Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War
Part 3 out of 3
Moon-tinged--with crook'd boughs rent or lopped--
Itself a haggard forest. "Come"
The Colonel cried, "to talk you're loath;
D've hear? I say he must be stopped,
This Mosby--caged, and hair close cropped."
"Of course; but what's that dangling there"
"Where?" "From the tree--that gallows-bough;
A bit of frayed bark, is it not"
"Ay--or a rope; did _we_ hang last?--
Don't like my neckerchief any how"
He loosened it: "O ay, we'll stop
This Mosby--but that vile jerk and drop!"
By peep of light they feed and ride,
Gaining a grove's green edge at morn,
And mark the Aldie hills upread
And five gigantic horsemen carved
Clear-cut against the sky withdrawn;
Are more behind? an open snare?
Or Mosby's men but watchmen there?
The ravaged land was miles behind,
And Loudon spread her landscape rare;
Orchards in pleasant lowlands stood,
Cows were feeding, a cock loud crew,
But not a friend at need was there;
The valley-folk were only good
To Mosby and his wandering brood.
What best to do? what mean yon men?
Colonel and Guide their minds compare;
Be sure some looked their Leader through;
Dismsounted, on his sword he leaned
As one who feigns an easy air;
And yet perplexed he was they knew--
Perplexed by Mosby's mountain-crew.
The Major hemmed as he would speak,
But checked himself, and left the ring
Of cavalrymen about their Chief--
Young courtiers mute who paid their court
By looking with confidence on their king;
They knew him brave, foresaw no grief--
But Mosby--the time to think is brief.
The Surgeon (sashed in sacred green)
Was glad 'twas not for _him_ to say
What next should be; if a trooper bleeds,
Why he will do his best, as wont,
And his partner in black will aid and pray;
But judgment bides with him who leads,
And Mosby many a problem breeds.
The Surgeon was the kindliest man
That ever a callous trace professed;
He felt for him, that Leader young,
And offered medicine from his flask:
The Colonel took it with marvelous zest.
For such fine medicine good and strong,
Oft Mosby and his foresters long.
A charm of proof. "Ho, Major, come--
Pounce on yon men! Take half your troop,
Through the thickets wind--pray speedy be--
And gain their read. And, Captain Morn,
Picket these roads--all travelers stop;
The rest to the edge of this crest with me,
That Mosby and his scouts may see."
Commanded and done. Ere the sun stood steep,
Back came the Blues, with a troop of Grays,
Ten riding double--luckless ten!--
Five horses gone, and looped hats lost,
And love-locks dancing in a maze--
Certes, but sophomores from the glen
Of Mosby--not his veteran men.
"Colonel," said the Major, touching his cap,
"We've had our ride, and here they are"
"Well done! how many found you there"
"As many as I bring you here"
"And no one hurt?" "There'll be no scar--
One fool was battered." "Find their lair"
"Why, Mosby's brood camp every where."
He sighed, and slid down from his horse,
And limping went to a spring-head nigh.
"Why, bless me, Major, not hurt, I hope"
"Battered my knee against a bar
When the rush was made; all right by-and-by.--
Halloa! they gave you too much rope--
Go back to Mosby, eh? elope?"
Just by the low-hanging skirt of wood
The guard, remiss, had given a chance
For a sudden sally into the cover--
But foiled the intent, nor fired a shot,
Though the issue was a deadly trance;
For, hurled 'gainst an oak that humped low over,
Mosby's man fell, pale as a lover.
They pulled some grass his head to ease
(Lined with blue shreds a ground-nest stirred).
The Surgeon came--"Here's a to-do"
"Ah!" cried the Major, darting a glance,
"This fellow's the one that fired and spurred
Down hill, but met reserves below--
My boys, not Mosby's--so we go!"
The Surgeon--bluff, red, goodly man--
Kneeled by the hurt one; like a bee
He toiled. The pale young Chaplain too--
(Who went to the wars for cure of souls,
And his own student-ailments)--he
Bent over likewise; spite the two,
Mosby's poor man more pallid grew.
Meanwhile the mounted captives near
Jested; and yet they anxious showed;
Virginians; some of family-pride,
And young, and full of fire, and fine
In open feature and cheek that glowed;
And here thralled vagabonds now they ride--
But list! one speaks for Mosby's side.
"Why, three to one--your horses strong--
Revolvers, rifles, and a surprise--
Surrender we account no shame!
We live, are gay, and life is hope;
We'll fight again when fight is wise.
There are plenty more from where we came;
But go find Mosby--start the game!"
Yet one there was who looked but glum;
In middle-age, a father he,
And this his first experience too:
"They shot at my heart when my hands were up--
This fighting's crazy work, I see"
But noon is high; what next do?
The woods are mute, and Mosby is the foe.
"Save what we've got," the Major said;
"Bad plan to make a scout too long;
The tide may turn, and drag them back,
And more beside. These rides I've been,
And every time a mine was sprung.
To rescue, mind, they won't be slack--
Look out for Mosby's rifle-crack."
"We'll welcome it! give crack for crack!
Peril, old lad, is what I seek"
"O then, there's plenty to be had--
By all means on, and have our fill"
With that, grotesque, he writhed his neck,
Showing a scar by buck-shot made--
Kind Mosby's Christmas gift, he said.
"But, Colonel, my prisoners--let a guard
Make sure of them, and lead to camp.
That done, we're free for a dark-room fight
If so you say." The other laughed;
"Trust me, Major, nor throw a damp.
But first to try a little sleight--
Sure news of Mosby would suit me quite."
Herewith he turned--"Reb, have a dram"
Holding the Surgeon's flask with a smile
To a young scapegrace from the glen.
"O yes!" he eagerly replied,
"And thank you, Colonel, but--any guile?
For if you think we'll blab--why, then
You don't know Mosby or his men."
The Leader's genial air relaxed.
"Best give it up," a whisperer said.
"By heaven, I'll range their rebel den"
"They'll treat you well," the captive cried;
"They're all like us--handsome--well bred:
In wood or town, with sword or pen,
Polite is Mosby, bland his men."
"Where were you, lads, last night?--come, tell"
"We?--at a wedding in the Vale--
The bridegroom our comrade; by his side
Belisent, my cousin--O, so proud
Of her young love with old wounds pale--
A Virginian girl! God bless her pride--
Of a crippled Mosby-man the bride!"
"Four wall shall mend that saucy mood,
And moping prisons tame him down"
Said Captain Cloud. "God help that day"
Cried Captain Morn, "and he so young.
But hark, he sings--a madcap one"
"_O we multiply merrily in the May,
The birds and Mosby's men, they say!_"
While echoes ran, a wagon old,
Under stout guard of Corporal Chew
Came up; a lame horse, dingy white,
With clouted harness; ropes in hand,
Cringed the humped driver, black in hue;
By him (for Mosby's band a sight)
A sister-rebel sat, her veil held tight.
"I picked them up," the Corporal said,
"Crunching their way over stick and root,
Through yonder wood. The man here--Cuff--
Says they are going to Leesburg town"
The Colonel's eye took in the group;
The veiled one's hand he spied--enough!
Not Mosby's. Spite the gown's poor stuff,
Off went his hat: "Lady, fear not;
We soldiers do what we deplore--
I must detain you till we march"
The stranger nodded. Nettled now,
He grew politer than before:--
"'Tis Mosby's fault, this halt and search"
The lady stiffened in her starch.
"My duty, madam, bids me now
Ask what may seem a little rude.
