Asahel L Brooks.

A funeral sermon, on the death of Joseph R.T. Gordon, who was killed in the battle of Buffalo Mountain, December 13, 1861 online

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Online LibraryAsahel L BrooksA funeral sermon, on the death of Joseph R.T. Gordon, who was killed in the battle of Buffalo Mountain, December 13, 1861 → online text (page 1 of 4)
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§ n p * ro H a w .


I hold it true, whate'er befall ;

I feel it, when I sorrow most ;

' Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.


My Dear Elgiva, Viola, and Eliza :

I dedicate to you this little memorial of
your dear brother Joseph. His love once filled our home and our
hearts with the light of happiness ; and his death has left us in dark-
ness and sorrow. His life was an act of devotion to duty, which he
warmed and brightened by the light of a love, as gentle and gener-
ous as ever gladdened the earth. He met his death in the sir-
cere endeavor of a true soul, " to act in a better manner the part
assigned " him, " in the great tragedy of life."

He is gone; but you will remember him — remember how he
loved you, and labored for your happiness ; and so love each other.
Learn from his beautiful life always to prefer duty to pleasure.
Learn, from his noble death, that it is better to die in the path of
duty, than to live out of it.

" Little children, love one another."

Your Father, J. W. GORDON.





DECEMBER 13, 1861.








JANUARY 5, 1802.


"A plow is coming from the far end of a long field, and a daisy
stands nodding and full of dew-dimples. That furrow is sure to
strike the daisy. It casts its shadow as gaily, and exhales its gentle
breath as freely, and stands as simple, and radiant, and expectant
as ever ; and yet that crushing furrow, which is tearing and turn-
ing others in its course, is drawing near, and, in a moment, it whirls
the heedless flower with sudden reversal under the sod." — Selected by
Joseph R T. Gordon, from H. W. Beecher, as the first gem of a " Collec-
tion of things Useful and Beautiful, commenced July 18th, A. D. 1860."



[Romans xiii., 3d, 7th.

The principal subject in these passages is unquestionably
the reverence and obedience of the Christian citizen for the
justly constituted civil Government. The Christian religion
imposes no duty more certainly than that of obedience to the
rightful authority of the State. It imposes that duty by the
solemn declarations of condemnation and wrath upon the dis-
obedient. But while these texts enforce the duty of a loyal
citizenship, they also assure us of the praise and honor that
are due, and shall be given to all those who do their duty.
There are circumstances, also, which will secure to the sub-
ject, who, with a pure and unaspiring loyalty, devotes his
powers to the preservation of the authority and prosperity
of the State, the special praise and honor of all good citi-

These simple truths premised, I now proceed to pay a trib-
ute of praise and honor to one of the youthful and beloved
citizens of this great and good Government, who has, in sin-
cere and disinterested patriotism, given his life, in the fearful
sacrifice of war, for the preservation of the Government

against a rebellion, in its irrational atrocities, unparalleled in
the history of the race.

Joseph R. T. Gordon was but a youth, not yet eighteen years
of age. He was no titled chieftain, on whose bronzed features
and stalwart form the scars and stars of war had become a
fixed habit. He had but little taste and limited discipline to
inspire him with martial zeal and courage. He was no titled
statesman, or famous civilian whom a heartless w T orld is so
proud to honor and follow. He was no marvellous genius of
the sacred or the sinning arts, to be embalmed in the songs,
or immortalized in the monuments of time. He was known
to but few; and by those but to be loved for his simple and
unostentatious virtues; — for his manly integrity and filial de-
votion; — clear and comprehensive intellect, and moral worth.
His hatred of wrong and oppression, and his patriotism were
no sinister and hollow-hearted boast of the aspirant for place
and power; but the diamond flashes of a soul fixed in the
golden settings of imperishable truth and right. He knew
no guide in his youthful zeal for the respect and love of his
kind, but conscience and truth. The tribute which we offer
to his memory at this time, is not the common and expected
service of an undiscriminating precedent, nor a yielding to
the clamor of party zeal in behalf of a votoprif^ leader; but
the heartfelt admiration and gratitude of a great people for
the manly virtues and noble patriotism of an unpretending
youth from the ranks of the people. Its sincerity and earn-
estness are the more to be appreciated, as it is so spontaneous
and irrepressible.

