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Memorial Sermon. From Richmond, Va., Times-dispatch, June 20, 1909.

In old St. John's Church—‘no fight for right and truth and honor was ever Truely lost.’

Delivered before the Oakwood Memorial Association on May 9, (8 P. M.), 1909, by Rev. R. A. Goodwin, the rector, Lee and Pickett Camps and committees from Hollywood and other memorial associations being present.

“Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness.”—Deut. VIII, 2.

My Brethren: The present is the product of the past; the future will be the outgrowth of the past and the present.

That man is not without a heritage who can point with thankfulness and commendable pride to honest and God-fearing ancestors, especially if he makes it manifest by his conduct that his character is built upon the principles that govern them. And it is equally true that an honorable and glorious history is the most valuable asset of any people. Even barbarous peoples have their traditions which mark the ideal which they hope to attain.

The peculiarity of God's ancient people, Israel, was that God made His power and wisdom manifest in their history. By so doing He prepared them to receive ‘the oracles of God,’ that they might make His truth known to all people. And now in this ‘dispensation of the fullness of times,’ all Christian nations know that ‘God is in history.’ The evil one may try to subvert God's purposes, and he may seem to prevail; he may even change times, and seasons, and countries, but ‘He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh him to scorn, the Lord shall have him in derision!’ Because He causes the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of wrath He restrains.

God is in our history as truly as He was in the history of Israel, and we should hear his word: ‘Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led these forty years in the wilderness.’ [339]

Over and over again God called upon his people to remember, that they might realize that He had been with them from the beginning, turning evil into good, saving them from what seemed certain destruction, chastening them as a father chasteneth his son; but ever turning what was intended to be a curse into a blessing. Only by knowing and keeping in mind the past could they have faith to meet present perplexities, and disturbing doubt about the future. We are here to-night for a memorial service—we are here to remember. As the years pass these services become more important. Those who were actors in the great strife for constitutional liberty are rapidly passing away. Those who are left are becoming feeble and broken, their heads are grayer than the loved uniform they made immortal. Another generation of men and women have become actors on the stage of Southern life. They are living amid scenes vastly different from those which thrilled and crushed the heart of our people from 1860 to 1875. Many of them do not remember how ‘the iron entered into the soul’ of those who were left after ‘65, when ‘envy, hatred, malice and uncharitableness’ held sway over our beloved southland, when a determined effort was made, backed by bayonets, to subject the remnants of a brave and heroic people, who had honestly surrendered to ‘overwhelming numbers and resources,’ to a servile and hostile electorate. But some say, why revive that hideous night mare? Nay, my brethren, it was no dream, it was no midnight fancy; it was a stern reality, a hideous fact, it was a part of the wilderness through which we were led, in which ‘there were fiery serpents and scorpions.’ And—‘Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness.’ It was only by the Lord's mercy that we were not consumed, and that the ignorance and barbarism of a mixed negro race does not now hold sway in this ‘land of the brave, and home of the free.’

Those brave boys who sleep in Oakwood fought and died to save us from this thing, and their example stimulated the remnant to determine that they would lie in the cemetery with them before this thing should be. It is not a dream but a disgraceful fact that old Virginia, the home of Washington, the father [340] of this country; of Jefferson, the author of the declaration of this country's independence; of Marshall, the great Chief Justice became district number one. Our children and those who come to live among us should have these things in remembrance. Our rightful position in the government which our fathers founded will depend upon whether we are true to the principles of constitutional liberty for which the flower of our land died; and to the principles of self-government, self-defense, selfrespect and loyalty to our traditions for which we have contended ever since Appomattox. By the good hand of God the past has made the present, we must see to it that the future shall be worthy of the past and the present.

