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child, the sorrow for a broken and desolated country, the unspeakable pain of final defeat?
Alas! for the unknown graves that hide the broken hearts of our comrades, worn by disease, whom we left behind at every camp, in the sand-hills by the sea, or dotting the grassy glades of mountain valleys.
Yet the very boys emblazoned immortal deeds upon the escutcheon of their State.
At Chancellorsville, the death wound came to a lad of barely sevHis musket dropped; with Spartan fortitude he raised his hand to the gushing wound, and faltered forth to his commander. "Major, I am killed; tell my father that my feet were to the enemy!" So fell Wilson Kerr, of North Carolina.
At Petersburg, in the suburb of Pocahontas, lies the last man of the retreating army of Lee. The enemy were rapidly closing on the rear guard, and he volunteered to fire the bridge in the face of certain death. He reached its middle, applied the match, and then, though torn by a grape-shot, that boy of sixteen walked back to the bank and yielded his precious life.
The enemy, in admiration of his valor, gave him a soldier's burial on the very spot-wrapped in his old gray blanket that was slung about his shoulders, and the only shroud over his fair features from the enveloping clay, was the apron of a solitary woman, brave enough to venture there to weep over him.
So died Cummings Mebane, of North Carolina.
"His country was the lady of his dreams,
Her cross his knightly sign
He died! And there he lies,
A stately, slender palm,
Felled down, in tender blossoming,
Young men of North Carolina, you who are her hope and pride, and who will be her strong staff, when we shall have become but a memory, see to it, I beseech you, that such sublime virtue, which accepts certain death for the safety of the whole; and the good of the State, be commemorated in yonder capitol in glowing canvass or enduring marble.
Happy will be that people, who, in honoring virtue and commemorating sublimity of human character, stamp the image of the ancestor upon the mind and heart of the children!
All honor to the noble women of the Memorial Association of Raleigh, that they have taught their lesson, year by year, not only in the silent but eloquent eulogy of flowers; not only in recalling to mind the herioc self-sacrifice of the hosts in gray, in their voiceless camps of death; but also have decreed that heroes who have served their country in conspicuous station, shall be honored by the recital of their services, and a record shall be forever kept in grateful remembrance.
It is the privilege of the speaker to recite briefly some of the many leaves of history, which cluster like chaplets of laurel around an illustrous soldier, who though not born upon your soil, loved with his whole heart your people and your State, and gave his life for them.
WILLIAM HENRY CHASE WHITING, the son of Levi and Mary A. Whiting, was born March 22, 1824, at Biloxi, Mississippi.
His father, originally from Massachusetts, spent his life as an officer of the U. S. Army, serving forty years, from 1812 to 1853, being at his death Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st Artillery.
At twelve years of age he was ready for the Public High School of Boston, where he remained two years, taking the highest stand, particularly in Latin and Greek. Gifted with extraordinary quickness of perception, unyielding tenacity and fidelity of memory, and great will-power, the combination gave evidence of the rarest mental power. He saw at a glance, yet comprehended to the utmost depth. At fourteen, he entered Georgetown College, D. C., and completed with ease the four years' course in two years, besides receiving his diploma with high distinction at the head of his class. It was said of his knowledge of Latin, that he could converse in it with fluency. Yet an entirely different class of studies awaited him at West Point, where he entered the U. S. Military Academy, at seventeen. Always at the top, he took at once a high stand, maintained it throughout the course, and graduated after four years, July 1, 1845. at the head of the class of forty members, and with a higher stand than any officer of the army had ever taken up that period. Cadet Whiting is described briefly, but vividly, a letter from his room-mate, General Fitz John Porter, to the speaker:
"119 WEST 47TH STREET, NEW YORK,
66 CAPT. C. B. DENSON,
"April 23, 1895.
"My Dear Sir: * * * I deeply regret that it is not in my power to furnish you information which would aid you in writing at
memoir of my old friend, General W. H. C. Whiting. It would be a great pleasure to me to do it if I could. Though he and I were classmates and roommates at West Point, and necessarily very intimate, after graduating we met but a very few times, and then only for a few hours. *** Our spheres of duty widely separated us, and we knew of each other only through an occasional letter. As a cadet, Whiting's career was most exemplary. Pure in all his acts; of the strictest integrity, ever kind and gentle and open-hearted to his comrades; free from deception; just in his duty to his service and Academy, and never but kind and just to his comrades, and the cadets under him. These qualities caused him to be loved by his companions and respected by his subordinates, and honored and trusted by his superiors.
"He was of first-rate ability, as shown in his studies and graduation at the head of his class. So long as he was in the army, he maintained that reputation, and there was great regret that he resigned to take to a different cause and field.
