April 8

Weather warm and pleasant the fore part of the day, but towards night it hazed up; probably will rain to-morrow; had a long and tiresome brigade drill this afternoon that disgusted everybody, and I think a useless one; received my order from the Secretary of War to report to General Silas Casey's board; shall not go till Tuesday.

April 8, 1863

A little excitement to-day. An attempt was made to spike some guns near the negro troops headquarters. A few shots were fired but no one hit, hurt or captured. A letter from my sister, Mrs. Rowley. All well at home. For a change I have a troublesome boil on my leg. The weather is beautiful. Everything is growing—I never saw leaves and flowers come so fast.

April 8, 1864

Friday. While we were up the river the rest of the squad have enlisted over 300 men, and have gone in camp just out of town. Colonel Parker is in command. After breakfast I went to see them. Found Sol shaking yet; cold one day and hot the next. From his looks he has been real badly off. I visited them until noon and then went back to headquarters, where I found a lot of writing had been saved up for me. I wrote till night and then made Sol another visit, after which I came home and went to bed.

April Eighth

“GLORY STANDS BESIDE OUR GRIEF”

Because they fought in perfect faith, believing
The cause they fought for was the just, the true;
And had small hope of glittering gain receiving,
While following, with standard high in view,
Where led their single-hearted, dauntless chief:
Therefore doth Glory stand beside our grief!
Victoria Elizabeth Gittings

 

Louisiana admitted to the Union, 1812

Telegram from Secretary Seward confirming promise (March 15) as to Sumter, 1861

 

 

Thursday, April 8th.—Talking of billets, a General and his Staff are coming to this Château to-morrow and we three have got to turn out, possibly to a house opposite on the same square, which is empty. We live in terror of unknown Powers-that-Be suddenly sending us down. The C.O. and every one here are very keen that we should be as comfortably billeted as possible. He said to-day, "Later on you may get an awful place to live in." Of course we are aiming at becoming quite indispensable! If you can once get your Medical Officers to depend on you for having everything they want at hand, and for making the patients happy and contented, and the orderlies in good order, they soon get to think they can't do without you.

There are two nice tea-shops where all the officers of the 1st and 2nd Divisions go and have tea.

On Saturday morning they sent three hundred shells into Cuinchy, in revenge for their trench blown up (see to-day's Communiqué from Sir J.F.).

168. John Adams

Philadelphia, 8 April, 1777.

Yours of 26th March came by this day's post. I am happy to hear you have received so many letters from me. You need not fear writing in your cautious way, by the post, which is now well regulated. But if your letters should be intercepted, they would do no harm. The F.[167] turns out to be the man that I have seen him to be these two years. He is in total neglect and disgrace here. I am sorry for it, because of the forward part he took in the beginning of the controversy. But there is certainly such a thing as falling away in politics, if there is none in grace.

Lee fares as well as a man in close prison can fare, I suppose, constantly guarded and watched. I fancy Howe will engage that he shall be treated as a prisoner of war, and in that case we shall all be easy. For my own part I don't think the cause depends upon him. I am sorry to see such wild panegyrics in your newspapers. I wish they would consider the wars against idolatry.

11 April.

Congress is now full. Every one of the thirteen States has a representation in it, which has not happened before, a long time. Maryland has taken a step which will soon complete their quota. They have made it lawful for their officers to enlist servants and apprentices.

The fine new frigate, called the Delaware, Captain Alexander, has sailed down the river. I stood upon the wharf to see the fine figure and show she made. They are fitting away the Washington, Captain Reed, with all imaginable dispatch. We have at last finished the system of officers for the hospitals, which will be printed to-morrow. As soon as it is done, I will inclose it to you. A most ample, generous, liberal provision it is. The expense will be great, but humanity overcame avarice.

Footnotes:

[167]The farmer, John Dickinson.

Self-Privacy

Thursday, 8.

"A sweet self-privacy in a right soul

Outruns the earth, and lines the utmost pole."

For a diary, slight arches will suffice to convey the day's freight across; the lighter these, the speedier and more graceful the transit. Any current event, passing thought, rumor, were transportable, if simply dispatched. And the more significant, as the more familiar and private. Life were the less sweet and companionable if cumbered with affairs, overloaded with thought, dizzied with anxieties. Better the quiet temper that takes the days as they pass, and as if an eternity were vouchsafed for completing one's task, the time too short to waste in murmurs or postponements.

"Cares, like eclipses, darken our endeavors;

Our duties are our best gods."

A quiet life furnishes little of incident; dealing with thoughts and things in a meditative manner, it has the less for those who have a more stirring stake in current affairs. Yet one fancies that what interests himself may interest others of like mind, if not of like pursuits; and more especially when, as in a diary, he writes only of what has some real or imagined relation to what concerns him. His record may be careless, inconsequent, like the days it chronicles, with but the slender thread of sleep connecting its leaves; or perhaps the newspaper, once an accident, and coming irregularly, links his evening with morning, morning with evening; newspaper before breakfast, before business, before sleep; daily bread. One almost defines his culture, his social standing, by the journals he takes. Observe the difference between persons and neighborhoods familiar with current newspapers and those who are not. Very different from the times when a country boy must ride his miles after his Saturday's work to get some glimmering of what was passing in the great world around him; before libraries and lectures were established, steam and lightning were carriers and couriers for all mankind. No life is insular now. Every thought resounds throughout the globe. Electricity competes with thought in the race. The telegraph, locomotive, the press, render cabinets and colleges almost superfluous. Travel makes all men countrymen, makes people noblemen and kings, every man tasting of liberty and dominion. And who but the kings themselves can unking themselves?

Still, like most things, our periodical literature is far from being a pure benefit, and one may quote Plato's saying as applicable to the superficial culture which this of itself fosters: "Total ignorance were in no wise a thing so vile and wicked, nor the greatest of evils; but multifarious knowledge and learning acquired under bad management, causes much more harm."

Rather what is thought and spoken in drawing-rooms, clubs, in private assemblies, best intimates the spirit and tendencies of a community. Things are known but at second-hand as represented in public prints, or spoken on platforms. Admitted to private houses, one may report accurately the census of civility, and cast the horoscope of the coming time. Nor do I sympathize with some of my friends in their dislike of reporters. One defends himself from intrusion, as a general rule; but where the public have a generous interest in one's thoughts, his occupations and manners, the discourtesy is rather in withholding these from any false modesty. Besides, the version is more likely to be nearer the truth than if left to chance curiosity, which piques itself all the more on getting what was thus withheld, with any additions the mood favors.

April 8

April 8, 1863.--I have been turning over the 3,500 pages of "Les Misérables," trying to understand the guiding idea of this vast composition. The fundamental idea of "Les Misérables" seems to be this. Society engenders certain frightful evils--prostitution, vagabondage, rogues, thieves, convicts, war, revolutionary clubs and barricades. She ought to impress this fact on her mind, and not treat all those who come in contact with her law as mere monsters. The task before us is to humanize law and opinion, to raise the fallen as well as the vanquished, to create a social redemption. How is this to be done? By enlightening vice and lawlessness, and so diminishing the sum of them, and by bringing to bear upon the guilty the healing influence of pardon. At bottom is it not a Christianization of society, this extension of charity from the sinner to the condemned criminal, this application to our present life of what the church applies more readily to the other? Struggle to restore a human soul to order and to righteousness by patience and by love, instead of crushing it by your inflexible vindictiveness, your savage justice! Such is the cry of the book. It is great and noble, but it is a little optimistic and Rousseau-like. According to it the individual is always innocent and society always responsible, and the ideal before us for the twentieth century is a sort of democratic age of gold, a universal republic from which war, capital punishment, and pauperism will have disappeared. It is the religion and the city of progress; in a word, the Utopia of the eighteenth century revived on a great scale. There is a great deal of generosity in it, mixed with not a little fanciful extravagance. The fancifulness consists chiefly in a superficial notion of evil. The author ignores or pretends to forget the instinct of perversity, the love of evil for evil's sake, which is contained in the human heart.

The great and salutary idea of the book, is that honesty before the law is a cruel hypocrisy, in so far as it arrogates to itself the right of dividing society according to its own standard into elect and reprobates, and thus confounds the relative with the absolute. The leading passage is that in which Javert, thrown off the rails, upsets the whole moral system of the strict Javert, half spy, half priest--of the irreproachable police-officer. In this chapter the writer shows us social charity illuminating and transforming a harsh and unrighteous justice. Suppression of the social hell, that is to say, of all irreparable stains, of all social outlawries for which there is neither end nor hope--it is an essentially religious idea.

