April 16

April 16, 1863

Thursday. A letter from Walt Loucks asking me to come and see him. Shall surely go if I can get a pass.

Corps review was ordered for to-day, but it is raining, so very likely it will be postponed; started for picket about 9 a. m. with Col. W. W. Henry as Officer of the Day, so we will fare well; rained all forenoon; cleared about 1 p. m.; fair since. The Tenth Vermont has the right of the line.

April 16, 1864

Saturday. Another day of doing nothing. This looking for trouble is worse than finding it. The troops have been shifting about all day, as if it was hard to decide what was the right position. There were no more signs of trouble to come than the getting ready for it. The recruiting squad helped all it could by looking on and wondering what it is all about.

April 16

April 16, 1875. (Hyères ).--I have already gone through the various emotions of leave-taking. I have been wandering slowly through the streets and up the castle hill, gathering a harvest of images and recollections. Already I am full of regret that I have not made a better study of the country, in which I have now spent four months and more. It is like what happens when a friend dies; we accuse ourselves of having loved him too little, or loved him ill; or it is like our own death, when we look back upon life and feel that it has been misspent.

April Sixteenth

I have only to say that the militia will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for such an object—an object, in my judgment, not within the purview of the constitution or the act of 1795—will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the administration has exhibited towards the South.

Governor Letcher
(Virginia )

 

 

April 16

April 16, 1855.--I realized this morning the prodigious effect of climate on one's state of mind. I was Italian or Spanish. In this blue and limpid air, and under this southern sun, the very walls smile at you. All the chestnut trees were en fete; with their glistening buds shining like little flames at the curved ends of the branches, they were the candelabra of the spring decking the festival of eternal nature. How young everything was, how kindly, how gracious! the moist freshness of the grass, the transparent shadows in the courtyards, the strength of the old cathedral towers, the white edges of the roads. I felt myself a child; the sap of life mounted again into my veins as it does in plants. How sweet a thing is a little simple enjoyment! And now, a brass band which has stopped in the street makes my heart leap as it did at eighteen. Thanks be to God; there have been so many weeks and months when I thought myself an old man. Come poetry, nature, youth, and love, knead my life again with your fairy hands; weave round me once more your immortal spells; sing your siren melodies, make me drink of the cup of immortality, lead me back to the Olympus of the soul. Or rather, no paganism! God of joy and of grief, do with me what Thou wilt; grief is good, and joy is good also. Thou art leading me now through joy. I take it from Thy hands, and I give Thee thanks for it.

Friday, April 16th.—At about 7.30 this evening I was writing the day report when the sergeant came in with three candles and said an order had come for all lights to be put out and only candles used. So I had to put out all the lights and give the astonished officers my three candles between them, while the sergeant went out to get some more. The town looks very weird with all the street lamps out and only glimmers from the windows. It was kept pretty darkened before. It may be because of the Zeppelin at Bailleul on Wednesday, or another may be reported somewhere about.

This afternoon I saw a soldier's funeral, which I have never seen before. He was shot in the head yesterday, and makes the four hundred and eleventh British soldier buried in this cemetery. I happened to be there looking at the graves, and the French gravedigger told me there was to be another buried this afternoon. The gravedigger's wife and children are with the Allemands, he told me, the other side of La Bassée, and he has no news of them or they of him.

It was very impressive and moving, the Union Jack on the coffin (a thin wooden box) on the waggon, and a firing party, and about a hundred men and three officers and the Padre. It was a clear blue sky and sunny afternoon, and the Padre read beautifully and the men listened intently. The graves are dug trenchwise, very close together, practically all in one continuous grave, each with a marked cross. There is a long row of officers, and also seven Germans and five Indians.

The two Zeppelins reported last night must have gone to bed after putting out all our lights, as nothing happened anywhere.

The birds and buds in the garden opposite make one long for one's lost leave, but I suppose they will keep.

We have only nine officers in to-day; everything is very quiet everywhere, but troop trains are very busy.

10.30 p.m.—It is getting noisy again. Some batteries on our right next the French lines are doing some thundering, and there are more star-shells than usual lighting up the sky on the left. They look like fireworks. They are sent up in  the firing line to see if any groups of enemy are crawling up to our trenches in the dark. When they stop sending theirs up we have to get busy with ours to see what they're up to. It's funny to see that every night from your bedroom windows. They give a tremendous light as soon as they burst.

When I went into the big church for benediction this evening at 6.30, every estaminet and café and tea-shop was packed with soldiers, and also as usual every street and square. At seven o'clock they were all emptying, as there is an order to-day to close all cafés, &c., at seven instead of eight.

All lights are out again to-night.

Another aeroplane was being shelled here this evening.

Recreation

Friday, 16.

