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The unveiling. [Richmond Dispatch, June 10, 1890.]

Petersburg, June 9th, 1890.
At an early hour in the afternoon crowds began to wend their way to the cemetery, all bearing flowers and evergreens with which to decorate the graves of the soldiers. [395]

The procession was one of the finest ever seen in Petersburg. It was composed of A. P. Hill Camp of veterans, Pickett-Buchanan Camp of Norfolk, R. E. Lee Camp and Sons of Confederate Veterans of Richmond, the Prince George Cavalry, Petersburg Grays, Petersburg Artillery with full battery of guns, the Fire Department with engines beautifully decorated, civil societies, and a long line of citizens. The line was headed by Chief-Marshal Henry and his associates, the ladies of the Memorial Association and the orator of the day, with the Mayor and Miss Hill. It was fully half-past 6 o'clock before the ceremonies commenced in the cemetery, where fully 10,000 people had assembled around the monument and the stand. The scene was an inspiring one. The first to ascend the stand were thirteen beautiful little girls dressed in white, representing the thirteen Confederate States. On the stand were also seated the ladies of the Memorial Association, Miss Lucy Lee Hill, ministers of the gospel, and Mayor Collier. Prayer was offered by Rev. C. R. Haines, D. D., after which Mayor Collier introduced Captain W. Gordon McCabe as the orator of the day, who spoke as follows:

Captain McCabe's address.

My Fellow-Citizens:

If from the happier land the dead look down and are touched in any measure by concerns of earth, surely there is deeper joy in Heaven this day as those dear comrades who have fallen on sleep gaze upon this eager concourse of old companions in arms, of loyal kinsmen, and of steadfast friends who have gathered here at the bidding of the noble women, who in the brave old days cheered these men as they trod the thorny path of duty and who to-day unveil to the broad light of Heaven this beautiful monument, reared by pious hands to perpetuate to all coming time the constancy and valor of those who lived heroic life and died heroic death.

Other and grander monuments, perchance, may rise to tell in storied beauty or impressive majesty a people's gratitude and reverence for those who counted life itself a worthless thing when freedom was at stake, but surely nowhere in all our southern land could be found a spot more instinct with all the mournful glory of that heroic past than this historic ‘Cemetery Hill,’ overlooking those

labour'd rampart lines

where our matchless leader, girt with a handful of devoted soldiery, [396] ‘greatly stood at bay’ and ‘taught’ astonished nations ‘what long-enduring hearts can do.’

Yonder to the left frowns Fort Steadman, made glorious by that daring stroke of desperate valor, where Gordon's ‘fiery few clashed’ and for the moment ‘won’—here almost at our very feet the long ravine now clothed in summer bravery, which it seems but yesterday we saw one moment shrouded in billowing smoke and then agleam with serried bayonets, as the men of the ‘Virginia brigade’ sprang along its slope with fierce, wild cries, and by the magic touch of veteran steel transformed disaster into ‘swift winged victory’—and far afield, where yonder fringe of solemn pines sharply cuts the distance sky-line, we mark the spot where this day, twenty-six years ago, the gray-haired men and eager boys of this heroic town with stubborn valor held ‘the outer works’ and freely shed their blood for hearth and home and country.

Surely then, I say, it is most meet that on this spot, above all others in our southern land, should rise some monument in breathing marble or enduring bronze to tell our children and children's children of the courage and devotion of these heroes, who chose death in resistance rather than safety in submission.

And as in those eventful days, when selfish dross was purged away in steady fires of patriotism, these noble women ministered with tenderest touch alike to humblest soldier as to famous captain, and counted none a stranger who wore with honor his country's gray, so now to-day we bid their southern sisters mark that those who closed the dying eyes of these their ‘unreturning brave’ have reared this monument not alone to those who called Virginia mother, but to all ‘Our Southern Dead.’

Crowning this monumental shaft, ‘the counterfeit presentment’ of a simple Confederate soldier, fashioned so true to life by cunning art, that we almost catch the merry quip or wild, defiant yell, looks down upon the serried graves of sleeping comrades from ‘the Old North State,’ from the rice-fields of Carolina, from the cotton-lands of Georgia and Alabama, from Arkansas and Mississippi, from the savannahs of Florida and Louisiana, from happy homesteads on the banks of the Cumberland, and from that teeming empire beyond ‘the Father of Waters,’ whose ‘Lone Star’ banner has ever blazed in Glory's van—a mighty patriot host, who, at the trumpet call of duty put aside the clinging arms of wives and little ones, or turned from aged sires and weeping mothers to attest upon these distant fields their fidelity to constitutional liberty, and who here [397] upon Virginia's soil sealed with their brave young blood their devotion to those principles, which, since the days of Runnymede, have been the common heritage of all English-speaking folk.

Well nigh one hundred years ago at Oberhausen, in Bavaria, fell in the full flush of victory, Latour d'auvergne, ‘the first grenadier of France’—and there, upon the very spot, where like a soldier he met a soldier's death, his comrades reared in that foreign land a monument to his memory, which his commanding general, in the ‘order of the day,’ declared was ‘consecrated to virtue and to courage, and placed under the protection of the brave of every age and country.’

Not in vain was this soldierly appeal made to German honor.

Faithfully was that monument guarded and cared for by his ancient foes, who had so often yielded to his headlong valor.

So standing here by the once imperial clay of these dear comrades, in full reliance on the soldierly sympathy of our old adversaries of the North, we consecrate to-day this shaft ‘to virtue and to courage,’ and feel assured that the gallant men from whom these dead heroes so often wrested victory by skill and daring, will take no shame to stand uncovered here, and yield that tribute of respect and reverence which ‘the brave of every age and country’ ever accord to those who on field of battle lay down their lives for what they count the right.

To all such, indeed, whether the uniform be blue or gray, a generous soldier yields a soldier's homage.

But on one point let us be explicit, lest silence seem to discredit the patriotism of the living and cast dishonor on the memory of the dead.

In the Constitution itself, built as it was upon compromise, lay the germ of inevitable future strife.

As time passed, and the nation grew apace in power and splendor, as the interests of the two sections became divergent, the North insisted upon a wider and looser interpretation of that instrument, while the South as strenuously clung to the ‘strict construction’ of ‘the fathers of the Republic.’

Deeper than the question of slavery lay the essential cause of the great civil conflict—but slavery furnished the occasion, and as the North became more radical in its demands, and nullified with fiercer passion the explicit guarantees of the Constitution, the South met defiance with defiance, and finally claimed the right of secession, which not even Massachusetts had denied previous to 1830—nay, a [398] right which that State explicitly affirmed by legislative resolution as late as 1845.

The North was strong and resolute, and how terribly in earnest was the South may be gauged by the simple fact that five millions of people, destitute of arms and arsenals, shut off from the outer world by a rigorous blockade, ringed around by steel and fire, took twenty-two millions by the throat—a people rich in all appliances of war, with ports wide open, and Europe pouring in recruits—took twenty-two millions by the throat and for four long years shook them with such vehement fierceness that twice we came within an ace of wrestling from them an honorable peace.

We fought as ever fights the freemen of Anglo-Saxon strain, and in good faith we have accepted the stern arbitrament of the sword as settling once and forever the practical interpretation of the Constitution.

Such acceptance is all that honorable men can yield, and all that brave men should ask.

But when the ‘cheap patriot’ of the press or of the rostrum, insolent by reason of success won by others, goes still further and demands that we shall now confess the ‘unrighteousness’ of our contention, his must, indeed, be a dastard's heart who would thus brand himself a traitor, or offer any craven apology for his fealty to a cause which is forever ‘strong with the strength of truth and immortal with the immortality of right.’

Peace has come—God give His blessing
     On the fact and on the name;
The South speaks no invective,
     And she writes no word of blame—
But we call all men to witness
     That we stand up without shame.

Nay! send it forth to all the world
     That we stand up here with pride—
With love for living comrades,
     And with praise for those who died—
And in this manly frame of mind
     Till death we will abide.

God and our consciences alone
     Give measure of right and wrong—
The race may fall unto swift
     And the battle to the strong—
But the Truth shall shine in history
     And blossom into song.

[399] That we should be thus firm and outspoken is the simple duty which we owe our own self-respect and manhood—which we owe to our children, who must inherit their fathers' glory or their fathers' shame—which we owe that matchless leader sleeping yonder at Lexington in ‘the Valley,’ whose ‘soul was set in the royalty of discernment and resolve,’ and who, along with the blood, inherited the spirit and the virtues of the old champions of freedom.

