August 19

Arose at a late hour this morning, but not in the best of spirits; have been in camp all day; haven't made preparations to stay long; don't now-a-days; can't tell what we are to do; rained early, but broke away by noon; have been quite indisposed since 3 o'clock p. m.; fear I'm going to be ill; got a letter from Pert this evening; first mail received in a week; all's quiet on the line to-night.

August 19, 1863

Wednesday. Nothing new. C and H have not reported yet and we are as much in the dark as ever about their errand. There has been some talk of a shift about among the non-coms. in the regiment and now it has come. I am still in the commissary department. The new order of things, "company savings," it is called, will give me more to do, and for this I am thankful.

August Nineteenth

... Hast thou perchance repented, Saracen Sun?
Wilt warm the world with peace and love-desire?
Or wilt thou, ere this very day be done,
Blaze Saladin still, with unforgiving fire?
Sidney Lanier
(A Sunrise Song )

 

 

Wednesday, August 19th.—We are having a lovely calm and sunny voyage—slowed down in the night for a fog. I had a berth by an open port-hole, and though rather cold with one blanket and a rug (dressing-gown in my trunk), enjoyed it very much—cold sea bath in the morning. We live on oatmeal biscuits and potted meat, with chocolate and tea and soup squares, some bread and butter sometimes, and cocoa at bed-time.

There is a routine by bugle-call on troopships, with a guard, police, and fatigues. The Tommies sleep on bales of forage in the after well-deck and all over the place. We have one end of the 1st class cabin forrard, and the officers have the 2nd class aft for sleeping and meals, but there is a sociable blend on deck all day. Two medical officers here were both in South Africa at No. 7 when I was (Captains in those days), and we have had great cracks on old times and all the people we knew. One is commanding a Field Ambulance and goes with the fighting line. There are 200 men for Field Ambulances on board. They don't carry Sisters, worse luck, only Padres.

We had an impromptu service on deck this afternoon; I played the hymns,—never been on a voyage yet without being let in for that. It was run by the three C. of E. Padres and the Wesleyan hand in hand: the latter has been in the Nile Expedition of '98 and all through South Africa. We had Mission Hymns roared by the Tommies, and then a C. of E. Padre gave a short address—quite good. The Wesleyan did an extempore prayer, rather well, and a very nice huge C. of E. man gave the Blessing. Now they are having a Tommies' concert—a talented boy at the piano.

At midday we passed a French cruiser, going the opposite way. They waved and yelled, and we waved and yelled. We are out of sight of English or French coast now. I believe we are to be in early to-morrow morning, and will have a long train journey probably, but nobody knows anything for certain except where we land—Havre.

It seems so long since we heard anything about the war, but it is only since yesterday morning. (The concert is rather distracting, and the wind is getting up—one of the Tommies has an angelic black puppy on his lap, with a red cross on its collar, and there is a black cat about.)

197. John Adams

Philadelphia, Tuesday, 19 August, 1777.

The weather still continues cloudy and cool, and the wind easterly. Howe's fleet and army is still incognito. The gentlemen from South Carolina begin to tremble for Charleston. If Howe is under a judicial blindness, he may be gone there. But what will be the fate of a scorbutic army, cooped up in a fleet for six, seven, or eight weeks, in such intemperate weather as we have had? What will be their condition, landing on a burning shore abounding with agues and mosquitoes, in the most unwholesome season of the whole year? If he should get Charleston, or indeed the whole State, what progress will this make towards the conquest of America? He will stop the trade of rice and indigo, but what then? Besides, he will get some ugly knocks. They are honest, sincere, and brave, and will make his life uncomfortable.

I feel a strong affection for South Carolina for several reasons. 1. I think them as stanch patriots as any in America. 2. I think them as brave. 3. They are the only people in America who have maintained a post and defended a fort. 4. They have sent us a new delegate whom I greatly admire, Mr. Laurens, their Lieutenant-governor, a gentleman of great fortune, great abilities, modesty and integrity, and great experience too. If all the States would send us such men, it would be a pleasure to be here.

