The Cavalry*
                                            by James N. Dunlop

- Remarks of private James N. Dunlop, at A. N. V. Banquet, October 29th, 1879.

Mr. Dunlop was called on to respond to a toast to the cavalry, and spoke as follows:

"To horse, to horse; the sabres gleam,
High sounds our bugle call;
Combined by honor's sacred tie,
Our watchword, laws and liberty!

Forward! to do or die."

Mr. Chairman and Fellow Comrades - 

The simple melody of our bugles when, in days of
yore, they called us to "mount," or sounded  "the advance,"  is heard anew in  the sentiment  just  proposed and in our ears again ring their commands 
- set to the notes of Scotland's chief minstrel - breathed from the magic touch of the "Wizard of the North."

And so the events of those times, that "tried men's souls," the homely detail of the soldier's daily life - no less than the splendid achievement of "peril's darkest hour) - shall furnish material for the solemn, stately muse of history and thrilling theme for story and for song.

The sentiment, sir, is an epitome of our struggle, and 
by a single happy touch delineates the instinct of the citizen soldierly of the South, as, bound together less
by the iron bands of discipline then the golden cords 
that draw the patriot's heart, they stood to defend their people's liberties, to vindicate a violated Organic Law.
In this "Drew sabre."

"Combined by honor's sacred tie,
Their watchword, laws and liberty."

Grave views of the philosophy of our struggle, or of
its bearing upon the future of the country, were illy obtruded on this occasion of scared memories and of chastened mirth. Thus much, at least, the sentiment suggests in the "watchword" it utters - For "laws and liberty," for constitutional freedom, our war was the grandest protest a century has witnessed, and its principles will prove the only sure bulwark for that freedom through centuries yet to some. Deep down, beyond the fate of passing issued, the upheaval of local institutions, the tottering of a fair social fabric - broader in import, undiminished in vitality - repose these principles, universal, eternal.   Before the government was born, they were.   They rocked the cradle of Liberty on this continent, and when they perish Liberty will   have found her grave.

For one, I cannot, in the light of the sacred past, remit the future to the chilling counsel of a desolate despair. Nay, rather, from the altar of our memories, I would kindle the flame of our hopes, and in these "reunions" pour annual libation to the Truth, that "had its being" incarnate in our cause.

Truth, subjected to mock trial and condemnation, scourged and spitted on, betrayed by secret foes, denied by avowed friends, staggering under its Cross, and
sealed to-day in its sepulchre, bursts to-morrow the 
gates of death, rises with the crown, triumphant reigns throughout the world.

In our momentous struggle, what part "the cavalry" 
bore the tongue of your minstrel alone might fitly tell; representatives at home and in distant State, among the living and the dead, proclaim the stuff whereof it was made.   Its chief glory is that it shared the glory of the Army of Northern Virginia.   But discrimination may 
be made of peculiar excellence where comparison would be as odious as impossible.   We watched while others slept, and snuffed the first breath of hostile approach. We were now in the van - now in the rear.   Active movement often "multiplied our presence."   Ubiquity scarce filled the measure of our duty.   Eyes were we 
for those that were blind - ears for those that were deaf - without us.    And the hundred hands of Briareus, 
though moved by a giant's arm, were powerless without the hundred eyes of Argus to see where they should strike.

But sense of sight and hearing and delicate touch were not all.   What has been truly said in general of the individuality of the Confederate soldier,  with special force applies to the cavalier.    The machinery in obedience,  moved even by mediocrity in command.    The unavoidable absence of such previous training for our war,  left greater scope for the unaided resources 
of individual genius in commanders and individual 
valor in men - the native prowess and intelligent obedience of a patriotic cavalry was "born, not made." The soil of this States seemed to be its habitat, and at 
the call of war, it - 

"Rose from the ground like feathered Mercury,
And vaulted, with such ease, into its seat,
As if an angel dropped down from the clouds
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
And witch the world with noble horsemanship."

When, in the Syrian desert, a place where no man 
meets a friend, Saladin and a knight of the Red Cross
et and prepared them for deadly encounter, the Soldan of Egypt and Syria, ere the crusaders' mace could be hurled at him, with matchless dexterity, turned his 
barb and thrice rode around his ponderous enemy. 
But when, in these latter days,  like black clouds in 
the firmament of heaven,  surcharged,  sulphurous 
and ready to burst on the hushed, expectant air, great armies, not men, stood facing for the death-grapple, 
in sight of this fair city, then the peerless leader of 
"the cavalry," as in winged steed, like another Saladin, with magnificent sweep, encircled the foe and blazed
the track of his coming doom.

The prophet Elijah with his garment parted the waters 
of the Jordan, and passed in a whirlwind from the sight of Elisha, who received the falling mantle and repeated upon the waters his Master's miracle.    But on the 
banks of another stream, now become historic,  when
our Great Captain's great Lieutenant had fought his
last fight, and was making ready to doff the habiliments of earthly command, a successor for that field it was
the glory of the cavalry to furnish - a successor,  who, 
as we heard in the capitol to-night, with the very ring
of the fallen hero's metal, ordered the men,  when ammunition had failed, to "hold their ground with 
me bayonet!" And this did the spirit of the great Elijah, who was passing from the whirlwind of that battle, 
out of his followers' sight, rest upon Elisha, and Stuart bore the mantle of Stonewall Jackson.!

Among the legends of ancient the legends of ancient Rome was one that at the battle of the Lake Regillus, 
the victory was die to the twin sons of thundering Jove, who were seen to ride in the fight.

There be twain still with us,  bearers of a name - we
utter with reverence because of the illustrious dead -
a name that thrilled with electric power devoted followers,  drew the plaudits of the civilized world, 
and wrung from foes even the tribute of admiring
respect - a name that we shall repeat to the latest posterity as borne by one,  the model of all that  was godlike in man - I name the name of Lee -  there be
these twain, not brothers indeed, according to the
flesh,  but sons of brethren,  our orator of the capitol
and our absent President, who rode in the fight like Castor and Pollox: To your sentiment, Mr. Chairman, "the cavalry" responds with these!  These -

"Be the great twin brethren,
That fought so well for Rome!"


*From Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume VIII,
Richmond, Va. January, 1880, No.1.,  pages 15 - 17
 The Cavalry - Remarks of Private James N. Dunlop.

Return to Main 

Return to Gazette Articles