Copyright
John S. (John Sergeant) Wise.

The end of an era online

. (page 8 of 35)
Online LibraryJohn S. (John Sergeant) WiseThe end of an era → online text (page 8 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and Jefferson had preceded that of Washington, and were
on their appropriate plinths. Poor Crawford, the sculptor
in charge of the work, had died from over-exertion in
Rome after the Washington figure was cast and shipped
to America. The presence of his widow lent an additional
and pathetic interest to the scene about to be enacted.

The vessel bearing the statue arrived at Richmond
from Italy some weeks before the unveiling. The male
population of the city, men and boys, dragged the statue
through the streets from the wharves to the Capitol
grounds, a distance of over a mile. Enthusiasm was
unbounded on every hand.

Of all these new sights I there beheld, that which capti
vated me most was the corps of cadets of the Virginia
Military Institute. The State owned an arsenal at Lex
ington, in the valley between the Blue Ridge and the
Alleghanies. Prior to 1839, she kept a guard at this
arsenal. In that year, she established there a military
school, in charge of Captain Francis H. Smith, a dis
tinguished graduate of West Point. It was organized
strictly on the lines of the United States Military Acad
emy, as to drill, discipline, tuition, and all else. At first
the number of cadets was limited to a few, who received
board and tuition free, and in return guarded the pro
perty of the State, and agreed to teach school for a certain
period after graduation. By degrees, a large number of
cadets were admitted upon condition that they pay for
board and tuition. The school grew ; extensive buildings
were erected ; and in 1858 the Virginia Military Insti
tute had over three hundred cadets, and was the best
establishment of the kind in the United States, except
the United States Military Academy. It resembled the
latter in everything but in the liberality of appropriations,



UNVEILING OF WASHINGTON S STATUE 101

and the assurance of an appointment to the army. Its
original superintendent remained in charge, and he con
tinued to hold the office for fifty years. To this uniformity
of administration much of the high reputation of the
school was no doubt attributable.

The appearance of the corps on the above occasion, the
first on which I ever saw it, was sufficient to excite the
wildest enthusiasm of a small boy. Never before had I
seen such trim, alert figures ; such clean, saucy-looking
uniforms ; such machine-like precision and quickness of
drill ; such silence and obedience. From the first day my
eye rested on the cadet corps, the height of boyish ambi
tion was to be a cadet. Four companies of infantry and a
section of artillery drawn by " rats " constituted the cadet
outfit.

The " rats " referred to were not genuine rats like those
attached to Cinderella s coach, but " plebes," or new
cadets, who, until they remain a year and hear " Auld
Lang Syne " played at the graduation exercises, are called
" rats." The only thing about this fine body that struck
me as in any way lacking in soldierly appearance was the
commandant of the infantry battalion. He was not my
ideal of a soldier, either in military bearing, or in the
manner in which he gave his commands. His uniform
was not new ; his old blue forage-cap sat on the back of
his head ; and he stood like a horse " sprung " in the
knees. His commands were given in a piping, whining
tone, and he appeared to be deeply intent upon his busi
ness, without paying much regard to the onlookers. On
the other hand, the officer commanding the section of ar
tillery was the model of a martinet. He was petite, quick
as a lizard, straight as a ramrod, and his commands were
delivered like the crack of a whiplash. I thought him
a perfect commanding officer.



102 THE END OF AN ERA

The cadets were quartered in the Richmond Lyceum.
When the ceremonies were over, the small boys collected
about the corps like flies about molasses, and, when the
cadets marched off to their quarters, followed them, I
among the foremost. I knew several of the cadets. When
the command was halted near its quarters, we boys
crowded around it in such a way that we inconvenienced
the officer in charge. He passed along the line, tapping
us back with the flat side of his sword, exclaiming in a
deprecatory voice, " Get away, little boys ! Get away
get A-W-A-Y ! " It was ludicrous, and I could detect
smiles, even on the faces of the thoroughly disciplined
cadets ; but something in the manner of the officer made
the boys get away, and get away in a hurry.

When the parade was dismissed, on inquiring about
the officers, I learned that the odd-looking commandant
was familiarly called " Old Jack ; " that his real name was
Major Jackson ; and that the cadets, while disposed to
make light of him for his eccentricities, dared not trifle
with him. As to the other officer, Major Gilham, all
agreed that he was the best drill-officer and tactician they
had ; that he was far superior to Major Jackson ; and they
spoke with profound respect of the infantry tactics of
which he was the author.

