George Barton Ide.

Battle echoes : or, Lessons from the war online

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ceiving Ship, stand the Seaman's Home and the
Seaman's Chapel; and Bethel flags, like Banners
of Salvation, are streaming over the waters. The
happy effects on his condition and on his character
are already manifest, and are full of encouragement.
On the distant main, he hears the glad tidings ; and


joy kindles in his eye, and on his weather-stained
cheek -glistens the tear of gratitude. He rises up
from his despondency. He no longer feels himself
an outcast, cut off from the sympathies of his spe-
cies wandering ever with the ban of exile upon
him toiling for all owned and cherished by
none. As he walks the deck, in the deep hush of
night, beneath the stars of other zones, he thinks
of the friends far away who watch for his welfare ;
and, in the consciousness that there are those who
love him and would do him good, the rock melts
from his nature, and despair leaves his soul. And
we cannot doubt that, through the exertions now
made, and the more comprehensive and energetic
ones which, we trust, will yet be made, this whole
forsaken class shall be gathered into the fold of
the Universal Shepherd. The docility, generosity,
frankness, and warm sensibility, which so strikingly
distinguish the sailor, render him peculiarly acces-
sible to Christian influence, and a most hopeful sub-
ject for its exercise. And, more than all, the Word
of inspired Truth has expressly foretold his redemp-
tion. It is announced, as one of the earliest links
in that sublime series of events which is to usher in
the final triumph of the Church, that "the abun-
dance of the sea shall be converted unto her." The
fulfilment of this prophecy is already begun. Al-
ready have the laborers in this field brought home


the first ripe sheaves with rejoicing. And we be-
lieve that what we now see is but the commence-
ment of a long chain of efforts and successes, that
shall go on ever increasing, until the empire of the
sea shall be conquered for Christ.

Then shall the sons of the ocean unite with the
sons of the land in spreading the knowledge of the
Saviour's grace. Hitherto, one of the greatest ob-
stacles in the work of evangelizing the Heathen has
been the vicious conduct of seamen from Christian
countries, and the unfavorable impression which
they have given of the Gospel. Thus, as in the
Apocalyptic Vision, "the flood has warred against
the Church." But when mariners shall be con-
verted, "the flood," as well as "the earth" shall
" help her," and extend her reign. The multitude
of those that go down to the sea in ships, and do
business in the great waters, shall become messen-
gers of mercy, publishing on the wings of every
wind the news of salvation. And oh ! what victo-
ries will the Gospel win, when navigation shall thus
be consecrated to its service ; when every dockyard
and harbor shall be holy ground, every sailor a mis-
sionary, and every vessel that swims a Bethel, wav-
ing from its mizzen peak the Flag of Redemption,
and bearing the name of Jesus over the world-en-
circling deep ! Gloriously will the Cross then tri-
umph: and swift, swift will be the flight of the


Angel, proclaiming its atoning Sacrifice to all the
kindreds of men. And when the blest consumma-
tion shall at length arrive ; when Messiah shall re-
ceive His appointed kingdom, and introduce the
Jubilee of this long scourged and groaning crea-
tion, banishing from it every stain of sin and every
sound of woe ; then shall the voice of the ransomed
Sea, and the voice of the recovered Earth, combine
with the voice of a holy heaven, to swell the grand,
eternal chorus, "ALLELUIA, FOR THE LORD GOD




HIGH." Psalm Ixxvu. 10.

following the course of a river, we often find
it flowing on for many miles with a smooth and
uniform current, and without any striking in-
crease of volume or change in its direction.
Nor is there any marked difference in the
scenery through which it passes. We meet along
its banks the same succession of soft meadows and
gently sloping hills the same expanse of culti-
vated country, dotted with farmhouses and villages,
and presenting a picture as serene as its own placid
waters. But, after a tune, we enter a wilder re-
gion. The mountains come nearer, and rise up in
rugged grandeur. The river grows narrower, deep-
er, swifter. Instead of gliding peacefully on its
way, with a surface so calm and still that a child's
boat might venture upon it, it becomes rough and
turbulent, lashing the shores in its wrath, dashing
against rocks, foaming among rapids, till it plunges,


in spray and thunder, down the cataract. Looking
at it now, as it shoots like an arrow through the
gorge, or leaps in its noisy might over the precipice,
we can scarcely believe it the same which a little
while ago we saw moving so slowly and silently.
Yet not only is it the same, but it was back among
those tranquil scenes that its flood gathered strength
for the conflict which we witness. Every falling
shower, every spring breaking out from the hillside,
eveiy little brook stealing through the valley, fed
and replenished it, till it acquired a body and a
force whose impetuous ongoing nothing can with-
stand. We wonder at the power of the angry tor-
rent. But the power was in the river before ; the
cliff and the defile have merely called forth and dis-
played it.

