Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

has furnished a very large contingent to the fighting strength of our National army. In the West, the history of the war is brilliant with recitations of the skill and prowess of our general, field, staff and line officers, and hundreds of Illinois boys in the ranks are specially singled out and commended by Generals Grant, Sherman, and other Generals of this and other States, for their noble deeds and manly daring on hotly contested fields. One gallant Illinois boy is mentioned as being the first to plant the stars and stripes at Donelson; another, at a critical moment, anticipated the commands of a superior officer, in hurrying forward an ammunition train, and supervising hand grenades, by cutting short the fuses of heavy shell, and hurling them, with his own hands, in front of an assaulting column, into a strong redoubt at Vicksburg; and the files of my office and those of the Adjutant-General are full of letters mentioning for promotion hundreds of private soldiers, who have, on every field of the war, distinguished themselves by personal gallantry, at trying and critical periods. The list of promotions from the field and staff of our regiments to Lieutenant and Major-Generals, for gallant conduct, and the prerequisites for efficient and successful command, compare brilliantly with the names supplied by all other States, and is positive proof of the wisdom of the Government in conferring honors and responsibilities; and the patient, vigilant and tenacious record made by our veteran regiments, in the camp, on the march and in the field, is made a subject of praise by the whole country, and will be the theme for poets and historians of all lands, for all time."

During the time which had elapsed since the commencement of hostilities, the people of Illinois, with those of sister States, had been educated in many good things.

They had learned that principle is mightier than passion. And down through platforms and old party creeds, through prejudices of long years standing, they had digged to the rock of Eight. "Expediency" had lost its old potency, and "Compromise" its cabalistic charm, and Right had become the people's watchword.

The Churches had made a noble record, yet to be written ere these volumes are completed. The ministry had been clothed with new eloquence, and church councils had spoken with a majesty and authority very different from the apologetic and cringing tones of

OKGANIZED BENEVOLENT ACTION. 151

thirty years sooner. They had presented the claims of the country in solemn conclaves, and denounced treason as a deadly sin. They had given, from the most sacred altars, their best and purest gifts, and thus represented on the field, at home they remembered, "without ceasing" in their prayers, their imperiled country.

New forms of organized benevolent action had sprung into existence. The "Sanitary Commission" the almoner of the gifts of the people, sent to the field and to the hospitals countless tons of supplies, not furnished by the Government, or furnished but in scanty measure.

The " Christian Commission" made herculean efforts to supply the spiritual wants of the soldiers, sending them books, magazines, and the newspapers which had paid them regular visits at their homes, and also dispatched devoted laborers, pastors, lay-preachers and laymen, who gave, unpaid, their services in organizing religious instruction, conducting prayer meetings, and rendering service in the hospital and on the field. A Major-General has been known to dismount amid the storm of battle, and thank the delegates of the Christian Commission for their work among the wounded.

The "Freedmen's Aid Commission" was working steadily for the relief of those made free by the strong arm of Government, supplying them with stores of food, clothing and medicine, teaching them industry and opening schools for their education.

These great organizations will be noted specifically in a subsequent chapter, and are here referred to, that the patriotic devotion of the people may be seen.

Then there were "Soldiers' Homes" and "Soldiers' Rests" at the principal centers of travel, where the defenders of the country were fed and lodged on their journeys. There were •' Soldiers Aid Societies" throughout the villages and rural regions, most of which were auxiliary to the Sanitary Commission. The women were active in these movements, and even the children caught the fever, and juvenile fairs reported handsome sums for the "soldiers."

The hand of Providence was clearly seen in the preparation of the State for the burdens to be borne. The financial crash of 1857, and the commotion, drove out the issues of irresponsible banks, making the way smooth for the national currency which succeeded it.

The era of implemental industry came in time to release from the necessity of manual toil, its hardy sons. It was the boast -of the South, "We can place in the field every white man, and our slaves at home can grow and harvest the food for his support." It was an idle boast, for well they knew that a strong contingent of white men must remain to drive those slaves to their daily toil, and prevent them throwing off the "paternal system" under which they were placed. It was idle to institute such a comparison, for Northern ingenuity and Northern capital had placed upon the prairies the Planter, the Cultivator, the Reaper, the Mower, the Thresher, each augmenting the power of the laborer, and multiplying the ability of his pair of hands. It was thus the broad prairies could send their stalwart sons to battle, and yet yield the abundant and garnered harvests for their subsistence. The "planter" of the North drinks no whisky and plays no cards; the reaper and mower never forsake the harvest field for the guidance of the North Star, while the cultivator and thresher are in their place without the mediation of rendition laws or bloodhounds. Each laborer became many in the power of production, aud the absence of nearly two hundred thousand "able-bodied men" caused no perceptible shrinkage in the agricultural resources.

