DEDICATION OF CORNERSTONE OF SOLDIER'S MONUMENT
July 4, 1868
Ninety-two years ago our fathers made the Fourth of July the most illustrious date in secular history. They did it by the Declaration of Independence, which brought forth on this continent a new nation, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Other events of less importance occurring in our early, and also in our present history, have contributed to the interesting associations which belong to this day.
At the first general Colonial Congress ever held, which assembled at Albany, in 1754, Doctor Franklin proposed and carried through the Convention, by a unanimous vote, a plan of union for all the colonies, remarkably similar to that by which these States have been made one nation. In support of it, he published an article, in his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and appended to it one of those allegorical cuts of which he was so fond. It was a picture of a snake cut into as many pieces as there were colonies, each piece having upon it the first letter of the name of a colony, and under the whole, in capital letters, appeared the words JOIN OR DIE. This, the first scheme of union formed by the fathers, was adopted on the 4th day of July, 1754. It was rejected by the Colonial Board of Trade in England because it was too democratic.
It is a curious coincidence that on the same day, July 4th, 1754, George Washington, having then the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the service of the Colonial Government of Virginia, unfortunately for everything but his good name, had to capitulate, with his command, to the French, at what was well called Fort Necessity, in the Great Meadows on the Youghiogheny River.
July 4th, 1826, exactly fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson, its author, and John Adams, "the pillar of its support, and its ablest advocate and defender," while their names were on all tongues, took their flight together to the world of spirits. The concurrence of their deaths on that day seems almost to excuse the belief in the interposition of a direct providence, and to justify the mysterious reverence with which the tidings were everywhere received.
On the 4th of July, 1831, James Monroe, the last President of the revolutionary fame, was gathered to his fathers.
A consideration of these events, some of them important, all of them interesting, associated with the Fourth of July, tends to strengthen the patriotic emotions with which we are filled on this great day of national jubilee. But infinitely the most important events which have occurred on the 4th of July, except only the Declaration of Independence itself, are achievements of the brave men, to honor whom is the leading purpose which has called together this vast assembly. Five years ago the soldiers of the Union gave this day additional titles to grateful commemoration. By the defeat of Lee at Gettysburg, and the capture of Vicksburg, they secured the downfall of the rebellion and slavery, and the preservation of the American Republic.
All hail, then, July the Fourth! the day of the birth of the United States, and the day of its salvation. Henceforth, forever, on this day, the events and scenes of the Revolution and of the great rebellion; the heroes and patriot statesmen of those momentous periods; the men of Valley Forge and of Chattanooga, of Yorktown and of the Appomattox; the names of Paul Jones and Farragut; of the lion-hearted Warren, and of our own beloved McPherson; of Washington and of Lincoln; the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation, will in the memories of the friends of freedom in all lands be linked together in adamant
"Watchwords such as ne'er
Shall sink while there's an echo left in air."
It is altogether fitting and proper that this National Festival, consecrated as it is to hallowed recollections, should be devoted by the people here assembled, to the work of erecting a suitable monument in honor of the citizen soldiers of this town who fell in the great conflict which, during four long and anxious years, threatened the Nation's life. Every county, and almost every town in the loyal States, has its Roll of Honor, its heroic Union dead, whose names, virtues and services it is natural and wise to wish to rescue from oblivion. The names of the dead of Youngstown who perished in the righteous war for the Union will be carved on the column of granite or marble which it is intended here to build. Such a monument, its ample sides covered with the names of such men, what useful purpose will it accomplish? What lessons of duty will it teach? If the monument has no high purpose, if it teaches no noble lessons, if it is merely an idle and costly ornament, these ceremonies, this beautiful pageant, the work itself which we propose, are hardly worthy of the attention of reasonable creatures. The occasion does not require, and time will not allow me to enter upon any large consideration of the topics which these questions suggest to every thoughtful person. But briefly and rapidly let me direct attention to a few leading ideas.
