Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small]

nander into the ranks of the enemy. None were false to conscience or to country. None turned their backs on the old flag.

“The most splendid exhibition of devotion to country, and to the government, and to the flag, was displayed also by our prisoners of war. We had 175,000 soldiers taken prisoners during the Civil War, and when death was stalking within the walls of their prisons, when starvation was almost overcoming their brave hearts, when mind was receding and reason was tottering, liberty was offered to those 175,000 men upon one condition—that they would swear allegiance to the Confederate government, and enlist in the cause of the Confederacy. What was the answer of our brave but starving comrades? There could be but one answer. They preferred to suffer all and to bear all rather than to prove false to the cause they had sworn to defend.

“Now, so far removed from the great war, we are prone to forget its disasters and underestimate its sacrifices. Their magnitude is best appreciated when contrasted with the losses and sacrifices of other armies in other times. There were slain in the late war nearly 6,000 commanding officers and over 90,000 enlisted men, and 207,000 died of disease and from exposure, making a grand total of 303,000 men. In the War of the Revolution between the United States and Great Britain, excluding those captured at Yorktown and Saratoga, the whole number of men killed and wounded and captured of the combined British and American forces was less than 22,000. We witnessed that loss in a single battle in a single day in the great Civil War. From 1775 to 1861, including all the foreign wars in which we were engaged, and all our domestic disturbances, covering a period of nearly twenty-four years, we lost but ten general officers, while in the four and a half years of the late war, we lost one hundred and twenty-five.

“And, my fellow citizens, we not only knew little of the scope and proportions of that great war, or the dreadful sacrifice to be incurred, but as little knew the great results which were to follow. We thought at the beginning, and we thought long after the commencement of the war, that the Union to be saved was the Union as it was. That was our understanding when we enlisted—that it was the Constitution and the Union—the Constitution as it was and the Union as it was—for which we fought, little heeding the teachings of history, that wars and revolutions cannot fix in advance the boundaries of their influence or determine the scope of their power. History enforces no sterner lesson. Our own revolution of 1776 produced results unlooked for by its foremost leaders. Separation was no part of the original purpose. Political alienation was no part of the first plan. Disunion was neither thought of nor accepted. Why, in 1775, on the 5th day of July, in Philadelphia, when the continental congress was in session declaring its purposes toward Great Britain, what did it say? After declaring that it would raise armies, it closed that declaration with this significant language:

“ 'Lest this declaration should disquiet the minds of some of our friends and fellow subjects in other parts of the empire, we assure them that we do not mean to dissolve the union which has so long and happily subsisted between us.'

“Our fathers said in that same declaration:

“ 'We have not raised armies with ambitious designs to separate from Great Britain and establish independent states.'

“Those were the views of the fathers. Those were the views entertained by the soldiers and statesmen of colonial days. Why, even the Declaration of Independence, which has sounded the voice of liberty to all mankind, was a shock to some of the colonists. The cautious and conservative, while believing in its eternal truth, doubted its wisdom and its policy. It was in advance of the thought of the great body of the people. Yet it stirred a feeling for independence, and an aspiration for self-government, which made a republic which has now lived more than a century; and only a few days ago you were permitted to celebrate the centennial inauguration in this city of its first great president. Out of all that came a republic that stands for human rights and human destiny, which to-day represents more than any other government the glorious future of the human race.

“Comrades of the Grand Army of the Republic, those were brave men whose graves we decorated to-day. No less brave were those whose chambers of repose are beneath the scarlet fields in distant states. We may say of all them as was said of Knights of St. John in the Holy Wars: 'In the forefront of every battle was seen their burnished mail, and in the gloomy rear of every retreat was heard their voice of conscience and of courage.' 'It is not,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'what we say of them, but what they did, which will live.' They have written their own histories, they have builded their own monuments. No poor words of mine can enhance the glory of their deeds, or add a laurel to their fame. Liberty owes them a debt which centuries of tribute and mountains of granite adorned by the master hands of art can never repay. And so long as liberty lasts and the love of liberty has a place in the hearts of men, they will be safe against the tooth of time and the fate of oblivion.

“The nation is full of the graves of the dead. You have but a small fraction of them here in New York, although you contributed onetenth of all the dead, one-tenth of all the dying, one-tenth of all the prisoners, one-tenth of all the sacrifices in that great conflict. You have but a small number here; the greater number sleep in distant states, thousands and tens of thousands of them of whom there is no record. We only know that fighting for freedom and union they fell, and that the place where they fell was their sepulchre. The Omniscient One alone knows who they are and whence they came. But when their immortal names are called from their silent muster, when their names are spoken, the answer will come back, as it was the custom for many years in one of the French regiments when the name of De la Tour d'Auvergne was called, the answer came back, 'Died on the field of honor. America has volumes of muster-rolls containing just such a record.

"Mr. President and comrades of the Grand Army of the Republic, our circle is narrowing with the passing years. Every annual roll-call discloses one and another not present, but accounted for. There is a muster-roll over yonder as well as a muster-roll here. The majority of that vast army are fast joining the old commanders who have preceded them on that other shore.

“ 'They are gone who seemed so great

Gone! but nothing can bereave them
Of the force they made their own

Being here; and we believe them
Something far advanced in state,

And that they wear a truer crown
Than any wreath that man can weave them.

Speak no more of their renown,
And in the vast cathedral leave them.

God accept them; Christ receive them.'”
Metropolitan Opera House, New York, May 30, 1889.

ULYSSES S. GRANT. "Mr. President, Citizens of Galena, Ladies and Gentlemen :- I cannot forbear at the outset to express to you the very great honor that I feel in being permitted to share with you, at the city of Galena, in the observance of the seventy-first anniversary of the birth of that great soldier who once belonged to you, but now, as Stanton said to Lincoln, 'belongs to the ages.' No history of the war could be written without mentioning the state of Illinois and city of Galena. They contributed the two most conspicuous names in the great civil conflict, the civil and military rulers—Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. No history of Ulysses S. Grant can be written without there coming unbidden from every lip the name Galena, and no faithful biography of the great soldier will ever omit the name of his cherished friend, General John A. Rawlins, also a

« PreviousContinue »