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Chapter 12: the heritage


The blue and the gray1

This national classic was suggested by an item in the New York Tribune in 1867. ‘the women of Columbus, Mississippi, animated by nobler sentiments than many of their sisters, have shown themselves impartial in their offerings made to the memory of the dead. They strewed flowers alike on the graves of the Confederate and of the national soldiers.’ the poem, prefaced by this item, was first published in the Atlantic Monthly for September, 1867, and at once attracted wide attention. The author was long on the New York Court of Appeals, and from 1892 was dean of the law school of Cornell University.

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the one, the Blue,
Under the other, the Gray.

These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the laurel, the Blue,
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
Alike for the friend and the foe:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the roses, the Blue,
Under the lilies, the Gray. [271]

The blue and the gray: ‘by the flow of the inland river—whence the fleets of iron have fled’ Finch's noble lines were evoked by a happening in a Mississippi town, as the opposite page sets forth. The war-time photographs show Union gunboats before they had left the river to peace. The four vessels on this page, Baron DeKalb, Cincinnati, and Mound City at the top, and the Louisville at the bottom, were among the most powerful of the Mississippi flotilla. They were all of the same class, 175 feet long and 51 1/2 feet beam. Each carried three bow guns, four broadside guns on each side, and two stern guns. They were in addition plated with 2 l/2-inch iron, yet they drew only six feet of water, and made nine miles an hour. They were constructed in the first year of the war by Captain James B. Eads, and some of them took part in every important action on the western rivers from the evacuation of Fort Henry to the capture of Mobile, 18G64.


So with an equal splendor,
The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
On the blossoms blooming for all:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Broidered with gold, the Blue,
Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
The cooling drip of the rain:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Wet with the rain, the Blue,
Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
No braver battle was won:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the blossoms, the Blue,
Under the garlands, the Gray.

No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.

Francis Miles Finch. [273]

‘The blossoms blooming for all’ These words of The blue and the gray might have been written for the tranquil scene here preserved by the war-time camera. All the foreground is bright with daisies, and the three graves under the trees by the cottage shine in the peaceful sunlight of a spring day. Nature asks not to which side belonged those now lying in their lowly beds—nor do we of any who fell in battle or perished in prison. The sentiment of The blue and the gray is at length the sentiment of the whole American people. The view is typical of the desolation that followed in the wake of the armies. On the right are the ruins of a line of houses; nothing remains but the crumbling foundations and the massive chimneys where hospitable fires once blazed in the wide fireplaces before throngs of merry young people. To the left are the remains of the humbler cottage. In the background are the woods where many a picnic made the days pass happily. The life of ease and quiet among these Arcadian surroundings was rudely ended by grim war. The hamlet lay in the path of a conquering army and was soon a waste place. But the gentle hand of Nature soon covered the unsightly wreckage.



A soldier's grave

Break not his sweet repose—
Thou whom chance brings to this sequestered ground,
The sacred yard his ashes close,
But go thy way in silence; here no sound
Is ever heard but from the murmuring pines,
Answering the sea's near murmur;
Nor ever here comes rumor
Of anxious world or war's foregathering signs.
The bleaching flag, the faded wreath,
Mark the dead soldier's dust beneath,
And show the death he chose;
Forgotten save by her who weeps alone,
And wrote his fameless name on this low stone:
Break not his sweet repose.

Ode at magnolia cemetery2

Sung on the occasion of decorating the graves of the Confederate dead, at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, on memorial day, April, 1867.

Sleep sweetly in your humble graves,
Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause;
Though yet no marble column craves
The pilgrim here to pause.

In seeds of laurel in the earth
The blossom of your fame is blown,
And somewhere, waiting for its birth,
The shaft is in the stone!

Meanwhile, behalf the tardy years
Which keep in trust your storied tombs,
Behold! your sisters bring their tears,
And these memorial blooms. [275]

Break not his sweet repose
: the burial-ground of sailors who fell at Hilton head in 1861
This sequestered spot, the burial-place of the sailors who lost their lives in the capture of Hilton Head by the Federal fleet on November 7, 1861, might have been designed to fit the poem by John Albee. The live-oaks droop tenderly above it and cast a gloom around. Through it comes faintly ‘the sea's near murmur.’ But though the names of men like these may be unknown to fame, they are not forgotten in their quiet resting-places. Each Memorial Day brings the gratitude of a nation that was saved because they dared to die.


Small tributes! but your shades will smile
More proudly on these wreaths to-day,
Than when some cannon-moulded pile
Shall overlook this bay.

Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!
There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned.

Over their graves

Over their graves rang once the bugle's call,
The searching shrapnel and the crashing ball;
The shriek, the shock of battle, and the neigh
Of horse; the cries of anguish and dismay;
And the loud cannon's thunders that appall.

Now through the years the brown pine-needles fall,
The vines run riot by the old stone wall,
By hedge, by meadow streamlet, far away,
Over their graves.

We love our dead where'er so held in thrall.
Than they no Greek more bravely died, nor Gaul
A love that's deathless!—but they look to-day
With no reproaches on us when we say,
‘Come, let us grasp your hands, we're brothers all, Over their graves!’

