April 6

April Sixth

His character was lofty and pure, his presence and demeanor dignified and courteous, with the simplicity of a child; and he at once inspired the respect and gained the confidence of cultivated gentlemen and rugged frontiersmen.

General Richard Taylor

 

Albert Sidney Johnston killed at Shiloh, 1862

 

 

Cloudy and windy this morning, but it cleared up about noon; fine evening, too, but no moon; have been over to the theatre, but hardly got paid for my trouble except for the novelty of seeing a theatre built of logs. It is as big as a city theatre, is of fine rustic work and a curiosity. It was built by the Engineers and is handsome. Of course in a big army like this there is plenty of fair theatrical talent and some excellent. The band came out this evening and played a few pieces, the first with their new instruments; am at work on Company B clothing rolls; will finish in about two days.

April 6, 1863

One of Company A's men died to-day. His name was Burch. A boat-load of negroes landed here to-day and were taken down towards the city, what for I did not learn. Many of the men in camp are having diarrhea, and some have to go to the hospital, where the diet can be regulated. Some corn and contraband goods were seized to-day a short distance up the river. A man has been suspected for a long time and to-day was seized upon with all his goods. We are expecting letters every day now. We watch the papers for the mail steamers, and if we get no letters are much disappointed.

Tuesday, April 6th, 10 p.m.—I am writing in bed in my lovely little room overlooking the garden, and facing some nice red roofs and both the old Towers of the town (one dating from le temps des Espagnols) in le Château, instead of in my attic in the narrow street where you heard the tramp of the men who viennent des tranches in the night. We had a lovely dinner, served by the fat and très aimable  Marie in a small, panelled dining-room, with old oak chairs and real silver spoons (the first I've met since August). So don't waste any pity for the hardships of War! And an officer with a temperature of 103° explained that he'd been sleeping for sixteen days on damp sandbags "among the dead Germans."

Nothing coming in anywhere, but when it does begin we shall get them.

The A.D.M.S. is going to arrange for us to go up with one of his motor ambulances to one of the advance dressing stations where the first communication trench begins! It is at the corner of a road called "Harley Street," which he says is "too unhealthy," where I mayn't be taken. Won't it be thrilling to see it all?

Officers' "trench talk" is exactly like the men's, only in a different language.

It has been wet and windy again, so I did not explore when I was off this afternoon, but did my unpacking and settling in here. With so many moves I have got my belongings into a high state of mobilisation, and it doesn't take long.

Last night at the café, one of the despatch riders played Chopin, Tchaikowsky, and Elgar like a professional. It was jolly. The officers are awfully nice to do with on the whole.

April 6

April 6, 1869.--Magnificent weather. The Alps are dazzling under their silver haze. Sensations of all kinds have been crowding upon me; the delights of a walk under the rising sun, the charms of a wonderful view, longing for travel, and thirst for joy, hunger for work, for emotion, for life, dreams of happiness and of love. A passionate wish to live, to feel, to express, stirred the depths of my heart. It was a sudden re-awakening of youth, a flash of poetry, a renewing of the soul, a fresh growth of the wings of desire--I was overpowered by a host of conquering, vagabond, adventurous aspirations. I forgot my age, my obligations, my duties, my vexations, and youth leaped within me as though life were beginning again. It was as though something explosive had caught fire, and one's soul were scattered to the four winds; in such a mood one would fain devour the whole world, experience everything, see everything. Faust's ambition enters into one, universal desire--a horror of one's own prison cell. One throws off one's hair shirt, and one would fain gather the whole of nature into one's arms and heart. O ye passions, a ray of sunshine is enough to rekindle you all! The cold black mountain is a volcano once more, and melts its snowy crown with one single gust of flaming breath. It is the spring which brings about these sudden and improbable resurrections, the spring which, sending a thrill and tumult of life through all that lives, is the parent of impetuous desires, of overpowering inclinations, of unforeseen and inextinguishable outbursts of passion. It breaks through the rigid bark of the trees, and rends the mask on the face of asceticism; it makes the monk tremble in the shadow of his convent, the maiden behind the curtains of her room, the child sitting on his school bench, the old man bowed under his rheumatism.

