Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew.
OF THE LIFE OF
J. Johnston Pettigrew,
BRIG. GEN. OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES ARMY,
WM. HENRY TRESCOT
WALKER, EVANS & COGSWELL, PRINTERS, No. 3 Broad street, Charleston, S. C.
The great civil war in this country has ended by the total defeat of one of the parties to the issue. Its causes and its consequences stand for judgment before impartial history; and it is not in this generation of victors and vanquished that we can reasonably expect to find an unexaggerated statement of its fortunes—a temperate appreciation of the influences which produced it—or a dispassionate estimate of the results it has accomplished. Time alone—time made up oftenest, both for nations and for men, of
- “Those slow, sad hours which bring us all things ill,
- And all good things from evil,”
can explain not only men to each other, but men and their actions to themselves. We are always working either better or worse than we can know; and whether by victory or defeat, we are always achieving or sacrificing ends that we never purposed. But there is a value in such a conflict beside if not beyond the value of the principles at stake. The training of life has upon character the same influence which the training of mathematics
has upon intellect, and its worth is derived not from what it teaches, but from what it forms. Men may differ about the conflicting theories of the Constitution which created the parties to the contest; men may disagree about those great national interests, which, partly concealed and partly evident, lay at the foundation of the bitter difference; men may rate, with very varying degrees of praise or censure, the technical merits of Lee or Grant, of Sherman or Johnston. But men never will mistake purity of purpose, nobleness of deed, self-sacrificing lives, or heroic deaths, be they spent on one side or the other. And the time will surely come when all men will see and feel, as some men on both sides see and feel now, that upon such an issue it was the duty of true men to differ; when the spirit in which the events of this war will be reviewed will be the same manly and generous spirit which, in a conflict between those of our own blood, and from whom we learned the contending principles for which we fought, dictated this noble language from Sir William Waller, the Parliamentary general, to his old friend Sir Ralph Hopton, the Royalist commander: “My affections to you are so
unchangeable that hostility itself cannot violate my friendship to your person; but I must be true to the cause wherein I serve. The great God, who is the searcher of my heart, knows with what reluctance I go upon this service, and with what perfect hatred I look upon a war without an enemy. The God of Peace, in his good time, send us peace, and in the meantime fit us to receive it. We are both on the stage, and we must act the parts that are assigned us in this tragedy. Let us do it in a way of honor, and without personal animositics.”
After these words were written how long and fierce was the contest; how hot, and wild, and wicked were the passions and ambitions of men who called themselves countrymen; how complete and unforeseen was the result.
The royalist who, to borrow Macaulay's picturesque description, saw his eldest son fall at Naseby or Marston Moor, who stole by night to revisit his old manor house which had been converted into barracks and desecrated by a Roundhead garrison, whose silver had been melted to raise a regiment among his tenants, and
who, even after the war, was thankful to recover his wasted property by paying a large fine to Mr. Speaker Lenthall, thought and spoke very much as a South Carolina planter would of Mr. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, of General Saxton's administration of the Sea Islands, or General Sherman's march through the State. The women of that day mourned their dead, and shrunk with shuddering from those whose garments smelt of the blood of their kindred. Reverend priests, who had prayed fervently and prophesied boldly, put their hands upon their mouths and bowed in perplexed humility when they learned that the ways of God were indeed past finding out. Bad men rose and ruled; impatient spirits sought relief in exile, and desponding ones sat sad and silent in the midst of darkness which could be felt. But how does the history of that cruel strife read now? The blood that was poured out like water has sunk into the ground; the tears that were shed have dried up like dew; the personal hatreds and jealousies are at rest in ancient graves, and all that was brave and pure, and true in the words and deeds of either of the great factions
lives and glows to-day in the history of England. Cromwell and Falkland, Hampden and Clarendon stand to-day in monumental marble, in the great Palace of Westminster, to teach coming generations what have been the courage, the patriotism, the wisdom of English men.
While, therefore, we who are the vanquished in this battle must of necessity leave to a calmer and wiser posterity to judge of the intrinsic worth of that struggle, as it bears upon the principles of constitutional liberty, and as it must affect the future history of the American people, there is one duty not only possible but imperative; a duty which we owe alike to the living and to the dead; and that is the preservation in perpetual and tender remembrance of the lives of those who, to use a phrase scarcely too sacred for so unselfish a sacrifice, died in the hope that we might live.
Especially is this our duty, because in the South a choice between the parties and principles at issue was scarcely possible. From causes which it is exceedingly interesting to trace, but which I cannot now develop,
the feeling of State loyalty had acquired throughout the South an almost fanatic intensity—particularly in the old Colonial States did this devotion to the State assume that blended character of affection and duty which gives in the old world such a chivalrous coloring to loyalty to the Crown. The existence of large hereditary estates, the transmission from generation to generation of social and political consideration, the institution of slavery, creating of the whole white race a privileged class, through whom the pride and power of its highest representatives were naturally diffused, all contributed to give a peculiarly personal and family feeling to the ordinary relation of citizen to the Commonwealth. Federal honors were undervalued and even Federal power was underrated, except as they were reflected back from the interests and prejudices of the State. When, therefore, by the formal and constitutional act of the States, secession from the Federal Government was declared in 1860 and 1861, it is almost impossible for any one, not familiar with the habits and thoughts of the South, to understand how completely the question of duty was settled for Southern men.
Shrewd, practical men who had no faith in the result, old and eminent men who had grown gray in service under the national flag, had their doubts and their misgivings; but there was no hesitation as to what they were to do. Especially to that great body of men just coming into manhood, who were preparing to take their places as the thinkers and actors of the next generation, was this call of the State an imperative summons. The fathers and mothers who had reared them, the society whose traditions gave both refinement and assurance to their young ambition, the colleges in which the creed of Mr. Calhoun was the text-book of their political studies, the friends with whom they planned their future, the very land they loved, dear to them as thoughtless boys, dearer to them as thoughtful men, were all impersonate living, speaking, commanding in the State of which they were children. Never in the history of the world has there been a nobler response to a more thoroughly recognized duty; nowhere anything more truly glorious than this outburst of the youth and manhood of the South. And now that the end has come, and we have seen it, it seems to me, that
to a man of humanity, I care not in what section his sympathies may have been nurtured, there never has been a sadder or sublimer spectacle than these earnest and devoted men, their young and vigorous columns marching through Richmond to the Potomac, like the combatants of ancient Rome, beneath the imperial throne in the amphitheatre, and exclaiming with uplifted arms, “moraturi te salutant.”
And thus it happened that the very flower of our youth were mowed down by the reaper, whose name is Death, in the rich harvest fields which human passion and civil strife had at last ripened under the peaceful skies and on the unstained soil of the new Republic. For there was not a community in the South from which the younger men of mark, the men whom their people expected to take the places and sustain the characters of the fathers, did not hasten to take up the heavy burden of their responsibility. And if in ordinary times it is one of the saddest of human experiences to see the sudden destruction of great gifts, the extinction of fair promises, the uncompleted and fragmentary achievement of useful and honorable lives, with what bitter
regret must we not review that long list of the dead, whose virtues, whose genius and whose youth we sacrificed in vain. To the memory of these men I think we owe a peculiarly tender care. They went to death at our bidding, and the simple and heroic language of one, not the least among them, spoke the spirit of them all. “Tell the Governor,” said he, as he was dying, “that if I am to die now, I give my life cheerfully for the independence of South Carolina.”
- “Their leaf has perished in the green,
- And while we breathe beneath the sun,
- The world, which credits what is done,
- Is cold to all that might have been.”
Of the great men of this civil war history will take care. The issues were too high, the struggle too famous, the consequences too vast for them to be forgotten. But as for these of whom I speak, if the State is indeed the mother whom they so fondly loved, she will never forget them. She will speak of them in a whisper, if it must be, but in tones of love that will live through all these dreary days. From among the children who survive to her, her heart will yearn forever
towards the early lost. The noble enthusiasm of their youth, the vigorous promise of their manhood, their imperfect and unrecorded achievement, the pity of their deaths will so consecrate their memories that, be the revolutions of laws and institutions, be the changes of customs and fortunes what they may, the South will, living, cherish with a holier and stronger love, and dying, if die she must, will murmur with her latest breath the names of “The Confederate Dead.”
Of the class of men to whom I have specially referred, I do not think there can be found a worthier representative than the subject of this memoir. And I can best justify my opinion by telling the tale of his life simply, briefly, I wish I could add nobly, as it really was.
James Johnston Pettigrew was born at Lake Scuppernong, Tyrrell County, North Carolina, on the 4th July, 1828, and was the son of Hon. Ebenezer Pettigrew and Ann Shepherd, his wife. The family from which he sprang, was remotely of French origin, but at a very early period, branches which recognized their connection, settled both in Scotland and Ireland. James Pettigrew,
a descendant of the Irish branch, and who was an officer in King William's army, at the battle of the Boyne, having received a grant of lands from the Crown established a family at Crilly House, near Aughnarcloy, in Tyrone County, which enjoyed local consideration, and the younger members of which seem chiefly to have entered the military and naval service, and in some instances, to have achieved both rank and reputation. One of his younger sons, James, who was being prepared for Trinity College, Dublin, married early, and having had apparently some unpleasant differences with his family emigrated to America about 1740. He settled originally in Pennsylvania, then moved to Virginia, thence to North Carolina, and finally after these many removes, made his home in Abbeville, South Carolina, about 1768, where he lived to a good old age, and founded the family of which the late Hon. James L. Petigru was the well known and distinguished representative. When he removed from North Carolina, he left behind him his third son, Charles Pettigrew, who had been born in Pennsylvania, in 1743. This gentleman was educated in part, by the Rev. Mr. Waddle, Wirt's famous “Blind
Preacher;” and in 1773, was made Master of the Public School at Edenton, by Governor Martin. In 1775, he went to England to be admitted to holy orders, and was ordained by his Diocesan, the Bishop of London. Returning immediately to North Carolina, his labors were devoted to his work in that portion of the State lying north and south of Albemarle Sound, and he was for many years the Rector of the church in Edenton. His ability and virtues seem to have exerted a most beneficial influence upon his times. The Episcopal Church had at that period scarcely an existence in North Carolina, and consisted of only a few parishes, almost too remote from each other for Christian communion or ecclesiastical organization. Mr. Pettigrew appears from all the accounts, to have been a man of sincere and gentle piety, which sought rather for those points of sympathy which unite all Christians, than those differences of opinion which divide so many churches. While his labors, his attainments and his character attracted the regard and won the confidence of his brethren in the ministry, the sweetness of his disposition and the spirit of charity which in him believed no evil and hoped
all things, rendered him dear to many devout people who did not worship at the same altar; and he was not more the counsellor of his own church than the friend and adviser of denominations not included within the limits of his ecclesiastical authority. That there was also as much firmness as gentleness in the discharge of his duty, and that his sympathy with his fellow countrymen in their trials, was not confined to his priestly relations, may be inferred from the fact that in 1780, he felt it his duty to accompany the militia of the State who were called into service for a Southern campaign.
He married Mary Blount, the daughter of Col. John Blount, the representative of one of the oldest, most influential and most respected families of the colony, and his own influence was naturally extended by the large and powerful connection into which he was thus introduced. Soon after the Revolution, strenuous effort was made to organize more efficiently the Church in North Carolina, and in 1794 he was unanimously elected by the convention Bishop of the new diocese. The history of the Church in the United States furnishes
the official correspondence between himself and Bishop White, but it is only necessary to state here that before his consecration, which was delayed by his inability to reach New York in time, he died, leaving behind him a gentle and blessed memory.
He left surviving him one son, Hon. Ebenezer Pettigrew, who married Ann Shepherd, the daughter of a very distinguished family of Newbern, and seems to have inherited much of his father's attractive character and useful influence. With the exception of a short time, during which he represented his State in Congress, his life was passed in the cultivated and quiet retirement of his paternal estate of Bonarva, in Tyrrell County.
Johnston Pettigrew was the third son of this marriage. The earlier portion of his life was passed with his maternal grandmother, but from his seventh to his fifteenth year his time was spent in summer at the school of W. T. Bingham, in Hillsboro’, and his winters at home or with his mother's relatives in Raleigh. In May, 1843, he entered college at Chapel Hill, the State University, then under the presidency of that eminent
and venerable man, Governor Swain. His scholastic career was so brilliant as to have become a college tradition; his preёminence not only in the usual course of study, but in general force and scope of intellect, was universally admitted, and when he graduated, in 1847, not only were those who had superintended his education lavish and exultant in their predictions of his future eminence, but the Press of the State very generally signalized his graduation as an event in the history of the college. That there was more in this universal recognition of his merit than the partiality of friendship, may be concluded from the fact that Mr. Polk, then President of the United States, and himself a graduate of Chapel Hill, who was the guest of the University at this commencement, and accompanied by Commodore Maury, tendered to Pettigrew, at the suggestion of the latter, one of the Assistant Professorships in the National Observatory at Washington; and from his journals and papers relating to this period of his life, it is not difficult to understand this brilliant success. Of course such documents would have no interest for the world, which looks only at results, but
they show how great was the superiority of his general preparation, how keen, persistent and vigorous was the ambition which stimulated his labors, and what perhaps best explains his influence with his fellow-students, and what every collegian will understand, his intense interest in what I may call college politics, his eager and animated contest for society honors—in short, his complete absorption in that mimic public life which, especially in a State institution, goes so far not only to form the character but to shape the fortunes of the rising generations. Knowing him as I did, familiar with many of the hopes and some of the plans of his after-life, I have found a peculiar but sad interest in the traits scattered through these records, written with all the inconsequence, the frankness, the generosity, the vanity of his age, and showing how truly the boy was father of the man.
