AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND REMINISCENCES, Wiley M. Crook
CONSISTING OF SEVERAL SPEECHES MADE BY TIlE AUTHOR AT
DIFFERENT DATES AND VARIOUS OCCASIONS.
My oldest sister, with her two sons, Charley and Sid Barham, was living at Hico, Hamilton county, Texas, and my two nephews, with their mother, invited me to attend a Confederate reunion at their town to be held in August of 1906.
I accepted the invitation as to going to see them, and after arriving there was placed on the program for a speech, which I now reproduce, as it portrays Confederate valor, patriotism and fidelity, which I delight to tell to young men and women:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is now forty-five years sine e the Civil War began.
The men you see here who took part in that great conflict are now sitting in the twilight of life.
We are the rear guard in the march to the victory already won by the majority of our comrades. They expect our coming to share the glory of their triumph. If there is an old soldier in this company who is not a Christian I would ask him to volunteer under the Banner of Prince Emanuel and fight the remaining battles of this world under the blood-stained flag that was unfurled on Mount Calvary.
You helped to fight the battles of the Nation that was born in a day at Montgomery as a brave soldier. I appeal to you to enlist in the command of the great Captain General of the Garden of Gethsemane.
Let us join with the host of that mighty army in the happy world to come, when virtue, fidelity and patriotism will receive their just reward.
My countrymen, in many addresses to Confederate veterans our speakers talk of State rights. They have been rich in arguments to show the soundness of the interpretation of our Constitution by Southern statesmen.
We have been told of unexpected beneficent results of the war and of the discipline of adversity which prepared us to meet the terrible race problem with unflinching courage, indefatigable patience and united strength. We have been taught in comforting words that the Confederate cause was not wholly lost.
We are reminded that the old iceburgs of sectional hate were set adrift in the warm gulf stream of a new national life.
So I do not wish today to touch on any of these questions.
I deem it unnecessary to discuss whether or not the South was justified in appealing to arms. The world concedes that the Southern people were perfectly justified in going to war.
My comrades, we have, a right to be proud of our career as soldiers. The boys in the South were trained to ride wild horses, use firearms and lead an outdoor life that made them absolutely independent.
Another feature of. our army, we elected our own officers from corporal to colonel. I challenge history to furnish a parallel where the officers of an army were ever superior to that of the Confederate army.
Our officers never resorted to cruel treatment to control their men; the hearts of the soldiers were in the cause for which they fought.
Their courage will be the wonder of all mankind as long as the world lasts. Even our victors will tell you that in the Civil War they had heroes to meet.
They have told of their loss at Chickamauga and Gettysburg, of their defeat at Franklin.
While they eulogize the persuasion of the union and magnify the valor of the Federal soldier, they do not forget to say that the Confederate soldier was of their blood; that it wage brother against brother. I am glad to meet my comrades in these reunions. We delight to recall the principles prompting to action the soldiers of the South, a principle which is proof of an impulse that is a safe harbinger of a people in which the highest interest of any nation is wholly safe.
No unholy lust for conquest nor love of martial glory summoned the boys of the Southern States from their peaceful homes to the tented fields. We battled for the right in which we believed with all our soul and mind. It is with pride that we remember our fallen heroes in that struggle and talk together of the cherished fame of Albert Sidney Johnston, the chivalry of N. B. Forrest and the genius of Stonewall Jackson.
Go where you will within the confines of the civilized world, and the memory of Southern valor is admired. More than forty years have been added to the silent centuries since the Southern Confederacy passed away, but when her stainless banner was forever furled at Appomattox and Greensboro the lovers of liberty in all climes and in all countries joined in sympathy with the distressed sons and daughters of the South.
We promptly assumed the duties of American citizens and rebuilt our wasted homes. Wherever in this broad land you find a Confederate soldier you will see that he enjoys the respect of the community in which he lives.
Many of them have attained a national prominence and have figured in the great questions confronting the American people.
They have always contended for the right measures and have proven themselves worthy the confidence and esteem of their countrymen. In proof of this assertion I cite the names of William B. Bate and Isham G. Harris of Tennessee, Gen. M. P. Lowery and Private John Allen of Mississippi, John H. Reagan, Richard Cook and our own S. W. T. Lanham of Texas, with a Fitzhugh Lee, Joseph Wheeler and a John B. Gordon, all men of high character and fine intellect, who, with loyal hearts and clean hands have discharged every trust committed to then.
