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Battle echoes : or, Lessons from the war online

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est depths, uniting every heart and every hand in


the work of succoring the brave men who are endur-
ing peril and privation in the cause of freedom and
justice ? Nor has this movement been necessitated
by any neglect or deficiency on the part of the mili-
tary authorities. No government ever paid its
troops so liberally as ours ; and none ever furnished
such ample supplies for their subsistence and com-
fort. But the nation, in its intense solicitude for its
defenders, cannot be content with what it is doing
for them through the Government. It longs to do
more ; to pour out its bounty with a copiousness
that shall meet all their wants, and satisfy every re-
quirement of the camp, the hospital, and the battle.
For such sympathy it must find its own modes of

And it has found them. The anxiety for the wel-
fare of the soldier which animates all classes, has
crystallized in the Sanitary and Christian Commis-
sions, the one intended to relieve his physical
sufferings, the other combining with care for the
body the higher care of the soul. Having thus es-
tablished appropriate vehicles for dispensing their
gifts, what zeal, what abounding liberality, do the
inhabitants of the loyal States everywhere exhibit in
filling those vehicles, and keeping them ever in mo-
tion ! All ranks, all conditions, unite in the blessed
service. The dwellers in towns and the tillers of
the soil, men and matrons, youths and maidens,


gray age and rosy childhood, find here a common
interest and a common object. The rich give their
wealth; the poor, their labor and their prayers.
Votaries of fashion, devotees- of idleness, gay fre-
quenters of the opera and the ball-room, turn from
their wonted pursuit of pleasure to the stern tasks
of the hour; and soft hands, that never knew toil
before, busily ply the needle for those whose strong
hands are plying the musket. Woman, ever fore-
most where pity calls, brings out all the warmth and
enthusiasm of her nature in this benevolent work.
In such ministerings lies her peculiar sphere, and
nobly she fills it now. What words can do justice
to the patriotic fervor, the untiring self-devotion,
which the loyal women of the country have dis-
played in this solemn crisis of its destiny? Their
hearts have listened to the eloquent appeal ad-
dressed to them by one of themselves, and eloquent-
ly have their deeds responded.

" In hospitals, and in camps, so thickly crowded,

They are wasting life away,
With no blessed touch of Home to balm and soften

The pain which maketh gray !
Oh ye daughters ! Oh ye sisters ! Oh ye mothers !

Are ye haunted by their eyes ?
The weary, dying look of sons and brothers,

Who shall never more arise !
Let us help them ! We, who sit in careless comfort,

In our happy, cheerful homes


Shall we leave our brave defenders pining, dying,

For the help that never comes ?
Oh ! remember that the quiet of each hearth-stone

Is purchased by their blood ;
And for us they wear the cross and thorns of Christhood,

In their noble, martyr mood."

A voice of woe, a voice of pleading, a cry from
thousands wounded in battle, from thousands per-
ishing in pestilential swamps, from thousands starv-
ing in rebel prisons, goes swelling over the land ;
and swift feet and swift fingers move in answer,
and husbands must give when wives entreat, and
lovers must work when loved ones command, and
" monster Fairs " spring up as by magic, and help
is on its way. It is a sublime, a thrilling sight.
The war is giving us new and loftier views of the
grandeur of woman's mission. And when the tri-
umph is gained, as gained it surely will be, the his-
toric pen that records the heroism of the sons of the
North, will record, on a page equally imperishable,
the heroism of its daughters.

Not less deserving of grateful eulogy are the
agencies through which these benefactions find
their outlet and distribution. The Sanitary and
Christian Commissions, what soldier does not bless
them ? What one does not regard them with emo-
tions of thankfulness like those of the parched wan-
derer in the. desert, when he hears the murmur of


