REPRESENTATIVES' HALL, MONTPELIER, VT.,
October 25th, 1866.
By COL. W. G. VEAZEY,
RUTLAND, TUTTLE, GAY & CO., PRINTERS, 1866.
In House of Representatives,
October 26th, 1866.
Mr. Walker, of Ludlow, offered the following resolution
which was adopted on the part of the House.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:
That the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate be directed to procure to be printed to the use of the General Assembly one thousand copies of the Oration delivered on the evening of October 25th, by Col. Wheelock G. Veazey, before the Vermont Re-union Society of Vermont Officers.
JOHN H. FLAGG,
In Senate, October 26, 1866.
Adopted in concurrence.
Mr. President, Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen:--The words of introduction which our distinguished President has been pleased to use, scarcely tend to diminish the embarrassment and solicitude with which I come to discharge of the duties assigned to me by this occasion of fraternal reunion. We assemble fro our scattered hills and valleys to mingle salutations, to review the days of camps and battles, and to gather renewed courage from the magnetic touch of a comrade's elbow, for the unfinished duties of life. It is an occasion when we feel crowding in upon our minds memories of mingled joy and sadness; memories not only of heroic achievement, but of fallen comrades; an occasion not for cold speculative discussion, however profound or ingenious, but rather for the expression of sentiment and patriotic feeling. But in my solicitude, lest I fail to do justice to the occasion, I do not forget that in the bosoms of those whom I specially address, beats the soldier's warm and generous heart, that brooks no unkindly criticism of a comrade's faith
It is not unprecedented for a post-revolutionary period to be marked by evil forebodings, and often by imminent public peril; greater, even, than in the height of the revolution itself. Meeting as we do to-night in the midst of such a period, it has seemed to me not unwise to cast our eyes over some of the features of the struggle, and perhaps gather inspiration from bright examples, for the work which the perils of the times impose upon us.
Until within less than a decade of years, it is doubtful whether any generation was ever the recipient, or in the enjoyment of so great substantial political blessings, as the present generation, in this republic. Almost perfect liberty, yet without license, almost universal prosperity, yet without general dissoluteness, were diffused over our broad domain. Compared with our government in its practical effect on the individual, not only every form that preceded it, but even the ideal republics of philosophers, were but rudiments in governmental polity. The hand of the State rested so lightly on the individual that he scarcely perceived the touch. The fruits of representative republicanism were being enjoyed, while yet the ordeal of internal disruption had not tested its strength as a form of government. In the struggle for liberty, or, perhaps, better, i the constant effort to suppress liberty, which constitutes about all there is of history, liberty had occasionally gained a partial triumph. The words democracy and republic not unfrequently occur on the pages of history, but often misused as descriptive of government; oftener indeed descriptive of tyranny than liberty. Where intelligence prevails at all it is only under the guise of liberty that complete tyranny can be exercised. Yet at long intervals and for brief periods, the will of the people has formed the government, by generally so imperfect and under such unfavorable circumstances, that the fruits of liberty to the citizen were scarcely less bitter than those of the tyranny which preceded, and into which the people's government so soon relapsed. With us, security in person and property, freedom of speech and the press, taxation not a burden, labor honorable and rewarded, merit recognized, property distributed, knowledge diffused, full religious toleration, poverty cared for, crime punished, nationality of spirit, a worthy ancestry, historic renown, all these, my comrades, constituted but a part of the blessings of free government profusely strewn along our pathway. Even the price paid by the fathers of the Republic, the expenditure of blood and treasure, the sacrifice and suffering through that long, dark night of struggle with oppression, which preceded the morning dawn of Independence, is not adequate for the privileges which we enjoyed.
Add even the story of the schooling through which the fathers passed, in preparation for their struggle for independence, in that seven years' fearful strife, so wide-spread that the sun set not on a peaceful quarter of the globe; that contest when in the East, Clive, just from the accountant's desk, led British battalions to the conquest of an empire, wider and richer than ever paled before the Roman eagles; when in Europe, Frederick the Great rose against a gigantic combination to the "last glittering peak" of heroic attainment; and when in the West, Montcalm and Wolfe, upon the heights of Abraham,
"Bought by their death a deathless fame; "
add, I say, the heroic and perilous part which the fathers performed in this conflict in preparation for the nobler struggle for independence that followed, and we still have not a price equal to the measure of privileges meted out to us under the benign influence of republican liberty.
