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The Local Committee had charge of arranging the banquet, and provided it should be at the Grand Pacific Hotel. At 8 o'clock on the evening of the ioth, was the time fixed and was promptly announced.
The members and guests having assembled in the parlors. marched to the grand dining hall, led by General Sherman and General Logan. The orchestra furnishing excellent marching music. On the south side of the room was the table for the President; on his right were seated, General John A. Logan, General John B. Sanborn, General Green B. Raum, Colonel F. D. Grant, General M. F. Force, General M. M. Bane, Colonel William F. Vilas, General William Sooy Smith, General Schofield, General Hickenlooper, Colonel W. T. Shaw; at his left, General Richard J. Oglesby, General G. M. Dodge, Bishop Fallows, General W. Q. Gresham, General James Grant Wilson, General Clinton B. Fisk, Colonel Gilbert A. Pierce, General John E. Smith, General E. A. Carr, General W. R. Marshall, Colonel Thomas C. Fletcher.
The banquet party were seated at other tables, some forty in number, making up special social parties.
When the assemblage was in their places, General Sherman called order, and while standing, Bishop Fallows said grace as follows:
Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we bless Thee for all Thy manifestations of mercy to us, Thy creatures. Bless and sanctify this service to each one of us, for the Redeemer's sake. Amen.
The following three hours were consumed by the guests in discussing the elegant banquet set before them, and during this time they were entertained by the orchestra with selections from old army songs, and familiar bugle calls on the cornet.
When the bill of fare had been followed to its close by the feasters, General Sherman called for attention, and said:
Now ladies and gentlemen, if you will give us your close atten
tion, we will endeavor to interest you during the after feast. You have now had everything substantial and good. We have reserved the best for the last. I am very glad, indeed, to see so many ladies present. With the beautiful hall, and the arrangement of tables, and the flowers, with all the evidences of taste and refinement, the Society of the Army of the Tennessee has reason to be congratulated, and I, as your President, do congratulate you in thus having met in Chicago, with such a beautiful feast spread before you. Now let us go on to the end, and let our behavior equal the feast which we have already enjoyed. There will be twelve toasts, eleven of which will be responded to. Allowing fifteen minutes for each, you see we will extend pretty close to three hours; therefore, I ask the closest attention, so that each speaker may receive that attention to which he is entitled. The speakers can not interest you or satisfy themselves, unless they have an attentive audience. I will endeavor to leave intervals, or spaces, as it were, between, when you can carry on your conversation. I will now commence with the regular toasts. I hope each and every one of you has a card, and will save me the trouble of reading the finer print. I have a pair of spectacles, and I can read that fine print, but I prefer not to. [Laughter.] The first toast, gentlemen and ladies of the Army of the Tennessee, is:
First TOAST. - The Nation–First, therefore, let nations that pretend to greatness have this, that they be sensible of wrongs.”
Response by Colonel GILBERT A. PIERCE. MR. PRESIDENT:
I am free to confess to you and to the gentlemen composing the Army of the Tennessee, that this subject is too large for me. Away back in the 40's, or even in the 50's, a man of ordinary intelligence might hope to respond fittingly to the toast of "The Nation;" but the day of small things is past. Since we have grown to be a Union of thirty-eight States, and each State an empire in itself, and with more to follow soon, I hope; [applause] since we have grown into the business of raising giants-giants in finance, giants in statesmanship, giants in war. Why, the nation out. stripped eulogy. The day of laudation has passed. The nation speaks for itself. [Applause.] It toots its own horn as it were, and in the blast of that trumpet, so long, so loud, and so musical, the voice of individual mortality may well be silent.
said a short time ago that England had dethroned their Stuarts after revolutions lasting through centuries; that France had estab. lished a Republic only to see the new-born liberty snatched from her grasp and quenched in the gaudy, dazzling despotism of the empire. Mexico, as we all know, has had twenty revolutions and enervating wars; sloth in the mart, schism in the temple, a foreign prince in her palaces and her noblest sons murdered or driven into exile. Republicanism is still an experiment with her, but America, after passing through the greatest war of modern times, came out of it calm, peaceful, secure; the law supreme and the public virtue unimpaired. [.Applause.]
The sentiment accompanying this toast is deserving of more and better attention than I can possibly give it. Let the Nation that aspires to greatness be sensible of wrong. Wrongs, my friends, increase and multiply. Wrongs increase almost as fast as population, and I am tempted to say here in parenthesis that the man, as a rule, who wants to govern you the most is apt to govern you the worst. The wrongs growing out of our Legislative body, out of our legislation as relates to our States, are spe. cially worthy of attention.
