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Redeemed Sinner. Deep Roots. Southern Heart.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Review: Two Sketches


This book is a "joint biography" of two Confederate men, one a Presbyterian pastor and the other a Presbyterian ministerial student. Both were killed in the War for Southern Independence. In the forward, Mr. William Potter writes:
The legacies of Dabney Carr Harrison and Hugh Augustus White, however comprised more than heroic combat records; because they both lived by the principle that man's chief end is to glorify God, their influence for the cause of Christ wrought eternal value to many who knew them.

It was a great inspiration to me to read the stories of these great men. Considering our present crisis, we should look to them for examples.

Hugh A. White's father was Stonewall Jackson's pastor in Lexington, Virginia. Hugh was enrolled in Union Theological Seminary when the war began. After receiving his father's blessing, Hugh joined the 4th Virginia Infantry, later an integral part of the famous Stonewall Brigade, as a private. Here are some selections from his letters:

So far as this life is concerned, it is far better that every Southern man should die, resisting the Northern invader, than bow his neck to the cruel yoke he seeks to impose upon us. And as to our eternal interests, the only way to secure them is by faithfully following the path of duty. And what duty can be more imperative or sacred than resistance to the fanatical power which now rules the North, and seeks to subjugate or destroy us?

...Their soldiers are not actuated by the spirit which animates ours. They can make a grand show, blow their trumpets, and bluster about their flag, but are quick to choose between defeat and death. Considering what they have a stake, the former is far the better of the two. But it is not so with us. Our earthly all is at stake.


What Captain White believed, he sealed with his own blood on August 29, 1862, at the battle of 2nd Manassas. Just before the crushing Confederate breakthrough, while the outcome was still in doubt, White grabbed his company's standard, turned to his men and cried, "Come on, come on!" He disappeared in the smoke, as he sprinted toward the yankee line. When the men under his command came up, they found him dead.

Dabney Carr Harrison was a descendant of patriots. He was related to two signers, including the author, of the Declaration of Independence. When the war began he was chaplain of Virginia University. He enlisted in a company that would later form part of the 56th Virginia, also as a private. Here is a select quote:

The South has, though unworthy, been invested with the great privilege of defending the principles of 1776. The same phenomena are re-appearing, which astonished the world a century ago. No one around me seems unwilling to come down to real privation, if the State should need the sacrifice. And we are far more united than during the first Revolution. I trust that we shall be purified, elevated and set forward for a grand career.

Harrison was soon promoted to the rank of captain. Transferred to the western theater of the war, he was killed at the battle for Fort Donelson. During an ill fated attack on the yankee line, he was shot through the lungs. Knowing that his wound was fatal, he directed his men to carry him to the rear. His last words were directed to his men, "Company K, you have no Captain now; but never give up, never surrender!".

In closing, I wish to share a quote from the introduction, by Abraham Kyper, the great Dutch protestant:
When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Bria said...

It sounds like a great book! I am just starting on it.

December 15, 2008 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Ana Smith said...

"So far as this life is concerned, it is far better that every Southern man should die, resisting the Northern invader, than bow his neck to the cruel yoke he seeks to impose upon us. And as to our eternal interests, the only way to secure them is by faithfully following the path of duty. And what duty can be more imperative or sacred than resistance to the fanatical power which now rules the North, and seeks to subjugate or destroy us?

...Their soldiers are not actuated by the spirit which animates ours. They can make a grand show, blow their trumpets, and bluster about their flag, but are quick to choose between defeat and death. Considering what they have a stake, the former is far the better of the two. But it is not so with us. Our earthly all is at stake." -Hugh A. White

I've been studying the Greco-Persian Wars, and this quote slapped me in the face. King Xerxes of Persia decided to avenge Greece for rebelling against his father Darius. King Xerxes was too big for his pants, to say the least. He couldn't stand for anyone to question him and severely punished those who tried to. Xerxes, as a tyrant, wanted to enslave the world. He believed citizens worked best in that state. And that's what he planned to do to Greece.

Now, at this point in Greek history, the Spartans held a sort of a view of democracy and the Athenians were greatly gravitating towards democracy. In Xerxes court, there was a banished Spartan king who accompanied Xerxes and his massive army (Herodotus the Greek historian, records over 5 million). Along the way, Xerxes asked Demaratos, the Spartan, if he thought the Greeks would fight the massive Persian army, or if they would be scared into immediate surrender. Demaratos answered him:

"...Now while I commend all the Hellenes [Greeks] who live in the Dorian lands, what I shall next tell you applies not to all of them, but only to the Lacedaemonians [Spartans]. First of all, there is no way that they will accept your stated intention to enslave Hellas; next, even if all the other Hellenes come to see things your way, the Spartans with certainly oppose you in battle. And you need not ask as to their number in order to consider how they could possibly do this, for if there are 1.000 of them marching out, they will fight you, and and if they number more or less than that-it makes no difference-they will fight you all the same.'

When Xerxes heard this, he laughed and said, 'Demaratos, how can you make such a statement that 1,000 men will fight my troops!...Now if they were un der the rule of one man, as is our way, they would fear that man and be better able, in spite of their natural inclination, to go out and confrondt larger forces, despite their being outnumbered, because they would then be compelled by the lash. But they would never dare to do such a thing if they were allowed their freedom!...I must admit that among our men, the kind of courage you described is rare rather that common, but I do have Persian spearmen who would gladly fight three Hellenes at once. So you are simply talking nonsense and are clearly ignorant concerning these matters.'

To that Demaratos replied, "...The Lacedaemonians are in fact no worse than any other men when they fight individually, but when they unite and fight together, they are the best warriors of all. For though they are free, they are not free in all respects, for they are actually ruled by a lord and master: law is their master, and it is the law that they inwardly fear-much more so than your men fear you. They do whatever it commands, which is always the same: it forbids them to flee from battle, and no matter how many men they are fighting, it orders them to remain in their rank and either prevail or perish..." (Book 7: Sections 102-104, The Histories by Herodotus)

Thankfully, Xerxes decided to still be friends with Demaratos after receiving this rebuttal. At the Battle of Thermopylae, the Spartans held off the Persians while the other Greeks got their forces together, mainly the navy. The battle ended with casualities of 20,000 on the Persian side and only 4,000 of the Spartans. Xerxes had the numbers when it came to his army, but he couldn't control the passion that drove his men. Compared to the Greeks, the Persian forces had almost none. The Persians, like the Yankees, had plenty of show, but they didn't have the spirit, the fervor of freedom, that drove the South and Greece.

December 18, 2008 at 4:48 PM  

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