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history of the Army of the Tennessee, but if I can present some thoughts which will enliven and perpetuate its memory, I shall be quite satisfied. To me the highest enjoyment, promoted by occasions like this, is to call to mind and make mention of the patriotic and valorous soldiers of the war, and especially to speak of that class in which we find the typical and ideal soldiers; for to bring to light the history of the characteristics of a true soldier is to illustrate the finest type of manhood which the great Maker and fashioner of all has ever created. In illustration of this class, I shall pass by the prominent and conspicuous one, that of the great captains, the masterly leaders, the exalted comrades. The poet's inspiration, the orator's eloquence, the historian's narration, have illumined their lives and their fame, and sent into imperishable history their deeds and their renown. But, sir, I would make proud mention of those who were the machinery rather than the management of war; of those who, when they heard with almost palsied shock of the first assault upon their country's flag, of the first defiance to their country's laws, came with a patriotism and a zeal such as the world had never seen to the protection of their country's laws and the defence of their country's flag. Comrade ship tires not at their mention; companionship tires not at their loving recall to our memories and our hearts on such an occasion as this. In illustration of this class, I shall speak of one who for unselfish patriotism, unswerving fidelity to trusts and duties and transcendent faithfulness in his sphere, had no superior.
The campaign of Vicksburg was one of the most important in the history of the war, and the capture of that stronghold was one of the grandest military achievements of this or any other age. The river movement below Vicksburg was the pivotal one upon which the campaign turned. Whose brain conceived it, who first proposed that movement which was then justly considered so hazardous and which in the light of results is deemed so fortunate? We may never know. Was it Grant? The day before he determined upon the plan, he said to a distinguished civilian then visiting him and his
army: “ To tell you the truth, I am at my wits end. I really don't know what move next to make. I have tried everything I can think of, and here we are yet.” But the following morning with cheerful countenance he said to the same gentleman: "I will take Vicksburg in sixty days." [Applause] Who was his counselor on that eventful and fateful night we may never know.
The story was once told me by an eye-witness of the first meeting held in Galena, Illinois, for the purpose of raising a company of troops for the war. That community had quite a number of citizens of southern birth and sentiment, and during the progress of the meeting active and spirited opposition to the patriotic efforts were made. The speakers for and against the objects of the gathering were called out and listened to with feelings of absorbing interest. At last the call was made for John A. Rawlins. Mr. Rawlins was one of the most eloquent and forcible speakers of that region; a democrat of standing and influence, and the opponents of the measure had great hopes for his aid. He had come into the meeting, evidently desiring not to be observed. He was sitting on the window sill at the extreme end of the room with folded arms and bowed head, apparently deeply oppressed with the trying crisis before him. As the cry vociferously continued “Rawlins, Rawlins," he started nervously and almost anxiously along the passage leading to the rostrum, and mounting the platform, behind which the promoters of the meeting had displayed a large United States flag, he turned his swarthy countenance and glittering eyes to it and exclaimed: “ Thou emblem of the Nation's pride and the Nation's glory, where thou goest I will go; thy people shall be my people, and if thou fall, which God forbid, may I, too, fall, and my then worthless body be enshrined within thy folds." [Applause.] And turning to the presiding officer, he said: “Mr. Chairman, I hope this company will be raised to-night, and the Secretary will please enroll my name as the first enlistment.” Patriotism had conquered partyism, and loyalty had won a bold and fearless champion. In the great struggle for American preservation, whose brain was more fertile, whose will more persistent, whose courage more constant than that of General John A. Rawlins, the ever conspicuous chief of Grant's military family? [Applause.] Need I say that his brother officers believed in him and idolized him, and in this presence may I not say that when the true history of Vicksburg shall be written, added fame and reverence will be given to his name and memory.