It has been a matter of wonder how much has been done in these four years by women. In readiness for these days, the sewing machine was prepared, and woman's fingers, nimble as they were, were multiplied into tenfold activity.

When the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four closed upon Illinois, it had placed at the service of the General Government one hundred and ninety-seven thousand soldiers, of whom all but three thousand and sixty-two were volunteers; had manifested an unsurpassed liberality in providing for their physical, mental and spiritual wants; had sustained its financial credit; had maintained its system of education; its schools had their teachers, and its pulpits their ministers.

The arms of the Republic had been triumphant under the heroic Sheridan in the valleys of the Luray and Shenandoah. Before Nashville, Thomas had scattered the grand army of Hood as the chaff of the summer threshing-floor, capturing thousands of prisoners and a hundred cannon. Sherman, cutting loose from his base of supplies, had marched his forces from Atlanta through the heart of the Confederacy, "subsisting them" as they went, not upon "hard tack," but upon the fullness of their enemies, and resting them within the fortifications of captured Savannah, which he announced as a "New Year's present" to the President. The army of Lee was held motionless in Richmond, and in the rebel Congress and among its authorities there was dissension.

Worthy were the above triumphs to be recorded on the same page with the capture of Yicksburg, the victory at Chattanooga, and the brilliant charge and carrying of Missionary Ridge, of the preceding year. It was no longer heard that one Southerner was superior in prowess to five Yankees! That miserable bluster had ceased. The world, too, had learned that we so appreciate our Government as to think no price too great for its preservation.

The outward signs warranted the closing paragraphs of Governor Yates' last message.

"Now I am hereto-day to say in behalf of the loyal millions of Illinois, and I trust this General Assembly is prepared to say, and to throw in the face of Jeff. Davis and of his minions, and of all traitors who would destroy our Union, the determined response that in the booming thunders of Farragut's cannon, in the terrible on slaught of Sherman's legions, in the flaming sabers of Sheridan's cavalry, and in the red battle glare of Grant's artillery, our voice is still for war—war to the knife—all the dread enginery of war—persistent, unrelenting, stupendous, exterminating war, till the last rebel shall lay down his arms, and our flag float in triumph over the land. ********

"The black wall of slavery, which, like a frightful specter, drove the emigrant from the sunny fields and rich savannas of the South, is, or soon will be, broken down—the process of intermixture, intermarriage, reciprocal business and commercial relations, will assume the place of the unsocial isolations which have heretofore divided the sections. And though the war has been bitter and bloody, yet the history of most nations of Europe teaches that they have survived long and bloody civil wars, and yet afterwards lived in peace and harmony under the same government. Such is the history of France, after her revolution. The civil war of England, in the memorable days of Cromwell, was marked by scenes of violence, of confiscation of property, of devastation of estates and desolation of towns and cities, as intense and terrible as those which have marked the progress of our civil war. Upon the re-establishment of the government, the people became united, and every memory of the rancor of the war soon disappeared. And so, after the vindication of our national authority, each section awarding to the other the credit due to lofty and indomitable prowess, like friends who have fought it out and are better friends ever after, so will the North and the South bury the memory of their wrongs. Massachusetts and Illinois will again reunite with Virginia and Georgia over the grave of treason, and together with the new-born sisters of the Confederacy, will live on in the bonds of a new brotherhood, and with fresh allegiance to the Constitution, and an unfailing faith in the proved strength of our institutions and man's capacity for self-government, strengthened and reassured by the baptism of blood through which the nation has passed, they will move on as one people, united forever.

"Such is to be the end of events passing before us, and I trust that the people of the United States, and their posterity, while they offer up praises and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the deliverance he has brought to our people out of this red sea of blood— they will bless, with a nation's gratitude, from age to age, the memories of the brave men who have perilled all for their country in its dark and trying hour. And when our own Illinois, upon some national holiday, shall meet all our returning soldiers, as they shall pass in serried ranks, with their old battle-scarred banners and shivered cannons, and rusty bayonets and sabers—with rebel flairs and rebel trophies of every kind—at this mighty triumphal procession, surpassing the proudest festivals of ancient Rome and Greece, in their palmiest days, then the loud plaudits of a grateful people will go up: All hail to the veterans who have given our flag to the God of storms, the battle and the breeze, and consecrated our country afresh to Union, Liberty and Humanity."

« AnteriorContinuar »