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Full text of "Address delivered at the funeral of General Maxcy Gregg"

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ADDRESS 



DEUVKHKD AT TU« 



Jfrmeral of General |f arrg (iregg, 



IM THR 



PiiESBnEKIAN CHURCH, COLUMBIA, S. ('.. 



DECKMBKK 20, I'^Vd. 



By B. M. palmer, D. 1). 



COLUMBIA, S. C: 

•OVTHKRN GUARDIAN STEAM-POWER PRWft 

1868. 



ADDRESS 



DELIVERED AT THE 



Jfmmilof Enteral HHa^Tg ^r^gg, 



IN THE 



PRESBYTERIAN^ CHURCH, COLUMBIA, S. C, 



DECEMBER 20, 18G2, 



By B. M. palmer, D. D. 



COLUMBIA, S. C: 

SOUTHERN GUARDIAN STEAM-POWER PRESS. 
1863. 



Pvi'-o TJpivorsity 
- APR 1 9 1940 






THE FLOWERS COLLECTION 



ADDRESS. 



We meet this day in the house of God to mourn — to 
mourn for ourselves, and for the State, the mother that has 
borne us all ! "When Death comes in at the window, and 
steals away its victim from some private circle, a whole 
community will yield obedience to the law of Christian 
sympathy, and weep with those that weep. Bat to-day the 
State, like the Spartan mother of old, receives through us 
one of her noblest sons upon his shield, and pours out her 
grief upon his venerated form. Alas, our bereaved mother ! 
How often of late has she strained her dead sons to her 
bosom, in the last embrace, and then turned aside, like 
Eachael, to weep, " refusing to be comforted, because they 
are not! " Where is the family amongst us that does not 
whisper its secret grief around the evening hearth ? And 
where the village cemetery whose sacred inclosure does 
not shelter some patriot's grave ? Her martj-red sous sleep 
everywhere upon her soil ; upon the mountain's grassy 
slope, beneath the peaceful watching of the silent stars, to 
where the ocean fringes the earth with its foam, and chants 
with its deep bass the low, funereal dirge ! But here, to-day, 
in the centre of them all, with his sword beneath his head, 
we bury the gallant chieftain who led the strife in which 
they bravely fell. What language can rise to the solemn 
majesty of this assembly, or speak with the pathos which 
belongs to unuttered sorrow ! Were I to follow the impulse 
of my own heart, I would cover my head, and sit a silent 
mourner beside that bier, rather than be the voice to utter 



4 ADDRESS. 

the wail which now rends every breast throughout this 
commonwealth. 

He whom we now bear to the tomb is worthy of the 
reverence of these imposing obsequies ; nor do I fear that 
words of praise will breed in your minds, as with one of 
doubtful virtue, suspicion of his merit. If there be one 
word which, more than another, covers the breadth of his 
character, it is the word manliness. He was a true man, in 
the full assemblage of virtues which crowd into that short, 
expressive term. Courage, honesty, and strength, were 
tempered with the softer graces of gentleness and love ; 

"Elements 
So mixed in liim, that nature might stand up 
And say to all the world, this was a man." 

Inheriting a more than Roman virtue from his honored 
sire, it grew in him to such robustness and symmetry as to 
command the homage of universal reverence. To say that 
he was incapable of falsehood, in any of the forms in which 
it is acted among men, would present but the coarse profile 
of his immaculate truthfulness. The historian must say of 
him more than this ; that he could not stoop even to those 
minor indirections which creep unwittingly into human 
intercourse, and which are almost sanctioned by the usage 
of society. His simple word was the gauge of honor, and 
was always accepted as his surest pledge. His innate sense 
of right, which could not inflict a wilful wrong, looked 
with a cultivated resentment upon the wrong perpetrated 
by another ; and as the arbiter of many a dispute, the honor 
of a friend was confided to a guardian whose jealousy would 
not suffer it to be tarnished with a stain. That positiveness 
of character which marks the independent and vigorous 
thinker, lost the roughness of its edge in the blandness of 
address which made him at all times the polished and 
courtly gentleman. Self-contained and reticent, he was 
hedged about by a reserve through which no one was bold 



