The education of disabled soldiers and soldiers children — an important question.
At the annual meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, in June, 1864, the following persons were appointed a committee to provide for the education of the children of deceased and disabled soldiers, namely: Colin Bass
; Wellington Goddin
; Rev. A. E. Dickinson
, Hon. R. L. Montague
, J. B. Jeter, D. D.
; J. L. Burrows, D. D.
; and W. F. Broaddus, D. D.
The committee have matured a plan of operations which, it is hoped, will greatly further the object.
They propose, not to originate schools, but to patronize such as now exist, or may hereafter be brought into existence; to limit their efforts, except in special cases, to aid in giving a good English education; and, in making their appropriations, to be controlled by neither sectarian, sectional nor social distinctions.
It has been determined also to assist soldiers, disabled in the Confederate
service, who may desire to resume the studies that were laid aside at the call of patriotism for "the might slumbering in their arms." Several young men, now that they can no longer remain in the army, owing to wounds or impaired health, have applied to us for appropriations, by means of which they may prepare themselves for some position of usefulness.--This class will find the committee ever ready to extend to them prompt and cheerful aid, and are invited to make their wants known to us.
In order the better to cultivate this great field, sub-committees
have been appointed at prominent points to look out and place in schools those whom we propose to benefit, and to aid in disbursing the funds entrusted to the committee.
Thus we hope to extend our operations to every county and every neighborhood in the Commonwealth
It is stated, on what seems to be good authority, that there are from five to ten thousand children in the State of Virginia
whose fathers have been killed, have died or been disabled in the service.
Every day that the struggle is protracted, the number, already so startling, will be increased.
A large proportion of these little ones are in indigent circumstances.
The means that had been accumulated by the toil and economy of their parents have been consumed during these long, sad years of war. While their property has been wasting away, the cost of education, like everything else, has been augmenting, until now comparatively few of the poorer classes can afford the expenses of an ordinary country school.--How then can the thousands of boys and girls, whose fathers fill shallow graves on our battle fields or around our hospitals, secure even the elements of an English education?
Who is to pay the tuition and buy the books and stationery?
It is obviously the duty of those whose homes, and persons, and property have been protected by our vigilant armies to do this.
It must be done in this way, and it must be done right early.
Some of these children were old enough to enter school four years ago, when their fathers went into the service.
Soon they will have passed the period in which they may be influenced for good.
We must not, we dare not, longer delay in a matter which, from the first of the war, ought to have been engaging our most earnest attention.
The armies in the field occupy so largely our thoughts that we are in danger of forgetting the still greater armies which are growing up around our firesides,
into whose keeping we must commit that for which all this sacrifice of blood and treasure is being made.
What can we hope for if the youth of the land are left to the debasing influence of ignorance and vice?
In vain will the fathers have shed their blood and conquered an honorable peace if the children are not prepared to preserve the dearly-bought inheritance.
It is by the proper education of the head and the heart that moral safeguards may be secured, and virtuous sentiment implanted and developed.
When we entered upon this war, and our men were volunteering all over the country, those of us who remained at home promised the soldier to make it our
care that his family should not suffer; that his children should fare as well as our own. Many a brave man, as he bade adieu to his loved ones, and brushed away the hot tears, lifted up his heart in gratitude to Heaven that such a pledge had been made.
And the belief that the people at home would faithfully keep this pledge has cheered him in all the toil and danger of the service, and made him the more willing to offer up his life on the altar of his country.
He has nobly, gloriously, performed his part of the contract.
But have we come up to the full measure of our duty to those who were dearer to that soldier than life itself?
It is true, it may be that his family have not suffered for the necessaries of life; but what of the mind, to the cultivation of which scarcely a passing thought has been given?
Long, weary years have rolled away, but those little ones have not been taught to write their names nor to read God's holy book. --Large sums have been spent on the education of other children; and had this soldier managed to stay at home, as probably he might have done but for the fires of patriotism that were burning in his soul, his children, too, would now be sharing with others the advantages of the best schools.
It is a great mistake to suppose that our soldiers, who have families, attach but little importance to this subject.--With many it is the sorest, saddest trial of the war. The fear that his children will be uncared for makes many a soldier dissatisfied, and has caused some to turn their faces homeward against orders.
A man of great gallantry, after three years of hard service in the Army of Northern Virginia, was stricken down in a late battle.
Just before his death he remarked to a clergyman that he was not afraid to die — death had no terrors for him — but that he did desire to live, that he might educate his children, who, without his care, must grow up in ignorance.
He was assured that ample provision would be made for them in this regard. "Then," said he, ‘"I have nothing more to desire,"’ and passed away to the spirit land.
It is a significant fact that a large proportion of the letters we receive, containing contributions to this cause, are written "in the trenches," and send us a portion of the pittance which the soldier receives from Government.
In view of these facts and considerations, we call upon our fellow-citizens, everywhere, to respond with a noble liberality to the claims of this cause.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars must be contributed if the work is prosecuted with that earnestness which it deserves.
Let every citizen, to the utmost limit of his ability, extend a helping hand to those whose fathers have fallen in defence of our holiest and dearest rights.
You can render us most important service by inquiring after the children of our deceased and disabled soldiers, encouraging them to attend school, and reporting their names to us. If every one to whom this circular is sent will thus exert himself, we shall soon have every neighborhood canvassed and all the objects of our solicitude cared for.
We beg to repeat the assurance that this movement is not the offspring of sectarianism.
Our sub-committees embrace gentlemen of the several religious denominations, and some who make no profession of religion; all the schools in the country, without respect to the denominational proclivities of the teachers, are patronized; and every child, without reference to the religious tenet of its parents, shares the benefit of our operations.
This being so, we appeal to every patriot and philanthropist in the Commonwealth
We need hundreds of thousands of dollars, with which to carry into effect this mighty undertaking.
In one county alone we have already entered over one hundred children at school.
Scores of applications are coming up from almost every section of our beloved State.
In what way can you better promote the permanent well-being of our young Confederacy, and at the same time discharge a debt of gratitude to the brave men who have scarified all for their country's independence and honor?
Besides defraying the expenses of the hundreds whom we are now educating, we wish to collect a sum sufficient to perform the same needful office for the thousands of little ones at present within the enemy's lines.
As soon as peace is restored, and these overrun sections of our State are once more open to us, there will be numbers whose only possible chance for securing an education must rest on such a system as this.
The resources of these desolated regions are so exhausted that assistance will be necessary to almost the entire population.
To meet the large expenditure which will then be required, we ought now to lay aside half a million of dollars.
Whatever may be thought as to the ultimate redemption of the Confederate
currency, it can hardly be doubted that our Government will make good every dollar which may be consecrated to this noble work.
It will never repudiate a bond which has been donated to a service so sacred.
I leave this appeal with you — confidently expecting that you will render us every assistance in your power, and that by means of your co-operation scores of these dear little ones will be rescued from ignorance and vice, and be rendered worthy of the noble men whose names they bear — men who have lost limb or life that freedom might be saved.
If you can in any way aid us, please let us hear from you by mail.
Address Rev. A. E. Dickinson
, Corresponding Secretary Orphan
Committee, Richmond, Virginia