The curtain of time rolls back in memory’s vision and the mighty past appears as I talk to you of the great men of our beloved South.
I see that great chieftain, R. E. Lee, as he stood with arms folded beneath the historic tree of Appomattox, as, his soul welled up in pity’s sweet fountain for the lovely women of the South, who had so nobly done their part in that great struggle.
He thought of his own magnificent army then depleted, rations out, ammunitions exhausted, his country devastated by a foe with overwhelming numbers and unlimited resources.
His duty to him was plain—he sheathed the brightest sword that ever flashed in the sunlight and curbed the proudest spirit that ever rapped at the pearly portals of Paradise and achieved the grandest victory since Satan was hurled from the battlements of heaven.
I also see the proud Confederate soldier as he laid down his arms, and with a broken heart returned to his devastated home, his cause lost and hopes blasted.
But, sir, he never lost his character or manhood; he has ever been willing to lend his influence to any field of usefulness.
All this was done with a Southern courtesy and good humor which has disarmed enmity and brought peace and good will to our whole country.
May I call attention to another prominent character in the affairs of our Nation, but who fought through the Civil War on the other side? Nevertheless, his life is worthy the emulation of the young men of our whole land. I refer to the lamented William McKinley, who from humble surroundings in his youthful days through force of native intellect and unswerving integrity advanced to the highest position within the gift of men.
His name stands forth today as one of the leading men of his time and his noble life is a legacy to us all.
I now recall his very magnanimous utterances made at Atlanta in reference to the graves of the Confederate dead. My comrades and fellow-countrymen, in speaking of the dead at Atlanta, I am made to think of Dan McCollum and Green Ozier, members of my company, who fell in battle near that city on the 21st of July, 1863.
Cousin Mary, you and Sister remember well these noble young men as well as their fathers and brave brothers.
The enemy had thrown up breastworks and General Hood attempted to dislodge them by a direct attack.
General Cheatham’s division of Tennesseeans advanced in a charge up the hill under a terrific fire of musketry and an incessant discharge of grape and canister. Our loss was very heavy on this fateful day. Dan McCollum was killed near their works. We failed to repulse the enemy and fell back under shelter of a ravine, where we recounted the scene of the battle.
Tom Heart, Jap Stigall, Dan Snow and myself crawled back under fire of the enemy and brought the body of our friend off the field.
While we were thus engaged we met some of the boys of the Fifty-first Tennessee Regiment with the corpse of Clint McCollum. We carried these and Green Ozier back to the rear and secured an ambulance, took them to Atlanta and buried them side by side in the cemetery of that Southern and ill-fated city.
Dan and Clint were brothers and Green was brother to Joe and John Ozier.
Forty-five years have come and gone, but I am left to tell of these comrades who died amid the carnage of war with their pale faces turned to a pitying sky while we sorrowing boys knelt beside their bleeding bodies as the great guns sounded their requiem and the roar of battle hushed the voice of the surviving soldiers. My comrades, ladies and gentlemen, before closing I feel impelled to speak of the noble women of the South, the radiant light of inspiration to us in the early sixties.
They joined hearts and hands with us in that conflict. Their presence at home, attention in hospital and on the field spread a halo equaled only by the shining lights of angels.
What would our country be without the softening tone of gentle woman’s beaming presence?
In the hour of need she rallies to our support; she is first for peace but at the front in war.
Nothing is a success that has not been tinged with the influence of fair woman.
I only wish that I had the vocabulary with which to sound sweet encomiums to sing their praise.
My comrades, I hope some pleasing day to be gathered with you in happy fields of sweet reunion, where war and hate are forgotten, and where even the final resurrection will not recall a thing so earthly as a battle or so cruel as a conquest.
In May, 1904, at the close of our school, I being one of the board of trustees, the teacher asked me to make presentation of diplomas to the graduating class. I here append that little speech, with the hope that young men and women who may read this book of reminiscences may be inspired to fill a good and useful life:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I have always counted myself fortunate in having become identified with the people of Texas.
For those attributes which make a people great our State is crowned the victor.
Her name is the synonym for public progress, educational awakening and literary training.
Our people, comprising a population coming from every part of our coalition of States, can not be surpassed anywhere. We have an aggregation of enlightened citizenship that any one should feel proud to live among.
Texas is destined to become the leading star among the luminous bodies of the American flag.
The enterprising people of this country have erected schools, colleges and universities all over the land.