Pardon--that veil--withdraw it, please
(Corporal! make every man fall back);
Pray, now I do but what I should;
Bethink you, 'tis in masks like these
That Mosby haunts the villages."
Slowly the stranger drew her veil,
And looked the Soldier in the eye--
A glance of mingled foul and fair;
Sad patience in a proud disdain,
And more than quietude. A sigh
She heaved, and if all unaware,
And far seemed Mosby from her care.
She came from Yewton Place, her home,
So ravaged by the war's wild play--
Campings, and foragings, and fires--
That now she sought an aunt's abode.
Her Kinsmen? In Lee's army, they.
The black? A servant, late her sire's.
And Mosby? Vainly he inquires.
He gazed, and sad she met his eye;
"In the wood yonder were you lost"
No; at the forks they left the road
Because of hoof-prints (thick they were--
Thick as the words in notes thrice crossed),
And fearful, made that episode.
In fear of Mosby? None she showed.
Her poor attire again he scanned:
"Lady, once more; I grieve to jar
On all sweet usage, but must plead
To have what peeps there from your dress;
That letter--'tis justly prize of war"
She started--gave it--she must need.
"'Tis not from Mosby? May I read?"
And straight such matter he perused
That with the Guide he went apart.
The Hospital Steward's turn began:
"Must squeeze this darkey; every tap
Of knowledge we are bound to start"
"Garry," she said, "tell all you can
Of Colonel Mosby--that brave man."
"Dun know much, sare; and missis here
Know less dan me. But dis I know--"
"Well, what?" "I dun know what I know"
"A knowing answer!" The hump-back coughed,
Rubbing his yellowish wool like tow.
"Come--Mosby--tell!" "O dun look so!
My gal nursed missis--let we go."
"Go where?" demanded Captain Cloud;
"Back into bondage? Man, you're free"
"Well, _let_ we free!" The Captain's brow
Lowered; the Colonel came--had heard:
"Pooh! pooh! his simple heart I see--
A faithful servant.--Lady" (a bow),
"Mosby's abroad--with us you'll go.
"Guard! look to your prisoners; back to camp!
The man in the grass--can he mount and away?
Why, how he groans!" "Bad inward bruise--
Might lug him along in the ambulance"
"Coals to Newcastle! let him stay.
Boots and saddles!--our pains we lose,
Nor care I if Mosby hear the news!"
But word was sent to a house at hand,
And a flask was left by the hurt one's side.
They seized in that same house a man,
Neutral by day, by night a foe--
So charged his neighbor late, the Guide.
A grudge? Hate will do what it can;
Along he went for a Mosby-man.
No secrets now; the bugle calls;
The open road they take, nor shun
The hill; retrace the weary way.
But one there was who whispered low,
"This is a feint--we'll back anon;
Young Hair-Brains don't retreat, they say;
A brush with Mosby is the play!"
They rode till eve. Then on a farm
That lay along a hill-side green,
Bivouacked. Fires were made, and then
Coffee was boiled; a cow was coaxed
And killed, and savory roasts were seen;
And under the lee of a cattle-pen
The guard supped freely with Mosby's men.
The ball was bandied to and fro;
Hits were given and hits were met;
"Chickamauga, Feds--take off your hat"
"But the Fight in the Clouds repaid you, Rebs"
"Forgotten about Manassas yet"
Chatting and chaffing, and tit for tat,
Mosby's clan with the troopers sat.
"Here comes the moon!" a captive cried;
"A song! what say? Archy, my lad"
Hailing are still one of the clan
(A boyish face with girlish hair),
"Give us that thing poor Pansy made
Last Year." He brightened, and began;
And this was the song of Mosby's man:
_Spring is come; she shows her pass--
Wild violets cool!
South of woods a small close grass--
A vernal wool!
Leaves are a'bud on the sassafras--
They'll soon be full;
Blessings on the friendly screen--
I'm for the South! says the leafage green._
_Robins! fly, and take your fill
Garden, orchard, meadow, hill,
Barns and bowers;
Take your fill, and have your will--
But, bluebirds! keep away, and fear
The ambuscade in bushes here._
"A green song that," a seargeant said;
"But where's poor Pansy? gone, I fear"
"Ay, mustered out at Ashby's Gap"
"I see; now for a live man's song;
Ditty for ditty--prepare to cheer.
My bluebirds, you can fling a cap!
You barehead Mosby-boys--why--clap!"
_Nine Blue-coats went a-nutting
Slyly in Tennessee--
Not for chestnuts--better than that--
Hugh, you bumble-bee!
All through the year there's nutting!_
_A tree they spied so yellow,
Rustling in motion queer;
In they fired, and down they dropped--
Butternuts, my dear!
Who'll 'list to go a-nutting?_
Ah! why should good fellows foemen be?
And who would dream that foes they were--
Larking and singing so friendly then--
A family likeness in every face.
But Captain Cloud made sour demur:
"Guard! keep your prisoners _in_ the pen,
And let none talk with Mosby's men."
That captain was a valorous one
(No irony, but honest truth),
Yet down from his brain cold drops distilled,
Making stalactites in his heart--
A conscientious soul, forsooth;
And with a formal hate was filled
Of Mosby's band; and some he'd killed.
Meantime the lady rueful sat,
Watching the flicker of a fire
Were the Colonel played the outdoor host
In brave old hall of ancient Night.
But ever the dame grew shyer and shyer,
Seeming with private grief engrossed--
Grief far from Mosby, housed or lost.
The ruddy embers showed her pale.
The Soldier did his best devoir:
Cared for her servant--sought to cheer:
"I know, I know--a cruel war!
But wait--even Mosby'll eat his bun;
The Old Hearth--back to it anon!"
But cordial words no balm could bring;
She sighed, and kept her inward chafe,
And seemed to hate the voice of glee--
Joyless and tearless. Soon he called
An escort: "See this lady safe
In yonder house.--Madam, you're free.
And now for Mosby.--Guide! with me."
("A night-ride, eh?") "Tighten your girths!
But, buglers! not a note from you.
Fling more rails on the fires--a blaze"
("Sergeant, a feint--I told you so--
Toward Aldie again. Bivouac, adieu!")
After the cheery flames they gaze,
Then back for Mosby through the maze.
The moon looked through the trees, and tipped
The scabbards with her elfin beam;
The Leader backward cast his glance,
Proud of the cavalcade that came--
A hundred horses, bay and cream:
"Major! look how the lads advance--
Mosby we'll have in the ambulance!"
"No doubt, no doubt:--was that a hare?--
First catch, then cook; and cook him brown"
"Trust me to catch," the other cried--
"The lady's letter!--a dance, man, dance
This night is given in Leesburg town"
"He'll be there too!" wheezed out the Guide;
"That Mosby loves a dance and ride!"
"The lady, ah!--the lady's letter--
A _lady_, then, is in the case"
Muttered the Major. "Ay, her aunt
Writes her to come by Friday eve
(To-night), for people of the place,
At Mosby's last fight jubilant,
A party give, though table-cheer be scant."
The Major hemmed. "Then this night-ride
We owe to her?--One lighted house
In a town else dark.--The moths, begar!
Are not quite yet all dead!" "How? how"
"A mute, meek mournful little mouse!--
Mosby has wiles which subtle are--
But woman's wiles in wiles of war!"
"Tut, Major! by what craft or guile--"
"Can't tell! but he'll be found in wait.