the fountain, and sees before him the cool verdure
of the oasis ? What angels have these organizations
been to our suffering heroes ! How often have their
kindly offices cheered them on the weary march,
revived them after the exhaustion of the fight,
soothed them in sickness and pain ! Such is the
perfection of their arrangements, such the breadth
and amplitude of their scope, that they reach the
most distant point to which our forces have pene-
trated, and cover the whole expanse of the war.
Wherever want is to be found, there their ministra-
tions extend. Hundreds of earnest, self-denying
men, acting as their delegates and representatives,
carry supplies to the wounded on the field of battle
and in the hospitals, comfort them with words of
holy cheer, and point the dim eye of the dying to
Christ and heaven. No language can adequately
set forth the value of the merciful work thus per-
formed, and no arithmetic can grasp the full meas-
ure of its results. We know that, in this way,
eighty millions of dollars, the free gift of the peo-
ple, have been expended in relieving our sick and
wounded soldiers. But who shall reckon up the
number of precious lives which this expenditure has
saved, or estimate the amount of suffering it has
prevented or assuaged ? Go to the bloody field of
Gettysburg. Survey the frightful scenes which fol-
lowed the Battles of the Wilderness. See hosts of


helpers flocking from every part of the land to
these high places of Slaughter, clergymen, law-
yers, physicians, merchants, all eager to render
aid ; searching for the wounded among heaps of the
slain ; bearing them to the hospital-tents ; adminis-
tering cordials ; distributing food ; watching by the
couch of agony ; consoling the departing with prayer
and Christian hope, and receiving their farewell
messages to the dear ones they will -see no more.
In such humane labors we have but a specimen of
what these institutions have been doing all through
the war.

But the most important feature of this noble work
may be seen in its religious bearings. The efforts
which have been made, in connection with it, for the
spiritual good of the soldiers, constitute its chief in-
terest, and its brightest renown. Here the Chris-
tian Commission has found a wide and open door.
Here has been its special province. It was the felt
need of more direct labor in this department that
led to its formation ; and faithfully has it sought to
fulfil the purpose of its originators. By its means,
the army has been largely supplied with Bibles and
religious books ; Sabbath schools have been estab-
lished, and meetings for preaching maintained,
whenever the state of military affairs would permit.
Every delegate has been a missionary, dispensing,
along with comforts for the body, the richer com-


forts of heavenly Truth. Churches of every de-
nomination, all over the land, have sent their pas-
tors to visit the soldiers, and carry to them the
Bread of Life ; and many an eloquent apostle has
preached the word in the camps of the Potomac or
of the Tennessee, to larger and more eager gather-
ings than ever listened to his voice in the thronged
temples of the city. By these varied and continu-
ous labors, superadded to those of the regular chap-
lains, the Gospel has been brought into direct con-
tact with every division, and brigade, and regiment ;
and it is not extravagant to affirm that to multitudes
the means of salvation have been furnished more
abundantly, during their connection with the army,
than in any period of their former life.

As a consequence of this fact, a strong religious
element pervades the great body of the Union
forces. We say not that there are none among
them who are insensible to spiritual things. Many
desperate characters have entered the service ; and
these have been rendered more reckless and obdu-
rate by mutual influence and example. But it is
far otherwise with the majority. The constant pres-
ence of danger and death has produced an abiding
seriousness, and brought nigh the thought of God
and eternity. Never since the days of Cromwell's
Ironsides has there been an army with so much of
true piety in it never one in which the sanctions


of the Bible were so generally revered, and the au-
thority of the Divine law so fully recognized. There
is many a Havelock among the officers ; many a de-
vout Christian in the ranks. From many a tent
may be heard, in the still evening hour, the voice of
prayer and the hymn of praise. Many a sentinel,
as he treads his lonely beat under the watching stars,
lifts his heart to God. And many, very many, can
face the hottest fire with a courage as steadfast and
serene as that of the noble commander, 1 who, as he
led his division up the heights of Fredericksburg,
along which the rebel batteries poured their terrible
hail, being asked by a brother officer if he felt no
fear, gave this sublime answer : " I never go into
battle without seeming to see Christ above me in
the sky."