But, Mr. President, there is another class of which I would speak with glowing pride in American patriotism and valor. I refer especially to the genuine and legitimate volunteer, as distinguished
from the mercenary hireling and the ignoble butcher. We meet them at this day in the various vocations of life, and find them respected and sterling citizens as they were patriotic and valiant soldiers. Kindly and warm-hearted neighbors as they were genial and cheerful comrades in the army. They are such, it may be said, as of the Huguenots of old-in war brave as lions and fierce as tigers—in peace gentle as children and loving as women. At the outset of the war, it was thought by thoughtful men that the rough men, the daring frontiersmen, the laborers on the public works, steamboatmen, roustabouts, were to constitute the real soldiers of our armies. Those who had studied the habits and watched the tendencies of such men, and observed their recklessness of life and seeming indifference to danger, had little doubt that they would be the soldier most healthful in camp, most enduring on the march and most courageous on the battle-field. But experience and the lessons of the service taught truly, and the fact was learned that in the intelligent mechanic from the shops, the sturdy farmer from the fields, the thoughtful student from the schools, and the pale but manly clerk from the store-house and the office were the efficient and valorous soldiers of the war. More prudent and patient in camp, unflagging on the march, bravest on the field of battle and tenderest to wounded comrades. His fidelity to duty, his bravery in danger was not that of the hireling or the reckless adventurer, but it was the bravery born of patriotism nurtured at the mother's breast, a fidelity to duty learned at the father's knee, and a courage inspired only by true enduring and unswerving loyalty. He had come at his country's call, with patriotic purpose to battle for the perpetuity of his inherited and cherished institutions, to defend its glorious flag and to secure enduring liberty to the homes and the hearths of the loved ones left behind. In the silent night, perhaps, tossing on a sleepless bed, the endearing recollections of the wife and the child of his soul, of the parent he adored, the maid he loved, the friends of his youth and the green fields of his childhood, might bring longing sorrow to his heart and scalding tears to his eyes, but in to-morrow's battle, in the tempest of the strife and furor of the carnage, the voiceless cry from the watching home of friends serve to inflame his zeal and strengthen his arm to deeds of greater daring. And the contest over and the victory won, with bleeding heart bending over a bleeding comrade, if tender tears should fall, he was none the less, no he was all the more, an ideal soldier.
“Ah, do not deem him weak,
General BELKNAP said:
MR. PRESIDENT AND COMRADES:
It is late to make a speech, and if I talk about anything, of course I will have to talk about the Army of the Tennessee. But I cannot help thinking of Shiloh, where, on those truly fatal days, the regiments of this Army gave their flags to their State and Nation stamped with an immortal history; and of that fight at Corinth, where the conduct of the Army of the Tennessee on that day gave its part to the final triumph of the war; and of Vicksburg, that splendid maneuver of war, that wonderful exhibition of generalship, where lines of skirmishers met other lines opposing, where not one man in the command, though he might have had a theory of his own, had any idea of what our leader's theory was. But we learned it afterwards, when the boats barricaded with cotton drifted below the doomed city; when the troops marched across the advancing lines of the Northern army, and taking the boats as they arrived, crossed over to the other side; where our great leader, with neither haversack nor canteen, with scarcely a handkerchief to wipe the sweat of the heated day from his face, gathered his army as they crossed the river, threw them upon the attacking forces of the enemy, whipped them in every fight, and standing between two Confederate fragments, received the surrender of thirty-one thousand six hundred men and two hundred and forty-six cannon (applause), the largest capture of men and guns up to that time ever made by any man on earth sapplause], and more men and material than his own army had when it crossed the river.
Grant's deeds were great, his career a marvel, and his life, from beginning to end, a wonder. But among all the triumphs of his amazing life, the light of the Vicksburg victory shines the brightest of the bright.
Then Atlanta, ours, as our great General has said and has been repeated again and again to-night, “ours and fairly won," where our men fought on both sides of the works; where they were surrendered without their own knowledge, and without the knowl.
edge of the enemy; where our great leader, McPherson, without any warning other than that the distant guns could give, rode into the presence of an unlooked for force, and gave his life to liberty And then came the march from Savannah to the sea, where the men who came from the far northwest, far beyond the borders of the turgid Missouri, stood on the shore as the breakers of the blue Atlantic broke as if in anger at their feet. Then through the Carolinas to the north, and the surrender and peace and happiness and home.
It seems to me that the citizens of Cincinnati deserve a word from us.
They have given us great honor, and we thank them for the recognition, I am sure. (Applause Gentlemen, there are men in this army, doubting the future, fearing that their work would be forgotten, but the declining years have shown, as all the years from the beginning of the world, that the men who
to the wars always have the highest honor. Remembering the friend ships that grew in the war, that lasted through its trials, and that have increased with the passing years. We thank the citizens of Cincinnati, I am sure, for their kindness to us, and I am certain that we hope that the felicities of life and the blessings of heaven may be always theirs in the same full measure, and that they now have the best benedictions of the Army of the Tennessee. [Applause)
The banquet here closed.