So in the stream of Divine Providence there are
long stretches of repose and quietness. The tide of
events, perhaps for centuries, moves on with an
even and almost imperceptible progress. There are
no upheavals, no abrupt turnings, no sudden hasten-
ing forward to great social and moral revolutions.
To mortal view, God seems to have forsaken the
earth, and left the current of human affairs to pursue
its course, without change and without disturbance.
But such a conception, however natural, is utterly
unfounded. Jehovah has not abandoned His cause,
nor ceased to fulfil His purposes in the world, when



our unbelief can discover no visible proofs of His
interposition. Even in those very periods of appar-
ent inaction, when we think His hand withdrawn,
He is but preparing to stretch it out with more re-
sistless vigor collecting the instruments by which
He works turning into one channel all the scat-
tered rills of influence that permeate society, and
directing their united contributions toward the com-
ing issue. And then, when the river of His power
is full, we see the stir, the commotion, the rush of
the accumulated waters to their appointed outflow.

These great epochs of the world's history, in
which the interference of the Almighty has been
signally manifested, are referred to by the Psalmist,
as " the years of the right hand of the Most High."
The right hand of a man is the symbol of his
strength, and the organ by which that strength is
most commonly exerted. Hence, in the Scriptures,
the special forth-puttings of God's agency on earth
are figuratively ascribed to His right hand ; and the
times in which they occur, are denominated times
of His right hand. It is not, however, to be in-
ferred that the sacred writers intend to represent
the arm of Omnipotence as idle during all those
intervals, in which no startling exhibitions of its en-
ergy meet the eyes of men. That arm never rests,
is never weary, never intermits its manifold opera-
tions in the realms of Providence and of Grace. It


rolls round the wheels of the universe, and feeds
and upholds all the countless tribes of animated ex-
istence. The support of the feeblest insect that
lives its brief day and perishes, is as much its work
as the deliverance of an empire, or the marshalling
of the celestial orbs along their everlasting circuits.
Yet, as there are occasions on which the Almighty
departs from the ordinary methods of His proce-
dure, and displays His overruling presence under
new and more impressive forms, coming forth to
establish right, to defeat wrong, to punish the op-
pressor in a manner so distinct and emphatic as to
arrest the dullest mind, we may properly regard
these occasions as grand eras of Divine power.

Such eras there had been in the experience of the
nation over which David reigned. With mighty
signs and wonders, God had brought them out of
the house of bondage in Egypt, surrounded them
during their protracted wanderings in the wilder-
ness by miraculous manifestations of His care, led
them into the land of promise, subdued their ene-
mies before them, and settled them in secure and
peaceful homes. And often, in later generations,
when the environing hosts of the heathen threat-
ened to overwhelm them, and their very existence
as a people seemed trembling in the balance, the
same succoring Hand was revealed for their rescue.
The entire history of the Chosen Tribes was marked


by similar features, and formed an almost unbroken
series of supernatural interventions. To these in-
stances of marvellous dealing the royal bard alludes ;
and how deeply they dwelt in his mind, how grate-
fully he reviewed them, how worthy of commemora-
tion he deemed them, appears from the frequency
with which he made them the burden of his inspired

