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(title page) Capt. Thomas E. King; or, A word to the army and the country
Rev. Jospeh C. Stiles, D. D.
The South Carolina Tract Society
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4872 Conf. (Rare Book Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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On the 19th day of September, 1863, the Confederate Army, under General Bragg, and the Federal forces, under Gen. Rosecrans, were drawn up in line of battle on Chickamauga creek. Brig. Gen. Preston Smith, whose scars testified to his gallantry in the past, and whose life-blood upon the battle-field closed his heroic service of his country that very day, it was well known was about to enter upon the responsibilities of a momentous conflict with an inadequate staff. All hearts and eyes are now addressed to the front. A mounted stranger, in military dress, is seen beside the General; he may be a casual acquaintance who will presently retire.--He accompanies the commanding General from one point to another; still he
may only seek friendly conference until the battle commences. The cannon is booming, the musketry is rattling; but the stranger has not disappeared. See! he rides rapidly here and there, bearing the General's orders to his colonels, along the line. The secret is revealed. He has come to share the perils of the day, and to serve the General and his brigade through all the vicissitudes of the deadly conflict. But how different the moral position of the parties! On the one hand, the General and his brigade are under the most solemn legal obligation, every man of them, to brave all the dangers of the impending battle: an obligation the violation of which would perpetrate a crime of crimson hue, and incur a penalty severe unto blood. On the other, the unknown soldier sustains no such obligation, and risks nothing by declining to take part in the conflict. Why then should he peril his very life, and hazard all he holds dear on
earth, by throwing himself between the enemy and his every shot and shell aimed at the brigade? Ah! how impressively, if silently, he exclaims, "I love my country! Her cause is just! Invaded by a powerful and malignant foe, my fortune, strength and life, all, all are hers, cheerfully hers!" Amidst the roar of cannon, whistle of shells, fall of men, and all the stunning din of battle, all day long, with a buoyant heart, bright countenance, animated tone and martial port, he bears commands, leads regiments and encourages troops. Thus, all day long, with admirable eloquence he expounds the loud calls of patriotism when our country is invaded, and the radiant nobility of courage when adverse power presses fearfully. Through all the varying issues of that memorable day, the ever gallant conduct of the volunteer soldier, how it must have inspired the patriotic devotion of the combatants!--infixing upon taste many a vivid
impression of the exquisite beauty of patriot heroism--inscribing upon many a conscience that only harbinger of national independence, the moral conviction, "Every man should be a hero when his country's liberty is imperilled." Study all its influence, present and ultimate, and who can tell what a valuable work, even towards national deliverance, may be wrought by one day's gallant volunteer fighting by an unknown soldier on the common battle ground of our country's liberty, especially if sealed with his blood?
The responsibilities of the day are over, the enemy have been driven for miles, the soldier has laid by his musket, the army is at rest. Our nameless officer, without a solitary acquaintance in the brigade, sits down to commune with a friend whose intimate fellowship, especially in anxious hours, he has long since learned to appreciate. In solitude, with a calm, firm hand, he pencilled in his note book the following record: "Saturday,
19th, 5 P. M. Have seen the enemy once more. The roar of the cannon and the rattle of the musketry bringing vividly to mind the memorable 21st of July, 1861; from which time I have been out of service. Brig. Gen. Preston Smith gave me position on his staff. Through the mercies of a kind Providence, who has shielded me with His wings, and covered me, I have been preserved without a wound, amidst the hundreds wounded around me, and the thousands of shot and shell which sung the requiem of our dead boys. Thank God who gave me the strength, I feel that so far as I am concerned I have done my duty. All is quiet along the lines. The result I do not yet know. Sharp shooters are pegging away, but no brigade is engaged. My loving wife and my little boys, I know, pray for me."
Ah! how little did he know his most solemn need of their wrestling intercessions at that very hour. The brigade is
startled, and all is a-stir. The command from Gen. Polk has been delivered, "Forward! and drive the enemy from his strong position on the heights across the creek." The troops are in motion, the brave General is in front, our gallant volunteer by his side. They charge the enemy; a volley is delivered by the retreating foe. Not an officer escapes; all are shot to the ground. Capt. Donelson fell dead; Gen. Smith died in half an hour; and in one hour more the soul of our unknown hero joined him in the Spirit land. A few days after the battle, the bodies of these brave men were brought from the field under military escort. Our Volunteer Soldier, was buried in his own town--it is hardly proper to say with military honors, for the community, in mass, bond and free, arose to receive the remains of the man they loved and honored, and most devoutly laid them away in the home prepared for all living.