So far, in national emergencies as well as in individual protection, the Republic had proved sufficient.
With but comparatively slight interruption, peace, disseminating its untold favors, had attended the nation up through its growth to a speed manhood. Except in mimicry upon some festive day, no "piercing fife or thumping drum," or soldier's tramp, had weakened the echoes of our mountain slopes. Peace, prosperity, fraternity, quality, had fallen to our favored lot. Looking back through the tornado or war that followed -- through the tears, the pangs, the death, seems not unlike the dreamy view of age back through the vicissitudes of a stormy life to the joyous days of youth.
Though not fully appreciated, the blessings of this free government, based upon the equality of man, were none the less real. The enjoyment of this goodly heritage, without price from us, rendered it none the less valuable. Having attained, so far as human experience could judge, and human wisdom devise, the perfection of government, there devolved upon us the triple duty to preserve, to increase, to transmit the priceless inheritance.
To preserve it:-- how little did we know the magnitude of our duty, the weight of our responsibility, the mighty efforts in store for us. To preserve it:-- so secure did we regard ourselves in our estate, that these words seemed well nigh like meaningless declamation. But now, you, my comrades, you who have seen death
--"by sudden blow, By wasting plague, by tortures slow,
By mine or breach, by steel or ball,
Known all his shapes, and scorned them all;"
and still more you, parents and widows, brothers and sisters, who wear the weeds of mourning, and bear in your bosoms bruised and broken hearts that time cannot heal, for the valiant son, or husband, or brother, whose life went out in the noble defense; you, I say, can feel, if not tell, something of the fearful depth of meaning which those words embrace. That this was, and is, a duty, a solemn duty, none here will deny, and none but traitors ever did deny. To fail in this duty would be a depth of degradation to which loyalty could not descend. To fail in it would be treason.
In the Declaration of Independence the fathers planted themselves upon two fundamental principles: First, the equality of man; second, the right of a people under certain circumstances to cast off their allegiance to their government. A revolution based upon these principles resulted in success. From this revolution emerged the great political event of history -- our Representative Federal Republic. With a love of liberty intensified by the fires of the revolution, and fully confident that liberty was safe only in a complete recognition of the principle that men are equal, the fathers hastened to bind their countrymen to this truth by placing it foremost in their bills of rights. Thence onward it has stood, recognized in all the fullness of its meaning by a portion of the country, denied in its application to a certain race by the remainder. Thence arose the unhappy struggle, the "irrepressible conflict."
On the one side was arrayed self-interest and the prejudice of race--on the other consistency and justice. The unparalleled prosperity of the nation, its giant strides to power, our own conceit, at times well nigh closed our eyes to justice. Then the conflict would temporarily subside. Our ears were continually soothed by the lullaby of compromise. At first all acknowledge the inconsistency of slavery with equality. At length a portion, blinded by self-interest, became the friends of slavery, and necessarily in the same degree, the enemies of equality. As a nation, we proclaimed equality, we practiced injustice. The constant encroachments of slavery naturally consolidated the power of liberty. The equality, which slavery denied to its victims, it at length denied to the friends of freedom. Constitutional rights became sacred only as construed in favor of slavery; and the first successful assertion of these rights in behalf of freedom, in a contest precipitated by slavery, became to the latter power the apology for treason.
Forgetting in the delirium of treasonable intoxication, the consecrated blood of the revolution, forgetting the injunctions of the fathers of the Republic, forgetting the blessings of a benign government, forgetting the vows plighted to liberty and loyalty, the petted children of the Republic,
"with ingratitude more strong than traitors' arms, "
raised their hands with hellish fury to strike down free government and civil liberty. From the recoil of that blow we date, not only the freedom of a race of human beings, but the disinthrallment of liberty herself.
When the fathers fought for Independence, it was with protestations of loyalty, and because denied the usual privileges of loyalty. Had their efforts proved unavailing, it would not have been considered fatal to liberty. But after our long experiment of free government under circumstances to favorable to its development, if liberty cold not exist here in her own chose home, amid a people whose genius is hostility to oppression, whose early history is successful resistance to tyranny, whose will is not more the subject than the governor of the law, well might mankind ask in despair, where can the experiment again be made?