In 1847, having thus graduated with the highest distinction, and having accepted from the President the position which he had so honorably won, his life had fairly opened, and with prospects for the future brighter, clearer, broader than fall to the lot of most men; a
home warm with paternal affection, refined by the culture and elevated by the character of its inmates; a large and influential connection who were proud of his promise and powerful to sustain him in the career of honorable ambition; the prestige of an enviable and singular success among those with whom he had commenced and with whom he was to go through life; great gifts and large talents, carefully cherished and highly cultivated; the influences of the past and the hopes of the future to elevate and encourage him. Only nineteen years of age, his place in the Observatory gave him the opportunity for reflection and left him free to pursue the even tenor of a life devoted to scientific achievement, or to make his preparation deliberately for a more exciting theatre. He was not long choosing, for in the vigor of genius he was not exempt from that restlessness which is its almost certain accompaniment until it has found a congenial field for its work. The character of his success at college, and the atmosphere of Washington were additional stimulants to that ambition which finds its natural sphere of activity rather in the conflict with men than in the
more quiet but more strenuous struggle with thought. After a stay of only a few months at the Observatory, he decided upon adopting the profession of the law, and communicated his decision to his family in a letter which shows that his choice was made after very deliberate reflection. He accordingly removed to Baltimore, and entered upon his legal studies in the office of James Mason Campbell, Esq., where, however, he remained but a short time, as he accepted an invitation from his distinguished relative, Jas. L. Petigru, of Charleston, to complete his preparation for the bar in his office. He removed to Charleston in 1848, and after his admission to the bar, at the earnest instance of very near and dear friends, who wished him to receive all the advantages of a perfect culture, he left for Europe. On the 9th January, 1850, he commenced his voyage, and proceeding directly from Liverpool to Berlin, there devoted two years to conscientious and profound study. At the close of his term of study he travelled through Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, England and Ireland, and returned in 1852 to Charleston, and his profession. During his visit to Spain, Mr. Barrenger,
then United States Minister at Madrid, offered him the position of Secretary to the Legation, a selection that there can be no reason to doubt, would have been confirmed by the authorities at home. It was a post of duty peculiarly adapted to his tastes and qualifications. But learning that the gentleman then in office was, for special reasons, very anxious to retain it, and that he would be retained if he himself refused the appointment, he declined it with a delicate generosity, as rare as it was honorable.
Before our late civil war, which, notwithstanding its present apparently ruinous result, has matured this country more rapidly than fifty years of ordinary life, I do not think that any young American of large intellect could have been properly educated without some experience of the old world. I do not refer to such education as one picks up on the Boulevards of Paris, in the Thiergarten of Berlin, in the carnival at Rome, or even in that much shrewder and higher school, the clubs of London, or that one has seen the old masters at Dresden, or witnessed a genuine furore at Milan, or a bull fight at Seville, or drank pure hock or unquestionable
Burgundy. I do not think even these things without their value, for no one can have failed to remark the refining effect of even superficial foreign travel upon very ordinary people. Nor do I mean something higher than this, hard study at Heidelburg, graduation at Oxford, courses of science at Paris. But I mean this, which many I am sure have felt, although it is difficult to express, that the American who has studied history in books, never understands until he has lived in Europe what history really is. He never comprehends where in the point of human progress he stands in America, until he looks back upon it from Europe. It is not that he is among strange institutions and peculiar habits, different costumes and unfamiliar languages, that he sees cathedrals like Westminster, or palaces like the Tuileries. It is the atmosphere, the moral atmosphere, saturated with the crimes and with the virtues, the hopes and the failures of thousands of years of human civilization. There is a vitality, a reality in the past entirely new to his experience. He feels that the future, which to the genuine American looks so free, is, in fact, bound irrevocably to that humanity which has
suffered and struggled and failed and achieved through so many centuries, and that under conditions, which apparently new, are but variations of those essential conditions under which the social and political life of the world has grown for ages, we are acting our part in that one solemn and continuous drama the plot of which is above the comprehension, as it is beyond the alteration of the greatest actor in its varied scenes. And I have never known one upon whom this impression was made, who did not come home a wiser and better man. Johnston Pettigrew had the intellect, the training, the moral nature to learn this lesson, and he grew in stature visibly during his residence abroad. His journal and letters which are not finished enough for publication, exhibit in a comparatively immature form the same powers of observation and reflection to which I shall have occasion to refer hereafter, in noticing his second voyage to Europe.
It is sufficient for me to say here that he came home with that intense consciousness of the sacred unity of the whole history of humanity, which, while it gave larger worth and dignity to the history of his own
country, also gave to his study of the history of other times and people that breadth of view and varied interest which he hoped would one day bear no unworthy fruit. And he had acquired an earnestness of purpose, which, if it could not entirely suppress that craving for cotemporary appreciation which is perhaps an instinct rather than a weakness, had at least taught him to substitute, for the desire of great distinction, the honorable effort for great achievement.
In his return to the bar, in 1852, he enjoyed, as he had done through life, many signal advantages. It is true that he was a stranger in a society, which, although governed by very generous impulses and ready sympathies, was still not unnaturally leavened by the spirit of family connection and local prejudice; one in which nearly all the leading interest of its social and industrial life were represented at the bar by young men of character and ability, in whose fortunes the community were personally concerned; and the city was scarcely large enough for that sort of professional success which is entirely independent of personal connection. But this disadvantage was more than compensated
by the fact that he was at once associated in business with his distinguished relative who had for many years stood without competition at the head of the profession in Carolina. Not only was he thus spared the difficult and wearisome labor of making a practice, but the character and extent of the engagements of the legal firm of which he was a member gave him at once that opportunity, on important and interesting cases, of exhibiting his ability, for which, in the ordinary course of events, he must have waited a long time. And to his honor be it said, that the great lawyer who had thus adopted him never ceased to manifest the most affectionate interest in his success; for it is well known to his friends that that large-hearted man, whose life had not been without its sorrows and disappointments, had found in the young kinsman, who shared his blood and name, the fulfilment of one of his proudest hopes, and looked upon him as the inheritor, in another generation, of that splendid reputation which his own virtues and labors had established.