In the northern department they begin to fight. The family of Johnson, the black part of it as well as the white, are pretty well thinned. Rascals! They deserve extermination. I presume Gates will be so supported that Burgoyne will be obliged to retreat. He will stop at Ticonderoga, I suppose, for they can maintain posts although we cannot. I think we shall never defend a post until we shoot a General. After that we shall defend posts, and this event, in my opinion, is not far off. No other fort will ever be evacuated without an inquiry, nor any officer come off without a court martial. We must trifle no more. We have suffered too many disgraces to pass unexpiated. Every disgrace must be wiped off.

We have been several days hammering upon money. We are contriving every way we can to redress the evils we feel and fear from too great a quantity of paper. Taxation as deep as possible is the only radical cure. I hope you will pay every tax that is brought you, if you sell my books or clothes or oxen, or your cows, to pay it.

196. John Adams

Philadelphia, Tuesday, 19 August, 1777.

Your obliging favor of the 5th [178] came by yesterday's post, and I intended to have answered it by this morning's post, but was delayed by many matters, until he gave me the slip.

I am sorry that you and the people of Boston were put to so much trouble, but glad to hear that such numbers determined to fly. The prices for carting which were demanded were detestable. I wish your fatigue and anxiety may not have injured your health. Don't be anxious for my safety. If Howe comes here, I shall run away, I suppose, with the rest. We are too brittle ware, you know, to stand the dashing of balls and bombs. I wonder upon what principle the Roman senators refused to fly from the Gauls, and determined to sit with their ivory staves and hoary beards in the porticoes of their houses, until the enemy entered the city and, although they confessed they resembled the gods, put them to the sword. I should not choose to indulge this sort of dignity; but I confess I feel myself so much injured by these barbarian Britons that I have a strong inclination to meet them in the field. This is not revenge, I believe, but there is something sweet and delicious in the contemplation of it. There is in our hearts an indignation against wrong that is righteous and benevolent; and he who is destitute of it is defective in the balance of his affections and in his moral character.

As long as there is conscience in our breasts, a moral sense which distinguishes between right and wrong, approving, esteeming, loving the former, and undermining and detesting the other, we must feel a pleasure in the punishment of so eminent a contemner of all that is right and good and just, as Howe is. They are virtuous and pious passions that prompt us to desire his destruction, and to lament and deplore his success and prosperity. The desire of assisting towards his disgrace is an honest wish.

It is too late in life, my constitution is too much debilitated by speculation, and indeed it is too late a period in the war, for me tothink of girding on a sword. But if I had the last four years to run over again, I certainly would.

Footnotes:

[178]No. 193.

August 19

August 19,1873. (Scheveningen ).--I have had a morning walk. It has been raining in the night. There are large clouds all round; the sea, veined with green and drab, has put on the serious air of labor. She is about her business, in no threatening but at the same time in no lingering mood. She is making her clouds, heaping up her sands, visiting her shores and bathing them with foam, gathering up her floods for the tide, carrying the ships to their destinations, and feeding the universal life. I found in a hidden nook a sheet of fine sand which the water had furrowed and folded like the pink palate of a kitten's mouth, or like a dappled sky. Everything repeats itself by analogy, and each little fraction of the earth reproduces in a smaller and individual form all the phenomena of the planet. Farther on I came across a bank of crumbling shells, and it was borne in upon me that the sea-sand itself might well be only the detritus of the organic life of preceding eras, a vast monument or pyramid of immemorial age, built up by countless generations of molluscs who have labored at the architecture of the shores like good workmen of God. If the dunes and the mountains are the dust of living creatures who have preceded us, how can we doubt but that our death will be as serviceable as our life, and that nothing which has been lent is lost? Mutual borrowing and temporary service seem to be the law of existence. Only, the strong prey upon and devour the weak, and the concrete inequality of lots within the abstract equality of destinies wounds and disquiets the sense of justice.

Same day.--A new spirit governs and inspires the generation which will succeed me. It is a singular sensation to feel the grass growing under one's feet, to see one's self intellectually uprooted. One must address one's contemporaries. Younger men will not listen to you. Thought, like love, will not tolerate a gray hair. Knowledge herself loves the young, as Fortune used to do in olden days. Contemporary civilization does not know what to do with old age; in proportion as it defies physical experiment, it despises moral experience. One sees therein the triumph of Darwinism; it is a state of war, and war must have young soldiers; it can only put up with age in its leaders when they have the strength and the mettle of veterans.