When the instrumentalities of the Gospel are
brought to bear upon masses of men in which
such elements exist, special displays of converting
grace may well be expected. Nor has this expecta-
tion been disappointed. In instances not few, the
power of the Divine Spirit has been signally mani-
fested, awakening great numbers from their care-
lessness, and bringing them in penitence and faith
to the feet of Jesus. During the period of inaction
that preceded the final advance on Richmond, an
extensive revival prevailed for months In the Army

1 Gen. Couch.


of the Potomac ; and hundreds, who afterwards fell
in that fearful battle-march, were among the sub-
jects of the work, and had found eternal life
through the blood of the Lamb. Who but the
All-Knowing can tell how many souls went up,
amid the roar of earthly strife, to the realms of
everlasting peace, guided thither by the instructions
which they had received from the Christian teacher ;
or how .many, left mangled and bleeding in the
dense thickets of the Wilderness, cut off from mor-
tal succor, and slowly perishing with thirst and hun-
ger, were thus enabled to gaze with trustful eyes
upon the calm heaven above them, till death dis-
missed their spirits to the rest of the glorified?
One such instance would more than repay all the
efforts that have been devoted to the moral welfare
of the soldier. What, then, should be our esti-
mate of the work which the Commission has accom-
plished, when we consider that thousands are now
among the saved on high, and thousands among the
renewed below, who were rescued by its agency
from guilt and ruin ?

The cursory view which we have taken of what
the nation is doing for its armies, naturally suggests
the inquiry, by what principle, or combination of
principles, a result so great and beneficent has been
achieved. It might, perhaps, on a hasty glance, be
deemed sufficient to ascribe it to the humanizing


influence of Christianity alone. Yet, to those who
look deeper, this answer will not appear entirely
satisfactory. Countries, whose Christianity is as ac-
tive and as controlling as our own, have carried on
wars without any such accompanying manifestations
of wide-reaching care for those whose blood has been
shed in their defence. Doubtless, the desire to do
good which the Gospel inspires, underlies this whole
movement, and gives to it impulse and vitality.
But there are subsidiary causes which must not be
overlooked. While the Christianity of the land is
at once the originating and the upholding power in
the grand exhibition which we witness, it is Chris-
tianity, not as we see it under despotic or monarchi-
cal governments, but as it develops its benign ten-
dencies in connection with republican institutions,
and amidst influences that harmonize with its spirit,
and afford scope for its broadest workings. In the
military systems of the Old World, the soldier is a
mere machine, a vitalized clod. He comes from
a class that has no political rights, and no interest
in the questions about which nations contend. He
fights for his government because he is hired to fight
for it, or because he is compelled to do so by author-
ity against which he has no resource. His thews and
sinews are regarded in the same light as cannon and
muskets and other munitions of war ; and when he
falls by disease or in battle, his death is regretted


only as the loss of so much fighting material. But
the men who compose our armies are citizens,
our sons, brothers, neighbors, men who are fight-
ing to defend a Government which their suffrages
helped to create, and who have the same stake as
ourselves in the stupendous struggle. They have
gone out from us to save the nationality in which
we and they have equal franchises ; and when their
task is done, they will return, and be with us and
of us again. Hence the peculiar relation which
the soldiers sustain to the country has had no incon-
siderable share in awakening the general concern
felt on their behalf, and in calling forth the over-
flowing generosity with which their wants have been
met. Christian philanthropy has been quickened
and intensified by the claims of civic brotherhood.
Patriotism blends with religion ; and devotion to
freedom expresses itself by showering benefits on
the champions of freedom. How significant the
fact ! We hail it as the fruitage and the sign of
advancing civilization, showing that no people is so
humane, no land so just and noble, as that in which
a pure Gospel walks hand in hand with Liberty.

But however highly the country may value and
cherish its heroes, its munificence cannot surpass
their deservings. Our glorious Volunteers ! What
words can do them fitting honor ! What tribute of
sympathy and love can equal the debt which we