We build a monument in honor of the men who died in the war for the Union. They went out to do battle with the only enemy that could put our nationality in jeopardy even for an instant. Separated by broad oceans from every rival power, our nation was impregnable to every foreign assault. From the days of Washington, our danger has been the prevalence of a false theory of the Constitution, which some day might be carried into practice. That theory was, that the Union, under the Constitution, was created by the States, each acting in a sovereign capacity, and that any State might rightfully withdraw from, and thereby destroy the Union. The opposite theory is, that the constitutional Union, in the language of Washington, "makes us one people." These soldiers gave their lives that the people of the United States might have "one country, one Constitution, one destiny." If their warfare had failed, this generation would probably have seen the great central belt of this continent divided into hostile nations-no man knows how many-each with its separate government, its standing army, its arsenals, its forts and its camps. Our people, so full of enterprise, energy and courage, would have been compelled to make war their study and their business. Whatever evil belongs to a condition of war; its military courts and commissions; its taxes and drafts; its idleness, ignorance, vice and crime; its sacrifices, privations and sufferings-all of these, if the war for the Union had failed, would have been part of the familiar daily life of our people until, as a refuge from war, lawlessness and anarchy, they would gladly have sunk into the repose of a military despotism. The men we would honor today have given the last full measure of devotion to save from such a fate the precious inheritance won by our fathers.
A little more than twelve years ago, Edward Everett, speaking on the anniversary of the birthday of Daniel Webster, referred to the great debate on nullification in the Senate in 1830. He described that famous parliamentary contest, and spoke of the part which Mr. Webster bore in it as the achievement of his life. Of the importance of Mr. Webster's defense of the true construction of the Constitution, he said: "from the wars of the old Assyrian kings and conquerors down to that now raging in the Crimea, there never was a battle fought whose consequences were more important to humanity. Better had Alexander perished in the Granicus, better had Nelson fallen at the mouth of the Nile, or Napoleon on the field of Marengo, than that one link should part in the golden chain which binds this Union together, or the blessings of a peaceful confederacy be exchanged for the secular curses of a border war." These eloquent sentences of Mr. Everett do not overstate the value of the Union, but he lived long enough to learn that no power of argument or eloquence possessed by Mr. Webster could settle the rights of the Union in opposition to the selfish interests and passions of the slaveholders of the South. With them might made right, and it remained for the men to whom we would dedicate a monument, and to their comrades, living and dead, to settle at the point of the bayonet the fact of the existence of the American nation. (The first great purpose, then, of the monument we build, is to expound to all who shall behold it, as long as it shall endure, the true principles of the Constitution on the unity of the people of the United States.)
Another lesson inculcated by all memorials and ceremonies in honor of the Union dead, is the testimony they bear in support of the declaration of the fathers, "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Human slavery no longer finds defenders among intelligent and candid citizens of the United States. But when the young men whose names will adorn your monument took up arms at their country's call, how stood that question south of the Potomac? A once familiar illustration of the way the exercise of the most sacred of human rights, was punished as criminal in that section, sound strangely now. The fable is that a young colored woman in Virginia was indicted, solemnly tried, found guilty and sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a crime which is thus described in the indictment against her: "For that whereas the said Nancy Jane, in the said county of Appomattox, in the commonwealth of Virginia aforesaid, not having the fear of God before her eyes, but moved and instigated thereto by the devil, did teach a certain negro woman, Betsy Anne by name, to read the Bible, contrary to the peace and dignity of the said commonwealth of Virginia, and to the great displeasure of Almighty God."
Need I remind anybody that if the Union soldiers had failed it is probable that universal education and impartial justice would have no place in any scheme of government south of the Potomac today?
Your work will suggest another important public duty. Read the names of your honored dead. They were for the most part men who were private citizens in peace and private soldiers in the war. Perhaps no one of them was educated a soldier or made war his trade. Probably no one of them expected to find a place in history, either as a leader or as a hero. Officers of high rank, educated by the United States for the military and naval service, public men honored with responsible civil trusts, when the rebellion broke out betrayed their country, but the private soldiers and the common sailors were true to the flag. The war for the Union was fought through to final triumph in spite of the lack of faith, the weakness, the blunders, and the treachery of many an honored leader. "The true heroes of this war were the great, brave, patient, nameless people." You seek to honor, therefore, those of whom Mr. Lincoln was accustomed to speak as "the plain men of the country." Are they not worthy?
