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I. M. Crane's Oration

I. M. Crane's Oration image
Parent Issue
Day
12
Month
June
Year
1874
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

The following is the AdJress delivered by the Hon. I. M. Crane, of' Eaton Rapids, on the occasion of' the unveiling of the Soldiora' Monument in the Fifth VVard of the city of Ann Arbor, on Decoration Day, May 30th, 1874 : Ladies and Gentlemen, - You areconvened here to-daj upon an occasion the most solenin and impreshive that has ever occurred in the history of your community. Nine long years have passed away since the close of the Southeru rebellion, butthe scènes transpiring here to-day admonish us ihat our f'ellow-citizens who perished in that bloody conflict are still held by the people in grateful and vivid iucmory. Here, surrounded by the splendors of the opening season, by all that bespeaks plenty and contenttnent, you have assembled to unite in the ceremonies of erecting a monument to the heroic dead - a monument hat, defying the thunders of tempests and ravages of time, shall stand through circling years, and bear to coming ages an evidcnce of the lo)e and veneration of this eople for their brave men who laid down heir lives in defence of their country and !ie institutions of freedom. How grand, ïow impressive the scène ! No words are given me to fitly describe it ! The occaion calis up froua the sleep of memory the ncidcnts of that terrible conflict and the )loody drama of the Southern rebellion ours in panoramic review before the uiind. We cali up the dark days of that awful struggle, and the times when the ightning heralded the glad news of victory won. And we now vividly cali to mind the imes when bonSres blazed, cannons thnndered, and the church-bells with their iron tongues pealed out the notes of victory, how amid those exciting scènes of rcjoiccg the wail of the widow and orphan was ïeard, for with the tidings of great battles won, carne, too, the roll of the dead, which carried misery and woe to so many houseïolds. And we can remember now, when the people assembled at such times to mingle their shouts of gladness, and ap)laud as the orator upon the occasion proclaimed from the rostrum the particulars of the battle and the magnitude of' the victory, that while these scènes of happy nemory were transpiring, there were with n hearing of the shouts of the excited people, homes filled with gloom and sadness, when the widow, surrounded by her ïelpless c'uildren, was distracted with grief 'ov the husband and father who had per shed in the conflict. There were no shouts of gladness there ! No, far from it. The widow pressed her children to her bosom, and bedewed her fatherless ones with burnng tears. The shouts of joy in the distance resounded in that glooiny home like the kncll of death. Oh, what sacnficea were made, of which the world knows nothing ! The historian, in recordÏDg the events of that terrible conflict, does not stop to teil us of the miseries and woes unnuuibeied those battles entailed upon the lomes and the loved ones of the soldier, [t is to com memórate the deeds of these Drave uien unnamed in historie annals, but who imraolated their all upon the altar of their country, that you erect this monument. Glorious work ! God grant that it inay stand for centuries ; and casting its shadows upon the ruin of ages, proclaim the desds of these héroes to latest posterty. To recount the deeds of each individual soldier, we know, is practically impossible. All the historian can do is to chronicle the achievements of the armies, composed as thcy were of hundreds and thousands of brave and good men. Beyond this he cannot go. He cannot take up the life of each soldier, and follow him through bis career to his death on the field of battle, or in the crowded hospital, when the destroying angel appeared in his most horrid forms. The soldier trusts to his immediate kindred and assoeiates to do his memory justice. In the traditions of his own neighborhood, among his friends ant cotnpanions, he aspires to bc held in gratoful memory. It is to these people he mits his loved ones - the most sacred charge he has this side the grave. In the hearts of his kindred and friends he trusts his memory will be treasured up, and these reflections were his consolation in the agones of his dying hour, as he pillowed his baad in death's eternal sleep, far from his home and those associations he loved so well. Sustained by a consciousness of having performed his duty, and that he sacrificed his life in the noblest cause man could perish for, he calmly met his fate, and was entombed with the hosts of the dead. In erecting this humble tribute to the memory of the soldiere who perished in the armies of the Republic, you are performing a high and sacred duty. It is an earnest of the depth of your affections and of the reverence you have for the memory of those who died that you and I might live in the enjoyment of eonstitutional freedom. You are not erecting monuments to tho grand Captain who led the armies in the conflict, and whose deeds are recorded by the orian in the annals of our country. No, t is to these noble men, who braved the torui of battle, who sustained the fury of hcf'ruy, who waded through flamingdeath, errible as heil, and seeured victory with hcir