Softly we enter, say, the town--
Good! pickets post, and all so sure--
When--crack! the rifles from every gate,
The Gray-backs fire--dashes up and down--
Each alley unto Mosby known!"
"Now, Major, now--you take dark views
Of a moonlight night." "Well, well, we'll see"
And smoked as if each whiff were gain.
The other mused; then sudden asked,
"What would you do in grand decree"
I'd beat, if I could, Lee's armies--then
Send constables after Mosby's men."
"Ay! ay!--you're odd." The moon sailed up;
On through the shadowy land they went.
"_Names must be made and printed be!_"
Hummed the blithe Colonel. "Doc, your flask!
Major, I drink to your good content.
My pipe is out--enough for me!
One's buttons shine--does Mosby see?
"But what comes here?" A man from the front
Reported a tree athwart the road.
"Go round it, then; no time to bide;
All right--go on! Were one to stay
For each distrust of a nervous mood,
Long miles we'd make in this our ride
Through Mosby-land.--Oh! with the Guide!"
Then sportful to the Surgeon turned:
"Green sashes hardly serve by night"
"Nor bullets nor bottles," the Major sighed,
"Against these moccasin-snakes--such foes
As seldom come to solid fight:
They kill and vanish; through grass they glide;
Devil take Mosby!--" his horse here shied.
"Hold! look--the tree, like a dragged balloon;
A globe of leaves--some trickery here;
My nag is right--best now be shy"
A movement was made, a hubbub and snarl;
Little was plain--they blindly steer.
The Pleiads, as from ambush sly,
Peep out--Mosby's men in the sky!
As restive they turn, how sore they feel,
And cross, and sleepy, and full of spleen,
And curse the war. "Fools, North and South"
Said one right out. "O for a bed!
O now to drop in this woodland green"
He drops as the syllables leave his mouth--
Mosby speaks from the undergrowth--
Speaks in a volley! out jets the flame!
Men fall from their saddles like plums from trees;
Horses take fright, reins tangle and bind;
"Steady--Dismount--form--and into the wood"
They go, but find what scarce can please:
Their steeds have been tied in the field behind,
And Mosby's men are off like the wind.
Sound the recall! vain to pursue--
The enemy scatters in wilds he knows,
To reunite in his own good time;
And, to follow, they need divide--
To come lone and lost on crouching foes:
Maple and hemlock, beech and lime,
Are Mosby's confederates, share the crime.
"Major," burst in a bugler small,
"The fellow we left in Loudon grass--
Sir slyboots with the inward bruise,
His voice I heard--the very same--
Some watchword in the ambush pass;
Ay, sir, we had him in his shoes--
We caught him--Mosby--but to lose!"
"Go, go!--these saddle-dreamers! Well,
And here's another.--Cool, sir, cool"
"Major, I saw them mount and sweep,
And one was humped, or I mistake,
And in the skurry dropped his wool"
"A wig! go fetch it:--the lads need sleep;
They'll next see Mosby in a sheep!
"Come, come, fall back! reform yours ranks--
All's jackstraws here! Where's Captain Morn?--
We've parted like boats in a raging tide!
But stay-the Colonel--did he charge?
And comes he there? 'Tis streak of dawn;
Mosby is off, the woods are wide--
Hist! there's a groan--this crazy ride!"
As they searched for the fallen, the dawn grew chill;
They lay in the dew: "Ah! hurt much, Mink?
And--yes--the Colonel!" Dead! but so calm
That death seemed nothing--even death,
The thing we deem every thing heart can think;
Amid wilding roses that shed their balm,
Careless of Mosby he lay--in a charm!
The Major took him by the Hand--
Into the friendly clasp it bled
(A ball through heart and hand he rued):
"Good-by" and gazed with humid glance;
Then in a hollow revery said
"The weakness thing is lustihood;
But Mosby--" and he checked his mood.
"Where's the advance?--cut off, by heaven!
Come, Surgeon, how with your wounded there"
"The ambulance will carry all"
"Well, get them in; we go to camp.
Seven prisoners gone? for the rest have care"
Then to himself, "This grief is gall;
That Mosby!--I'll cast a silver ball!"
"Ho!" turning--"Captain Cloud, you mind
The place where the escort went--so shady?
Go search every closet low and high,
And barn, and bin, and hidden bower--
Every covert--find that lady!
And yet I may misjudge her--ay,
Women (like Mosby) mystify.
"We'll see. Ay, Captain, go--with speed!
Surround and search; each living thing
Secure; that done, await us where
We last turned off. Stay! fire the cage
If the birds be flown." By the cross-road spring
The bands rejoined; no words; the glare
Told all. Had Mosby plotted there?
The weary troop that wended now--
Hardly it seemed the same that pricked
Forth to the forest from the camp:
Foot-sore horses, jaded men;
Every backbone felt as nicked,
Each eye dim as a sick-room lamp,
All faces stamped with Mosby's stamp.
In order due the Major rode--
Chaplain and Surgeon on either hand;
A riderless horse a negro led;
In a wagon the blanketed sleeper went;
Then the ambulance with the bleeding band;
And, an emptied oat-bag on each head,
Went Mosby's men, and marked the dead.
What gloomed them? what so cast them down,
And changed the cheer that late they took,
As double-guarded now they rode
Between the files of moody men?
Some sudden consciousness they brook,
Or dread the sequel. That night's blood
Disturbed even Mosby's brotherhood.
The flagging horses stumbled at roots,
Floundered in mires, or clinked the stones;
No rider spake except aside;
But the wounded cramped in the ambulance,
It was horror to hear their groans--
Jerked along in the woodland ride,
While Mosby's clan their revery hide.
The Hospital Steward--even he--
Who on the sleeper kept his glance,
Was changed; late bright-black beard and eye
Looked now hearse-black; his heavy heart,
Like his fagged mare, no more could dance;
His grape was now a raisin dry:
'Tis Mosby's homily--_Man must die_.
The amber sunset flushed the camp
As on the hill their eyes they fed;
The pickets dumb looks at the wagon dart;
A handkerchief waves from the bannered tent--
As white, alas! the face of the dead:
Who shall the withering news impart?
The bullet of Mosby goes through heart to heart!
They buried him where the lone ones lie
(Lone sentries shot on midnight post)--
A green-wood grave-yard hid from ken,
Where sweet-fern flings an odor nigh--
Yet held in fear for the gleaming ghost!
Though the bride should see threescore and ten,
She will dream of Mosby and his men.
Now halt the verse, and turn aside--
The cypress falls athwart the way;
No joy remains for bard to sing;
And heaviest dole of all is this,
That other hearts shall be as gay
As hers that now no more shall spring:
To Mosby-land the dirges cling.
Lee in the Capitol.
Lee in the Capitol.
Hard pressed by numbers in his strait,
Rebellion's soldier-chief no more contends--
Feels that the hour is come of Fate,
Lays down one sword, and widened warfare ends.
The captain who fierce armies led
Becomes a quiet seminary's head--
Poor as his privates, earns his bread.
In studious cares and aims engrossed,
Strives to forget Stuart and Stonewall dead--
Comrades and cause, station and riches lost,
And all the ills that flock when fortune's fled.
No word he breathes of vain lament,
Mute to reproach, nor hears applause--
His doom accepts, perforce content,
And acquiesces in asserted laws;
Secluded now would pass his life,
And leave to time the sequel of the strife.
But missives from the Senators ran;
Not that they now would gaze upon a swordless foe,
And power made powerless and brought low:
Reasons of state, 'tis claimed, require the man.
