AT ANDOVER, MAY 1872
The services commenced at 9 o’clock at the Town Hall.
Music by the Ballard Vale Cornet Band
Prayer by Rev. Henry S. Green of Ballard Vale
Singing by a quartette, under James R. Murray,
as conductor, with Miss Ella Russell as pianist.
Address by Joel M. Seymour of the Theological Seminary, and formerly a member of the 42nd Regt Ohio Vol Inf. (1)
Singing of “America” by the audience and music by the Band.
After the services at the Hall, a procession was formed under the direction of Maj. Wm. Marland, consisting of past soldiers and seamen, fire department, schools and citizens generally. The route was up Main to the Chapel Cemetery, down School St. to South, Episcopal and Catholic cemeteries, thence to West Parish and detachment to Spring Grove.
Mr. Seymour spoke as follows:
Mr. Chairman, Fellow Soldiers, Ladies and Gentlemen
The horrors of war are very quickly obliterated by the busy scenes and quiet enjoyments of peace. We remember the great fact that there has been a war, but the sights and sounds and feelings which made war, we very soon forget.
In my remarks to you today, it will be my purpose simply to remind you of a few of the experiences with which we were all so familiar during the dark days of the rebellion. At times after the army was disbanded, I endeavored to place myself back again in imagination in the midst of war time. But it was impossible. I could not make the old scenes live again. War had been a episode so strange, so unnatural, so contrary to all former experience that in the reaction of peace, those years did not seem to belong to my life. They seemed, rather, like a vague, disordered dream. Now, however, after meeting one and another of my army comrades, after rehearsing the various incidents of our army life, going over our bloody fields, one after another, calling up our comrades in succession who fell here and there, those years are gradually coming back again, and taking their place in my life experience.
It was eleven years ago that the war broke upon us. A vague gloom was everywhere felt. The face of everyone one who could at all comprehend the situation was heavy, with anxiety. Men were drumming for recruits. The martial spirit was everywhere. It pervaded even the sports of the children. Boys with drums in their hands and military caps on their heads were parading the streets. Soon there began to flow from the hills of New England and from the plains and mountains of the far west, streams of young vigorous, earnest volunteers, to join in common struggle upon the great battle fields of the South. Do you remember what total change of life your soldier boys were entering upon? They left quiet rural homes where every want had been provided for, where life had been peaceful and regular. They learned what it was to lead a wandering, irregular, uncertain life, to live without shelter, and upon coarse food.
Many of them learned what it was to suffer hunger even to starvation. Look about you, New England life is today what it was eleven years ago. The sounds which are so familiar to you that you do not notice them, are the hum of busy mills, the peaceful rumble of vehicles through the streets, the rush of the steam car. Your soldiers exchanged these sounds for the hoarse rattle of gun carriages, the clatter of army wagons and the tramping of troops. You go out upon your morning walk, you hear the cheerful notes of birds, the music of happy domestic voices greet you everywhere. The soldier in field becomes familiar with far different sounds. The birds are frightened to silence. He is awakened in the morning by the fife and drum. Perhaps he is startled from his slumbers at dead of night, by the long roll, he becomes familiar with the wicked whistle of bullets, the angry screech of flying shells, the sharp command, the groans of the dying. Not, however, that these are the only features of a soldiers life, it has a brighter side. There is much that is grand and inspiring in army experience. When you hear the sudden crack of a thirty pounder upon the top of a mountain reverberate through the gorges like sharp thunder, you are touched with a sense of the sublime. The soldier has his hours of quiet and leisure. He has his games and hilarity. His jokes are without number. He indulges in song – singing and when “John Brown” is started by a soldier, caught up by the company, and carried on through the regiment, through the brigade and on through an entire line miles in length, as I have heard it, the effect is grand and pathetic.
A very noticeable feature of the soldier’s life is the changed effect of the scenes of nature upon him. We look out upon our peaceful hills and pleasant green slopes. We have a mild sunlight and a kind sky above our hearts. The effect of viewing these scenes day by day is not less powerful because it eludes our notice. But it is almost lost upon the solider in the field. Army life is not a favorable condition for the appreciation of the beauties of nature. For this we need the repose and calm of peace. The soldier looks at everything through the medium of war. That green slope, which would delight his eyes in the northern sunlight is now but a favorable spot for an army to entrench itself for defense. Yonder stretch of woodland which would be exceedingly beautiful at other times and in other circumstances, is now but a convenient screen for a lurking enemy. The southern sunlight is a scorching blaze and the sky itself seems to wear a stern, steely aspect.
