|Major General Ormsby M. Mitchel
Commander Department of the South
General Mitchell and the News Boys.
It happened once to the writer of this to hear the late General Mitchell address a company of
On an invitation from his friend, Mr. C. W. Field, he came down one Sunday evening to attend
the meeting for the newsboys. At his very first words to the lad, it was apparent he was deeply
moved. The sight of the ragged, shoeless, weather-beaten little fellows seemed to call up
immediately his own hard struggles in childhood. “Boys,” said he, “I feel when I see you that I am
one of you! No one of you can be poorer or more friendless than I was once. I have known what
poverty is!” It may be imagined that with such an introduction there was a deathlike stillness.
Every boy’s eye was fastened upon him, and his tone seemed to vibrate to each one’s heart. He
went on to tell his story, but with a simplicity and feeling which it is impossible to recall now.
“When I was a boy of twelve years, I was working for twenty five cents a week with an old lady,
and I tell you I had my hands full; but I did my work faithfully I used to cut wood, fetch water,
make fires, and scrub and scour of mornings for the old lady before the real work of the day
commenced; my clothes were bad, and I had no means for buying shoes, so was often
barefooted. One morning I got through my work early, and the old lady, who thought I had not
done, or was specially ill humored then, was displeased, scolded me, and said I was idle, and had
not worked. I said I had; she called me ‘a liar.’ I felt my spirit rise indignantly against this, and,
standing erect, I told her that she should never have the chance of applying the word to me again.
I walked out of the house, to re-enter it no more. I had no a cent in my pocket when I thus
stepped out into the world. What do you think I did then, boys? I met a countryman with a team.
I addressed him boldly and earnestly, and offered to drive the leader, if he would only take me on.
He looked at me in surprise, but said he did not think I’d be of any use to him. ‘Oh, yes, I will,’
said I; ‘I can rub down and water your horses, and do many things for you if you will only let me
try.’ He no longer objected. I got on the horse’s back. It was hard traveling, for the roads were
deep, and we could only get on at the rate of twelve miles a day. This was, however, my starting
point. I went ahead after this. An independent spirit, and a steady, honest conduct, with what
capacity God has given me---as he has you---have carried me successfully through the world.
“Don’t be down-hearted at being poor or having no friends. Try, and try again. You cut your way
through, if you live to please God.
“I know it’s a hard time for some of you. You often are hungry, and wet with the rain or snow,
and it seems dreary to have no one in the city to care for you. But trust in Christ, and he will be
your friend! Keep a good heart, and be determined to make your own way, honestly and truly,
through the world. As I said, I feel for you, because I have gone through it all---I know what it is.
God bless you!”
The boys were most deeply touched by this. Shirt-sleeves moved furtively up to eyes not used to
such emotion, and other boys found it necessary to whisper some very good joke to one another,
in order to prevent any feminme display. In thinking of his simple, feeling-full words to those
outcast boys, one could understand the power he is said to have had with the Negroes in his
speeches. His heart was full of compassion. He was from the people, and he felt for them.
His words of kindness and encouragement to the newsboys will not soon be forgotten by them.