What He said at the side of Gen. Williams' casket
Department Commander of the Indiana G. A. R. Delivers an Eloquent Eulogy over his Friend
Perhaps the finest tribute to a departed comrade and friend ever heard in Warsaw was that of Rev. D. R. Lucas, of the Indianapolis, Department Commander of the Indiana G. A. R., over the body of General Williams, the veteran editor who was laid at rest on Wednesday Jan. 18. Rev. Lucas said:
It is with a sad heart that I come today to speak a few words by the coffin of my friend. I come not as a minister of the gospel, not as an orator with a fulsome eulogy, but as a friend to lay a flower, the tribute of my friendship, upon his casket.
In speaking once of the end that must come, sooner or later, to us all, he said: "When I go hence I would like to have you or Chaplain Gage say a few words, for you know more of my life than anyone else." In harmony with the request I come here to say a few things of the life of this man. My acquaintance with him began in the days of the civil war when we met at Memphis in the autumn of 1862, where he was serving as Colonel of the Twelfth Indiana, and I was Chaplain of the Ninety-ninth Indiana. Our regiments from that time to the close of the war were always in the same division and marched and fought side by side. Since the war I have attended with him many of the reunions of the Twelfth Indiana, and he has always said to me: "I am not a speech-maker, and I have appointed Chaplain Lucas to make my speeches for me," and so here today, surrounded by his comrades of the old regiment, I come to say what I believe he would have me say, for it is the profound faith of my heart that he remembers us as we remember him. He knows what I say, and so I must speak as in his presence. The only solution of the problem of human life, the only outcome of it possible, it seems to me, is the fact that death does not end all, that our comrade has only changed to another place where he still thinks and hopes and loves. He is still in the hands of the Great All-Father, who is too wise to err, too good to be unkind, too just to deal unjustly with any of his creatures. His ways are omnipotent and His mercy endureth forever. Of course, no word that I can say can help or harm this friend of mine, but there is one who knows and understands it all. As Burns says:
"Who knows the heart, 'tis He alone
Decidely can try us.
He knows each chord it's various tone,
Each note its various bias;
Then at the balance let's be united,
We never can adjust it;
What's done we partly may compute
But know not what's resisted."
With these comrades around me, I can say that General Williams was a brave man. I have seen him where none but a brave man could ever stay. On the 25th day of November, 1863, at Missionary Ridge, I saw his regiment moved out to the attack. On the brow of the hill called Sherman Heights, I looked down upon him as his regiment was ordered to lie down. The fire was heavy and they were not permitted to fire in return. I saw General Williams standing by his horse, overlooking the scene, where he remained for two hours, while many of his command were killed or wounded. It was the most severe trial a soldier is ever called to undergo and he said to me years afterward: "It was the most terrible ordeal of my life." And so I say, a man who has taken so many even chances with death for his country may be called a brave man and a patriot loyal and true.
But it is of the inner life, the genial, kindly spirit, warm and generous heart that bound us so closely to him of which I would speak. He was naturally reserved in speaking of himself, as all sensitive souls are; but to his comrades he was ever open, frank, cordial and tender. His faith in God and good men was a part of himself and was a fountain of unselfishness within. There could be no better expression of his life and heart than the hymn that has just been sung:
"Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom.
Lead thou me on.
The night is dark and I am far from home.
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see
The distance scene, one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus nor prayed that thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to see and choose my path, but now,
Lead thou me on.
I loved the garish day and spite of fears.
Pride ruled my will, remember not past years.
So long thy power has kept me sure it still
Will lead me on.
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone.
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since and lost awhile."
In this faith I stand here today with the echo of the voice of eternal hope ringing in my soul and I hear a celestial voice that bids me join with Whittier and say:
"Our faith will trust,
Since He who knows our need is just
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress trees
Who hopeless lays his dead away
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Above the mornful marbles play
Who has not learned in hours of faith
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That life is ever Lord of death
And Love shall never lose his own."
And so we can say, and say truly, that not one word of kindness, not one deed of love, not one tear of sorrow will ever be lost. In the Book of God's everlasting remembrance they are cherished and will find their reward.
The last time I met him was in this house, last June, when Mrs. John A. Logan was here. He was cheerful and seemed so much to enjoy the presence of his comrades and the wife of his old commander. But there was a shadow, as there ever is in all our earth-life, as he spoke of a loved one going out of the household, I had occasion to quote then as it seems so appropriate to do today, the words of Benjamin F. Taylor:
There's a magical Isle in the river of time
Where the softest of airs are playing:
There's a cloudless sky and a tropical clime,
And a song as sweet as a vesper chime,
And the Junes with the roses are staying.
And the name of that isle is the Long Ago,
And we bury our treasures there;
There are brows of beauty and bosoms of snow,
There are heaps of dust, and we loved them so,
There are trinkets and tresses of hair.
There are fragments of songs that nobody sings,
And a part of an infant's prayer;
There's a lute unswept and a harp without strings,
And the garments she used to wear.
There are hands that are waved when the fairy shore
By mirage is lifted in air;
But we sometimes hear through the turbulent roar,
Sweet voices we heard in the days gone before,
When the wind down the river is fair.
O, remember for aye the blessed Isle,
All the days of life till night,
When the evening comes with its beautiful smile.
And our eyes are closed on earth a while,
May the "Greenwood" of soul be in sight.
Comrades of the Twelfth Indiana and all other regiments here assembled, your commander is now with Logan and the comrades on the other side. The boys who died at Missionary Ridge, who fell at Atlanta and along the way are with us today. They passed from our sight in the strife of battle, but have never passed from our hearts, and the Father of us all, who notes the sparrow's fall and hears the cry of the wingless ravens, will gather them all with us on the eternal camping ground; for they, as well as our comrades here, have, as was said of the dying Garfield, "felt upon their wasted brows the breath of the eternal morning." As a citizen, a neighbor, a husband and father I have not the time now to speak, nor is it necessary, for you know him as well in all these relations as I do, so it seems more fitting that I should try to bring our souls into the realm when we ponder on the "Eternal Goodness," and catch some glimpses of His Fatherhood, and say in our heart of hearts,
"We know not where God's islands lift,
Their frouded palms in air,
We only know we cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.
So comrades, bear him away to his rest, where "over him will bend the arching sky as it did in great love when he laid down weary with the march, or on the battlefield for an hour of sleep. As he was then, so he is still-in the hands of the Heavenly Father. "God giveth His beloved sleep."
And now my comrad, General Williams, I have stood by thy coffin over which is spread the flag you loved so well, I have said what I believe you would have wanted me to say. I have given you the tribute and the friendship, I have done all that I can, and so I bid thee farewell. When the snows of winter fall upon thy grave and the flowers of summer blossom on thy tomb, may thy soul be in peace.
Northern Indianian January 26, 1905
Back to YesterYear in Print