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Memoir of Gen. C. R. Wheat, commander of the ‘Louisiana Tiger Battalion’

By his brother Leo Wheat.
Bury Me on the Field, Boys!

Chatham Roberdeau Wheat was born in Alexandria, Va., on the 9th of April, 1826; his father being an Episcopal clergyman, and of an old Maryland family; his mother a granddaughter of Gen. Roberdeau, a Huguenot, and the first general of the Pennsylvania troops in the Revolutionary war; who built a fort at his own expense, and advanced the outfit for our first Commissioners to the court of France.

Mr. Wheat was graduated A. B. at the University of Nashville, Tenn., in 1845. Having been chosen the year before, the representative of his literary society in the junior competitive exhibition of oratory, he departed from the established usage by making an extemporaneous address, which gave bright promise of the eloquence for which he became afterwards distinguished.

He was reading law at Memphis at the breaking out of the Mexican war, and was among the first to volunteer. His father, then rector of Christ church, Nashville, had written to advise him to wait awhile, and promised he might go if there should be another call for volunteers. Before he could get his father's letter (the mail by stage being then four days between the two cities), one was received from him, to this effect: ‘Dear Pa, “a chip of the old block,” I knew you would be ashamed of me if I did not volunteer as soon as the call came. My name I am proud to say, is the very first on the list. I have been unanimously elected second lieutenant in a company of cavalry. Please send “Jim” by some careful hand.’ This was a fine blooded horse, whose dog-like training and wonderful sagacity made him a chief actor in many scenes both tragic and comic, and a universal favorite in his master's regiment.

Upon the expiration of the twelve months for which they had enlisted, this regiment was disbanded at Vera Cruz, and most of the men returned home; but Wheat raised a company of one hundred and four men, and was chosen captain. The night before they left the city he was seized with vomito, or yellow fever. In a hammock swung between two mules he was carried up to Jalappa, where he arrived in an insensible condition. As soon as he was able he [48] reported to General Scott, and was detailed for special service as a separate command. His men being well mounted, handsomely uniformed, splendidly equipped and perfect in drill, ‘did the ornamental,’ as he laughingly said, ‘on great occasions for general officers, and triumphal entries into conquered cities.’ Accompanying a party making a reconnoissance, as they drew near the city of Mexico he pushed ahead, and was the first to catch a distant view of the city as it lay, to use his words, ‘glorified by the morning sun in the midst of the loveliest landscape the eye ever beheld.’

Captain Wheat was several times honorably named in General Scott's official reports, for important services and gallantry in the field.

His command having suffered severely in killed and wounded, he was sent home, soon after the taking of the city of Mexico, to fill up his ranks with new recruits. These he soon obtained at Nashville, where a flag was presented to his company by the young ladies of Christ church school; on which occasion the color-bearer had on a complete suit of armor—helmet, breast-plate, &c. of polished brass—taken from one of Santa Anna's body-guard.

Returning to Mexico, Captain Wheat was detained at Jalappa till the close of the war. He used to regret that the government of the United States did not keep permanent possession of what he pronounced the finest country in the world; insisting that the present occupants were as incompetent to develop its resources as the Indians whom the Spaniards had supplanted. He thought it would be a charitable proceeding, as in the interest of civilization and reformed Christianity. He regarded the corrupt church in Mexico as the curse of the country.

After the war, Captain Wheat settled in New Orleans and resumed the study of law. He was admitted to the bar in 1847. He early acquired considerable reputation as a criminal lawyer. His very first effort resulted in the acquittal of one of his former command, charged with murder, and after the senior counsel had given up the case as indefensible.

In 1848 Captain Wheat was elected one of the representatives from the city of New Orleans to the State Legislature. He also canvassed the State for the Whig candidates in the pending Presidential election, by request of the Central Committee, and had no little success as a stump speaker. His father having deprecated his frequent introduction of Scripture language and illustration into his political speeches, he was equally surprised and aggrieved, saying he had found nothing [49] so telling and effective with the masses, and that he had not felt it to be a desecration of God's word; for which, though familiar with it from his childhood, he always had the profoundest reverence.

And now we come to the period when he entered upon a new military career, and that has been much misunderstood as to its character and motives, and was generally stigmatized as ‘Fillibustering.’ His was a far nobler purpose. He was induced to join General Lopeza first Cuban expedition not only from an impulse of philanthropy, but from a patriotic purpose, i. e., to maintain the equilibrium of the States by strengthening the South. Several prominent statesmen, who were also his warm personal friends, urged him to embark in an enterprise which promised great national benefits as well as personal fame and fortune.

