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Oration and tender of the monument.

by Colonel Robert H. M. Davidson.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.

The vast audience before me demonstrates that the living approve the ceremonies of this day, and, could voices from the spirit-world reach us, methinks we might hear now, from angelic choirs there, songs of commendation. Almost from the beginning, pyramid, mausoleum, granite shaft and marble column have been erected as memorials.

And orator, poet, sculptor and painter, through the ages, by enrapturing eloquence, by enchanting song, by exquisite statue, and by beautiful picture, have contributed to perpetuate the glorious deeds of the soldier-dead. Patriotic heroism should ever be honored.

For that laudable purpose we have come now to this park, beautiful for situation, in the metropolis of our State, and near by the murmuring waters of her great river. Appropriate place, indeed, is the city of Jacksonville for the majestic column from which the veil has just fallen. Appropriate not only because it is the metropolis of our State, but also because it was for years the home, ‘the dearest spot on earth,’ of the estimable and noble-hearted gentleman to whose unsurpassed generosity and devotion to principle Florida is to-day indebted for this splendid tribute to the ‘chivalry and courage’ of her Confederate soldiers. If I were not prevented by that [117] gentleman's modesty from doing so, most gladly would I speak of his wonderful and thrilling career as a soldier in his youth and of his great work as a citizen in his mature years. But I am not permitted to panegyrize him as he deserves to be, yet I can express a wish for him. And well do I know, hearers, that you will heartily unite with me in that wish, which is, that his life may be as long and happy as the soul which sustains it is generous and patriotic, and that distant, far distant, may be the time when monumental legend or eulogistic addresses shall tell us that he is no longer in the land of the living.

This beautiful shaft, dedicated ‘To the Soldiers of Florida,’ with its fitting and impressive inscriptions, though silent, yet eloquently speaks to us, and will so speak to coming generations, of the brave men whose intrepid valor and ardent love of home and country it is intended to commemorate. Who were these men and whence came they? They were citizens of Florida, many of them ‘native here and to the manner born,’ and others citizens by adoption. They came from every section of the State—from the shores of ocean and gulf, from field and forest, and from mainland and coral isle. They came from every vocation in life—from bench and bar, from bank and counting-room, from editor's sanctum and teacher's study, from farm and shop, and from the pulpit, the Lord Almighty's rostrum on the earth. Why did they come? Because their State called them.

On the 10th day of January, in the year 1861, the people of the State of Florida, in convention assembled, did solemnly ordain, publish and declare:

‘That the State of Florida hereby withdraws herself from the confederacy of States existing under the name of the United States of America, and from the existing government of said States, and that all political connection between her and the government of said States ought to be, and is hereby, totally annulled, and said union of States dissolved. And the State of Florida is hereby declared a sovereign and independent nation. And that all ordinances heretofore adopted, in so far as they create and recognize said Union, are rescinded. And all laws and parts of laws, in so far as they recognize or assent to said Union, be, and they are hereby, repealed.’

Florida having thus seceded from the Union, and her citizens believing that to their State, in which were their homes and loved ones, they owed allegiance, promptly responded to her call and soon became actors in the great ‘war between the States.’ They were animated by that heroic spirit which was conspicuously displayed at [118] that eventful period of our country's history by men both from the South and the North—that spirit which is beautifully portrayed by Thomas Gray, Jr., when he says:

No fearing, no doubting thy soldier shall know,
When here stands his country and yonder her foe;
One look at the bright sun, one prayer to the sky,
One glance at our banner, which floats glorious on high;
Then on, as the young lion bounds on his prey;
Let the sword flash on high, fling the scabbard away;
Roll on, like the thunderbolt over the plain;
We come back in glory or come not again.

Fellow citizens, small indeed, was the population of our State during the war, yet ‘the soldiers of Florida’ had ‘a place in the picture near the flashing of the guns’ on almost every battlefield of that unequal and unparalleled conflict. Though rations were short, though clothing was poor and scant, though superior numbers opposed, and though loved ones were dependent and suffering, yet they never faltered, but with undaunted courage followed where duty led, and fought and bled and died for their homes and their native land.

