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TWELFTH TOAST:—“The Heroines who aided in the War, untitled, unbrevetted."
Response by Colonel Vilas.
MR. CHAIRMAN:—The adjectives applied to the subject of the sentiment seem to indicate our acknowledgment of some unrequited worth—a case for dolorous elegy. Heroines, untitled, unbrevetted. We had these, our heroines, but knew them not; and, mournful to relate, at the close of the war they alone of all the heroic host failed of a brevet.
Mr. Chairman, I may say to them, with confidence, that this omission was unintentional. Let us repair the fault. If brevets will alleviate their sorrow, let us in generosity give them some of ours. They can not want them all. But who were they that displayed these unrequited examples of feminine courage and womanly devotion? Answer, each from his own observation and experience. Did we know them in camp or field, or can we call their names and assign the place where they shone in some heroic achievement, arresting by its valor the attention of men?
Since the surrender of the Southern armies we have seen and heard of many females who would have been heroines but for a mistake in time. All that mighty host of womankind called Anthony, Stanton, Woodhull, would have been heroines undoubtedly had not the war been too early for them. Their tender youth forbade! Let us console ourselves. What was their loss may have been our eternal gain.
No. We must not search the field or the camp for heroines of the war.
Our hostile array stretched out in too wide proportions for the traditionary ways of female heroism.
In the vastness of our military preparation there was no need for the wives and daughters of our good lads to melt the bullets and load the guns of the men in ranks, as did the brave old dames of Londonderry. Nor to seize the cannon's swab and fill the post of a dead husband at the gun, as did Brevet Captain Molly, of gallant memory, at Monmouth court-house.
But we had our heroines, and none were ever nobler, none ever more devoted, none ever worthier of our love. The women of the North were true to our cause, and when with weeping and in sorrow they sent their lads away, they followed them with affectionate devotion and ministering care.
Not in the field, but in the hospital, where no sound of fife or drum inspired the sentiment of glory, they shone with blessed light. Among the horrid sights and fearful scenes beneath the yellow flag, amidst disease and death, right nobly fought they the good fight; and many a living man to-day, living when otherwise he would have died, will bear his grateful testimony to their heroism. I well remember when I took my first soldier to the hospital in Louisville, whither we brought him after many days weary marching. I left him there at night, with the death damp on his brow, but at once beside his bed stood two noble women, whose black habits and white hoods marked their sacrifice of this world's joys to the deeds of christian love.
And when the next day, on my returning, they told me he was dead, they gave me, with tender sensibility, the ring from his finger and locks of his hair to be sent to his mother.
God bless the Sisters of Charity! And not they alone, but from every walk in life, from among the high-born and the lowly, from every church and every creed, came to the rescue and relief of the stricken soldier the sainted form of woman.
Not above all, but as the type of all and conspicuous among all, I can not refrain from here speaking the name of Wisconsin's pride; she who pushed her way to the bedside of the soldier in every hospital on the Mississippi, indeed to every hospital in the land where lay Wisconsin's sons; whose persuasive eloquence wrought from a kind but reluctant President that happy order for hospitals at home; who brought back to Northern air and Northern skies—“God's country"—the sick and wounded to be restored to health, and who furnished her benevolent labor in the cause by securing the establishment of the magnificent home in this city for the children of our dead soldiers, those children whose bright faces and promising lives have to-day testified in your presence to her nobility-Cordelia A. P. Harvey. No! No! They want no brevets, these our heroines. But while the republic endures on the foundation of patriotic devotion, their titles shall not fail in the hearts of men. They had no place in the field or camp, these tender women. For such as they the soldier of the Army of the Tennessee gladly bared his breast to the storm of battle. Although far away, well knew he, too, their power and their worth. In the dismal depths of the Southern swamps, and on the hills and plains of that war-stricken land, months passed by uncheered by the sight of female beauty, or the sound of female voice. The eye longed for the grateful sight, the ear craved the pleasing sound.
The time has been to each of us when but the sight of anything that had been touched by the hand of woman made the heart bound as with electric thrills.
The crowded memory then showed us home. The soldier saw again, in vivid light, his mother, his wife and little ones. The tender thought swelled full the heart and for a moment swam in the
eye. And if ever in the breast of a gallant soldier of the army a faltering fear found footplace, it was at such a time when he recalled the sweet faces and the tear-dimmed eyes that looked upon his going forth, and bethought him how needful to their love and life was he, and what should be their grief should he fall.