In the coming sectional strife, which was then casting its shadow before, he and his friends fondly believed that the acquisition of Cuba as a new slave State would enable the South to withstand the further aggressions of Northern fanaticism, and maintain her rights under the Constitution. Several leading men had promised their open cooperation as soon as it was expedient. The public authorities did not interfere, and the expedition sailed from New Orleans with the sympathy and good wishes of the entire community. So far from being regarded as Quixotic, it was universally expected to be completely and at once successful. The Cubans were represented as only awaiting the landing of an organized force with a supply of arms and ammunition, to rush into its ranks and fill up its skeleton regiments with patriots panting for freedom. To those who quoted the philosophic aphorism, ‘Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow,’ Colonel Wheat (so commissioned by the Cuban Junta) was used to say, ‘Suppose a weak woman gagged, manacled, dungeoned, and completely in the power of a brutal ravisher, would you hesitate a moment to attempt her rescue even at the risk of your life? Every sentiment and instinct of manhood answers, No! a thousand times, No!’ It was from General Lopez that he got the full information which won him to the cause of Cuban independence. All their subsequent intercourse did but deepen his first favorable impression of Lopez, as a pure patriot, an accomplished soldier, and a truly Christian gentleman.

In planning this first expedition, especial care was taken not to compromise the neutrality of our own government. The place of rendezvous was in mid-ocean, beyond the limits of the United States. There the ‘emigrants,’ as they called themselves, were [50] first formally made acquainted with their destination and its ulterior objects. The task was devolved upon Colonel Wheat. The vessels were lashed together, all hands on deck, and amid the silent sea his ringing voice was distinctly heard as he thus addressed them:

Fellow citizens, I hold in my hand a paper delivered to me by one of General Lopeza aids, the seal of which he told me to break when in latitude 26° N. and long. 87° W., which point we have now reached. I find on opening this paper that I am directed to remain near this point until the 7th of May, when he expects to leave New Orleans on the Creole. To-morrow we are to sail on a direct line to the Belize, and by Thursday may expect to see the Creole and the old General. I have addressed you as fellow-citizens, but long before the sun shall sink beneath this world of waters we shall have done what will throw us beyond the protection of the glorious “Stars and Stripes,” under whose auspices we have sailed thus far. We shall organize our little band into a skeleton regiment, for the purpose of landing on the island of Cuba, and wrenching it from the grasp of Spain, its cruel oppressor. The moment we organize, that moment we forfeit the protection of our own government, and we have no right to sail under her flag. But, like Hagar when she went forth from the tent of Abraham, we still have a right to call on Him who buildeth up the feeble and destroyeth the mighty, and doeth that at all times amongst the sons of men which seemeth good in His sight; to succour the distressed and deliver from their oppressors them that suffer wrong. I shall therefore henceforth address you as “ Soldiers of the Liberating Army of Cuba.”

We then, fellow-soldiers, have arrived at the point for which we sailed. Although most of you ostensibly sailed for Chagres, yet you all knew whither you were really bound, and for what. Do any here object to landing in Cuba a week sooner than he expected when he left home? Do any grudge to the Cubans that boon of freedom which it is our purpose to bestow a few days in advance of the expected time? No! I feel that I address those who are not only imbued with the glorious principles of equal rights themselves, but who will seek the post of danger at any time for the purpose of extending them to all who may desire their beneficial influence on their political and social systems.

It has been well said that we live in an age of progress, and no circumstance could be more indicative of this onward march than this expedition. When civilization was in its infancy, nation made war upon nation for conquest and booty. More recently, they have gone [51] to war for principle. Such was the case in the American Revolution; and the memory of Lafayette and our French allies is hallowed in every American heart for coming to the assistance of our fathers in their struggle for freedom and independence, after they had themselves taken up arms against the misrule and oppression of the mother country. But the march of mind is onward, and philanthropy does not now await the uprising of the oppressed before going to their assistance, as was the case in Texas, but hastens to help by striking the first blow for the down-trodden, as we shall do for the Cubans. Does any one doubt the propriety of our undertaking? Let him remember that it is our duty to do to others as we would have them do to us. Does any one fear to do it? Let him return. ‘[Just at this point the Cuban flag was run up to the masthead and flung to the breeze.]’ Liberators, behold your flag! Three cheers for Cuba! Soldiers of the Liberating Army of Cuba, if we have not been misled by the Cubans themselves, we have undertaken the most philanthropic and praiseworthy enterprise of ancient or modern times—that of giving liberty and equality to an oppressed and degraded people, who have now neither civil nor religious liberty. Only let them be true to us and to themselves, true to humanity and its inalienable rights, and ere long, instead of their flower-scented air being laden with the sighs and groans of dungeoned captives, it shall resound with the shouts of deliverance and the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God, the gracious Giver of every good and perfect gift. Yes! all the people of the land shall hail you as their benefactors for the bestowment of those blessings which are the proud portion of our own dear native land,

