Monday, September 20, 2010

Camp fires of the confederacy: a volume of humorous anecdotes, reminiscences ...

By Benjamin La Bree



The following extract from the famous address delivered by the late Henry W. Grady before the New England Society of New York, on the occasion of its annual dinner in 1886, derives special interest and appropriateness from the associations of Memorial Day:

"Dr. Talmage has drawn for you, with a master hand, the picture of your returning armies. He has told you how, in pomp and circumstance of war, they came back to you, marching with proud and victorious tread, reading their glory in a nation's eyes. Will you bear with me while I tell you of another army that sought its home at the close of the war—an army that marched home in defeat and not in victory, in pathos and not in splendor— but in glory that equaled yours, and to hearts that were as loving as ever welcomed heroes home ?

" Let me picture to you the footsore Confederate soldier, as, buttoning up, in his faded gray jacket, the parole which was to bear testimony to his children of his fidelity and faith, he turned his face southward from Appomattox in 1865. I think of him, as ragged, half-starved, heavy-hearted, enfeebled by want and wounds; having fought to exhaustion, he surrenders his gun, wrings the hands of his comrades in silence, and, lifting his tearstained and pallid face for the last time to the graves that dot old Virginia's hills, pulls his gray cap over his brow, and begins the slow and painful journey.

"What does he find? Let me ask you, who went to your homes eager to find, in a welcome you had justly earned, full payment for four years' sacrifice—what does he find when, having followed the battle-stained cross against overwhelming odds, dreading death not half so much as surrender, he reaches the home he left so prosperous and beautiful ? He finds his house in 2 " (17)

ruins, his farm devastated, his slaves free, his stock killed, his barns empty, his trade destroyed, his money worthless, his social system—feudal in its magnificence—swept away, his people without law or legal status, his comrades slain, and the burdens of others heavy on his shoulders.

" Without money, credit, employment, material or training, and, besides all this, confronted with the greatest problem that ever confronted human intelligence—the establishing of a status for the vast body of his liberated slaves — what does he do, this hero in gray, with the heart of gold ? Does he sit down in sullenness and despair ? Not for a day. Surely God, who had stripped him of his prosperity, inspired him in his adversity. As ruin was never before so overwhelming, never was restoration swifter. The soldier stepped from the trenches into the furrow; horses that had charged Federal guns marched before the plow, and fields that ran red with human blood in April were green with the harvest in June ; women reared in luxury cut up their dresses and made dresses for their husbands ; with a patience and a heroism that fit women always as a garment, they gave their hands to work. There was little bitterness in all this. Cheerfulness and frankness prevailed. 'Bill Arp' struck the keynote when he said, 'Well, I killed as many of them as they did of me, and I'm going home to work.' "

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