It is, perhaps, impossible to say how far Johnston Pettigrew would have fulfilled that hope. That he anticipated
such achievement I do not think. His culture was too varied, his appreciation of other sorts of distinction too high, he was too free from the pecuniary necessity of professional success to have given to the law that patient and exclusive devotion, the absence of which no genius can supply. He practiced law because he found in it the most congenial sphere for a mental activity that could not rest satisfied with merely acquiring, and because in this country its training and its influence were the almost necessary preparations for political life. His wonderful, almost unrivalled, quickness of perception and acquisition, his habits of severe and concentrated study, and above all his faculty, so to speak, of putting himself in sympathy with the subject of his studies, with the power of impressing clearly and strongly what he knew, enabled him to sustain the reputation which had been given him, and I think the profession recognized in him, during their short experience, the capacity of a very high intellect. His connection with the bar lasted only four or five years. His position scarcely placed upon him the full responsibility of professional life, and he was never tested in that department
of practice which is the basis of professional reputation and consists not so much in brilliant arguments and recondite learning as in the practical sense which in the quiet of the office and the privacy of consultation directs and controls the business interests of the community. While, therefore, practicing at the bar he was preparing for that public life which was the real object of his aspirations. At that time there can be hardly said to have been any real political life in South Carolina. Mr. Calhoun had died in 1850. For many years before his death his will had been the law in the State and his opinions were received as decisions which governed her action. His isolation from either of the great living parties of the country, the State faithfully represented, while his long and undisputed autocracy, by diminishing all other men, had left the State absolutely without leaders in whom they confided. The State was Democratic, of course, but it had no active association with the Democratic party. It took no share in the party counsels, and supported its nominations steadily and consistently, but without sympathy. The political divisions in the State were, therefore,
almost entirely personal, and as such differences never arouse the popular feeling, active political life was left very much to the friends of a few distinguished men who were supposed to hold the true faith and were allowed to distribute the political honors among them selves. But in the Presidential campaign of 1856, a party in the State headed by Colonel Orr, who at that time represented the mountain district in Congress, demanded that the State should manifest a more active sympathy with the Democratic party, and abandoning the policy of isolation which they believed due to the accidents of Mr. Calhoun's position and unwise in itself, should participate in the convention which made the presidential nominations. It would be useless, and now perhaps not even interesting, to review this old controversy. It is enough for my present purpose to say that Johnston Pettigrew agreed with their opinions and took an active part in the political movement in Charleston which resulted in a convention of the State to nominate delegates to the Cincinnati Convention; that his course was acceptable to the constituency among whom he lived; and that at the October elections of 1856 he
was elected one of the representatives to the Legislature from the City of Charleston. As a legislator his career was brief and brilliant, and not only brilliant but useful in a very high sense.
I am not, I think, given to exaggeration, and I have had sufficient experience of life on a wider scale to be cured of that extravagance of admiration for local habits and local reputations which is the weakness of all small and isolated communities. South Carolina is a very small and not a very important part of the civilized world, and it would be very ridiculous to compare its Legislature to that most august of deliberative assemblies the British House of Commons. But it is nevertheless true that in the Legislature of this State have been preserved with singular fidelity some of the most striking features of the Parliament of our ancestors. The reverence for the forms of parliamentary law, the influence belonging to that silent body of country gentlemen, the long continuance of individual representatives, the weight given to the precedents of former generations, the peculiar respect and dignity attached to the office of speaker, the antiquated and stately costume
of the presiding officers of both branches of the General Assembly, the unwritten and unbroken law of adjournment so that the parish representatives should be on their estates at Christmas, all were traditions of the habits and thoughts of our English blood. In every other State, even at the South, there was a general legislative uniformity and conformity to that worst of models, the United States House of Representatives. But here an unbroken line of speakers from the colonial days of Jonathan Amory to the Ordinance of Secession, presided over a political assembly which preserved more of the conservatism of the old world than any other institution on this continent, except, I ought to add, the common law as administered by the judiciary of the same State. Established in colonial times, when the parishes really represented all the wealth and all the population of the State, the parish system, with its intense respect for landed property, its deference to personal connection, its genuine love of culture and its sensitive obedience to the rules of good breeding, gave a character to the Legislature which it never entirly lost. The representation
sprang from it. Session after session the same men, the natural leaders of the State, the men who represented broad acres and thousands of slaves, the men who had won power and honor by professional labor, the men who, in less conspicuous walks of life, had made for themselves names for industry, honesty and ability, met to make the laws of the State; and as years went on the boys from the college (as much a part of the State as the Legislature) who filled the galleries, and to whom the debates were as much a part of their education as their recitations, came down from the galleries to fill the seats in the House, and to renew and perpetuate hereditary friendships. A member's name was an indication of the district he represented, and the public life of the State was developed in full and fitting sympathy with the personal affections, the traditional associations, the local attachments that made its private life. The tone and temper of such an association of men could not but be elevated. There were among them men of different conditions, various degrees of culture, of very diverse habits of thought, keen politicians, and very strong and contrary ambitions.
But above all they were gentlemen. And by that I mean men who, by the universal consent of the society in which they lived, had the right to respect and did respect themselves and each other. And they were bound together by that unity of the spirit which sprang from a simple but deep and unaffected devotion to the State whose honor and whose interests were entrusted to their keeping. Their sense of personal responsibility not only gave courtesy and dignity to their manners, but it secured that spirit of manliness and fair play which is the surest guarantee against the injustice of party; and I think I can say with truth that anything approaching fraud or falsehood, however it might serve the exigencies of party, anything like meanness or cowardice would, with them, have destroyed, beyond hope of redemption, the most brilliant reputation.
Intellectually they were not above the average of sensible men, but they represented too absolutely the property and sentiment of the State to make any grave mistake as to its interests. They possessed an unbounded admiration for intellectual superiority, and took a generous pride in the individual reputation of
their colleagues. They were familiar with the discussion of many grave questions by very distinguished men; and although in the main, as all sensible men are, very tolerant of mediocrity, they were shrewd and cultivated critics when their admiration was challenged. They had trained and disciplined many men whose fame as orators and statesmen had become national, and with the exception of Mr. Calhoun, I do not know a great reputation in the State, the foundation of which was not laid broadly and solidly in the Legislature. It was in brief a body of whose judgment a young member might well feel apprehensive, of whose kind and generous sympathy he might be assured, and of whose deliberate approval he would have every reason to be proud.
