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The Confederate Soldiers’ Home

Reminiscences of Famous Georgians, Volume 1

The Confederate Soldiers’ Home

But, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, one of the strongest reasons for accepting this home lies in the fact that it will reach a class of needy soldiers for whom no provision at all is now made. We pension those who lost a limb or were permanently disabled in the war. But, sir, what shall we say of that other soldier, who fought in the thickest of the battle; who braved every danger, but by a merciful Providence was protected from the missiles of destruction? Was he less heroic than his more unfortunate comrade who was smitten? Did he not serve his country as well?

And now that the fortune of the busy crowding world —more cruel to him than the fortune of war—has stricken him down, shall Georgia extend him no helping hand? Nay, more, shall she refuse to accept what other hearts and hands have built and now proffer her in fee simple, free of cost, conditioned only to maintain those needy few who may be driven to seek its shelter from the storms of life? Let us by our votes answer no, forever no.

Georgia can give no service pension to the brave men who fought for her. She can not compensate them with an equivalent for their services. Not all the “wealth of Ormus and of Ind” would suffice for that. But Georgia can and should shelter the old and needy who served her in her day of extremity.

Yonder is the home, a magnificent property, an elegant building ready to welcome through its open doors the heroes for whose refuge it was built. It represents no millionaire’s bounty. No tax-gatherer forced that money from unwilling hands. The rich, the poor, the high, the low, the old, the young, men, women and children, contributed of their means to that sacred fund. The magic pen of Grady touched the great heart of the people, and their limited treasures poured forth as freely as the waters flowed from the smitten rock of the desert. 

Pericles says that the highest duty a nation owes to its heroic dead is to raise monuments to their memory. So well have the loving women of the South labored in that noble cause, that almost every city and town and village in our land boasts a marble shaft pointing from earth toward heaven in honor of their dead fathers and brothers and husbands and sons and lovers. Let us to-day announce a kindred sentiment to that of this great Athenian statesman, and proclaim that the highest duty a nation owes to its living heroes, the comrades in arms of its heroic dead, is to shelter, comfort and protect them in their declining years. “Age and want! Oh, ill-matched pair!”

If there is one temporal blessing for which, above all others, I would pray to heaven, it is that I may be saved from a poverty-stricken old age. In youth, when hope is buoyant, we can smile at fortune’s frowns. In the strength of manhood we can dare fortune to its worst. But when the infirmities of age come upon us, when the joints stiffen and the eyes grow dim, and the mind loses its firm grasp on thought, then indeed we are to be pitied, if in poverty and want and loneliness we walk on the “silent solemn shore of that vast ocean we must sail so soon.”—Wm. H. Fleming.

[Extract from speech delivered in the Legislature of Georgia in support of the Soldiers’ Home bill.]

Lucian Lamar Knight, Reminiscences of Famous Georgians, Volume 1 (Atlanta: Franklin-Turner Company, 1907), 706-708.


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