Sidney Lanier HTML version

A Confederate Soldier
From his dreams of music and poetry and from the ideal he had formed of study at
Heidelberg, Lanier was awakened by the guns of Fort Sumter and by the agitation
everywhere in Georgia. At Milledgeville he heard some of the great speeches made for
and against secession, for, from November to January, the conflict throughout the State
and especially in the capital was a severe one. He himself, like his father, hoped that the
Union might be preserved, but the forces of discord could not be stayed. The people of
Macon, on November 8, 1860, passed a declaration of independence, setting forth their
grievances against the North. When secession was declared in Charleston on December 1,
a hundred guns were fired amidst the ringing of bells and the shouts of the people. At
night there was a procession of fifteen hundred people with banners and transparencies.*
When on January 16 the Georgia convention voted to secede from the Union,
Milledgeville was in "rapturous commotion". "Tears of joy fell from many eyes, and
words of congratulation were uttered by every tongue. The artillery from the capitol
square thundered forth the glad tidings, and the bells of the city pealed forth the joyous
welcome to the new-born Republic."
* Butler's `History of Macon'.
Lanier afterwards, in "Tiger Lilies", described the war fever as it swept over the South.
"An afflatus of war was breathed upon us. Like a great wind it drew on, and blew upon
men, women, and children. Its sound mingled with the serenity of the church organs and
arose with the earnest words of preachers praying for guidance in the matter. It sighed in
the half-breathed words of sweethearts, conditioning impatient lovers with war services.
It thundered splendidly in the impassioned appeals of orators to the people. It whistled
through the streets, it stole into the firesides, it clinked glasses in bar-rooms, it lifted the
gray hairs of our wise men in conventions, it thrilled through the lectures in college halls,
it rustled the thumbed book leaves of the schoolrooms. This wind blew upon all vanes of
all the churches of the country and turned them one way, -- toward war. It blew, and
shook out as if by magic a flag whose device was unknown to soldier or sailor before, but
whose every flap and flutter made the blood bound in our veins. . . . It arrayed the
sanctity of a righteous cause in the brilliant trappings of military display. . . . It offered
tests to all allegiances and loyalties, -- of church, of state; of private loves, of public
devotion; of personal consanguinity, of social ties."*
* `Tiger Lilies', p. 119.