Those institutions of learning are well equipped with necessary fixtures and amply supplied with able teachers and instructors. Our public school fund transcendently exceeds that of any other Southern State. The children of today have facilities of acquiring an education that very far exceeds that of former years (when some of us were children).
You students should imbibe inspiration and avail yourselves of the wonderful opportunities presented to you.
Your educational period is an important period, one not to be disregarded, neglected or misappropriated.
It is my wish on this occasion to impart to the pupils who hear me an enthusiasm for an education.
I would excite the imagination to an ardent zeal that will form sublime ideas of an educational preparation.
Just here I will state that a mere literary training is not all of an education.
The feelings of the children are to be disciplined and idleness repressed.
True and noble motives are to be inspired, worthy deeds inculcated, integrity and honor impressed as well as industry demanded.
All this is to be looked after by the teachers, even in a public graded school like ours.
We as friends and patrons should render a subservient assistance in making our school a success.
It is gratifying, however, to have noticed the harmony predominant among the patrons this term of school.
I congratulate our teachers and the students in the progress made and the advancement accomplished.
I feel impelled to stimulate and incite the patrons to a continuation of an active promotion of educational interest in our community.
Let us use our best efforts to keep down dissensions, factions and strife and everything that will impede the best interest of another session of school here. We must co-operate with each other in maintaining a prosperous school.
The time is upon us as a community for a broader culture and a higher standard of efficiency among our young people.
It should be our ambition to assist and direct these bright boys and girls to obtain at least a common school education (and to such as will take it a collegiate course). It is with grateful pride that I recall to your minds the two prominent young men who graduated from this school in the spring of 1901, one of which is now in the University of Texas and the other occupying a lucrative position in one of the cities of our State.
We had no graduating class in the term of 1901-2, but one year ago we had two very intellectual, worthy young men on whom we conferred diplomas. One of the last two named is now in a commercial school in Dallas while the other is in John Tarelton College.
We are elated at the success of producing such magnificent young gentlemen, and will ever watch with solicitude their future accomplishments.
And now here are two girls just budding into gracious womanhood that we have the pleasing privilege to award the graduating honor. Charming young ladies, filled with distinctive feminine endowment and a full measure of lovely grace and refined beauty.
Distinguished by your sweetness and purity of character and simplicity of manner, you have won the admiration of your teachers, the love of schoolmates and the applause of all who have had the happiness to know you. We are all proud of your well-merited achievements.
In the name of the faculty and board of trustees I present to you graduating diplomas from this school, and extend to you our complimentary approbation.
We send you from us with a deep interest in your future welfare, with the hope that you may ever be mindful of the crowning beauty of simple, unaffected Christian piety and that you will always exert a saintly influence upon the lives of all your associates.
INTERESTING EXERCISES AND GOOD SPEECHES LAST
(January 28, 1904.)
Pursuant to call, about fifty old Confederates were in line last Saturday afternoon, followed by about the same number of Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy, and marched from the courthouse to Library Hall, where the memorial services were held. The hall had been appropriately decorated for the occasion, for which all credit belonged to A. Baker and some of the ladies, the names of Lee, Gordon, Longstreet, Jackson and Hood appearing prominent in gilt lettering.
Commander Neely called the house to order and stated the object of the meeting. A solo by Miss H. H. LeMaster, prayer by the chaplain and another familiar song constituted the opening exercises.
It had been arranged that Colonel McGaughey deliver an address on the life of General Gordon, but he was not present, and Rev. W. D. G. Carnes was called upon. He paid a glowing tribute to all the heroes of the Confederacy, took up the careers of Gordon and Longstreet and showed where each was in the forefront from first to last. He took special occasion to defend the record of General Longstreet, and showed that no military leader criticized his course, but that Lee, Pickett and others defended him.