But for a moment. By the same reflection the trembling courage grew firm. Though they had sent him sadly, they yet had sent him with hope and pride. The heroines of home came then to his rescue. The patriotic fires which burned in their hearts touched him again with rekindling flame. And now again the glorious folds of the grand old flag spoke to him the inspired story of human liberty, and shone with the brightness of a divine effulgence, the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, whose holy leadership might take him on to an heroic death.
Music:-“Quickstep, True Blue."
THIRTEENTH TOAST:—“Our Comrades who fell on the March and Field. They are but a little in advance.”
FOURTEENTH TOAST:—“Our Judiciary. One of the prides of a self-governed people."
Response by General M. F. FORCE.
It is a graceful and becoming tribute from a military society to toast the judiciary. There is a certain relation between the army and the judiciary. Neither one makes the laws. But one interprets the laws, the other aids in enforcing them after they are made. Different as they seem from each other in their ordinary working they are alike in this, that you can not have either an army or a judiciary worth having unless you fill them with men educated and trained in their respective professions.
A judge sitting on the bench, listening while others speak, is an unpretending spectacle. Yet his office is the dividing line between barbarism and civilization. For in the savage state every man asserts his own claim, and disputes are determined by violence and might. In civilized states men submit their claims to the arbitrament of courts, and they are determined by law. In disputes before a justice of the peace, in the graver questions brought before the Supreme Court of the United States, the humble suitor and the mighty stand on an equal footing. The law is the same for both.
The judge fills, indeed, a holy office. He can be no respector of persons. But now, in most of our States, the judiciary is on trial, or rather, the people put themselves on trial. An elective judiciary with short terms is an experiment of which we can not yet tell the outcome. You have toasted the judiciary as one of the prides of a self-governed people. An elective judiciary will be just what the people make it. If popular elections shall debase the judiciary by electing bad men judges, the judiciary will in turn ruin the people. But if the people fill the judiciary as they officer the
army, with men trained in their profession, men who know nothing of politics in their official duties, who carry out the law as it is written, then will the judiciary make smooth the paths of peace and be an anchor in times of trouble.
FIFTEENTH TOAST:-“The Press."
Response by General Atwood.
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE:-It is with no little embarrassment that I rise to respond to this sentiment, as I believe all who have spoken before me were actively connected with the late war on the field of battle. I had hoped and expected that some one who was thus actively connected with the war, and now connected with the press, would have been called out to speak in its behalf. As one who has long been associated with the press, I will not deny but it is a pleasant thing to have it recognized on an important occasion like the present. In behalf of the members of the profession to which I belong, I thank you, gentlemen, that our calling is remembered when you meet in these pleasant reunions.
There is, perhaps, an appropriateness in this recognition, as editors may be considered as belonging to an army that is always fighting. They do not discharge leaden bullets at the enemy, but the missiles they use, in many instances, hit those who are careful not to expose their persons to the enemy in war. They may prick some skins that bullets can never reach. [Applause.)
It is a pleasure to speak to the Army of the Tennessee. Its whole career made up a record of noble deeds with grand results. I felt an especial interest in that army, and carefully watched its course, as in it were many of the best and noblest sons of our own State; and it gives me much pleasure to say here, as an editor, that we were never called upon to record any want of gallant action on the part of Wisconsin troops while in that army, or in any other. [Applause.) We were always proud of our soldiers.
Reference has been made, by several speakers here to-night, to the fact that independence and freedom had been given to 4,000,000 of slaves as the result of the late war. I am free to admit that this was the immediate result of the war; but such a result could not have been achieved if the soldiers had not been educated in the great principles of freedom. There was intelligence behind every bullet discharged in defense of the Union in the late war. The press, I claim, is entitled to a large share of the credit of having imparted this necessary education. It had required years of labor to fully educate the people up to the point of doing their full duty in respect to the slaves of this country. Without this prior education, and the support the loyal press gave the army during the war, these glorious results could not have been achieved. I ask for the press its proper share of the credit; and I know the members of the whole Army of the Tennessee will take pleasure in awarding it.
The mission of the enlightened press is that of a public educator. The people of this country are a busy people. Their time is largely taken up with business. The newspapers furnish their principal reading. Upon them the people depend for most of the knowledge they obtain outside of their regular business. The position of an editor is an extremely important one, and the man who desires to do his full duty in this calling feels keenly its responsibilities.
But I will not detain you with further remarks, more than to