Fortunately for humanity this question needed no answer; for here in her own citadel, liberty found her defense i the stout hearts and strong arms of millions of freeman. It was a rare fortune, my comrades, that God raised you up to, when He made you a part of the grand uprising of '61. When the colossus of France aroused his assembled hosts under the pyramids of Egypt to the full intensity of enthusiasm, by reminding them that forty centuries were looking down upon their deeds, the nations of earth applauded the scene. It was the wreath of genius inspiring the machinery of its creation with the fiery life of heroism. Yet in grandeur and importance how trifling the scene in comparison with the rush of the hosts of freedom in America to resist the rebels' onset upon civil liberty. No gaze of forty centuries from towering pyramids, nor the magnetic influence of the lips of genius, roused the northern heart; but when the clash of resounding arms came sweeping up on the Southern breeze, it was to the Northman's ears the warning note of liberty echoing through the vaulted heavens; and he was transformed from the peaceful citizen to the rugged soldiers by an influence within, more potent than the appeals of oratory, or the magnetism of genius.
Feeble would be my lips to describe the warlike attitude of our own gallant State, perched high upon these green hills above the foul atmosphere of treason, in response to the call to arms. Not more quickly did Clan Alpine's warriors answer "through copse and heath" the shrill whistle of Roderick Dhu, than did these bold mountains bristle with thinking bayonets. The men who answered this call were not mercenaries, men of low degree, but likened most, perhaps, after the heroes of the Revolution, to the Iron-sides of Cromwell; men of "great character, moral, diligent, accustomed to reflect, and zealous for public liberty; induced to take up arms, not by the pressure of want, not by the love of novelty and license, not by the arts of recruiting officers," but by the highest sense of political duty, the preservation of the Republic; recognizing as binding upon them the obligations of the founders of the nation, when they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, for the independence of the colonies; not unmindful perhaps that the glory of preserving is equal to that of founding an empire. Thirty thousand and more of such men left the fields, the shops, the desks of Vermont to swell the ranks of our armies. Thirty thousand and more of such men, my comrades, has it been your honor, with that of others, whom the grave separates from this happy re-union, to lead against the hosts of treason.
Are the familiar words of the poet true, that
"Men, high minded men,
Men who their duties know
But know their rights, and knowing dare maintain,"
constitute a state? Then what a state is ours! Would you, men of Vermont, know the record of this gallant band, this Green Mountain army? Then read the history of the Rebellion. Follow these worthy sons of a noble State from your quiet firesides to the fields of their achievements, to well nigh all the gory fields of the Rebellion.
Hear them first at Bethel uttering deep curses upon the incompetency that restrained them from performing their mission of chastisement upon the rebel horde. See them on the plains of Manassas, unconscious of defeat, reluctantly following our retreating columns before a virtually beaten foe. Again behold them wading the turbid stream of Warwick, with gun and cartridge box held high above its waters, pressing through a leaden hail, against a sheltered enemy vastly superior in numbers, driving him from his intrenchments and holding them against furious assaults until ordered back, after half their brave hearts had ceased to beat.
Follow them from the Chickahominy to the James, stemming the tide of disaster, burning with shame at those nightly evolutions that abandoned the fields of daily victory to a defeated foe.
Son on through, wherever rebellion showed its "upreared and abutting fronts," there stood Vermont; at Antietam, turning back the march of rebellion Northward; at Fredericksburgh, storming Marie's (sic) Heights, and planting her standards upon those memorable hills; again on that out-stretched battle-field, from the Rapidan to the Appomattox, running through from May to April, every day garnering up laurels that would have adorned the chaplets of Roman Emperors in their triumphal returns from the conquest of Empires; in the valley of the Shenandoah, snatching victory from defeat; at Port Hudson and elsewhere on the banks of the Mississippi; up the Red river; at the defenses of Mobile -- everywhere indeed throughout the vast arena of conflict, making up a record which the most brilliant achievements of war never eclipsed.