ADDRESS. O 

enough rudely to break, but which never degenerated into 
morose and repulsive austerity. It was but the guard with 
which every man of true self-respect fences around his own 
^ personality, and which knew how to let itself down in the 
genial flow of confidential intercourse. I may not, before 
this public assembly, lift the veil of domestic life, and re- 
veal the tenderness of a strong man's love : which, not 
weaving ties of its own, twined itself around the venerable 
mother, who, by a timely release, is just spared the anguish 
of weeping over his bier; and around endeared sisters, who 
to-day mourn with a sorrow which sisters are seldom called 
to feel. Be it enough to say, that he belonged to that select 
class of the bravo and true, whose hands are strong in the 
great battle of life, but who love with a woman's heart at 
home. In this rare union of gentleness with force, he be- 
came a tj'pe of the Southern gentleman ; and fathers proudly 
pointed their sons to his model, as they gazed upon a 
character so massive in its strength, with such an undertone 
of honesty and truth, and so tempered with urbanity. 

Too grave and earnest in his nature to be seduced by the 
low, material pleasures of the world, he sought refreshment 
amidst professional labors, in the retirement of his home, 
and in the pursuits of a scholar. In the seclusion of his 
study, surrounded by the great immortals who survive in 
books, he not only found companions congenial to his taste, 
but drank in the wisdom of the past, and secretly elaborated 
the principles upon which he foresaw the destinies of his 
country must one day turn. Inditferent to the prizes of 
ordinary political ambition — perhaps in some measure pre- 
cluded by the stern jealousy of a profession which admits no 
rivalry in its successful prosecution ; and possibly unfitted 
for the machinations of party by the rigor of his character, 
which could not bend to compromise — he moved but little 
upon the stage of party politics, and was seldom com- 
mingled in its transient issues. Yet, in every great crisis, 
when in national assemblies the assertion of some great 



O ADDRESS. 

political truth was imperatively demanded, the eyes of the 
State always turned upon General Gregg as the champion 
equal to the task. More than once, with a courage superior 
even to that he displayed in arms, has he aihrmed principles 
in these national convocations, which were any thing but a 
passport to public favor, and which shut down upon him 
the gates of political preferment. It was his sublime mis- 
sion, in short, to stand sentinel over the master-principle of 
State supremacy, the corner-stone upon which rests, with 
us, the whole fabric of constitutional republican liberty. 
Through long j-ears he maintained his silent watch, like 
some reformer of olden time, content with recording his 
protest in days of defection and apostacy ; knowing that 
truth will experience a resurrection, and come forth from 
the record, to be once more a power in the hearts of men. 
Thus he stood upon the tower of observation, calmly wait- 
ing for the historic moment when the revolutionary sword 
should again cut the cords of political bondage, and set his 
country free. ]N"o. sooner did the State unfurl the banner 
of her sovereignty to the breeze, than he leaped from his 
retirement, to bear it on to triumph against the fanatical 
crusaders who threatened to tread it in the dust. The first 
to lead the sons of Carolina upon the battle-plains of Vir- 
ginia, his unimpeachable courage was marked b}' the cool- 
ness and self-possession which had signalized his whole 
previous career, and infused into his troops an enthusiasm 
equal to his own. His military skill and intrepid bearing 
soon promoted him from the colonelcy of a regiment to the 
command of a brigade ; and by the fireside of many a 
soldier it will be told, in future days, how, amidst the 
shower of leaden hail, he brought his regiments one by one 
coolly into line, and flaunted defiance against the foe. At 
last, in his fourteenth battle, he fell, upon the hills of Fred- 
ericksburg, and, like the gallant Wolfe upon the heights of 
Abraham, in the arms of victory. 



ADDRESS. 