In point of fact, one must either be strong or disappear, either constantly rejuvenate one's self or perish. It is as though the humanity of our day had, like the migratory birds, an immense voyage to make across space; she can no longer support the weak or help on the laggards. The great assault upon the future makes her hard and pitiless to all who fall by the way. Her motto is, "The devil take the hindmost."

The worship of strength has never lacked altars, but it looks as though the more we talk of justice and humanity, the more that other god sees his kingdom widen.

13. Abigail Adams

Braintree, 19 August, 1774.

The great distance between us makes the time appear very long to me. It seems already a month since you left me. The great anxiety I feel for my country, for you, and for our family renders the day tedious and the night unpleasant. The rocks and quicksands appear upon every side. What course you can or will take is all wrapped in the bosom of futurity. Uncertainty and expectation leave the mind great scope. Did ever any kingdom or state regain its liberty, when once it was invaded, without bloodshed? I cannot think of it without horror. Yet we are told that all the misfortunes of Sparta were occasioned by their too great solicitude for present tranquillity, and, from an excessive love of peace, they neglected the means of making it sure and lasting. They ought to have reflected, says Polybius, that, "as there is nothing more desirable or advantageous than peace, when founded in justice and honor, so there is nothing more shameful, and at the same time more pernicious, when attained by bad measures and purchased at the price of liberty." I have received a most charming letter from our friend Mrs. Warren.[36] She desires me to tell you that her best wishes attend you through your journey, both as a friend and a patriot,—hopes you will have no uncommon difficulties to surmount, or hostile movements to impede you, but, if the Locrians should interrupt you, she hopes that you will beware, that no future annals may say you chose an ambitious Philip for your leader, who subverted the noble order of the American Amphictyons, and built up a monarchy on the ruins of the happy institution.

I have taken a very great fondness for reading Rollin's Ancient History since you left me. I am determined to go through with it, if possible, in these my days of solitude.

I find great pleasure and entertainment from it, and I have persuaded Johnny to read me a page or two every day, and hope he will, from his desire to oblige me, entertain a fondness for it. We have had a charming rain, which lasted twelve hours and has greatly revived the dying fruits of the earth.

I want much to hear from you. I long impatiently to have you upon the stage of action. The first of September, or the month of September, perhaps, may be of as much importance to Great Britain as the Ides of March were to Cæsar. I wish you every public as well as private blessing, and that wisdom which is profitable both for instruction and edification, to conduct you in this difficult day. The little flock remember papa, and kindly wish to see him; so does your most affectionate

Abigail Adams.

Footnotes:

[36]Mercy Warren, the sister of James Otis, and the wife of James Warren, of Plymouth; the author of the little satire called The Group , and of a History of the Revolutionary War. Few of her sex took a more active interest in the struggle of the Revolution.

Crabbe Robinson's Diary

Thursday, 19.

Crabbe Robinson's Diary is interesting; all he tells us of Landor, Wordsworth, Coleridge, is especially so. The book gives, perhaps, the best personal and literary picture of the times in which he lived. Few men had a wider circle of literary acquaintances than the author. His book is a real addition to contemporary literature, and shows the value of the Diary for preserving in an attractive form what would otherwise have been lost to the world. Robinson is no Boswell; he knew what to omit, what to commit to writing, gave fair transcripts of what he saw, without prepossession or prejudice.

Coleridge

What Robinson tells of Coleridge is especially noticeable.

"I used," he says, "to compare him as a disputant to a serpent,—easy to kill if you assume the offensive; but if you attack him, his bite is mortal. Some time after writing this, when I saw Madame De Stael, in London, I asked her what she thought of him. She replied, 'He is very great in monologue, but he has no idea of dialogue.'"

