Remarks at the Exercises of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, Attending the Reburial of Major General William Stark Rosecrans at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia

May 17, 1902

Speaker Henderson, and you, the comrades of the Great Chief whose reburial in the National Cemetery here at Arlington we have met together to commemorate:

Speaker Henderson in his address has well said that the builder rather than the destroyer is the man most entitled to honor among us; that the man who builds up is greater than he who tears down; and that our homage should be for the fighting man who not only fought worthily but fought in a worthy cause. Therefore for all time, not merely the people of this great reunited country but the nations of mankind who see the hope for ordered liberty in what this country has done, will hold you, the men of the great Civil War, and the leaders like him whose mortal remains are to be put today in their final resting place, in peculiar honor because you were soldiers who fought to build; you were upbuilders; you were the men to whose lot it fell to save, to perpetuate, to make stronger the great national fabric, the foundations of which had been laid by the men who fought under him whose home at Mount Vernon stands as an equally prized memorial of the past with Arlington. It is no chance that has made Mount Vernon and Arlington, here in the neighborhood of Washington, the two great memorials of the nation's past. One commemorates the founding and the other the saving of the nation. If it were not for what Arlington symbolizes, Mount Vernon would mean little or nothing. If it were not for what was done by Rosecrans and his fellows, the work of Washington would have crumbled into bloody chaos and the deeds of the founders of this Republic be remembered only because they had begun another of the many failures to make practical the spirit of liberty in this world. Without the work that you did the work of the men who fought the Revolution to a successful close would have meant nothing. To you it was given to do the one great work which if left undone would have meant that all else done by our people would have counted for nothing. And you left us a reunited country, and therefore the right of brotherhood with and of pride in the gallantry and self-devotion of those who wore the gray, who were pitted against you in the great struggle. The very fact that we appreciate more and more as the years go on the all-importance to this country and to mankind of your victory, makes it more and more possible for us to recognize in the heartiest and frankest maimer [sic] the sincerity, the self-devotion, the fealty to the right as it was given to them to see the right, of our fellow Americans against whom you fought—and now the reunion is so complete that it is useless to allude to the fact that it is complete. And you left us another lesson in brotherhood. To-day you come here, comrades of the Army of the Cumberland—the man who had a commission and the man who fought in the ranks—brothers, because each did what there was in him to do for the right. Each did what he could and all alike shared equally in the glory of the deed that was done. Officer and enlisted man stand at the bar of history to be judged not by the difference of rank, but by whether they did their duties in their respective ranks. And oh, of how little count, looking back, the difference of rank compared with the doing of the duty! What was true then is true now. Doing the duty well is what counts. In any audience of this kind one sees in the highest official and social position men who fought as enlisted men in the armies of the Union or in the armies of the Confederacy. All we ask is, did they do their duty? If they did, honor to them! Little we care what particular position they held, save in so far as the holding of exalted position gave the men a chance to do great and peculiar service.

I shall not try to eulogize the dead General in the presence of his comrades, in the presence of his countrymen who have come to honor the memory of the man against whom they were pitted in the past— who come here because they now, like us, are Americans and nothing else, devoted to the Union and to one flag. I shall not try to speak of his services in the presence of those who fought through the Civil War, who risked the loss of life, who endured the loss of limb, who fought as enlisted men or came out boys not yet ready to enter college but able to bear commissions in the army of the United States, as the result of three or four years of service with the colors. There are those of each class of whom I have spoken who have addressed or will address you today. They are entitled to speak as comrades of the great dead. But the younger among us are only entitled to pay to the great dead the homage of those to whom ordered liberty has been handed down as a heritage because of the blood, and of the sweat, and of the toil of the men who fought to a finish the great Civil War. Great were the lessons you taught us in war. Great have been the lessons you have taught us in peace since the war. Sincerely and humbly the men who came after you hasten to acknowledge the debt that is owing to you. You were the men of the mighty days who showed yourselves equal to the days. We have today lesser tasks; and shame to us if we flinch from doing or fail to do well these lesser tasks, when you carried to triumphant victory a task as difficult as that which was set you! Here in the presence of one of the illustrious dead whose names will remain forever on the honor roll of the greatest Republic upon which the sun has ever shone, it behooves all of us, young and old, solemnly and reverently to pledge ourselves to continue undimmed the traditions you have left us; to do the work, whatever that work may be, necessary to make good the work that you did; to acknowledge the inspiration of your careers in war and in peace; and to remind ourselves once for all that lip loyalty is not the loyalty that counts. The loyalty that counts is the loyalty which shows itself in deeds rather than in words; and therefore we pledge ourselves to make good by our lives what you risked your lives to gain and keep for the nation as a whole.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Exercises of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, Attending the Reburial of Major General William Stark Rosecrans at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives