Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

reached its destination. For in the inter- May 28, 1863, the Fifty-fourth entered val which it took to travel from Stafford Boston on its way to the seat of war in Court House to New York, he reviewed South Carolina. The spectacle of colored his reasons and reversed his decision.

troops in the city which had mobbed Gar“ Please destroy my letter, and telegraph rison and sent back fugitives to slavery the Governor that I accept,” was his la- seemed stranger than fiction. The historic conic message.

pageant is worth recalling, for it was brimShaw was now well across the Rubicon ful of tragic beauty and pathos. Nobly of his doubt and indetermination. From picturesque was the fair skin and Saxon the instant that his feet pressed its farther hair of the commander against the dark shore, all uncertainty and indecision van- background of a thousand dusky faces. ished. He became resolute, confident, a They marched through streets thronged self-reliant leader of men in pursuit of a with people, under windows and balconies definite and dangerous purpose. The die crowded with the grace, the wealth, and of his fortune, life, honor, he now cast with genius of the old town. Boston had “conthe Fifty-fourth, and with its success or quered her prejudices,” though not exactly failure he would thereafter sink or swim. as Webster had demanded a dozen years Glory, the cause of liberty and of the Union, before from the steps of the Revere House. buoyed him, braced all the powers, sum- From the balcony of Wendell Phillips's moned all the faith and enthusiasm of the home on Essex Street a cast of John Brown heroic heart. He was as one under an stared down on this startling fulfilment of irrevocable vow. To its accomplishment his vision in 1859. Close beside the bust the stern prejudice and circumstances of stood the intrepid editor of the Liberator. the times isolated and devoted him. But One hand of the lion-hearted apostle of his own ardent patriotism and philanthropy non-resistance rested — was it in sign of isolated and devoted him quite as much. public confession and reconciliation ?- on At Readville he drilled with unfiagging at- the grand head of the fiery believer in tention his raw recruits. He breathed into blood and iron. Above the Fifty-fourth them his own radiant passion for excellence the extremes of freedom met, and the and success. Much more than drill-mas- spirits of Garrison and Brown embraced ter he proved to the regiment. He was and kissed each other. The ghost of the vigilant husbandman to the good seed dor- glorious martyr was abroad that May day; mant in the souls of men long despised and as if suddenly rendered sensible of his and proscribed by public law and public presence, the regimental band struck up opinion. By the unfailing gravitation of the tune and the men sang his song, while character and example, he drew the man walking over the spot where Attucks fell, hood of his men to high levels of action. and in the track of Burns and Sims, their As he disciplined into order their bodies, stern, multitudinous voices rising and fallso he drilled into expression their self- ing, swelling and pealing, with the choral respect. The enthusiasm and the example harmony and exultation of " His soul is were quickly rewarded. Surprised and de- marching on.” Such a rendition, thirteen lighted he was with the earnestness and year after the passage of the Fugitive Slave docility of the troops. At the end of five Bill, of a black regiment with banners and weeks he was able to write that they ac- bayonets, never entered the brain of the quired “all the details of guard duty and authors of the Compromise measures of camp service infinitely more readily” than 1850. It was a nation's Astræa returning most of his former command. Sceptics from the skies. went, saw, and left at the encampment their In the midst of all this stir and .circumsneer and their scepticism. The United stance of war Hymen set up his festal States mustering officer, a Virginian by altar. Twenty-six days before the debirth, and a scoffer at the capacity of the parture of the Fifty-fourth from Boston, negroes to make soldiers, surrendered un- Colonel Shaw was wedded to Miss Anne conditionally on witnessing the martial bear- Kneeloni Haggerty of New York. The ing and skilful evolutions of the regiment. event served to throw over his death, which He confessed to their young colonel that so swiftly followed, an indescribable pathos. he had never mustered into the service It was the superlative, last act required to better men.

fill the cup of his renunciation of happiness for the sake of a great cause.