The Emperor of Russia said to an American: "I am not surprised that your Government was able to raise for its defense an army of a million of men, but the wonder to me is, that after the war was ended a million soldiers could be induced to return promptly and quietly to their former homes and pursuits."
When the unwelcome news of the downfall of the Confederacy reached England, it was commonly believed among the aristocracy that General Grand would march his army to Washington and establish a military despotism with himself at its head. Fortunately the fathers, assiduously careful to make good citizens by means of free education, had provided the best safeguard against the calamities which, in Europe, would almost certainly have followed such a war. Our great conflict has vindicated the capacity of intelligent and patriotic people for self-government. All monuments in honor of the soldiers who fell in the struggle are at the same time monuments to national unity, to impartial liberty, and to universal education. They teach the world that North America belongs to the stripes and stars; that under them no man shall wear a chain, and that every child of the Republic shall have a fair chance to grow to the full stature of a mental and moral manhood.
These are a few of the plain, familiar public duties of which all considerate people will be reminded when they look upon the monument you are preparing to build. But there is a duty of another class to which it will more distinctly call attention.
When the call to arms was made a little more than seven years ago, very few citizens of this community of military age had any knowledge of war. A small number had perhaps seen some service, either in Europe or Mexico, but the great body of the people had grown from infancy to mature years in the midst of profound peace, and were entire strangers to the duties, the labors, the hardships and the perils of a solider's life. The call was answered here, as everywhere in the loyal North, but men of all pursuits and conditions, and actuated by a variety of motives, but for the most part by patriotic order and righteous zeal in behalf of a sacred cause. During the war between three and four hundred men were enlisted in this township. The homes of more than one hundred of this number were never gladdened by their safe return. I hold in my hand a list of the dead of Youngstown. The facts it gives in the case of each individual are meager enough. It furnishes merely the names of the deceased, the organizations to which they belonged, and, if known, the dates, places and manner of their deaths. But people educated as you have been by the intense anxiety of those years of war, your minds always eagerly bent to catch and to remember every circumstance belonging to it, this short memorandum will recall to you more facts than many volumes could contain.
What a multitude of varied recollections must have thronged your minds as you listened to what I have just read. What wonderful and manifold narratives are here spread out before us. Look at the organizations to which the departed belonged. Twenty-one were of the Seventh Ohio Infantry. The long, grand record of service, of suffering and of death of that noble regiment, the men and women before me know by heart. Twenty-five were of the Twenty-sixth Ohio Infantry, a regiment which, after fighting through its first three years' term of service in Western Virginia, at Corinth, at Stone River, at Chickamauga, at Mission Ridge, and at the relief of Knoxville, its historian relates, "in midwinter, without shelter, clad in summer dress, with half rations, on the desolate and dreary hills of East Tennessee, in the bitter cold of January, 1864, re-enlisted almost to a man for three years more," and bore an honorable part in Sherman's campaign to Atlanta and in the decisive battles of Franklin and Nashville. I need not allude to the history of the other gallant organizations here named-the Nineteenth, Thirty-seventh, Eighty-fourth, Eighty-sixth, One Hundred and Fifth, One Hundred and Twenty-fifth and One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Ohio Infantry, the Sixth and Tenth Ohio Cavalry, and the Fifteenth Ohio Battery. The history of the war is their history. Their brave men perished on battlefields, in hospitals, and in prison pens, from Pennsylvania to Louisiana, from Ohio to Florida. The remains of many have been carefully and tenderly removed to the cemetery near their homes. The bodies of most of them have been gathered into the beautiful national cemeteries in the States where they died. Some are lost or repose in nameless graves, scattered from the Potomac to the Gulf. Wherever they are your monument will commemorate all the sons of Youngstown who, in the line of duty, have perished in the struggle. In other times and in other lands, monuments have been seldom built in memory of subordinate officers or of private soldiers.
