Fifth Dedication Speech for the Unveiling of the South Carolina Monument on the Chickamauga Battlefield
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May 27, 1901
Dedication speech of former Confederate Brigadier General Bishop Ellison Capers, for the dedication of the South Carolina Monument at Chickamauga:
Fellow Citizens and Confederate Comrades:
All hail to the monument!
Public monuments are the recognized symbols of worthy history. They are enduring exponents of character. The lessons which high example and honorable history teach are written not alone in the perishable pages of books, or in the fading memories of a generation. True patriotism has ever engraven [sic] them in stone, and builded [sic] high their immortality in granite and Parian marble.
The monument at Thermopylae, with its simple inscription, "Go, stranger, and tell at Lacedaemon that we died here in obedience to her laws," is held sacred to valor, to honor and to patriotic devotion to country, and has ever taught to all the ages those holy sentiments and noble attributes of the human soul, though the band of Spartans were all slain, and their splendid leader's body hung by Xerxes on a gallows, and their country overrun.
If our monuments had no ethical value; if they were not the symbols of an honest and earnest people in an honest and earnest struggle, they might justly be regarded as signs of disloyalty to the Government which overpowered their efforts, crushed their armies, destroyed their resources, forced the surrender of their cherished hopes and compelled their return to the Union. But our great country knows full well that the men and women who build them consecrate them to the memory of virtue and valor ; and that their virtue and valor stand pledged to abide by the union of our country as alike the will and wisdom of an overruling Providence, and the dictate of a consequent duty. If this monument did not commemorate virtue the virtuous could not participate in these ceremonies. If this great occasion could not be recognized by the Government under which we live, no Ex-Confederate soldier who gave his parole of honor when he laid down his arms in a hopeless struggle would be willing to violate a soldier's honor by his participation here today. If this monument fostered the spirit of (37) discontent, and was designed to keep alive the ashes of burnt out passions, the faithful followers of our Divine Master could not here assemble, as to a patriotic convocation, and invoke the smile and blessing of Almighty God upon this noble tribute to virtue and to truth.
We feel it good to be here !
There is an odor of sanctity about this battlefield which humbles, and yet exhalts [sic] our spirits, and sends us back to our duties and responsibilities with a deeper sense of the truth, that the real value of every great sacrifice is its moral value, and not the value of the prize for which the sacrifice was made.
The prize may be lost, or torn from an enfeebled hand by a hand more powerful, yet the noble spirit and the real heroism of the sacrifice remain forever!
They live in memory: they live in history: they are with us in our Monuments, to refine our selfishness, to purify our ambitions, to chasten our hopes, and to exalt our courage.
I count it, my fellow citizens, amongst the dearest experiences of my life that I knew my comrades and had the honor of being a fellow soldier with them; that I witnessed their cheerfulness in camp and their splendid courage in the field; that I learned from them some of the best lessons of my life, as I saw them, poorly clad, and poorly fed, and poorly paid, march willingly to their hard tasks and fight their unequal battles. It is an inspiration and strength to the greatest and best to see men die in this high spirit, and his must be a sordid heart that can feel no exaltation of his nature here today when the great Government under which we live, and against which we strove with all our might and main, hails Ex Confederate soldiers on a battlefield of common glory, and salutes with its triumphant flag the monument South Carolina has erected to Confederate valor.
And now, my countrymen, I have the honor, which I most dearly prize, of directing the unveiling of this sacred monument on this hallowed spot. I shall call the names of four girls from South Carolina who represent the four commands of South Carolina troops who had the honor to share in the sacrifice of this great battlefield. These fair daughters of our mother, the State, with their own faithful hands, will present to your view Carolina's tribute of honor and devotion to her faithful sons.
Representing Kershaw's brigade, Elberta Bland, the granddaughter of Lieut. Col. Elbert Bland, of the 7th South Carolina volunteers, Kershaw's brigade, who fell just yonder, near this spot, leading his gallant regiment in the advance upon Snodgrass Hill. (38)
Representing the 10th and 19th South Carolina regiments, Manigault's brigade, Ada Orie Walker, the grand-daughter of Lieut. Col. C. I. Walker, of the 10th South Carolina volunteers, who has fought the battle over for us as the historical orator of the day.
Representing the 24th South Carolina volunteers, Gist's brigade, Mary Sydnor Dupre, the grand-niece of Col. Clement Henry Stevens, who led the 24th South Carolina volunteers on the extreme Confederate right and who, promoted to the rank of brigadier general, was mortally wounded in front of his brigade at Atlanta on the 20th of July, 1864.
Representing Culpepper's brigade. Miss Elizabeth C. Teague.
Now, young ladies, in the name of your fathers' comrades, and in the name of our mother, the State of South Carolina, I bid you unveil the monument she has here erected to the valor of her soldiers at Chickamauga.