oivn lifeVblood, that thoir country might be pavcd ; it is to these noble men ou particular]}7 dedicate this tribute of your love and veneration. Oroat God, what injustice is done in the history of a great conflict like the one we have just )agéd through ! - the commanding Genral is lauded to the skies, and thousands lock to do him liomage, and in their eagerness to pny thoir respecta to the conquerng hero, fairly tread upon the starving ihilflren of these soldiers, by whose blood the glory of the General was purchased. I would not, by any mcans, seek to deract from the laurels of our great Generáis. No, far from it. I would simply assert the claim of' the comiuon soldier, the ieutenants and the captains, to a share in he glories of their achievements. As I iave said before, to do justice to the memory of' the individual soldier, in the general listory of the struggle, is practically iiupossible. Tiiis being the case, there is a jcculiar propriety in the erection ofmonuments like the one you have dedicated today, that shall appeal to coming generations for the preservation of' the name and deeds of these, omitted in the register of he nation. Such testimoniáis as this admonish us that there is indeed sonie meanng to that sentimont so beautifully expressed by the poet Collins : " llow slepp the brave who sink to reut, By ah tht-ir coun ryV wie-heö biest ! When hprint:, withdewy rtujrera cold, RtMuriiö to deck their hatlowt-d mould, hü ihcre sh li dreaa a yweeter sod Than laucy's feet have ever tiod. 'v By f'airy liando thfir knel] ie rung. By lorrns unseeii their dirge is suug ; There honor (omes, a pilgrim gray, To bleys ihe turt ihat wraps their clay ; Anri ireedom phall a vvhlle repair. To dweil a weepii L hermit there." You do not expect me now to recount the history of our country, through the dréary years of tlie Southern llebeliion. [n my judgment t-uch a course would be neither interesting nor profitable at this time. The leading scènes and incidente of hat ftruggle are engraven upon the memory of every American citizea. We have not met here to day to listen' to historical discour.-es except in so far as this may be necessary in beípeaking the merits of those whose memories wc have convened here to-day to cqixi memórate. ïhe wounds inlicted upon this people by that terrible conflict w ill not be healed in a generador). Beí'orc uie to-day are numbers of these - a "ather, mothcr, sister, son or daughter of some victini of' that desolating war. Day after day some poor sufferer after enduring ndescribable miseries, sinks into his grave, the victim of disease, contracted in the exaosure oí' camp lite. Who can measure the depth and extent of the sufferings our iellow-ruen have endured, since the close of ;he war, froin wounds or diseases inflicted upon theoi while battling in their cause ? Oh, what a ghastly record this would be, íf it were written up ! But their groans and sufferings have reaehed to heaven, and appeal to eternal justice for judgment upon the authors of their misery. What tongue can proclaim or mind eomprehend the sacrifices your owu fellowcitizens have made, whose memories you have met here to comniemorate? I never was engaged in or witnessed a aattle, but I havo passed over the field where contending armies had engaged in the work of human slaughter. I have there seen the debris of the conflict and ïhe moulding mounds where the slain were heapcd in a common grave. And so hurriedly was this work done, in this instance, that the ghastly face of one poor victim peered out f rom ítsslight covering of earth, exposed to the pelting storm and burnini un. As I looked upon this great grave, I thought of the sufferings endured by those who slumbered there, and of those loved ones far away, who mourned their loss. Perhaps they were wounded, and lay f'or hours upon the bloody field, parched with thirst and raoked with pain. The din of battle pased away, and the stillness of nlgnt eaiue on. All was still then upon the süppory field ; no sound but the groans of the wounded and dying. Then, surrounded by the heaps of slain, with the bird of night shriekiugamelancholy dirge, with their palé faces upturned toward heaven and their brovvs wet with the chilling dews of night, they breathed their last, with no kind friend to receive their last requests or to solace them in their dying hour. What misery and suffering, then, was there ! What sacriñees did they not uiake in their country's cause ! Who more deserving of your tributes and your praise tnan they ! Erect, thon, your monuments. Laytheir foundations broad and deep. Make them as firru as the everlasting hilla, that they may stand, aniid the wreoka of time, the silent but ímpreasiva witoesses to all succeeding ages of the deeds and sacrifioes oí' these devoted patriota. In Athens, the gieatest of the Grecian cities, it was the custoiu of the people in the earlier ages of her history, to hold annually a great public funeral, commeinorative of thöse who had perished in the defense of ihe Republic in the Peloponnesian war. The biers of the slain were broug+ii to a tabernacle erected for that purpose, three days bef'ore the time appoiutcd tor the ceremonies. Uuring this time all were at liberty to bedeck the ïemains of their irieuds as suited their tastos. The bodies were then placed in cypress