And here I may be allowed to pause, and dwell for one moment upon two days, in particular, which Vermont and the nation will ever hold in grateful remembrance; not that they are exceptional but types of many days that added so largely to the fame of the Green Mountain State; and, at the same time, serving to illustrate both the unparalleled soldierly qualities which her sons can acquire by experience; and their native, untrained valor in the midst of great emergencies; one the 3d of July, 1863, the other the 19th of October, 1864. My blood thrills at the thought of the glory which the sons of Vermont won upon those memorable days.
It will be remembered that after the disastrous battles of Fredericksburgh and Chancellorsville, the rebels induced no doubt by the gloom that had overspread the country, undertook their last great invasion of the North. It was a hopeful day for the heresy of secession. Traitors in the North, in ecstasy over national misfortunes, had begun to assume an open defiance of law. The term of service of many troops had expired, or was about to expire. The opportune moment seemed to have arrived for the rebels to carry "the bloody course of war" to Northern hearthstones, and by one overwhelming blow destroy forever the vestiges of American freedom.
The passage of the Potomac is soon forced, and the centre of war is transferred from Fredericksburgh to Gettysburgh. For the first time the Potomac army is to meet its old foe upon the free soil of the North. Upon the battle to ensue are to be staked the hopes of the Republic, the hopes of liberty. No brave men can be spared from such a battle. Stretched along from Bull Run to the Rappahannock, a brigade of men made up of Vermont bone, muscle, and brain, have luxuriated nearly through their nine months' term of easy service. But their days of ease have passed. Through heat, and rain, shoeless, blistered and weary, they find themselves on the evening of July 1st, faced to face with the victorious legions of Lee. Before them lie the maimed and lifeless forms of those who had that day fallen. The morrow's sun will bring their first dread reality of battle. For the first time they stand side by side with the veterans of the grand old army of the Potomac. Their term of service is about to expire. This will be their only opportunity as a brigade to strike for country and honor. They have the example of the old regiments to emulate. Great are their duties and responsibilities. But they are true sons of Vermont. With varying success it rages along from center to left and left to center. At last the lines give way. Dingy squads of men come streaming back through the smoke of battle. Re-enforcements are called for. Then the generous Doubleday, to whom Vermont owes so much for securing to her sons the credit to which they are justly due, rides along our lines, and his clear command is heard above the din of conflict, "Forward, the light flying brigade." Quickly they present their breasts to the deadly missiles and pressing forward to the breach, turn back the flooding tide of battle. This ends the second day of Gettysburgh with the standards of Vermont in the front. The next day brings a renewal of the bloody scene. Throughout the morning furious assaults are made upon the right flank. Except the left centre, every part of our lines have been tried. Lee has heard that this is held by new and untried troops. From his observatory he sees their unsheltered position. Break through that and the Potomac army is destroyed forever. The veteran division of the rebel General Picket, that has never known defeat, is still fresh. Quickly it is formed for the charge. For two hours, one hundred and forty pieces of rebel cannon pour their deadly contents into the ranks of these sons of Vermont untrained to the shock of battle. By all analogy and experience, human endurance has become exhausted. The foundations of earth are shaken by the furious cannonade, but not the lines of these brave men. There they stand upon those bloody slopes, far to the front of other lines, as firm as the hills of their own green Mountain home, and receive and shatter the charging columns of treason amid the unrestrained applause of the veterans of other corps, who were the admiring spectators of the stupendous tragedy. Gettysburgh is won, and the brow of Vermont's gallant soldiers are garlanded with the laurels of the victory from which the wave of Rebellion ever after receded.
Time will not allow me to detail the events that preceded the 19th of October, 1864. The Shenandoah Valley had again become the active theatre of war. The intrepid Sheridan had pushed his victorious army, comprised largely of Vermont troops, far up the Valley. Smarting under repeated defeats, and fully conscious of the importance of holding this valley, the rebels had quietly assembled a large and well appointed force near Middletown, and resolved upon one of those sudden and overwhelming strokes that not unfrequently have decided the fortune of a war.