The land of the free and the home of the brave.

You are aware, fellow-soldiers, that we have come from the United States without arms, without organization, without previous concert to commit any act which may compromise the peace and dignity of our own government. Nor do we intend to violate international law, unless revolution be so considered; and we must make ourselves successful, and secure the acknowledgment of Cuban independence. Then, soldiers of the Liberating Army, while you gaze on the Lone Star of Cuba, resolve to make it the bright beacon to victory and renown.

You will now proceed to divide yourselves into ten equal companies, forming a skeleton regiment, and select your officers; after which they will draw lots for rank. And may success attend not [52] only this, but every other effort on the western continent-yes, in the whole world, to eradicate the last germ of monarchy.

While the Creole was getting water at the island of Mugeres, nearly the whole of the Mississippians and Louisianians determined to abandon the expedition. Colonel Wheat's eloquence was again called into requisition, and, assembling the men upon the beach, he addressed them in a brief but stirring speech, which so rekindled their enthusiasm that they unanimously resolved to persevere in their undertaking.

The place of landing on the island of Cuba, as it turned out, was ill-chosen; and without concert or co-operation with the Cubans, the invaders were unable to hold it. In the night attack upon Cardenas, Colonel Wheat was severely wounded, and when they had returned to the steamer they narrowly escaped capture by the Spanish warship Pizarro. The ‘Fillibusters,’ as because of their failure they were now first called, pursued by the Pizarro, found refuge in the harbor of Key West.

Colonel Wheat did not accompany Lopez in his second expedition, having been providentially prevented, very much to his chagrin at the time; though, as the event showed, most mercifully for himself; for his strong attachment to Lopez would have made him cling to his friend and share his fate with the gallant Crittenden.

It was a generous sympathy with the oppressed everywhere, and not a mere restless spirit of adventure, which next led Colonel Wheat to join Carravajal in his effort to put down the church party in Mexico, and give that beautiful land our free institutions instead of the effete misrule of a licentious priesthood. And again, when Walker, who had been his classmate at college, was in imminent peril of his life, after his defeat at Rivas, faithful to his friend in adversity, he hastened to his relief. It was at Nicaragua that he met with the most wonderful of his numerous escapes from death. By the explosion of the boiler of a steamboat, he was blown from the hurricane deck into the river, but so entirely without injury that he swam to the shore with ease, taking a wounded man with him.

When Alvarez ‘pronounced’ against Santa Anna and the church party in Mexico, Colonel Wheat accepted a command in the patriot army. As general of the artillery brigade, when Alvarez became President, he received permanent rank and pay under his administration, with official commendation and thanks for his services. When afterwards, by reason of age and its infirmities, Alvarez resigned the presidency and retired to his hacienda, at his earnest solicitation, [53] General Wheat went with him. The old hero would fain have persuaded him to remain there for the rest of his life as his adopted son. But being now in the fullest flush of a matured manhood, he could not be content with a life of inglorious ease; and as the world was just then beginning to resound with the name and exploits of Garibaldi, General Wheat determined to gratify a long-cherished wish to visit Europe, now become doubly attractive by the rapid march of events in the historic changes of governments and peoples. He landed in England and joined a party of congenial spirits who were going to Italy for the purpose of tendering their services to Garibaldi.

