Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/297

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287
Reunion Virginia Division Army Northern Virginia.


grace—a gnarled face, rough as mountain oaks must look to puling willows—silent, as the pulsing sea is silent, not with the rest of feebleness, but with the God-like balance of powers, infinite and resistless thoughtful, with that concentred thought in whose consuming heat things vain and frivolous shrivel and evaporate like autumn leaves in forest fires—ambitious, with an ambition passing vulgar thirsts, as pride passes vanity; as love, friendliness; an ambition which even some friends have denied him, because it was of a sort for which the measure and standard were to them all unknown—brave, with that superb courage which dares without knowing that it dares wise, with a wisdom that defied surprise, and never encountered the unexpected—fertile, inventive, exhaustless; of resource prodigious, and patient endurance more prodigious—of such faculty and such achievement that in a public life scantily reaching two and twenty months in all, the dull earth was bursting with his fame, borne by the winds, the ships of the air, which no blockade could chain.

A shadow darkened his grave face that bright May morn—not of doubt or disappointment, for by some strange power of soul he laid upon Heaven in absolute content all the issues of his life. Perchance it was the shade of the wing of the death angel between him and the sun—that sun before whose second return he was to be smitten; smitten to the death by those who would have rather thrust their hands, like Caius Mucius, into fiercest flames than willingly have wounded a button on his faded coat.

It was our immortal infantrymen—who emulated with his foot soldiers the swift surprises of the trooper; who deployed artillery like skirmishers.

When next I saw him, not many days thereafter, our hero lay in yonder capitol, cold, coffined and dead. About his bier bronzed and maimed men, who had faced a hundred deaths without a quickening pulse, stood weeping—weeping with passionate tempest of grief, as women weep over their first born, when the sweet eyes, brighter to them than evening stars, are glazing, and the loved prattle to which the songs of the Seraphs were in their ears discord is only a faint, fading, far-off echo.

He had passed over the river. He had met "the last enemy." He was dead!

"Dead, with his harness on him,
Rigid and cold and white;
 Marking the place of the vanguard
Still in the ancient light.

"Dead, but the end was fitting,
First in the ranks he led—"

Ah, what sad prophecy in the lines which follow, as we remember how our fortunes waned after Chancellorsville!—

"Dead, but the end was fitting,
First in the ranks he led,
 And he marked the height of his nation's gain,
As he lay in his harness—dead!"