It is given to no man, my friends, to evade the shaft of 
death ; ^,but only the good and great know how to render 
death sublime. It is always glorious when it places its seal 
of attest upon the principles of a noble life-time. Then it 
comes like the chorus to a chant, into which is breathed the 
very soul of song. An epic unity runs through the career 
of General Gregg, whose stern consistency demanded a 
heroic death. His dying message to the State, transmitted 
to his Excellency the Governor, gives the key which makes 
his life a perfect poem: "If I am to die now, I give my 
life cheerfully for the independence of South Carolina." 
Let the touching words in which the true patriot renders 
back his life's trust to his country, be engraved upon his 
tomb ! And Providence itself, as if mindful to preserve 
the poetic harmonies of such a career, permits us to bear 
his body to the grave on no other day but this second anni- 
versary of his State's secession from the old Federal Union. 
On this very day, two years ago, his hand signed the im- 
mortal instrument which made South Carolina a free and 
independent Commonwealth ; and now, with his flag for 
his winding-sheet, we lay him down upon his mother's 
bosom, to a soldier's rest. Who shall say that we have not 
here a true and perfect epic ? 

"A song for the death-day of the brave — 
A song of pride ! 

For him that went to a hero's grave, 
With the sword his bride." 

But "I am here to bury Cfesar, not to praise him." 
There are two lessons which I would seek, by the impres- 
sive solemnities of this hour, to enforce. The first is, our 
country is endeared to us by every bereavement we sustain. This 
death binds with a new sanction to our heart the cause to 
which he fell so cheerfully a martyr. The privations and 
hardships we undergo are nothing, when weighed against 
the precious blood whidh has been shed to purchase free- 
dom to our land. The wandering exile will bear with 



O ADDRESS. 

equanimity the painful remembrance of his dismantled 
home, when he looks upon the broken families whose sons 
either sleep upon Virginia's sacred soil, or have been 
brought back to make more real the loss which can not be 
repaired. But should every thing be lost, and the base 
foot of an insolent invader tread upon our high and beau- 
tiful places, we will rally around the tombs of our dead, 
and fight the last battle of freedom over their honored dust. 
If there is not a home within this Confederacy but has a 
treasured grave, let its sacred relics be the pledge of undy- 
ing resistance to our country's foe. Never shall he be 
suffered to erase our inscriptions of love upon their tombs, 
and write the word 'rebel' upon their sacred dust. Beside 
this bier we take the irrevocable oath to die upon his grave, 
ere it shall be thus desecrated. Sleep, honored patriot, in 
thy peaceful bed, till the resurrection-morn : for thousands 
of hearts, beating with love of liberty equal to thine own, 
here record the sacramental vow to redeem their country, 
or to emulate thy death. 

The second lesson is of sublimer import, for a voice sounds 
from the eternal world, and warns the nation to trust in the living 
God. The patriotic ardor with which this Commonwealth 
now guards its attribute of sovereignty, should teach us 
to respect the holy jealousy with which, in all history, 
God has vindicated His awful supremacy. And the world 
will derive little profit from the dreadful struggle in which 
we are embarked, if it is not taught to "praise and honor 
Him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting 
dominion, and His kingdom from generation to genera- 
tion." If He strikes down our princes and nobles, it is not 
to lead us to despair, but to a loftier faith in His goodness 
and power. Our Johnson and our Bee — our Glover, Mar- 
shall, Means ; and now, at last, our Gregg — are laid low in 
death ! Who shall lead our forces to the battle, and be 
strong for us in the day of confiict ? "Our help is in the 
name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." And 



ADDRESS. y 

when the day of peace shall dawn, with its trials, more 
searching, perhaps, than those of war, who shall be wise for 
us in that work of construction, and shape the character of 
our young and pliant nation ? Alas I compatriots, I mourn 
to-day more the statesman than the warrior ! I looked 
through the night, now so dark about us, to the auspicious 
day when Senators should once more sit in their peaceful 
halls : and in the prophetic vision, I saw him who now 
sleeps before us a princely leader, legislating for a grateful 
land. Had he not the higher attributes of an accomplished 
statesman ? Clear in his conceptions, vigorous in argu- 
ment, tenacious in his purpose, fearless of reproach, un- 
swerving in integrity, honest as the light of heaven, and 
bland as the summer air — who among the living so com- 
pletely filled up the measure of the Roman poet's eulogy, 

" Justum et tenacem propositi virum 
Non civium ardor prava jubentium, 
Non vultus instantis tyranni, 
Mente quatit solida"? 