Demurring not, promptly he comes
By ways which show the blackened homes,
And--last--the seat no more his own,
But Honor's; patriot grave-yards fill
The forfeit slopes of that patrician hill,
And fling a shroud on Arlington.
The oaks ancestral all are low;
No more from the porch his glance shall go
Ranging the varied landscape o'er,
Far as the looming Dome--no more.
One look he gives, then turns aside,
Solace he summons from his pride:
"So be it! They await me now
Who wrought this stinging overthrow;
They wait me; not as on the day
Of Pope's impelled retreat in disarray--
By me impelled--when toward yon Dome
The clouds of war came rolling home"
The burst, the bitterness was spent,
The heart-burst bitterly turbulent,
And on he fared.
In nearness now
He marks the Capitol--a show
Lifted in amplitude, and set
With standards flushed with a glow of Richmond yet;
Trees and green terraces sleep below.
Through the clear air, in sunny light,
The marble dazes--a temple white.
Intrepid soldier! had his blade been drawn
For yon stirred flag, never as now
Bid to the Senate-house had he gone,
But freely, and in pageant borne,
As when brave numbers without number, massed,
Plumed the broad way, and pouring passed--
Bannered, beflowered--between the shores
Of faces, and the dinn'd huzzas,
And balconies kindling at the sabre-flash,
'Mid roar of drums and guns, and cymbal-crash,
While Grant and Sherman shone in blue--
Close of the war and victory's long review.
Yet pride at hand still aidful swelled,
And up the hard ascent he held.
The meeting follows. In his mien
The victor and the vanquished both are seen--
All that he is, and what he late had been.
Awhile, with curious eyes they scan
The Chief who led invasion's van--
Allied by family to one,
Founder of the Arch the Invader warred upon:
Who looks at Lee must think of Washington;
In pain must think, and hide the thought,
So deep with grievous meaning it is fraught.
Secession in her soldier shows
Silent and patient; and they feel
(Developed even in just success)
Dim inklings of a hazy future steal;
Their thoughts their questions well express:
"Does the sad South still cherish hate?
Freely will Southen men with Northern mate?
The blacks--should we our arm withdraw,
Would that betray them? some distrust your law.
And how if foreign fleets should come--
Would the South then drive her wedges home"
And more hereof. The Virginian sees--
Replies to such anxieties.
Discreet his answers run--appear
Briefly straightforward, coldly clear.
"If now," the Senators, closing, say,
"Aught else remain, speak out, we pray"
Hereat he paused; his better heart
Strove strongly then; prompted a worthier part
Than coldly to endure his doom.
Speak out? Ay, speak, and for the brave,
Who else no voice or proxy have;
Frankly their spokesman here become,
And the flushed North from her own victory save.
That inspiration overrode--
Hardly it quelled the galling load
Of personal ill. The inner feud
He, self-contained, a while withstood;
They waiting. In his troubled eye
Shadows from clouds unseen they spy;
They could not mark within his breast
The pang which pleading thought oppressed:
He spoke, nor felt the bitterness die.
"My word is given--it ties my sword;
Even were banners still abroad,
Never could I strive in arms again
While you, as fit, that pledge retain.
Our cause I followed, stood in field and gate--
All's over now, and now I follow Fate.
But this is naught. A People call--
A desolted land, and all
The brood of ills that press so sore,
The natural offspring of this civil war,
Which ending not in fame, such as might rear
Fitly its sculptured trophy here,
Yields harvest large of doubt and dread
To all who have the heart and head
To feel and know. How shall I speak?
Thoughts knot with thoughts, and utterance check.
Before my eyes there swims a haze,
Through mists departed comrades gaze--
First to encourage, last that shall upbraid!
How shall I speak? The South would fain
Feel peace, have quiet law again--
Replant the trees for homestead-shade.
You ask if she recants: she yields.
Nay, and would more; would blend anew,
As the bones of the slain in her forests do,
Bewailed alike by us and you.
A voice comes out from these charnel-fields,
A plaintive yet unheeded one:
_'Died all in vain? both sides undone'_
Push not your triumph; do not urge
Submissiveness beyond the verge.
Intestine rancor would you bide,
Nursing eleven sliding daggers in your side?
"Far from my thought to school or threat;
I speak the things which hard beset.
Where various hazards meet the eyes,
To elect in magnanimity is wise.
Reap victory's fruit while sound the core;
What sounder fruit than re-established law?
I know your partial thoughts do press
Solely on us for war's unhappy stress;
But weigh--consider--look at all,
And broad anathema you'll recall.
The censor's charge I'll not repeat,
The meddlers kindled the war's white heat--
Vain intermeddlers and malign,
Both of the palm and of the pine;
I waive the thought--which never can be rife--
Common's the crime in every civil strife:
But this I feel, that North and South were driven
By Fate to arms. For our unshriven,
What thousands, truest souls, were tried--
As never may any be again--
All those who stemmed Secession's pride,
But at last were swept by the urgent tide
Into the chasm. I know their pain.
A story here may be applied:
'In Moorish lands there lived a maid
Brought to confess by vow the creed
Of Christians. Fain would priests persuade
That now she must approve by deed
The faith she kept. "What dead?" she asked.
"Your old sire leave, nor deem it sin,
And come with us." Still more they tasked
The sad one: "If heaven you'd win--
Far from the burning pit withdraw,
Then must you learn to hate your kin,
Yea, side against them--such the law,
For Moor and Christian are at war"
"Then will I never quit my sire,
But here with him through every trial go,
Nor leave him though in flames below--
God help me in his fire!"
So in the South; vain every plea
'Gainst Nature's strong fidelity;
True to the home and to the heart,
Throngs cast their lot with kith and kin,
Foreboding, cleaved to the natural part--
Was this the unforgivable sin?
These noble spirits are yet yours to win.
Shall the great North go Sylla's way?
Proscribe? prolong the evil day?
Confirm the curse? infix the hate?
In Unions name forever alienate?
"From reason who can urge the plea--
Freemen conquerors of the free?
When blood returns to the shrunken vein,
Shall the wound of the Nation bleed again?
Well may the wars wan thought supply,
And kill the kindling of the hopeful eye,
Unless you do what even kings have done
In leniency--unless you shun
To copy Europe in her worst estate--
Avoid the tyranny you reprobate."
He ceased. His earnestness unforeseen
Moved, but not swayed their former mien;
And they dismissed him. Forth he went
Through vaulted walks in lengthened line
Like porches erst upon the Palatine:
Historic reveries their lesson lent,
The Past her shadow through the Future sent.
But no. Brave though the Soldier, grave his plea--
Catching the light in the future's skies,
Instinct disowns each darkening prophecy:
Faith in America never dies;
Heaven shall the end ordained fulfill,
We march with Providence cheery still.
Attributed to a northerner after attending the last of two funerals
from the same homestead--those of a national and a confederate
officer (brothers), his kinsmen, who had died from the effects of
wounds received in the closing battles.
How often in the years that close,
When truce had stilled the sieging gun,
The soldiers, mounting on their works,
With mutual curious glance have run
From face to face along the fronting show,
And kinsman spied, or friend--even in a foe.
What thoughts conflicting then were shared.
While sacred tenderness perforce
Welled from the heart and wet the eye;
And something of a strange remorse
Rebelled against the sanctioned sin of blood,
And Christian wars of natural brotherhood.