Doubtless when the brigade had obeyed the Lieutenant General's command and driven the enemy from his fortified heights, and wreaked their vengeance on his slaughtered multitudes, and were now at rest once more, deeply, deeply did the soldiers mourn the death of their brave, beloved commander, who had led them to victory in almost half the States of the Confederacy. And surely their thoughts must have rushed to the unknown departed. How brief, how brilliant his career! He was seen for the first time in the morning; he fights by their side throughout the day; he is seen no more at night. How seasonable, how generous his visit! He came to fill an important vacancy; he discharged its perilous duties to universal admiration. Sword in hand from first to last, with heroic gallantry he presses through every successive obligation of the day, and mingles his heart's blood with their General's at night. We need no witness to
testify that when the fighting was over, the victory won, and all was quiet, the strange and striking history of the unknown must have started in the bosom of many a private in that brigade some such hearty enquiries as these: "Who was this volunteer Captain who seemed, in the morning to be dropped upon us like an angel to fight the battle of the day, and who went home to heaven at even-tide when his work was done?--What was his name, and what his military connection? Where did he abide, and what was his calling in life? What style of man was he, and what impelled him to seek his glorious end in our ranks?["] Whatever incipient interest in the stranger may have been awakened by the intimate and eventful interweaving of his personal history with theirs for the space of a day, all that interest will be profoundly augmented by and honest answer to the personal enquiries so naturally suggested.
The volunteer aid who fought and fell by the side of Gen. Preston Smith, at the battle of Chickamauga, near the close of the day and battle of the 19th of September, was CAPT. THOMAS E. KING, son of BARRINGTON KING, ESQ., both of Roswell, Cobb County, Georgia.
Capt. King possessed a well balanced character, a good education, quick and excellent judgment, great energy and remarkable business capacity; a rare combination of gentleness and firmness.--Few men were so pure, simple and modest; and fewer still, endued with such universal, captivating benevolence. He seemed to go through life with a radiant smile upon his face, and rarely met a human being without a gush of kindness. Pre-eminently genial, he fell into animated sympathy with his companion upon sight; yet never lacked dignity or decision when circumstances called for either. To the day of his death profound veneration for his father, and tenderness
for his mother, were not exhibited by word and act only, but invariably found touching expression in the very tones of his voice. 'Twas a simple, beautiful testimony to the winning loveliness of his fraternal affection the five younger children should have uniformly addressed him by the tender appellation of 'Brother,' while they always distinguished their three elder and excellent brethren by prefixing this generic address to their respective names. Of his conjugal and parental tenderness we will not speak. To say that he ardently loved his family, kindred and friends, and shared the reciprocal affection of all, leaves a larger truth untold. The fact is, he loved every child of Adam, rich and poor, and was always the most popular man in the community, both with the bond and the free. Naturally unobtrusive, he died Mayor of the town and Commander of the Post. No man was so familiarly approached for a favor by
the affluent or the indigent; yet no man could so readily subdue an insurgent population by suasion or by force.--While every manly and valuable virtue composed the basis of his character, prompt and cheerful sympathy with the dependent classes of society probably constituted his most distinguished trait. Many a time has his hand distributed enlarged benefactions to the indigent, of which the world never heard. The poor, as well as the rich, the bond as well as the free, broke their hearts around his grave, and now fill the public ear with the celebration of his virtues, the memory of his kindnesses, their appreciation of his value, and the expressions of their grief. The servant of one neighbor, near at hand, dressed her own fat chicken and sent it to the Captain's breakfast table on the morning of his departure for the army; another, at a distance, sent "Many howdyes to Mass Tom" on the day of his death. It is a
triumphant endorsement of the beautiful symmetry of his character, the unsullied rectitude of his life, that, though so uniformly successful in all his social, business and military relations, he should have excited so little envy, and that the few unprincipled and selfish men who did harbor unkindness towards him rarely expressed it, well knowing in their shrewdness that universal admiration of his virtues would very soon have crushed both them and their opposition.
In sketching the character of our departed soldier in this critical hour of our country's history, it is seasonable to remark, if by nature his generic characteristic was benevolence, by providence and grace its specific developments were patriotism and piety.
I. PATRIOTISM.--The spirit he breathed and the principles of his conduct are clearly indicated by the following extracts from his private correspondence and his army journal, recorded without
comment in the order in which he penned them:
"Milledgeville, Jan. 18th, 1861.--Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! One for each sovereign State and independent Sovereignty. It was to day 'Resolved that Georgia has a right and should secede from the Union;' passed at 4 o'clock P. M. by 35 majority. Our cannon are proclaiming it to the world." "Atlanta, May 31st, 1861.--To day we were mustered into the volunteer service of the Confederate States." "June 1st.--Rose at 4 o'clock this morning; the hour I have fixed for regular rising during the war." "June 11th.--Though naturally you feel 'desolate and lonely,' I thank my God that you have been enabled to 'give me up in so noble a cause." "Winchester, Va., June 28.--I find myself on ground hallowed by associations with the noble Virginian, George Washington. Our camp is a quarter of a mile from the house. Perhaps we are on the very spot where
his troops encamped 101 years ago. At any rate we are on a similar mission; for as he was sent to drive back the invader, so are we; and our prayer is that his God may be our God, and crown us too with victory. I never was in better health, and I might say spirits, but for the yearning of my heart for home and friends. I will only have to fight the harder for a forced peace, when I have the opportunity. For one, I did not come here for the sake of glory and renown. I came to secure the blessing of peace and prosperity to ourselves and our children. This was, and is what I desire, and my voice would go forth in songs of grateful, heartfelt thanksgivings if the knife could be buried, and all sounds of war quieted within our borders. But if, like fiends incarnate, nothing but war, war shall be their cry, why then we say, let it come, and we will show the fanatics what it is to be men and to stand up in fearless defence of our rights
and liberties; and again we say, let it come! and God be with the right."