In this body Johnston Pettigrew took his seat as one of the representatives from Charleston, at the extra session for the election of Presidential electors in 1856, and at the regular session a few week after made his maiden speech. A very strong effort had been made at the preceding Legislature, and had been renewed at this, to modify the judiciary system of the State. No
subject could have excited a more earnest and intelligent interest, for the character of the judiciary, both for integrity and ability, had always been the pride of the State. A bill was introduced by Nelson Mitchell, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, another of those whose sun has gone down at midday, which provided for the creation of a separate court of appeals. There was a very warm difference of opinion between very able men. The old circuit court system had strong advocates. It was familiar to the people, was more economical, had in the course of its existence furnished some very eminent judges, and was much more agreeable to the country bar than the proposed change. The metropolitan bar, whose standard of judicial attainment was higher, and who were seriously inconvenienced by the delay incident to the existing system, warmly advocated both as a matter of efficiency and convenience, the creation of an independent and supreme court of appeals. The discussion was sustained by the most distinguished members of the House, and at its close Mr. Pettigrew addressed the speaker in support of the bill. The speech was clear, strong, admirable
in tone and temper, and above all, fresh. While it was practical, it avoided common place. The argument rested on large principles, but the application was direct and business-like, and it was colored by those scholarly illustrations in which the taste of the House took special pleasure. When he sat down his introduction to the public life of the State had been accomplished with signal success.
At the ensuing session he took a long step forwards, a step not of promise, but of positive progress in the achievement of recognized and influential public position. The discussion of the slavery question had been during the last few years assuming in the politics of the United States a graver and angrier character. The Abolition party had ceased to be a small school of speculative reformers, and had become a strong party of political agitators. The Mexican war and the admission of Kansas had furnished the opportunity of making the constitutional recognition of slavery a question of direct practical importance, and it was fast becoming, as it did become, a very few years
later, the essential issue of the great political contest of the Presidential election.
As the dispute became more envenomed, the extreme men on either side became more violent, and the theories of both parties were pushed more resolutely to their logical consequences, regardless of the great historical fact that the Constitution had been adopted and could only be preserved by a wise compromise of these very extremes. At the South, the extreme advocates of slavery abandoning or rather going beyond the old, and I think, impregnable position that domestic slavery was a political and social relation between the two races, recognized by the Constitution and guaranteed by that instrument so long as any one of the States maintained its existence, undertook to prove the intrinsic righteousness and excellence of the institution, and demanded as a perfectly logical consequence from their premises that the constitutional prohibition of the slave trade should be abrogated. The men who held these views represented a very small minority even in South Carolina, and were distinguished rather for their eccentric and bold speculativeness of opinion than for any
real influence upon public affairs. But in 1856, Governor Adams gave a sudden and factitious importance to these opinions by advocating them in his annual message to the Legislature of South Carolina. The subject was referred in both branches of the General Assembly to special committees, with leave to sit during the adjournment and report at the next session. In the committee of the House, Mr. Pettigrew, although the youngest member, was selected by the minority to represent their opinions. At the session of 1857, the report was made. In its condemnation of the views and recommendations of the governor it was a clear, complete, eloquent and forcible exposition of the convictions of three-fourths of the slaveholders of the South. The report is too well known and attracted too much attention to render an analysis necessary. The completeness of the argument, the breadth of the principles upon which it rested, its full and exhausting history of all the legislation of other nations on the same subject, the curious picture of the social consequences of the slave trade drawn with infinite labor and ability from a study of the old statute law of the State, made this report
a document of permanent interest and value. The subject is one which it is scarcely pleasant or profitable to review. I will venture but one opinion, and that is that if time had been allowed for the principles which were the basis of that report, to have been enforced and illustrated, to have been applied to the larger consideration of the whole question in controversy, by such men as Mitchell and Pettigrew and others, who being still living I do not think it proper to mention, and who were young and strong enough to have waited for the result of their labor, I think a school of public opinion would have been formed at the South which would have steadily widened the sphere of its influence and manifested its ability to deal wisely and successfully with those issues which have just reached their bloody solution. But be that as it may—at the close of the session of 1857, Johnston Pettigrew had fairly reached a position from which he could look forward with confidence to an open career of honorable and distinguished usefulness. But I must add with sorrow and not without mortification that with this session his legislative career closed. By one of those miserable
chances which results from the unworthy personal scramble for honors and office which the legislative election in Charleston has more than once become, he was defeated in the October elections of 1858, and thus his services were lost to the State at the very time they were most needed and would have been most valuable. He was disappointed, naturally enough, but more so I think than the occasion warranted or what was due to his own character ought to have permitted. For that popular confidence which secures stability of power, requires time and long and persistent achievement. No gifts however brilliant, no purpose however pure, will obtain it without patience of spirit and tenacity of temper. This disappointment, however, gave him the opportunity to carry out a purpose which he had long cherished. He had felt, early in life, a desire for military service, and when a student at Berlin had made an ineffectual effort to procure admission into the Prussian army. The Italian war, which excited his warmest sympathies, was now in progress, and he determined to apply for a staff appointment in the Sardinian
army. The motive of his conduct I can best describe in his own words:
“It was on the night of the 4th of July, 1859, that I crossed Mount Cenis on the way to Turin. Though the precise date was a matter of accident, its associations were in happy unison with the object of the journey and the sentiments which prompted me. It was my birthday, but far more it was the day that ushered into life my native land—a day ever memorable in the history of the world—not so much because it had added another to the family of nations as because it had announced amid the crack of rifles and the groans of expiring patriots, the great principle that every people has an inalienable right of self-government without responsibility to aught on earth, save such as may be imposed by a due respect for the opinions of mankind. Once more this great battle was to be fought, no longer in the wilds of the American forest, but on land renowned through all ages, and rendered sacred by recollections of intellect, art and religion. Now, as then, a tyrant empire had with vain boastings poured her legions upon a devoted land; now, as then, the oppressed
few forgetting their dissensions, had risen to burst their chains asunder; and now, too, as then, a great nation, the generous French, were rushing with disciplined battalions to aid struggling, expiring humanity. It was certainly humiliating that so large a portion of Europe should have remained unsympathizing spectators of the contest. On the part of an American, acquiescence in such neutrality would have been treason against nature. Inspired by these sentiments, I was hurrying with what speed I might, to offer my services to the Sardinian Government, and to ask the privilege of serving as a volunteer in her armies—perhaps a foolish errand if measured by the ideas of this unromantic century. No emotion of my life was ever so pure, so free from every shade of conscientious doubt or selfish consideration. At the distance of four thousand miles, we were happily ignorant of the underhand intrigues, if any there were, which so frequently disgust one in the turmoil of politics. I saw but the spectacle of an injured people, struggling as America had done, to throw off the yoke of a foreign and comparatively barbarous oppressor, and as we passed battalion
after battalion of brave French slowly ascending the mountain, I felt toward them all the fervor of youth, fired by the grateful traditions of eighty years ago.”—Spain and the Spaniards.