The erudition, the talent, the brilliancy of execution, shown in the book are astonishing, bewildering almost. Its faults are to be found in the enormous length allowed to digressions and episodical dissertations, in the exaggeration of all the combinations and all the theses, and, finally, in something strained, spasmodic, and violent in the style, which is very different from the style of natural eloquence or of essential truth. Effect is the misfortune of Victor Hugo, because he makes it the center of his aesthetic system; and hence exaggeration, monotony of emphasis, theatricality of manner, a tendency to force and over-drive. A powerful artist, but one with whom you never forget the artist; and a dangerous model, for the master himself is already grazing the rock of burlesque, and passes from the sublime to the repulsive, from lack of power to produce one harmonious impression of beauty. It is natural enough that he should detest Racine.

But what astonishing philological and literary power has Victor Hugo! He is master of all the dialects contained in our language, dialects of the courts of law, of the stock-exchange, of war, and of the sea, of philosophy and the convict-gang, the dialects of trade and of archaeology, of the antiquarian and the scavenger. All the bric-à-brac of history and of manners, so to speak, all the curiosities of soil, and subsoil, are known and familiar to him. He seems to have turned his Paris over and over, and to know it body and soul as one knows the contents of one's pocket. What a prodigious memory and what a lurid imagination! He is at once a visionary and yet master of his dreams; he summons up and handles at will the hallucinations of opium or of hasheesh, without ever becoming their dupe; he makes of madness one of his tame animals, and bestrides, with equal coolness, Pegasus or Nightmare, the Hippogriff or the Chimera. As a psychological phenomenon he is of the deepest interest. Victor Hugo draws in sulphuric acid, he lights his pictures with electric light. He deafens, blinds, and bewilders his reader rather than he charms or persuades him. Strength carried to such a point as this is a fascination; without seeming to take you captive, it makes you its prisoner; it does not enchant you, but it holds you spellbound. His ideal is the extraordinary, the gigantic, the overwhelming, the incommensurable. His most characteristic words are immense, colossal, enormous, huge, monstrous. He finds a way of making even child-nature extravagant and bizarre. The only thing which seems impossible to him is to be natural. In short, his passion is grandeur, his fault is excess; his distinguishing mark is a kind of Titanic power with strange dissonances of puerility in its magnificence. Where he is weakest is, in measure, taste, and sense of humor: he fails in esprit, in the subtlest sense of the word. Victor Hugo is a gallicized Spaniard, or rather he unites all the extremes of south and north, the Scandinavian and the African. Gaul has less part in him than any other country. And yet, by a caprice of destiny, he is one of the literary geniuses of France in the nineteenth century! His resources are inexhaustible, and age seems to have no power over him. What an infinite store of words, forms, and ideas he carries about with him, and what a pile of works he has left behind him to mark his passage! His eruptions are like those of a volcano; and, fabulous workman that he is, he goes on forever raising, destroying, crushing, and rebuilding a world of his own creation, and a world rather Hindoo than Hellenic.

He amazes me: and yet I prefer those men of genius who awaken in me the sense of truth, and who increase the sum of one's inner liberty. In Hugo one feels the effort of the laboring Cyclops; give me rather the sonorous bow of Apollo, and the tranquil brow of the Olympian Jove. His type is that of the Satyr in the "Légende des Siècles," who crushes Olympus, a type midway between the ugliness of the faun and the overpowering sublimity of the great Pan.

April 8, 1917

The sun shines, and my heart is high. This is a great day. The Stars and Stripes ace flying at my gate, and they are flying over all France. What is more they will soon be flying—if they are not already—over Westminster, for the first time in history. The mighty, unruly child, who never could quite forgive the parent it defied, and never has been wholly pardoned, is to come back to the family table, if only long enough to settle the future manners of the nations about the board, put in, I suppose, a few "don'ts," like "don't grab"; "don't take a bigger mouthful than you can becomingly chew"; "don't jab your knife into your neighbor—it is not for that purpose"; "don't eat out of your neighbor's plate—you have one of your own,"—in fact "Thou shalt not— even though thou art a Kaiser—take the name of the Lord thy God in vain"; "thou shalt not steal"; "thou shalt not kill"; "thou shalt not covet," and so on. Trite, I know, but in thousands of years we have not improved on it.