"Richmond, July 26th, (after the battle of Manassas).--My Dear Father and darling Mother: I know that your hearts have before this bounded with pride, that your thanksgivings have been most fervently poured out, and that your cup of blessings is now rich and overflowing.--The 21st of July, a day pregnant with glorious achievements, has not its parallel in the annals of American history, if in the history of the world. If your ancestors boasted of the feats of their sons in revolutionary times, and justly too, so may you, my dear parents, tell what your sons have done in these days. The battle of Stone Bridge introduces a new era in American history; for with it comes the acknowledged birth of a new nation. We began our march gloomy, disheartened, and ripe for rebellion, until the gallant BARTOW assured each regiment, passing by, that this was no retreat
but a direct advance against the enemy. Our hearts now grew light, our steps buoyant. We lay under a galling fire for an hour, waiting orders. About 11 o'clock Gen. Bartow ordered up our regiment to support GEN. BEE; but by the time we reached him Bartow's (8th) regiment was cut to pieces, and Bee's brigade routed. So they formed and fell in behind us. From this time until 3 o'clock the battle raged desperately, and victory wavered. About 3 Beauregard told Bartow to take our flag and lead on the two regiments, the 7th Georgia and 17th Virginia, and capture the detachment of Sherman's battery which was injuring our troops so much. Brave, noble hearted man! he did it, but a bullet was sent to his heart and he fell dead. We pressed on, however, nobly standing our ground against fearful odds, and drove back the gunners from a battery of ten pieces. Strong reinforcements just then coming up enabled us to keep
the advantage. Here was the turning point of the day; for just after, the rout began. We were under the fire of near ten thousand men--regulars, Zouaves, and picked troops; the air actually seemed dense with flying bulllets. They grazed us on every side, and it is a miracle of miracles that every man of us was not mowed down. I was in the front rank, cheering on my men, when I was shot in the ancle, about 4 o'clock. I did not fall, but caught on my sword, and after a while, with help, hobbled to the rear. Our regiment might have been led on with more regularity and order. In fact it was nothing but a firm, dogged determination not to knuckle to a pesky Yankee, that made our boys hold their own. Shake hands with all the mourning ones around you for me. They must cease their mourning; for what offering can be more noble than theirs, sending their dear ones to be martyrs to our country's cause?"
Richmond, Aug. 20th.--"My leg is perfectly helpless, and sometimes very painful. Ordinarily it commences to distress me about 12 o'clock at night; from this time I begin to watch for the dawn. A splendid band, just now passing along the street at the head of a company, puts my leg decidedly in the notion of stepping off to the time of the martial music. I try to keep off melancholy while prospecting my tedious convalescence, and only hope that the prophecies of the doctors may not be realized, but that at any rate by the middle of October I shall be able again to join my company. I am as anxious to be with them as they can possibly be to have me." Aug. 21st.--"Well, Father, it is just one month to-day since I had my bout with the Yankees. I have no occasion to regret it in any way, but would willingly go through all I have endured, and more, to have been with our troops in so glorious a fight as
Manassas. My heart beats with joy and yet is filled with sadness. Here are five of us, brothers, all assembled in this room, in Richmond, under the hospital roof of my kind friend, Mr. Pleasants. We have banished home comforts that we may stand up for our country's rights, for our own and our children's liberties. Providentially we all met here this morning, and, gathered around my lame leg, renewed our vows to dedicate ourselves to our common cause, the cause of freedom for our precious Southern homes. You, my father, have the honor of sending five sons to battle for your country, and your heart must well up with feelings of pride."--Sept. 2d--"I am thinking that my boys have gone forward with the advance made on the Maryland shores. I feel impressed with the belief that momentous events overhang us; that victory or annihilation await our forces on the Potomac. I can only wield the small but
powerful engine of prayer for our brave soldiers and beloved land; and thank God no Hessian fiend can deprive me of this. It chafes me no little to see the result of their initiatory move against our sea-coast defences, and my only hope is that we may profit decidedly by it.--We must expect reverses in the present campaign; and should they overwhelm our present forces I, for one, will not be broken hearted, but will expect to see our country rise, Phoenix like, from her seeming ashes and show her malignant enemies an unbroken front, and hurl them back from our polluted soil. I cannot look for annihilation to our forces; I have too much confidence in the justness of our cause, and in the justice of our God. However protracted our struggle, we must be victorious in the end."