The year just closed has been to us and to our
country pre-eminently a "year of the right hand of
the Most High." In all the vast succession of years
that have passed over the earth since tune began, no
one, save that which hailed the coming of the Sav-
iour, can equal it in the greatness of its events, and
in their far-reaching influence on the destinies of our
race. Its circling months have been full of stupen-
dous developments developments not limited to
our own land and day, but extending to every land,
and to unborn generations. And throughout the ad-
vancing centuries, the transactions and results of
"the Great Rebellion," and its astounding close,
will tower up among the ages as grand peaks in hu-
man history, overtopped only by Bethlehem and
Calvary. From the high ground of repose and
safety on which we now stand, shall we not look
back upon these wonders of the Divine Hand, and
draw from the review the instruction which it is so
fitted to impart? On the memories and the les-


sons of the year let us fasten our thoughtful ponder-

One memory of the year, which must ever render
it conspicuous among the epochs of Jehovah's
power, is the final overthrow of the most atrocious
Conspiracy against Freedom and constitutional gov-
ernment, with which the earth's record is stained.
At the beginning of the period over which our ret-
rospect extends, that conspiracy, though wounded
and staggering, was still unconquered, still defiant.
For nearly four years we had been struggling, with
changeful fortunes, to subdue it ; now saddened
by repulses, now jubilant with victory. Treasure,
almost fabulous in amount, had been expended.
Battles had been fought whose magnitude aston-
ished the nations. Hundreds of thousands of our
bravest and noblest were lying in bloody graves.
Yet the triumph was not gained. Yet the fight
went on. Our sons and brothers were falling still,
and still others were going forth to fall. Thus the
new year found us still writhing and bleeding in the
fell encounter. Huge armies confronted each other.
Grant, beleaguering the rebel capital, watched for
the favorable moment to hurl a blow at the traitor
hordes, which we trusted would be crushing and de-
cisive. But the issue none could certainly foresee.
Sherman was on his wonderful march, and though
sweeping with the speed and havoc of a tornado


through the very heart of the Confederacy, yet he
had vanished from our sight amid pathless swamps
and wild savannas, and we knew not what disasters
might have befallen him. There was progress,
there was hope. The ranks of the loyal were grow-
ing stronger ; the ranks of the disloyal were grow-
ing weaker. Yet doubt and gloom still hung in the
sky ; and no man could assuredly tell when the end
would come, or what it would be.

But the time was now ripe for the God of battles
to interpose. He had chastened us for our connec-
tion with the foul national iniquity that brought on
the war. He had purified us by trial, till we were
willing to uproot that iniquity, and cast it away.
He had humbled our self-confidence. He had
taught us dependence on Himself. He had
strengthened our love of country by compelling us
to venture all in the grapple for its life. The way
of His power having been thus prepared, we saw,
while the year was yet in its youth, His right hand
stretched out from heaven over the rebel host.
Sudden as the crash of thunder, the stroke descend-
ed, overwhelming, irrecoverable. We looked, and
lo ! the God-defying Babel which Slavery and Trea-
son had striven to rear, founded on chains, and ce-
mented with fratricidal blood, was shivered into
fragments. The House of Bondage was demol-
ished, and all its Upas timbers, State-rights, Seces-


sion, Caste, Property in Man, ground to powder.
The bloody Despotism of the oligarchs was dead, its
citadel taken, its legions disarmed and captive, its
officials dispersed, its mock chief flying from the
justice of an outraged nation soon to await that
justice in a felon's cell, and soon, we trust, to re-
ceive that justice in a felon's death.

That this magnificent result a result as rapid as
it was complete is to be attributed to the direct
agency of the Most High, no believer in His all-dis-
posing providence can hesitate to admit. The crisis
was one in which every perfection of His nature,
and every principle of His moral administration, de-
manded His interference. Our cause was His
the cause of law, of order, of human liberty and of
human progression ; and so, of Truth and Right-
eousness in the earth. We had not begun the con-
flict. It had been forced upon us, without provoca-
tion, and without the pretence of any, by the ambi-
tious leaders of the South, seeking to set up a sov-
ereignty in which the many should be the thralls of
the few, and where those few might riot in the lust
and violence of unbridled dominion. We were
compelled to decide between the alternatives of put-
ting clown the Rebellion by force of arms, or of see-
ing the Government destroyed, the Union dissolved,
and our nationality extinguished. Heaven-led, we
chose war war in its direst form, civil and inter-