He had were eggs buried in it they would bake to now nothing more of self, except life, to a turn. There is no withstanding such a offer. Family and home, old comrades foe; and the natives, those who can, hie and companions in arms, then his fair to places of refuge under roofs, to the young wife, he resigned for country and shadow of trees and vine-clad verandas, the freedom of the slave. Marvellously to any spot of grateful gloom, where the much he had, marvellously much he gave. burning rays cannot find them. But when The magnitude of his duty grew upon him the blaze is at length extinguished within — filled him with its commanding SHALL this fiery furnace, night lets down over the and MUST. Such imperious mastery did it pores and vents of land and sea her thick organize over his desires, that he questioned blanket, through which the imprisoned heat at times whether he should so much as look seeks unavailingly to escape. The suffoforward to a home for himself and bride. cating atmosphere, surcharged with fire Not until he had done this duty, demon- and moisture, breaks irrepressibly into a strated that the blacks had the stuff of sol. gray, ooze-like sweat, which no more rediers in them, would he taste the delights sembles dew than the mephitic dampness of domestic life. They had triumphed of dungeons resembles mist. Disease and over their enemies at the North; he did death pursue man implacably by day; they not doubt that they would triumph also pursue him implacably by night also. over their enemies at the South. The Shaw and the Fifty-fourth on those last supreme test of battle he was confident two days could not fly from this foe. They would convert his faith into fact. He had perforce to face its fiercest rays, march talked and wrote of it, and longed for it. and bivouac beneath its pelting, pitiless The stern prayer for battle was ever on beams. Under cover of darkness, July 16, his lips and in his letters. It received a they retreated from James Island to join partial answer July 16, 1863, on James the troops, concentrating on Morris Island, İsland in Charleston Harbor, when a strong for the expedition against Wagner. No detachment of rebels fell suddenly on two light labor was the march across James hundred of the Fifty-fourth. They did Island to the transports, because of a furinot show their backs, but their faces, to ous thunder-storm, and the swamp and mud the foe, resisting the onset with the great- encountered by the way. Early July 17, est bravery. Seven of their number sealed they landed on Folly Island. Here, though with their lives the bloody testament that well escaped from one set of troubles, they valor knows no race and rises from all con- fell immediately victims to another. The ditions of freedom and servitude. The southern sun,“ roasting and dazzling” action evoked the approval of the general officers and men the livelong day on the and the applause of the brigade. These beach, was far more exhausting than the men had certainly shown "to somebody swamp and the storm of the night before. besides their officers, what stuff they were They had besides fallen short of rations. made of.” This was indeed a triumph, Coffee and hardtack comprised the extent but it was not enough for their leader. of the knapsack store. From this combiSome enterprise, more difficult and peril- nation of distressing circumstances the regious, he hoped would come to him and ment was released at midnight, when it them, and that it would come soon. Ah ! embarked for Morris Island, where it it did come to him and his regiment, and landed about daybreak of July 18. At it came soon. The memorable attack on six o'clock that afternoon it drew up beFort Wagner two days after the conspicu- fore General Strong's headquarters, and ous beginning on James Island satisfied began to prepare for action. forever his longing.

The Fifty-fourth was allotted the post Those intervening days were fraught of honor, and led the assaulting column at with trial for the regiment. The heat of dusk against the great sand-fort. The Charleston is in itself no mean enemy to quick step of the beginning broke later fight. From its sultry throat issue fevers, into a brisk run. Had the column reached, sunstrokes, death. The country there is without resistance, the base of the outer fervid as a kiln. The sand in the streets wall, its momentum would have carried it and on the roads and beaches reaches the precipitately up the scarp. The issue, in temperature of lava, is so hot indeed that thai event, might have been altogether dif

[graphic]

ferent. But the night had ears, and the It was the magic of Shaw's voice which garrison awaited the onset in a state of restored to the Fifty-fourth the complete armed expectancy. The assailants were possession of its sanity and valor. Resopermitted to approach until their van was lutely and rapidly rallying his broken lines, well within rifle range, when the parapet he pressed impetuously forward at their started into sudden and tremendous activ- head to the great rebel battery, and up its ity. Three murderous volleys burst from mighty slope to the deadly parapet, all the the works and swept the head of the while the sand of the scarp and the sand column back on its inner lines. Terrible of life were slipping from under their feet. execution they inflicted on the Fifty-fourth. Surer and swifter of foot, he quite outDead many of the brave fellows dropped stripped his dusky warriors, attaining in on that perilous edge of battle ; many advance of them the grim heights. There more were wounded. This abrupt and for a flashing instant he stood, unflinching bloody check threw into some confusion and alone, facing his climbing companies the ranks of the black regiment. There and encouraging them by word and gesture was in them some consternation also. The to quicken their steps, so that with them opening fire from those defending must he might dash down into the works; and always operate as a severe trial and shock then—he fell — and rose above Fort Wagto those storming breastworks. Death is ner and the clamor and carnage of that never wholly anticipated, nor can it ever dreadful hour into the shining throng of be a matter of indifference to the bravest the heroes of the Republic. Thick about veteran. Then, too, the stoutest soul him his black troops died, and into the quakes at the sight and sound of human same ditch with them his body was flung. agony, and on that July night before Wag- United in life, history united them in a ner it was indeed hideous. The groans common grave and the immortality which and screams of the wounded and dying, together they gloriously won. mingling with the furious explosions of small arms, combined to produce a scene of indescribable horror. That a body of troops recovers at all amid such appalling circumstances is due to the military principle of order and obedience, drilled as second nature into the rank and file, and to the steadfastness and energy of its recuperative centres. Each commissioned officer constitutes one of these rallying points. A regiment readily overcomes this first sharp shock, recruits its esprit de corps and courage, when its line officers rise, with a crisis, to the responsibility and evince themselves to their commands collected and intrepid. But were they to betray fear and irresolution, the incipient terror of the men would speedily cause a stampede. That the confusion and consternation of the Fifty-fourth did not so end was pre-eminently owing to the presence of mind and dauntless front of its young colonel. There are those who attribute to the human voice the marvellous property of making cowards of the fiercest brutes. Be this fact or fancy, it certainly possesses a much more wondrous gift, — the power to recall, in emergent moments, the soldier to honor and duty, to charm courage back to hearts trembling on the verge of a panic.