"O Hymen, Hymenae!"

167. John Adams

Philadelphia, 6 April, 1777.

You have had many rumors propagated among you which I suppose you know not how to account for. One was that Congress, the last summer, had tied the hands of General Washington, and would not let him fight, particularly on the White Plains. This report was totally groundless. Another was that at last Congress untied the General, and then he instantly fought and conquered at Trenton. This also was without foundation, for as his hands were never tied, so they were not untied. Indeed, within a few days past a question has been asked Congress, to the surprise, I believe, of every member there, whether the General was bound by the advice of a council of war? No member of Congress, that I know of, ever harbored or conceived such a thought. "Taking the advice of a council of war" are the words of the General's instructions, but this meant only that councils of war should be called and their opinions and reasons demanded, but the General, like all other commanders of armies, was to pursue his own judgment after all.

Another report, which has been industriously circulated, is that the General has been made by Congress dictator. But this is as false as the other stories. Congress, it is true, upon removing to Baltimore, gave the General power to raise fifteen battalions, in addition to those which were ordered to be raised before, and to appoint the officers, and also to raise three thousand horse, and to appoint their officers, and also to take necessaries for his army, at an appraised value. But no more. Congress never thought of making him dictator or of giving him a sovereignty. I wish I could find a correspondent who was idle enough to attend to every report, and write it to me. Such false news, uncontradicted, does more or less harm. Such a collection of lies would be a curiosity for posterity.

The report you mention in your last, that the British administration had proposed to Congress a Treaty and terms, is false, and without a color. On the contrary, it is now more than ever past a doubt that their fixed determination is conquest and unconditional subjugation. But there will be many words and blows too, before they will accomplish their wishes. Poor, abandoned, infatuated nation! Infatuation is one of the causes to which great historians ascribe many events, and if it ever produced any effect, it has produced this war against America.

Arnold, who carries this, was taken in his passage from Baltimore. He sailed with Harden for Boston. They took fifteen vessels while he was on board the man-of-war. Your flour was highly favored with good luck.

April 6, 1864

Wednesday. Captain Faulkner was up before I, and had called up his horse. The pony, for he was nothing else, tried to get up the gang plank, and would have come on board if the guard had not driven him back. I wished I could see them together. I had never seen so much affection shown by a horse, and I felt almost as bad as the captain did to see them kept from each other. I gave him a good washing with soap and water and another greasing with bacon fat. About seven o'clock the Jennie untied and went down the river about a mile, where she stopped for wood. The pony followed, and when the gang plank was run out he again tried to come on board. This was too much for me. I went to the captain and offered him the only five-dollar bill I had in the world to take him on. But it was of no use. He resented my offering him money to disobey orders, and the door against the pony was closed. The last I saw of him he was running off across the country as if a new idea had struck him. But Captain Faulkner was most grateful to me, and I hope if the enemy ever gets hold of me Captain Faulkner will be among them, for he says he would just like a chance to get even with me for what I have done.

Another of the prisoners had been overseer on the plantation where we were taking on wood. His wife, with their little boy, came on board and pleaded for his release on parole. This, together with the pony affair, made the day a miserable one for me. Someway that sort of suffering hit me in a very tender spot. I could have seen the overseer and Captain Faulkner both shot and not have felt as badly as I did to think of that wife and child mourning for their husband and father, and the pony looking for his master, and perhaps falling into the hands of someone who would be cruel to him without ever knowing how near human he is. It is lucky for the government that I am not president, for such things as I have seen and heard to-day would tempt me to pardon Jeff Davis himself. When the wood was on board we started down the river for Alexandria, having done nothing more to earn our pay than to spend a few days as spectators of the stirring times at Grand Ecore. At a bend in the river by a woodyard an old darkey, mounted on an old gray mule, hailed us and said the Rebs were waiting for us in the woods about a mile below. A boat behind us had some guns on her forward deck, and began shelling the woods as soon as they came within reach, and we went past without a shot being fired at us. The river was lower than when we came up, and also narrower, in places not much wider than the length of the boat. At 11 p. m. we reached Alexandria and went to headquarters to report. We found the family all abed and asleep. A whiskey bottle standing on the table relieved us of any embarrassment we might otherwise have felt for calling at so late an hour. We soon had them all out of bed to receive us in a manner more fitting to the occasion. Dr. Warren got mad and used some improper language, for which he was soundly spanked and put to bed again. Thus ended our trip to Natchitoches, a place we never saw.