coffins, anc drawn in the grand processiou upon magnificent cSrriag'es. In this gr. at fuñera train there was ona sum)tuous bier, borne along empty, for those whose bodies coulc not be fouiju amorig the slain. lt was a great d&v in Athens - the day when the tirst óf these national funerala was solemnized. The lainentations tbr the dead resouudcd through the city as the solemn procession moved along to the public torub in the finest suburbs, where the reuiains were depositad. This duty perforiiied, Feríeles, one of the greatest of Urecian orators and statesmen, mountcd the rostrum and delivered that great oration that has been preserved to us through the changes and deeay of more than twenty centuries. llow similar that event to the one we are here to celébrate ! Ours is not so graiid or so vast as that great occasion at Athons, but the objt-cts are the same. Said the great Grecian orator, when he came to speuk of the solaiers vvhose funeral rites they were then celebrating, and of the achiev-euients of the anuies of Atheus ; " Every sea lias been opened by our fleets, and every land hath been patrolled by our artnies, whieh have everywhere left behind thein eternal monuments of our eniuity and uur friendship. In the ürst defeuse of such a stute these victima of their own valor, scorning the ruin threatened to it, have valiantly tbught and bravely died. And every one of those who survive s ready, I atn persuaded, to sacrifice life n such a causo. The encomiunis with which I have celebrated the tftte, have boen earned for it by the bravery of t.hern and men like them. And uch complimcnts might be thought too ïigh and exaggerated, if poured on any ïrecian but, tliein alono. The fatal period o which tlie.se gallant souls are now reduced, is the surest evidence of their merit - an evidence. begun in thcir lives and completed in their deaths. Forit is a debt of justice to pap superior honor to men who lave devoted theír Hees in fighting for their country, though inferior to others in every n'rtue hut that of valor. Their last service effaceth all former demerits - it extends to the public ; their private denieanors reached only to a few. Yet not one of them was at all induced to shrink fiom danger, ihrough fondness of those delights which the peaceful, affluent life bestows - not one was the less lavish of his life, through that lattoring hope attendant upon want, that joverty at length might be exchanged for affluence. One pasion there was in their minds much strongor than these - the desire of vengeance on their enetnies. Eegarding this as the most honorable prize of danger, they boldly rushed toward the maik, to glut revengo, and then to satisfy thoir secondary passions. The uneertain event, they had already secured in hope ; wbat their eyes showed plainly must bo done, they trusted their own valor to aceomplish, thinking it, more glorious to de('end themselves and die in tlie attempt, than to yield and live. i'roni the reproaeh of' cowardice indeed they fled, but presen ted their bodies to the shock of battle: when, insensible of fear, but triumphing in hope, in the doubtlul charge they instantly dropped - and others dischai-ged the duty which brave men owe to their country. Bostowing thus their lives on the public, they have every one received a praise that will never decay, a sepuichre that will always be most illustrious - not that in which their bones lie mouldering, but that in which their form is preserved, to be on every occasion, when honor is the empioy of word or act, eternally remembered. The whole earth is the sepuichre of illustrious men ; nor is it the inscription on the columns in their native soil alone that show their merit, but the memories of them, botter thpii all inscriptions", in every foreign nation, reposited more durably in universal reuiembrance than on their own tomb." What more fitting eulogy could I pronounce than this ? What noble sentiments to fa il frons the lips of the Athcnian statesman long ages before the Savior of mankind revealed to the pagan world theeternal truths of revelation. The gloriesof Athens have gone to decay, and the liepublic of the days of Pericles slumbers in the great tomb of nations. Athens, the seat of leaixing, and the glory ofancient Greece, has crumbled in ruin, and the Acrópolis, crowned with its hoary temple survives to teil us of her departed grandeur. But tÜe noble sentiments of Pericles, expressed at the touib of Athenian héroes have survived the desolations ofsucceedingcenturies, and are, and will be, repeated with warm emotions as long as patriotism and reverence for patriotic valor holds a place in the hearts of men. To the surviving kindred of the fallen soldiers I can say, your bereavement is the calamity of your country, and all its people shaie in your sorrow. Death is the doom of all the living - so it has been, and so it will be to the end of time. The destroying angel will sooner or later enter every household and bear in his closing embrace the members of the family cirole to the abodes of death. . The story of the most mighty and illustrious ends in the narra tion of death-bed scènes. The earth is but one vast tomb where the hosts of ages are sleeping the last great sleep. Those whom you mourn were doomed to the common fa ie of all the living. Then as you weep at their shrine you