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Address of welcome

by ex-Governor Francis P. Fleming, Chairman of the
Committee of arrangements.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my Friends, and Comrades:

In behalf of R. E. Lee Camp, United Confederate Veterans, and the committee of arrangements, it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you to an occasion which will ever be memorable in the annals of our city and State, and to bid you join us in dedicating a monument to heroes and patriots.

As we look upon this beautiful shaft, surmounted by the figure of a Confederate soldier, what memories of the past crowd upon us! In the retrospect of thirty-seven years we may recall the States of the South, not by rebellion or revolution, but each in solemn convention, in the exercise of its sovereignty, withdrawing from a union that had ceased to be fraternal. We see another compact formed, [114] another republic created, upon the plan of that which the South had helped to build, another nation born and baptized ‘The Confederate States of America.’

Differences of opinion have existed, and probably ever will, as to whether the States had the right to secede. A right first asserted by a New England statesman, the merits of which I will not undertake to discuss at this time. But leaving out the question of right: The States, in fact, did secede. The Confederate Government, in fact, existed complete in all its departments. And when war was waged, it was neither a civil war nor a rebellion, but a war between separate de facto nations. This removed from the citizens of these States all question of divided allegiance as between State and National Government. And it is from this standpoint the Southern people must be viewed. No intelligent and well-informed person of the present day, whose mind is not imbued with fanatical teachings, believes that the Confederates were traitors. No people ever espoused a cause, or went forth to battle in defense of home and country, with a clearer consciousness of right in the discharge of duty.

Tell me not that any but patriots, inspired with the highest principles of right and justice, could have fought with the courage and valor of the Confederate soldier, or evinced, as he did, that heroic fortitude in the endurance of every hardship, privation and suffering, with insufficient food and scanty clothing, contending against fearful odds. True to country; steadfast to duty, and faithful to the last! Surrendering only to overwhelming numbers, when all hope of further resistance was at an end. No traitor's heart found place in the breast of the Confederate soldier!

Comrades, we welcome you to the dedication of Florida's monument to her Confederate dead, presented by a noble son of her soil, who, in the tender years of early youth, represented his State in the Confederate armies; and whether on the march, in the forefront of battle, or in prison, illustrated that valor and patriotism, the memory of which we are here to perpetuate on bronze and granite, as it will ever be preserved on the pages of history and in the breasts of our people.

Florida, the smallest of the Confederate States in population, has a rich heritage in the record of those times. Of general officers, she contributed Kirby Smith, the Blucher of Manassas, afterward a full general in command of the Trans-Mississippi department; Loring and Patton Anderson, major-generals; and Finegan, Perry. Davis,

Miller and Finley, brigadiers, all gallant and distinguished soldiers. [115] I cannot trespass upon your time to go through the list of her heroes, but let us give an honored place to the private soldier, whose representatives we welcome here to-day. He went to battle and offered his life on the altar of country, without the stimulus of fame, and with but little hope of promotion, his only reward being the consciousness of duty well performed. I have in mind a private soldier of my company, uneducated, and from the humblest walks of life, who, in the attack upon the Federal works at Jonesboro, though weakened by sickness, was among the most advanced in the charge when stricken down by a fatal shot. As I supported him and saw the life blood flow from his brave young breast, I felt that no one better deserved the title of hero. And on this occasion, and in this presence, I offer this tribute to the memory of Isaac Varnes, of Company D, 1st Florida cavalry, Army of Tennessee, a type of the humble private soldier, hero and patriot.

Soldiers of the Union! You who have nobly responded to the call of your country, whether you come from the far North or from the sunny South, we accord you our heartiest welcome. Let us realize that the blood which stained the blue or the blood which stained the gray represented a sacrifice to duty, which we may all claim as a proud heritage of American valor and American manhood. If in the war in which you have enlisted you will but emulate the soldiers of the sixties, you will well deserve the plaudits of a grateful country.

Especially do I welcome these fair women, who join us in honoring the memory of Southern heroes. What would the cause of the South have been without the support of her daughters? No monument can ever adequately commemorate their heroism and virtues. Bereft of loved ones and protectors, and sharing in the poverty of desolated homes, yet never faltering in works of devotion for their country's cause, or in the encouragement of her sons when the dark cloud of disaster had all but obscured the star of hope.

O daughters of the South! You who were faithful to a cause which went down in defeat, but not in dishonor, be mindful of the duties which now rest upon you, as upon us all, and while lovingly and reverently we fold the Starry Cross, enshrined in the memory of our tenderest affections, be true to the flag that waves over a reunited people, under which our sons are now facing a common foe. Instil in your children that love of country which is the highest inspiration of patriotism and honor. And should a time of peril come when luxury shall beget vice and greed of gain threaten to stifle the [116] nobler aspirations, point your sons to this column and recount to them the story of the patriotic sacrifices and heroic virtues which it commemorates, and if a spark of true manhood remains, you will have done much toward the salvation of your country and the preservation of liberty.

Introduction of the orator.

The orator of the day was introduced by Hon. F. P. Fleming, in the following words:

‘It is now my pleasure to present to you, as the orator of the day, one who gallantly illustrated the valor of Florida's son on the field of battle, and has ably and faithfully represented his State in the halls of Congress; one whom our people have ever delighted to honor, Colonel Robert H. M. Davidson, of the 6th Florida infantry.’

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