necine war protracted, sanguinary, all-wasting, as
we knew such a war must be yet war better and
holier than peace, when peace is bought by the sac-
rifice of all that patriotism and humanity hold dear.
Had we failed in the struggle, what words can paint
the evils that would have followed ? Or what re-
wards of inglorious submission could be deemed a
recompense for them ? This noble Republic, built
by the wisdom and prowess of our fathers, the
Home of Liberty the Refuge of the outcast the
Hope of down-trodden races, would have been
split into antagonistic and ever warring sections,
and made the byword of tyrants the scoff of the
privileged orders that have hated and feared it.
Amid the roar of intestine anarchy, and the perpet-
ual encroachments of the slave-power, free institu-
tions would have perished from the continent ; and
while their death-knell rung through the world, civ-
ilization and Christianity, the honor of God, and
the well-being of man, would have felt the shock, in
all lands, and for all time. Shall we not, then, ever
hold in vivid remembrance the year, in which the
right hand of the All-Merciful warded off from us a
catastrophe pregnant with consequences so deplora-
ble, and gave to our principles a new career of de-
velopment, and to our example a higher plane of
influence ?


" Did we dare,

In our agony of prayer,
Ask for more than He has done?

When was ever His right hand

Over any time or land
Stretched as now beneath the sun ? "

Another event of the year which ought never to
be forgotten, is the Restoration of Peace. Who can
recall the long and weary months during which the
war continued, without a feeling like that which we
experience at the recollection of some frightful
vision departed, some dread peril escaped, some
deadly agony past ? How sad were those days !
Plow we rose up, calm and stern indeed, yet full of
sorrow, when the tidings came that traitorous guns
had dishonored our country's flag ; and from city
and hamlet, from mountain and valley, from lake
and prairie, the cry of a roused nation went forth
in its majesty ! How our hearts were wrung, what
tears we shed, what prayers burst from our lips, as
our young heroes left home and loved ones for the
gory fields where Freedom summoned them ! How
we watched and waited for the expected meeting
with the foe ! How we hoped for victory ! How
we were startled and appalled by defeat ! What
trembling and sickness of soul came over us, as the
woeful echoes of Bull Run and Ball's Bluff swept
through the land ! With what harrowing suspense


we wore out the dreary winter, in which the omin-
ous words, "All quiet along the Potomac," alone
greeted our impatient ears ! How our courage
drooped at the disasters of the Peninsula, of Fred-
ericksburg and Chancellorsville ! With what anx-
ious eyes we scanned the lists of the killed and
wounded ; and what anguish pierced us, as we read
there the name of son, husband, brother, slain in the
bloody fray, or, -worse still, prisoners in the hells of
Libby or of Andersonville ! And though better
news, reports of battles won, of successes achieved,
sometimes came to cheer us, yet, as the contest
dragged slowly and painfully on ; as army after
army was exhausted, and levy after levy went forth
to take its place, and still the end seemed no nearer
what ceaseless solicitude hung upon us, banish-
ing sleep from our pillows, and joy from our fire-
sides ! Oh, those weary, weary years ! Can we
ever forget them ?

Thank God, they are gone gone, we trust,
never to come back. The conflict is ended,
ended by the triumph of the Right, and Peace
has returned. Oh, what delight swelled all hearts,
what gladness shone in all faces, when the glorious
fact first stood revealed to our long waiting eyes !
It was as when mariners, tossed for many perilous
days and nights on the stormy deep, and driven
hither and thither by the tempest, reach at last a


secure haven, and see the still waters, and the
green infolding landscape spread out invitingly be-
fore them. It was as when the hurricane has gone
by, and the blue sides appear, and the sun- looks
down from a tranquil heaven, and the earth drinks
new life from its beams, and every plant and flower
sparkles with fresh loveliness.

" Oh! those were hours when thrilling joy repaid
The long, long days of darkness, doubts and fears,
The heart-sick faintness of the hope delayed,
The waste, the woe, the bloodshed, and the tears,
That marked the track of those four frightful years.
All were forgot in the great jubilee.
E'en wan affliction raised its downcast eye,
To sigh a thankful prayer amid the glee
That pealed the shout of triumph loud and high,
To hail thy battle won, O Liberty ! "

Yes, Peace has returned ! From Maine to Oregon,
from Canada to the Gulf, a redeemed nation rejoices
at her coming. Her glad song rings out from every
crag and hilltop, from every ocean-coast and far
western river. The ploughman sings it in his fur-
rowed field, the reaper as he gathers the golden
harvest. The merchant sings it at his desk, the
weaver at his loom, the smith at his anvil. Every
centre of business, every walk of occupation, re-
sounds with it ; and, at the life-giving music, In-
dustry and Commerce start up like giants refreshed.