Joseph Reeder Troxell Gordon was born January 3d,
A. D. 1844. He was a very slender child in his infancy, and
brought up to boyhood with great care and many fears lest
the forces of his natural constitution would never rally to
strength and maturity. He early indicated more than com-
mon powers of mind, especially in the particularity of his
observations of whatever came under his notice. It w T as this
fact, in his future development, which made him of such essen-
tial service in his connection with our army. At two years

of age, lie discovered — what many artists have failed to no-
tice — that the step of the elephant is differeut from that of
any other dumb brute, and precisely like a man's. His child-
ish descriptions of passiug events were always reliable in the
general and in the particular. He was, early in his childhood,
accustomed to systematic employment of his time. His aid
in, the domestic economy was most remarkable, at a very early
period of his childhood; and, as early as in his eighth year, he
was charged with the sole expenditure for the table of the
family; and has preserved in his own hand the monthly ac-
count of current expenses of his father's family, until the
family was broken up — an instance most remarkable of his
thorough discipline, filial love and precocious character.

During his thirteenth year, he became very much interested
in the labors of his father upon the great political issues of
the day, especially the questions arising upon the repeal of
the "Missouri Compromise;" and, with unwearying assiduity,
devoted himself to reading, and copying, and carefully arrang-
ing the public documents of the Government for his father's
aid in his work. He has preserved many hundreds of pages
of this work, carefully arranged, filed and classified- — a mon-
ument to his industry and discipline, more valuable than the
triumphs of political ambition, or of the strife for wealth.

From the commencement of the great political battle of
1856, he became a steady and an interested reader of the po-
litical news of the day; and was earnest to fully understand
the real issues involved in the battle. He acquired a knowl-
edge, greatly in advance of his years, upon the political econ-
omics of the contending parties of the time. This familiarity
with current political history he maintained to the last. In
the last political struggle, he fully comprehended the dangers
in which the country was involved; and, though a minor, gave
his mind and his heart to the success of Mr. Lincoln, with a
zeal that has found its highest manifestation in the cheerful-
ness with which he has sealed his faith with his blood.

His habits of reading were not exclusive. He was rather
choice than miscellaneous in his reading. He was fond of the

older poets; of History; and read, with peculiar pleasure,
Virgil, Horace, and the Illiad. During the time he was con-
nected with the University, his standing in the classical de-
partment, was always with the first; and in deportment with-
out a blemish. In Mathematics he stood fair, and in the natural
sciences, especially in Geology,* high. In composition and
debate he had but few superiors. His talents and character
won for him, the esteem and affections of the whole faeulty,
and of his fellow-students.

His filial love and devotion, I have no power to exagerate,
if I can adequately portray them to you. His love for his pa-
rents was so marked and unwavering as to have won universal
admiration. The circumstances of his home early made him
a companion of his mother, to whom she was accustomed to
express her joys and griefs with the greatest freedom, and
with the most lively appreciation by him. His father's con-,
nection with public life, necessarily took him much from home,
and Joseph became his mother's affectionate, dutiful, consid-
siderate and devoted friend. At the period of life when the
sports of boyhood, the sights and excitements of a city, the
love and favoritism of his associates, and especially the in-
fluence of their unrestrained liberty and freedom from all care,
would naturally have made him impatient of any restraint,
such was his love for his parents, and especially for his mother
when alone, that he never sought his own pleasure when it
was in his power to contribute to the immediate comfort of
home. He readily took on the habit and character which a
fond and faithful parent would impress. He most cheerfully
and uncomplainingly encountered all the vicissitudes of the
family, at whatever cost to his plans or his pleasures. He
was tender, gentle, and delicate in all his manner and address
to his mother; reverent and admiring of his father. He took
deeply to his heart every word of disrespect and violence
thrown at his father, in the heat of political strife; and gave
himself heart and hand to the vindication of the principles by

* He studied Geology at home, of his own choice. It was not one of bis
University studies. — J. W. Gordon.