His application was successful, but on his way to join the army he was met by the news of the peace of Villa Franca, which of course put an end to the purpose of his journey. Thus disappointed he devoted a few months to revisiting Spain, and returned to South Carolina towards the close of 1859. But his voyage was not without fruit, and in 1860 he printed for private circulation among his friends, “Spain and the Spaniards,” a volume which forms the only memorial he has left us of his severe studies, his varied accomplishments, his high aspirations. This book is admirably written. The country and the people whom he described had for him a romantic charm, and his enthusiastic sympathy with their history and character gives to his descriptions a warmth and truthfulness which a colder observation could never have imparted. His thorough knowledge of Spanish history and his familiarity with the language taught him both what to observe
and how to observe, while his reflections have the breadth and vigor and freshness which in the study of the old world can be given only by the consciousness of the ever-living connection between the past and the present. While the spirit of the book is genuinely American, especially so in some of its outspoken prejudices, and very liberal in its political coloring, its tone of refined and accomplished culture, its quick, bright sketches of character, its love of nature, its picturesque description of national habits and institutions give both variety and refinement to its pages, and although it scarcely afforded scope for the exhibition of his general ability, it will I am confident, if ever published, be placed in the front rank of that department of literature.
Pettigrew returned from Europe with the same conviction he had carried away from home, that every hour was bringing nearer the unavoidable conflict, and he had not been slightly influenced in his desire to see large and active service abroad by the persuasion that all he could learn there would find its early and fitting use here. Thus impressed, he had not only before his
journey devoted himself to the study of military science, so far as the best books in the various modern languages could teach, but while in Paris had used all such opportunities as his favorable introductions and his avowed purpose afforded him. Upon his return he devoted himself with his usual enthusiasm to the improvement of the militia of the city. Elected captain of a rifle company, he endeavored to fashion it upon the Zouave model, the drill efficiency of which he had admired in France. The novelty as well as the success of his experiment attracted great attention and he was soon elected Colonel of the First Rifle Regiment, the best organization of volunteer troops in the State. In a very little while his own energy and the spirit which he infused into his command made it a model of volunteer organization. But he did more than this. He not only perfected their discipline and organization, but he fostered and developed in his command the conviction that their discipline and organization had a purpose beyond parade display, and that all its dignity sprang from the great duty for which it was a preparation, and the hour of that duty was fast approaching.
That event occurred which for more than one generation had been the subject of household talk and public discussion, which old men had died hoping, and young men had grown up expecting to see, which was the expression of the prejudices and the passions, the conflicting interests and the contrary convictions of a half century of political strife. South Carolina seceded from the Union, and called upon her children to rally to the support of the only government they had ever been taught to love or to obey. Before the negotiations which the State initiated with the United States Government immediately upon her assumption of sovereign power could reach their formal but inevitable conclusion, one of those occurrences which the history of the world proves always will happen in times of revolution to baffle the intentions and plans of those who would control them, placed the issue before the country sharp and sudden. Major Anderson, in command of the United States forces in Charleston harbor, without orders from Washington suddenly evacuated Fort Moultrie, secured Fort Sumter under cover of night, and in the morning had occupied a position which
involved the whole question in controversy and required for its peaceable solution the abandonment either by the United States or the State of the rights they respectively claimed.
It would be idle now to inquire how far the action of Major Anderson hastened hostilities. It is sufficient to say here that the State of South Carolina felt bound to meet the consequences, and to secure possession of the other forts commanding the harbor. Colonel Pettigrew, whose command had immediately tendered their services to the Executive, was ordered to occupy Castle Pinckney, and shortly after was transferred to Morris Island, and charged with the preparation necessary at that point to prevent the reinforcement of Fort Sumter by the United States Government. This duty, which required not only the engineering knowledge requisite for the erection of batteries, but the combination of energy and tact indispensable to the discipline and training of troops unaccustomed to the discomfort and restraint of camp life and real service was discharged by Colonel Pettigrew to the entire satisfaction of the Executive, and during his command, a council of war was
seldom held of which he was not a member. The establishment of the Confederacy transferred the control of military operations from the State authorities, and upon the arrival of General Beauregard, Colonel Pettigrew was removed to Sullivan's Island, where he remained until the surrender of Fort Sumter, the character of that bombardment excluding the infantry arm of the service from any active participation in its operations.
With the fall of Fort Sumter, all hopes of peace ended, and both sections addressed themselves earnestly to the work before them, and the spirit of serious, I might say, sorrowful resolution with which the South entered upon the struggle, was well expressed by Colonel Pettigrew, who, in July, 1861, received a stand of colors for his regiment with the following words:
“The flag of the old republic is ours no more. That noble standard which has so often waved over victorious fields; which has so often carried hope to the afflicted and struggling hearts of Europe; which has so often protected us in distant lands, afar from home and kindred, now threatens us with destruction. In all its
former renown we participated. Southern valor bore it to its proudest triumphs, and oceans of Southern blood have watered the ground beneath it. Let us lower it with honor, and lay it reverently upon the earth.”
Of General Pettigrew's military career from this point I scarcely feel competent to speak. At the time of his death he had not risen to that rank in which independent command and the responsibility of important operations, give historical interest to the conduct of the soldier, and therefore in what I say I will refer to the events of his military life rather as illustrations of his character than in their connection with the history of the war. And even here I consider myself fortunate that I am able to use the language of one who was his friend and his companion; one who, when he speaks of battles, tells what he has seen—when he describes a soldier, tells what he has been. General James Conner, in a letter written to a friend, soon after General Pettigrew's death, says:
“Immediately after the fall of Fort Sumter preparations for war were vigorously made by both of the contending parties. The troops which had been embodied
for the defence of Charleston, and who had been in the field for three months, were, with few exceptions, the only military organizations of the State. For the prosecution of the war beyond the limits of the State, special organizations were needed. The reputation for military ability, which General Pettigrew had acquired, and the confidence he had inspired in all who had served with or under him, pointed him out as an appropriate leader under whom to organize. The same qualities, however, had already attracted the notice of the Legislature, and the position of Adjutant-General of the State was tendered to him, and his acceptance of it urged under the belief that his administrative ability could accomplish more good in organizing the forces of the State than by restricting himself to the duties of a single regiment. The position, however, was not acceptable to him, and he declined it. He preferred the active duties of the field, and at the request of General Beauregard, and with the approval of the Executive of the State, he proceeded to organize a rifle regiment for the war, of which he was to be colonel. Companies far exceeding the number permitted were rapidly raised and
tendered to him; his selections made, his field and staff officers agreed upon, and Major Barker, the Junior Field Officer, dispatched to Montgomery, the then seat of the Confederate Government, to tender the regiment to the Secretary of War, and receive authority to muster it into service. The views of the War Department at this time were, not to receive organized regiments, but to receive only companies, reserving to itself the organization into regiments, and the selection and appointment of field officers. This mode of organization was not in accordance with the wishes or expectations of those who constituted the regiment. The companies had been formed and organized with a view to the rifle regiment, and to those whom they had understood were to be its field officers; and the proposition to lay aside those under whom they were anxious to serve, and for whom they had raised and organized these companies, was in the highest degree distasteful to the officers of the regiment. Several attempts were made to change the decision of the Secretary of War, but without effect, and the several companies composing the regiment being unwilling to accept officers named by the War Department
and unknown to them, sought and obtained admission into other organizations then in process of being raised in the State, under authority direct from the War Department. The company which I had raised for the rifle regiment—the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers—was received into the Hampton Legion.
