John R. (John Riddle) Warner.

Our times and our duty: an oration delivered by request of the Gettysburg Zouaves, before the citizens civil and military of Getttysburg and vicinity, in Spangler's grove, July 4th, 1861 (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryJohn R. (John Riddle) WarnerOur times and our duty: an oration delivered by request of the Gettysburg Zouaves, before the citizens civil and military of Getttysburg and vicinity, in Spangler's grove, July 4th, 1861 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 2)
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JULY i, 1861.










Spangler's Grove, July 4th, 1861.







Gettysburg, Jab/ 20, 1861,

^ Rev. J. R. Warner :

Dear Sir, — We have heard with profound regret that a few per.
sons in our midst, whose sympathies are undoubtedly with the Southern
traitors and rebels, denounce your Oration delivered at the request of
"The Gettysburg Zouaves" on the 4th inst., as partisan in its tone and
sentiment, and "inappropriate," In order to afford the loyal citizens of
our town and country an opportunity of reading your Address, and of
judging for themselves, that the charges brought against it are unwar-
ranted, and only such as traitors to the Constitution and laws of our
Country would make, we respectfully request a copy for publication.
Hoping you will accede to our request, we remain,

Yours, truly.

R. G. Harper,

A. M. Hunter,

A. D. Buehler,

D. M'Conaughy,

.J no. P, M'Creary,'* .

H. J. Fahnestock,

,1. P. Paxton,

J. C. Guinn,

R. A. Lyttle,

II. G. Finney,

A. H. Groh,

T. Duncan Renfrew,

H. W. Roth,

D. M. Kemerer,
W. V. Gotwald,
Frank Richards,
M. Weidman,

E. L. Rowe,
R. B. Hitz,
Leopold Benze,
Philip Poerr,
Samuel Stouffer,
D. Sourry Jones,
Henry C. Grossman,
Jacob F. Wicklein,
C. Galeu Treichler,
S. V. Stadelman,

J. R. Reiser,
R. Horner,
Jas. J. Wills,
John Hoke,
Legh R. Baugher,
David Wills,
Chas. Horner,
D. A. Buehler,
Geo. Arnold,
Chas. C. Hummel,
J. L. Smith,
M. C. Horine,
Theod. L. Seip,
H. J. Watkins,
Wilson Leiser,
T. C. Pritchard,
Michael Colver,
John J. Cressman,
M. G. Boyer,

B. Harrie James,

C. M. George,

J. B. Riemensnyder,
E. W. Meisenheldev,
Leonard Groh,
Alfred Yeiser,
Jac. H. Wieting
J no. C. Lane.

Gettysburg, July 20, 1861.

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your comrnuuica-
tion of this morning, desiring a copy of the Oration delivered in the
Grove on the 4th inst. The circumstances you narrate, as surprising,
as to every loyal heart they must be painful, render my compliance
with your request a duty imperatively demanded. The oration which
I cannot but regard as altogether unworthy to meet the public eye, shall
be furnished you at the earliest possible moment my professional duties
will admit. Having been delivered almost entirely extempore in both
thought and language, I will be compelled to write it out ; and in its
preparation for the press, will take a liberty which I hope you will ap-
prove. I will, with your consent, make some additions, strictly adhering
to the sentiments to which you listened, but endeavoring to unfold those
sentiments with the fullness which I had originally intended, but which
my great fears of trespassing upon the time allotted to the succeeding
exercises of the day entirely precluded.

Deeply sensible of the obligation under which you have placed me
by your effort to shield me from most unworthy imputation ; and with
yourselves regretting that expression of sentiments of unswerving loyal-
ty to our country should afford the occasion of developing an element
in our midst, which we had fondly hoped, belonged only to the domain
of disloyalty,

I remain,


Most gratefully and respectfully,

Messrs. Harper, & others.

K A T I N .

Though you and I, Fellow-Citizens, have often heard, and
as often read, the title-deed of our liberties, as well as of our
national existence, yet do I feel that I only express the
sentiment common to every bosom here, when I say, that the
Declaration throughout its reading to-day, seemed new —
all new — clothed with the freshness of morning beauty.