I do not err, I think, when I say, that Florida, in proportion to her population, gave to the Confederate cause, more men than any other State of the South. A gentleman, who was a gallant Confederate officer during the four years of terrific strife, and who is now an official of the State at Tallahassee, and in a position to be well informed, kindly handed to me a few days since, the following:

Florida sent to the Confederate armies eleven regiments of infantry, two regiments of cavalry, and five batteries of artillery, aggregating at the first enlistment, 10,527 men. To these must be added a regiment of infantry reserves, and Munnerlyn's battalion, which was organized to gather and distribute the beef supply for the armies in the field, besides eight or ten companies of “ Home Guards,” consisting of old men and boys, making in all about 15,000 combatants, out of a voting population of about 13,000.’

“The soldiers of Florida” came not only from every section of the State and every vocation in life, but also from every age, indeed from the ‘cradle to the grave.’ What a glorious record and what convincing proof that they battled for what they believed to be right.

As the years come and go, their patriotic service will be remembered as long as men shall admire and love heroic virtue. [119]

Confederate veterans, survivors of the ‘Lost Cause,’ you who marched with Lee and Jackson and Johnston and Bragg. You who heard the thunder of guns at Sharpsburg and Gettysburg and Shiloh, and Perryville and Chickamauga, though the cause for which you fought was engulfed in the fiery waves of war and lost, the conclusion must not be, that therefore it was unjust and wrong.

The failure of a right cause does not make it wrong any more than does the success of a wrong cause make it right. If the cause for which our Revolutionary forefathers struggled for more than seven years and at last gained, had been lost, would it therefore have been wrong?

A cause may fail, but the principle involved may be right.

We cannot praise and commend the martyr and at the same time condemn the cause for which he gave his life.

In the great and bloody conflict now ended, more than thirty-three years ago, the people of the South fought for a cause which they sincerely, religiously believed to be right and just.

In their sunny land, their men, from the days of boyhood, had been taught to believe that the distinguished Virginian, James Madison, was correct, when, in convention on the 31st of May, 1787, he declared that ‘the use of force against a State would be more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment, and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts. A union of States containing such an ingredient, seems to provide for its own destruction.’

They had been taught also to believe that Alexander Hamilton was correct when, in a debate in the New York State Convention, he said: ‘To coerce a State would be one of the maddest projects ever devised.’

The men of the South, a large majority of them, believed, honestly believed, in the doctrine of absolute sovereignty of the State, in the right of secession and in the doctrine that the consent of the governed was the only correct foundation of government, and that the true construction of that doctrine was, that the consent meant was that of a State, and not of the whole or entire number of the States.

Thus thinking and believing, the controversy between the people of the South and those of the North who entertained different views of the great questions at issue, continued for years until the Southern States seceded and the crisis came, and then the terrible conflict began.

Shall I discuss now those great questions which entered into the [120] controversy and were advocated on the one side by the South and the other by the North? I do not propose to do so.

It is enough for me to say now that the questions were submitted by the contending parties to the sword for arbitration, and the award was against the South. Yes, my hearers, after four years of battle and blood, the men of the South were vanquished, but not dishonored.

And here and now, in behalf of our ‘dear departed’ comrades, and in behalf of Finley and Miller and Dickison and Bullock and Hemming and Lang and Baya, and others ‘tried and true’ who, thank God, yet survive, I say, hushed be the voice and still be the tongue that would stigmatize them and us as traitors.

They and we, in the great contest, followed where honor and manhood and patriotism led. They and we rallied around the ‘Stars and Bars,’ the flag of the Confederate States, and over a hundred battlefields and more that flag waved in glorious triumph, and baptized and rebaptized it was in the best blood of our land before it became the ‘Conquered Banner.’ We loved it, and as evidence of our devotion we risked our lives for it, and thousands of our comrades gave theirs.

But, my countrymen, our flag now is the starry banner of the Union. With pride and joy and thanksgiving we can sing the thrilling lines of Francis Scott Key:

'Tis the star spangled banner, O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Yet we can also, with the purest emotions and with the sincerest love for our country, chant the sad and beautiful words:

Furl that banner; true 'tis gory,
     Yet 'tis wreathed around with glory,
And 'twill live in song and story,
     Though its folds are in the dust.
For its fame on brightest pages,
     Sung by poets, penned by sages,
Shall go sounding down through ages,
     Furl its folds though now we must.