No more the land is drained of its productive forces
to fill the maw of all-devouring war. No more its
fertile plains are converted into deserts by fire and
rapine* No more the light of blazing homes flashes
on the midnight sky. No more are heard the tread
of marching hosts, and the shock of battle. No
more the fallen strew the ground like Autumn
leaves. No more the mother weeps for her dead
boy, lying cold and still when the fight is done,
with white face upturned to the silent stars. These
are things of the past. They have vanished, like a
horrid dream ; and, in their place, labor secure of
its reward, and revived enterprise, and unfettered
material and social improvement, go forth, chanting
hymns of deliverance, over the whole expanse of
our emancipated country.

To the right hand of the Most High we owe this
priceless blessing. He gave to our commanders
wisdom, to our soldiers courage and endurance, to
our people persistence and fortitude, till His direct-
ing agency had brought round that grand conjunc-
ture of widely converging plans and movements,
whose mighty folds enveloped and crushed the Re-
bellion. And then, from out the smoke and tur-
moil of the terrible arena, from amidst charging
squadrons, the roar of strife, and garments rolled
in blood, He led the smiling angel, Peace Peace,
not basely born of Concession and Compromise,


but the bright Daughter of Victory Peace, her-
alded by vindicated Authority and asserted Jus-
tice Peace glorified by the shame of her foes,
and rendered immortal by the utterness of their
overthrow. " Peace at any price " might have been
a fatal boon. But such a peace, a peace so safe, so
honorable, so free from submission to disloyal de-
mands, so fraught with securities for its perpetuity,
is a gift as ennobling as it is beneficent. And does
not the year, in which a propitious Heaven con-
ferred it upon us, deserve an illustrious place in the
calendar of the ages ?

One more memory of the year, which will make
it loom up in regal splendor to all after times, is
the Death of Slavery. Human chattelhood has
been the chief sin and scourge of our country.
Its admission the organic frame of the Govern-
ment was a fearful mistake a political crime
whose consequences have come down to us in a
deluge of evils increasing from year to year. The
wise and good men who formed the Constitution,
were induced to incorporate with it an element so
hostile to its great principles, and so abhorrent to
the very nature of free institutions, by the hope
that it would gradually die out and disappear under
the ameliorating tendencies of higher knowledge
and advancing civilization. But it was a yielding
to expediency that well-nigh destroyed the fabric


they toiled so anxiously to erect. They little con-
sidered how enduring Wrong is, and how elastic
and far-spreading it becomes, when private greed
and public tolerance unite to furnish scope for its
expansion. Instead of quietly dying, Slavery soon
showed itself imbued with a terrible vitality, and a
power of extension that defied all attempts to cir-
cumscribe and restrain it. It grew, grew rapidly,
grew in the number and degradation of its victims,
grew in the richness of the prizes which it offered
to its patrons, grew in its besotting effects on the
national mind, grew in its demands for countenance
and support, until it became the dominant interest,
overshadowing all others, dictating the policy of
every administration, and controlling the entire
legislative and executive functions of the country.
From being a creeping, ignoble thing, hated by all,
confessing its own vileness, and asking only to live
till decay should complete the work already begun,
it suddenly sprung up into fearful vigor, assumed
the port and bearing of a virtue, vaunted itself a
blessing, claimed to be God-born and God-descend-
ed, and exacted universal homage and obedience.

A few philanthropic thinkers, the prophets of the
time, saw the danger, and lifted up the voice of
warning. But the nation neither heard nor re-
garded. Only here and there a moral hero stood
forth to swear on the altar of humanity and of God


eternal resistance to slavery. As years went on,
their numbers increased. The monstrous guilt of
making merchandise of the bodies and souls of
men became better understood, and more widely
acknowledged. Then Conscience woke, and Ke-
monstrance shook the land. There was discussion
in Congress, discussion in society agitation every-

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Online LibraryGeorge Barton IdeBattle echoes : or, Lessons from the war → online text (page 13 of 19)