Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 14.djvu/37

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

Annual Reunion of Pegram Battalion Association. 31

of the world. Weary and worn with marching and hunger and fatigue, and opposed by overwhelming numbers, in that desperate charge up the heights of Cemetery Hill they gave that world an example of heroic daring and unflinching courage which finds no parallel in all its annals. But, I forbear, for of particular leaders or special battles I have no time to speak. Shiloh, Chickamauga, Seven Pines, Sharps- burg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Petersburg ! What bright leaves all in the chaplet which the valor of the Confederate infantry wove into its immortal crown !

No puppets were the men who filled its ranks, to be moved like senseless pawns on the battle's board. The secret of its almost superhuman powers in attack and defense is to be found in the intelli- gence and individualitv of its members ; in their pride of birth and race ; in the purity of their motives ; in their strong political con- victions ; their knowledge of and attachment to the principles of constitutional liberty and constitutional law ; and above all, in the fact that thev fought for their firesides and their homes ; their cherished institutions and their fatherland. These sentiments, common to each, bound all together, as with hooks of steel, in one united whole. True it is that many adopted citizens were to be found in their ranks who nobly sustained the ancient renown of the races whence they sprung ; but this great fact stands unchallenged, that the Confederate infantry was distinctively an American infantry and its victories distinctively the triumph of Americans over armies composed, perhaps in greater part, of recruits drawn from half the civilized nations of the world. This fundamental truth will some day be sure to find complete recog- nition, and Americans everywhere point with pride to the grand achievements of this same Rebel infantry and claim a share in its renown, and in the splendid fame and deathless names of its incom- parable leaders, the highest embodiment and the purest types of American manhood — its Jackson and its Lee.

But, my comrades,

Hushed is the roll of the Rebel drum.

The sabres are sheathed and the cannon are dumb, And Fate with pitiless hand has furled

The flag that once challenged the gaze of the world."

Nevertheless, to you who heard that drum beat to arms on many a hard fought field, its echoes have not yet altogether died away. That flag, so often followed in the thickest hell of battle, will ever be to you the cherished symbol of a cause believed to be just and true, and