Once more have we heard proclaimed aloud the great truths
and lofty principles embodied in that document — truths and
principles, which eighty-five years ago, as they were pro-
mulgated to anxious ears and throbbing hearts, the winds
caught up, wafted around the world, and ever since have
been permeating not only this land, but all lands — finding
their way into, and scattering a bright effulgence even
through, the morally darkest dens of despotism. Those
truths and principles we have heard this day for perhaps the
hundredth time — yet as, to-day, we strive to grasp them,
they assume a moral magnitude, which more than ever tran-
scends the grasp ; while the concluding resolve, the final sa-
cred, solemn pledge strikes with a fresh awe, and fires our
souls with a new courage, strong and holy. But how is it,
that the Declaration to-day seems clothed with a power so
strongly inspiriting ? As Jefferson laid down his pen beside
it, we behold it — as it first was heard amid the shades of
Independence Square, it has echoed through this grove — as
it was, it is, and as it is, it will be, still unchanged, save
in the ever-increasing halo of moral splendor whicb sur-
rounds it. But all else how changed ! Strength has taken

the place of weakness ; wealth and splendor, the place of want
and poverty ; the wilderness has become a fruitful field, and
the handful of corn cast upon the toountains by patriot
hands, has grown and spread until the fruit thereof shakes
like Lebanon. But very far does this fall short of constitu-
ting the reason of that change of feeling, which this day
pervades us : we find the reason upon looking at the darkest
shade of the darkest picture, which until now American his-
tory has ever presented. Treason has usurped the place of
loyalty, and while she calls her hosts to her standard, with
unhallowed tread they press the very graves of Marion, of
Moultrie, and of Sumpter. The heritage bought by blood,
and hallowed by prayers, though now the grandest and might-
iest on the face of the earth, trembles from "turret to foun-
dation-stone," as by the unworthy scions of a noble stock,
the principles on which it was founded are being tried to
their utmost.

No wonder then, that now we read the title-deed of our
liberties with new Jife and in a new light. We hear it this day
in the spirit of the times which called it into existence. The
long slumbering spirit of 76 has been quickened again to
life, and now not three millions only, but nearly ten times
three millions breathe it. Well and nobly did Jefferson earn a
deathless name, when in that document, with but a few pen-
strokes, he wrote those principles, on which the best govern-
ment which ever shed the invaluable blessings of freedom
upon a portion of the race, has been founded. "Life, liber-
ty and the pursuit of happiness, the inalienable rights of
man." And in that morally sublime pledge given by that
host of worthies to each other, to the world and to posterity,
when for the establishment of those principles they pledged
all they had to pledge — their lives, their fortunes and their
sacred honor — we to-day feel — there was no uncertain sound.
We know now the meaning of both principles and pledge,
as we had thought we should never know them — we know
them experimentally — as we sec rebellion whet her dag-
ger, and lift her parricidal arm against the government, in

which all our earthly hopes for ourselves and foi posterity
are centered. We have seen the world startled by the ques-
tion new and strange, — "Can the American Republic be a
failure in governmental experiment?"

It is an august question, and the weighty responsibilities
of a corresponding answer rest with us. The shades of the
signers of that Declaration all seem to rise up and demand
it. A listening anxious world waits in suspense to hear it,
while in every true American bosom there dwells the con-
sciousness, that God and posterity will demand an account
of the manner in which the answer shall be given. It is
given. Hear it rolling up from Charleston Harbor, echo-
ing from Bunker, breaking the long silence of the Allegha-
nies, reverberating from the clefts in which the far western
hunter finds a home, and how, caught up in peals majestic
by the Mississippi and the Hudson, is answered by the Ohio
and the St. Lawrence ! — A voice, which in majesty outswells
the roar of the greatest of earth's cataracts — the united voice
of more than twenty millions pledging each to the other, to
the world and to unborn generations, for the perpetuity
of the blessings which they have inherited, — their lives, their
fortunes and their sacred honor.

We are told, Sirs, that the muse of history is passion-
less ; — like a vestal must she be, if without a flashing
eye, a burning brow, and a throbbing heart, she pens
the record of eighteen hundred and sixty-one in Ameri-
ca. Never before has she been called to depict a scene
such as this, on which her pencil must now be employed,
the stirring record even of our emancipation from Brit-
ish thraldom, failing to afford a parallel. While she
speaks of the strongest nation on earth divided against it-
self, she must also depict the mighty arm of strength
which this same nation has raised in its own defence. An
army, called without the warning of a day ; yet in a day
answering the call. Answering from field and forum, from
bar and workshop, from the classic grove and from the busy
mart of commerce, from the palace of princely ease, and


from the home of humble toil, bench, — yea and pulpit re-
sponding, all distinctions forgotten, all party lines wiped out,
all creeds commanding to one service, all inspired by one
impulse, and that among the loftiest impulses which give
diguity to human action, or color to human feeling, — the
warm and mighty impulse of genuine patriotism.

