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  Lincoln and the Civil War Mark Twain

Lincoln and the Civil War

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The duties of a presiding officer, upon an occasion like this, are few and simple. Indeed, the duties are but two--one easy, the other difficult: he must introduce the Orator of the evening; then keep still and give him a chance. These duties are about to be strictly fulfilled--even the second one; not out of deference to duty, but to win admiration.

To tell an American audience who and what Col. Watterson is, is not in any way neccessary--the utterance of his name is enough; a name which is like one of these electric announcements on the Madison Square tower: the mention of it touches the button in our memory and his history flashes up out of the dark and stands brilliantly revealed and familiar: distinguished soldier, journalist, orator, lecturer, statesman, political leader, rebel, reconstructed rebel: always honost, always honorable, always loyal to his convictions, right or wrong, and not afraid to speak them out; and first, last, and all the time--wether rebel or reconstructed, whether on the wrong side or on the right--a patriot in his heart.

It is a curious circumstance that without collusion of any kind, but merely in obedience to a strange and pleasant and dramatic freak of destiny, he and I, kinsmen by blood for we are that--and one-time rebels--for we were that--should be chosen out of a million surviving quondam rebels to come here and bare our heads in reverence and love of that noble soul whom 40 years ago we tried with all our hearts and all our strength to defeat and dispossess--Abraham Lincoln! Is the Rebellion ended and forgotten? Are the Blue and the Gray one to-day? By authority of this sign we may answer yes; there was a Rebellion--that incident is closed.

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I was born and reared in a slave State, my father was a slave owner; and in the Civil War I was a second lieutenant in the Confederate service. For a while. This second cousin of mine, Colonel Watterson, the orator of this present occasion, was born and reared in a slave State, was a colonel in the Confederate service, and rendered me such assistance as he could in my self-appointed great task of annihilating the Federal armies and breaking up the Union. I laid my plans with wisdom and foresight, and if Colonel Watterson had obeyed my orders I should have succeeded in my giant undertaking. It was my intention to drive General Grant into the Pacific--if I could get transportation--and I told Colonel Watterson to surround the Eastern armies and wait till I came. But he was insubordinate, and stood upon a punctilio of military etiquette; he refused to take orders from a second lieutenant--and the Union was saved. This is the first time that this secret has been revealed. Until now no one outside the family has known the facts. But there they stand: Watterson saved the Union. Yet to this day that man gets no pension.

Those were great days, splendid days. What an uprising it was! For the hearts of the whole nation, North and South, were in the war. We of the South were not ashamed, for like the men of the North, we were fighting for what we believed with all our sincere souls to be our rights; on both sides we were fighting for our homes and hearthstones, and for the honor of the flags we loved; and when men fight for these things, and under these convictions, with nothing sordid to tarnish their cause, that cause is holy, the blood spilt for it is sacred, the life that is laid down for it is consecrated. To-day we no longer regret the result; to-day we are glad it came out as it did; but we are not ashamed that we did our endeavor; we did our bravest best, against despairing odds, for the cause which was precious to us and which our consciences approved: and we are proud--and you are proud-—the kindred blood in your veins answers when I say it--you are proud of the record we made in those mighty collisions in the field.

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Lincoln and the Civil War
Mark Twain

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