Under this head the Jackson Mississippi Crisis pays the following tribute to the private soldier:
Justice has never been done him. His virtuous merit and unobtrusive patriotism have never been justly estimated. We do not speak of the regular soldier, who makes the army his trade for twelve dollars per month. We do not include the coward, who skulks; nor the vulgarian, who can perpetrate acts of meanness; nor the laggard, who must be forced to fight for his home and country. These are not the subjects of our comment. We speak of the great body of citizen soldiery who constitute the provisional army of the Confederacy, and who, at the sound of a trumpet and drum, marched out with rifle or musket to fight–to repel their country’s invaders, or perish on that soil which their fathers bequeathed, with the glorious boon of civil liberty. These are the gallant men of whom we write, and these have saved the country; these have made a breastwork of their manly bosoms to shield the sacred precinct of altar-place and fire-side. Among these private soldiers are to be found men of culture, men of gentle training, men of intellect, men of social position, men of character at home, men endeared to a domestic circle of refinement and elegance, men of wealth, men who gave tone and character to the society in which they moved, and men who for conscience’ sake have made a living sacrifice of property, home, comfort, and are ready to add crimson life to the holy offering. Many of these, if they could have surrendered honor and a sense of independence, could have remained in possession of all these elegances and comforts. But they felt like the Roman who said, “Put honor in one hand and death in the other, and I will look on both indifferently.” Without rank, without title, without anticipated distinction, animated only by the highest and noblest sentiments which can influence our common nature, the private labors, and toils, and marches, and fights; endures hunger and thirst, and fatigue; through watchings, and weariness, and sleepless nights, and cheerless, laborious days, he holds up before him the one glorious prize–“Freedom to my country;” “Independence and my home!” If we can suppose the intervention of less worthy motive, the officer, and not the private, is the man whose merit must commingle such alloy. The officer may become renowned–the private never reckons upon that; the officer may live in history–the private looks to no such record; the officer may attract the public gaze–the private does not look for such recognition; the officer has a salary–the private only a monthly stipend, the amount of which he has been accustomed to pay to some field laborer on his rich domains; the officer may escape harm in battle by reason of distance–the private must face the storm of death; the officer moves on horseback–the private on foot; the officer carries a sword, the emblem of authority, and does not fight–the private carries his musket, and does all the fighting. The battle has been fought–the victory won; and Lee, or Longstreet, or others, have achieved a glorious success; but that success was attained by the private soldier, at the cost of patriot blood, of shattered bones, and torn and mangled muscle and nerves! We do not mean to under-estimate the officer, or disparage his courage, or his patriotism. We draw the parallel for another purpose, and that is, to show, if other than the highest human motive prompts the soldier to action. It is the officer, and not the private, who is not liable to feel its influence.
We have often felt pained and annoyed at the flippant reference to the privates, while the unreasoning speaker seemed to regard the officers as the prime and meritorious agents of all that is done. Why, in those ranks is an amount of intellect which would instruct and astonish a satesman. In those ranks the merit of every officer and every action is settled unappealably. In those ranks there is public virtue and capacity enough to construct a government, and administer its civil and military offices. The opinion of these men will guide the historians, and fix the merit of generals and statesmen. The opinion of these men will be, and ought to be, omnipotent with the people and government of the Confederacy. Heaven bless these brave, heroic men! Our heart warms to them. Our admiration of their devotion and heroism is without limit. Their devotion to principle amounts to moral sublimity. We feel their sufferings, and share their hopes, and desire to be identified in our day and generation with such a host of spirits, tried and true, who bend the knee to none but God, and render homage only to worth and merit.
Originally posted 2009-06-17 18:49:14.