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General George Burgwyn Anderson—The memorial address of Hon. A. M. Waddell, May 11, 1885.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Twelve centuries and a half ago, when the Kentish Queen, accompanied by Paulinus, went into Northumbria to convert King Eadwine to Christianity, and when the wise men of that kingdom were assembled to consider the new faith thus offered to them, an aged Ealdorman, rising and addressing his sovereign, in a burst of poetic inspiration, exclaimed: ‘So seems the life of man, O King, as a sparrow's flight through the hall when you are sitting at meat in winter-tide, with the warm fire lighted on the hearth, but the icy rain-storm without. The sparrow flies in at one door, and tarries for a moment in the light and heat of the hearth fire, and then, flying forth from the other, vanishes into the wintry darkness whence it came. So tarries for a moment the life of man in our sight; but what is before it, what after it, we know not. If this new teaching tells us aught certainly of these let us follow it.’ They did follow it, and then dawned upon our ancestors, though dimly, the first faint rays of the sun of civilization, whose noonday beams now glorify the earth. And yet, to this hour, as from the beginning, the mystery of life and death remains, profound and impenetrable even to the piercing eye of Faith. We know, although we seldom ponder the wondrous truth, that all the living inhabitants of the world are absolutely insignificant in numbers when compared with the countless myriads of those who have preceded and those who will follow us, and that, therefore, the individual man is but the most infinitesimal molecule in the universe of God; but the ‘new teaching’ which King Eadwine heard soothes and sustains us with the belief that just as at the hour when the daylight dies and darkness overshadows one part of our globe, the splendors of the noon break upon the opposite hemisphere—so when our brief term of life ends here we emerge into the effulgence of an eternal day. That term, as said the aged Ealdorman, is but a sparrow's flight through a banquet hall, but beyond the portal, instead of wintry darkness, dwells the light. As the first of American poets has beautifully said:

There is no death; what seems so is transition:
     This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian
     Whose portal we call Death.

Still many of us draw near the portal with fear and trembling, as [388] if the words of Gray's elegy were to be literally fulfilled and we were to be—

‘Each in his narrow cell forever laid.’

Base thought! degrading superstition! which dishonors the mind and heart that harbor it, and which is equally at war with every analogy that can be drawn from nature and every precept of the Divine Law. So far from being true, the doctrine that death is only another name for annihilation is but a dreadful nightmare, a torturing dream of the impossible, the very capacity to conceive which is evidence of the immortality of the soul.

No, they still live who die, and we who are only a little later in going to our rest—for ‘our little life is rounded with a sleep’—will meet them again in the morning. Else what purpose is to be served by commemorating them and recalling their virtues or their services in the cause of truth, country or humanity? ‘What profiteth us if the dead rise not?’

When you resolved that each of your future memorial addresses should be devoted to the life and services of some one distinguished North Carolina soldier of the late war, I hailed your action as a wise departure from the established custom, and as a work which would result in the accumulation of a series of biographical sketches which must prove valuable as a contribution to the war history of the State.

I am here to-day, in compliance with your invitation, to attempt to pay a tribute to the memory of as noble a gentleman, as knightly a soldier, as true a man, and as devoted a son of North Carolina as any who ever lived. And I esteem myself fortunate in that I may best perform this duty by a simple recital of the leading events of his life.

I do not know how others who had a similar duty to perform have felt while discharging it, but I have never been able on such occasions to divest myself of the thought that the subject of my discourse, if not in some sense present, was in some way conscious of the event, and this feeling has a saddening effect, suggesting as it does how pitiful the language of eulogy must sound to one who has put off the burden of the flesh, and from beyond the veil smiles mournfully at the vanity of human ambition. Nothing would be less acceptable, hardly anything would be more offensive, to him of whom I am about to speak, if conscious of my words, than such an offering on this occasion; and knowing this I shall best evidence my respect for his memory by uttering only the language of soberness and truth. He, doubtless, had in common with every human being not utterly [389] ignoble, the one universal ambition—the desire to be remembered after death. Dead even during life is the man in whom it has ceased to exist as an incentive to high achievement. Perishing, too, is that Commonwealth in which the people no longer care to preserve and perpetuate the memory of those who have served it with distinction and passed from earth. But no one whom I ever knew would have been less willing to enjoy unmerited honors in life or after death—for no one disdained shame and falsehood more than he. Truth and manliness were his distinguishing characteristics, and to them in whomsoever found he was ever ready to do reverence.