"Wishing you success in your efforts, I am,
F. J. PORTER.”
It was no small honor to be first in a class that held General Chas. P. Stone (the organizer of the army of Egypt, after the Civil War), General Fitz John Porter, General Gordon Granger, Generals E. Kirby Smith, Barnard E. Bee, and the like. It has been generally conceded that no class contained so many men that afterwards rose to distinction in the great war.
Upon graduating, his position entitled him to the honor of an appointment to the engineer corps, the elite of the army. He served as second lieutenant until his promotion to first lieutenant, March 16, 1853, and captain, December 13, 1858. He tendered his resignation from the United States service February 20, 1861.
Shortly after graduation, he was ordered to the dangerous task of laying out a military road from San Antonio to El Paso. It will be remembered that Texas had just been annexed, and the country swarmed with the fierce Comanche Indians. This was accomplished with a small party, although with many hair-breadth escapes from the rifle and the scalping knife.
He was next at various stations on the gulf until 1852. While temporarily in command at Pensacola, he won high reputation among professional engineers, by successfully closing an opening
made by the waters of the lagoon, breaking through to the gulf, thereby endangering the Fort (Pickens) by undermining. This had baffled the efforts of several engineers, who had attempted to close it, at great expense to the government.
Ordered next to Fort McHenry, then under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee, he was transferred shortly after to Fort Point, California, at San Francisco, thence to Wilmington, N. C., and from that point to Fort Pulaski, Georgia, and Fort Clinch, Florida. Upon her secession, Georgia made him Major of Engineers, and on March 29, he received the same rank in the Confederate Army.
Then began the long line of services, in many capacities and at many points, to the Southern cause, much of which was devoted to North Carolina, and the closing years of his career wholly so.
Sent to Charleston, S. C., to inspect the works being constructed against Fort Sumter, he recognized at once the faults of location. and construction, and reported the danger to President Davis. He showed the letter to Beauregard, and ordered him to take charge. General Beuregard, recognizing the truth of the situation, proceeded to change the entire location, and, to use his language:
"I determined to alter the system, but gradually, so as not to dampen the ardor or touch the pride of the gallant and sensitive gentlemen who had left their homes, at the call of the State, to vindicate its honor."
General Beauregard, in his report of the capture of Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861, said:
"The engineers, Majors Whiting and Gwynn and others, on whom too much praise cannot be bestowed for their untiring zeal, energy and gallantry, and to whose labors is greatly due the unprecedented example of taking such an important work, after thirty-three hours' firing, without having to report the loss of a single life, and but four slightly wounded.
"From Major W. H. C. Whiting I derived also much assistance, not only as an engineer, in selecting the sites and laying out the channel batteries on Morris Island, but as Acting Assistant-Adjutant and Inspector-General, in arranging and stationing the troops on said island."
Major Whiting was made Adjutant-General, and brought his great abilities into service on Morris Island, to prepare for the attack upon Sumter, which was successful April 11, 1861.
An Englishman, and an accomplished critic of military men and
measures, speaks in exalted terms of praise of Major Whiting's operations there; and long after, General Gist writes of his ardent desire that Whiting should return to Charleston in complete command.
Leaving Charleston now for the field, he remains in North Carolina long enough to advise as to the defences of the Cape Fear, at the following request of the Governor, the lamented John W. Ellis, who fell a victim to disease early in the war. He writes:
'WM. H. WHITING:
"EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, 'RALEIGH, N. C., April 21, 1861.
"Sir,-You are hereby appointed Inspector-General in charge of the defences of North Carolina.
"Your attention will be particularly directed to Forts Caswell and Johnston, and the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Beaufort harbor and Fort Macon, Ocracoke and the coast generally.
"Exercise all the powers necessary to the public defence; extinguish lights, seize vessels belonging to the enemy, and do whatever may seem necessary.
Given under my hand,
"By the Governor:
"GRAHAM DAVES, Private Secretary."
JOHN W. ELLIS.
Seeing the forts in North Carolina in Confederate hands, he advised a system of defence, especially of the important Cape Fear region, after examining the condition of the forts and harbors; but there being no reason to anticipate immediate attack, he obeyed a call to duty in Virginia, whither he repaired to report for service to General Joseph E. Johnston, in command at Harper's Ferry of the Confederate forces protecting the Shenandoah Valley.
With his usual activity, he grasped the situation at Harper's Ferry, and we find General Joseph E. Johnston saying, in his "Narrative of the War," page 17:
"A careful examination of the position and its environs, made on the 25th May, with the assistance of an engineer of great ability, Major Whiting, convinced me that it could not be held against equal numbers," etc.
In correspondencé, years afterwards, Johnston refers to this period