•which he felt his father was controlled. He made the most
zealous and untiring efforts to minister to the happiness and
comfort of the family, that his father might feel at liberty to
devote himself to the labors of the sphere he had chosen.
And when sickness, pale and remorseless, began to prey upon
the strength and beauty of his mother's form, he became more
and more a staff and a comfort to her. He performed his
studies at her side, learned to discover and anticipate her
wants, to minister to them with a fidelity and satisfaction to
her most grateful and affecting. As the fearful disease
showed itself more insatiable and relentless, he multiplied his
devotions; and, as month after month wore away, he became
more and more gentle, affectionate and hope ful . No weari-
ness of watching disturbed the equanimity of his temper.
No self-denial was required, that he felt, save as a new intense
on the altar of his holiest devotion. He read to her from the
records of current events, as she was able to bear it ; read to
her from the Sacred Scriptures, in whose light she had walketf
so confidently for many years; and from the weekly issues of
the religious press. He helped her in her great feebleness,
to bear the sacrifice of his father from his home, for the de-
fence of his Government in its imminent peril. He com-
manded every impulse to follow the fortunes of his father in
the battles of his country, while this altar of sacrifice remained
to consume his filial love. By night and by day, mid hope
and fear, with anxieties without and watchings within, he
brought every resource of his being to the accomplishment
of the sacred trust he so cheerfully assumed, of the minister-
ing spirit in her lingering decline. He smoothed the path for
her down the declivities of the grave, removing every stum-
bling-stone, and cheering her in every dark, distressful hour.
Gentle, as the touch of angels, was his hand as he lifted her
wasted form, or wiped her pallid brow of death's chilling
dews. Sweet, as the breath of June, was all his air and mien
in that chamber where she so long held her timid intercourse
with the spirit world. He was the light of love in her eye,
when she had cheerfully yielded the husband of her youth to


the call of her country— bleeding from the stab of treason.
He was the joy of her heart, when the air was filled with
shouts and sighs of war, to which he that was her strength
and pride was gone. Watchful, as a guardian angel, he sat
by her pillow through the still nights, that creep so slowly
through their tedious hours, to all save him that burns the in-
cense of love. We would challenge every power of thought,
and every emotion of soul, to praise and honor the filial love,
that turns from every path of youthful pleasure, from every
hour of idle leisure, with a devotion, pure and sacred as earth
ever shows, to take the cares, allay the griefs, and bless the
love of a mother's dying days. Faithful as the shadow to
the substance, and beautiful as an angePs ministry, was his
love to the sainted mother, who now rehearses his numberless
deeds of affection, before the great and admiring hosts of

His patriotism was not an impulse — a giving way before
the excitements of military display. He had never been fa-
miliarized with the excitements of noisy and reckless scenes.
He was calm and thoughtful by nature ; but from early boy-
hood had learned to comprehend and enjoy his home, under
the blessings and protection of this benificent Government.
He was faithfully taught to revere the personal and religious
liberty of the Government, to compare his own with monar-
chical liberties. He felt keenly the shame which our nation
has suffered for its enormous system of fraud and oppression
upon the colored people of the land. W T hen but thirteen years
of age, he refused utterly to obey the demands of the ''deputy
marshal" of this State, to aid him in the arrest of a fugitive
slave. To him it was a moral wrong — a violation of the spirit
of the Gospel; and no fear of the possible consequences could
humble him to a violation of his conscience. He was edu-
cated deeply and earnestly to deplore the encroachments of
the institution of slavery upon the liberties of the Govern-
ment, and to revere and love the men who would resist these

