|Address by Carl Schurz at a special meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, February 17, 1891, upon seconding resolutions before the Chamber on the death of General William Tecumseh Sherman. Text from Thomas B. Reed, ed., Modern Eloquence, Vol. IX (“Occasional Addresses”), Philadelphia: John D. Morris and Co., 1900, pp. 1026-1028.|
Gentlemen: — The adoption by the Chamber of Commerce of these resolutions which I have the honor to second, is no mere perfunctory proceeding. We have been called here by a genuine impulse of the heart. To us General Sherman was not a great man like other great men, honored and revered at a distance. We had the proud and happy privilege of calling him one of us. Only a few months ago, at the annual meeting of this Chamber, we saw the familiar face of our honorary member on this platform by the side of our President. Only a few weeks ago he sat at our banquet table, as he had often before, in the happiest mood of conviviality, and contributed to the enjoyment of the night with his always unassuming and always charming speech. And as he moved among us without the slightest pomp of self-conscious historic dignity, only with the warm and simple geniality of his nature, it would cost us sometimes an effort of the memory to recollect that he was the renowned captain who had marshaled mighty armies victoriously on many a battlefield, and whose name stood, and will forever stand, in the very foremost rank of the saviors of this Republic, and of the great soldiers of the world's history. Indeed, no American could have forgotten this for a moment; but the affection of those who were so happy as to come near to him, would sometimes struggle to outrun their veneration and gratitude.
Death has at last conquered the hero of so many campaigns; our cities and towns and villages are decked with flags at half-mast; the muffled drum and the funeral cannon-boom will resound over the land as his dead body passes to the final resting-place; and the American people stand mournfully gazing into the void left by the sudden disappearance of the last of the greatest men brought forth by our war of regeneration — and this last also finally become, save Abraham Lincoln alone, the most widely beloved. He is gone; but as we of the present generation remember it, history will tell all coming centuries the romantic story of the famous “March to the Sea” — how, in the dark days of 1864, Sherman, having worked his bloody way to Atlanta, then cast off all his lines of supply and communication, and, like a bold diver into the dark unknown, seemed to vanish with all his hosts from the eyes of the world, until his triumphant reappearance on the shores of the ocean proclaimed to the anxiously expecting millions, that now the final victory was no longer doubtful, and that the Republic would surely be saved.
Nor will history fail to record that this great general was, as a victorious soldier, a model of republican citizenship. When he had done his illustrious deeds, he rose step by step to the highest rank in the army, and then, grown old, he retired. The Republic made provision for him in modest republican style. He was satisfied. He asked for no higher reward. Although the splendor of his achievements, and the personal affection for him, which every one of his soldiers carried home, made him the most popular American of his day, and although the most glittering prizes were not seldom held up before his eyes, he remained untroubled by ulterior ambition. No thought that the Republic owed him more ever darkened his mind. No man could have spoken to him of the “ingratitude of Republics,” without meeting from him a stern rebuke. And so, content with the consciousness of a great duty nobly done, he was happy in the love of his fellow citizens.
Indeed, he may truly be said to have been in his old age, not only the most beloved, but also the happiest of Americans. Many years he lived in the midst of posterity. His task was finished, and this he wisely understood. His deeds had been passed upon by the judgment of history, and irrevocably registered among the glories of his country and his age. His generous heart envied no one, and wished every one well; and ill-will had long ceased to pursue him. Beyond cavil his fame was secure, and he enjoyed it as that which he had honestly earned, with a genuine and ever fresh delight, openly avowed by the charming frankness of his nature. He dearly loved to be esteemed and cherished by his fellow men, and what he valued most, his waning years brought him in ever increasing abundance. Thus he was in truth a most happy man, and his days went down like an evening sun in a cloudless autumn sky. And when now the American people, with that peculiar tenderness of affection which they have long borne him, lay him in his grave, the happy ending of his great life may soothe the pang of bereavement they feel in their hearts at the loss of the old hero who was so dear to them, and of whom they were and always will be so proud. His memory will ever be bright to us all; his truest monument will be the greatness of the Republic he served so well; and his fame will never cease to be prized by a grateful country, as one of its most precious possessions.
- [Wikisource note: The resolutions were as follows:]
Whereas, The members of the Chamber of Commerce but a short time since were called to assemble in the presence of a severe national bereavement to pay their tribute of respect to the character and noble labors of a distinguished civilian and statesman, having under his care the fiduciary interests of the Republic; and
Whereas, To-day, by the dispensation of an all-wise Providence, we meet to pay our tribute of affectionate regard to the memory of a great soldier, whose splendid services in the long struggle for the preservation of the Union were as brilliant as they were successful, and whose achievements illustrated the greatness of a soldier who in conquest knew no hate, and in whose magnanimity there was no revenge; therefore,
Resolved, That the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York hereby places on record its unanimous sentiment of profound sorrow because of the irreparable loss the Nation has sustained in the death of our distinguished soldier citizen, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.
Resolved, That by the death of Gen. Sherman the world has lost one of its greatest military heroes. Pure in heart, of spotless integrity, cool and undismayed in danger, he not only won honor and renown from the soldiers of his command, but he invariably inspired them with friendship, affection, and confidence. He was the soldier of justice, right, and truth, and he has passed from our midst as a brilliant star pales and vanishes from the morning sky.
Resolved, That the results achieved by the late war were largely due to the consummate skill, adroit strategy, and matchless generalship of William Tecumseh Sherman, and that the people of this Republic are indebted to him for his eminent services in securing to them the inestimable blessings of a united and prosperous country.
Resolved, That as a public-spirited citizen he proved himself to be a capable man of affairs, with a deep interest in many of our local institutions. As an honorary member he has presided over the deliberations of this Chamber, and his genial presence was seldom missed at our annual banquets. Socially he was the peer of those with whom companionship had a charm and illustrated in his intercourse all the qualities of a nobleman in the amenities of life. His home was a haven of repose, and love and gentleness were the angels that ministered at his fireside.
Resolved, That the Chamber of Commerce hereby tenders to the family of Gen. Sherman the expression of sincere sympathy in the hour of their breavement.