A-field all summer, all winter in-doors, was the Anglo-Saxon rule, and holds good for the Anglo-American to-day. Englishmen still, here in New England we borrow, at some variance with the sun's courses, our calendar from the old country. Ordinarily our seasons fall almost a month later, our winter hardly opening till New-year's, nor spring till All Fools' Day, the date of which can hardly fall amiss, and with All Saints' may be left indefinite in wit's almanac. Doubtless there is a closer sympathy than we suspect between souls and seasons. Sensitive to climate within as weather without, our intelligence dips or rises as the signs range from Aries to Pisces in the ideal ephemeris, measuring to faculty and member in turn the rising or falling tides, and so determining our solar and lunar periods.

"'Tis not every day that I

Fitted am to prophesy;

No; but when the spirit fills

The fantastic pinnacles

Full of fire, then I write

As the Godhead doth indite.

Thus enraged, my lines are hurled,

Like the sibyls, through the world.

Look, how next the holy fire

Either slakes, or doth retire;

So the fancy carols, till when

That brave spirit comes again."

Nature is the best dictionary and school of eloquence; genius the pupil of sun and stars, wood-lands, waters, the fields, the spectacle of things seen under all aspects, in all seasons and moods. Blot these from his vision, and the scholar's page were of small account. Letters show pale and poor from inside chambers and halls of learning alone; and whoever will deal directly with ideas, is often abroad to import the stuff of things into his diction, and clothe them in a rhetoric robust and racy, addressing the senses and mind at once. One is surprised at finding how a little exercise, though taken for the thousandth time, and along familiar haunts even, refreshes and strengthens body and mind. A turn about his grounds, a sally into the woods, climbing the hill-top, sauntering by brook-sides, brings him back with new senses and a new soul. One's handwriting becomes illuminated as he turns his leaves, the thoughts standing out distinctly, which before were blurred, and failed to show their import. Then his thought is sprightliest, and tells its tale firmly to the end. It sets flowing what blood one has in his veins, quickening wonderfully his circulations; he is valiant, humorsome, the soul prevailing in every part, and he takes hope of himself and the world around him.

An open fire, too, that best of friends to greet him within doors for most of the months; better than councils of friends to settle numerous questions wont to smoulder and fret by an air-tight, or flash forth in no lovely manner at unexpected moments. And where else is conversation possible? A countryman without an open fire will consider whether he can afford to spend himself and family to spare his wood-lot. It was comforting to see the other day on a bookseller's counter, tiles of porcelain, with suggestive devices of the graceful hospitalities of the olden time, when every mantelpiece had its attractions of fable and verse, the conversation enhanced by the friendly blaze, around which the family gathered and paid their devotions to friendships, human and divine.

"Go where I will, thou lucky Lar, stay here

Close by the glittering chimney all the year."

Then, a country-seat for summer and a city residence for the winter were desirable. For recreation, the due allowance taken from business, leisures as profitable as labors, alike enjoyable, and promoting the relish for more.

"Books, studies, business, entertain the light,

And sleep as undisturbed as death the night.

Acquaintance one would have, but when it depends

Not on the number, but the choice of friends.

His house a cottage more

Than palace, and should fitting be

For all his use, no luxury."

One's house should be roomy enough for his thought, for his family and guests; honor the ceilings, and geniality the hearthstone. Ample apartments, a charming landscape and surroundings; these have their influence on the dispositions, the tastes, manners of the inmates, and are not to be left out of account. Yet, without nobility to grace them, what were the costly palace, its parlors and parks, luxuries and elegancies, within or without,—the handsome house owing its chief beauty to the occupants, the company, one's virtues and accomplishments draw inside of the mansion; persons being the figures that grace the edifice, else unfurnished, and but a showy pile of ostentation and folly, as desolate within as pretentious without.

"Two things money cannot buy,

Breeding and integrity."

"It happens," says Plutarch, "that neither rich furniture, nor moveables, nor abundance of gold, nor descent from an illustrious family, nor greatness of authority, nor eloquence, and all the charms of speaking, can procure so great a serenity of life, as a mind free from guilt and kept untainted, not only from actions but from purposes that are wicked. By this means the soul will be not only unpolluted, but not disturbed; the fountain will run clear and unsullied, and the streams that flow from it will be just and honest deeds, full of satisfaction, a brisk energy of spirit which makes a man an enthusiast in his joy, and a tenacious memory sweeter than hope, which, as Pindar says, 'with a virgin warmth cherishes old men.' For as shrubs which are cut down with morning dew upon them, do for a long time after retain their fragrance, so the good actions of a wise man perfume his mind and leave a rich scent behind them. So that joy is, as it were, watered with those essences, and owes its flourishing to them."