Near the town of Hillsboroa, in the county of Orange, which has been the residence of as many, if not more, distinguished citizens than any county in the State, George Burgwyn Anderson was born on the 12th day of April, in the year 1831, and was the oldest son of the late William E. Anderson, Esq., and his wife, Eliza Burgwyn. In his early years he exhibited the intellectual and moral traits which, in their full development, adorned his manhood, and attracted the admiration, and commanded the respect of all who knew him. A better illustration of the adage, that the child is often father to the man, than his case furnished, is seldom to be found. Gentle and modest in disposition, respectful and obedient to authority, he was at the same time lively and spirited among his companions, but always studious and attentive to his duties, scrupulously honorable, strictly conscientious, and absolutely fearless in the maintenance of what he believed to be true and right. These qualities, in combination with intellectual gifts of a superior order, gave him a precedence among his schoolmates, which he afterwards sustained at college and at West Point, so long as he cared to do so. While at the State University he divided the first honors of his class with three others, and received the unqualified commendation of all his professors, including the distinguished president. In the year 1848, when seventeen years old, he received—what he ardently aspired to—a cadetship at the Military Academy, and going to West Point he was very soon recognized as a youth of uncommon promise, and—as one of his classmates, who afterwards became a distinguished general in the United States army testified—was ‘not only one of the brightest intellects, but the very superior mind of his class.’ At the first examination, six months after he entered, his number was two in a class of ninety-four members, but his taste for literature, and his desire to be a generally well informed man of the world, tempered his ambition to excel in a knowledge of the textbooks; and as he devoted much of his time to general reading, and [390] a liberal share of it to pleasant society, his number, when he graduated in 1852, was nine; but this was in a class of forty-one graduates, and was therefore a high standing, and entitled him to select the arm of the service which he preferred. He selected the Dragoons, and rendered his first service at the cavalry school at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he remained for six months, at the expiration of which time he was detailed to assist Lieutenant Parke, of the engineers, in surveying a route for a railroad in California. When this duty was completed, he was ordered to his regiment, the Second Dragoons, then stationed at Fort Chadbourne, Texas, and there was associated with a group of officers who afterwards became distinguished generals on both sides in the war between the States. Having been promoted to a first lieutenancy, and the regiment having been ordered, in the fall of 1855, to Fort Riley, Kansas, he commanded his company in the march across the plains to the latter fort from Fort Chadbourne. While stationed at Fort Riley, in the spring of 1856, the Kansas prelude to the great tragedy, in which he was destined to lose his life, began to stir the passions of the people of both sections of the country, and he had an opportunity of seeing and reflecting upon the inevitable tendency of events, as illustrated by the career of a notorious horse-thief and murderer, who was afterwards canonized as a sainted hero and martyr. It is natural to suppose that the experience thus acquired was not without its effect upon one who was of an ardent temperament, anxiously observant of the drift of public affairs, and intensely Southern in his feelings.

About this time another saint in Utah was also engaged in defying the laws (as his successors still are), and an expedition under the command of Albert Sidney Johnston was sent to that Territory to vindicate the supremacy of the Federal authority and the rights of civilization and decency. The Second Dragoons was a part of the force detailed for this service, and Lieutenant Anderson served on the expedition as adjutant of the regiment. Remaining there until the fall of 1859, he was detached and sent to Kentucky, where, on the 8th of November of that year, he was united in marriage to Miss Mildred Ewing, of Louisville, and was soon thereafter stationed in that city as a recruiting officer. There he remained—in the enjoyment of what were, doubtless, the happiest days of his life—until the demon of civil war stamped his foot for the first time in our land in April, 1861, when, knowing full well what that meant and how dire would be the need of North Carolina for all her true sons, and especially those with military knowledge and experience, he immediately [391] resigned his commission in the United States army, and, promptly returning to his native State, tendered his sword in her defence, being the first of her sons then in that army to perform that act of filial devotion. That sword was already consecrated by the blood of a brilliant young officer, who had drawn his first breath on the banks of the Cape Fear and had yielded his last in a desperate charge at Pueblo de Taos in Mexico—his brave and accomplished uncle, Captain John Henry King Burgwyn, who, on that fatal field, ended a career which, by the common consent of his superiors, would, if not untimely closed, have placed him at the head of his profession. Like his gallant and gifted nephew, that heroic son of North Carolina found his last resting place in the soil he loved so well, for although the victim of

‘A petty fortress and a dubious hand’

in a foreign land, more than one thousand miles froth the western-most border of his native State, his mortal remains—under the protecting care of a paternal love, like that of the historic Ormond, who ‘preferred his dead son to all the living sons in Christendom’—were brought back to North Carolina and now lie beneath a memorial shaft at Wilmington. He was of a good and ancient lineage, and, dying as he had lived, a brave and chivalric gentleman, bequeathed to his family with his stainless sword a spotless name.