So the Stars and Stripes are flying over France to greet the long delayed and ardently awaited, long ago inevitable declaration which puts the States shoulder to shoulder with the other great nations in the Defence of the Rights of Man, the Sacredness of Property, the Honor of Humanity, and the news has been received with such enthusiasm as has not been seen in France since war broke over it. Judging by the cables the same enthusiasm which has set the air throbbing here is mounting to the skies on your side of the ocean. We are a strangely lucky nation—we are the first to go into the great fight to the shouts of the populace; to be received like a star performer, with "thunders of applause."

Well—

"God's in his heaven, All's right with the world."—and—we are no longer in the war zone. As soon as a few formalities are filled, and I can get a carte d'identité, I shall be once more free to circulate. After sixteen months of a situation but one step removed from being interned, it will be good to be able to move about—even if I don't want to.

To give you some idea how the men at the front welcome the news, here is a letter which has just come,—written before Congress had voted, but when everyone was sure of the final decision.

At the Front, April 4, 1917
Dear Madame:

It has been a long time since I sent you my news. The neglect has not been my fault, but due to the exceptional circumstances of the war.

At last we have advanced, and this time as real cavalry. We have had the satisfaction of pursuing the Boches—keeping on their flying heels until we drove them into St. Quentin. From the 18th to the 28th of March the war became once more a battle in the open, which was a great relief to the soldiers and permitted them to once more demonstrate their real military qualities. I lived through a dozen days filled to overflowing with emotions—sorrow, joy, enthusiasm. At last I have really known what war is—with all its misery and all its beauty. What joy it was for us of the cavalry to pass over the trenches and fly across the plains in the pursuit of the Germans! The first few days everything went off wonderfully. The Boches fled before us, not daring to turn and face us. But our advance was so rapid, our impetuosity such, that, long before they expected us, we overtook the main body of the enemy. They were visibly amazed at being caught before they could cross the canal at St. Quentin, as was their plan, and they were obliged to turn and attempt to check our advance, in order to gain sufficient time to permit their artillery to cross the canal and escape complete disaster.

It was there that we fought, forcing them across the canal to entrench themselves hastily in unprepared positions, from which, at the hour I write, our wonderful infantry and our heavy artillery, in collaboration with the British, are dislodging them.

Alas! The battles were costly, and many of our comrades paid with their lives for our audacious advance. Be sure that we avenged them, and cruel as are our losses they were not in vain. They are more than compensated by the results of the sacrifice—the strip of our native soil snatched from the enemy. They died like heroes, and for a noble cause.

Since then we have been resting, but waiting impatiently to advance and pursue them again, until we can finally push them over their own frontier.

Today's paper brings us great and comforting news. At last, dear madame! At last your marvellous country is going to march beside us in this terrible war. With a full heart I present to you my heartiest congratulations. At last Wilson understands, and the American people—so noble, and always so generous—will no longer hesitate to support us with all their resources. How wonderfully this is going to aid us to obtain the decisive victory we must have, and perhaps to shorten the war.

Here, in the army, the joy is tremendous at the idea that we have behind us the support of a nation so great, and all our admiration, all our gratitude goes out to your compatriots, to the citizens of the great Republic, which is going to enter voluntarily into this Holy War, and so bravely expose itself to its known horrors.

Bravo! et vivent les Etats-Unis!

My greetings to Amélie and Papa: a caress for Khaki and Didine, and a pat for Dick.

Receive, madame, the assurance of my most respectful homage.

I am feeling today as if it were no matter that the winter had been so hard; that we have no fuel but twigs; that the winter wheat was frozen; that we have eaten part of our seed potatoes and that another part of them was frost-bitten; that butter is a dollar a pound (and none to be had, even at that price, for days at a time); that wood alcohol is sixty- five cents a litre, and so on and so forth. I even feel that it is not important that this war came, since it could not be escaped, and that what alone is important is—that the major part of the peoples of the world are standing upright on their feet, lifting their arms with a great shout for Liberty, Justice, and Honor; that a war of brute force for conquest has defeated itself, and set free those who were to have been its victims. It is not, I know, today or tomorrow that it will all end; it is not next year, or in many years, that poor Poland's three mutilated parts can be joined and healed into harmony; and oh! how long it is going to be before all the sorrow and hatred that Germany has brought on the world can be either comforted or forgotten! But at least we are sure now of the course the treatment is going to take—so the sun shines and my heart is high, and I do believe that though joy may lead nowhere, sorrow is never in vain.