have the consoling reflection, that they laid down their lives in a cause the most holy and sacred men can perish for. And this is no idle assertion or empty declamation ! Eree governments are the most precious boon bequeathed to man. Thrones and imperial governments thrive where freedom languishes. Every age and every country furnishes its bright example of some noble, daring spirits arising to assert the inalienable rights of man to the enjoyment of free government, and though the might of monarchs has crushed the héroes beneath the chariot wheels of imperial power, the namesof'the martyrs to human liberty radíate in the past, while the de -pot is lost in the night ofoblivion, or, if bis name is preserved, only among the characters of infamous memory. Worse than despotism was that power that attacked ourcountry and sought the dissolution of' the Federal Union ; it was the attempt ofambitious men to secure the thral.lom of a race by laying in ruins the prandest example of human government God eer smiled upon ! Upon the ruin of free, republican instilutions they hoped to erect a government that would uphold as its great distinguishing feature, a system condemned by the judgment of' a christian world for more than one hundred years! The great North, forgetting at once all party lines and distinctious, rushed to the defense of their government, and not cnly overcame the mad attemptsof these wicked men, but swept forever from the soil of our country an institution that had been a stain upon history from the morning of its birth to the hour when the Federal Executive proclaimed that slavery in llepublican America, should be no more. It was in this grand struggle your kindred perished. Suiely,.then, it.is true, when we say to you that as you mourn their loss, let your consolation ever be that they died in a cause the most just and sacred that man ever battled for sinee the beginning of time. I should feel, indeed, that I had but imperfectly performed my duty upon this occasion, should I f'ail to notice the noble efforts of the ladies of this community, in procuring this monument - this tribute to departed worth - to be erected as we find it here to-day. I am told that it is through their untiring exertions this work has been accomplished. Such noble employment is the peculiar joy of woman. I but utter a sentiment conflrmed by all history, when I say, that women are found first and foremost in every charitable, Christian or otic entcrprise. The injustice done to the sex, the servile part she has been compelled to assume in the social world through a succession of ages, has never prevailed to smother the exalted patriotisni, which, in all ages and countries, has inspirad woman to deeds of valor which shine among the brightest examples in the annals ot nations. When Pyrrhus with his victorious legions thundered at the gates of Sparta, the women toiled in the trenchesat night while their husbands, fathers, and brothers refreshed thetnselves with sleep íbr the contest of the coming day. And this is but one among the almost countless instances of her devoted patriotism to be found in the records of the past. And here, in Republican America we find her ever true to the tradition of ages, devoting her energies to promote the beM; uud dearest interests of our country. In the last great struggle of the nation, when the Confederaron of the States was threatened with ruin, when the gloom of political night darkeued our sky, the women of America asserted by act and deed, that it was their country that was iinperiled,and that they were endeared to our iree institutions with all the energies of their souls. The surviving soldiere of our armies remeraber, with hearts overflowing with gra itutle, the sacrifices-of the women of this ountry,- mad ; as they ministered like mgels of mercy to the siok and wounded, n tho hospitals and upon the tented fields. ná could the slumbering victima of that iwful struggle speak, what touching stories hey could teil us of the tender care betowed upon them by patriotic, self-saciiioifig women, as they ministored to them ïhen they writhed in the agonies of disease n the hospital camp, thick with the pestiontiul stearns of mortality. In a word, the labor of the women of inorica to preserve our Government fioni he awful doom that fraternal hands were triving to thrut upon it, has secured to hem a place in the annals of our roll secmd to none the records of all former ages an produce. The superior rights and privileges enoyed by the woinen of America to-day, ïave been secured peacefully, and without violent commotions or shedding of blood. Revolutions have swept over the earth, ind wars fierce and terrible have devastated jtates and empires. The banners of contending armies have een unfuried to every breeze and evefy and Las been shaken with the thunders of attle. Slaughter has succeeded slaughter n rapid succession until the victitus of irutal strife are numberad by mülions and ire eniombed along the highway of ages Vom the dawn of human society to the present hour. These conflicts have been inaugurated to sustain the tottering fortunes of thrones and empires, and in the asser;ion of human freedoin. And the avengng sword has been uplifted in the cause of' the holy church militant, and the sad spectacle is presented of these wan-like votaries, with