When George Anderson became an officer in the army in which his uncle had served, he buckled on that sword, and when the trying hour which separated him from that service came, with fervent love and that inexorable sense of honor and duty which was the allcon-trolling motive of his whole life, he turned to North Carolina and reverently laid it at her feet. It was an offering gladly accepted, and he was immediately commissioned Colonel of the Fourth regiment. There was an eagerness among the companies already organized to get under his command, and, therefore, some of the officers without commands who had been assigned to him (of whom I was one) were displaced, and, perhaps, fortunately for them, the regiment was soon completed and took its departure from Raleigh.

Not having seen George Anderson since he was a school-boy, and never seeing him afterwards, the recollection of his appearance at that time is very distinct to me. I can see him now as he greeted me that May morning in 1861, when I reported to him here in Raleigh—a splendid specimen of vigorous manhood; tall, erect, brown-bearded, deep-chested, round-limbed, with a musical voice and a smile as gentle [392] and winning as ever beamed from a human face. Indeed, that smile can never be forgotten by any one who enjoyed his friendship. It was that indescribable illumination of the countenance by which the tenderness of a brave soul reveals itself and captivates the beholder—the benevolent, frank, gladsome smile which marks a lovable nature. And surely if any man ever possessed such a nature—a soft, gentle, refined, winning, and almost womanly spirit—it was he. Yet not Richard of England, nor Arnold Winkelried could look more unquailing in the face of death.

Completing its organization and equipment at Garysburg, his regiment proceeded to Manassas, but not in time for the battle of the 21st of July. Colonel Anderson was soon afterwards made commandant of the post there and superintended the construction of the defensive works in the vicinity. The best possible evidence of the extraordinary esteem in which, even at this early period of his career, he was held by his superior officers, is to be found in an incident related to me by Major John W. Dunham, who was then his adjutant-general. Major Dunham vouches for the truth of the statement and that the incident happened within his own personal knowledge at that time. It was this: that although only a colonel, Anderson was sent for by General Joseph E. Johnston, the general in command of that army, and was requested by him to give his opinion as to the movements of the army in view of the operations of the enemy. General Johnston then and frequently afterwards expressed great confidence in his judgment and skill. Colonel Anderson remained in command at Manassas until the place was evacuated in March, 1862, and while there, was, on several occasions earnestly recommended for promotion by his commanding officers, Generals D. H. Hill and Joseph E. Johnston, but this expected and well-merited distinction was not conferred on him, but was withheld until it was forced from the government by his splendid conduct at Seven Pines on the 31st of May, the first serious engagement in which he participated and in which he commanded a brigade.

The battle of Seven Pines was a bloody baptism for Colonel Anderson's regiment; indeed, it was almost unparalleled in its terrible destructiveness to that command, for of the twenty-seven officers fit for duty all except one were either killed or wounded, and of the five hundred and twenty men in the ranks, eighty-six were killed and three hundred and seventy-six were wounded, leaving only fifty-eight out of the five hundred and twenty unhurt—a record which is the best evidence of the perfect discipline and splendid courage exhibited [393] by that glorious regiment in its first hard fight with the enemy. During this engagement Colonel Anderson seized the flag of the Twenty-seventh Georgia regiment and dashed forward holding it aloft. His men seeing it as the ‘anxious squires’ on Flodden Field saw

The stainless Tunstall's banner white,

rushed madly after him,

And such a yell was there
     Of sudden and portentous birth,
As if men fought upon the earth
     And fiends in upper air.

Before their resistless sweep the stubborn foe reeled and fled, and the colors which Anderson bore were planted on their breastworks.

Such men were worthy of being commanded, as they were, by the bravest of the brave, and the cordial thanks and commendation of a division commander, who was not given to laudation of any one, caused the immediate recognition of Colonel Anderson's merits by the President, who, being on the field, at once promoted him, and his well-won commission of Brigadier-General was forwarded and received by him on the 9th day of June, 1862.