Then stirred the god within the breast--
The witness that is man's at birth;
A deep misgiving undermined
Each plea and subterfuge of earth;
The felt in that rapt pause, with warning rife,
Horror and anguish for the civil strife.
Of North or South they recked not then,
Warm passion cursed the cause of war:
Can Africa pay back this blood
Spilt on Potomac's shore?
Yet doubts, as pangs, were vain the strife to stay,
And hands that fain had clasped again could slay.
How frequent in the camp was seen
The herald from the hostile one,
A guest and frank companion there
When the proud formal talk was done;
The pipe of peace was smoked even 'mid the war,
And fields in Mexico again fought o'er.
In Western battle long they lay
So near opposed in trench or pit,
That foeman unto foeman called
As men who screened in tavern sit:
"You bravely fight" each to the other said--
"Toss us a biscuit!" o'er the wall it sped.
And pale on those same slopes, a boy--
A stormer, bled in noon-day glare;
No aid the Blue-coats then could bring,
He cried to them who nearest were,
And out there came 'mid howling shot and shell
A daring foe who him befriended well.
Mark the great Captains on both sides,
The soldiers with the broad renown--
They all were messmates on the Hudson's marge,
Beneath one roof they laid them down;
And free from hate in many an after pass,
Strove as in school-boy rivalry of the class.
A darker side there is; but doubt
In Nature's charity hovers there:
If men for new agreement yearn,
Then old upbraiding best forbear:
"_The South's the sinner!_" Well, so let it be;
But shall the North sin worse, and stand the Pharisee?
O, now that brave men yield the sword,
Mine be the manful soldier-view;
By how much more they boldly warred,
By so much more is mercy due:
When Vickburg fell, and the moody files marched out,
Silent the victors stood, scorning to raise a shout.
1. The gloomy lull of the early part of the winter of 1860-1, seeming
big with final disaster to our institutions, affected some minds that
believed them to constitute one of the great hopes of mankind, much as
the eclipse which came over the promise of the first French Revolution
affected kindred natures, throwing them for the time into doubt and
2. "The terrible Stone Fleet on a mission as pitiless as the granite
that freights it, sailed this morning from Port Royal, and before two
days are past will have made Charleston an inland city. The ships are
all old whalers, and cost the government from $2500 to $5000 each. Some
of them were once famous ships.--" (From Newspaper Correspondences of
Sixteen vessels were accordingly sunk on the bar at the river entrance.
Their names were as follows:
All accounts seem to agree that the object proposed was not
accomplished. The channel is even said to have become ultimately
benefited by the means employed to obstruct it.
3. The _Temeraire_, that storied ship of the old English fleet, and the
subject of the well-known painting by Turner, commends itself to the
mind seeking for some one craft to stand for the poetic ideal of those
great historic wooden warships, whose gradual displacement is lamented
by none more than by regularly educated navy officers, and of all
4. Some of the cannon of old times, especially the brass ones, unlike
the more effective ordnance of the present day, were cast in shapes
which Cellini might have designed, were gracefully enchased, generally
with the arms of the country. A few of them--field-pieces--captured in
our earlier wars, are preserved in arsenals and navy-yards.
5. Whatever just military criticism, favorable or otherwise, has at any
time been made upon General McClellan's campaigns, will stand. But if,
during the excitement of the conflict, aught was spread abroad tending
the unmerited disparagement of the man, it must necessarily die out,
though not perhaps without leaving some traces, which may or may not
prove enduring. Some there are whose votes aided in the re-election of
Abraham Lincoln, who yet believed, and retain the belief, that General
McClellan, to say the least, always proved himself a patriotic and
honorable soldier. The feeling which surviving comrades entertain for
their late commnder is one which, from its passion, is susceptible of
versified representation, and such it receives.
6. At Antietam Stonewall Jackson led one wing of Lee's army, consequenty
sharing that day in whatever may be deemed to have been the fortunes of
7. Admiral Porter is son of the late Commodore Porter, commander of the
Frigate Essex on that Pacific cruise which ended in the desparate fight
off Valparaiso with the English frigates Cherub and Phoebe, in the year
8. Among numerous head-stones or monuments on Cemetery Hill, marred or
destroyed by the enemy's concentrated fire, was one, somewhat
conspicuous, of a Federal officer killed before Richmond in 1862.
On the 4th of July 1865, the Gettysburg National Cemetery, on the same
height with the original burial-ground, was consecrated, and the
corner-stone laid of a commemorative pile.
9. "I dare not write the horrible and inconceivable atrocities
committed," says Froissart, in alluding to the remarkable sedition in
France during his time. The like may be hinted of some proceedings of
10. Although the month was November, the day was in character an October
one--cool, clear, bright, intoxicatingly invigorating; one of those days
peculiar to the ripest hours of our American Autumn. This weather must
have had much to do with the spontaneous enthusiasm which seized the
troops--and enthusiasm aided, doubtless, by glad thoughts of the victory
of Look-out Mountain won the day previous, and also by the elation
attending the capture, after a fierce struggle, of the long ranges of
rifle-pits at the mountain's base, where orders for the time should have
stopped the advance. But there and then it was that the army took the
bit between its teeth, and ran away with the generals to the victory
commemorated. General Grant, at Culpepper, a few weeks prior to crossing
the Rapidan for the Wilderness, expressed to a visitor his impression of
the impulse and the spectacle: Said he: "I never saw any thing like it:"
language which seems curiously undertoned, considering its application;
but from the taciturn Commander it was equivalent to a superlative or
hyperbole from the talkative.
The height of the Ridge, according to the account at hand, varies along
its length from six to seven hundred feet above the plain; it slopes at
an angle of about forty-five degrees.
11. The great Parrott gun, planted in the marshes of James Island, and
employed in the prolonged, though at times intermitted bombardment of
Charleston, was known among our soldiers as the Swamp Angel.
St. Michael's, characterized by its venerable tower, was the historic
and aristrocratic church of the town.
12. Among the Northwestern regiments there would seem to have been more
than one which carried a living eagle as an added ensign. The bird
commemorated here was, according the the account, borne aloft on a perch
beside the standard; went through successive battles and campaigns; was
more than once under the surgeon's hands; and at the close of the
contest found honorable repose in the capital of Wisconsin, from which
state he had gone to the wars.
13. The late Major General McPherson, commanding the Army of the
Tennessee, a major of Ohio and a West Pointer, was one of the foremost
spirits of the war. Young, though a veteran; hardy, intrepid, sensitive
in honor, full of engaging qualities, with manly beauty; possessed of
genius, a favorite with the army, and with Grant and Sherman. Both
Generals have generously acknowledged their professional obligiations to
the able engineer and admirable soldier, their subordinate and junior.
In an informal account written by the Achilles to this Sarpedon, he
says: "On that day we avenged his death. Near twenty-two hundred of the
enemy's dead remained on the ground when night closed upon the scene of
It is significant of the scale on which the war was waged, that the
engagement thus written of goes solely (so far as can be learned) under
the vague designation of one of the battles before Atlanta.
14. The piece was written while yet the reports were coming North of
Sherman's homeward advance from Savannah. It is needless to point out
its purely dramatic character.
Though the sentiment ascribed in the beginning of the second stanza
must, in the present reading, suggest the historic tragedy of the 14th
of April, nevertheless, as intimated, it was written prior to that
event, and without any distinct application in the writer's mind. After
consideration, it is allowed to remain.