Capt. W. M. Crook was then introduced for a speech on the life and character of General Longstreet, which was delivered as follows:
The lengthening shadows of 1903 had barely disappeared before the dawn of the new year when the sad news was heard that death had again invaded the ranks of the old veterans of the Southern Army. At his home in Gainesville, Ga., on the 2d inst., the great spirit of Gen. James Longstreet took its flight to join Lee, Jackson, Granbury, Hood and the host of comrades gone before. General Longstreet was a South Carolinian by birth and by adoption an Alabamian, Lonisianian and Georgian. Either of these great States will be proud to claim him as her son and to bear his name upon her shield, for in the diadem of brilliant names that cluster with a halo of glory around the history of these great commonwealths, none sparkle with more resplendent lustre than Longstreet. He was appointed to the military academy at West Point from Alabama and graduated with the class of 1842; was assigned to the infantry service in the regular army and was in all of the principal battles in our war with Mexico. Cadet Longstrcet was breveted captain in 1852; he served on the frontier of Texas and was promoted to the rank of major in 1838. In 1861 Major Longstreet, like Lieut. Robert E. Lee, resigned his commission in the regular army and tendered his services to the Confederate authorities at Richmond, Va. He was at once made a brigadier general under Gen. G. T. Beauregard. On July 21, 1861, Longstreet with his brigade was in the first battle of Bull Run, and for gallantry on that field was made a major general in command of a division. General Longstreet with his brave command was actively engaged in the battles of Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Cold Harbor, Frazier’s Farm, Second Bull Run, South Mountain and Antietam. At Fredericsburg on December 13, 1862, General Longstreet commanded the Confederate left where the principal success of the day was achieved. February, 1863, he was detached on special service into North Carolina, but was recalled to Virginia, and after the battle of Chancellorsville was made a lieutenant general, in command of one of the three corps of the army destined for Gettysburg. My comrades and fellow-countrymen, I am not willing to accept the conclusions of some people deduced from assertions of others based on assumed facts. It is a contradiction of history to say that Longstreet disobeyed Lee ‘s orders at Gettysburg. With the experience of a soldier and in the light of the official report of that famous battle, I can not believe that General Lee ever expected that McLaus and Hood could reach the point of attack to engage in the charge made by Picket and Heath. That so-called sunrise attack order from General Lee to Longstreet is in my opinion a farce. The testimony given by Lee’s staff is conclusive on this point. The utterances of one Mr. William Pendleton made at Lexington, Va., ten years after the battle of Gettysburg, reflecting on Longstreet is a fabrication of the truth of history. Why not believe the official report of General Pendleton, made public only nine weeks after the battle, which did not in the least censure the actions of General Longstreet there nor elsewhere? Whatever may be said of the Veteran, who has just died after a long and eventful life, his fame as a soldier is safe. He was a great Confederate general and a brave man. Soon after the battle of Gettysburg, during the lull of the maneuvers of the Virginia army, Longstreet was again detached from that army to the support of Gen. Braxton Bragg of the army of Tennessee.
September, 19-20, 1863, he wrote his name in fadeless letters in the story of the fateful field of Chickamauga. In March, 1864, Longstrect with his men rejoined the army of Lee. On May 6, 1864, at the battle of the Wilderness he was severely wounded by a shot from his own men, who mistook him for a Federal officer. After recovering from this wound, in October Longstreet was placed in command of the forces east of the James river and fought the battle of Petersburg, and was in the last council of war held by Lee on the night of April 8, 1865. As Stonewall .Jackson was Lee’s right hand, so Longstreet was his left hand, both in battle and in council. Longstreet was to be found wherever the Southern cross gleamed out amid the wild light of battle; fighting for the South until the flag was forever furled behind the clouds of Appomattox. His name and fame will be cherished wherever chivalry is appreciated. His record as a Confederate commander will illumine the brightest pages of our history, a history which will show the coming ages the scenes and struggles of the deadly conflict upon the soil of the Old Dominion, 133,000 losing their lives. Conspicuous amongst these warriors will be the heroic form of Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet as he leads his men through the tangled wildwood of the Wilderness, breasting the leaden hail amid the death-dealing storm at Antietam; in the ebb and flow of the tide of battle upon the heights of destiny at Gettysburg, wherever an offering of courage could be made for his country's honor or a libation poured out in its defense.
Committee was appointed to draw up resolutions expressive of the sorrow of the camp in the loss of General Gordon. We give below the Gordon resolution:
Whereas, The Supreme Ruler of all things has seen proper to call from the walks of men one of the most illustrious Christian gentlemen of the age, thus plunging a large portion of our great Nation into deep mourning; and,
Whereas, In paying tribute to the greatness in civil life, and the brilliancy in the military career of General Gorden, we acknowledge, as in the case of Robert E. Lee, that our language fails to do justice to his immortal memory that his greatness demands.
The immortal Lee announced to the serried hosts of the waning Confederacy that in the death of General Jackson he had lost his right arm, but subsequent events fully established the fact that he gained all back that any man could furnish, in the promotion of Gordon to Jackson’s position.
The last battle under Lee was a brilliant victory, and the last charge in that battle was made by Gordon. His chivalry on more than a hundred victorious battlefields established his fitness to command, and his charmed life seemed to be spared for better deeds than war, for he was wounded seven times in one battle and yet saved. But his civil life after the strife was over proved his greatness in peace.