On the morning of the 19th of October circumstances combined to render the success of the contemplated blow exceedingly probable. The victories that had so lately crowned the Union arms, rendered an attack from the enemy improbable. Sheridan was absent. The elements even were favorable to a surprise. The foggy atmosphere of early morning covered the rebels' stealthy movements. No sound broke the all-pervading movements. While the victors of recent fields were resting in the heavy slumber of over-tasked nature, just as the first streaks of morning pierced the Eastern horizon, the rush, the shout, the opening volley, startled the sleepers to duty. The surprise was complete. In front, in flank, in rear, volleys poured from an unseen foe. But the hardened veterans cannot yield without a struggle. Blow is returned for blow. One position after another is taken, but the rebel onset is irresistible. Thus passes morning into mid-day. Many have fallen, more have been captured, camps and artillery, gone. The fruits of past victories seem slipping away. But at this crisis Sheridan arrives upon the field, and riding along the lines, he reins up in front of the Vermont regiments and inquires, what troops are these. "The Sixth Corps--the Vermont Brigade," is shouted simultaneously from the ranks. "We are all right!" exclaimed the General, and swinging his hat above his head he passed off to the right "amid the exultant shouts of the men." Soon the defensive is abandoned and the offensive assumed, and foremost in that murderous charge, that annihilated the last rebel army of the valley, were the standards of Vermont.
But, comrades, the history of these and many other days is made, it is fresh in our memory, and we need not be our own eulogists.
Had you selected one to address you to-night who was not of your number, one accustomed to stand up on great occasions and portray the heroic deeds of brave men, one whose lips were eloquent with well selected words of eulogy, he, inspired by his theme, would have dwelt long upon the scenes to which I have only referred. He would have told you of the first regiment, the militia of Vermont, the school which graduated more than half a regiment of officers. He would have dwelt upon the glory won by our two regiments upon the shores of the gulf, and amide the bayous of the Mississippi. He would have spoken of that regiment which was so long the pride, because the best of the eighteenth corps, and the first of the army to tread the streets of Richmond; of the gallant Tenth, which at Monocacy and elsewhere separate from other Vermont regiments, won imperishable fame in honorable competition with the brave troops of sister States; of that last offspring of Vermont, which ere its ranks were filled took up its march Richmond-ward, and scarcely halted except for battle, until called up for its final muster-out; of the sharpshooters and batteries always summoned to the post of danger; of our ubiquitous cavalry which upon seventy-two hard fought fields rolled up trophies of victory as the fabled giants "upon Ossa rolled the leafy Olympus."
And he would have dwelt upon the deeds of our "Old Brigade," which became like the Old Guard of France, in the resplendent glory of the Empire, the pride and envy of the army; not the least of whose honors it was to win and retain the confidence and admiration of those two eminent Generals, the one that skillful soldier¹ of Vermont whose genius alone could relive a beleaguered and discomfited army in the defences of Chattanooga from what appeared to others to be an impending fatality, and whose lofty conceptions carried victory through the clouds of heaven over a confident and previously victorious enemy; the other, that rugged veteran,² of the West, under whom the brigade reached the pinnacle of heroic achievement, and to whose careful training and soldierly example the brilliant career and surpassing fame of the brigade are largely due.
He would also have told you more of that younger brigade with a briefer but not less glorious service. He would have presented in detail the Herculean efforts of our little State in the great war, the facts and figures of statistics, and by comparison with the efforts of other States in other times have enabled you better to appreciate the magnitude of the task performed by Vermont, in the struggle for national preservation. All these things circumstances compel me to leave to other and better hands.
But, men of Vermont, would you have the immediate, unmistakable proof of the prowess that has added so much to the lustre of your escutcheon? Then raise your eyes to these tattered colors that adorn these halls with suggestions of glory which we may well allow to conceal the skill and handiwork of the architect. These pierced and shattered fragments tell, with an eloquence loftier than human lips can utter, where stood Vermont in the furor of battle.
"They tell of life that calmly took on death,
Of peerless valor, and of trust sublime,
Of costly sacrifice, of holiest faith,
Of lofty hopes that ended not with time."
Thank God! not a single flag did our Vermont soldiers surrender during the four years of war; not one of these sacred emblems ever felt the polluting touch of a traitor's hand. There let them hang so long as peace shall remain within our borders,--Glorious Ensigns of Liberty, Noble Inspirators of patriotism, Silent Monitors of duty. But should liberty again be assailed, should the pestilence of war again breathe upon us, then return them to the front, their wonted place in the hour of battle, and there you will find strong arms and brave hearts to bear them on to renewed victory.