The patriotic spirit of the preceding extracts was more gloriously developed to the close of his life. It was an entire
year before Capt. King laid aside his crutches; he walked with a staff until he died, and could not walk without it. He took every step in pain, was thrown into pangs if his lame foot struck a pebble, and always to the ground if his staff did not sustain him; he knew that he was a cripple for life, and did not know that he would outlive either the weakness or the painfulness of his limb. It is a singular fact, under all this physical discouragement, that he should have gradually and deliberately arrived at the conclusion to consecrate his entire strength and service to his country so long as the war should last. To accomplish this purpose he employed himself for a long time in arranging his business, modifying his connections with society, making all proper disposition of his domestic affairs, and ultimately executed his will, and committed his children to the care of his father. We are not surprised, therefore, to find the following record in his war-manual:
"September 14th, 1863.--Left the dear ones at home again, having buckled on the sword to join the Army of Tennessee, under General Bragg, to strike another blow for independence and the freedom of Georgia from the polluting tread of the Abolitionists. My object is to join, as volunteer aid, the staff of Gen. Longstreet or Gen. Polk; this being the only service in the field where my help will avail anything."
It may be questioned whether the annals of the Confederacy furnish many exhibitions of the love of country more pure, sacred, or lofty, than that comprised in the last five days of Captain King's life, interpreted in the light of the preceding record. We measure the force of an agent by the resistance it overcomes. Test our soldier's patriotism by this rule. In the disabled state of his body, his country had no right to call him out in her service; but he disdains all military exemption and marches out to
meet her enemies. He had a lovely family, a large circle of appreciating friends and relatives, and a buoyant, cheerful heart to enjoy them; but he surrenders all secular indulgence for his country's service. He had a large and lucrative occupation which needed his constant, personal attention; but he turns his back upon the attractive claims of business and sallies forth to fight for his country. He commanded the infantry, cavalry and artillery recruited for the home-defence of Roswell, and its vicinity; but, not anticipating an immediate raid, he obtains a furlough and seeks the field where a desperate battle is hourly expected. It is positively true that he had no independent physical ability, either to march on foot or to mount a horse; but he could ride when mounted, and therefore, refusing to avail himself of his physical weakness, presses on to meet the enemy. The influence of a father's advice upon that son may
be inferred from the father's testimony that he could not recall a wish through life which that son had not anticipated; and yet he breaks through his father's incipient counsel, to go out and defend his country. His father said to him: "My son, you are not able to go." He responded, "Father, our State is invaded-- our family is not represented on that battle field; I must go." It was a noble response: "Go, my son, and the Lord go with you." We must draw a veil over pleadings that were yet harder to resist--those of his wife and children; yet even these he gently presses aside to serve his country. His clothes were not ready; but he felt that the battle was at hand, and could not wait for them. His servant's horse was stolen on the way; but he forbears to pursue the thief that he may not be too late at his post. He found Gen. Polk's staff well filled; but, undiscouraged, he seeks and finds his place on the staff of Brig. Gen.
Preston Smith, on the morning of the very day that he fought and bled.
Oh! the power of patriotic devotion in that young man's breast; what could withstand it? He felt that by a determined foe his country was sorely pressed just now, and must be as formidably overborne for a long time to come. He felt that every man should do all in his power for her defense. As for himself, he threw aside all legal exemption, all worldly indulgence, all business attractions, all honor of primary command at home, all bodily infirmity, all family solicitudes, and pressed rapidly to the very thickest of the fight. And was his patriotism tried, wearied, exhausted by all this? Far from it. He urged his way through all with a cheerful will which gathered strength from every sacrifice; a devout consecration which furnished courage for every emergency.-- Exhausted indeed! when he was mounted for the last time, and going forth in
a few moments to his death, on a bystander remarking that his saddle did not seem secure, with a bright countenance and animated tone he exclaimed "That's right, Doctor, see it well fastened; for you know if I once get down I can't get up again." Through all the duties and perils of the day he went forth to his death with so much of this same calm, intrepid, heroic spirit, that, in perfect accordance with the public sentiment of the brigade, one of the most distinguished officers of Gen. Polk's staff, on the battle field, recorded with his own hand, in Capt. King's war-manual, the following tribute: "His gallantry upon the battle field was conspicuous; and since this war began, no nobler, braver, or truer heart has been offered a sacrifice to the great cause." To this high encomium every soldier of Gen. Smith's brigade whose eye rested upon him during his last eventful day, and every soldier who was every under his command in the Potomac
army, and every man who knew him well at home, will delight to affix his most hearty and solemn amen.
Such a mind! What a lucid demonstration of the justice of our country's cause, and of the duty of her every citizen! What he saw was surely the light of truth; what he felt was surely the dictate of rectitude. What, then, shall we think of those men in the Confederacy who act upon such opposite principles? what shall we say to them?