General Gordon was twice elected to the highest office in the gift of the people of Georgia. His administration as Governor alone would immortalize his name, but the legislature selected him three times to the United States Senate, thus convincing the world that he was truly great in peace, as well as in war. His tribute to the Confederate cause in his last days of the Confederacy was beautiful and grand, beyond description, convincing even our foes, and the world besides, that though we lost we maintained our honor to the last. Now, with all these brilliant achievements it becomes Granbury Camp No. 67, United Confederate Veterans, and every patriot in the Southland, to subscribe to the following tribute to his beautiful and illustrious life and Christian death; therefore,
Resolved, That Granbury Camp No. 67 bows with meekness and reverence to the call of the great Captain General above, believing that Gordon has answered to a roll call in a brighter and better world than this, where we hope and trust that we all will meet the immortal Davis, Lee, Jackson, the Johnstons, Longstreet, Gordon and the hosts of Confederates, "who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Resolved further, That a page of the records of this camp, or so much thereof as is required, be set apart for a transcript of these resolutions that our children may learn of the greatness of our beloved General Gordon; and,
Further be it resolved, That a copy of this tribute be mailed to the family showing our condolence in their irreparable loss.
MEMORIAL SERVICE HELD AT CRESSON, TEXAS, IN MEMORY
OF JUDGE JOHN H. REAGAN AND SENATOR W. B. BATE.
(March 8, 1905.)
My friends, I wish to give utterance today in a tribute to the grandeur of the noble character of the lamented John H. Reagan, who, this hour, is being interred at Palentine, Texas. In his death our State has lost one of her prominent representative citizens. Judge Reagan was a remarkable man in many ways. He was born among the hills of Tennessee, but at the age of twenty he came overland to the Republic of Texas. After arriving at his destination near Palestine, and having taught a small country school, he engaged in surveying. On one of his return trips from a surveying tour he was taken sick. He chanced to stop by the wayside in the humble home of a poor frontier widow, whose family consisted of two small children and herself. This big-hearted lady nursed back to health the destined statesman and patriot of Texas, the Confederate government and the United States, whose life we revere and whose death our whole country mourns. The magnanimous heart of young John H. Reagan was touched by the tender care of this kindly lady. Marrying her, he became indeed a father to her children, and a husband to her until her death, after which he married the accomplished woman who survives him. Judge Reagan won distinction in his every effort and undertaking. In all his public positions he discharged his duties with marked ability. Judge Reagan was a man of unflinching honesty, great courage and strong convictions. His was a long, able and faithful public service of over sixty years. His record distinguishes him as a statesman, not only of Texas, but our whole country. He possessed the full confidence of the people. I want you boys to read his history and emulate his example. I resent and refute the statement made by the Fort Worth Record yesterday that Judge Reagan was defeated in the nomination for Governor of Texas by Senator Culberson. Judge Reagan refused to allow his name to be placed in nomination after the convention framed its platform. He was a man of principle, not of policy. I wish to do homage in commemoration of his notable, patriotic service to his State and country. John H. Reagan. the Postmaster General of the Confederate States—the last of the cabinet officers of the two governments during the Civil War—has passed away. His memory is very dear to every Confederate veteran. Let us today shed a reverential tear over his grave, with a hope that his way was clear and his landing safe into the rest of the redeemed of God.
W. M. CROOK.
TRIBUTE TO SENATOR BATE.
The tear of mourning shed for the great statesman, John H. Reagan, has scarcely dried on our cheek when we hear the sad news of the death of Senator William B. Bate of Tennessee.
As a native Tennesseean, and as a Confederate soldier from that grand old State serving during the war in Major General Bate’s division, I deeply mourn his loss to his State, the South and our country.
Like Longstreet and Gordon, Reagan and Bate march together to the bright land beyond the skies, where they will meet Lee, Jackson, the Johnstons and a host of others, gone before who, with myself, took part in that great struggle during the sixties for the Confederate cause.
The last time I saw General Bate he was riding down the line of his Tennessee division of surrendered soldiers as we started on our march from Greensboro, N.C. As he would meet us he bade farewell and tears of sorrow came to his eyes. With bared head he passed my company and groaned "Goodbye, boys."
Senator W. B. Bate has answered the last roll call, knowing that he left a record without a blemish written in the hearts of a grateful people.
W. M. CROOK.
Return to Contents