In the excitements of 1856, he received the impression that

civil war was imminent, especially if the South should be un-
successful in the election; and from that to his death, had
most heartily sympathized with the Government in its peril.
His enlistment was under circumstances to prove to the world
his devotion to his country; for he was fond of study, and
desirous of an education. The Hon. Cassius M. Clay, of
Kentucky, with whom he was somewhat familiar, and who had
discovered and admired the many traits of worth and real
greatness in him, had made ample provision for his educa-
tion, at his own expense. The door was wide open for him
to realize his highest ambition in this respect. But, in con-
versation with an intimate friend of his, and of his family, he
said that "he firmly believed that he carried, in his constitu-
tion, the seeds of the disease that had laid his mother in the
grave; and that, if he succeeded in acquiring an education, the
chances were against his living to use it with any good to his
country ; and he preferred to serve his country with what
powers he now possessed, in the time of her emergency, rather
than to trust to the future with such a contingency." His
enlistment was duly considered; and all its possible contin-
gencies cheerfully accepted. When he received his father's
consent, conditioned, as it was, upon the irresistible convic-
tion to Joseph's mind, that under the circumstances — his
youth — his prospect for an education — the hopes of his father
that he might live to represent and vindicate his labors with
the coming generation, it was his duty : He received it as
the grateful assurance of heaven's blessings on his solemn
purpose. His motives for joining the army are most satisfac-
torily expressed in his own words, in an unfinished letter, ad-
dressed to his father, and found on his person, after he was
carried off the field of battle. In this letter he says :

" You seem to be at a loss, my dear father, to understand
my motive for volunteering ; but, I think, if you will remem-
ber the lessons, which for years you have endeavored to im-
press upon my mind, that all will be explained. When you
have endeavored, ever since I was old enough to understand
you, to instruct me, not only by precept but by example, that


I should prefer freedom to everything else in this world; and
that I should not hesitate to sacrifice anything, even life itself,
upon the altar of my country when required, you surely should
not be surprised, that I should, in this hour of extreme peril to
my country, offer her my feeble aid."

0, noble utterance of a loyal heart ! Worthy of our high-
est praise and honor ! He felt his youth and inexperience ;
but inspired with the holy cause, he felt competent to follow
and execute the commands of the officers over him. He en-
dured the hardships of the camp, of the tedious march, of
personal privation, with the equanimity of experience and

In his actual service, he was early found to possess those
qualifications of mind and heart, which fitted him for the
most important and dangerous duties of the battle field.
His bravery was, when we consider his age and his habits of
life, incomprehensible, but for the light of the motives that
led him to the field. He felt his cause was just; and every
power he possessed, even life itself, must be laid upon its altar.
It will be rarely recorded of any who survive or fall, in all
this terrible war, that he equalled the courage of that beard-
less boy. See him start out at night on those bleak moun-
tains, and dark ravines, sometimes alone, sometimes with
comrades, with the assurance that in almost every thicket,
and behind every log, the remorseless enemy was wait-
ing to shed his blood. See him lead out the scouting
party oftentimes of men double his years; and, with most
fearless heart, put himself into the very midst of the en-
emy. His commanding officer, General Milroy, in his letter
to Joseph's father, conveying the intelligence of his death,
and transmitting his remains, pays him the following tribute
of praise, which I am here permitted to make public. He

" He died as only a brave soldier can meet death, in the
front rank of the battle ; and ' in the imminent deadly breach.'
He had charged up with the foremost of his Regiment, to the
enemy's works ; and with his deadly Minnie had coolly dropped

a rebel soldier on the inside; and re-loaded, and again pulled
trigger with equally deadly effect upon a second traitor, at the
instant a traitor ball pierced him through the brain, as you
will see. I deeply mourn with you the death of this truly
noble boy. Brave almost to a fault, generous as the sun, dif-
fusing joy and animation in every circle in which he moved.
His amiability, afiibility and bravery had endeared him to the
whole of his Regiment; and dearly will the Ninth remember,
and make treason atone for his death, before the war closes.
Having been a member of my military family since the com-
mencement of the present campaign, his many amiable qual-
ities had endeared him to me as a son ; and his death has
created a vacuum in that family which cannot be filled.

" I soon discovered, after my last arrival in Virginia, that
his intelligence, activity and bravery better fitted him as a
scout than an orderly, and accordingly detailed another to
perform the more immediate and onerous duties of orderly;
and permitted him to accompany and to lead scouting parties
almost daily; and he became familiar with every mountain,
valley and path around the enemy's camp ; and had met them in
and upon nearly all of them to their cost. But few soldiers
have met death and danger so often as he has, for the time he
has been in the service."