Ye speculators! ye sordid money-making harpies of the nation, who coolly seek the very life-blood of the land to feed your unhallowed lust of filthy lucre! Look at him! He sacrificed covetousness to patriotism, and sought rather to serve his country than to enrich himself. Go ye and do likewise--ere dread retribution overtake you at the hand of patriot men who by privation, toil and blood, shall have won a national liberty in which they are deeply purposed that your
cold and cruel selfishness shall never, never have an honorable share. Ye heartless, worthless exempts in every corner of the land, who bribe the pliant surgeon to endorse your pretended disabilities! Look at him! You have twice the physical power to serve your country that he possessed; but in her extremity give her none of it. He first studied how he could best advance her interests, and then laid out in her service all the little strength he had. Go ye and follow his example; lest deep disgrace from an injured country settle upon you and your posterity for all time to come! Ye base and infamous skulkers, who hide a coward heart behind some fraction of a Nitre contract, or in some work or office that pays you well for the shelter it provides against the face of the enemy!
Ye thousands of furloughed sick, wounded and well, scattered through the generous households of the people and your own homes, who by time and kind attention
have regained your health and home refreshment, and are now every way fit for service, but, ignobly self-indulgent, still cling to the luxuries of the family when your struggling country calls you back to the hardships of the camp; whose entertainers grieve that their hospitalities have beeu spent upon such undeserving men, and, day and night, do now begrudge you that bed and board they would so gladly spread for the suffering faithful, returning from the battle field! And ye, miserable stragglers, who are sure to lose your regiment when an engagement is imminent! And ye, pitiful cowards, who are the scorn of the brave, because you are sure to become desperately ill when the line of battle is formed! And ye, faint-hearted warriors, who enter the battle but are sure to sneak out exhausted before you have fired a gun! Yes, all ye miserable skulkers of the country! look at him! look at him! When the noblest cause for which
man ever shed his blood was put in peril; when the brightest flag the sun ever shone upon was unfurled to the breeze; when our country's liberties were actually placed upon trial by battle; did he turn his back and abscond? Did he seek an excuse to be absent from the fray? Did he pretend to some physical incapacity to stand at his post? Did he content himself with luxurious indulgences at a distance when his country's life was perilled on the battle field?-- No! never, never! Creation could not keep him from his place in the ranks of the faithful and the brave. Many and strong were the powers that tried their hand upon his patriotism; but they tried in vain. Nor false pleas, nor sensual comforts, nor the cares of business, nor the counsels of friends, nor the cries of kindred, nor a feeble body, nor the dread of death, could arrest his gallant rush into the fiercest of the battle. Oh! ye poor patriots! ye shrinking dishonored men!
ye forget! We are fighting for our country's liberty! Look at him! and redeem yourselves and your families from the inglorious past by a bold imitation of him in future, and we will gladly hail you as our noble brothers, our gallant compatriots in the purest, grandest cause on earth.
Ye multiplied thousands of deserters, hiding in the strongholds and dens of the mountains, or skulking about in the dark corners of the Confederacy; how mean ye feel! They who turn their backs upon such a cause, must, by all its exalted nobility, be crushed into the deepest degradation. From the very bottom of our hearts we pity you, our unhappy countrymen. What a stigma you have infixed upon your name! what a poison you have poured into your very hearts! On the day that you were mustered into the service, say, did you not swear that you would fight our country's battles to the end of the war? What
are you doing in the mountains? What victories will you win there? What national independence will you establish there? What respect and honor from your fellow-men will you earn there? What noble deeds to tell your children will you achieve there? What brightening prospects for yourselves or your families, in time or eternity, do you expect to light up by this shameless abandonment of the sacred cause of your country and your race; the cause of all truth and honor, of all justice and peace? Tell me not of the inequalities of the Government-- of the oppression of your officers. Be done with such trifling! Do you not know that man is fallible; that, especially at such a time as this, there will be, there must be some inequalities, some improprieties? And have you no more regard for your character, love for your country, appreciation of the right, and command of your intelligence than to give up every great thing under heaven
simply because every little thing about you has not been done to your liking? You are in the wrong, my countrymen, grievously in the wrong. Come back to the ranks, and come at once. Say! before high Heaven, did you not swear to your comrades in arms that if they would stand by you, you would stand by them? that if they stood ready, in every fight, to shoot down the man that aimed his rifle at your breast, in every fight, by their side you, too, would stand ready to shoot down the men who aimed their muskets at them? Alas! how many of your faithful, noble comrades have been slain in battle and sent to man's long home, simply because you violated your solemn oath and were not at your post to defend them! Instead of destroying our enemies, you have been strengthening them by the slaughter of your countrymen. Come back to the ranks, unfaithful men! Look at our glorious warrior! He might have saved his life
in the mountains and broken no pledge and violated no oath. Thank God! he needed none to make him faithful. He loved his country. He saw her peril. He fled to the rescue. He took your place. He shed his blood where, possibly, that very blood might have been spared had you but been half as faithful as he.--Come back to your country's standards; we need your plighted help; we will forget and forgive the past. We are going to triumph in this struggle; we will accord to you all the valor you exhibit, and share with you all the glory we shall win.