The most beautiful sight I remember to have seen in the south was the bombardment of the City of Vicksburg by night. The shells with their lighted fuse shot far skyward, paused for a moment then descended faster and faster until they burst over the unfortunate city. It was a beautiful sight, but it was a beauty beneath which lay destruction and misery. Women were hiding in caves on the hillsides and men and beasts were dying. The march of an army is a grand sight, but your picture of an army is never complete unless you see it in action, rushing on over the dead and the dying. But if all nature is ominous and threatening to the soldier, there was one spot which was always green. That spot was in his memory, and it was the memory of his home. Every familiar tree, whether in the yard, the old orchard, or the forest, every friendly rock, every scene of boyhood sports, the old house, itself, are all tinged with a halo of beauty to the soldier which would never have entered his dreams unless he had plunged himself into the vicissitudes of war. Your volunteer never understood the strength of home ties until he went to the war.
There were boys weary and worn with hard marching, boys suffering from wounds, burning with fever, starving in rebel prisons, who yet would not go home, until the last shot had been fired, until the war cloud had been lifted, and lifted, too, from a country whose honor was unimpaired by any compromise with traitors, who, at the same time, looked upon the friendly skies and peaceful homes of the north as upon a paradise, and to stand once more upon the old hearthstone seemed to him almost like stepping upon the threshold of Heaven.
A peculiar feature of the war-cloud was the feeling of uncertainty which settled down upon the life of the soldier. You lie down at night with a sense of security, you rise in the morning with a sense that the day is yours. You expect to live. Many years of activity and enjoyment are probably before you. You go about your business with peaceful confidence. It is very different with the soldier in the field. Tonight he writes his letter home. He feels that it may be his last. Before the sun rises he may be called to arms, and before it shall set, his name may be sent home in the long list “killed in battle”. This feeling is always present with the soldier. It gives a certain somberness to all his pleasures and lends a pathos to the songs he sings.
The feeling of uncertainty sometimes deepens into what seems like premonition. I well remember a tall, manly soldier who was the means of saving my own life, who at a certain period of the war, seemed to fall into despondency. He became discouraged. The war for the Union he feared would not be successful, some ill omen seemed to cast its shadow upon him. At length, while standing bravely in his place in battle, the bullet, which he seemed almost to have been expecting, came and in a few hours he was laid in a soldier’s grave.
The vicissitudes of war are exceedingly strange. Every soldier who goes to the field is an actor in a tragedy which sometimes exhibits strange features and develops unexpected results. You send your stripling to the war, he may come back strong-limbed and unharmed. The strong and robust may be the first to succumb to the heat or the fever. War, with grim impartiality, strikes down its victims unmindful of rank or valor or personal gifts. So it has happened my fellow soldiers, that in the inexplicable fortunes of war our comrades, our schoolmates, our bosom friends have fallen, and that we are here today to honor their memories and to scatter our flowers upon their graves. They are lost, we survive, God only knows how or why.
It may be expected that I shall pronounce a eulogy upon the soldiers today. We that are living need no eulogy. We are honored sufficiently, perhaps more than we deserve. We have simply performed our duty. As for the dead, I prefer to make this a day of memory, rather than of praise. I have spoken of the ease with which we forget the experiences of war, but I know there are those with which we forget the experiences of war, but I know there are those with us here today who will never forget. The war struck its heaviest blows upon our quiet homes. It snatched its victims from our firesides. It left its vacancies, which never can be filled. While then we join in an affectionate remembrance of our fallen comrades, we will also extend our warmest sympathies to those whose hearts are still bleeding for home circles which have been rudely broken, and who will carry with them to the graves we shall visit today the burden of an irrecoverable loss. But there is something more which calls for our remembrance today. We shall do poor honor to the dead, if we forget the cause for which they died. That flag is the emblem of our national honor. It proclaims to all the nations of the earth today not only that the honor of our country is unsullied, but that a great victory has been won, that there has been a triumph over a most powerful and deadly assault. The blood of our fallen comrades has added a new lustre and authority, to that ensign in every land and upon every sea.
I believe that every surviving solder’s heart is knitted to the stars and stripes more closely than it ever could have but for the peril which has threatened it and the cost of planting it anew and holding it up where rebel hands had torn it down. And I believe, dreadful as we know by experience war to be, that should danger ever again threaten our flag, the old soldiers of the Union would be the first to fly to its rescue. We at least have earned the right to protect and defend, in every hour of danger, the flag which our forefathers raised and staked their lives to uphold upon these shores. But the memory of the dead should carry our thoughts today, beyond the mere unity, of the country. The Union has been preserved, but we are not yet wholly free from danger. We have a duty to perform as citizens, as sacred as that which we performed as soldiers.
Let the inspiration of this day lead us to every wise effort to sweep away all corruption and every lurking seed of discord, to preserve our national integrity and purity.
I have but one more word to say. When we go to the graves of our fallen soldiers today, let us not pass them by with a merely formal service. Could our fathers, our sons and our brothers speak today, they would desire a single heartfelt remembrance far more eagerly, and would regard a single aspiration after a higher and more patriotic life far more highly than all the superficial honors we may render them. When, then we lay our flowers upon their graves today, let us remember how they died and why they died.
(1) Joel M. Seymour was mustered into the 42nd Ohio as a corporal and mustered out of the regiment as a sergeant in Company A.