At the grand reception given that night by my father,
I again saw both these officers, and their bearing con
firmed me in the judgment that there was no question
which was the superior soldier. Major Jackson was plainly
dressed, wore coarse shoes, had a weary look in his blue
eyes, took very little part in conversation, seemed bored
by the entertainment, neither ate nor drank, and, after
paying his respects to the governor, and to General Win-
field Scott, commander-in-chief of the armies of the
United States, quietly disappeared. Colonel Gilham, on



UNVEILING OF WASHINGTON S STATUE 103

the other hand, was urbane, ubiquitous, and remained
until the close of the entertainment.

In after years, I had occasion to revise my opinion of
the relative ability of these two men, for Major Jackson
was none other than the immortal Stonewall ; and Major
Gilham, while brave enough, never rose beyond the rank
of colonel, and retired from active service in 1862 to
resume his professorship at the Institute.

And "Old Fuss and Feathers!" -bless his colossal
old soul ! was ever a name more appropriately bestowed ?
I saw him also that day, for the first time. What a
monster in size he was ! Never was uniform more mag
nificent ; never were feathers in cocked hat more profuse ;
never was sash so broad and gorgeous. He was old and
gouty, keen for food, quick for drink, and thunderous of
voice, large as a straw-stack, and red as a boiled lobster.
His talk was like the roaring of a lion, his walk like the
tread of the elephant. No turkey-gobbler ever strutted or
gobbled with more self-importance than did the hero of
Lundy s Lane. The women flattered him, and he liked it.
The men toasted him, and he never refused to join or to
respond. As long as he remained, he was the cynosure
of all present. When he withdrew, a characteristic inci
dent occurred. In the great hallway, he called for his
wraps and his galoshes. The servants were quick to hurry
forward with them. Several cadets had been invited to
the entertainment, and were standing about awestruck in
the presence of the commander-in-chief.

As the servants offered him his cloaks and overshoes,
he waved them away imperiously, and in his commanding
voice thundered out, " No, no ! Let the cadets attend
upon me. Here, you cadets ! Help me with my over
shoes and wraps. It is not every day that I can get
such orderlies, and it is not every day that you can wait



104 THE END OF AN ERA

upon the general of the armies." The boys leaped for
ward to his assistance, delighted at such distinguished con
descension, and soon had him fully caparisoned. With his
arms about their shoulders, he laboriously descended the
sleety marble steps, shouted back some cheery words to
those watching on the portico, entered the fine carriage
which awaited him, slammed the door, and drove away,
snorting and puffing, in all his majesty.

What a wonderful mixture of gasconade, ostentation,
fuss, feathers, bluster, and genuine soldierly talent and
courage was this same Winfield Scott of blessed memory !
A great smoking mass of flesh and blood ! So devoted to
epicurean enjoyment that, even when he was candidate
for President, he lugged into his public papers allusion to
his " hasty plate of soup." But for all that, a splendid
soldier in the service of his country for over fifty years.
What a contrast he presented to his favorite companion,
gentle, quiet Colonel Lee !

It was days after this glorious celebration before its
excitements subsided sufficiently to enable me to concen
trate my reluctant mind upon Latin, French, and mathe
matics.

Delightful, inspiring to patriotism, exhilarating, as were
the ceremonies at the unveiling of the Washington statue,
the scenes enacted in Richmond in July of that same year
outstripped them far in gorgeousness, and in the display
of fraternal feelings between the North and South.

In the month of April, the Virginia legislature made
provision for the removal of the remains of Ex-President
James Monroe from the city of New York to the capital
of Virginia.

Mr. Monroe had been buried in New York with appro
priate honors, interred in a private cemetery vault, pur-



REMOVAL OF MONROE S REMAINS, 1859 105

chased by his daughters, and there his ashes " awaited
the call of his native State " for twenty-seven years. At
the time the Virginia legislature made that call, his only
surviving descendants were three children of Mrs. Gou-
verneur. The eldest, bearing his name, deeply afflicted
by Providence, and the second, a daughter, spoke through
their father, Samuel L. Gouverneur of Frederick County,
Maryland ; the third, Samuel L. Gouverneur, Jr., spoke
for himself. All assented to the removal.

