August 18

The enemy followed us and overtook our rear guard at Winchester where Generals Torbert and Wilson and the New Jersey brigade of the Sixth Corps had a sharp little fight last night losing it's said, one hundred and eighty in killed, wounded and prisoners. We were aroused to form line of battle this morning at 4 o'clock. We got breakfast and marched about 6 o'clock a. m. It rained constantly all forenoon and was lowering this afternoon; dined at Clifton farm; marched to Charlestown and bivouacked at 9 o'clock p. m. We have got to make three days' rations last five.

August Eighteenth

Like a mist of the sea at morn it comes,
Gliding among the fisher-homes—
The vision of a woman fair;
And every eye beholds her there
Above the topmost dune,
With fluttering robe and streaming hair,
Seaward gazing in dumb despair,
Like one who begs of the waves a boon.
Benjamin Sledd
(The Wraith of Roanoke )

 

Virginia Dare, the first child born in America of English parentage, 1587

 

 

August 18, 1863

Tuesday. It doesn't rain yet, but it looks as if it would every minute. The mud here is as slippery as grease. There is hardly a man among us that has not wiped up one or more places with his clothes. Never mind, we have plenty of water and plenty of time to wash up. A box that was sent Major Bostwick last June has just reached camp. It had found the major finally, and after taking out what was for him, he sent it to the regiment, for several were remembered in it. I had four pairs of socks, a shirt, a watch cord, some dried peaches and some preserved cherries. Also some paper and envelopes. Bless their hearts, how good they are to bother so much about us! I looked long at my bundle, and thought of the dear hands that had so carefully wrapped it up. I wish they could know how much I appreciate the gift, and how much more I appreciate the givers.

9 p. m. Something is up. Companies C and H have been called out and the others have orders to be ready at a moment's notice, but to avoid all confusion and noise.

Tuesday, 8 p.m., August 18th.—Orders just gone round that there are to be no lights after dark, so I am hasting to write this.

We had a great send-off in Sackville Street in our motor-bus, and went on board about 2 p.m. From then till 7 we watched the embarkation going on, on our own ship and another. We have a lot of R.E. and R.F.A. and A.S.C., and a great many horses and pontoons and ambulance waggons: the horses were very difficult to embark, poor dears. It was an exciting scene all the time. I don't remember anything quite so thrilling as our start off from Ireland. All the 600 khaki men on board, and every one on every other ship, and all the crowds on the quay, and in boats and on lighthouses, waved and yelled. Then we and the officers and the men, severally, had the King's proclamation read out to us about doing our duty for our country, and God blessing us, and how the King is following our every movement.

We are now going to snatch up a very scratch supper and turn in, only rugs and blankets.

131. John Adams

18 August, 1776.

My letters to you are an odd mixture. They would appear to a stranger like the dish which is sometimes called omnium gatherum. This is the first time, I believe, that these two words were ever put together in writing. The literal interpretation I take to be "a collection of all things." But, as I said before, the words having never before been written, it is not possible to be very learned in telling you what the Arabic, Syriac, Chaldaic, Greek, and Roman commentators say upon the subject. Amidst all the rubbish that constitutes the heap, you will see a proportion of affection for my friends, my family, and country, that gives a complexion to the whole. I have a very tender, feeling heart. This country knows not, and never can know, the torments I have endured for its sake. I am glad it never can know, for it would give more pain to the benevolent and humane than I could wish even the wicked and malicious to feel.

I have seen in this world but a little of that pure flame of patriotism which certainly burns in some breasts. There is much of the ostentation and affectation of it. I have known a few who could not bear to entertain a selfish design, nor to be suspected by others of such a meanness; but these are not the most respected by the world. A man must be selfish, even to acquire great popularity. He must grasp for himself, under specious pretenses for the public good, and he must attach himself to his relations, connections, and friends, by becoming a champion for their interests, in order to form a phalanx about him for his own defense, to make them trumpeters of his praise, and sticklers for his fame, fortune, and honor.

My friend Warren, the late Governor Ward, and Mr. Gadsden are three characters in which I have seen the most generous disdain of every spice and species of such meanness. The two last had not great abilities; but they had pure hearts. Yet they had less influence than many others, who had neither so considerable parts nor any share at all of their purity of intention. Warren has both talents and virtues beyond most men in this world, yet his character has never been in proportion. Thus it always is and has been and will be. Nothing has ever given me more mortification than a suspicion that has been propagated of me, that I am actuated by private views and have been aiming at high places. The office of Chief Justice has occasioned this jealousy, and it never will be allayed until I resign it. Let me have my farm, family, and goosequill, and all the honors and offices this world has to bestow may go to those who deserve them better and desire them more. I court them not. There are very few people in this world with whom I can bear to converse. I can treat all with decency and civility, and converse with them, when it is necessary, on points of business. But I am never happy in their company. This has made me a recluse and will one day make me a hermit. I had rather build stone wall upon Penn's hill, than to be the first Prince in Europe, or the first General or first Senator in America.