April 6

April 6, 1866.--The novel by Miss Mulock, "John Halifax, Gentleman," is a bolder book than it seems, for it attacks in the English way the social problem of equality. And the solution reached is that every one may become a gentleman, even though he may be born in the gutter. In its way the story protests against conventional superiorities, and shows that true nobility consists in character, in personal merit, in moral distinction, in elevation of feeling and of language, in dignity of life, and in self-respect. This is better than Jacobinism, and the opposite of the mere brutal passion for equality. Instead of dragging everybody down, the author simply proclaims the right of every one to rise. A man may be born rich and noble--he is not born a gentleman. This word is the Shibboleth of England; it divides her into two halves, and civilized society into two castes. Among gentlemen--courtesy, equality, and politeness; toward those below--contempt, disdain, coldness and indifference. It is the old separation between the ingenui and all others; between the [Greek: eleutheroi] and the [Greek: banauphoi], the continuation of the feudal division between the gentry and the roturiers.

What, then, is a gentleman? Apparently he is the free man, the man who is stronger than things, and believes in personality as superior to all the accessory attributes of fortune, such as rank and power, and as constituting what is essential, real, and intrinsically valuable in the individual. Tell me what you are, and I will tell you what you are worth. "God and my Right;" there is the only motto he believes in. Such an ideal is happily opposed to that vulgar ideal which is equally English, the ideal of wealth, with its formula, "How much is he worth?" In a country where poverty is a crime, it is good to be able to say that a nabob need not as such be a gentleman. The mercantile ideal and the chivalrous ideal counterbalance each other; and if the one produces the ugliness of English society and its brutal side, the other serves as a compensation.

The gentleman, then, is the man who is master of himself, who respects himself, and makes others respect him. The essence of gentlemanliness is self-rule, the sovereignty of the soul. It means a character which possesses itself, a force which governs itself, a liberty which affirms and regulates itself, according to the type of true dignity. Such an ideal is closely akin to the Roman type of dignitas cum auctoritate. It is more moral than intellectual, and is particularly suited to England, which is pre-eminently the country of will. But from self-respect a thousand other things are derived--such as the care of a man's person, of his language, of his manners; watchfulness over his body and over his soul; dominion over his instincts and his passions; the effort to be self-sufficient; the pride which will accept no favor; carefulness not to expose himself to any humiliation or mortification, and to maintain himself independent of any human caprice; the constant protection of his honor and of his self-respect. Such a condition of sovereignty, insomuch as it is only easy to the man who is well-born, well-bred, and rich, was naturally long identified with birth, rank, and above all with property. The idea "gentleman" is, then, derived from feudality; it is, as it were, a milder version of the seigneur.

In order to lay himself open to no reproach, a gentleman will keep himself irreproachable; in order to be treated with consideration, he will always be careful himself to observe distances, to apportion respect, and to observe all the gradations of conventional politeness, according to rank, age, and situation. Hence it follows that he will be imperturbably cautious in the presence of a stranger, whose name and worth are unknown to him, and to whom he might perhaps show too much or too little courtesy. He ignores and avoids him; if he is approached, he turns away, if he is addressed, he answers shortly and with hauteur. His politeness is not human and general, but individual and relative to persons. This is why every Englishman contains two different men--one turned toward the world, and another. The first, the outer man, is a citadel, a cold and angular wall; the other, the inner man, is a sensible, affectionate, cordial, and loving creature. Such a type is only formed in a moral climate full of icicles, where, in the face of an indifferent world, the hearth alone is hospitable.

So that an analysis of the national type of gentlemen reveals to us the nature and the history of the nation, as the fruit reveals the tree.