garments wet with human blood and with the ghastly dead tieaped up about them imploring the ölessings and approval of a just and mer ciful God. But in all this bloody record, in all the mighty conflicts which the world has witnessed, it is a truth stamped upon the history of our race, that not oae war has been waged nor one battle fought to secure to umin the enjoyment of' civil or political rights. What a glorious record is this. In the future as it has been iu the past, she will employ the peaceful power of reason and trust to the intelligence and practice of' a Christian world, to secure to her thefull enjoyment of her rights. Fellow citizens, occasions like the present will be productive of great beneficial results if they serve to attach us more firmly to tha institutions of our country. As we look about us to-day we behold a mighty republic extending from the Atlan tic to the Pacific ; from the heaving, mov ing waves of' the Gulf to the land o ternal snows. This -vast territory is peo pled with 40,000,000 of freemen. The emerpnse anu inaustry or tnis peopie nave so developed the sources of national greatness and power that our republio to-day aurpasses the accumulated grandeur and power that ages have heaped upon the most mighty nations of the ancient world. As you pause to contémplate the theme, ihe ruind is filled with wonder and amazement. For upwards of 1,200 year the Roman Empire flourished, and more thau 700 years transpired before she reached the zenith of her power. And then there was but one Rome, one imperial city, toward which all the great highways of' the empire led. But here in Republican America, in less than 100 years, we have raised up a power, rivaling that of Rome, and have within our bounds one bundred imperial cities. Colleges, seminaries of learning, are found in every city, town and hamlet ; our commerce has visited every sea, and our praises are spoken by every people on the globe. This glorious Republie has grown up under the inspirations of free institutions. Here are no imperial families, no Dukes of'Edinburgh to be supported iu weakh and luxury at the expense of th toiiing, industrious people ; no royal famil tó maintain in the splendors of a courl Well may we be proud of our country anc ofits institutjons I Andas wecoutemplat our greatness, how our hearts should b ülled with love and veneration for the defendéis of our beloved country. This greatness has not been secured without great sacrifices ; and the blood of our countrymen has been poured out in defense of' these institutions we love so well. Our Revolutionary sires have all been gatherec to their fathers, and are sleeping beneati the clods of the valley, but few are left o those who maintained our pecond struggl with the mother country. Occasion-dly w meet one of those veterans, whose stoope( form and bending liinbs teil too well th tale, that his earthly pilgrimage is nearl ended. But our land is filled with the sur vivors of that last great struegle, the con test of our government against the power of rebellion, a bloody conflict that has no parallel in the history of thejworld. Those men and the widows and children of those who perished in that terrible war, are the wards of this great Nation : They are entitled to and should receive the protecting care of this people. The maiuied and crippled soldier should be provided with the necessaries of life at the expense of government, and we should be spared the shameful spectacle of seeing one of these poor rneri, maiuied, crippled aad disfigured for life, turning an organ at the corner of the street and imploring the aid of the oharitable to assist him in his helpless condition ! To such we should say, " Go to your home and there spend the remainder of your days in ease and quiet. You who have imperilled all you had on earth for your country, shall not be so soon forgotten." God and angels will reward with approving smiles such gratitude, and the hearts of all this people will say, Amen. And now, fellow-citizens, we are soon to separate, perhaps never to meet again this side that dark river that flows in cold and gloomy grandeur between time and the great infinite beyond. May the lessons of this day be with us until that hour when all temporal things with us fade away in the great struggle with the unbeaten and unchallenged enemy of our race. Wherever we may be, in whatever position we may be called to fill in the future, let us never forget our duties toward those who have been the subjects of our consideration at this time. In the far off future - far down the highway of ages - beyond the duration of e ui pires, and wheu existing nations have grown hoary with age, and are crumbling in decay, will the deeds of these men who subdued the Southern Rebellion live in human annals ; suivive as does the memory of those Spartns who in the eternal fortress of TLermopylse opposed the hosts of' the Persian monarch. Their deeds shall survive as long as human history endures, and, triumthing over the ravages of time, only pass away when the Angel shall stand with one f'oot upon the sea aud the other upon the land, and, amid the convulsions of' the final hour pronounce that awful decree, that as time ha been, time shall be no more.

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Subjects
Old News
Michigan Argus