Above all, comrades, it is a solemn duty which we owe these dauntless spirits, who have fought the good fight and passed away—who, at the bidding of Virginia and her Southern sisters, went forth to battle in all the joyous valor of youth or stern resolve of sober manhood, counting their lives a worthless thing—whose memory soars high above the reach of malice, and gains but brighter lustre from the ‘touch of time.’

In such measure as we honor the memory of these men—in such measure as we suffer no breath of obloquy to pass unchallenged touching the righteousness of the cause for which they died—so shall be measured to us the respect of those who hereafter shall read the story of that momentous struggle with eyes unclouded of prejudice and passion.

A brave singer of our English blood has sung:

They never fail
     Who die in a great cause.

And yet another rings out in trumpet tones:

Eternal right, though all else fail,
Can never be made wrong.

As to whether these men died in vain, our own lives and the lives of our children can alone give the answer.

If we, their surviving comrades, pondering in our hearts their unshaken resolution in the face of cruel odds, their serene constancy in adversity, rise up from the contemplation of all their stern and gentle virtues, strengthened even to this day for the ‘homelier fray’ of daily life, then they have not died in vain.

If, when we tell our children, gathered about happy firesides, how these men braved driving sleet and torrid sun, and uncomplaining bore the pangs of fevered famine, the ceaseless vigil, and hurt of shot and steel, and all for duty's sake—if in the story they shall plainly read, as quicker stirs their pulses play,

That Life may go, if Honor stay-

then, they have not died in vain. [400]

I do not fear for the answer.

We have mourned them as only brave men can mourn each other, and now belong to us the unfinished tasks of many a noble life.

To borrow the language of the greatest historian of the ancient world, ‘whatever we loved, whatever we admired in the lives of these men, survives, and will survive, in the hearts of their comrades, in the succession of the ages, in the fame that waits on noble deeds.’

With them all is well.

They are not dead but sleeping! Well we know
     The forms that lie to-day beneath the sod
Shall rise when time the golden bugles blow
     And pour their music through the courts of God.

And there amid earth's great heroic dead,
     The war-worn sons of God, whose work is done!—
Each face shall shine as they with stately tread
     In grand review sweep past the Jasper Throne.

The address met with enthusiastic applause throughout its delivery.

At its conclusion Mayor Collier introduced to the assemblage Miss Lucy Lee Hill, daughter of the lamented General A. P. Hill. The young lady was received with great cheers, which she gracefully acknowledged with bows.


It was thirteen minutes past 7 o'clock when Miss Hill and Mrs. J. M. Wyche pulled the string and the statue stood unveiled.

Salvos of artillery and volleys of musketry, mingled with the cheers of the vast crowd, greeted the unveiling.

Miss Hill was then presented with a handsome bouquet by Sergeant A. J. Blackburn, of Company C, on behalf of the old Thirteenth Virginia Infantry. Hundreds of people shook hands with the young lady, who was evidently greatly delighted with her reception.

A veteran flag.

Among the flags displayed in the procession was one well entitled the ‘Veteran.’

It was the silk banner presented by the ladies of Petersburg to the volunteers from ‘the Cockade City’ in the Mexican war in 1847, and which was borne by that gallant body in the land of the Montezumas.

It has been sacredly preserved by Colonel Fletcher H. Archer, who commanded the company in that service, as a precious historic memorial. [401]

But few of the company are now living, or they would have marched as an organization.

Historic ground.

It was a scene not soon to be forgotten. Dear old Blandford, with her tombs and vaults and myriad graves, was a silent witness. Marble shafts reflected the radiance of the June sun as it lowered in the west, and graves that were exquisitely adorned with flowers all added their mute but eloquent tribute; and as for the future historian—why, there was a brilliant panorama of the brave dead, whose virtues were thus fittingly commemorated. To the right and to the left, to the north and to the south of the monument were battle-grounds—all eloquent now, though in their plenitude of grain harvest; not an inch, scarcely, but had been bedewed with blood, not a yard but had marked the life of some gallant soldier. It was hallowed ground, nor could growing wheat and corn and clover hide the blood-spots. In easy sight of the monument is Fort Steadman, on Hare's farm, rendered memorable for the capture by the Confederate troops in the assault made by General John B. Gordon in the last days of the war. This was a fort of immense strength and very near the Confederate lines. The assault was one of the most gallant in the annals of the seige. It was successful in the capture of prisoners and guns, but the masses of the enemy beyond were so great that the feeble though brave Confederate force was compelled to yield the advantages they won.