A Georgia volunteer

The author of these verses was born in Lyons, New York, but on her marriage to Gideon Townsend she made her home in New Orleans. How thoroughly she identified herself with her adopted section is evident.

Far up the lonely mountain-side
My wandering footsteps led;
The moss lay thick beneath my feet,
The pine sighed overhead.
The trace of a dismantled fort
Lay in the forest nave,
And in the shadow near my path
I saw a soldier's grave. [277]

‘Where defeated valor lies’: mangolia cemetery at Charleston—here Timrod read his ‘ode’ This photograph reserves the resting-place of the Confederate soldiers over whom in 1867 Timrod read his last and finest production—the ‘Ode’ presented opposite. This spreading tree is a fitting place for the utterance of one of the supreme poems in American literature. Timrod had spent his life in singing of his State and the South. He was fired by no ordinary devotion. But in no other effort did he light upon so lofty a subject, and express his emotions with so much of artistic restraint. The view above shows bow appropriate to the scene were his lines. The gloom of these towering trees, the glint of marble slabs and columns, evokes at once the tender mood to which the genius of the Southern poet has given classic expression.


The bramble wrestled with the weed
Upon the lowly mound;—
The simple head-board, rudely writ,
Had rotted to the ground;
I raised it with a reverent hand,
From dust its words to clear,
But time had blotted all but these—
‘A Georgia Volunteer!’

I saw the toad and scaly snake
From tangled covert start,
And hide themselves among the weeds
Above the dead man's heart;
But undisturbed, in sleep profound,
Unheeding, there he lay;
His coffin but the mountain soil,
His shroud Confederate gray.

I heard the Shenandoah roll
Along the vale below,
I saw the Alleghanies rise
Towards the realms of snow.
The ‘Valley Campaign’ rose to mind—
Its leader's name—and then
I knew the sleeper had been one
Of Stonewall Jackson's men.

Yet whence he came, what lip shall say—
Whose tongue will ever tell
What desolated hearths and hearts
Have been because he fell?
What sad-eyed maiden braids her hair,
Her hair which he held dear?
One lock of which perchance lies with
The Georgia Volunteer! [279]

‘Over their graves rang once the bugle's call’ These resting places of soldiers upon the field of Bull Run, the first severe battle, remind Americans how widely the horror of war visited their land in 1861. Not only by old stone walls such as Stockard speaks of, but also where rude head-boards were erected on the battlefields, the crash of battle had roared. Since 1862, when these pictures were taken, a grateful nation has converted these wild places into beautiful parks, better fit for preserving the names of those who met death where fell ‘The searching shrapnel and the crashing ball.’


What mother, with long watching eyes,
And white lips cold and dumb,
Waits with appalling patience for
Her darling boy to come?
Her boy! whose mountain grave swells up
But one of many a scar,
Cut on the face of our fair land,
By gory-handed war.

What fights he fought, what wounds he wore,
Are all unknown to fame;
Remember, on his lonely grave
There is not e'en a name!
That he fought well and bravely too,
And held his country dear,
We know, else he had never been
A Georgia Volunteer.

He sleeps—what need to question now
If he were wrong or right?
He knows, ere this, whose cause was just
In God the Father's sight.
He wields no warlike weapons now,
Returns no foeman's thrust—
Who but a coward would revile
An honest soldier's dust?

Roll, Shenandoah, proudly roll,
Adown thy rocky glen,
Above thee lies the grave of one
Of Stonewall Jackson's men.
Beneath the cedar and the pine,
In solitude austere,
Unknown, unnamed, forgotten, lies
A Georgia Volunteer.


Where some of the heroic dead lie in national cemeteries

These wildernesses of headstones bring vividly to mind the resting-places of our heroic dead. There were in 1910 eighty-four national cemeteries situated in twenty-eight different States. In them are hurried 207,075 known dead and 153,678 unknown, a total of 360,753. Of these the cemetery at Soldiers' Home in Washington contains 5,398 known dead, 288 unknown — a total of 5,686; the cemetery at City Point 3,719 known dead, 1,439 unknown—a total of 5,158; the one at Alexandria 3,401 known dead, 123 unknown—a total of 3,524. But these lack much of being the largest. At Vicksburg, 16,615 lie buried; at Nashville, 16,533; at Arlington, Virginia, 16,254; and Fredericksburg, Virginia, 15,273, of whom 12,785 are unknown.

Military Cemetery

Cemetery at soldiers' home, Washington

Soldiers, graves at City Point, Virginia

Graves of Federal soldiers, Charleston, S. C.

In the soldiers' cemetery at Alexandria

A sweeping view of the Alexandria ‘heroic dead’



Ode for decoration day

One of the earliest poems of its class, this selection from Peterson's ode manifests a spirit as admirable as it is now general.

