Next to you, comrades, we welcome every old federal soldier who is present. Some of the most active and generous promoters of this entertainment wore the blue and fought nobly and gallantly under the stars and stripes. The war has been over for thirty years. We are not here to recall the bitterness, hatred and fierce animosity with which that war was prosecuted on either side, but as citizens of a reunited country, having a common history and a common destiny. Boys in blue, we give you such cordial welcome as the brave can always offer the brave. On a hundred battlefields you answered the rebel yell with your “Yip, yip, yip”. For every storm of “ leaden rain and iron hail” that we sent into your faces, you returned another not less deadly. Wherever the cold steel of the Confederate line was seen in the deadly charge; it was met and crossed by your own gleaming sabres and bayonets. Had you been less brave, we could never have made the splendid record for valor and heroism that our meeting around these campfires is meant to commemorate. I cannot understand how any sane man can declare that an army of cowards fought us for four long, bloody years and finally crushed and destroyed the most brave and heroic army and people the world has ever known.
But our welcome does not end here. If any are here who at any time have fought under the cross of St. George for the honor and glory of old England, we ask you to “ Fall in”. We remember that our ancestors were Britons and we claim the right to share with you her glory and her fame.
Are there any here from sunny France who have followed her Lilies and Eagles in battle? We remember that it was the fiery valor of your countrymen that made it possible for the great Napoleon to write his name on the pinnacle of military fame. Fall in, comrade, Fall in. If there any here whose great warm German hearts have been stirred to their utmost depths by the soul stirring strains of “Die Watcht an Rhein”. We say to you comrade, Fall in”.
We call our organization the “Mountain Remnant of Confederate Veterans” and we are indeed but a pitiful remnant of those long lines of brave and eager volunteers who, thirty years ago, so willingly answered the call of our country to arms. Now, few of that mighty host will answer to their names today. For nearly all of us the long roll has been sounded, the beat of the muffled drum has been heard, the echoes of the last tattoo have melted away, and they “ have gone over to join the great majority”. To the memory of those who will meet us no more, I offer this sentiment, written to commemorate the hardest fought battle of our war with Mexico:
“We were not many, we who pressed
Around our fallen braves that day,
But there’s not one but hath confessed,
He’d rather share their warriors’ rest
Than not have been at Monterey”.
It will be expected of me that I recall to your minds some of the stirring scenes and “Times that tried men’s souls,” the memory of which today gives meaning and purpose to our gathering here. How shall this best be done? Surely, if I recount the experience of one soldier in that war, I shall awaken some memory at least in the heart of every old soldier here. Comrades, do you remember how the call of Abraham Lincoln for seventy-five thousand men electrified the hearts of the southern people? Do you remember the fierce cry of rage and defiance with which we answered that call? I see by your flushed faces that you do remember. Seventy-five thousand men with which to overrun and crush the south! Why, boys in blue, you required the services of more than a million and a half before you succeeded in that Herculean task. Do you remember how the heart of the loyal north was stirred by the echoes of the shot that Gen. Beauregard sent hurtling against the walls of historic Sumpter? Then was an ominous pause, followed by the cry of millions: “We’re coming Father Abraham, six hundred thousand more”.
Comrades, do you remember when you told your aged father and mother that you had joined your company and had been sworn into the service? No soldier can ever forget the scene that followed. And again, when you parted for the last time from ” that other, not a sister”. The Spartan mother gave her son a shield and bade him come “with it, or on it from the battle field”. The southern wife or sweetheart said more when she said nothing , but gave you a parting kiss, a proud and loving glance, and turned her tearful face away while you tried to say good-by. Then came the march to the point selected for the weary months of drill and preparation for active service. How terribly we chafed and fretted at this delay, fearing that the war would be decided and we should not get to fire a shot! At last the welcome order came to “go to the front”. Boys in Gray and Blue, we can never forget the time when we first heard the boom of cannon and rattle of musketry. A little later as we deploy into our positions in battle, the first shell bursts over our heads and sends a shower of pine tops upon us; there is a strange, angry, spiteful hiss all around us; it is the deadly minnie balls; suddenly on our right or left, or in front of us some comrade throws up his hands, cries out “Oh God” and falls forward upon his dead face.
But why should I recall these long and bloody years, with their memories of sickness, hunger, cold and death ; not one of you have forgotten or can ever forget. At last the smoke of battle rolled away. The Confederate soldier, beaten but not disgraced, returned to his home with nothing but the record he had made, and nothing of which to be ashamed. Comrades, we were writing history then, and writing better than we knew. We cannot and do not wish to forget the past, but we recall it with no shade of anger or bitterness in our hearts today.
In every city of this vast and mighty nation stand the statues that commemorate the memories and deeds of the heroes of that Titanic war. Here the proud form and face of Jefferson Davis stands looking into the unknown future. There the rugged but kindly face of Abraham Lincoln looks down upon us. Yonder in bronze and granite and marble, stand the immortal Lee and Grant and Sherman and Johnson, Upon their pedestals, loving and admiring hearts and skillful hands have carved the wreaths of victory, and the record of their glorious deeds. Surely ,there is not in all this land an iconoclastic hand that would tear from these pedestals one leaf of their laurel wreaths, or one letter of the record written there. These statues, these glorious memories, and the heroic men who made them possible, are now in the common heritage of a reunited people under one flag and with a common destiny before us. Comrades in Gray and Blue, again I give you welcome.
The Avalanche, the Burnet newspaper at that time had this to say of Mr. Babcock’s address:
“ It was eloquent, national and scholarly in its makeup, and we are glad to have the pleasure of giving it to our readers. He took the true position; that while the South believed she was right, and displayed immortal courage and devotion in asserting her rights; we must also accord equal sincerity and gallantry to our late foes that are now brethren of a common country, and that the dead past should bury its dead. These reunions were but tributes of affectations to old companies in arms, and in memories of the old heroes gone in which all who wore the gray could meet on common grounds”