Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/375

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General Joseph E. Johnston. 369

less it is the spectacle of deeds and energies like these which caused the eloquent Union soldier, Colonel Edginton, to declare that the force and vitality of Johnston's character was like the ocean wave not to be measured in time of storm, nor to be fairly estimated until rivalries have ceased.

With the return of peace, Johnston was removed from the field of duty wherein he was best fitted to win renown, and where he had woven the texture of a character as fine as it was firm. For the most part his fine assemblage of endowments lay like a book within its clasp, or like a coal unkindled. Broken by intervals of important duty, for a quarter of a century Johnston found himself doomed to a life of comparative inaction. There have been few to whom it could be more trying to take off the chariot wheels of life's activity. Perhaps one of the hardest of the many trials of his patience was thus to loiter by compulsion on the way where he was wont to spur. To a breast, ever thrilling with the im- pulses of action, patience was made perfect by this last trial. Yet it were wrong to pass without a word the blessing Heaven did not deny him; the meet partaker of his puissance and his pang, who drank of the same cup with him, exalting and exalted by it ; who gave hirn truth for truth, and, under all the blows of time, a con- stancy fixed in heaven that blessing which, however the world might rock, was truer than the needle to the pole the blessing of a wife's true heart. And when of this blessing, too, he was bereft, we all were witnesses to the chastening touch of a brave man's anguish; how sorrow falling upon a character of such strength and depth did not harden, but melted to a tender glory ; how the snows of his last years were irradiated by a soft, benignant light, as of sunset on the Alps. This was the final forge in which the iron of his nature was softened to take a new existence and more exquisite temper. He was the picture of the veteran, sitting in the evening before his tent, all unbroken by the years which are so wont to break. He was the even more splendid picture of an elevation which was not fortuitous, nor dependent upon fortune, as he sat, still erect, amid the ruins of his heart and the storm of life and fate.

So he lived amongst us his upright, straightforward, unaffected life. So, as he lived and moved, the shadows of the dark reaper deepened around him, until at last we saw him standing on the con- fine of the great night. In his eighty-fifth year there he stood, 24