are for blood, ruin, desolation, and at the very jaws of death they will stand and wreak their vengeance. I thank God that of this spirit our dead heroes had none.

There is a bravery inspired by ambition for a leader. One of Napoleon's Old guard had fallen in battle, and while the surgeon was probing near his heart in search of the ball, which had inflicted the mortal wound, the dying hero looked up and said: “Out a little further, doctor, and you will find the Emperor.” He meant that the name of his royal master was graven on his heart. I am proud to say that the people of the South were never hero-worshipers, and that the men who [37] went down to death, fighting beneath the “Southern cross,” were the instruments and victims of no man's ambition.

There are men who go to war under the domination of no other feeling but the love of glory. Drunk with ambition, they seek the bubble of fame even at the cannon's flaming mouth. It was not for glory that the Southern soldier drew his sword. It was not for a fading chaplet that he endured the hardships of the camp and faced the perils of the fight. Let us not wrong the memory of our fallen comrades by writing any such epitaph upon their graves. Let us think of them as men whose master passion was something higher than personal ambition. Their courage was born of conviction. They fought to put down what they believed to be political heresy. They fought for something they thought to be higher and better than a Southern Confederacy. They fought to maintain and perpetuate what they believed to be political truth, wisdom and justice.

The Confederate soldier had a political faith. He had distinct and intelligent views of our political system. He understood the relations of the States to the Federal Government. He believed that the great basal principles which underlie republican institutions everywhere were involved in the struggle, and that victory for his standard meant not only the independence of the South, but the triumph of the only true theory of constitutional government.

It does not behoove me on this occasion to consider whether he was right or wrong. But I will say, I must say, my sense of justice constrains me to say, he believed that he was right. Let us have the magnanimity to own that among our foes there were thousands who fought for what they believed to be truth and justice.

A few days before the battle of Chancellorsville an invalid soldier left his home in South Alabama to join his regiment in Jackson's corps. He arrived just in time to enter the fight. Though diseased and feeble, he was foremost in every charge. At a critical moment the colorbearer fell. Scarcely had the old smoky and tattered banner touched the ground before the sick soldier caught it in his bony hand, and running forward, waved it in the very teeth of the foe. Amid the hurtling hail of death he bore it, till he received the mortal wound. He was then taken to the rear, and as his eyes were closing calmly, as if for a night's repose, he said to a friend: “Tell my father that I died at my post, and in hope of a peaceful future.” Again and again had that soldier expressed to me the conviction that the defeat of the South would be the downfall of republican liberty. We cannot lift the curtain which veils the future and see to what extent this prophecy was [38] true, but whether true or false, it was that conviction that fired his heart and nerved his arm to the last.

He, sirs, was a specimen of our Southern soldiery. Like him were the men whose deeds of daring and patriotism have rendered immortal the name of this old battalion of artillery. Like him were Brown, Watson, McCarthy and the men who sank with them in a burial of blood. Like him were thousands who fell beneath our flag--

With their backs to the field,
And their feet to the foe.

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