“Colonel Pettigrew was thus without command, but his ardent spirit would not permit him to remain a mere spectator of the strife, and soon after my command was moved to Richmond, he wrote me requesting leave to join my company, and shortly after came on. He was only a few days in Richmond when he received a letter from the Governor of North Carolina, informing him that he had been commissioned as Colonel of the Twelfth North Carolina. The next day he started for Raleigh to assume command. A few days after, the Legion was ordered to Manassas, and participated in the battle of the 21st July, and well do I remember the earnestness with which Pettigrew, when next we met, listened to our narrative of the battle, and the great regret he felt at having so narrowly missed participation
in the glory and excitement of that day's triumph. During the winter of 1861-62, he was camped at Evansport, on the Potomac, and there, as at Charleston, his high military attainments, his quick perception, and unflinching, untiring devotion to duty, rapidly won for him the confidence and esteem of all who surrounded him. He was assigned to important duties requiring high skill both as engineer and artillery officer. These he discharged so completely to the satisfaction of those in authority, that without his knowledge, he was recommended to promotion to the rank of brigadier. The appointment was tendered to him. To the surprise of the president he refused it, and being in Richmond at the time, he waited upon the president to state to him the reasons of his refusal. The principal ground upon which he based his non-acceptance was that he had never been under fire, never handled troops in action, and his conviction was firm that no man who had not been actually tried in battle should be appointed to the rank of brigadier. The president replied with a smile that the responsibility for the appointment was his, that he was thoroughly satisfied with Colonel Pettigrew's
qualifications for the position and had no hesitation in tendering the appointment, and urging its acceptance. The president was, however, met by a firmness of purpose equal to his own, and Colonel Pettigrew persistently refused the appointment to the admiration and somewhat the amusement of the president, who remarked that he wished the whole country could have heard the conversation which had taken place between them, as he had been besieged with applications for brigadierships upon every conceivable ground, but that this was the first instance of an officer refusing promotion because he had not demonstrated his ability to discharge the duties. Colonel Pettigrew returned to Fredericksburg and remained there for a few days. At the expiration of that time, General French, his brigade commander, was ordered to report to Wilmington for duty, and Major-General Holmes commanding the troops in and around Fredericksburg, sent for Colonel Pettigrew and insisted on his writing to the War Department, and revoking his refusal of the tendered commission. For a long while Pettigrew combated the reasons of the general and declined to accede to his
request. It was only when the general seriously and earnestly said—‘Colonel Pettigrew, it is important to the command and the country that you take the office, and I regard it as your duty to do so’—that Pettigrew yielded his own convictions and wrote the desired letter. I saw him a day or two afterwards and he was even then chafing at having given up his own ideas of what was proper, and referring to some experiences we had shared, remarked: ‘You and I ought to know by this time that a man's own convictions are the surest guides for his own action. He ought not to listen to anything else.’ I laughed at his earnestness and replied that on this occasion I belonged to the Holmes faction, and was delighted that the major-general had over-ruled him into accepting. A few days after, the army was moved to Yorktown, and I did not see Pettigrew again until on the retreat from that place, when we met for a few moments at Williamsburg. We met subsequently for a moment as his brigade and that to which I belonged were moving together into the battle of Seven Pines. At the close of the fight I learned that he was known to be captured and supposed to be killed. The
next time I saw him I was wounded in Richmond, and he had just returned from Fort Delaware, and was still unfit for duty owing to the wound received at Seven Pines, but eager to be in the field again. He shortly after returned to the field in command of a brigade near Petersburg, and I was invalided to South Carolina. We never met again.
“Of his military abilities I need hardly speak. They were known and respected by the whole army. Distinguished as he was in the pursuits and employments of civil life, he was by nature essentially a soldier. The life military and everything connected with it, even to the slightest details of the profession, had for him a charm which no other profession yielded. Possessing many qualities, eminently fitting him for command, he possessed that rare faculty of inspiring confidence in those whom he commanded. From the company up to the division, there was no body of troops whom he ever commanded, even for a short time, who were not devoted to him, and ready to follow him regardless of all dangers. He infused his own spirit into those whom he commanded, he shared their perils and privations,
and systematically disregarding his own comfort, he labored for theirs. Firm and strict as a disciplinarian, he was eminently just. His impartiality was a proverb. Doing his own duty fully and thoroughly, he exacted from all under him the full performance of theirs; and the knowledge that duty had to be performed, and that neglect of it was sure alike of detection and punishment, rendered punishment almost unnecessary, and made everything in his command move with the regularity and precision of a well regulated machine. He watched over his troops most anxiously. He regarded them as a trust, and labored for them faithfully, and they repaid his care with a devotion which I have never seen equalled. It was impossible by any words to give a faithful description of the confidence he inspired, or the enthusiasm he awakened in his troops. To realize it, one must have lived among his troops and heard the recital from their own lips. Through his friendly influence I was selected to command his regiment shortly after he became a brigadier, and although he had then been separated from it for some time, his influence remained as strong as ever. They loved to talk of him,
they were proud of having served under him, and I am sure that no stronger appeal could have been made to these men, in their hour of battle, than to bid them remember that Pettigrew still looked to them to do their duty.
“Skilful, fertile in experience, full of resource, bold, yet with quick and sound judgment, reckless only where he was personally concerned, and inspiring confidence and enthusiasm wherever he went, he only needed time to have won his way to the highest military distinction.”
