Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/144

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

And of him whose body rests in yonder vault, as in the headquarters tent of this great army of the dead, what should be said when we assemble in these after years to pay tribute to the hero soldiers of old Petersburg? It is fitting to remember that, of all the great leaders of men which Virginia has produced, few have equaled, and fewer yet have excelled, Major-General William Mahone. Trained as an engineer, with a wonderful ability to see and take advantage of the topography of a field of battle, it may be said of him that he never recklessly exposed the men of his command to unnecessary danger, nor failed to meet danger when necessity required it. To paraphrase the words of another: Few men served in that war with more glory than he; yet many served, and there was much glory.


It is not for me to attempt the role of a historian. Not for me nor for this occasion, to describe even that great battle of the Crater, when seven of our regiments with two batteries of artillery held as many divisions of the enemy in check until the arrival of Mahone's Division. Not even of the splendid and successful charge of that division which recaptured our works and won the Crater fight, shall I pause to speak. Other tongues, more eloquent, have described that day. But upon the anniversary of that great fight, standing upon the hill which was the objective of the Federal assault, and speaking of the deeds of Petersburg soldiers, I pause to lay a sprig of rosemary upon the graves of those twenty-two officers and men of Pegram's Battery whose bodies were covered by the debris of Elliott's salient. These men, in the discharge of duty, held the post of honor. To them had been intrusted the defense of an advanced portion of our lines at a time when it was known that the enemy was attempting to undermine them. Not for them was the excitement of the thrilling charge. Not for them to face danger amid the pomp and circumstance of war. But calmly, in the discharge of routine duty, quietly and fearlessly they met death that morning, while the summer birds were singing their hymn of praise and thanksgiving that "Not a sparrow falleth but its God doth know." No formal monument records their deeds or enrolls their names as yet, They live en-