And oh! ye valiant soldiers who have stood your ground in every battle, and covered yourselves with glory in every conflict; who feel with us, that, God helping, you are going to struggle on to liberty or to death. We, who stand behind you, and are not permitted to fight by your side, for whom your breasts and hearts have been a shield in every advance
of the enemy; Oh! you know not how we love, and honor, and prize you. Believe us, whenever the tidings of your gallant fighting reach our anxious ears, we never fail to weep out our heartiest love and gratitude to you, in the midst of our solemn thanksgivings and praises to God. Noble men! look ye, too, at our sainted hero! See how the spirit of your own breasts swelled in him! Like you, he gave up everything for his country; like you, he faced every foe for his country. Like him, gallant men, go forth to the death for your country. Oh! like him, let the love of God ever feed your love of country; and, like him, from your last battle-field you will go up to glory as in Elijah's chariot; and while heaven opens wide her arms to welcome you to your high home, earth shall cheerfully enroll a Christian soldier on the catalogue of her most splendid noblemen.
II. PIETY.--Yes, Capt. King loved his country. But if our soldier had not been a pious man, while we should have regretted this cardinal defect in his character as a patriot, we must have mourned without hope over the deadly lack in his character as a man. But thank God! though constitutionally bright and happy, he was a consistent Christian, and though uniformly modest and unostentatious, he was a zealous Christian.-- From his youth he had been a professor of religion, in the Presbyterian church, and the war decidedly brightened the piety of his latter days. At the first prayer meeting he had the privilege of attending in his own sanctuary, after five months absence from it in the army, he stated to his brethren that the last words from his pastor, on leaving home, brought him this admonition: "Now, Tom, take care of your heart." With emotion he expressed to the congregation his trust in God, that he had not forgotten the
seasonable exhortation--and surely the tenor of his life proved the truth of his protestation.
The best practical test of a man's piety is his habitual treatment of the Bible, the Mercy-seat, and the Sabbath. In these three respects the rectitude of our soldier was conspicuous. From the day that he was mustered into the service until the day when he was compelled to leave it, in accordance with his original purpose, he regularly rose at four o'clock in the morning. The early and the closing hours of every day (Providence permitting) he conscientiously employed in scripture-reading and prayer. Surely he must have learned to pray, whose consciousness of this duty led him, a month at a time, to conduct family prayer regularly, both reading and praying, when disease had destroyed all power either to rise from his bed or to hold the Bible in his hand. And surely he must have learned to pray to edification, when another's
servant confesses, on the Captain's death, that he had been accustomed to steal into his piazza by night, and kneel where he could hear most of the service through the closed door. Nor did he confine his Bible reading or his prayers to his tent; he was accustomed to read his Testament, solemnly and aloud, while marching--his Orderly reports-- sometimes for consecutive miles. As for prayer, it was the admiring exclamation of his Lieutenant, "I never knew such a man; he was always praying!" We have equal evidence of his sensibility to the sacredness of the Sabbath. In his war-journal he makes the following records: "June 9th.--How war breaks in on the sanctity of this day! One has to keep a record of some kind or we lose all account of it. I hope when once we get into camp its sanctity will be observed." "June 15th.--We are promised a quiet Sabbath, and that our march shall not be renewed." He writes
to his wife--"Oh! how my heart was gladdened by your letter to-day! How different your quiet Sabbath from mine! Mine was spent amidst the noise and confusion of eighty men in miserable boxcars--the Sabbath of our arrival in Knoxville--in unpacking the boys, and in packing them up again for the night."--In a subsequent letter he says, "Yesterday, (Sabbath) much to my annoyance, we had a muster for the pay-roll. I do not see the necessity for this violation of God's holy law, nor for the dress parade, which is not omitted. Custom sanctions it, but it makes the law of God of none effect, and has a tendency to demoralize the men, more or less; I wish it could be done away with." Still later, he writes to his brother that his brigade was now on their march to the battle of Manassas. He felt deeply the responsibilities that awaited them. He longed in spirit to be alone with God. In violation of his regular habit, at the break of
day, he left his tent and sought the quiet solitude of a neighboring grove. His soul waxed warm in prayer. The sun had shed no beams on earth when the serene, solemn Sabbath of universal nature was profanely broken by the roar of cannon at a distance. Then it was that his soul deeply rejoiced within him that this impious profanation of the sanctity of God's holy day was not perpetrated by Confederate troops; that though necessity was now laid upon them, and they, too, on God's holy Sabbath must handle these infernal destroyers of all quiet, peace and life, yet that the sin of all lay at the door of the enemy who had made the assault.