The report of his death, to which General Conner refers, excited the universal lamentation of the country, and he enjoyed the unusual privilege of hearing while he lived what would be said of him when he died. As soon as he was sufficiently recovered from the effects of his wound and imprisonment, he resumed the command of his brigade, although the exigencies of the service had transferred his old regiment to another command. His efficiency and the enthusiasm which his reputation incited in his native State, however, soon perfected the discipline of the new organization and filled its ranks
with the best manhood of North Carolina. With this command he joined the army of the Potomac, and entered with Lee upon the Pennsylvania campaign. At the battle of Gettysburg, the first great engagement in which he took a prominent part, he was in command of Heth's division, which, under General Longstreet, and in conjunction with Pickett's, attempted the fatal and famous advance upon Cemetery Hill, on the morning of the 3d July, 1863.
“The distance,” says General Pettigrew's aide-de-camp, Captain Young, “over which we had to advance may be estimated when I state that the fuses for the shell used by the artillery stationed immediately in our front were cut for one and a quarter miles. The ground over which we had to pass was perfectly open, and numerous fences, some parallel and others oblique to our line of battle, were formidable impediments in our way. The position of the enemy was all he could desire. From the crest on which he was entrenched, the hill sloped gradually, forming a natural glacis, and the configuration of the ground was such that when the left of our line approached his works, it must come within the are
of a circle from which a direct, oblique and enfilade fire could be and was concentrated upon it.” All that human courage could do was done. The heroic battalions reached the enemies lines, but only to be hurled back in final and bloody defeat. General Pettigrew was himself painfully wounded, the majority of his staff killed or disabled, while of the other officers, Burgwyon and Marshall, McCreay and Iredell, all North Carolinians, wrote in blood their testimony that with unweaned devotion and unbroken spirit, their State had followed the Confederate banners to the extremest point where Lee had planted them. The noble brigade which, on the morning of the 1st July, mustered three thousand men, numbered on the morning of the 4th, eight hundred and thirty-five. Well might General Lee say in those simple and weighty words, which will make history for another generation:
“The conduct of the troops was all that I could desire or expect, and they deserved success so far as it can be deserved by heroic valor and fortitude. More may have been required of them than they were able to perform, but my admiration of their noble qualities and
my confidence in their ability to cope successfully with the enemy, has suffered no abatement from this issue of protracted and sanguinary conflict.”
The Confederate army fell back upon Hagerstown and the Potomac without interference from the enemy, crossing that river partly at Williamsport and partly at Falling Waters. General Longstreet's corps, of which Heth's division formed a part, crossed at the latter place. On the morning of the 14th July this division, after a weary and exhausting night's march, stopped for rest and breakfast about a mile and a quarter from the bridge at Falling Waters. For some inexplicable reason General Heth had not thrown out pickets, and about nine o'clock while he, General Pettigrew and several other officers were walking towards the left of the division, their attention was attracted by a small squad of cavalry riding out of a wooded valley about a mile off. Their number (about twenty-five) and their neighborhood misled General Heth into the belief that they were Confederate troops, and before the error was discovered, they had reached the group of officers who had remained at the spot from which
they had just been seen. The arms of the soldiers in the immediate vicinity were stacked, the men surprised, there was a brief alarm, an obscure and confused skirmish, a few scattered shots, and, within sight of a whole division, General Pettigrew was mortally wounded by one of these reckless troopers, who made their escape as rapidly and safely as they had made their attack. He was removed in the track of the army, which effected its crossing about one o'clock of the same day, and carried to the house of Mr. Boyd, half-way between Martinsburg and Winchester. And there, on 17th July, upon the soil of the Old Dominion, in the arms of that noble State whose pious and gentle care had soothed and sustained the dying moments of the eldest-born of the whole South, in the early stillness of the summer morning, he peacefully folded his hands from battle and rested with God!
Into the sacred privacy of his last hours I dare not intrude. To those only who were born of the same mother, does such communion belong. But for the sake of those who loved him so well in this life that they long for an assurance of their future hope, I will repeat
the words of the Bishop of Louisiana, who was with him: “In a ministry of near thirty years, I have never witnessed a more sublime example of Christian resignation and hope in death.”
Such was his life. And now that it is told, it is manifest that its results—its actual achievements, when summed up, as they can be in a few brief sentences—fail to explain the strength and breadth of the impression he made upon those among whom that life was passed. The influence was in himself, and the opportunity of public action which he enjoyed, only widened the circle in which that influence was felt. He had that in his nature which made men love him. Although eager in the pursuit of objects which he desired, and which other men desired, too; bold and out-spoken in the vindication of his opinions, and placed by his early success where it was difficult not to excite jealous prejudices, yet it is worthy of note that amongst his cotemporaries, those whose characters and abilities would have made them his natural and most formidable rivals, he found his truest and warmest friends.
He had that in his nature which made men respect
him. His learning, his accomplishments, his talents, were all under the control of his moral sense. He was a man who desired to be, and not to seem. His ambition was large, but it was an ambition to do what was worthy to be done. “What he would highly, that he would holily;” and, although as strong men will desire, he desired the vantage-ground of place and power—the standpoint wherefrom to use the lever of his intellect, yet his life was instinct with the consciousness that a great end can never be compassed by low means, that nothing is worthy the ambition of a true man which requires the sacrifice of personal honor, of fidelity to his friends, or of loyalty to his convictions.
He was essentially an earnest man. From his early youth whatever he did was done with an intense purpose. As his experience widened and his mind matured, the purpose was changed, but the intensity was constant. Those who knew him best will, I think, agree with me that this earnestness was every year concentrating upon a higher purpose and proposing to itself a loftier aim, that the restlessness of his early ambition was subsiding, the effort of his intellect growing
steadier, and that it needed only this final consecration to an unselfish cause to perfect the nobleness of his character.
When I think of him, and men not unlike him, and think that even they could not save us; when I see that the cause which called out all their virtues and employed all their ability has been permitted to sink in utter ruin; when I find that the great principles of constitutional liberty, the pure and well-ordered society, the venerable institutions in which they lived and for which they died, have been allowed to perish out of the land, I feel as if, in that Southern Cause, there must have been some terrible mistake. But when I look back again upon such lives and deaths; when I see the virtue and the intellect and the courage which were piled high in exulting sacrifice for this very cause, I feel sure that, unless God has altered the principles and motives of human conduct, we were not wholly wrong. I feel sure that whatever may be the future, even if our children are wiser than we, and our children's children live under new laws and amid strange institutions, History will vindicate our purpose, while she explains
our errors, and, from generation to generation, she will bring back our sons to the graves of these soldiers of the South, and tell them—aye, even in the fulness of a prosperity we shall not see—This is holy ground; it is good for you to be here!