Sunday, July 8, 2012


Two Confederates
(Sixth Plate Ambrotype, Blog author's Collection)
July 3, 1862


           [Natchitoches, Louisiana] The ensanguined battle field of Shiloh will be memorable in the annals of Natchitoches parish, from the fact that it has been stained by the blood and illustrated by the chivalric daring and gallantry of her sons. The name will ever hang about the portals of her heart and be sweet yet mournful music to her soul; and when the truthful historian shall come with appointed pen, to weave the strands of its stirring incidents into the enduring chord of history, the laurel and the cypress will be closely blended. Alas! that military fame should be baptised in the blood of the brave! Alas! that the shouts of victory and the noble exultations which stir generous minds to praise and admiration of manly actions and heroic deeds should be mingled with the wail of bereaved hearts over their loved ones lost! The bloody, but glittering record hangs at every door, and names as "familiar as household words" in our community are engraved upon it deathless characters. Martyrs and heroes stand side by side.
Wood, Reed, Sers, Goodman, Harrison, Kile, Oliver, Procella, Ray, (dead) Anty, Brosset, Hertzog, Cloutier, Payne, Rachal [Company C, Natchitoches Rebels, 18th Louisiana Infantry] and others (wounded) the dead and living representatives of the patriotic chivalry of Natchitoches perish,
"And no slab of pallid marble
Rears its white and ghastly head,
Telling wanderers in the valley
Of the virtues of the dead,
The green grass bends above them
And a dew drop pure and bright
Is the epitaph an angel wrote
In the stillness of the night."
Less than one short year ago, Natchitoches parish sent her patriotic "Rebels" to the battle field numbering some seventy odd men, to-day she mourns over the graves of near half their number! It is painful to contemplate death in any attitude: when a child dies, when it yields up its gentle spirit, like the last fragrance of the crushed and dying rose, we weep that so much innocence should be carried to the cold earth—when a maiden, in the spring time of her existence, perishes in the midst of her gentleness and beauty, we weep that so much loveliness, seemingly destined for life and light should be carried to darkness and the grave; when a young man dies, we weep for him, that he should have been taken from us in the hey-day of a buoyant existence; but when a soldier dies, when he comes to breathe out his mighty spirit upon the battle field of his country, tho' the tears which bedew his turf be not so fresh, so warm and plenteous as those which flow for the untimely passing away of youth and beauty, who perish in the presence of family and friends, yet, thank God! a nation mourns, and history, as it pays its last tribute to his memory, sighs around the melancholy page, and leaves a garland of immortal homage lingering about the record of his death!
"Ah! never shall the land forget
How gushed the life blood of her brave,
Gushed warm wit hope and courage yet
On Shiloh's soil, they fought to save."
But do those brave men who sleep on Shiloh's plain, the very chivalry of our parish, need the pen of the eulogist? No; their achievements on the ever memorable 6th of April will soon be woven by the fingers of genius into the enduring songs and anthems of their countrymen, for beauty will breathe their praises, music will measure their career, history and poetry will apotheosise [sic] their names, and each heart of a redeemed and disenthralled country will be a throbbing monument of their chivalry and daring.
The doom of death will never shade
Or cast their names away,
Of those who fought and bravely fell
On Shiloh's bloody day.
In penning these lines, the writer is but performing a pleasing but melancholy duty. He would not, if he could, individualize—that would be invidious—for the dead patriots sleep in the same "narrow home," upon the same bloody field of their glorious achievements. Would you snatch them from the cradling arms of fame? There, upon the battle field which they fell defending, sleep the martyrs of liberty and over their sainted heads rang the solemn requiem of the cannonade. May the God of battles avenge them! To the friends, wives and parents who freely gave their husbands and sons to their country, and who now, in their hour of desolation, must feel proud of the glory they have won and the blood bought chaplet that wreathe their brows, we would in earnest heartfelt sympathy, say, mourn not for the dead patriots, for they belong to the nation. Your grief is the people's grief, and a grateful country will wear each name upon heart, will avenge their death and hold their names sacred. The sweet songstress of England, the honey-tongued L. E. L., has sung à propos to the occasion:
I am too proud by far to weep
Tho' death had nought so dear
As was the soldier youth to me
Now sleeping on that bier
It were a stain upon his fame
Would do his laurel crown a shame
To shed one single tear
It was a blessed thing to die
In battle and for liberty"
But let us pause a moment and drop a tear for the dead soldier, tho' it fall not upon the new made grave, yet read as if it were weeping blood for the sainted dead beneath it. Yes; a single tear for the patriot soldier who sunk beneath the deep, dark ocean of Eternity on the ever to be remembered 6th of April.
How difficult it is to realize the death of a soldier! How many electric chords of love and thought must be snapped asunder! How many links of patriotic association must be broken up forever! But shall the Promethean sparke [sic] never again be re-kindled? Yes, Yes, the genius of patriotism never dies! The breath of the eternal God is in it! Roll back, Ye dark shadows from the tomb! Though the hollow chambers of death breaks the light of immortality! We hear a voice crying, Shiloh! Shiloh! If ever the slumbering dead should start to life upon the rock of Salamis or the breath of Leionidas wake the Spartan three hundred, and Marathon re-kindle her fires around the Persians tent—if through the gloom of dead empires, and vanished glory the star of Liberty should rise and light up the shores of the Mediterranean or blaze upon the hill of the Acropolis—from the re-awakened earth, reeling beneath the red tide of battle mingled with the cries of bleeding martyrs and shouts of struggling patriots shall be heard a voice crying Shiloh, Shiloh, Shiloh! ! !
Go to the Louisianians, husbands, wives, widows, orphans, go, tread Shiloh sacred plain, and gaze upon all above, around, beneath, and your patriotic souls will be filled with a mournful and awful sublimity, for tho' there are no proud monuments of her sainted dead, like the fabled Memnon stated, that responsive to the Kiss of the awakening sunbeam in vocal songs speak forth their praise, yet you have but to turn your gaze to your country and you "read their history in a nations eyes."
Cloutierville June 1st 1862.

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