Patriotism is a word in use so common that our ideas of it
had become very vague. They are so no longer. By a
view of the grand army of America we are by the splendid
spectacle taught the meaning of the word Patriotism. We
see it in the full splendors of its moral magnificence, as the
eye surveys yon mighty column, — its left resting upon the
Atlantic's shore, its right extending to the very frontiers of
western civilization. In the circumstances of its formation,
in the moral strength of its character, in the greatness of its
numbers, and in the glorious object of its mission. — When
before has war put on such a front ! when since the Titans
stormed Olympus has the muse of history waved her magic
wand over such an army, and in such a cause ? Borne aloft
on the wing of imagination, amid the host with pride, we
descry our own Buehler and M'Pherson, with their gallant
patriotic bands. Turning away from the army itself, we can-
not but exclaim : All hail, and farewell, ye brave ! As the
God of battles went with the Fathers, may he now go with
the Sons ! Waiving an adieu to the martial host, we turn to
consider next,

The Cause which has marshaled it.

The cause is stated in one word — necessity. Choice under
the circumstances, there was none. A rebellion, the most
causeless which ever lifted a horrid front against a good gov-
ernment and a generous brotherhood, has risen up and loud-
ly threatens to lay the noble fabric of self-government in
America low in the dust. We must either submit to the exe-
cution of the threat, or by force of arms resist its execu-
tion. No other alternative now is left us than to meet all
the evils and horrors of civil war, which we know full well
is no chimera, or submit to the infinitely worse evil of sink-


tag under a rule to which Austrian despotism or Bourbon
aw ay were greatly preferable.

The question, to decide which the arbitrament of battle
has been sought, is — shall we have a Government, or no
government — law and order, or anarchy and confusion?

I need not attempt to prove that the very life of society
in any, or all its forms, civil, ecclesiestical or social, depends
upon the unyielding obedience of its members, to all its just
and righteous laws. Wherever on the wings of thought you
are carried throughout the Lord's great domain, you find,
that "Order is Heaven's first law." Without it the material
Universe becomes a ruin. The moment its harmony is bro-
ken, that moment all its luminaries are extinguished — its
elements that moment run to chaos. Equally steadfast are the
moral laws of the Divine Government. No Lucifer lifts the
arm of rebellion against a Holy God with impunity. Neith-
er does man infringe the Divine plan without the endurance
of penalty proportioned to his crime. What is the whole
Gospel-plan of Salvation but the gracious vindication of the
Lord's violated law ? Must the Divine Government be thus
maintained, by the most unflinching adherence to law, and
can human government exist without it ? Let one State or
family or individual in the Union trample with impunity on
its laws ; and where is the security of any other State, fami-
ly, or individual throughout its length and breadth ? To
subvert the order under which we have attained our present
powerful, splendid and happy condition as a nation, is at
once the design and the sin of the Southern rebellion. They
would overthrow the Government under which, both they and
we enjoy the most unestimable privileges, and in its place es-
tablish — we know not what. The duty, therefore, of every
American citizen, we regard as at once plain and sacred — to
maintain the integrity of the Union, and uphold its Consti-
tution to the utmost limit of his power, let them be assailed
in whatever form or under whatever color Rebellion may
present herself.

The principle of secession deals its heavy blows against


the very strongest pillars which support the nation. Admit
it, and all law and order are at once at an end. Acknowl-
edge the right of South Carolina to secede to-day, and you
yield the right of Virginia, Pennsylvania or New York to
secede to-morrow, and on the principle on which Pennsyl-
vania can withdraw from the Union, Adams County can
withdraw from her.