Fellow-citizens, I wish, I long, for the coming of that time when a complete and impartial history of the war between the South and the North shall be produced—a history that will be a truthful record of the causes, the events both civil and military, and the results of that war. And I rejoice to say that the indications are, to my mind, [121] that the time is not far distant in the future when such a history will be written.

Glorious, but sad, indeed, will be that history. It will tell of an unfortunate, cruel and fratricidal war; of charges and battles; of victories and defeats; of sufferings and sacrifices, and of patriotism and heroism that will be intensely interesting to its readers. It will tell that, after four years of bloody conflict, unutterably sorrowful and yet wondrously illustrious, the weaker side went down before overpowering numbers and superior military resources; but it will not record that therefore the weaker side fought for that which was unjust and treasonable.

On the pages of that history it will appear that among those whose cause was lost there were thousands of educated Christian men who loved law and constitutional freedom, and whose heroic efforts and brave deeds in behalf of what to them was right and just have not been surpassed in the annals of the world.

And O how the pages of that history will sparkle with lustre, on which will be written the names of the military chieftains of the South, the name of Robert E. Lee, whose noble virtues and martial deeds gave glory and renown world-wide to his beloved country; of Jackson—‘Stonewall Jackson’—

Whose eye met the battle
As the eagle's meets the sun—

that military genius whose fall on the bloody field of Chancellorsville made ‘freedom shriek’; of Smith and Polk, the Christian soldiers; of Albert S. and Joseph E. Johnston; of D. H. and A. P. Hill; of Cleburne and Stuart and Morgan and Bragg and Hardee, and a host of others, who in life labored and fought for the South, and who are at rest now, we trust, on the shining shore of the other side.

But no pages of that history will be brighter and more resplendent than those which shall record the marvelous deeds and terrible trials of the women of the South. Those pages will tell of wives and mothers and daughters and sisters who, in their wonderful courage and in their true and constant love for their dear ones, their homes and native land, equalled, if they did not excel, any of whom Sparta could ever boast. Oh! that I were rich in language, abundantly rich, that I might now praise them as they merit and I desire to do.

But I will say in the words of another: ‘I thank God that I lived in the same generation with such women, and was an actor in the same transactions with them. To have known and lived and acted [122] with such gives a kind of immortality. He was a “Waterloo” was a diploma of nobility. How much greater: He was the friend of the matrons of the South.’

Years have passed since bugle call and roll of drum were heard summoning the soldiers of the South to battle against the soldiers of the North. Since then many of those who participated in the great contest, have embarked on ‘eternity's ocean’ and a new generation has come on life's stage. Flower and shrub and fruit tree make beautiful now the fields that once were made red with the blood of the soldier's heart. The States of the North and of the South, thanks to the Master, are one great and glorious Union.

But, Confederate Veterans and Sons of Confederate Veterans, ‘still I say to you,’ drop not from memory's roll the names of ‘Our Heroes,’ and remember, especially remember, the martyrs of your own State—Ward and Lamar and Call and Parkhill and Bird and Bradford and Simmons and McLean and Pyles, and other sons of Florida, whose lives went out in war's wild tempest. Remember, also, Anderson, Finnegan, Maxwell and Beard, and Brevard and Daniel, and others, who escaped death on the field of carnage and have ‘passed over the river’ since the smoke of battle cleared away.

Can we forget them?

No; no; no;
And years may go,
But our tears shall flow
O'er the heroes who fought and died for us.

Though I speak to you thus, my hearers, think not that it is my desire to awaken in your hearts feelings of the terrible days gone by and to revive the animosities of the past. Nay, I would not if I could, and sure I am that I could not if I would.

But I would have, while cherishing and honoring the memory of your ‘gallant dead,’ to be ever wishing and hoping that the valor displayed, the trials endured and the blood shed by the soldier who wore the gray, as well as by him who wore the blue may conduce, ‘as time steals away,’ to cement more firmly together the different sections of our country, and to make stronger and stronger the regard and love of its citizens for each other, and that continually there may be ascending from the hearts of all throughout our broad and free land the prayer: [123]

The Union!
     O! long may it stand and every blast defy,
Til Time's last whirlwind sweeps the vaulted sky.