But, after all, how feeble are the facts and figures of statistics to portray the magnitude of sacrifice which Vermont had lain upon the altar of free government. Our eyes have become so accustomed to large figures that they scarcely attract attention. But could we go down into the tabernacles of the hearts of the proud fathers, the fond mothers, the devoted wives, the affectionate sisters of those "who have submitted to the last dread test of patriotism, and laid down their lives for their country," there might we behold the real though sad picture of heroic sacrifice to loyalty and duty.
What, to the heart stricken by the loss of son or husband, or brother, are untold millions of treasure in comparison with the single life crushed under the burden of patriotic duty! In the fullness of generous sympathy we mingle our tears with those of the bereaved ones over the ashes of the patriot dead. Gladly do we award the full mead of praise both to the living and dead for their noble sacrifice.
Not less of praise and admiration do we extend to the untitled patriot who, without hope of reward or emolument, attested with his blood the sincerity of his devotion, than to the titled chief. Side by side in death they become the equal worthy offering for freedom. When generations to come, in the full fruition of the blessings which the triumph of free government will perpetuate, shall reflect upon the price of their inheritance, they will drop the tear of gratitude alike upon the graves of all those who lost their lives in the noble struggle.
At the first Re-union of Vermont officers, while gathered around the festive board, a sentiment was offered to our fallen comrades. Standing with bowed heads, that joyous assembly responded in the sublime eloquence of silence. No feeble words of mine can add to that delicate and expressive tribute of our regard and affection.
To the broken home circles there is the sweet consolation of the highest duty performed; the pleasant thought that immeasurable ages will sacredly cherish the memory of the great service. To us, comrades, there remains not only to mourn their loss, but to emulate their bright example, to enjoy the fruits of their deeds, and to fulfill the mission of duty for which they offered their priceless lives.
We would erect above their numerous graves, not the broken shaft, as indicative of an incomplete career, but the full rounded monolith, the emblem of a perfected life.
It has seemed to me not inappropriate now that the effort to revolutionize the government by a resort to arms has failed, and the tocsin of war is hushed, that we should address ourselves briefly to the unfinished mission of the soldier. And here I would be glad to speak of his general duties as a citizen; the duties of soldiers to each other; their social relations; the duties and pledges of society to them. I would gladly enter my most earnest protest against, I fear, a growing idea in the public mind, that the soldiers returned from the war full of vice, dissipated, and dangerous to the peace and well being of society. As applied to the true soldiers of Vermont, it is a calumny unworthy to fall from patriotic lips.
On these and kindred topics there is much to say, but mindful of the more pleasing festivities to follow, I hasten to notice the national obligations which the collapse of the rebellion and other causes have imposed upon us.
The unwarranted attempt at revolution by force brought our army into being. I say unwarranted, not only in the sense of causeless, but in the broad sense that revolution by force ca never be warrantable under a form of government like ours, however great may be the wrongs which it seeks to remedy.
The arbitrament of arms is defensible only as the last resort, that is, the resort after every other effort at settlement is exhausted, every other remedy consistent with honor and justice, failed. Under the strictest application of this principle, the early patriots justified in their own consciences, and in the eyes of mankind, their appeal to this last resort. Success crowned their effort. In the constitution which followed, they provided against the necessity of revolution by a resort to arms as a redress for wrongs, by placing the government in the hands of the people, by putting within their control the remedy of revolution, by ballot. Every election is not necessarily a revolution because it may result in a continuation of the political policy that preceded. But when an election results in the choices of a class of men to office who represent principles, opposite, or antagonistic, to those of their predecessors, it is revolution, as much as those brought about by a resort to arms.
The right of revolution by force as a remedy, cannot exist without the necessity of force. This necessity cannot arise with us, because the people are themselves the law-makers, the rulers, not in the weakness of a democracy, but in the strength of a representative republic, in a confederation of sovereignties with paramount central power, a form of government where,
---"jarring interests of themselves create,
The according music of a well mixed State."
