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Address of General Stephen D. Lee, [from the Richmond, Va., News-leader, June 14, 1934.]

Before the United Confederate Veterans, at Nashville, Tenn., June 14th, 1904.

The following is the address delivered by Lieutenant-General Stephen D. Lee, commander-in-chief United Confederate Veterans, at Nashville, Tenn.:

It is impossible for me to respond to the kindly and cordial welcome so fitly spoken to my comrades who wore the gray without thinking of the great soldier and orator upon whom this duty would have fallen if he had not been taken from us. It was in historic Nashville, seven years ago, that his eloquent voice gave utterance to the gratitude of our hearts to the citizens of this beautiful city for the hospitality for which they are famous, and which to-day has laid us under new obligations. It was here that he placed in your hands his commission as your chieftain and sought to retire into private station. With an outburst of loyal devotion, resistless as the whirlwind, you again called him to be your leader and gave him the commission of your unmeasured love and confidence. [179]

He was true to your service to the last. His noble voice is hushed forever. He has answered the great roll-call. He has conquered the last enemy. He has joined his great commander in the white hosts of peace. The armies of the Confederacy have marched to fame's eternal camping-ground, and we who meet to-day are only the belated stragglers of that mighty host who have entered into their immortality.

The living are the brave and noble,
But the dead were the bravest of all.

As I listened to the eloquent and comforting addresses of welcome it was impossible for me not to remember an occasion now nearly forty years past, when some of us yearned to enjoy the hospitality of Nashville. Many of her citizens would at that time have been glad to see us, but not half as much so as we would have been to see them. Between us and these hospitable homes there stretched a wall of fire, and instead of your cordial greetings we heard the thunder of guns.

This time, however, we have kept our engagements better, and our good will has made us more than conquerors. We have entered into this city of great men and great memories. We have beheld your educational institutions, sending light and hope into the remotest corners of our beloved land. We have made pilgrimages to the graves of your mighty dead; we have been refreshed by your hospitality.

Tennessee gave 115,000.

The Confederate soldier does not forget that from the bosom of this old Commonwealth came 115,000 men to follow the banners of Lee and Johnston, and that more than 31,000 were enlisted in the armies of the Union. Tennesseeans believe with their hearts' blood. They did not count the cost when the great question of State or nation had to be settled with drawn swords. They spent the last drop of blood, the last mine of treasure for the defense of Tennessee, their mother and their sovereign.

We, the witnesses of that great sacrifice, can never cease to honor Tennessee for the blood of her sons, for the tears and prayers of her daughters, for the indomitable spirit which rebuilt the ruined homes, which sowed the blasted fields, which has wrenched prosperity from field and mountain and has made this wonderful land once more a thing of beauty and pride to every Southern heart. [180] You have done well, men and women of Tennessee. With peaceful hands you have won back more than your fathers lost.

I wonder sometimes whether, when the great balances of the universe are poised and the great judgments of the Ancient of Days are rendered, whether even when the last human history is written of the war between the States, and the slow verdict of remote posterity is taken, the cause we loved will seem as lost as it once seemed to us. It may be that in the providence of God and the development of humanity these fearful sacrifices were necessary for the highest good of this nation and of the world. Truly in human experience, without the shedding of blood, there is no redemption. Rather let us believe that the world is richer and better, purer and greater for the tragic story of forty years ago, and that the shed blood has brought blessing, honor, glory and power, incorruptible treasures of which a brave and noble people can never be despoiled.

Prosperity is assured.

It is a source of joy to every one of us, as we make our annual pilgrimage to meet together, when we saw how prosperous our country has grown. At last I think we all feel that the prosperity of the land is assured. When the savings of all previous generations were consumed in the common disaster, it seemed for a while as if the South has to face the bitterness of poverty for generations to come. Statesmanship, literature, art, culture, flowers of leisure and opportnnity were to remain forever withered on the soil once so congenial; nothing was to be left but the hard struggle with adversity till the bitter end.