‘Hell’ and ‘Damnation.’

To the right on the line of the Jerusalem plank-road and almost within sight of the eye are the sites of the famous Forts ‘Hell’ and ‘Damnation’—the former a Confederate and the latter a Federal stronghold-made famous by the terrible fire of their guns, the valor of their defenders, the many lives sacrificed in assaults and defence—the Gray and the Blue. All around Petersburg, from the river-banks on the east almost to the river-banks on the west, are the dots of the forts along both lines that played important parts in the events that finally ended in the capture of our brave little city. Just beyond the corporate limits of the town on the west stands old Fort Gregg, whose defence by the small band of gallant Mississippians was one of the bravest, most glorious, and most stubborn in the annals of war. Just beyond is the spot where General A. P. Hill fell. But why speak of special spots of interest when every rod of ground around the city has its incidents of war and is historic? [402]

To-day the lines are overgrown with grass, and but little remains suggestive of the old-time strife save a musket that may be occasionally ploughed out of the earth, a bullet, a grapeshot, an unexploded shell perchance from some Federal mortar, a rusty bayonet severed from its rifle, and the remains of a life lost here and there, as well as a dismembered veteran. Yet what sad thoughts are connected with these grounds—what a glorious and imperishable record they give of the stern and unflinching bravery of the Confederate privates!

The lines of the great forts are growing more and more indistinct. The plow is levelling the old breastworks; but, notwithstanding all this, there is still to be seen the outline of them all, easily recognizable by those who took part in the fights around Petersburg.

The crater.

But by far the greatest emotion is stirred at the view of the ground and pit where the crater-fight occurred. The site may be easily seen from the monument, and many a Petersburger can tell of the narrow escape which our people had—sleeping upon arms as they were—when the explosion occurred. Nor, according to those who took part in the fight, should any glory for the magnificent result be taken from General Mahone, whose brigade saved the day under the capable direction of their commander. The history of all these battles will be written some day, and General Mahone says, very justly as is thought here, that he is not afraid if its verdict is honestly recorded. A superb description of this engagement, however, has been written by Captain Gordon McCabe, who was the orator to-day, and, as may well be imagined, did entire justice to the occasion—perfect scholar as he is, fine soldier that he was.

Old Blandford Church.

But, to return to Blandford cemetery. Never were its decorations more beautiful, never in more perfect keeping with the occasion which was so gloriously celebrated to-day. The old church, strengthened by modern bricks and supported by all of the appliances which modern mechanism could supply, looked beautiful in its ivy-embowered seclusion. Far away as it appeared to be from the monument it was nevertheless borne in mind by all who attended the unveiling. In Confederate days, despite its nearness to the lines, nobody can tell of the romances, the marriages, the troths plighted under its shadows, the [403] pledges made, only to be broken by a bullet or a grape-shot, a shell dropped into the city, or the missile of some sharp-shooter perched in the limbs of the trees, so plentiful near the Federal lines. Ask some of the veterans of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans. Perhaps they can tell a story about these sentimental incidents of a rough and rugged era. More than one of these glorious old wardogs from Louisiana carried away a bride from Petersburg.

The Monument.

Surmounting the noble shaft the figure of the Confederate soldier was to be seen when the canvas was drawn aside—uplifted on his pedestal, right in the midst of the graves of the intrepid men of whose valor he was the embodiment. In every quarter, albeit he ‘stood four-square to all the winds,’ this Confederate in bronze could not but face some memorable field of carnage, could not but face the grave of some fellow-soldier who had died in battle. Look at the head-boards and call the roll. There was Louisiana, there was Maryland—there were all the States of the Confederacy. Grave after grave they all told their eloquent story—‘These died for their State.’ From the extreme northern boundary of the Confederate States to its uttermost southern limit the muster roll might have been called, and the response would have been, ‘Dead on the field of battle.’ Certainly it has been a great day for Petersburg, and a greater day for the dead who died in the cause.

The sound of drum and fife, the gathering together of veterans, the blare of the cavalry buglers, the marshaling of the volunteer military, the crowds on the streets, and the martial music of the bands—all indicated an unusual event for quiet Petersburg. And so it was.

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