The late rebellion is a striking illustration of the folly of a minority undertaking to redress alleged wrongs by force, which they could not do by ballot. In the natural order of things the same majority that would beat them at the ballot, would beat them with the bayonet. The rebels' attempt at revolution was therefore without right, without necessity, and without reasonable prospect of success. The loyal citizen soldiery of the United States made it a failure. But out of this attempted revolution grew a reform. Instead of overturning the Republic, its fires purified the nation. Instead of destroying free government, it resulted in making the subjects of the government free. Instead of enslaving the free, it freed the slave. This is the reformation, the national regeneration. Hitherto the contest has been against slavery legalized. It is now to secure to all the fruits of legalized freedom.
The army has done the work of regeneration,--There remains to it to do the work of re-organization. This is the not work of conquered traitors. This work will be complete when all men whom the constitution recognizes as free, shall enjoy the full rights of freedom. Re-organization, other than upon principles of justice and political equality, is forfeiture of the fruits of victory. To call men free who have no rights in court, who have no protection in person and property, who cannot hold office or be represented, who have neither the right, nor hope of the right to vote, is an insult to the common sense of mankind, a stigma upon the statutes of free government.
No citizen soldier of a republic has a right to plead that he has completed his public duty. Our duties as soldiers, we confidently hope, are ended; our duties as citizens may have just begun. In gathering up the disordered members of the Republic and restoring each to its own proper sphere--in garnering up the fruits of victory over treason, our aid is needed. -- Without it, freedom may be in greater peril than when we met treason in open combat. In rendering this aid, in performing this duty, we must rise above all personal considerations. If occasion require it, we must disregard the forgetfulness of those who made unnecessary pledges of emoluments to induce us to peril our lives for the country. And above all, we must scorn to appropriate the spoils of government patronage, if fed to us from the hand that has just been raised against the government. The soldier at the public crib by leave of traitors, is an unthinking ox in the shambles.
"Pleased to the last, he crops the flowery food,
And licks the hand just raised to shed his blood."
The overthrow of the rebel power in the field, is not the destruction of treason in the rebel heart. Of the three stages through which treason naturally and usually passes in its mission of destruction, the first, war, is ended; the second, assassination, we hope, is drawing to a close; the third, treachery in the national councils, we fear, is only begun. To thwart this is a part of our unfinished mission. It is our old foe under the guise of loyalty, and many will be deceived by the covering. Magnanimity to a fallen foe may be extended to individuals to the full limit of chivalrous generosity, but not to the sacrifice of principles. Our vast numbers give us the power of completing the reform, of perfecting a sound re-organization. Our silence may be fatal to these results.
Southernism was always petulant, proud, arrogant, impetuous and aggressive; qualities to be met by coolness, persistency and courage.
On the 9th of April, 1865, the command of the rebel armies, driven from the chief citadel of treason, by the steady fire and well directed blows of persistent courage, was summoned to surrender. The terms were frank, full, generous and decided. The summons came from the imperturbable brain before which treason had learned to quail. Twelve months of constant attrition, had convinced Lee of the steady, fixed purpose of Grant, and in the humiliation of defeat he replied "The terms are accepted."
Let the plan of re-organization be based on firm principles of justice and equality; let it be pressed with the same steady, determined courage with which you levelled your cannon at Petersburgh, and before which the Southron has ever quailed, both in the halls of Congress, and on the fields of battle, when arrogating to himself privileges which the Constitution does not prescribe, and you will again hear the acclaim coming up on the Southern breeze "The terms are accepted."
1. Maj. General W. F. Smith
2. Maj. General W. T. H. Brooks
Contributed by: Mike Ellis, Rochester, MI, great-grandson of Private George A. Ellis, Dummerston, Co. I, 16th Vermont Volunteer Infantry.
See also Colonel Veazey's biography
On July 3rd, 1878, he addressed Re-Union of the Sixteenth Vermont Regiment at Chester, Vermont.
On September 8th, 1891, Colonel Veazey received the Medal of Honor, for service at Gettysburg, as set forth in the following citation:
"Rapidly assembled his regiment and charged the enemy's flank; charged front under heavy fire, and charged and destroyed a Confederate brigade, all this with new troops in their first battle."
Colonel Veazey died on March 22d, 1898, and is buried in the National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.