owe them ! Among all the mighty legions of migh-
ty empires on which the ages have looked, never
has so grand a host rushed to arms, in a cause so
holy, under an inspiration so exalted. As the Ro-
man matron, when commanded to show her treas-
ures, presented her sons, saying, "These are my
jewels ; " so, with greater truth and emphasis, may
America point to the vast and stalwart array of young
men thronging beneath her banner, and proclaim,
These are my Ornament, my Bulwark, my Hope !
Under whatever aspect we view them, whether
in regard to their personal qualities, their sacrifices,
or their deeds, their claim to the gratitude and
admiration of the present and of coming genera-
tions, will appear manifest and indisputable. Con-
template their character. The traitors of the South,
and their English abettors and allies, have asserted
that the armies of the Union are made up chiefly of
"base hirelings," the " scum" of our great cities and
of foreign countries. Lying lips never uttered a
viler falsehood. A few of this class , gathered from
the slums of vice and the haunts of debauchery,
have been sent forward as substitutes, in the vain
expectation of manufacturing them into soldiers.
But they have proved far more expert at deserting
than at fighting ; and their number is so small in
comparison as not to afiect the general estimate.
The main bulk of our troops is composed of the


best blood of the land its very bone and sinew
farmers and farmers' sons, mechanics, tradesmen
choice contributions of youthful vigor from every
industrial pursuit, and from every social condition.
And while representatives of other nationalities stand
by their side, nobly battling for the country of their
adoption, yet the overwhelming majority in all our
armies are natives of the soil. "Hirelings" are
they ! Mercenaries, fighting only for pay and plun-
der, and caring nothing for the great principles at
issue ! Away with the foul slander ! Had money
been their object, they could have found it far more
abundantly and safely in civil avocations than in
the gory fields of war. No, no ! Human records
contain no instance of devotion more unselfish, of
patriotism more unbought, than that of the men
who are waging the deadly strife with treason and
rebellion. They have heard their country's call ;
they have seen their country's danger ; they have
comprehended the magnitude of the crisis ; and,
with purpose as high as their hearts are brave, they
have hastened to the rescue. For this they have left
homes and altars, fathers and mothers, brothers and
sisters, wives and children, all that they love,
all that love them, to encounter the privations
and diseases of the camp, and face death in its
most hideous forms. The motive that impels them
is not gain nor ambition, but reverence for Justice,


consecration to the Eight. Freedom, Humanity,
the wrongs of the lowly these nerve their arms
in the fierce heat of the conflict; and these, when
they fall, mingle with their last thought of home, and
their last prayer to the All-Righteous One in whose
cause they die . " Hirelings ! " Not Leonidas and his
Spartans, not Tell and his Switzers, were truer and
loftier of soul. Honor to the Volunteers, living or
dead ! May their patriotic zeal and their martyr
spirit never be forgotten !

* The hardships which they are undergoing for their
country's sake merit all, and more than all, the coun-
try can do for them. Who but a soldier can fitly
describe the toil and discomfort of the soldier's life ?
The very nature of his calling subjects him to in-
cessant labor and sacrifice. Exposed to all changes
of weather and all vicissitudes of climate, to scorch-
ing suns by day and chilling damps by night ; often
without food or shelter, harassed by fatigue, and
drenched by tempests, how are his powers of endur-
ance tasked to the utmost ! Now, out on the distant
picket, he watches through the long and dreary
night, shivering with cold, and pelted by the driv-
ing hail ; nor dares once to close his eyes, lest the
lurking foe should steal on him by surprise. Now,
in some hurried march, he struggles forward, over
mountain and gorge, through tangled swamps, and
swollen rivers, and deep mire, sweltering under his


heavy musket and haversack, till darkness falls,
and, famished and exhausted, he sinks down to rest
upon the bare ground. Now he mingles in the
stern tumult of battle rushing from point to point
in the rapid evolutions of the fight up the cliff,
down the ravine in the charge, in the retreat, in
the pursuit amid smoke, and roar, and flame
faint with hunger, parched with thirst, stifled with
heat and dust till his strained energies can bear
no more. Now, wounded and bleeding, he is left
on the field to wait, through weary hours and days*
of anguish, for the help which is so long oh ! so
long in coming. And now he is stretched on a
narrow cot in the hospital, racked with pain and
fever, with no loved voice to cheer him, and no hand
of wife or sister to wipe the death-drops from his
brow. All this he endures for us. He goes to the
war that we may remain at home ; toils that we
may rest ; sleeps on the frozen earth that we may
sleep securely in our beds of down ; braves danger
that we may be in safety ; invades the enemy that
the enemy may not invade us ; dies that we may
live. And shall we not care for them who thus
care for us, and are preserving, at such fearful cost,
all that we hold precious ? Must not every manly,
every Christian sentiment invoke us to a just ap-
preciation of their sacrifices, and to earnest endeav-
ors to alleviate, as far as we may, their sharpness


and severity ? Withered be the hand that opens not
to their needs, and palsied be the tongue that is si-
lent in their praise !

