Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/360

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356 Southern Historical Society Papers.

coming" after us, who may wish to know about the charge of the Crater from the mouths of the participants.

It was in no spirit of boastfulness that we returned, realized on this battlefield and charged over the same ground where we rushed and fought in the whirl of battle, over forty-one years ago.

You did no more than your duty; you did no more than your comrades of other commands, who stood to duty; no more than those who with you won other fields, and I do not claim for you greater honor than for any true Confederate soldier, but vvhen a feat of arms so brilliant as the successful charge of the Crater by the three depleted brigades of Anderson's division on the 3Oth day of July, 1864, is brushed aside as a skirmish by those in whom justice is supposed to abide, I thought it was time for the partici- pants to speak out in behalf of the great open-field charge, which challenges the world for a parallel.

The English historian, Gregg, says: that "the exploit crowned General Mahone with fame that no subsequent errors can obscure."

When you helped to defend Petersburg in 1864-5, fi ye times Mahone' s brigade left its place in the breastworks on Willcox farm and twice its winter quarters, and each time successfully charged the troops of the Army of the Potomac, and while all reflected equal credit en the courage and fidelity of the participants, the charge of the Crater was fruitful of greater results, and it should be known if the world will listen, to-day, to the survivors of the men who made this fight, saved the Army of Northern Virginia from a fatal disaster, and inflicted upon the enemy a defeat that brought the Herald' s cry for peace.

It really seems the irony of fate that you should have to go to your enemies to find justice for your valor, but it is, nevertheless, true, for you have to read the official reports of the Federal officers to know the full force and effect of your prowess on that day.

These documents, your written personal experience of the battle, and this demonstration to-day, makes me content to rest the history of the charge of the Crater with the historians who shall come after us.

The unique feature of a sham battle on a real battlefield will burn your deeds on the ineffaceable tablets of Virginia's history.

Between Southern soldiers who have touched elbows in a charge with bayonets, there always exists a brotherhood bound by unwritten and unspoken laws, even as strong as the kinship of brothers.