I would have you, on occasions like the present, to remember that every monument erected to Confederate soldiers is a reminder of the skill and bravery of the Northern soldiers, who triumphed over courage and heroism unsurpassed.

And I would have you, on Memorial days and Decoration days to be actuated by the kind and tender feelings which must have inspired these touching lines:

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.

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.

Fellow-citizens, we have this day abundant cause to rejoice. The presence in this city of a Lee, and with him a grandson of Grant, as a member of his military family; the thunderings of Dewey's guns in the far East, and of Sampson's and Schley's along Cuba's coast; the martyrdom of Bagley; the heroism of Hobson and the thousands of men from the North and the South, in the uniform of American soldiers, all, all, tell us that we are not a divided people, and that the Union has been, and is forever restored. And may we not, at this time, with hearts profoundly thankful, exclaim, ‘God bless our country?’

Governor Bloxham, it is now my pleasing duty and exalted privilege, as the representative of Mr. Charles C. Hemming, a citizen of Texas, to present to Florida, the State of his birth, through you, its Chief Magistrate, the imposing monument before us, which has been [124] erected by him, in testimony of a comrade's love, ‘To the Soldiers of Florida.’

In this beautiful and henceforth consecrated place, as the years pass away, may that granite column stand, and, a silent witness though it be, yet ever testify to all who come here, in behalf of devotion to principle, patriotic valor and love of home and native land.

Monument received.

Acceptance of the monument in behalf of the State of Florida by Governor William D. Bloxham, who, being introduced, spoke as follows:

Mr. Chairman

It becomes my pleasant task to accept, on behalf of the State, this monument, given by a warm-hearted and generous Florida soldier as a votive offering, that memory may forever garland the deeds of his brave comrades.

On many of the bloody fields in that gigantic struggle between the States, so eloquently pictured by the orator of the day, Florida gave her soldiery. In the thickest of the fight fell her splendid officers and her private soldiers—those unepauletted martyrs of liberty —whose lives illustrated those excellences that sparkle brightest in duty's crown. This beautiful shaft with tongueless eloquence will forever tell that they live in fame if not in life, and that their names are written on memory's deathless scroll.

Behold the Confederate soldier! No earthly crown too brilliant to deck his brow; no monument too grand to perpetuate his memory.

Though many rest in unknown graves, their heroic virtues will forever peal from mountain top to mountain top, and swell along the valleys of the entire South,

Whose smallest rill and highest river
Roll mingling with their fame forever.

It has been said that there was a stone in Bologna that, ever since the stars sang of creation's wonders, each day absorbed the brightest sunbeams from Heaven, and to-day gleams magnificently with those accumulated treasures of untold centuries. So as the years have rolled on, and the passions of the past allayed, and the rhetoric of hate drowned in the swelling tide of a united country and admiration for heroic deeds, the record of the Confederate soldier has grown [125] brighter, and his devotion to duty and patriotic promptings received the world's recognition. No soldiers braver ever trod the field of fame; nor firmer, marched to duty, in ‘one red burial blent.’

That great conflict between the States illustrated the grand heroism of both sections. It should be known as the Heroic Age of America. The world never witnessed greater valor. The entire continent trembled beneath the intrepid tread of the noble followers of Lee and of Grant, who seemed to spurn the dull earth under their feet and go up to do Homeric battle with the greater gods. The richest heritage of the nineteenth century is the self-renewing splendor of the heroes of America as they were marshalled to the marriage feast of death beneath the eye of Lee and of Grant.

Grant and Lee! Lee and Grant! Had I the power, those two names would be garlanded together on one monument, reared at the capital of our beloved country, as representatives of American soldiery. It would be Fame's most jeweled crown and Glory's grandest temple.

Once more the gates of Janus have been thrown open in America. Possibly in the fulfillment of a destiny running back through the centuries, this great liberty-loving republic had to confront upon the battlefield that spirit of inquisition and superstition which has characterized Spain through her entire history. The cruelty of Alva lives in Weyler. The spirit of the bloody Philip has been the ruling spirit at Madrid. We are witnessing a great crusade in the cause of humanity that no man can stay. We are fortified in the conflict with the knowledge that ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’

In this conflict of humanity against the oldest despotism of Europe, thank God we stand as one people, with one hope, one flag, and one destiny. The Lethean waters of oblivion have washed away all bitter memories of the past. No sectional lines now mar our patriotic ardor. Our soldiers to-day step to the same music, whether it be Yankee Doodle or Dixie, and march shoulder to shoulder as in the days gone by when they carried our eagles in triumph at Buena Vista and Chapultepec and into the glittering halls of the once noble Montezuma.

This glorious consummation shall also be commemorated by a befitting monument; it will be a monument which will always recall the Maine and her human sacrifices. The world will recognize it as reared to the cause of humanity and human freedom. That monument will be free Cuba. [126]

When accomplished, let us hope that the war drums will throb no longer, and the battle flags be furled

In the parliament of Man,
The federation of the world.

Standing upon the threshold of the twentieth century, let us trust that it will be welcomed, not in the spirit of Cromwell when he placed upon the muzzles of his cannon, ‘Open Thou our lips, O Lord, and our mouths shall show forth Thy praise;’ but as the angels welcomed the messenger of a Saviour, ‘Glory to God on high; and on earth, peace.’ Peace is the halcyon weather of the heart, where the noblest virtues brood. Perfect in patriotism as in piety, was the prayer of royal David for the people and country of his love, ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.’

In welcoming the twentieth century, let us hope that it will be crowned with the unspeakable glory of the rich pearl of peace, and a still higher civilization and a broader and more vigorous Christianity—which will evolve a strifeless progress, and consecrate the statesmanship of the world to the spirit of international arbitration. Then,

Theseus will roam the world no more,
And Janus rest with rusted door.

Mr. Chairman, I feel that the sentiments of our entire people are voiced when I return to Comrade Charles C. Hemming, the generous donor, their grateful acknowledgments for this noble gift. Its care is confidently entrusted to the patriotic citizens of Jacksonville.

Response by Major-General Fitzhugh Lee.

Major-General Fitzhugh Lee happily responded to an urgent request for words of greeting. It is regretted that his address, which was entirely extempore, cannot be given. He spoke in eloquent and forceful language of the cause for which each side had fought, involving differences which had to be settled by the sword, and by the sword were settled. ‘Looking out,’ said he, ‘to-day upon yonder tented city, we see Illinois and North Carolina, Wisconsin and Virginia under one flag, for a common cause, the only rivalry being as to which shall carry the flag further for freedom.’ He paid a beautiful tribute to those whom the monument commemorates, among whom were old comrades dear to him; that his first service after leaving West Point was in the company of Captain Kirby Smith, whose medallion appears on the monument.


Patriotic Hymn.

La Marsellaise.

Ye sons of fame, awake to glory,
     Hark! Hark! What myriads bid you rise—
Your children, wives, and grandsires hoary—
     Behold their tears and hear their cries.
Shall reckless tyrants, mischief's breeding,
     With hireling hosts—a ruffian band—
Affright and desolate our land
     While peace and liberty are calling?
To arms! To arms! Ye braves,
     Tha avenging sword unsheath.
March on! March on! All hearts resolve
     On victory or death.

Oh liberty, can man resign thee
     Once having felt thy generous flame?
Can dungeons' bolts, or bars confine thee,
     Or wrongs thy noble spirit tame?
For long the world has wept bewailing
     That falsehood's dagger tyrants wield;
But freedom is our sword and shield.
     Thank God, their arts are unavailing.
To arms! To arms! Ye brave,
     Tha avenging sword unsheath.
March on! March on! All hearts resolve
     On victory or death.


To arms! To arms! Ye brave,
     Tha avenging sword unsheath,
March on! March on! All hearts resolve
     On victory or death.

The ceremonies terminated with the following benediction, pronounced by the Rev. W. H. Dodge:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen.

Among the responses to invitations sent by the Committee of Arrangements, were letters of regret at inability to be present from President McKinley, the Governors of Maryland, Alabama and Virginia, General S. G. French, U. S. Senator S. Pasco, Major Thomas [128] M. Woodruff, and Generals Wade Hampton and John C. Underwood.

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