April 6

April 6, 1851.--Was there ever any one so vulnerable as I? If I were a father how many griefs and vexations, a child might cause me. As a husband I should have a thousand ways of suffering because my happiness demands a thousand conditions I have a heart too easily reached, a too restless imagination; despair is easy to me, and every sensation reverberates again and again within me. What might be, spoils for me what is. What ought to be consumes me with sadness. So the reality, the present, the irreparable, the necessary, repel and even terrify me. I have too much imagination, conscience and penetration, and not enough character. The life of thought alone seems to me to have enough elasticity and immensity, to be free enough from the irreparable; practical life makes me afraid.

And yet, at the same time it attracts me; I have need of it. Family life, especially, in all its delightfulness, in all its moral depth, appeals to me almost like a duty. Sometimes I cannot escape from the ideal of it. A companion of my life, of my work, of my thoughts, of my hopes; within, a common worship, toward the world outside, kindness and beneficence; educations to undertake, the thousand and one moral relations which develop round the first, all these ideas intoxicate me sometimes. But I put them aside because every hope is, as it were, an egg whence a serpent may issue instead of a dove, because every joy missed is a stab; because every seed confided to destiny contains an ear of grief which the future may develop.

I am distrustful of myself and of happiness because I know myself. The ideal poisons for me all imperfect possession. Everything which compromises the future or destroys my inner liberty, which enslaves me to things or obliges me to be other than I could and ought to be, all which injures my idea of the perfect man, hurts me mortally, degrades and wounds me in mind, even beforehand. I abhor useless regrets and repentances. The fatality of the consequences which follow upon every human act, the leading idea of dramatic art and the most tragic element of life, arrests me more certainly than the arm of the Commandeur. I only act with regret, and almost by force.

To be dependent is to me terrible; but to depend upon what is irreparable, arbitrary and unforeseen, and above all to be so dependent by my fault and through my own error, to give up liberty and hope, to slay sleep and happiness, this would be hell!

All that is necessary, providential, in short, unimputable, I could bear, I think, with some strength of mind. But responsibility mortally envenoms grief; and as an act is essentially voluntary, therefore I act as little as possible.

Last outbreak of a rebellious and deceitful self-will, craving for repose for satisfaction, for independence! is there not some relic of selfishness in such a disinterestedness, such a fear, such idle susceptibility.

I wish to fulfill my duty, but where is it, what is it? Here inclination comes in again and interprets the oracle. And the ultimate question is this: Does duty consist in obeying one's nature, even the best and most spiritual? or in conquering it?

Life, is it essentially the education of the mind and intelligence, or that of the will? And does will show itself in strength or in resignation? If the aim of life is to teach us renunciation, then welcome sickness, hindrances, sufferings of every kind! But if its aim is to produce the perfect man, then one must watch over one's integrity of mind and body. To court trial is to tempt God. At bottom, the God of justice veils from me the God of love. I tremble instead of trusting.

Whenever conscience speaks with a divided, uncertain, and disputed voice, it is not yet the voice of God. Descend still deeper into yourself, until you hear nothing but a clear and undivided voice, a voice which does away with doubt and brings with it persuasion, light and serenity. Happy, says the apostle, are they who are at peace with themselves, and whose heart condemneth them not in the part they take. This inner identity, this unity of conviction, is all the more difficult the more the mind analyzes, discriminates, and foresees. It is difficult, indeed, for liberty to return to the frank unity of instinct.

Alas! we must then re-climb a thousand times the peaks already scaled, and reconquer the points of view already won, we must fight the fight ! The human heart, like kings, signs mere truces under a pretence of perpetual peace. The eternal life is eternally to be re-won. Alas, yes! peace itself is a struggle, or rather it is struggle and activity which are the law. We only find rest in effort, as the flame only finds existence in combustion. O Heraclitus! the symbol of happiness is after all the same as that of grief; anxiety and hope, hell and heaven, are equally restless. The altar of Vesta and the sacrifice of Beelzebub burn with the same fire. Ah, yes, there you have life--life double-faced and double-edged. The fire which enlightens is also the fire which consumes; the element of the gods may become that of the accursed.