Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/384

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and gallant people stake everything upon the cast of battle, fight their armies to exhaustion, and almost to annihilation, in defending their homes and firesides against invading enemies, and at last are overpowered and overwhelmed, and behold everything that they love go down. The people of the South were a proud and sensitive race, and the world will never know the agonies they suffered in those desperate days. But none had so much to bear, and bore it so bravely, as their indomitable leader. He carried on his great heart the sufferings of his people; he shared their sorrow, and par- took of their grief.


I behold before me here to-day the white heads of Confederate veterans, of the men who thirty-one years ago lost all save honor. They are falling now swifter than ever their comrades fell on the field of battle; they have lived, thank God, to restore their country to freedom and prosperity again dear land! for which they fought and sacrificed and suffered and lost! They who are about to die salute you.

There are those who confidently expect the time to come when Confederate graves will no longer be decorated with flowers; when monuments will cease to commemorate the splendid heroism, or the devoted sacrifices of those who fell for their State. For one, I believe that the time will never come when the South will cease to love the Confederate soldier. He would have been dear to her if he had returned home amid the booming of cannon and the plaudits of victory. Mothers would have lifted their children in their arms to behold the hero's face. Church bells would have rung a nation's joy, and a grateful people would have showered honors upon his head.

God did not will it so.

The soldier came ragged, bleeding, penniless to his desolate home, with sad heart but dauntless courage, to restore the land he loved. He gave all for his country, and she, unhappy mother, had nothing left to give him but her love. Dearer, a thousand times dearer, to the South are her ragged heroes of 1865 than all her victorious sons of other years.

She will never believe that the men who drew sword in defence of her hearth-stones in 1861 are worthy of reproach. Shame upon the Southern people if they shall ever defile the one page of their history which is glorious beyond compare by writing over the records of