When such are taken away from the council-board of a 
nation, even "the mighty man, and the man of war, the 
judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, 
the counsellor, and the eloquent orator" — to whom can we 
turn but to Ilim by whom kings reign and princes decree 
justice, and whose heaviest judgment against a people is 
that " children shall be their princes, and babes shall rule 
over them" ? May this curse, which has fallen so conspic- 
uously upon our foes, never be allotted to us for a portion ! 
Nor can I omit saying, that no nation was ever called to 
conduct a great struggle so completely under the shadow 
of Jehovah's throne. In other ages, the contest for civil 
and religious freedom has often been renewed ; but the 
sanctity of our war is found in the fact that in its issue the 
supremacy and prerogatives of the Divine Ruler of the 
world are distinctly implicated. A bold and infidel fanati- 
cism has undertaken openly to impeach the morality of 



10 ADDRESS. 

God's administration, and with reckless blasphemy de- 
nounces as profligate the government of the universe. To 
the people of our Confederacy the sublime mission is 
assigned of standing guard for the Divine supremacy. In 
this we are a spectacle to the world : upon a platform as 
elevated as our own Alleghanies, we strike for our liberties, 
and for the rights of God. Grand as the contest is when 
our firesides and our altars are the stake, it rises into the 
sublime and awful when the question is whether God shall 
reign, or take into his privy council the hypocritical and 
infidel fanatic of the ISTorth. The only parallel which I can 
discover within the compass of history, is the invasion of 
Judah by Sennacherib, who boasted to Hezekiah, saying, 
"Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee." To 
whom God answered, " Because thy rage against me is 
come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in 
thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and will turn thee back 
by the way by which thou camest." What nation, save 
Judah alone, ever had such trusts committed to its hands ? 
and what nation ever had such cause to spread its hands 
unto heaven, and to feel that the battle is not theirs, but 
God's? 

My sad office is not done until I have said one word 
more. It is a fearful thing to stand beside an open grave, 
and not dare to lift the veil which separates us from the 
world beyond. Thanks be to God, that with some measure 
of hope this veil may be lifted by us to-day ! General 
Gregg, as you all know, made no profession of religion in 
life. But what one of his peculiar thoughtfulness and re- 
ticence may have meditated on these momentous themes, 
will never be disclosed until the judgment. Certain it is, 
that men of his intellectual mould are often misjudged, 
and charged with an indifterence to religion, which, in the 
sight of the omniscient Creator, does them grievous wrong. 
But he was followed in secret by the powerful intercessions 
of some who fear and love God. Ah ! ye men of the world. 



i- 



ADDRESS. 11 

think not lightly of that wonderful providence which binds 
you up with the pious in the relationships of life, anjd sur- 
rounds you with an atmosphere of holiness which you are 
compelled to breathe. Often, when no other ground of 
hope is left, the saints of the most high call to remembrance 
their own fervent supplications; and, knowing that a cove- 
nant God will gather their tears into his bottle, are more 
content to leave you in His sovereign hands. In this case 
there is something more. During the period of his military 
service. General' Gregg is known to have borrowed from 
the library of a venerable minister books bearing upon the 
vital points of religious faith ; and that amidst the bustle 
and toil of the camp, his earnest mind was engaged in the 
examination of its most practical claims. After the fatal 
wound was received, during the six-and-thirty hours of 
ebbing life — I will not speak of his fortitude, for that might 
be achieved through the firmness of a Stoic — but he was 
heard by more than one of his attendants to express the con- 
viction that his peace was made with God : and in his last 
message of love to one bereaved, the charge was given, not 
to mourn his death, but to meet him in heaven. Brief and 
slender words, indeed ! but fragrant with consolation to 
those who must pay to his memory the tribute of their 
grief. Had he died upon his bed, anxious hearts would 
doubtless have extracted from his lips a fuller testimony. 
They would have sought to know whether this cheerful 
hope proceeded from insensibility to the dreadful demerit 
of sin, or flowed from quiet trust in a Redeemer's blood. 
But let those judge who knew his perfect truthfulness, 
whether, in a dying hour, he was the man to " palter in a 
double sense ;" Or whether such a suggestion to surviving 
relatives can import less than that he stood upon the same 
ground of hope with them, in a Saviour's pardoning love. 
Blessed be God for this solace to our woe! And with this 
voice of benediction, we commit his body to the earth, and 
his soul to God who gave it. 



II 



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