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Soldiers’ Dinner

November 7, 1863 — Lower Bryan Hall, Great Northwestern Fair, Chicago IL


I have not come here to-day to make a speech, but simply as an American woman, out of a full heart and with trembling lips to thank you Looking around at you, and remembering how differing in this crisis of our country’s peril, has been your conduct from that of a multitude of others; remembering how other men have stayed at home; some of them perhaps because they could not go — others carless and indifferent — others with their hearts full of curses against the cause of our country.
Remembering this, I thank you; I pay God to bless you. The future will do you more justice, and better honor than the present, and history will blazen your names upon its records forever as the grandest heroes of this most grand and memorable time.
Soldiers, you are contending not simply for the Government of the United States, from the Union, for the maintenance of any particular form of political institutions, but for the freedom of the world. That is the immense stake for which you are fighting. You stand as the embodiment of Democracy and liberty against the serried hosts of despotism. Brave boys from across the water; sons of Scotland and Ireland, Germans and Scandinavians recognize the fact that you are not fighting simply for the Government of the United States. Remember how your friends from across the water are looking with mournful, solemn, but hopeful sympathy at the progress of the great struggle in which you are taking so noble a part, remember how their hopes and interests are bound up with yours in the great cause for which you are pouring out your blood.
And for you Americans, my own countrymen, brave boys struggling here for this, your own, your native land, you are emulating the deeds of your revolutionary fathers, but you are fighting in a cause, if possible, more glorious than that which stirred their blood to deeds of lofty daring. This, our country’s second revolution, is of wider scope, and involves loftier principles than the first.
And some of you young men standing here are not as you were with us months ago, full of life and hope and energy. You have come back to us broken and shattered, maimed and helpless. But what of that, said a soldier, who had been wounded in one of Napoleon’s great battles, when the probe of th surgeon was feeling for a bullet which had almost reached his heart, put your probe in a little further and you will find Napoleon; and the bullets that have gone gushing through the ranks of our brave boys on the blood battle fields of the South have reached breasts so full of patriotism, that wounds, limbs, life itself were but trifles, when weighed in the scale against their country.
Some of you, alas! have come back to us blinded, with the beautiful light of Heaven shut out from you forever; but it was that the glorious light of Justice might shine throughout the length and breadth of the land. What can I say to you save that coming back to us halt and maimed and blind, the great loyal heart of the nation springs up to meet you and to love you. Some of you may be going back again to renew your noble exertions in our great cause, to suffer or to die for it. If there are any such here looking in your faces as you go, I repeat, we thank you. Should it be the lot of any of you to return to us no more; should your life ebb on some distant battlefield, where no woman’s hand can smooth your dying pillow, and no friendly ear receive your parting sigh; shall even there our love and affection shall follow you. You shall have immortal crownings, and the world shall honor your graves.



Source: Chicago Tribune, November 8, 1863, p. 4.