The brigade assigned to him were all North Carolinians, being composed of the Second, Fourth, Fourteenth and Thirtieth regiments--as fine a body of troops as ever trod the perilous edge of battle, and one which afterwards achieved as brilliant a reputation as the most brilliant in the Army of Northern Virginia. To say this is to exhaust the vocabulary of praise in behalf of any military organization that has yet appeared on earth. Then came the Seven Days struggle around Richmond, in each of which the brigade took an active part and the young Brigadier won new laurels as a most gallant and efficient officer. In the last of these engagements, the terrible work at Malvern Hill, General Anderson, while leading a desperate charge, received a wound in the hand In August the army commenced the first invasion of the enemy's territory after having fought several battles concluding with the second battle of Manassas, where Pope was ruined and a splendid victory won; but General Anderson's brigade was not engaged in any serious fight previous to the actual invasion of Maryland. At the battle of South Mountain, however, where General D. H. Hill's division was left by General Lee to oppose the passage of General McClellan's army [394] until Jackson could capture Harper's Ferry and come to Lee's assistance, General Anderson's command, in common with the other brigades of the divison, was subjected to one of the most trying ordeals of the war. That one division, alone and unaided (until late in the afternoon when Longstreet arrived) stood as firm as the everlasting hills which surrounded it, and resisted the assaults of the larger part of McClellan's whole army, which was hurled against it all day in successive masses. Here, as usual, Anderson distinguished himself, and received the highest encomiums for his dauntless courage and skill. The enemy were exceedingly anxious to force the passage of this mountain gap and by overtaking Lee and bringing on a decisive engagement,, relieve their beleaguered friends at Harper's Ferry, who numbered more than eleven thousand men, with thirteen thousand small arms and seventy-three cannon. But the heroic defenders of the pass, though but a handful in comparison with the immense and thoroughly equipped force assailing them, and though subjected to very heavy losses from first to last, yielded not an inch of their ground until nightfall, and then, their purpose being accomplished, retired unmolested to take their place in the ranks of death at Sharpsburg.

The historic battle of Sharpsburg or Antietam—‘this great battle’ as General Lee called it in his report—occurred on the 17th day of September, three days after the fight at South Mountain, and D. H. Hill's division, with Anderson's brigade on its right, wearied and worn out by continuous marching and fighting, took position in the centre of the line on the left of the Boonsboro road. Longstreet was on the right, and Jackson, who had captured Harper's Ferry with its little army and all its supplies, occupied the extreme left. McClellan and Lee at last stood face to face.

General McClellan said, before the Committee of Investigation on the Conduct of the War: ‘Our forces at the battle of Antietam were: total in action, eight seven thousand one hundred and sixty-four.’

General Lee, in his report, says: ‘This great battle was fought by less than forty thousand men on our side’—that is to say, that the Confederates were outnumbered by more than two to one. The first assault was made on the Confederate left, where Jackson was posted, and the unequal struggle between the six thousand men under him and the eighteen thousand of the attacking columns was one of the most desperate and sanguinary of the war, as the list of casualties abundantly proves, but the enemy were repulsed. [395]

They then attacked the Confederate centre and right with the same overwhelming numbers, and, after temporary success, were again repulsed.

It was during the attack on the centre that General Anderson received the wound which, though not suspected at the time, proved to be a mortal one. ‘He occupied,’ said his adjutant-general, the late Major Seaton Gales, ‘a prominent position on slightly rising ground, immediately in rear of his command. While thus exposed, and displaying the most splendid conduct, animating his men by his example and directing them by his cool and collected orders, he was struck in the foot, near the ankle-joint, by a minnie ball, and fell. He was at once carried, with difficulty and danger, to an improvised hospital in the rear, and the wound examined and pronounced severe, but not serious. No one dreamed that one of the truest and bravest men that ever lived had the wound of death upon him.’

He was taken into Virginia, and when the army fell back he was brought—with his brother and aide-de-camp, Captain Walker Anderson who was also wounded at Sharpsburg, and was afterwards killed at the Wilderness—to Raleigh, arriving in the latter part of September. His wound was a most painful one, and he suffered great agony for two weeks after reaching here. Finally amputation was decided upon, but it was too late. He sunk under the operation, and on the morning of October 16th, 1862, in the thirty-second year of his age, his brave soul bade farewell to earth. His death was regarded as a public calamity, not only by his companions-in-arms, whom it deeply afflicted, but by the people of the State, who were proud of him as a North Carolinian. A very large assemblage of the citizens of Raleigh gathered to give expression to their grief and to testify their respect for his memory; and when the bells of the city announced the funeral hour, his mortal remains, followed by sorrowing friends, a military escort and a large concourse of citizens, were borne to your beautiful cemetery and tenderly and reverently laid beneath the sod where his monument now stands.