Estahlish then this assumed right, and what is left us ? A
government not worth the purchase of an hour, liable to be
overthrown at any moment which the interest or caprice of
any of its members may dictate. The sovereignty of one
State separate — superior to that of all the States united, we
cannot but regard as one of the most absurd doctrines which
intelligent men have ever been called upon to discuss, and
as treasonable as it is absurd. To attempt to prove that the
Constitution of this Union embodies such a principle is to
cast a reflection upon the common sense of its framers, if
not to charge them with affecting to weave a bond of union
among the States in appearance stronger than death, but in
reality weaker than tow. When that ardent patriot and
mighty statesman Webster lifted his majestic voice against
the doctrine thirty years ago, he said, "The whole matter it
is hoped will blow over, and men will return to a sound mode
of thinking ; but of one thing be ye assured : the first step
in the programme of secession, which shall be an infringe-
ment of constitutional law, shall be promptly met ; I would
not remain an hour in any administration that would not
meet such attempts effectually and at once." Thus spoke
Webster, who though dead still speaketh. He saw clearly
that which we now see, that when we can no longer look to
the Constitution of these States as a bond of union among
the States, each adhering to it with the firmest allegiance, at
once a channel of blessing and a shield of protection, then
must Ichabod be written upon the keystone of the Federal
arch ; then must that form of government founded by a noble
host, the dust of many of whom now sleeps beneath the un-
hallowed tread of treason, be pronounced an unsuccessful ex-


periment — living only in the history of other days — the dust
of its once noble fabric, having become the sport of every
wanton breeze. Then in its stead must come the reign of
liberty without law, that rule which leaves the weak at the
mercy of the strong, making might the sole arbiter of right.
When we pronounce this a form of tyranny which of all
forms is the most to be dreaded, we only appeal for our
proof to the terror-stricken, scattered families, the desolated
homes, and the crushed, bleeding hearts of tens of thousands
of Union-loving men noUiwo hundred miles away.

To rescue the nation from overthrow, and to turn away
the fearful tide of evil which must inevitably follow ; evil
which no pencil can depict, ineffable by human language and
illimitable in extent, the government has resorted to a duty
as painful as it is imperative — the duty of taking up the
weapons of self-preservation and self-defence.

It is almost enough to provoke a smile of ridicule to hear
men say, "the Government has waged a cruel war upon our
Southern brethren." That the war is indeed cruel and un-
natural we all know, yea with sadness we know it ; but the
charge which throws its responsibility upon the government
is too absurdly false to justify the waste of a moment in its
refutation. Who knows not the history of the last winter-
months ? Who has forgotten how insult quickly followed
upon the heels of insult ? Who needs now be told that with
a forbearance wanting its parallel in history — a forbearance
which the world had begun to pronounce the evidence of
weakness, the nation looked calmly on, while even the weap-
ons threatening her very existence, were being forged ; and
before ever she uttered a word or lifted an arm in her own
defence, was smitten in the very face ? ' Whose fort is yon
with as blackened walls, and its battered, broken turrets —
all within now silent as the grave ? What flag is yon, which
for many day? drooped mournfully over a, handful of starving
braves, now all torn, and in the very dust dishonored ?

Is it the flag which through seven long weary years our
Washington followed through darkness and di


through cold and heat, through fire and through water ; who
to defend which counted no dangers appalling ? Answer
ye ! And when ye answer, tell us, is this a war on behalf
of that cause which to the great heart of that same Wash-
ington was dearer than his life — yea, for which he would
have sacrificed his very existence, even though a thousand
lives perished in his own — tell us — is it a war of aggres-
sion, or a war of defence ?

Aggression, Sirs, has no place even in the thought of any
man who to-day rallies beneath yon flag. Life, Country,
Privilege, Hope and Duty are words which either separately
or combined explain our action. Our Southern brethren we
have never learned to hate, though with a perfect hatred they
now seem to hate both us and our institutions. In that dead-
ly hatred exhibited by recent action, they have sealed — com-
pletely sealed — literally with the cold stamp of death, and fig-
uratively by the hand of rebellion, the lips of many a man
who in the face of obloquy, and under charge of conserva-
tism too extreme, often plead in their behalf. The deed is
done ! they have waged a war upon us ! we would be to them
as brothers — we cannot be under them as slaves : so with
sword in hand we meet them.

