First Kentucky "Orphan" Brigade 


ADDRESS OF CONGRESSMAN ELI M. BRUCE

 

Augusta, Ga., May 10, 1865

Soldiers of Kentucky:

Finding it utterly impossible to communicate with each of you as I would wish, and even to answer by letter or verbally the various inquiries propounded to me, I have taken this method of responding and saying a few things to you, that I deem justified by our past relations and the hopes of our common future.

First, frankly, my advice to you is to return to your homes. There is no hope of prosecuting the war to a different conclusion, either here or in the Trans-Mississippi Department; and I feel assured that every man who shall lose his life hereafter in the mad strife will be self-murdered. I would not, therefore, have you led further astray by any delusive prospects of a continuance of the struggle. Your duty henceforth lies at home, in the peaceful pursuits of civil life.

Your title to the appellation of heroes has been fully established. You have proven yourselves Kentuckians, worthy of the name, crowned as it is by heroic daring, and wreathed with the laurels of victory won on so many battle-fields of past heroic renown. A nobler duty now awaits you. Successful you have not been. But patient and magnanimous you can be under defeat, showing yourselves as good and faithful citizens as you have been brave and chivalrous soldiers.

At considerable personal hazard, I have remained here in order to further your interest. I have had frequent interviews with the United States military authorities, who have treated me with uniform kindness and courtesy, and acceded to all my requests in your behalf. Recognizing and respecting your soldierly qualities, they now only desire to facilitate your return to your families, and to treat you honorably as soldiers and fellow-citizens. I am sure you will reciprocate this magnanimous and kind feeling.

Paroles will be furnished you in this city and the various towns where you may be located, which will entitle you to transportation and rations, where they can be furnished. Transportation will be furnished via Atlanta, Dalton, Chattanooga, &c. I fear you may have to walk from Atlanta to Kingston or Cartersville. Wagons, however, will be furnished for the sick and wounded. Your parole will guarantee you subsistence at any point where a United States commissary depot may be established.

And now, my friends, I bid you an affectionate farewell. My parting injunction is to be true to your manhood - to be calm, courteous, and dignified. Avoid discussions. Use no language of recrimination. Be, above all things, gentlemen. In the peace of your homes rest quietly. Be not allured by any enticements to engage in guerilla warfare. That will produce evil and only evil. It is unchristian and inhuman, and can only protract a contest which has already caused tears of blood to flow and reared hecatombs of martyrs. I repeat, therefore, accept your paroles and regard them with scrupulous fidelity. Let your conduct be marked by a faithful obedience to the laws of your country. Resolve to aid in the great work of pacification and reconciliation, which will give peace and prosperity again to this once happy and prosperous land.

Commending you to the Great Controller of Events, who has so sorely afflicted us. I pray that He may guide and protect you; that we may learn wisdom from the bitter experience of the past, and that your honor may never be sullied. I am your fellow-citizen.

E.M. Bruce

 

The Columbia Phoenix, Columbia, S.Car., Friday, May 26, 1865 (Vol. 1, No. 49), courtesy Dan Rush, MD. 

Eli Metcalfe Bruce, of Fleming County, Kentucky, assisted in the Confederate Convention in Russellville in December 1861, and was elected to the Confederate Congress from Kentucky. In addition to his duties as a Congressman, he carried on a successful blockade running business to supply the Confederacy with much-needed munitions and weapons. At the end of the war, he donated some $400,000 of his own money to needy Confederate soldiers. He died of heart failure in December 1866, and was buried in Highland Cemetery, in what is now Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. (Thompson, Orphan Brigade, 1898, pp. 522-525)

 

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