Few need be reminded that, by the less intelligent classes of the South,
Abraham Lincoln, by nature the most kindly of men, was regarded as a
monster wantonly warring upon liberty. He stood for the personification
of tyrannic power. Each Union soldier was called a Lincolnite.
Undoubtedly Sherman, in the desolation he inflicted after leaving
Atlanta, acted not in contravention of orders; and all, in a military
point of view, if by military judged deemed to have been expedient, and
nothing can abate General Sherman's shining renown; his claims to it
rest on no single campaign. Still, there are those who can not but
contrast some of the scenes enacted in Georgia and the Carolinas, and
also in the Shenandoah, with a circumstance in a great Civil War of
heathen antiquity. Plutarch relates that in a military council held by
Pompey and the chiefs of that party which stood for the Commonwealth, it
was decided that under no plea should any city be sacked that was
subject to the people of Rome. There was this difference, however,
between the Roman civil conflict and the American one. The war of Pompey
and Caesar divided the Roman people promiscuously; that of the North and
South ran a frontier line between what for the time were distinct
communities or nations. In this circumstance, possibly, and some others,
may be found both the cause and the justification of some of the
sweeping measures adopted.
15. At this period of excitement the thought was by some passionately
welcomed that the Presidential successor had been raised up by heaven to
wreak vengeance on the South. The idea originated in the remembrance
that Andrew Johnson by birth belonged to that class of Southern whites
who never cherished love for the dominant: that he was a citizen of
Tennessee, where the contest at times and in places had been close and
bitter as a Middle-Age feud; the himself and family had been hardly
treated by the Secessionists.
But the expectations build hereon (if, indeed, ever soberly
entertained), happily for the country, have not been verified.
Likely the feeling which would have held the entire South chargeable
with the crime of one exceptional assassin, this too has died away with
the natural excitement of the hour.
16. The incident on which this piece is based is narrated in a newspaper
account of the battle to be found in the "Rebellion Record." During the
disaster to the national forces on the first day, a brigade on the
extreme left found itself isolated. The perils it encountered are given
in detail. Among others, the following sentences occur:
"Under cover of the fire from the bluffs, the rebels rushed down,
crossed the ford, and in a moment were seen forming this side the creek
in open fields, and within close musket-range. Their color-bearers
stepped defiantly to the front as the engagement opened furiously; the
rebels pouring in sharp, quick volleys of musketry, and their batteries
above continuing to support them with a destructive fire. Our
sharpshooters wanted to pick off the audacious rebel color-bearers, but
Colonel Stuart interposed: 'No, no, they're too brave fellows to be
17. According to a report of the Secretary of War, there were on the
first day of March, 1865, 965,000 men on the army pay-rolls. Of these,
some 200,000--artillery, cavalry, and infantry--made up from the larger
portion of the veterans of Grant and Sherman, marched by the President.
The total number of Union troops enlisted during the war was 2,668,000.
18. For a month or two after the completion of peace, some thousands of
released captives from the military prisons of the North, natives of all
parts of the South, passed through the city of New York, sometimes
waiting farther transportation for days, during which interval they
wandered penniless about the streets, or lay in their worn and patched
gray uniforms under the trees of Battery, near the barracks where they
were lodged and fed. They were transported and provided for at the
charge of government.
19. Shortly prior to the evacuation of Petersburg, the enemy, with a
view to ultimate repossession, interred some of his heavy guns in the
same field with his dead, and with every circumstance calculated to
deceive. Subsequently the negroes exposed exposed the stratagem.
20. The records of Northern colleges attest what numbers of our noblest
youth went from them to the battle-field. Southern members of the same
classes arrayed themselves on the side of Secession; while Southern
seminaries contributed large quotas. Of all these, what numbers marched
who never returned except on the shield.
21. Written prior to the founding of the National Cemetery at
Andersonville, where 15,000 of the reinterred captives now sleep, each
beneath his personal head-board, inscribed from records found in the
prison-hospital. Some hundreds rest apart and without name. A glance at
the published pamphlet containing the list of the buried at
Andersonville conveys a feeling mournfully impressive. Seventy-four
large double-columned page in fine print. Looking through them is like
getting lost among the old turbaned head-stones and cypresses in the
interminable Black Forest of Scutari, over against Constantinople.
22. In one of Kilpatrick's earlier cavalry fights near Aldie, a Colonel
who, being under arrest, had been temporarily deprived of his sword,
nevertheless, unarmed, insisted upon charging at the head of his men,
which he did, and the onset proved victorious.
23. Certain of Mosby's followers, on the charge of being unlicensed
foragers or fighters, being hung by order of a Union cavalry commander,
the Partisan promptly retaliated in the woods. In turn, this also was
retaliated, it is said. To what extent such deplorable proceedings were
carried, it is not easy to learn.
South of the Potamac in Virginia, and within a gallop of the Long Bridge
at Washington, is the confine of a country, in some places wild, which
throughout the war it was unsafe for a Union man to traverse except with
an armed escort. This was the chase of Mosby, the scene of many of his
exploits or those of his men. In the heart of this region at least one
fortified camp was maintained by our cavalry, and from time to time
expeditions ended disastrously. Such results were helped by the
exceeding cunning of the enemy, born of his wood-craft, and, in some
instances, by undue confidence on the part of our men. A body of
cavalry, starting from camp with the view of breaking up a nest of
rangers, and absent say three days, would return with a number of their
own forces killed and wounded (ambushed), without being able to
retaliate farther than by foraging on the country, destroying a house or
two reported to be haunts of the guerrillas, or capturing non-combatants
accused of being secretly active in their behalf.
In the verse the name of Mosby is invested with some of those
associations with which the popular mind is familiar. But facts do not
warrant the belief that every clandestine attack of men who passed for
Mosby's was made under his eye or even by his knowledge.
In partisan warfare he proved himself shrewd, able, and enterprising,
and always a wary fighter. He stood well in the confidence of his
superior officers, and was empoyed by them at times in furtherance of
important movements. To our wounded on more than one occasion he showed
considerate kindness. Officers and civilians captured by forces under
his immediate command were, so long as remaining under his orders,
treated with civility. These things are well known to those personally
familiar with the irregular fighting in Virginia.
24. Among those summoned during the spring just passed to appear before
the Reconstruction Committee of Congress was Robert E. Lee. His
testimony is deeply interesting, both in itself and as coming from him.
After various questions had been put and briefly answered, these words
were addressed to him:
"If there be any other matter about which you wish to speak on this
occasions, do so freely." Waiving this invitation, he responded by a
short personal explanation of some point in a previous answer, and after
a few more brief questions and replies, the interview closed.
In the verse a poetical liberty has been ventured. Lee is not only
represented as responding to the invitation, but also as at last
renouncing his cold reserve, doubtless the cloak to feelings more or
less poignant. If for such freedom warrant be necessary the speeches in
ancient histories, not to speak of those in Shakespeare's historic
plays, may not unfitly perhaps be cited.
The character of the original measures proposed about time in the
National Legislature for the treatment of the (as yet) Congressionally
excluded South, and the spirit in which those measures were
advocated--these are circumstances which it is fairly supposable would
have deeply influenced the thoughts, whether spoken or withheld, of a
Southerner placed in the position of Lee before the Reconstruction
Were I fastidiously anxious for the symmetry of this book, it would
close with the notes. But the times are such that patriotism--not free
from solicitude--urges a claim overriding all literary scruples.
