Sixth Dedication Speech for the Unveiling of the South Carolina Monument on the Chickamauga Battlefield
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May 27, 1901
Dedication speech of Union General Henry V. Boyton, for the dedication of the South Carolina Monument at Chickamauga:
Fellow Citizens : To all of us this must be an overwhelming scene. Here have met, with cordial greetings, whose sincerity none will question, those who in years which seem but as yesterday, as we stand here and recall them, fought against each other in desperate and long-sustained conflict, as notable as any recorded in the history of wars.
It will give emphasis to these most remarkable surroundings if we try for a moment to picture to ourselves the universal bewilderment of those great hosts who on this vast battlefield gave their lives for their convictions, if at the command of some prophet of this new day they should rise and confront each other in their splendid ranks again, and look around.
What would they say to each other as they learned fact after fact of this park project? That the National Government owned it? That it had erected tablets and markers to Union organizations and Confederate organizations alike? That it had (38) maintained for years a commission composed of Union and Confederate Veterans whose earnest charge, under national law, has been to ascertain and impartially record in enduring form the facts of the notable campaigns and battles of this region? That every Southern State, and every Northern State, through commissions chosen by each, have had full voice in determining the records here preserved? That the National Congress has appropriated over a million dollars that these great fields of war might remain for ages as an object lesson of impartial military history illustrating the prowess of Americans in battle?
As Confederate and Union groups spread over the field, how at every step wonder would grow into astonishment as monument after monument from South and North, and tablet after tablet to the men of Rosecrans and the men of Bragg came into view, each telling in exact terms the story of the fight — the troops of every State having their location, and every regiment and battery its impartial history.
If the fallen heroes of South Carolina in these groups which we have summoned from the past, in their wanderings over the field seeking solution of thick sown mysteries, should come upon this gathering, would their amazement be lessened to find the authorities of South Carolina, the banner State of their great war, and crowds of its citizens and Veterans welcomed by the National Government to a national park, and, assisted by representatives of its Secretary of War especially commissioned thereto, dedicating a monument to tell to the ages the proud story of their own heroism in battle?
How should we explain this scene to these heroes whose eyes closed in death a generation ago while this field was rocking in the convulsions of tremendous civil war?
It is a brief story, but no less a most amazing one. Its main points are that the soldiers of each side fought themselves into mutual respect. Then came great industrial developments and closer intermingling of the sections. Then a foreign war, in whose heat the last vestiges of sectionalism were consumed, and Southern and Northern veterans of the civil war and their sons by the hundreds of thousands grasped the flag of the reunited nation and carried it round the earth together.
And as these heroes heard the story its wonders would not at any stage grow less. They would learn that in the great camp which dominated the National Capitol Major Gen. M. C. Butler, of South Carolina, commanded under a commission from the President of the United States. In Cuba and the Philippines they would hear of Joe Wheeler and Fitzhugh Lee. They would learn of Shafter and Brooke and James H. Wilson (40) with Lee and Wheeler in Cuba, or Porto Rico, of Chaffee and Wilson in China, and soldiers from every State of the Union so scattered around the earth with these noted leaders that the sun in its daily course constantly shines on the flag of the great Republic.
There is no such story in history. There was never one which gave such promise of greatness, and grandeur, and good for the race. As thus the panorama of our present national greatness unrolled before them would they not with one accord exclaim: "We builded [sic] wiser than we knew, and surely we did not die in vain."
Those acquainted with this field may desire to know why this particular spot is appropriate for a monument to South Carolina soldiers. First, more troops of that State fought together along Snodgrass Hill than any other portion of the field. At one extreme was Kershaw, with his entire brigade of South Carolinians, at the other the loth and 19th of Manigault. While we must not forget the 24th that threw itself with undaunted courage against the Union log works on the Kelly field, under its distinguished commander, Col. C. H. Stevens, and the present Bishop of South Carolina, or the guns of Culpepper, which pounded their way through the Union lines at the Brotherton house on Sunday, it was here that the flags of South Carolina were thickest, and here that her sons contributed to military story one of the proudest chapters of pluck and endurance to be found in the annals of war.
This record was not won because their magnificent storming lines rushed up these heights twice or thrice, or four times over the wreck and the horrors of each preceding wave ; but because from noon until the going down of the sun, time and again these lines formed, pressed upward into the very flame of the rifles on the crest, drew back to the base, reformed and stormed on in wonderful succession till night ended these dreadful pendulum beats of a battle scene which will never pass from the pages of American history.
It is one of the earliest facts connected with the inception of this park project that the memory of South Carolina valor on the slopes of Snodgrass Hill, recalled by Northern veterans revisiting the field and standing there, first suggested and gave enduring form to the idea that this should be a park impartially recording deeds of valor and the whole be wrought out as an object lesson of American prowess in battle.