The public announcement of the intention of his native
State to reclaim his ashes was the signal for a great out
burst of patriotic fervor in Virginia and in New York.

Virginians residing in New York held meetings look
ing to the disinterment there with appropriate ceremonies ;
the city authorities at once passed the necessary resolu
tions. Committees of conference were sent from Virginia.
A steamship was chartered to convey the remains, and the
New York military vied with one another for the honor of
acting as military escort. So great was the enthusiasm
that it culminated in a tender, by the Seventh Regiment
of New York, of their escort of the remains at their own
expense, as a guard of honor from New York to Rich
mond. This being accepted, that splendid body of citizen
soldiery chartered the Ericcson steamer, and made ready
for their patriotic pilgrimage.

The Richmond military were all busy with preparations
to receive their guests. The public grounds, the Capitol,
all public places, were filled with workmen erecting arches,
painting patriotic emblems, hanging thousands of colored
lanterns, and draping the city in mourning. The Fourth
of July fell that year upon Sunday. Consequently, the
arrival of the remains and the military escort was timed
for Monday, July 5. At daybreak and at sunrise the
Fayette Artillery, a local volunteer organization, fired the



106 THE END OF AN ERA

national salute in the Capitol Square. At six o clock,
the flags upon the public buildings, hotels, and shipping
were placed at half mast. The citizens were still engaged
draping their residences and places of business in the
habiliments of mourning. The Henrico Light Dragoons,
the Public Guard, the First Virginia Regiment, the
Young Guard Battalion, and the Rocky Ridge Rifles
from the neighboring town of Manchester formed line
at seven o clock and marched to Rocketts, the landing-
place of the steamer Jamestown, bearing the remains of
President Monroe. Upon the neighboring hillsides were
gathered thousands of people, men and women, white and
black, of every condition in life. Carriages, omnibuses,
and baggage-wagons were drawn up in long lines near the
wharf ; marshals and field-officers rode hither and thither
giving orders, and scattering the crowds to right and left
before them. Flaunting flags, and signals at half mast,
were visible everywhere ; civic organizations with bands
and banners followed the military. The whole community
was in a ferment of expectation.

" The day opened clear and beautiful, the intense heat
relieved by a pleasant southerly breeze. The local troops
stacked arms, and waited the arrival of the steamers.

" The Jamestown came in sight at ten minutes past eight
o clock, and slowly approached the wharf, with flags and
signals at half halliards. As the ship came alongside her
wharf, the committee and guests from New York stood
on the upper deck, and regarded with much interest the
exciting scene on shore.

"The remains of President Monroe having been re
moved from the forward saloon to the upper deck and
placed under an awning, the governor and mayor pro
ceeded on board the Jamestown and received the guests,
and an interchange of friendly greetings took place. The



REMOVAL OF MONROE S REMAINS, 1859 107

remains were attended by a detachment of the New York
National Guard, but after their arrival, they were relieved
by a platoon of the Richmond Grays, detailed for the
purpose.

" The steamer Glen Cove, with the New York Seventh
Regiment on board, came in sight at ten minutes past ten,
and, despite the solemnity of the occasion, the younger
portion of the assembled throng gave vent to their feel
ings in a cheer. As the steamer approached the wharf,
her appearance was really imposing. The soldiers, with
their glittering arms, were paraded ready for debarkation,
while the splendid band of the Seventh, stationed on the
forward deck, played a solemn dirge.

" The Virginia troops were drawn up in line, facing the
river, ready to receive the visitors, and without unneces
sary delay the Seventh left the boat, and passed on to the
right of the line, the Virginia military presenting arms as
they marched by.

u The hearse, drawn by six white horses, attended by
six negro grooms dressed in white, now proceeded to the
steamer, and, under the direction of the pall-bearers, re
ceived the remains. The troops presented arms, flags
were lowered, drums rolled, and trumpets sounded, after
which the Armory Band played a dirge, while the hearse
proceeded to its place in the line. Minute-guns were fired
and bells tolled, continuing during the progress of the pro
cession to the cemetery.

" The procession moved at half past eleven o clock.

