Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/369

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


General Joseph E. Johnston. 363

that history. No corrupt, no venal thing survives to tarnish it. But of all adversity, there could be none more exquisitely fitted to freeze a noble heart than that which befell the general of the West. How much easier to bear the most cruel blow of adversaries, when on either side are sustaining arms ; when the strength of sympathy in- vests the overthrown with a dignity almost divine the might of that incalculable arm which we call sympathy! But when, to his own view, his own stronghold is his worst hostility, when there is no sup- porting elbow within touch, as he looks out upon the hopes which can only ripen in his ruin, how clear in conscience, how tenacious and erect in spiritual power and purpose, the dethroned must be to be unvanquished ! The day of Johnston's dethronement was his im- perial day. It was the empire of a soul superior to every weapon.

The great campaign by which he will be forever judged is now beyond the wounds of the archers, beyond all slings and arrows, above and beyond outrageous fortune. From the dark defile of Rocky Face to the large prospect of Atlanta, it will be not only a possession, but a pattern for all time. Its rugged scenery is illumi- nated by the meaning with which the lines of greatness clothe the impassive and the obdurate. It has been made the mirror of a great mind. The map of it, the more it is studied, the more clearly will evince, in due expression and proportion, and colors ineffaceable, the lineaments of a giant. It will be a canvas bringing to light that sur-, passing victory, which cancels adverse fate and shines over it and through it.

It was upon a burning deck that Johnston was next summoned to the wheel. It was night when his star again began to burn. The Confed- eracy was in the article of death, when it once more sent for him, whose hand nowhere appears in the drawing of that article. Johnston was sent for to repair the ruin, which he at least did not prepare; to take anew the shattered remnant of that army, wrought into such firmness by him, shattered by others, but which, though shattered, was still firm to him. The Confederacy lifted up its eyes, and beheld all that was left of the Army of Tennessee, tossing and drifting like seaweed in the Carolinas, and a voice which no authority could subdue was heard crying: " All that is left to us is Thermopylae. Oh, for a John- ston to stand there! " And a firm voice answered : " I will stand in the gap." The great gap he had to fill was the one which had been rent in his devoted files by futile battle. It was Thermopylae, not in the beginning, but at the end of warfare. With the portents of