Great leaders are remembered and honored while they live, and after death, power, fortune and rank are the inheritance of their children. Too often their brave followers, with their families, the public danger having passed away, are forgotten or neglected. Let no such ingratitude be the reproach of this Republic. Let the virtues and services of the citizen soldiers of the Union army be forever remembered and fitly rewarded. Upon their shoulders the burden of the conflict rested. It has been often said that in our army the bayonets could think. Unfortunately, the sword was not always in the hand of a wise and trustworthy thinker. I count as one of the sorest trials of the subordinate officer and the private soldier, the fact so often occurring, that the thinking bayonets could clearly see that they were doomed to defeat and death by the incompetency of commanders. Called suddenly from homes where each man was his own master, and in public affairs one of the rulers, we can not over estimate the patriotism and virtue which enabled such men to submit to become mere machines under military discipline. It has always struck me, too, that the courage of the citizen soldier was subjected to a severer test than that of his commander. The soldier is responsible for the conduct of nobody but himself. Filled, as he is, with a patriot's anxiety for the success of his country's cause, solicitous to discharge, his duty as becomes a man in the dread hours which precedes the battle, he often has leisure to dwell upon the probable chances to himself of the approaching engagement. Not so with the officer charged with a command, and held responsible for results. If possessed of a proper sense of duty, he finds all his faculties so occupied in the hour of battle that he can rarely think of the dangers to which he is himself exposed. Besides, he knows that many eyes are turned toward him-"spurs to prick the sides"-of his fainting spirit.
The courage of citizen soldiers depends more upon their personal character, their patriotism, their manhood and their faith in the goodness of their cause. Happily for the American Union-
"Her sons went forth to battle on the side
That they felt clear was Liberty's and Right's,
As in their early boyhood they had plied
Their warfare with rude nature's thwarting mights.
The uncleared forest, the unbroken soil,
The iron bark that turns the lumberer's ax,
The rapids, that o'erbears the boatman's toil,
The prairie, hiding the 'mazed wanderer's tracks,
The ambushed Indian and the prowling bear,
Such were the needs that helped their youth to train;
Rough culture, but such trees large fruit may bear,
If their stocks be of right girth and grain,
So they grew up, a destined work to do,
And lived to do it."
Wishing to remember and do honor to such men-standing, as it were, today in the presence of those who fell-we should fail on this occasion in our duty to the living as well as to the departed if we did not strive to direct the thoughts of all present to the sacred character of the obligation which rests upon the individual conscience of every citizen to deal in a grateful Christian spirit with the families of the honored dead, and with their surviving comrades. Vain and empty are monuments of marble or granite, and costly and ostentatious commendations of departed worth, if they do not awaken in us a livelier sense of what is due from the living to the living...Mr. Lincoln, in the closing sentence of his last official address to his countrymen, sought to impress upon the nation its duty "to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and orphans." Let the golden words of our martyred President be engraved not only on your monument, but on all your hearts. Let them bear fruit abundantly in works, not only of justice, but of generosity, if generosity be possible toward those who may justly claim so much.
The distress of disabled soldiers, of soldiers' widow and their orphans, will always touch the heart and open the hand of a patriotic and right-minded man or woman; but a sadder sight then even these, reminding us, too, of a higher duty, the war has left in all our borders. Thousands of the best and bravest soldiers of the Union Army were, when they enlisted, mere boys, between the ages of sixteen and twenty years. They gave to their country that critical period of life when habits and character are formed, the precious yeasr of education and preparation for the pursuits and duties of manhood-the very seed time of their lives, which once lost it is impossible to regain. It is one of the most fortunate facts of the war, a fact not usually anticipated, that so large a proportion of our young soldiers returned home with characters not merely uninjured by the temptations and vices of army life, but wiser, manlier, better men than they were likely to become under the paternal roof. But many lost more than the loss of limb or health. They lost the opportunity to master a useful occupation, and to acquire those habits of industry and thrift to which, in this country alone, belongs "the glorious privilege of being independent." Leaving their home with spotless names, they returned with those habits of recklessness, self-indulgence and idleness which point the downward paths whose end is ruin. Let no good citizen avert his gaze from these young men. They are victims of the war which saved the nation. Let all who are grateful to the soldiers of the Union remember those who most need their gratitude. Give them encouragement, give them good advice, but, above all, give them kindness, and give them work.
If your monument shall always remind those who behold it of this and similar duties to the living, and shall stir them to an energetic discharge of those duties, then in truth it will prove a blessed work. Let it rise-in the words of the orator of Bunker Hill-"let it rise till it meet the sun in his coming; let the earliest light of the morning gild it, and parting day linger and play on its summit."
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