They stopped a few days in Paris, and General Wheat had a most informal, but also a most agreeable exchange of salutations with no less a personage than the Empress Eugenie herself. Having driven to the Bois de Boulogne she had alighted from her carriage, and, followed by her ladies in waiting, was walking leisurely down a shaded avenue, when General Wheat, arm in arm with an English officer, came suddenly before the Empress. His friend, from the impulse of his national sentiment that no one may presume to come unannounced and without previous permission into the presence of royalty, turned instantly and beat a hasty retreat. Not so the General, who, believing that his reverent salutation to the woman would not be resented by the Empress, tendered his homage by expressive look and gesture, and the lovely Eugenie promptly acknowledged it by a bright smile and a gracious inclination of the head. It would make a pretty picture that interchange of grave, sweet courtesies. For General Wheat was a man of as noble and commanding presence, as she of queenly grace and beauty. Over six feet in height, and finely formed, he had a dignified carriage and a polished ease of manner and address.

General Wheat's reception by Garibaldi was in every way gratifying—a hearty welcome and the offer of a position on his staff. Promptly accepting it, he engaged at once in active service; and in several engagements which quickly followed, his dash and gallantry were the frequent theme of the army correspondents of the English press.

The troubles at home, however, gave another sudden turn to his career. As soon as he heard of the secession of the Southern States from the Federal government, he hastened back to England and took the first steamer for New York. His friend, General Scott, urged him to fight again under the old flag, promising his influence [54] to procure for him an eligible position in the Federal army. General Wheat had a great affection for his old commander, and a still greater for the old flag. It was, therefore, a most painful sacrifice to sever those ties which had been made more sacred by much service and suffering in their behalf. But he felt the call of a still higher and holier duty, and he obeyed; it was to stand in the lot, and to share the fortunes of his own people and kindred and family. In the spirit which animated that purest of patriots, R. E. Lee, and from a like stern sense of duty, he gave his hand with his heart in it to the South.

Stopping but a day at Montgomery, Ala., then the seat of the Confederate government, to learn the situation of affairs and the probable opening of the campaign, he hurried on to New Orleans, where he hoped to raise a regiment of volunteers for immediate service. Before his arrival the Governor of the State, by authority of the Convention which passed the ‘Ordinance of Secession,’ had put in commission all the officers of the large force already raised. But at the call for volunteers to go to Virginia, where it was certain the Federal government would strike the first blow, five full companies were organized by General Wheat in a few days. And but for his impatience to join in the first fight, then thought to be imminent, he could easily have raised a regiment. Making all speed with his battalion (entitling him, of course, only to the rank of Major—a secondary consideration with one who thought more of the cause than of himself), he arrived at the front in time to take that conspicuous part in the first battle of Manassas which made ever after the ‘Louisiana Tigers’ a terror to the enemy. Major Wheat had called the first company raised the ‘Old Dominion Guard.’ But another company named ‘The Tigers,’ and having the picture of a lamb with the legend ‘as gentle as’ for its absurd device (lucus a non lucendo ),exhibited such reckless daring and terrible havoc in their hand-to-hand struggle with the head of the attacking column, that the name of ‘Tigers,’ as often as ‘Wheat's Battalion,’ was thereafter its popular designation.

General Beauregard, in his official report, mentioned Major Wheat in the most flattering terms, as having won for himself and his command the ‘proud boast of belonging to that heroic band who saved the first hour at the battle of Manassas.’ Major Wheat's being in the position to bear the brunt of the enemy's first onset (unexpected at that point, which was the extreme left), in heavy column, was one of the several providences which ‘saved the day.’ He was here [55] desperately wounded. The surgeon warned him that it must prove fatal. He replied cheerfully, ‘I don't feel like dying yet.’ ‘But,’ said the surgeon, ‘there is no instance on record of recovery from such a wound.’ ‘Well, then,’ he rejoined, ‘I will put my case upon record.’ His unexpected recovery was owing, the surgeon thought, chiefly to his resolute will.

His knightly courtesy was shown when a colonel of the Federal army, on his way as a prisoner to Richmond, begged permission to see his old friend, lying in a house by the roadside. The meeting was of the most friendly character. At parting Major Wheat directed his orderly to give Colonel P. some money and underclothing, saying, ‘he will need them in prison, poor fellow.’ Major Wheat's mother, who had flown to him as soon as she had heard in her distant home of her darling's disaster, and still righteously indignant at the invasion and desecration of the soil of her own loved, native State, warmly opposed this generous order of her wounded son. But he insisted, saying, ‘Why, my dear mother, P. is as conscientious in this war as we are; and if our places were changed he would do as much for me—wouldn't you, P.?’