It is more than a year since the memorable surrender, but events have
not yet rounded themselves into completion. Not justly can we complain
of this. There has been an upheavel affecting the basis of things; to
altered circumstances complicated adaptations are to be made; there are
difficulties great and novel. But is Reason still waiting for Passion to
spend itself? We have sung of the soldiers and sailors, but who shall
hymn the politicians?
In view of the infinite desirableness of Re-establishment, and
considering that, so far as feeling is concerned, it depends not mainly
on the temper in which the South regards the North, but rather
conversely; one who never was a blind adherent feels constrained to
submit some thoughts, counting on the indulgence of his countrymen.
And, first, it may be said that, if among the feelings and opinions
growing immediately out of a great civil convulsion, there are any which
time shall modify or do away, they are presumably those of a less
temperate and charitable cast.
There seems no reason why patriotism and narrowness should go together,
or why intellectual impartiality should be confounded with political
trimming, or why serviceable truth should keep cloistered be a cause not
partisan. Yet the work of Reconstruction, if admitted to be feasible at
all, demands little but common sense and Christian charity. Little but
these? These are much.
Some of us are concerned because as yet the South shows no penitence.
But what exactly do we mean by this? Since down to the close of the war
she never confessed any for braving it, the only penitence now left her
is that which springs solely from the sense of discomfiture; and since
this evidently would be a contrition hypocritical, it would be unworthy
in us to demand it. Certain it is that penitence, in the sense of
voluntary humiliation, will never be displayed. Nor does this afford
just ground for unreserved condemnation. It is enough, for all practical
purposes, if the South have been taught by the terrors of civil war to
feel that Secession, like Slavery, is against Destiny; that both now lie
buried in one grave; that her fate is linked with ours; and that
together we comprise the Nation.
The clouds of heroes who battled for the Union it is needless to
eulogize here. But how of the soldiers on the other side? And when of a
free community we name the soldiers, we thereby name the people. It was
in subserviency to the slave-interest that Secession was plotted; but it
was under the plea, plausibly urged, that certain inestimable rights
guaranteed by the Constitution were directly menaced, that the people of
the South were cajoled into revolution. Through the arts of the
conspirators and the perversity of fortune, the most sensitive love of
liberty was entrapped into the support of a war whose implied end was
the erecting in our advanced century of an Anglo-American empire based
upon the systematic degradation of man.
Spite this clinging reproach, however, signal military virtues and
achievements have conferred upon the Confederate arms historic fame, and
upon certain of the commanders a renown extending beyond the sea--a
renown which we of the North could not suppress even if we would. In
personal character, also, not a few of the military leaders of the South
enforce forbearance; the memory of others the North refrains from
disparaging; and some, with more or less of reluctance, she can respect.
Posterity, sympathizing with our convictions, but removed from our
passions, may perhaps go farther here. If George IV. could out of the
graceful instinct of a gentleman, raise an honorable monument in the
great fane of Christendom over the remains of the enemy of his dynasty,
Charles Edward, the invader of England and victor in the rout at Preston
Pans--Upon whose head the king's ancestor but one reign removed has set
a price--is it probable that the grandchildren of General Grant will
pursue with rancor, or slur by sour neglect, the memory of Stonewall
But the South herself is not wanting in recent histories and biographies
which record the deeds of her chieftains--writings freely published at
the North by loyal houses, widely read here, and with a deep though
saddened interest. By students of the war such works are hailed as
welcome accessories, and tending to the completeness of the record.
Supposing a happy issue out of present perplexities, then, in the
generation next to come, Southerners there will be yielding allegiance
to the Union, feeling all their interests bound up in it, and yet
cherishing unrebuked that kind of feeling for the memory of the soldiers
of the fallen Confederacy that Burns, Scott, and the Ettrick Shepherd
felt for the memory of the gallant clansmen ruined through their
fidelity to the Stuarts--a feeling whose passion was tempered by the
poetry imbuing it, and which in no wise affected their loyalty to the
Georges, and which, it may be added, indirectly contributed excellent
things to literature. But, setting this view aside, dishonorable would
it be in the South were she willing to abandon to shame the memory of
brave men who with signal personal disinterestedness warred in her
behalf, though from motives, as we believe, so deplorably astray.
Patriotism is not baseness, neither is it inhumanity. The mourners who
this summer bear flowers to the mounds of the Virginian and Georgian
dead are, in their domestic bereavement and proud affection, as sacred
in the eye of Heaven as are those who go with similar offerings of
tender grief and love into the cemeteries of our Northern martyrs. And
yet, in one aspect, how needless to point the contrast.
Cherishing such sentiments, it will hardly occasion surprise that, in
looking over the battle-pieces in the foregoing collection, I have been
tempted to withdraw or modify some of them, fearful lest in presenting,
though but dramatically and by way of a poetic record, the passions and
epithets of civil war, I might be contributing to a bitterness which
every sensible American must wish at an end. So, too, with the emotion
of victory as reproduced on some pages, and particularly toward the
close. It should not be construed into an exultation misapplied--an
exultation as ungenerous as unwise, and made to minister, however
indirectly, to that kind of censoriousness too apt to be produced in
certain natures by success after trying reverses. Zeal is not of
necessity religion, neither is it always of the same essence with poetry
There were excesses which marked the conflict, most of which are perhaps
inseparable from a civil strife so intense and prolonged, and involving
warfare in some border countries new and imperfectly civilized.
Barbarities also there were, for which the Southern people collectively
can hardly be held responsible, though perpetrated by ruffians in their
name. But surely other qualities--exalted ones--courage and fortitude
matchless, were likewise displayed, and largely; and justly may these be
held the characteristic traits, and not the former.
In this view, what Northern writer, however patriotic, but must revolt
from acting on paper a part any way akin to that of the live dog to the
dead lion; and yet it is right to rejoice for our triumph, so far as it
may justly imply an advance for our whole country and for humanity.
Let it be held no reproach to any one that he pleads for reasonable
consideration for our late enemies, now stricken down and unavoidably
debarred, for the time, from speaking through authorized agencies for
themselves. Nothing has been urged here in the foolish hope of
conciliating those men--few in number, we trust--who have resolved never
to be reconciled to the Union. On such hearts every thing is thrown away
except it be religious commiseration, and the sincerest. Yet let them
call to mind that unhappy Secessionist, not a military man, who with
impious alacrity fired the first shot of the Civil War at Sumter, and a
little more than four years afterward fired the last one into his own
heart at Richmond.
Noble was the gesture into which patriotic passion surprised the people
in a utilitarian time and country; yet the glory of the war falls short
of its pathos--a pathos which now at last ought to disarm all animosity.
How many and earnest thoughts still rise, and how hard to repress them.
We feel what past years have been, and years, unretarded years, shall
come. May we all have moderation; may we all show candor. Though,
perhaps, nothing could ultimately have averted the strife, and though to
treat of human actions is to deal wholly with second causes,
nevertheless, let us not cover up or try to extenuate what, humanly
speaking, is the truth--namely, that those unfraternal denunciations,
continued through years, and which at last inflamed to deeds that ended
in bloodshed, were reciprocal; and that, had the preponderating strength
and the prospect of its unlimited increase lain on the other side, on
ours might have lain those actions which now in our late opponents we
stigmatize under the name of Rebellion. As frankly let us own--what it
would be unbecoming to parade were foreigners concerned--that our
triumph was won not more by skill and bravery than by superior resources
and crushing numbers; that it was a triumph, too, over a people for
years politically misled by designing men, and also by some
honestly-erring men, who from their position could not have been
otherwise than broadly influential; a people who, though indeed, they
sought to perpetuate the curse of slavery, and even extend it, were not
the authors of it, but (less fortunate, not less righteous than we) were
the fated inheritors; a people who, having a like origin with ourselves,
share essentially in whatever worthy qualities we may possess. No one
can add to the lasting reproach which hopeless defeat has now cast upon
Secession by withholding the recognition of these verities.
