George H. Thomas Eulogy
|George H. Thomas Eulogy
|Remarks at the funeral of General George H. Thomas on April 5, 1870, from a typescript in Carl Schurz's papers in the Library of Congress. A newspaper clipping with the speech appears there as well, but it is not documented as to the paper it is from. The funeral, attended by President Ulysses S. Grant and many other dignitaries, took place at Troy, New York.|
To the recital of the deeds of the man whose loss we lament and whose memory we honor to-night, I have nothing to add. Neither are those who praise him, obliged to indulge in the exaggerations of panegyric or in the arts of apology and palliation to cover up weaknesses and faults. The American people knew General Thomas, and they honored and loved him, because they knew him. His eulogy was written in the hearts of many millions before he died. No epitaph can be more enviable. Whatever I might say in his praise, I can say nothing new.
He forgot the traditions of his home and resisted the seductive appeals of his kindred when the country was in danger and called her faithful sons into her service. The oath he had taken to defend the Republic and to be true to her laws was more potent in his patriotic heart than even the voice of his Mother. Thus he staked his life upon the battlefield.
His genius was not of the flashy, sensational kind, but the vicissitudes of war found it always equal to the emergencies it had to meet, to the difficulties it had to overcome. No man was greater when the danger was greatest. No success rendered him overweening and no disaster was ever known to stagger his firmness.
He rose from obscurity to fame and fame did not affect the glorious simplicity of his heart. He performed great deeds, and to others he modestly left their appreciation. He fulfilled the highest expectations of his country and the ambition that animated him never went beyond the performance of his whole duty. Thus he stands in the hearts of the American people as the great ideal of the republican soldier.
When the conflict of arms was over, it became his duty to wield the national power among those we had conquered. All the teachings of his early education, all the prejudices of his youth were sunk in the conscientious endeavor to secure the rights of the oppressed, to frustrate the designs of the wicked, to respect and make respected the laws, and to be just to all. Those who needed his protection
, found in him an ever ready unfaltering friend, and even those who feared him could not deny him their esteem. The voice of criticism never accused him of an unjust distribution of favor or a willful abuse of power. His bitterest enemy would have regarded as ridiculous any attempt to throw the faintest suspicion upon his integrity, and unselfishness. No man in the nation gained more genuine affection or inspired more unbounded confidence, for none deserved more. Thus he lives in the hearts of the American people as a model citizen of the Republic.
When the tidings of his untimely death flashed over the country, the whole nation exclaimed: “Alas, we have lost one of the best men!” And coming generations will point him out as long as this Republic lives as one of the great examples of Republican virtue.
When Epaminondas fell mortally wounded and his friends deplored that he left no sons, he said, “do I not leave two glorious daughters, the victories of Leuctra and Mantinea?” General Thomas leaves no children behind him to bear his name, but he will have an offspring more glorious even than the fields of Chickamauga and Nashville: it is the good deeds which will spring from the noble ambition inspired and guided in many an American heart by the great example of his life.