The first prophecy of such an event as this in which we join today fell from the lips of Gen. Lytle, the union soldier-poet, who commanded a brigade and fell at the head of it in sight of where (41) we stand. In a speech to his regiment a few days before it marched from Bridgeport towards this field, in accepting a jewelled [sic] token of its esteem, among other beautiful and patriotic utterances was this:
"It will be for you above all others *** to heal up the sores and scars and cover up the bloody foot-prints that war will leave; to bury in oblivion all animosities against your former foe; and, chivalrous as you are brave, standing on stricken fields, forever memorable in history, side by side with the Virginian, the Mississippian, or Alabamian, to carve on bronze or marble the glowing epitaph that tells us of Southern as well as Northern valor."
And here, we comrades of Lytle, stand today with the comrades of Kershaw, Capers and Pressley, and in the presence of South Carolina, as represented by her Chief Magistrate and many public men of renown, look with mutual and equal satisfaction upon the glowing epitaph graven in bronze upon that shaft which tells to us, and will tell to the ages, the tribute which South Carolina pays to the valor of her sons.
Here we stand, not forgetting the past — for veterans can never forget the intensity of those years when they fought for their convictions —yielding each to each a full measure of sincerity; remembering those with whom we marched against each other in those magnificent lines of battle which we have all looked out upon; not forgetting the flags under which we marched, for while one is a memory, it is a memory which every brave man must respect — not forgetting anything except our mutual bitterness, and remembering that a new day has dawned and draws near to its meridian splendors, here we stand, and join our hands as the soldiers of that new day of commercial activity and world-wide renown.
The sneer has vanished which has so long played over the face of Europe when this country was named. In its place are lines of very sober thought. Already the shadow of commercial eclipse is falling upon those nations as the great Republic, with its energies, its resources, its facilities, and its acknowledged military prowess on land and sea, moves steadily on along the path of its destiny between these nations and the sun. And South and North together are pressing on to those fields of national renown which seem to lie along the near horizon.
To you, Governor McSweeney, the members of the park commission desire me to return special thanks and acknowledgment for the interest you have manifested and the efficient aid you have rendered in securing for the Veterans of South Carolina an enduring recognition of the prominence which is (42) their due on this memorable battlefield. In this work you were most fortunate in the selection of your commission. With no other has the national commission had more pleasant relations. From first to last, both personal conference and the correspondence with your able secretary, Gen. C. I. Walker, have been marked by a friendliness and courtesy which we highly appreciate, and which it has been our constant desire to return in kind. There has been unanimous agreement about locations, and perfect accord over all inscriptions, and thus the work accomplished has the joint endorsement of the monument commission of your State and the national park commission, and has been approved by the Secretary of War.
Commissioned by that Secretary, to whom every Veteran is deeply indebted for the lively interest he has manifested in all our national parks, it only remains for me, acting for him, to receive from the State of South Carolina into the keeping of the nation this, her tribute to those sons who followed her flags and were true to her. However we may have differed upon the questions which summoned the sections to the field of battle, and so into the Court of final earthly resort, no one withholds the meed [sic] of praise due the soldierly devotion, the undaunted courage and the splendid deeds of valor which have made famous the name of the American soldier the world around.
None who heard them will forget the uplifting words of that splendid soldier and ardent patriot, Gen. John B. Gordon, the worthy-commander-in-chief of the Associated Confederate Veterans, at the dedication of this park. Let me quote a single paragraph, as fitting now as then:
"And what an hour it is, my countrymen. An hour wherein the heroic remnants of the once hostile and now historic armies of the 'sixties meet as brothers — meet on the same field where in furious onset through deadly fire they rushed upon each other —
When shook these hills with thunder riven,
And louder than the bolts of heaven.
Far flashed the red artillery.
"When rank was piled on rank, borne down by storms of lead until Chickamauga's waters ran red with blood. What an hour, I repeat, is this, wherein these once warring heroes meet to lay in mutual confidence and respect their joint trophies on the common altar — meet at the bidding of the common Government to dedicate by joint action Chickamauga's field to common memories and the immortal honor of all."
Equally fitting and appropriate to this occasion were the (43) words of Tennessee's eloquent Senator and most brilliant soldier on this field, Gen. William B. Bate, who said:
"We have assembled on these glorious battlefields for the preservation and perpetuation of sacred memories; to treasure the recollections of heroic deeds ; to compare in friendly criticism our past actions, and advance by lessons to be learned here the common glory of our common country. Here, within sight of this stand, we and they the living and the dead, Confederate and Federal— fought for the right as each understood it, for the Constitution as each construed it, and for liberty as each interpreted it.
"With sheathless swords in sinewy hands we, thirty-two years after, again obey the assembly call, we respond to the long roll and fall in line, not to renew the battle nor to rekindle the strife, nor even to argue as to which won the victory, but to gather up the rich fruits of both the victory and defeat as treasures of inestimable value to our common country."
To these sentiments of Southern patriots whose names are household words with you, the whole country responds today with a cordiality which is the marvel, I had almost said the apprehension, of the world. Through the Secretary of War the nation receives your gift and adds it to its treasures.