EUGENE RAWSON POST OF THE GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
November 25, 1881
Commander and Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen: The members of a soldier's organization may be expected to take a somewhat livelier interest than other citizens in the military history of the region in which they dwell. I trust therefore that it will not be deemed out of place if in my remarks to an audience assembled on the invitation of this Post of the Grand Army of the Republic to do honor to the memory of Major Eugene Allen Rawson, I allude briefly to the local history of the place in which Major Rawson was born and lived. And in whose history his career will fill one of the brightest and most attractive chapters.
The two miles square at the foot of the lower rapids of the Sandusky River, now included within the corporate limits of the Town of Fremont, and the valley above and below it, known in the early history of this part of the United States as "the Sandusky country"has a very interesting military history.
All early explorations and settlements of aboriginal America had their privations, their perils, and their romantic incidents. But the traditions, events, and personages of the Sandusky of the past are far more interesting than ordinary pioneer history. The Sandusky Valley, in the attractions to which I refer, is perhaps surpassed in the North West only by Detroit and Fort Wayne.
The reservation of the two miles square, the center of which is within less than fifty yards of the building in which we are assembled, had its origin in war. It was established about one hundred years ago for the succor and safety of the whites in the midst of a vast wilderness of Indian territory. It was first named in a treaty made at Fort McIntosh, the present side of Beaver, Pennsylvania, in the year 1785 by chieftains of the Wyandots, Delawares, Ottawas, and Chippewas, and by General George Rogers Clark, Richard Butler and Arthur Lee representing the United States. It was afterwards confirmed to the whites in the famous treaty of Anthony Wayne in 1795.
Prior to authentic history, here, according to tradition, was the Seat of the Neutral Nation. On each of the banks of the Sandusky River at this place there was a city of refuge where the tomahawk was always buried and where the savage chieftains of hostile tribes, when they met were compelled to smoke the pipe of peace.
After the discovery and exploration of the Sandusky country by the French it passed into the possession of the Wyandots, known to the French as the Hurons, and one of the most famous of the Indian tribes.
During the eventful twenty years between the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775 and the treaty of Gen. Anthony Wayne in 1795 it was the theatre of adventures and scenes a[s] thrilling and tragic as any that are recorded in the bloodiest narratives of Indian warfare. The defeat and lamentable fate of Col. Crawford near Upper Sandusky; the adventures of the prisoners, men, women, and children, who were taken captive in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky and from flat boats on the Ohio River and brought here-the men to run the gauntlet on the course that passed near where this hall now stands and the children to be reared as white Wyandots; the pathetic story of the refuge sought and found in this valley by Heckwelder and his Moravian companions and their Indian converts to Christianity who escaped from the horrid butchery on the Muskingum-these form but a part of the early history of our valley.
The narrative of more recent times is not lacking in notable events and conspicuous characters. After the surrender of Hull at Detroit, and the siege of Fort Meigs, Gen. Harrison made his preparations in this valley for the invasion of Canada. The brilliant defense of Fort Stephenson, on yonder bluff, by Col. George Croghan, August 2d, 1813, was the harbinger of the most successful campaign of the second war with Great Britain.
On the 10th of September following, the firing of the cannon of the American and British fleets near Put-in-Bay, heard distinctly in all this part of the valley, carried the tidings of an engagement, in which the victory of Commodore Perry and his fleet rescued from danger this whole western country and opened the way for the conquest of Upper Canada. Thus Harrison and Perry and Croghan and their victories are a part of the local history of this valley and are forever associated with it.
Thirty-five years ago the Mexican war drew from this then small village and its thinly peopled neighborhood two full companies of volunteers-a list of soldiers quite as large in proportion to population as was furnished any where in the North.
Twenty years ago the character of the American people, and the strength and stability of their institutions were tested by the war for the Union. The issue of that test fixed forever the place which belongs to America among the nations of the earth. The men who gave their lives to the accomplishment of this work will always be held in grateful remembrance. This valley furnished its full share of the honored roll of the heroic Union dead. We do not now undertake to call the names of all our heroes. When we honor one we honor all.
There were three young men, natives and residents of this valley, they and their families well known in Fremont, who may be taken as types of the men who died in the great conflict for Union and liberty.
Gen. McPherson, Col. Leander Stem and Major Eugene Rawson were young men of rare and sterling qualities and not unlike in general character and culture. All possessed unusual natural gifts and grace, and to these were added the advantage of good training, associations, and education. The recollection of them-a recollection tender and grateful will always be preserved and cherished in this valley.
McPherson was of such distinguished rank and reputation when he fell that his life and character are familiarly known to all of his countrymen.
Colonel Stem, a lawyer by profession, a volunteer citizen soldier, was killed before the end of the second year of the war at the battle of Stone River. Our comrades at Tiffin have named in his honor their Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, and to those of us who knew him best, our country's good cause is more precious because it can count among its heroic martyrs such men as Leander Stem.
Major Rawson, younger than either McPherson or Stem, was yet not old enough to have exhibited in equal measure with them the native and essential virtues of a good soldier and of the best manhood. I knew him well when he was a child. He was bright, cheerful and loveable. Happy himself, he was well-spring of happiness to all around him. The child was father to the man. The charming traits of his early years remained with him after he grew to manhood. One gentleman, much older than Rawson-a good judge of character-said: "There was nothing about him to apologize for; he was all man." Another said: "After meeting him I always felt better and happier." Friendly and just to all, he was the life of the camp, and the favorite of his comrades. In him the elements were happily mixed. On his father's side his name and lineage may be traced to one of the noted and faithful divines of the Pilgrim Fathers of New England. On his mother's side he was descended from that polite, generous and gallant people whose sons, with indefatigable perseverance and boundless heroism, as traders, as warriors, as missionaries, penetrated and explored this western wilderness long before it was visited by Englishmen. Thus in Major Rawson was united the blood of both of the great rival nations which, for more than a century, contended for the mastery of this continent. He inherited and exhibited in his life the best traits of both his French and his Puritan ancestry. We shall prize his portrait. We shall place it on our walls by the side of McPherson and Croghan. When in the order of nature the members of this Post of the Grand Army of the Republic shall pass away, and with them the Post named in honor of our beloved young hero, we may safely trust to the citizens of Fremont who shall come after us, to preserve it in our Memorial Hall, in Birchard Library, on the site of the old Fort Stephenson.
We beg the father and mother of our fallen comrade to receive the warm and grateful thanks of the members, one and all, of this Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, for this life-like portrait of their noble son. While they can never cease to mourn his loss, we trust that in their bereavement they will find comfort and consolation in the contemplation of his heroic career and character, and in the fact that his name and memory will be forever preserved and cherished by the good people of the town of his nativity, and of their home. Beholding this portrait we can well say:
"What is worth living for, is worth dying for too,
And therefore all honor, brave heart, unto you,
Who hast fallen that Freedom, more fair by thy death,
A pilgrim may walk where your blood on the path
Leads her steps to your grave.
Sleep deep; sleep in peace; sleep in memory ever,
Wrapt your soul in the deeds of your deathless endeavor.
Sleep well where no breath of detraction can move you,
And the peace the world gives not is yours at the last."
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