I think we are fully convinced now that the South is fully on its feet again. In material prosperity we have now not only reached, but have surpassed the achievements of our fathers; yet, when I look about me for the men who are to enter into the garden which you, my brave comrades, have made blossom under such hard conditions, I cannot but be sensible to the incomparable loss which the South sustained. The tongues which would have commanded the applause of senates were never heard after the cry of battle was over; the genius that might have directed the counsel of nations breathed its last upon some forgotten skirmish line. The very flower and pride of our people perished in our battle front and the blood of our race lost much of its most magnificent strain when they went to their graves. [181]

I hold no view of Southern degeneracy, but I deplore the irreparable loss to my country and the coming generations when those splendid men, the bravest and best the world has ever held, went down in death. Some one has said that every generation must have its war. If so, in God's name let it not be a real war. The burning houses, the wasted fields, the ravaged cities—I could see them all go until the wilderness was back again, and contain my grief; but I can never bear to think of the strength and beauty, the manly courage, the stubborn nerve, the pure chivalry, the peerless devotion, the unstinted faith and loyalty which went into the battle's deadly front and never returned. It is the loss of men like these that made the South poor indeed—a loss that can never be restored, not in forty years! No, not in forty centuries!

Revelation to the world.

But, my comrades, it is a great comfort to know that the South had such men to lose. It was a revelation to the world. It was a revelation to ourselves. What a magnificent race of men; what a splendid type of humanity! What courage, what grandeur of spirit! What patriotism! What self-sacrifice! It was sublime. It is wonderful beyond compare. Not all were conquered. Some of these men came back. I see them before me now. God has bountifully prolonged their days that they may illustrate to the next generation the civic virtues, that they may tell the wondrous story of those days, that they may stir up in the hearts of youth the emulation of virtue, the passion for noble achievements, the spirit of sacrifice.

As the close of our days draw near and the work of upbuilding our country passes on into younger and stronger hands, let us make it our mission, comrades, to tell the story. Do not let your children and grandchildren forget the cause for which we suffered. Tell it not in anger. Tell it not in grief. Tell it not in revenge. Tell it proudly as fits a soldier. There is no shame in all the history. Dwell on the gallant deeds, the pure motives, the unselfish sacrifice. Tell of the hardships endured, the battles fought, the men who bravely lived, the men who nobly died. Your dead comrades shall live again in your words.

Their last Commission.

The infinite pity and glory of it all will awake the hearts of those who listen and they will never forget. Tell them of Albert [182] Sidney Johnston, of Stonewall Jackson, of Stuart, with his waving plume; of Forest, with his scorn of death. Tell them of Wade Hampton and Gordon, the Chevalier Bayards of the South. Tell them of Zollicoffer, of Pat. Cleburne and Frank Cheatham, of Pelham, of Ashby. Tell them of the great soldier with the spotless sword and the spotless soul who sleeps at Lexington, in the Valley of Virginia. Tell them of the great president, who bore upon his sad heart the sorrows of all his people, and upon whom fell all the blows which passed them over.

This, my comrades, is your last commission. Do this for the dead, that they may be loved and honored still. Do this for the living, that they may also become worthy of love and honor. Do this for your couutry, that when the time is ripe she may again be rich in heroes and in noble deeds.

Shall not the self-same soil bring forth the self-same men?

When the great account is taken which page, think you, my countrymen, will the South most willingly spare? Will it be the old page, torn and ragged, stained with blood and tears, which tells the story of secession and defeat, or will it be the new page of the latest census with its magnificent figures of wealth and prosperity?

Whatever she chooses, give us old soldiers the old page to read and read again. This blood and those tears mean more to us than to all the world. The cause in which they were shed will never be lost to us and the love we gave it will not die till the last gray jacket is folded and the last gray head is buried beneath the sod.

My comrades, neither do I believe our descendants will ever hesitate to make the same choice. The people of the South would not exchange the story of the Confederacy for the wealth of the world. At their mother's knee the coming generations shall learn from that tragic history what deeds make men great and nations glorious. A people who do not cherish their past will never have a future worth recording. The time is even now that the whole people of the United States are proud of the unsurpassed heroism, self-sacrifices and faithfulness of the soldiers and people of the Confederacy.

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