It costs the Union one hundred millions of dollars and more annually to enact the laws that are in themselves another hundred millions of dollars' of damage to the people who pay for their enactment. I do not know, Mr. President, where the fault lies. I do not know the remedy; but this I do know, that there is something radically wrong when legislative bodies, designed for the protection of the people, assemble amid the dread of that people, and adjourn amid a general rejoicing, as if a plague had been dissipated by a friendly frost. There are wrongs growing out of the government of cities, wrongs which threaten the very existence of our community, wrongs fostered by the powerful against the weak. We need we must have -- a Nation like that of old Greece, where, if the humblest citizen of the realm is wronged, the whole nation feels the blow and bleeds from the wound. I do not believe that I am one of those mortals who is in constant fear that the government will not be properly carried on, but soinetimes I feel almost the compelling necessity for the organization of a band of men who will devote themselves to the country, as the holiest priest dedicated himself to God. [Applause.] I tell you, my friends, it is no easy task. There is a crown of
thorns to wear, a cross upon which to be crucified; but the men will come with the great necessity, as Lincoln came, as Grant came, as you, Oh! men of the Army of the Tennessee! came when danger lowered and disaster threatened the land. [Applause.] But I do not presume to innumerate the various wrongs that afflict the country, or that are liable to come up in the future. They grow with such rapidity as to excite the deepest apprehension of thoughtful men.
In upholding the right, you men of the Army of the Tennessee destroyed a great wrong, coming gradually to realize the fact that in order to have a permanent Union of these States, you must first destroy that element of discord, slavery. You all remember how embarrassing that question became at the outset of the war. especially in the border States where there were Union men who had property in slaves. What were we to do with those men; What were we to do with their property which escaped ana came into our lines? In 1862, I was a Captain and A. Q. M. stationed at Paducah, Kentucky. Hundreds of fugitive slaves were escaping and coming into our lines, and I was asked to employ a guard for them, and every day almost a man professing Unionism came to us and asked the return of some fugitive slave. The situation was most embarrassing, harassing and perplexing. Fin. ally I addressed a letter to the commanding officer of the post. asking him what I should do; and I want to read the substance of his reply. I am sorry I have not the original letter with me, but this is the substance of it: “The Army is not here as a posse to capture and return fugitive slaves. There were civil officers charged with that duty, but they have been driven out by armed rebellion, and the laws rendered inoperative. We come to restore those laws. Let us do that, and whatever rights the owners of slaves have, under those laws, will be respected. If you have slaves belonging to known Union men, do not harbor them, but neither should you act as the agent for their delivery to their masters. Let them go, but give a darkey a fair chance. [Laughter.] W. T. Sherman, Brigadier General.” [Cheers and laughter.] Well, I gave the darkey a fair chance, [laughter] and as some of you may recall, I have been troubled a good deal about that question. You, men of the Army of the Tennessee, saw many wrongs righted during the war. You saw one individual wrong righted when that man, who was slandered and abused, stepped into the
broad sunlight of that 4th of July, as the conqueror of Vicksburg. (Cheers.] I have an interesting souvenir of the day in the shape of a despatch which was sent around the lines to where I was located on the Yazoo river, and it read in this way:
"Vicksburg will surrender to-day at 12 o'clock. Conditions sent, and answer momentarily expected. Do not go off half cock. Hurrah for old Ulysses! John A. Rawlins, AdjutantGeneral.” [Applause.] A gentleman said to me this morning that he thouglit we were entirely too solemn in these gatherings of the Army of the Tennessee. He said we talked too much of the fact that we were growing old, that our ranks were thinning, that soon there would be no body left of the Army of the Tennessee; and I think he was about half right. These are times of rejoicing. We are growing old to be sure, but when we look around on the. heads here to-night, it looks as if we were going to enjoy some years yet, [laughter and applause), and I have known of a gentleman who tried to palm himself off this morning as a minor in order to escape marriage. [Applause and laughter.] Now, gentlemen, there are plenty of members of the Army of the Tennessee who are still in middle life, or in the prime of life, and they are scattered all over this land. Why, you have no idea how they circulate, and how they get away back into the country in various portions of it. Last fall I stood before an audience of two thousand men away off at Yankton in Southeastern Dakota, an audience composed of veterans of the war, and representing almost every army that fought in the rebellion. I tested them. I asked if there were men there who followed Grant, who fought with Grant at Shiloh and Fort Henry, and stood before those frowning battlements at Vicksburg, and the answer "Aye" came back to me. I asked if there were men who fought on the Rapahannock, and in the Wilderness where patience waited upon final triumph, and the answer came back to me then. I asked if there were men who marched with Sherman to the sea, who fought at Mission Ridge and Lookout Mountain, who were at Atlanta when McPherson fell, and where, when the sword dropped from his nerveless hand, John A. Logan took up that sword and carved the road to victory; [cheers ) and you should have heard the answering cheer that came back from five hundred throats when I asked that question. Ah! my friends, there they are out in this broad land, permeating it with patriotism, leavening as it were