" The route lay directly up Main Street to Second,
down Second to Gary, and thence out to Hollywood. All
along the route of the procession, a distance of more than
two miles, the sidewalks were lined with spectators ; every
balcony, porch, and window overlooking the street, every
available spot on the line, was crowded with ladies, chil-



108 THE END OF AN ERA

dren, and men. The minute-guns continued firing ; the
bells in the vicinity of the route tolled, answered by peals
from others in the distance ; business was universally sus
pended ; and the attention of the entire community was
concentrated on the imposing pageant in honor of the
memory of the illustrious man whose bones were now on
the way to their earthly resting-place.

" The troops marched with reversed arms, and the
bands played music appropriate to the occasion.

" The grave of Monroe is located in the southwest cor
ner of Hollywood, on an eminence commanding a magni
ficent view of the city, the river, and the environs.

" After the line was formed around the grave, the coffin
was removed from the hearse. When the remains were
lowered into the grave, the troops presented arms, the
Seventh Regiment rested on arms, and the band played a
dirge. This portion of the ceremony being over, the gov
ernor appeared on the front of the platform and spoke :

" COUNTRYMEN AND FELLOW CITIZENS : The General
Assembly of the Commonwealth has ordered that the
remains of James Monroe, one of the most honored and
best beloved of her sons, shall, under the direction and at
the discretion of the governor, be removed from the pub
lic burying-ground in the city of New York to the ceme
tery at the city of Richmond. The remains are removed,
the cenotaph is open, and we are here assembled to inter
them in their last resting-place with becoming ceremonies.

" * Venerable Patriot ! he found his rest soon after
he retired. On the 4th of July, 1831, twenty-seven years
ago, he departed, like Jefferson and Adams, on the anni
versary of the Independence. His spirit was caught up
to heaven, and his ashes were enshrined in the soil of his
adopted State, whose daughter he had married, of that



REMOVAL OF MONROE S REMAINS, 1859 109

grand and prosperous Commonwealth whose motto is
" Excelsior," our sister New York, the Empire State of
the United States of America. Virginia was the natural
mother of Monroe, and New York was his mother-in-law,
Virginia by birth and baptism, New York by marriage
and burial. This was well, for he gave to her invaders
the glaived hand of " bloody welcome " at Trenton, and
New York gave to him a " hospitable grave." Virginia
respectfully allowed his ashes to lie long enough to con
secrate her sister s soil, and now has dutifully taken them
to be " earth to her earth and ashes to her ashes," at home
in the land of his cradle. New York has graciously bowed
to the family request, has disinterred the remains, has
laid them out in state, and has sent the elite of her chi
valry to escort them with banners and trumpets, in mili
tary and civic procession, to our cemetery. Who knows
this day, here around this grave, that New York is of the
North, and that Virginia is of the South ? " The North
has given up," and " the South shall not hold back," and
they are one, even as all the now proud and preeminent
thirty-two are one.

" 4 We affectionately, then, welcome New York, and cor
dially embrace her around the grave of him, Virginia s
son, to whom she gave a resting-place in life and in death.
And now I call the minister of God to pray for his bless
ing on this passing scene. I ask the righteous man to
pray fervently and effectually for the example of this
patriot s life to be blessed to the youth of our country,
blessed to the people of this generation ; blessed to the
public men of New York and Virginia and the United
States; blessed to the cause of truth and justice and
human freedom ; and blessed to the perpetual strength,
peace, liberty, and union of this confederacy, " one and in
divisible, now and forever ! May the good which this



110 THE END OF AN ERA

patriot did be revived by the disinterment of his bones,
and may monuments of wisdom and virtue like his be so
multiplied and raised around yonder Capitol of the Mo
ther of States, that the very statues of her heroes and
sages and patriots dead and departed shall be the moral
guide-marks of her living and active servants, to preserve
this Commonwealth, untorn in destiny and untarnished in
glory, to " the last syllable of recorded time," when the
tenants of Hollywood, this beautiful city of the dead,
shall rise to immortal life !

Of these inspiring scenes I was a silent but interested
witness. Every manifestation of patriotic and fraternal
feeling thrilled me to my inmost soul. From time to time
I had heard the mutterings of discontent and the pro
phesies of approaching conflict, but the scenes which I
beheld, and the burning words and thundering shouts I
heard that day, put at rest the last feeling of fear for the
future of my country.

At the close of the ceremonies at the grave, the artillery,
stationed outside the inclosure, fired three salvos.

