We have met this
evening perhaps for the last time. We have shared the toils
of the march, the peril of the fight, and the dismay of the
retreat, alike. We have endured the cold and hunger,
the contumely of the internal foe, and the scourge of the
foreign oppressor. We have sat night after night by the
camp-fire, we have together heard the roll of the reveille which
calls us to duty, or the beat of the tattoo which gave the
signal for the hardy sleep of the soldier, with the earth for
his bed and the knapsack for his pillow.
And now, soldiers and
brethren, we have met in this peaceful valley, on the eve of
battle, in the sunlight that to-morrow morn will glimmer on
the scenes of blood. We have met amid the whitening tents of our
encampments; in the time of terror and gloom we have gathered
together. God grant that it may not be for the last time....
It is a solemn moment!
... Let the desolate plain, the blood-sodden valley, the
burned farmhouses, blackening in the sun, the sacked village
and the ravaged town, answer; let the withered bones of
the butchered farmer, strewed along the fields of his
homestead, answer; let the starving mother, with her babe
clinging to the withered breast that can afford no sustenance,
let her answer—with the death-rattle mingling with the murmuring
tones that marked the last moment of her life; let the mother
and the babe answer.
It was but a day
past, and our land slept in the quiet of peace. War was not
here. Fraud and woe and want dwelt not among us. From the
eternal solitude of the green woods arose the blue smoke of the
settler’s cabin, and golden fields of corn looked from amid the
waste of the wilderness, and the glad music of human voices
awoke the silence of the forest.
Now, God of mercy,
behold the change. Under the shadow of a pretext, under the
sanctity of the name of God, invoking the Redeemer to their aid,
do these foreign hirelings slay our people. They throng
our towns, they darken our plains, and now they encompass our
posts on the lonely plain of Chadd’s Ford....
Think me not
vain when I tell you that, beyond the cloud that now enshrouds
us, I see gathering thick and fast the darker cloud and thicker
storm of Divine retribution. They may conquer to-morrow. Might
and wrong may prevail, and we may be driven from the field; but
the hour of God’s own vengeance will come!...
Soldiers, I look
around upon your familiar faces with strange interest! To-morrow
morning we go forth to the battle—for need I tell you that
your unworthy minister will march with you, invoking the
blessing of God’s aid in the fight?—we will march forth to the
battle. Need I exhort you to fight the good fight—to fight for
your homesteads, for your wives and your children?...
And in the hour of
battle, when all around is darkness, lit by the lurid
cannon-glare and the piercing musket-flash, when the wounded
strew the ground and the dead litter your path, then
remember, soldiers, that God is with you. The eternal God
fights for you; he rides on the battle-cloud, he sweeps onward
with the march of a hurricane charge. God, the awful and
infinite, fights for you, and you will triumph....
And now, brethren and
soldiers, I bid you all farewell. Many of us will fall in the
battle of tomorrow, and in the memory of all will
ever rest and linger the quiet scene of this autumnal eve....
When we meet again,
may the shadows of twilight be flung over the peaceful land. God
in heaven grant it! Let us pray.