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

A

N old tradition represents an Indian On the 18th of March, 1818, the Cypress warrior, grown weary of the bloody Land Company, taking its name from the

strifes of some eastern region, who beautiful creek running west of the present resolves to seek a more quiet abode in the town, was formed, and began to make real far-off land towards the setting sun. Mak- the visions of the old warrior. They located ing his way westward, over swollen rivers the present town, and began to lay out and tangled forests, he comes at length to lots, which were readily sold at what were fertile lands and clear waters. Charmed then fabulous prices, some of them reachby the scenery, the blooming valleys, limpid ing a thousand dollars each. The old streams, boundless plains, high mountains, hero attested his faith in the future city and promises of plenty, he strikes his spear by investing largely in choice lots, some into the ground, saying, “Alabama, ' of which remained in the hands of his “Here I rest!"

heirs until a very recent time. For beauty of location, Florence excels Florence was intended to be what Nashmost other places in this luxurious bourne, ville is, but the anticipations did not matewhere Nature does her utmost and excels rialize. The fertile lands of the Tennessee herself. That typical old hero, warrior, valley and Colbert Reserve, contiguous to and statesman, Andrew Jackson, in his Florence, were devoted solely to cottoncampaign against the English, opened a growing, — “the fleecy staple which, by a military road from Nashville southward to strange irony of fate, while it floats in mazy New Orleans, crossing the Tennessee River folds at palace windows, and heaves and at the foot of Muscle Shoals, just at the falls in downy whiteness on beauty's bosom, point where bold bluffs overhang the stream, and clothes the nakedness of all lands, is which, just escaped from the roar and rush woven into a chain of steel about the neck of the rapids above, broadens into a lovely of its luckless producer to bind him to a lake-like expanse below the shoals. His lot of hopeless toil.” So Florence shared keen eye and practical judgment detected the fate of all communities dependent the site of a great commercial city, where upon one industry, — a limited growth and the cotton of the lowlands, the iron of the comparative stagnation. hills, should meet the timbers and coal of The valley of the Cumberland, on the North Alabama in the Warrior coal-fields other hand, with its diversified agricultural and the bread-stuffs and herds of the and other pursuits and its stalwart men, Western prairies.

built up its queen city, while the failure by

the government to open the Muscle Shoals, only the wonderful new South can show, and the investment of all accumulations in and in such combination as can hardly be slaves and cotton-fields, left Florence for matched elsewhere. Up to 1887 Florence forty years simply a village of elegant resi- had not changed much since the war, nor

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

dences and independent landlords, sleep- indeed much before. The people were ing on her beautiful hills. Lots which in satisfied with things as they were, like the 1818 sold for a thousand dollars were sold people of many another place of similar in 1870 for twenty-five dollars.

character. They were conscious of their But presto, change! The bell rings; advantages in site and natural resources; the curtain falls on Florence, and rises and they had a dread of the bustle and on the new. What was an old-fashioned hurry and mixed population that come with college town and county seat, inhabited by the development of manufacturing towns, the charming sort of people naturally found and feared lest they should lose the disin a centre of education, is all changed. tinctive and cherished character of their From fifteen hundred inhabitants, a few town as a refined seat of learning. But years ago, it has suddenly grown to eight the on-rushing world of business and new or ten thousand, gaining six thousand in enterprises would not let them be. Isolaless than six months. The beauty of site, tion was impossible. They must leave

[graphic][merged small]

the cultivated Southern society, the delight- their outgrown shell, like the nautilus, on ful climate, and fine educational institu- the shores of a dead past, with its dead tions, all remain unchanged; but it has issues, and build more grandly in the rapidly sprung into an important manu- future. facturing town, with advantages such as Some keen-sighted men, with eyes open

« AnteriorContinuar »