But Captain King's piety was not confined to personal fidelity in the use of the Bible, the Mercy-seat and the Sabbath; he ardently sought to sanctify and to save men by every means in his power--nor did he suffer any cross, however severe, to drive him from the path of
duty. His men had left their religious privileges behind them; he felt that he should supply their destitution to the extent of his ability. Regularly, therefore, while he remained in the service, he summoned his company to family worship at his tent every evening. On these occasions he read the Scriptures, expounded and prayed. In his correspondence, he speaks of evening prayers at his marquee as "very pleasant to me, and well attended. God grant that His Spirit may move upon the hearts of our soldiers and much good be the result." He followed his public ministration with private effort. His soldiers testify that, at all convenient seasons, he was found earnestly conversing with his men upon the subject of personal religion; that he frequently accompanied an aged chaplain in his regimental visitations, and, when the missionary's strength declined, spiritedly took up his work.
The actual reformation of the men is
another signal proof of the zeal of the officer. True! the captain s cheerful, abounding benevolence doubtless awakened no small part of the idolatry of his company; for what soldier could fail to love a captain who, not on duty, was as intimate with him as a brother, and watched over him with the affection and sympathy of a parent; who carried the soldier's musket and knapsack when weary, and fasted himself to feed his hungry private. But when a soldier's love for his captain reforms him, this fact establishes the piety of the officer, as well as his benevolence. It is pleasant to know that, in sympathy with our captain, no man of his company profaned God's holy name in his audience; and that to please him, the profanest waited cheerfully upon the evening service. "Boys! I never thought you would do this," was the kind but serious address of Captain King to the first few men of his company whom he had ever detected playing
cards. His Orderly sergeant testifies that every card in camp was destroyed that night, and not another handled until the company had changed its captain, adding that a large supply of marbles was ingeniously substituted for the banished implements of gambling. Doubtless a number of similar moral and religious impressions, convictions, and reformations amongst the soldiers bear testimony to the earnest piety of the captain's personal example and public and private addresses.
His uniform, earnest, and hopeful appeal to God under every heavy pressure, revealed his filial experience of God's fidelity, and his consequent trust in God's promises. When shot in the ankle at Manassas, he stood up for some time on one leg and held by the branch of a tree, coolly giving orders, cheering on his men, and praying aloud until it was necessary that he should be removed. The moment he found himself released from further
duty on the field, aware that he was leaving the battle undecided, he broke forth in the loudest strain of prayer that God would give victory to our army, and independence to the country. This supplication he continued while they carried him three hundred yards to the rear, and his soldiers say, for one hour and a half after he reached his resting place. It is a remarkable fact that, while passing through crowds of soldiers of different regiments, his loud prayer amazed and arrested a company of South Carolinians. At this juncture the wounded captain, espying a body of Zouaves not far distant, cried out to the Carolinians, "Forward boys!" The order they instantly and gallantly executed, capturing a portion, and driving the residue. A few days before his death, on the eve of his departure for Gen. Bragg's army, when his mother, wife, and children had received his solemn, tender adieu, in the parlor, and had followed him to the door,
their tears and words could scarcely consent to his setting out upon so fearful an enterprise in so much weakness. He gently took them by the hand, led them back to the family mercy-seat, and composed their disquietude by committing himself and them to the guardianship of God in such tender strains, with such faltering accents as they will never forget.
Finally, deliberate readiness for death at all times, sealed the sterling type of his personal religion. He seemed to keep death before him from the day of his entering the army. He writes in his war journal, "June 14th, we know that many of us must fall martrys in this contest; but we do not doubt that we have a father above who, knowing all things, knows the justness of our cause--and when He is for us, who can be against us." On his way to Bragg's army, he was met by many of his friends who earnestly pleaded with him to take no part in the battle, alleging as a reason,
his imperfect command of his bodily powers. In substance he calmly replied, "It is my solemn conviction that, in the present emergency of the country, every man in Georgia who can reach the field should be found there. While so many remain at home, the least I can do is to represent the conviction of my soul by personal presence in the face of the enemy. If death does come, I trust I shall be ready for it." He was well aware of his danger. He announced to his body servant on taking leave of him, "You will never see my face again." Truly, he never did see his face again. Truly, when death advanced, he faced the King of terrors firmly. Mortally wounded, sensible that his end was rapidly approaching, his note book, pocket book, and the contents of his pockets, with perfect composure, he delivered to a bystanding officer, prescribing the dispensation he would have made of them. He then solemnly avowed his belief in the Lord
Jesus Christ, and his perfect readiness to meet Him at his call; and thus, from a victorious battle-field, left us for the better land.
PATIOTISM AND PIETY! All we need in our country's emergency; the one brings us all the power of man, the other all the power of God. How eminently qualified was our departed soldier to serve his country, so decided both in his piety and in his patriotism.
My countrymen! God is the great war maker. "I bring the sword upon a land." God, the great peace maker. "He maketh peace." And war is God's solemn arraignment of a people for national sin. "In righteousness He judgeth and maketh war." This, our WAR, therefore, in the main, is--GOD ALMIGHTY, IN FATHERLY LOVE, DEALING WITH THE SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY FOR HER SIN.