With an emphasis not less potent, the achieve-
ments of our defenders demand from us the tribute
of grateful regard. Do you ask what they have
done ? Done ! They have saved the nation,
saved it from a death of violence and shame, and
opened before it a new life, and a brighter career
than nation ever trod. Done ! They have saved
'the Union from dismemberment, and established it
on a broader and more impregnable basis. Done !
They have saved Freedom and Constitutional Gov-
ernment to us, to our children, and to mankind.
Done ! They have struck and shivered with their
bayonets the chains of four millions of slaves.
Done ! What have they not done that the awful
exigency required? But for them, vain would have
been the wisdom of the statesman, vain the zeal
of the patriot. But for them, all would have been
lost ; Treason would have triumphed ; and our na-
tional unity, our material progress, our political and
social blessings, our industry, our wealth, our rights,
our altars, our homes, would have sunk together in .
the gulf of anarchy or of despotism. They have
grappled the giant might of the Rebellion. They
have hurled it back. They have laid it prostrate
at their feet. Their work is nearly finished. One


blow more, and it will be complete complete in
stupendous victory and everlasting fame.

And then they will return to their old places
among us, and mingle again in the scenes and activ-
ities of peace. Let the nation spread wide its
arms to embrace its deliverers. Eeceive them with
thanks and honors, with high festival and loud re-
joicings. With ringing bells, and waving banners,
and pealing artillery, ye celebrated their outgoing.
With demonstrations more glad and exulting, cele-
brate their " Welcome Home." Study to promote
their interests. Open to them avenues of employ-
ment. Cherish them ever as the saviours of their
country, its strength, and its glory.

They will return but, alas ! not all. A mighty
host will come back no more. They lie in bloody
graves all over the Southern land, guarding the soil
which their swords have won, and holding it in trust
for Freedom. But their memory can never die.
It is with us a holy charge an immortal legacy.
It was a beautiful fancy of ancient Paganism, that
the good and brave were changed at death into
stars ; and that, whenever a hero left the earth, a
new star blazed out in the firmament. So is it with
our fallen sous and brothers. They have not per-
ished. They are translated fixed in the shining
arch of the moral heavens, among the illustrious
ones, of all climes and ages, who have died for the


Right. And there they are four hundred thou-
sand stars in the sky of Liberty stars never to
set, never to grow dim a glorious galaxy for gen-
erations to gaze at and worship, while centuries re-

" Four hundred thousand men,

The brave, the good, the true,
In tangled wood, in mountain glen,
On battle plain, in prison pen,

Lie dead for me and you !
Four hundred thousand of the brave
Have made our ransomed soil their grave,

For me and you !

Good friend, for me and you !

" On many a bloody plain

Their ready swords they drew,
And poured their life-blood, like the rain,
A home, a heritage, to gain,

To gain for me and you !
Our brothers mustered by our side,
They marched, and fought, and nobly died,

For me and you !

Good friend, for me and you !

" In treason's prison-hold,

Their martyr spirits grew
To stature like the saints of old,
While, amid agonies untold,

They starved for me and you !
The good, the patient, and the tried,
Four hundred thousand men have died,

For me and you !

Good friend, for me and you !


" A debt we ne'er can pay

To them is justly due,
And to the nation's latest day
Our children's children still shall say,

' They died for me and you! '
Four hundred thousand of the brave
Made this, our ransomed soil, their grave,

For me and you !

Good friend, for me and you ! "




deep uttered his voice ! " Aye, the deep
has a voice, and a meaning one too ; a voice
of many tones, and of various import. Who
that has stood beside it, on a still summer
night, while stars were shining above it, and
soft breezes floating over it, and gentle waves rip-
pling to the shore, has not heard its voice, low and

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Online LibraryGeorge Barton IdeBattle echoes : or, Lessons from the war → online text (page 11 of 19)