It is too late to be asking or discussing the question, Were we right? That has been proved and reproved, and proved again, to Him that hath an ear to hear, and who has not subscribed to the heresy that ‘might is right.’ My brethren, you know you feel it in your souls that you did not fight for ‘the right as you thought it was,’ or ‘as it was given you to see it,’ and so you may be forgiven, because you did it ‘ignorantly in unbelief;’ but you fought for the right as it was, and hence we do not need, and do not ask for forgiveness for doing what was right. In those days it was not the custom of our people to discuss the question, ‘Is it expedient?’ when we were satisfied it was right. And just so far as this cannot be truthfully said of our people to-day, do we need to look to the past, and stand by the graves of our heroes and remember.

Less than two weeks ago the President of the United States, in a public address, is reported as using these words: ‘They said that Grant had not the military genius that other generals displayed in the war. To my mind, his mind and brain represented the very genius of war to suppress the rebellion, because it was his mind that grasped the thought that until we had fought it out with our brave opponents and met them in the field and fought them as soldiers, until we convinced them by our strength that the battle was hopeless, we could not expect to have a united country. And therefore, from the time he began in Belmont until he accomplished the surrender of Lee, at Appomattox, he fought not cities, not points of strategy, but he fought [341] the enemy, and he fought, and fought, and fought, until he wore out the opposition, because only by wearing them out could he hope to bring about the condition in which there would be a complete peace.’

Here is, at last, a practical acknowledgment in public by the President of the United States to a Northern audience of the truth of the oft-repeated, concise statement of the case. We were not whipped, but we were worn out whipping the enemy! We read that these words of the President were applauded. How many of that audience understood what he so adroitly said about ‘the enemy’ and about ‘wearing out the opposition?’ The inference would naturally be drawn that he fought the armies of Lee and Johnston; but how? Lee was defending Richmond and Petersburg, and Johnston was holding points of strategy; and we read: ‘He fought not cities, not points of strategy—he fought the enemy!’ Who were the enemy? Some of the enemy were prisoners of war, nearly starving amid plenty, while a greater number of Northern prisoners, nearly starving, because we had very little with which to feed our soldiers in the field, were dying in Southern prisons. But under no condition would they agree to exchange prisoners. Why not? Because it kept Southern soldiers off the field to guard them, and every Northern prisoner helped to eat the remnant of food in the South. They even refused to take home their sick and dying prisoners when urged to do so, none being asked in return.

This week a monument will be unveiled at Andersonville, Ga., to Major Henry Wirz, C. S. A. It will be recalled that he was executed, in the time of peace, while under the protection of a parole. ‘He was condemned to an ignominious death on charges of excessive cruelty to Federal prisoners. He indignantly spurned a pardon proffered on condition that he would incriminate President Davis.’ These words are upon his monument. But note, my brethren, the following words are on the other side of his monument: ‘It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. At this particular time to release all rebel prisoners would insure Sherman's defeat and would compromise our safety here. Aug. 18th, 1864. Ulysses S. Grant.’ [342]

Who were the enemy? Follow in the wake of the army in the Valley of Virginia in ‘64. View the beautiful plantations on the lower James. Follow Sherman's army in its march to the sea, and read the general's report of how he fought the enemy. Burning barns, milch cows, which furnished sustenance for babes and sucklings shot and left to decay in the pastures; fowls shot and left in the barnyard; fields of grain, the hope of food for the winter, deliberately destroyed and trodden under foot; stacks of straw and hay lighting up the darkness of night!

The result was 9,000 ragged, starving heroes, eating parched corn, march from Richmond to Appomattox. And the surrender of Lee is accomplished! This was ‘the very genius of war that suppressed the rebellion.’ Yes, ‘they fought, and fought, and fought, till they wore out the opposition.’ But whom did they fight, and how? The Army of Northern Virginia is to pass through Maryland into Pennsylvania. Strict orders are given that all private property is to be respected, and noncombatants are in no way to be molested. The orders are signed by R. E. Lee, General.