Our expectations are very high of some great affair at New York.

August 18

August 18, 1873. (Scheveningen ).--Yesterday, Sunday, the landscape was clear and distinct, the air bracing, the sea bright and gleaming, and of an ashy-blue color. There were beautiful effects of beach, sea, and distance; and dazzling tracks of gold upon the waves, after the sun had sunk below the bands of vapor drawn across the middle sky, and before it had disappeared in the mists of the sea horizon. The place was very full. All Scheveningen and the Hague, the village and the capital, had streamed out on to the terrace, amusing themselves at innumerable tables, and swamping the strangers and the bathers. The orchestra played some Wagner, some Auber, and some waltzes. What was all the world doing? Simply enjoying life.

A thousand thoughts wandered through my brain. I thought how much history it had taken to make what I saw possible; Judaea, Egypt, Greece, Germany, Gaul; all the centuries from Moses to Napoleon, and all the zones from Batavia to Guiana, had united in the formation of this gathering. The industry, the science, the art, the geography, the commerce, the religion of the whole human race, are repeated in every human combination; and what we see before our own eyes at any given moment is inexplicable without reference to all that has ever been. This interlacing of the ten thousand threads which necessity weaves into the production of one single phenomenon is a stupefying thought. One feels one's self in the presence of law itself--allowed a glimpse of the mysterious workshop of nature. The ephemeral perceives the eternal.

What matters the brevity of the individual span, seeing that the generations, the centuries, and the worlds themselves are but occupied forever with the ceaseless reproduction of the hymn of life, in all the hundred thousand modes and variations which make up the universal symphony? The motive is always the same; the monad has but one law: all truths are but the variation of one single truth. The universe represents the infinite wealth of the Spirit seeking in vain to exhaust all possibilities, and the goodness of the Creator, who would fain share with the created all that sleeps within the limbo of Omnipotence.

To contemplate and adore, to receive and give back, to have uttered one's note and moved one's grain of sand, is all which is expected from such insects as we are; it is enough to give motive and meaning to our fugitive apparition in existence....

After the concert was over the paved esplanade behind the hotels and the two roads leading to the Hague were alive with people. One might have fancied one's self upon one of the great Parisian boulevards just when the theaters are emptying themselves--there were so many carriages, omnibuses, and cabs. Then, when the human tumult had disappeared, the peace of the starry heaven shone out resplendent, and the dreamy glimmer of the Milky Way was only answered by the distant murmur of the ocean.

Later.--What is it which has always come between real life and me? What glass screen has, as it were, interposed itself between me and the enjoyment, the possession, the contact of things, leaving me only the role of the looker-on?

False shame, no doubt. I have been ashamed to desire. Fatal result of timidity, aggravated by intellectual delusion! This renunciation beforehand of all natural ambitions, this systematic putting aside of all longings and all desires, has perhaps been false in idea; it has been too like a foolish, self-inflicted mutilation. Fear, too, has had a large share in it--

"La peur de ce que j'aime est ma fatalité."

I very soon discovered that it was simpler for me to give up a wish than to satisfy it. Not being able to obtain all that my nature longed for, I renounced the whole en bloc, without even taking the trouble to determine in detail what might have attracted me; for what was the good of stirring up trouble in one's self and evoking images of inaccessible treasure?

Thus I anticipated in spirit all possible disillusions, in the true stoical fashion. Only, with singular lack of logic, I have sometimes allowed regret to overtake me, and I have looked at conduct founded upon exceptional principles with the eyes of the ordinary man. I should have been ascetic to the end; contemplation ought to have been enough for me, especially now, when the hair begins to whiten. But, after all, I am a man, and not a theorem. A system cannot suffer, but I suffer. Logic makes only one demand--that of consequence; but life makes a thousand; the body wants health, the imagination cries out for beauty, and the heart for love; pride asks for consideration, the soul yearns for peace, the conscience for holiness; our whole being is athirst for happiness and for perfection; and we, tottering, mutilated, and incomplete, cannot always feign philosophic insensibility; we stretch out our arms toward life, and we say to it under our breath, "Why--why--hast thou deceived me?"