The popular sentiment, in the army and out of it, was in favor of his immediate promotion to the command of a regiment, if not of a brigade. One of his friends, a Confederate officer, said to him, ‘Wheat, I would give a thousand dollars to stand in your shoes today.’ Whereupon Wheat demurely directed his orderly to give Captain B. his shoes. Various efforts were made, but nothing had been done for his advancement when, at the end of two months, the Major returned to his battalion. He was not fully recovered, and President Davis advised him to go hone with his father (they had called together to pay their respects), and ‘keep quiet until he was entirely well.’ The Major quickly replied, ‘I shall keep quiet, Mr. President, as long as yourself and the army do, but no longer.’

Very soon afterwards he returned to his command, and was with Jackson in all that brilliant campaign which resulted in the discomfiture, successively, of Fremont, Shields, and Banks. He was always among the foremost in the fight, taking batteries, and driving the enemy from his strongest position. The newspapers of the day seldom give an account of a battle in which his name and daring are not conspicuously mentioned.

After all his wonderful escapes, our patriot hero and martyr fell in the bloody battle of Gaines' Mill, near Cold Harbor, on the 27th of June, 1862. It was one of those desperate ‘seven days’ fighting [56] around Richmond, when McClellan was driven back and utterly defeated.

In compliance with his own wish, expressed in the words, ‘Bury me on the field, boys,’ his remains were at first interred near the spot where he fell; but it was afterwards found impossible properly to protect the grave, and therefore the body was removed, the following winter, to Hollywood cemetery, being escorted by a large military and civic procession from the Monumental church, where the burial service was performed by the Rev. Dr. Woodbridge, and at the grave by Dr. McCabe. The caisson bier, the riderless horse, the solemn dirge, the soldiers' thrice-vollied farewell—were these ‘the last of earth’ to our hero? The precious remains of his manly beauty were, indeed, laid in the grave; but he, the pure patriot, the selfsacrificing soldier, the martyred hero, the sincere Christian, had passed into the heavens—promoted, at last! His friends think of him as having had an especial honor put upon him. He is gone up from a remote province to the Capital of the Empire. The faithful soldier was summoned from his obscure post to become a member of the ‘family’ of the Commander-in-Chief! We seem to hear a voice from heaven saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’ ‘Shot and shell,’ as Kingsley strikingly remarks, ‘cannot take away human life; they can but kill the body.’ All that we loved and valued most still lives, more truly lives, where we aspire to join him, ‘high in salvation and the climes of bliss.’

That Major Wheat was not promoted by the Confederate government, that the general expectation of the army and of the country was not realized in this respect, his friends might not unnaturally regret. If he felt the least resentment himself, he never showed it. It certainly did not in the least abate his devotion to the cause or the administration. It was a striking trait in his character that, being too proud to sue for promotion, he was content to have richly deserved it. Throughout his whole career, he always espoused the cause of the oppressed, the wronged, the struggling for freedom. And although he had many opportunities for enriching himself by means which others did not scruple to use, he came home as poor as he went—rich only in the fruits of experience and observation in many lands and strange adventures, an admirable raconteur, speaking various languages; full of genius, wit, and eloquence, of stainless honor, and rare social attractions. His eminent soldierly qualities [57] and varied accomplishments he devoted with his whole soul to the cause of his beloved country. And although his restricted sphere was not commensurate with his great abilities, yet in the sudden emergencies of perilous and doubtful conflict, his actual services sometimes as far transcended his rank as he was always in advance of his men when they captured a battery or pursued the flying enemy. Just before he fell at Cold Harbor, General Ewell pointed him out to his staff as he led the storming party against McClellan's strongest position, a too ‘shining mark’ for a thousand deadly missiles.

There was one incident of that eventful day which, more than all besides, revealed the loftiness of his character and afforded to his mourning family and friends their most precious consolation. His mother had sent him some months before a little book of devotions called ‘Morning and Night Watches,’ (being brief meditations and appropriate prayers of a very elevated tone of piety and great beauty and force of language), with a request that he would read it regularly. He wrote to her that he was delighted with it, had been reading it as she desired, and would do so as long as he lived. He begged her to send a copy of it in his name to a lady friend, who had nursed him when he was wounded, and another to a lady who had in like manner befriended his younger brother, Captain John Thomas Wheat, who fell at Shiloh. Major Wheat's officers tell us that they had often seen him reading his little book, night and morning, and that he frequently asked them to listen to such passages as he thought particularly eloquent and impressive. One who slept in the tent with him says that he several times waked him up (when he had retired first) to listen to the ‘Night-Watch.’