We trust our cause to God, and our characters to the fu-
ture, well assured, that whatever differences of opinion there
may be now, when the storm of passion subsides and reason
again resumes her mild, yet potent sway, there will be but
one opinion. If it be not pronounced in our day, posterity
will pronounce it. With a glow of honest pride, generations
to come will read the record of their fathers — a record
which will tell that we counted no treasure too valuable to
give ; no duty too hard to perform ; no sacrifice too severe
to be endured ; and no blood too precious to be shed, for the
maintenance and defence of the best government which since
the days of the Jewish Theocracy has afforded blessing to
man, and been the means of glorifying God.

Since then the object of the government is neither the
ict ion nor the subjugation of any portion, but the sal-


vation of the whole, we are led in all candor to ask, on what
can men found the plea so often heard, the plea for "Com-
promise ?" If by compromise they mean the offering
of terms to Rebellion, we would not enter the lists with
them even for a moment. Then do we understand their
word as only another word for Secession, which is itself but
another word for Treason. What patriot can ask the Gov*-
ernment to yield to terms with those unworthy sons, to
whom she has imparted all the strength they have, without
whose fostering care they had never been able to lift an arm
or strike a blow, yet now hold the dagger at the very bosom
whence their power has been derived ? When thus we hear
the word "Compromise" used, we think only of the weak-
ness without the boldness of rebellion.

We have often heard men, however, whose loyalty none
would dispute, deprecating the awful evils of civil war, ask
that same question so often found upon the lips of treason :
"Can there be no compromise ?" With them, if there yet
remain any such, this is a grave question — and graver still
the responsibilities of the answer. Time was, when per-
haps an honorable compromise of differences was possible.
Sadly, yet plainly must all now see, that that time has
passed. Remonstrance has done her utmost ; Argument is
now powerless ; Entreaty, with all her touching art has
been spurned, and now what compromise is that which would
satisfy the malcontents? Did they ground their quarrel
upon oppression, the burden could be removed. Were there
any even alleged infringements of constitutional right, then
could the government and a loyal brotherhood hear their
complaints and right their wrongs. As no wrongs are al-
leged, no concessions can be made. As they tell no tale of
grievance, they can receive no sweets of consolation. Their
cry is not of the lash, but for the sceptre ; not because they
are trodden down, but because they must have the reins.
Your offers then of compromise, could they even be heard,
would be spurned, The rebellion asks no compromise, it
demands recognition among the powers of the earth. You


may cry Peace, peace ! It wants no peace other than the
peace won by conquest.

Perhaps the plea for compromise means just to "let them
alone." Christian feeling may indeed suggest this, without
looking at the consequences which to Christianity it involves.
Just let them do as they please ! Let them indeed for the
establishment of their government, which involves the over-
throw of ours, appeal to the very worst passions of the hu-
man heart ! Why, Brethren, hear the proclamations of their
leaders. See them inaugurate piracy and perjury ; hear
them attempt to sanctify robbery and repudiation, and can
you as Christians, can you as patriots, can you as Ameri-
cans, offer them either a parley, a truce, or as ye choose to
call it — a compromise f No, Brethren, No ! With bloody
hands they have stifled even the voice of Palliation. If our
cause be just, it must be maintained ; if it be just and right-
eous, the same God who was with us in former troubles will
be with us now, and He will maintain it. With us be the
performance of duty, with Him be the issue. When taught
by sad experience, the evils of revolt — causeless and ini-
quitous — our erring brethren lay down their weapons, and
at the feet of the Government which they have so grossly
wronged, lift up their hands and ask for mercy, then in the
exercise of that feeling given by the religion of our blessed
Jesus, we will join you in the plea for compromise ; even
though their hands be all red with the innocent blood of
our kinsmen, blood as noble and as generous as ever flowed,
we will plead that the government will show itself as merci-
ful as it now shows itself brave and powerful. Then and not
till then will we plead for compromise, but none other com-
promise than the compromise r of Treasons aiuful penalty.

We live, my friends, in times of fearful trial as well as times
of immense responsibility. No trifling duties are imposed
upon the men of this generation. Let us see to it, that we
perform them like men, like Americans, and like Christians.
Yes, I ay, like Christians. Let us never forgot that in

i. r )

the bestowment of our heritage the interference of our Gocfj
bordered on the province of a miracle. He still lives. lie


Online LibraryJohn R. (John Riddle) WarnerOur times and our duty: an oration delivered by request of the Gettysburg Zouaves, before the citizens civil and military of Getttysburg and vicinity, in Spangler's grove, July 4th, 1861 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 2)