Thus in its early prime ended a life consecrated to duty and crowned with honor. It ended ere disaster and final ruin befell the cause for which he died, and while the banner of the Confederacy still proudly floated triumphant in every breeze. He never saw that banner lowered to the foe, and his proud spirit was spared the humiliations to which his surviving comrades were afterwards subjected. Doubtless, if he had lived through all the bitter years after the war, and until now, when a new generation has sprung up and the allcuring [396] hand of time has done its work, his talents and character would have asserted themselves in the achievement of success; but it is very doubtful whether he himself would not have preferred the lot which befell him—duty glorious done, and in manhood's early prime a hero's grave—to the long, hard struggle of a crippled Confederate soldier for the means of subsistence, even if eventually successful. Unless it be ‘the whole of life to live’—to enjoy merely the pleasures or suffer the evils of animal existence—who is prepared to say that one who, in the vigor of early manhood, falls fighting in defence of his home is less fortunate or more to be commiserated than his surviving comrades?

More than twenty-two years have passed since the solemn procession that followed George Anderson's remains entered the gates of that silent city, and during those years the whole face of our civilization has been changed, and the impossible of that day has become the actually realized of this. The government for which he fought and died was long since numbered with the dead empires, and the one against which he bore arms has, with its vast powers constantly centralizing in the hands of an all-absorbing national legislature, become the richest and most powerful on the earth. The State whose loyal and adopted son he was, though stripped of the sovereignty in which, with her sisters, she once robed herself, has long since put off the habiliments of mourning and clad in a new vesture, with renewed hope and courage, is moving majestically onward to a grand destiny. Will she not, my friends, add to her honor by preserving memorials of her sons who, in the dark days of her trial and sorrow, went out to meet her enemies and died in her defence? In every civilized land such memorials are to be found in greater or less number and are at once a source of just pride with the people and of admiration and respect with the stranger who visits them. And yet I ask where are the memorials which North Carolina has erected to her heroes and statesmen of either the remote or recent past? In all her wide domain, during the hundred years of her existence as a State, and with all her glorious record, there is to be found just one—the Caswell monument, at Kinston. There is not and never has been any other, and this one was not erected exclusively by the State. Go to the capitol at Washington and enter the old hall of representatives, now the hall of statuary. There is a place reserved in it for two statues from each State, and these places are being rapidly filled by the marble and bronze images of distinguished soldiers and statesmen. Look around for North Carolina's contribution. It is not there. Go to [397] any other State capital, and if its public grounds do not contain some statue or monument in commemoration of its great men, its legislative halls at least are hung with portraits of its Governors. Then come back to Raleigh; go into your own State capitol; see at the base of the rotunda those four empty niches; pass through the corridors; enter the legislative halls and look around! No monument, no statue, no bust, not even a portrait to remind you that North Carolina ever produced one man that she thought worthy of remembrance.

Surely if her gratitude to, or appreciation of, her dead soldiers and statesmen is to be measured by the number of memorials which she has established in honor of them, then it is safe to say that such a sentiment does not exist. Does not the memory of men, like George Burgywn Anderson and his comrades, deserve to be perpetuated otherwise than by such memorial marbles as private affection may erect? And has not the time arrived when, however justly it could heretofore have been set up in answer to such a demand, the plea of poverty by the State must cease to be respected? The sentiment which prompts these questions is the same which inspired the last Legislature to make some provision for the disabled soldiers of the State, and the widows of those who died in her defence—a sentiment alike jealous of the honor of North Carolina, and tenderly grateful to her heroic sons.

My task is done. In the outset I disclaimed any intention of doing more than giving a recital of the leading events in the life of General Anderson, and expressed the belief that I could best evidence my respect for his memory by uttering only the language of soberness and truth. This I have endeavored to do in all sincerity. The subject was worthy of a nobler strain. If true manliness and an exalted sense of duty; if the strictest integrity, and the most scrupulous regard of the rights of others; if a chivalric sentiment towards woman, and a delicate sense of personal honor, if a commanding presence and cheerful spirit; if dauntless courage and gentle manners; if a brilliant intellect and extensive knowledge; and, finally, if patriotic service, ending in painful wounds, heroic suffering and death—if all these combined constitute a theme worthy of commemoration by orator or poet, then the duty assigned me to-day might well have been entrusted to the most gifted of men, and the people of North Carolina would have a juster estimate of the life and services of George Burgwyn Anderson.

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