O gallant brothers of the generous South,
Foes for a day and brothers for all time!
I charge you by the memories of our youth,
By Yorktown's field and Montezuma's clime,
Hold our dead sacred—let them quietly rest
In your unnumbered vales, where God thought best.
Your vines and flowers learned long since to forgive,
And o'er their graves a broidered mantle weave:
Be you as kind as they are, and the word
Shall reach the Northland with each summer bird,
And thoughts as sweet as summer shall awake
Responsive to your kindness, and shall make
Our peace the peace of brothers once again,
And banish utterly the days of pain.

And ye, O Northmen! be ye not outdone
In generous thought and deed.
We all do need forgiveness, every one;
And they that give shall find it in their need.
Spare of your flowers to deck the stranger's grave,
Who died for a lost cause:—
A soul more daring, resolute, and brave,
Ne'er won a world's applause.
A brave man's hatred pauses at the tomb.
For him some Southern home was robed in gloom,
Some wife or mother looked with longing eyes
Through the sad days and nights with tears and sighs,
Hope slowly hardening into gaunt Despair.
Then let your foeman's grave remembrance share:
Pity a higher charm to Valor lends,
And in the realms of Sorrow all are friends.


Hollywood cemetery in Richmond, Virginia: 1,800 Confederate soldiers lie buried here.

Confederate graves in the Wilderness: reminders of the battle of May 5-6, 1864.

Graves of Federal soldiers: near Burnside's bridge on the battlefield of Antietam

A corner of Hollywood cemetery: Richmond, Virginia, in 1865

The cemetery at Antietam, not far from the scene of the photograph above, taken soon after the battle on September 16-17, 1862, contains the graves of 4,684 soldiers, of which 1,829 are marked ‘unknown.’ Even a frail memorial like the one at the grave of the Georgia Volunteer usually fails to record the native heath of him who lies below, or to give any clue to the campaigns in which he fought. These soldiers, like their companions under the hemlocks in the Wilderness, must await the call of the judgment day. The Hollywood cemetery at Richmond contains a larger host. Eighteen thousand Confederate veterans there sleep in everlasting peace amid beautiful surroundings. Around them lie many of Virginia's famous sons, generation after generation of loved and honored names.



The tournament 3

The ballad is a revised form of an early poem by Sidney Lanier. the psalm of the West, in which it was inserted, was written in 1876, and was one of the earliest Southern poems to express the feeling of national unity. The bright colors and the medieval simplicity of the treatment lend to this clear and beautiful fragment of allegory a directness of appeal that expresses well the thankfulness in the poet's heart. Though Lanier's thought in 1876 ran in advance of that of contemporaries, Southerners have come to share the joy of these lines and to hold the poet in even higher estimation for the breadth and justice of his views as well as for the artistic quality of his verse.

Lists all white and blue in the skies;
And the people hurried amain
To the Tournament under the ladies' eyes
Where jousted Heart and Brain.

Blow, Herald, blow!There entered Heart,
A youth in crimson and gold.
Blow, Herald, blow! Brain stood apart,
Steel-armored, glittering cold.

Heart's palfrey caracoled gayly round,
Heart tra-li-raed merrily;
But Brain sat still, with never a sound—
Full cynical-calm was he.

Heart's helmet-crest bore favors three
From his lady's white hand caught;
Brain's casque was bare as Fact—not he
Or favor gave or sought. [285]

Various historical monuments.

Peterson's poem preceding celebrates the heritage of glorious history common to North and South alike. The wartime views on this page are all Southern; yet every American can share the pride of beholding these spots—the house where Washington received Cornwallis's surrender; the tomb of Polk, leader of the nation when Scott and his soldiers fought in ‘Montezuma's clime’; the monument to the statesman Henry Clay; and the barracks at Baton Rouge, a stormy point under five flags—French in 1719, British in 1763, Spanish in 1779, American in 1810, and Confederate in 1861. Here nearly every prominent officer in the United States army since the Revolution did duty —Wilkinson and the first Wade Hampton, afterward Gaines and Jesup and Taylor, heroes of 1812. Here Winfield Scott saw his first service. Here Lafayette was received, and Andrew Jackson later. Here was the home of Zachary Taylor, and of his brilliant son ‘Dick,’ the Confederate general, who surrendered the largest Southern army.

Yorktown—the house where Cornwallis surrendered, 1781

Monument to Henry Clay at Richmond

Tomb of president Polk at Nashville

Historic ground at Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Blow, Herald, blow! Heart shot a glance
To catch his lady's eye;
But Brain looked straight a-front, his lance
To aim more faithfully.

They charged, they struck; both fell, both bled;
Brain rose again, ungloved;
Heart fainting smiled, and softly said,
‘My love to my Beloved!’

Heart and brain! No more be twain;
Throb and think, one flesh again!
Lo! they weep, they turn, they run;
Lo! they kiss: Love, thou art one!

1 reprinted from The blue and the gray and other poems by arrangement with the publishers, Henry Holt and Company, New York.

2 used by permission of the B. F. Johnson publishing Company, Richmond, Virginia, publishers of the memorial edition of the Poems of Henry Timrod.

3 from Poems of Sidney Lanier; copyrighted, 1884, 1891, by Mary D. Lanier; published by Charles Scribner's sons.

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