The battle of Gettysburg has been fought; Lee's army is marching through the enemy's country on the retreat. As he is riding along, sustaining by his matchless bearing the courage of his tired army, he sees that some one has thrown down a worm fence around a Pennsylvanian's wheatfield. He dismounts, and with the bridle of his horse over his arm, he puts up that fence, rail by rail, that he may protect the private property of the enemy! Evidently Lee did not have that kind of the ‘very genius of war that suppressed the rebellion.’ My brethren, these are facts; and for our part, we are not ashamed of them! And we must see to it that history gives facts. Not that we would keep alive the embers of strife—God forbid! But we would preserve the truth. We would have our children and our children's children know, not that we fought bravely in a cause that was not just, and that we were magnanimously forgiven by a generous foe, because we did it ignorantly in unbelief, because we thought we were right; we would not have it believed that we fought on equal terms, and in the same way they fought; but that we could not be conquered, even by vastly superior numbers and [343] inexhaustible resources, till the women and children of the South as well as the armies in the field were brought to the verge of starvation by the systematic destruction of the necessities of life. I tell you we are not true to the memory of our brave soldiers who died for us if we suppress the facts for the sake of peace!

I am a man of peace. I plead for peace and harmony, and a united country. But I would have it on true and scriptural grounds—‘first pure, then peaceable.’ I would not have that peace which is gained by the cowardly yielding of principle for the sake of material prosperity. Truly, the Lord our God has led us through a waste howling wilderness, and we must remember all the way He has led us these more than forty years.

How often, with all power in his hands. He allowed His chosen people to be defeated, and how often He brought good out of evil! That did not make the evil good, but only showed that He was good and wise.

If prosperity is the worldly Canaan, we have, as Southern people, entered the promised land. When Israel stood at the entrance of Canaan, Moses said to the people: ‘Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but teach them thy sons, and thy son's sons.’

“Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth.” * * * ‘Lest when thy gold and thy silver is multiplied, thine heart be lifted up * * * and thou say in thine heart, my power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth; but thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth. * * * But if ye be drawn away and worship other gods, and serve them, ye shall surely perish.’ (Deut. 30:17.)

In the case of Israel, history teaches that they did not heed the words of their inspired leader. They did forsake the teachings of Moses, which contained the principles of liberty and true worldly prosperity, as well as the great truths of religion. They served other gods; and they perished as a nation. God intended them for an example for all the nations, that all might know that God is in history. [344]

My brethren, what thoughtful man can fail to see that God is in the history of our country, and that this people has a great part to play in the onward march of the events of the world. ‘God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.’ He is not in haste like we poor mortals. He has eternity in which to work! And we must ‘not judge the Lord by feeble sight.’ This nation was rocked on the island of Jamestown. Its lullaby was the rippling waters of the James. The infant has grown to be a giant.

Those lovers of liberty from Old England landed here with the open Bible and the Christian religion. They dedicated themselves anew to God at the Lord's table; the emblem of redemption being served to them from a plank nailed to two trees.

Surely every one must see God's guiding and protecting hand over this people who reads the history of those days of starvation and massacre—of the little craft with the starving remnant sailing down the James, and meeting in Hampton Roads, at the right time, at the right place, the vessel with supplies and reinforcements—of the struggles with Indians and fever; of the determined contest for justice and equity with the mother country; of the cry expressing the determination of brave hearts, which sounded within these walls from the lips of Henry, and which was echoed in the hearts of the people of thirteen colonies; of the desperate struggle of the following eight years; of the struggle of parties which followed the revolution; of the growth of these colonies, till the country extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico; of the establishment of a government of the people, by the people, for the people, which was to be an example to the nations of the earth. Following this example America and Europe have established constitutional governments, and in our day we see Japan, China, Persia, and even Turkey, adopting constitutions, and giving the people a voice in governing themselves. Who can measure the influence of this country? God is in history; He is leading the nations to the light of liberty, so that His truth may make them free, and in a marvelous way He has used, and is using, our country to enlighten the world.