His General says further : " The day before he was killed,
he was with a scouting party of fourteen, who were ambus-
caded, and fired upon, by a large body of rebels ; and seven
of his companions fell at the first fire — three of them within
three feet of him. The rebel leader sprang out, and demand-
ed of Joseph to surrender, but received for reply the contents
of his Minnie rifle."

From other sources we learn that the evening before the
engagement in which he lost his life, he expressed to the
Adjutant of his Regiment, the strong conviction that he should
be killed; and made all desired disposition of his little effects,
and requested, in case of his death, that his body should be
sent to his father. But his brave young heart did not quail
as the muster-roll challenged him to the field of battle and


death. There was no palor on his blooming cheek — no trem-
bling in his limbs — no tears in his eyes ;. but, brave and noble,
as a heart of flesh can be, he faced and fought the foe. A
companion in arms in that terrible charge says, he "was lit-
erally as brave as a lion, and as gentle as a lamb. He fell
early in the action, and close to the enemy's works. He was
the pet of the Regiment, and no death could have occurred
that would have caused more heartfelt sorrow among officers
and men than did his."

But the beloved, the noble youth has fallen. And, while
we deplore the loss of one so brave, so gifted, so worthy of
his patriot ancestors, with whom he now sleeps in the grave,
on which the " dews of heaven weep," and the stars have set
their loving watch till the resurrection morn, with a martial
poet of the Greeks, in his praise of their fallen youthful
braves, we will say of the loved and lost one :

" How glorious fall the valiant, sword in hand,
In front of battle for their native land."

His clear mind, his filial love, his patriotic heart, his deeds
of noble daring for his country's life, will live as long as the
heart can hold the memory of Virtue and Truth. The poet

" But strew his ashes to the wind,
Whose sword or voice has served mankind.
And is he dead whose glorious mind

Lifts thine on high ?
To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.

Is't death to fall for Freedom's right?
He's dead alone that lacks her light,
And murder sullies, in heaven's sight,

The sword he draws.
What can alone enoble fight? —

A noble cause."

My friends, I commend to you the character and the deeds
of the valiant youth whom we delight to honor. He boldly
gave himself to the battle and the death, which we fear awaits


many thousands more ere our land shall welcome the return
of peace. The war cloud gathers blackness and tempest still.
Our noble patriots are falling by scores, and hundreds under
the fatal infections of the camp ; and by the fearful shots of
war. The peril to our benificent and glorious Government to
very many minds is as imminent as ever. From a new and
unexpected quarter, the threat of battle is sending fear through
the land. It is possible that necessity will require the doub-
ling of our army in the field, and on the sea. Shall our Gov-
ernment be forced to the hateful work of drafting, while we
have a million of r.oble youth in the land? Will the men of
this Innd — youthful and middle aged — withhold their service
from the most beneficent and Christian Government on earth,
when challenged to save it from the grasp of the most wicked
and remorseless tyranny that ever forged a chain for human
limbs, or plied the faggot to human conscience ? The battle
that is waged against this Christian Government is to break
the power of the condemning conscience of the people, against
the most inhuman, blasphemous, wicked and God-defying vil-
lainy that ever dared to lift its horrid front among the children
of men. Its success would be a greater calamity, a more ap-
palling curse to this fair land and the Christian world than to
extinguish all constitutional liberty, and ask the vanquished
king of Naples to the reconstruction of his throne among us.
Let your minds conceive the thought of an empire on the
American continent, whose fundamental principle should be
the divine right of the stronger to imbrute the iveaker portion of
the race. Conceive the immaculate Jehovah who gave his
eternal Son a ransom to deliver the race from the power and
dominion of sin, and to establish a kingdom of purity, liberty,
and grace among men, attempting to push forward the con-

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Online LibraryAsahel L BrooksA funeral sermon, on the death of Joseph R.T. Gordon, who was killed in the battle of Buffalo Mountain, December 13, 1861 → online text (page 1 of 4)