Half angered, do you cry out, "Are not the North greater sinners than the South?" Grant it, what then? Does
this disprove the position? Did not God frequently employ the heathen, by war, to chastise Israel, and does not the Bible say so? Was not Israel a better people than the heathen, and does not the Bible say so? Did not God take greater interest in Israel than in the heathen, and does not the Bible say so? The very fact that Israel sinned, that God loved Israel, and that he had purposed her sanctification in order to His blessing--this it was--that constituted the precise reason why God brought the war of the heathen upon his people. "Whom He loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." When God's word had failed, heathen war was God's parental rod--speaking loud to Israel, that she might be first humbled and then blessed. Look at our country! not through northern character nor any other false standard; look at her through the Bible. To discern her guilt one needs now no specification of
her most aggravated sins. Look at the whole Confederate Clurch of all names! How far short she comes of that world-converting work required at her hand! Look at the whole multitude of Confederate sinners of all classes! How shamefully they neglect the great God-fearing, soul-saving work demanded of them! If God's heart is set upon the world's conversion surely here is sin enough to kindle God's wrath and avert his blessing. Bear in mind, if heaven's blessing is ever to descend upon our country, there is no alternative, she must first be sanctified. His word, we can all testify, has been plentifully dispensed to us, but to little purpose. Therefore it is that he now resorts to the rod. Believe it my countrymen! Oh, believe it! All these our sins, our personal, national sins, God in person, by this war, is charging home upon us. And see! if war is God's arraignment of a people for their sin--then Southern sin is Federal power.
For it is written, "Ye cannot stand before your enemies until ye put away the accursed thing." And Southern humiliation is the utter rout of the North. For thank God, whenever "Israel cried unto the Lord"--Yes! thank God! her enemy was always, instantly, gloriously vanquished, no matter what his power.
Oh! ye soldiers of the Confederate army! Our dear valued countrymen! know ye this--it is God's word to you--"When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing." Tell me! for the victory of our arms, the overthrow of our enemies, our national independence, our personal liberties; for the cessation amongst us of all the horrors of intestine war; for the dispensation through all our borders of the blessings of a heaven-sent peace; and better, far better than all, for the promotion upon earth of human rectitude and divine salvation--will you not, my countrymen, will you
not put away all your profanities, all your dishonesties, all your intemperance, all your Sabbath breaking, all your straggling, all your desertion? Will you not give heed to the earnest voice of your chaplains, and study the holy word of God? Oh! for heaven and earth's sake will you not rise up at once and break off your sins by repentance, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ for righteousness. Thank God for the augmented religion of the army! But so many of you have been left so far, far in the rear. Oh! look before you at the noble example of your converted comrades, and close up, close up on your file-leaders in this march of national deliverance. We especially commend unto you the character of our sainted captain. Like him, forthwith cast in your mite of piety and patriotism, and record this solemn resolution--"As for me, if I fail in every other work and object in life, I will go to the grave and to the bar of God with the
happy consciousness that I have done my part toward the deliverance of my country in the day of her sore trial." Noble soldiers! the Lord be with you!
Ye cold Christians, formal professors, and careless sinners of the country! You are working mightily to strengthen Federal arms, to achieve Federal victories, and to crush the liberties of the people. What deadly blows you daily deal upon the property, honor, peace and hope of the land. Oh, have mercy upon us! Pity an oppresed nation struggling for her very life. By your unrepented, provoking transgressions, no longer draw down the wrath of God upon our country. At last cast your mighty influence upon the right side, and by an honest return to God, put an end to this vile war and light up the burdens that so sorely oppress us.
And Oh, ye avaricious, covetous, selfish men in all parts of the Confederacy, whose whole soul is absorbed in one constant
effort to improve this nick of time and suck out of the weaknesses, perplexities, and afflictions of disordered society, your own worldly prosperity! Alas! cannot your sordid heart feel one solitary pulsation of sympathy with all the woes and perils of an injured, bleeding people? Cannot your dark eye see that, under the reign of benignant Omnipotence, in your cherished idol you yourself are building up a stupendous, an insufferable curse? Are you entirely blind to the frowns society knits upon you? Are you utterly deaf to the scorn of all virtuous minds crying out against you?--Have you never marked how your grievous selfishness, a stench in the nostrils of Him who has said "Thou shalt love," is opening every vein of the nation, and pouring out her very life-blood upon the ground? Unhappy, guilty countrymen! Awake from your deadly, stupor and look about you! Your shameful lack of patriotism and of piety is stirring up the
wrath of heaven, bringing on the Federal columns upon our soil, and cleaving down the struggling liberties of the people.-- Do you wish to accomplish such a work as this? Oh, it is noble to love one's country, and nobler far to serve the God that made us. We beseech you, ponder well the portrait of our sainted soldier. Come now, and with all our fellow citizens throughout the length and breadth of our beloved Confederacy, we will go up and meet the enemy armed with love of country and the love of God. Ah, how soon shall the North be whipped into profound contrition for her most unrighteous and inhuman oppression of us! How soon shall the South become the freest, the happiest nation under heaven!