Without the love of liberty, and of the constitutional rights, [345] which fired the hearts of our people in 1861, this country would not have remained. Many were going after other gods! Without the welding together of our people by the fiery trials of war, of reconstruction, of threatened servile domination, we could not have been the conserving power we have been. If this government is still to stand for liberty and freedom, it will be the South which will preserve it, and in the good providence of our God, bringing good out of evil, our sufferings will help to bring a blessing to all people.

Our real cause was not lost. No fight for right and truth and honor was ever truly lost. The spirit of the men of ‘61 goes marching on!

My brethren, this is cur country. This is the land which the Lord our God hath given us to possess. He has loved us in the furnace of affliction, and He hath hardened the fibre of our souls that our pulse may beat true and firm for liberty and for truth. See that ye serve not false gods!

Millions of people who know not liberty are mingling with our people. False notions of government, of religion and of personal rights are proclaimed We have resisted and prevented the legalized pollution of Anglo-Saxon blood. Though in the minority, we have held the majority in check and saved our fair land. Let us see to it that we lose not our heritage; that we lose not the infusion of iron which entered into our souls through the trials and temptations and sorrows and oppressions of the past. ‘Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee.’

In a few days hundreds of those who came to Virginia as invaders will meet in Petersburg hundreds of those who resisted them. These visitors will be welcomed with genuine hospitality. On Virginia soil a monument to soldiers from Pennsylvania will be unveiled, for ‘they fought for the right as it was given them to see the right,’ and we can forgive their blindness. We can respect brave men who made an open, honest fight, though we may know they were on the wrong side.

It would not be hospitable to remind our guests, but history should record the fact, that in beautiful Hollywood there is a monument which was intended to grace the city of Philadelphia, but permission to place it there was refused. [346] It bears this inscription, in part:

‘In loving and grateful memory of 224 known and unknown Confederate soldiers, from Virginia, * * * who lie buried in national cemeteries in Philadelphia.’

On the other side may be read:

‘Dying in captivity and tendered a monument in Philadelphia, where they lie buried, this stone is erected to their everlasting honor in the heart of the Confederacy.’

Virginia can afford a monument for brave men from Pennsylvania. It is said that 6,000 bullets shot by Federal and Confederate soldiers will be in evidence in Petersburg, and that the menu cards will each have a Confederate bullet tied with a gray ribbon, and a Federal bullet tied with a blue ribbon. As brethren, they will sit at the same board, and with the evidence of bullet for bullet beside each plate, they will talk of the past, and then smoke together the Virginia cigar of peace. And they will respect, and, maybe, love each other, for they were soldiers! The blood so freely shed on those battlefields has consecrated the soil. The wounds on the breast of Virginia have healed, and the scars are honorable!

This birthplace of constitutional liberty was chosen in God's providence as the place where much blood from Northern and Southern hearts should mingle with the soil and make it more sacred to all the country. Virginia stood for four years as the bulwark of the South. She must stand in the future as the bulwark of the nation, because her soil holds the dust of more heroes than any other State.

My brethren, God is not on the side of the heaviest artillery, but on the side of truth; and truth is mighty and will prevail. Mothers and sisters, ye daughters of the South, brave, true, and faithful in the past, help us to make the present worthy of the past, that the future may be glorious.

Let your memorial to future generations be—They kept with perpetual care the graves of those who died for what we love. And see to it that the world shall know that for us it is more [347] than a decoration, that it is even a thankful, loving, loyal tribute to those who died for us, and for the perpetual principles we love, and which we would have our children love. Yes for us, let it be Memorial Day!

Veterans, beloved and honored, it was given to you to live while they died; but you will ever be associated with them in the minds and hearts of your grateful countrymen. Let me remind you that even the paths of glory lead to the grave. When you reach that last breastwork—when you have to face to face and hand to hand fight with the last enemy, though your body may fall before him—may you be able to say with Jackson, and Lee, and Davis, and thousands of your comrades, who, like them, were soldiers of the cross—‘Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

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