Surely we ought to take it to heart that that kind of pacification,
based upon principles operating equally all over the land, which lovers
of their country yearn for, and which our arms, though signally
triumphant, did not bring about, and which law-making, however anxious,
or energetic, or repressive, never by itself can achieve, may yet be
largely aided by generosity of sentiment public and private. Some
revisionary legislation and adaptive is indispensable; but with this
should harmoniously work another kind of prudence not unallied with
entire magnanimity. Benevolence and policy--Christianity and
Machiavelli--dissuade from penal severities toward the subdued.
Abstinence here is as obligatory as considerate care for our unfortunate
fellow-men late in bonds, and, if observed, would equally prove to be
wise forecast. The great qualities of the South, those attested in the
War, we can perilously alienate, or we may make them nationally
available at need.
The blacks, in their infant pupilage to freedom, appeal to the
sympathies of every humane mind. The paternal guardianship which for the
interval government exercises over them was prompted equally by duty and
benevolence. Yet such kindliness should not be allowed to exclude
kindliness to communities who stand nearer to us in nature. For the
future of the freed slaves we may well be concerned; but the future of
the whole country, involving the future of the blacks, urges a paramount
claim upon our anxiety. Effective benignity, like the Nile, is not
narrow in its bounty, and true policy is always broad. To be sure, it is
vain to seek to glide, with moulded words, over the difficulties of the
situation. And for them who are neither partisans, nor enthusiasts, nor
theorists, nor cynics, there are some doubts not readily to be solved.
And there are fears. Why is not the cessation of war now at length
attended with the settled calm of peace? Wherefore in a clear sky do we
still turn our eyes toward the South, as the Neapolitan, months after
the eruption, turns his toward Vesuvius? Do we dread lest the repose may
be deceptive? In the recent convulsion has the crater but shifted? Let
us revere that sacred uncertainty which forever impends over men and
nations. Those of us who always abhorred slavery as an atheistical
iniquity, gladly we join in the exulting chorus of humanity over its
downfall. But we should remember that emancipation was accomplished not
by deliberate legislation; only through agonized violence could so
mighty a result be effected. In our natural solicitude to confirm the
benefit of liberty to the blacks, let us forbear from measures of
dubious constitutional rightfulness toward our white countrymen
--measures of a nature to provoke, among other of the last evils,
exterminating hatred of race toward race. In imagination let us place
ourselves in the unprecedented position of the Southerners--their
position as regards the millions of ignorant manumitted slaves in their
midst, for whom some of us now claim the suffrage. Let us be Christians
toward our fellow-whites, as well as philanthropists toward the blacks
our fellow-men. In all things, and toward all, we are enjoined to do as
we would be done by. Nor should we forget that benevolent desires, after
passing a certain point, can not undertake their own fulfillment without
incurring the risk of evils beyond those sought to be remedied.
Something may well be left to the graduated care of future legislation,
and to heaven. In one point of view the co-existence of the two races in
the South--whether the negro be bond or free--seems (even as it did to
Abraham Lincoln) a grave evil. Emancipation has ridded the country of
the reproach, but not wholly of the calamity. Especially in the present
transition period for both races in the South, more or less of trouble
may not unreasonably be anticipated; but let us not hereafter be too
swift to charge the blame exclusively in any one quarter. With certain
evils men must be more or less patient. Our institutions have a potent
digestion, and may in time convert and assimilate to good all elements
thrown in, however originally alien.
But, so far as immediate measures looking toward permanent
Re-establishment are concerned, no consideration should tempt us to
pervert the national victory into oppression for the vanquished. Should
plausible promise of eventual good, or a deceptive or spurious sense of
duty, lead us to essay this, count we must on serious consequences, not
the least of which would be divisions among the Northern adherents of
the Union. Assuredly, if any honest Catos there be who thus far have
gone with us, no longer will they do so, but oppose us, and as
resolutely as hitherto they have supported. But this path of thought
leads toward those waters of bitterness from which one can only turn
aside and be silent.
But supposing Re-establishment so far advanced that the Southern seats
in Congress are occupied, and by men qualified in accordance with those
cardinal principles of representative government which hitherto have
prevailed in the land--what then? Why the Congressman elected by the
people of the South will--represent the people of the South. This may
seem a flat conclusion; but in view of the last five years, may there
not be latent significance in it? What will be the temper of those
Southern members? and, confronted by them, what will be the mood of our
own representatives? In private life true reconciliation seldom follows
a violent quarrel; but if subsequent intercourse be unavoidable, nice
observances and mutual are indispensable to the prevention of a new
rupture. Amity itelf can only be maintained by reciprocal respect, and
true friends are punctilious equals. On the floor of Congress North and
South are to come together after a passionate duel, in which the South
though proving her valor, has been made to bite the dust. Upon
differences in debate shall acrimonious recriminations be exchanged?
shall censorious superiority assumed by one section provoke defiant
self-assertion on the other? shall Manassas and Chickamauga be retorted
for Chattanooga and Richmond? Under the supposition that the full
Congress will be composed of gentlemen, all this is impossible. Yet if
otherwise, it needs no prophet of Israel to foretell the end. The
maintenance of Congressional decency in the future will rest mainly with
the North. Rightly will more forbearance be required from the North than
the South, for the North is victor.
But some there are who may deem these latter thoughts inapplicable, and
for this reason: Since the test-oath opertively excludes from Congress
all who in any way participated in Secession, therefore none but
Southerners wholly in harmony with the North are eligible to seats. This
is true for the time being. But the oath is alterable; and in the wonted
fluctuations of parties not improbably it will undergo alteration,
assuming such a form, perhaps, as not to bar the admission into the
National Legislature of men who represent the populations lately in
revolt. Such a result would involve no violation of the principles of
democratic government. Not readily can one perceive how the political
existence of the millions of late Secessionists can permanently be
ignored by this Republic. The years of the war tried our devotion to the
Union; the time of peace may test the sincerity of our faith in
In no spirit of opposition, not by way of challenge, is any thing
here thrown out. These thoughts are sincere ones; they seem natural
--inevitable. Here and there they must have suggested themselves to many
thoughtful patriots. And, if they be just thoughts, ere long they must
have that weight with the public which already they have had with
For that heroic band--those children of the furnace who, in regions like
Texas and Tennessee, maintained their fidelity through terrible
trials--we of the North felt for them, and profoundly we honor them. Yet
passionate sympathy, with resentments so close as to be almost domestic
in their bitterness, would hardly in the present juncture tend to
discreet legislation. Were the Unionists and Secessionists but as
Guelphs and Ghibellines? If not, then far be it from a great nation now
to act in the spirit that animated a triumphant town-faction in the
Middle Ages. But crowding thoughts must at last be checked; and, in
times like the present, one who desires to be impartially just in the
expression of his views, moves as among sword-points presented on every
Let us pray that the terrible historic tragedy of our time may not have
been enacted without instructing our whole beloved country through
terror and pity; and may fulfillment verify in the end those
expectations which kindle the bards of Progress and Humanity.
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