On the morning of the 27th, in the gray light of the early dawn, and just before the battle was begun, he called his officers about him, took the little book from his breast-pocket, where he was accustomed to carry it, and telling them what it was—that it was the gift of his mother, that the portion for that morning had been marked by her own hand, that he had just read it in his tent, and finding it peculiarly appropriate to men about to imperil their lives, he would read it; and expressed a hope that they would join him in the prayer. It was a prayer for a ‘Joyful Resurrection.’ Uncovering his head (which example they followed), he reverently and devoutly read it in his own most feeling and impressive manner. This is its conclusion: ‘Lord, I commend myself to Thee. Prepare me for living, prepare me for dying. Let me live near Thee in grace now, that I may live with Thee in glory everlasting. Let me be reconciled to endure submissively [58] all that Thy sovereign wisdom and love see fit to appoint, looking forward through the sorrows and tears of a weeping world to that better day-spring when I shall behold Thy face in righteousness and be satisfied when I awake in Thy likeness. And all I ask is for a Redeemer's sake. Amen.’

Putting the precious volume into his bosom, he mounted his horse and led them into the battle which was to cost so many of them their lives. When the time, the place, and the actors in that scene are considered, no one can doubt that he was perfectly sincere in this religious act. It was a brave and manly confession of Christ before men, and one for which has not our blessed Lord promised to ‘confess us before His Father and the holy angels?’ While Major Wheat was incapable of professing what he did not feel, and was very far from making a parade of religious feeling, yet, as the incident just related clearly shows, he had the moral courage to avouch his convictions even to irreligious men.

From his earliest childhood he scorned, not only direct lying, but all prevarication and suppression of the truth; refusing to associate with a schoolmate who got out of a difficulty by telling the teacher a falsehood. When about twelve years old, he met with an accident which confined him to the house, and his mother, in order to amuse him, and reconcile him to the unusual restraint, gave him ‘Thaddeus of Warsaw’ to read. He soon became deeply interested in it, and at some very affecting scene he went to his mother weeping passionately as he dwelt upon the wrong done to his hero. To quiet him she said, ‘This is not a true story; it is just made up by the author.’ ‘Not true!’ he exclaimed, while a burning indignation quickly dried his tears, ‘and you a Christian mother, give your child lies to read!’ He flung the book from him as if it were contaminating, and never could be induced to take it up again.

Some years afterwards, when a senior in college, being obliged by a serious accident to remain indoors, he was very severe upon his sisters, who were reading the ‘Wandering Jew,’ just then coming out in weekly numbers, and who tried to interest him in it. In return for some beautiful passage of their reading, he would call out, ‘Put down that foolish book, and listen to this’—something from Blackstone; for he had already begun the study of law. When he was going the second time to Mexico his mother put into his valise one of Dickens' last works, thinking it might serve to while away the tedious monotony of camp life. He brought it back with the leaves uncut; said he had much more profitable reading, having procured [59] at New Orleans, on his way out, a goodly number of histories and biographies.

The writer of this memoir dwells with melancholy pleasure upon these recollections of a boyhood that gave the brightest promise of a distinguished future. The bread of religious training cast upon the waters of his young life was gathered after many days. The precious seed, hidden for a time from human observation under the unfriendly influences of a soldier's life, yielded nevertheless, in due time, a glorious harvest of piety and heroism, even to the sacrifice of life upon the altar of duty. He early adopted as his own his father's motto, ‘Astra Castra,’ being terminals of the distich—

Non per sylvas, sed per castra,
Nobis iter est ad astra,
and which he rather freely rendered:

Through rural quiet doth thy pathway lie?
Unending conflicts bear me to the sky.

In his letters to his mother—to whom he always showed a reverential and chivalrous devotion—he frequently assures her that ‘Astra Castra’ is the governing principle of his life. In one, written on his way to join Garibaldi, he says: ‘We hope soon to be doing good service in the great cause of human liberty. Do not, dear Ma, fret about me. God will take me out of the world when He sees fit; and if He takes me while fighting for liberty, I shall feel that I have not lived in vain.’

Major Wheat's request to be buried on the battlefield was made the subject of several poems which were published in various papers of the South, accompanied by eulogistic notices of his character and services on behalf of the Confederacy. The following verses interpret his request most correctly, and in perfect agreement with his known sentiments upon the subject. The subsequent interment in ‘Hollywood’ was thought by his friends to be a virtual compliance, for all the neighborhood of Richmond was included in the battlefield.

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