Upon the day following, the delirious city was given a
specimen of the drill and efficiency of the glorious Seventh
Regiment. Its appearance and perfection in drill and
discipline were beyond all expectations. After a review
by the governor, Colonel Duryee drilled the regiment,
without music, in various battalion movements.

I stood agape at every evolution. The Virginia troops,
which I had theretofore regarded as perfection itself,
seemed to me now a mere incongruous lot of painted toys,
contrasted with this homogeneous mass of military, neat,
brilliant in cleanliness, and absolutely without gaudiness.
In the Richmond regiment no two companies were of the
same size, and no two uniformed alike. The Grays were
gray, the Blues were blue, the Montgomery Guard was



REMOVAL OF MONROE S REMAINS, 1859 111

green as the waters of Niagara, the Riflemen blue and
green, the Young Guard blue and red. One company had
waving plumes of white, another short pompons, a third
red and white plumes. When they were drawn up in
line, they looked deplorably irregular, contrasted with the
absolute uniformity of the handsome Seventh.

It seemed incredible that I, a protege, in fact a veteran,
of the Richmond military, I, who until now had looked
upon the First Virginia Regiment as the finest body of
troops on earth, could come to regard it as almost con
temptible in the short space of twenty-four hours.

Yet there were others like me.

Said one paper :

" The recent visit of the Seventh Regiment of New
York to our city, it is to be hoped, will have a good effect
on our volunteer organization. We could but regard the
simple uniform of the entire regiment, and the neat and
unostentatious dress of its officers, as presenting a wide
contrast with the parti-colored line of our volunteers, and
the fine decorations and pompous display which meet the
eye in surveying our regimental parades.

" We have not a doubt that the volunteer force of the
city would be strengthened, would be increased in num
bers and improved in discipline, if they would consolidate
themselves into one regiment, abandon their uniforms,
and adopt a new and plain dress for the whole body of
soldiers."

Little did the writer know, and less did the Seventh
Regiment suspect, that upon this visit they fixed, in the
Southern mind, a type of uniform which, within three
years, was substantially adopted by the Confederate
States.

Three years after this date, the First Virginia Regiment
had fought in the battle of Manassas ; and the Seventh



112 THE END OF AN ERA

was encamped at Arlington Heights, but fifteen miles dis
tant, being part of a hostile force moving against Mount
Vernon and Kichmond. Such was the rapid march of
events.

After the scenes above described had closed, and the
military had departed, the remainder of the year glided
away uneventfully ; but the glorious memories of July 5
lingered, and all Richmond was busy in the effort to have
a real military force such as it had seen, and to abandon
the past methods of its volunteer system. As for patriotic
national feeling, it is safe to say that, when the year 1859
opened, in spite of Southern fire-eaters and Northern
fanatics, there were not, in the whole State of Virginia,
five thousand men who had any sort of sympathy with the
idea of secession.



CHAPTER IX

THE JOHN BKOWN RAID

THE declamation against disunion and the mutual
pledges of fraternal love between North and South,
which attended the banquet to the Seventh New York
Regiment in Richmond, arose in great part from a know
ledge of sectional feeling, threats of disunion, and of
partisan recriminations between politicians, but too fa
miliar to all who spoke. At the same time, an intense
antagonism to slavery existed in sections of the North
and West, accompanied by the determination to abolish
it by any means in their power, lawful or unlawful.

Little effort has been made to record the fact, yet it is
nevertheless true, that many Southern men were working
earnestly and loyally towards the adoption of some plan
of gradual emancipation which, while it would free the
slave, would not destroy the labor system of the South or
leave the slave-owner impoverished. The abolitionist did
not believe this. He was uncharitable in his judgment
of the humanity of the slave-owner ; and his demand that
a difficult problem, requiring time for its solution, should
be disposed of at once and in his way per fas aut
nefas was strongly provoking. The attitude of the
people of the North generally concerning escaped slaves
seemed to the Southerners inconsistent, and tended to
increase the friction between the sections. The people of
the North professed great reverence for their constitu
tional obligations, and constantly disclaimed a purpose to



114 THE END OF AN ERA

interfere with slavery where it existed. They insisted
that they were only opposed to the spread of slavery into
the free States or Territories, and would respect the rights
of the slave-owner where slavery already existed. Yet,



Online LibraryJohn S. (John Sergeant) WiseThe end of an era → online text (page 8 of 35)