Perhaps not. Yet with his equal, he would not have been found wanting in this respect. Less English than German in genius, he would have been on terms of equality with thinkers of all times. But for his introduction of German ideas into English literature, we had waited a generation or more. He comprehended and interpreted the ideas and methods of its great thinkers. Better than most, he fulfilled Plato's canon, that "only the gods discriminate and define." I find him the most stimulating of modern British thinkers. He had wider sympathies with pure thought, and cast more piercing glances into its essence and laws than any contemporary.

I must repeat my sense of obligation to him for the quickening influence which the perusal of his pages always awakens, at every paragraph making me his debtor for a thought, an image, which it were worth while to have lived for, so stimulating is his phrase to imagination and reason alike; scarcely less to understanding and memory. If his mysticism tinge his speculations with its shifting hues, and one threads the labyrinth into which he conducts with wonder and amazement, he yet surrenders unreservedly to his guide, sure of coming to the light, with memorable experiences to reward him for the adventure.

His appreciation of the Greek, as of the Teutonic genius, is the more remarkable when we consider how rarely his countrymen have comprehended foreign ideas; and that Shakespeare even found in him his first interpreter.

In his Literary Remains, we find these remarkable notes on the Greek drama:—

"It is truly singular that Plato—whose philosophy and religion were both exotic at home, and a mere opposition to the finite in all things, genuine prophet and anticipator of the protestant era—should have given in his dialogue of the Banquet a justification of our Shakespeare. For he relates that, when all the other guests had either dispersed or fallen asleep, Socrates only, together with Aristophanes and Agathon, remained awake; and that, while he continued to drink with them out of a large goblet, he compelled them, though most reluctantly, to admit that it was the business of one and the same genius to excel in tragic and comic poetry; or, that the tragic poet ought, at the same time, to contain within himself the powers of comedy. Now, as this was certainly repugnant to the entire theory of the ancient critics, and contrary to all their experience, it is evident that Plato must have fixed the eye of his contemplation on the innermost essentials of the drama, abstracted from conditions of age and country. In another passage he even adds the reason, namely: that opposites illustrate each other's nature, and in their struggle draw forth the strength of the combatants, and display the conquered as sovereign even in the territories of the rival power."

Again: "The tragic poet idealizes his characters by giving to the spiritual part of our nature a more decided preponderance over animal cravings and impulses than is met with in real life; the comic poet idealizes his characters by making the animal the governing power, and the intellectual the mere instrument. But as tragedy is not a collection of virtues and perfections, but takes care only that the vices and imperfections shall spring from the passions, errors, and prejudices which arise of the soul; so neither is comedy a mere crowd of vices and follies, but whatever qualities it represents, even though they are in a certain sense amiable, it still displays them as having their origin in some dependence on our lower nature, accompanied with a defect in true freedom of spirit and self-subsistence, and subject to that unconnection by contradiction of inward being, to which all folly is owing."

Coleridge, while writing this masterly analysis of the seats of the tragic and comic in man's inner being, and with the text of Plato and of Shakespeare before him, must have been contemplating the springs of his own defects, the strength twinned with his weaknesses, which ever made him the helpless demigod he was; aspiring ever, yet drawn downward by the leash of his frailties, as tragic a character as any that Shakespeare himself has drawn.

August 19, 1862

HUDSON  Camp Grounds. I have enlisted! Joined the Army of Uncle Sam for three years, or the war, whichever may end first. Thirteen dollars per month, board, clothes and traveling expenses thrown in. That's on the part of my Uncle. For my part, I am to do, I hardly know what, but in a general way understand I am to kill or capture such part of the Rebel Army as comes in my way.

I wonder what sort of a soldier I will make; to be honest about it, I don't feel much of that eagerness for the fray I am hearing so much of about me.

It seems to me it is a serious sort of business I have engaged in. I was a long time making up my mind about it. This one could go, and that one, and they ought to, but with me, some way it was different. There was so much I had planned to do, and to be. I was needed at home, etc., etc. So I would settle the question for a time, only to have it come up to be reasoned away again, and each time my reasons for not taking my part in the job seemed less reasonable. Finally I did the only thing I could respect myself for doing,—went to Millerton, the nearest recruiting station, and enlisted.

I then threw down my unfinished castles, went around and bid my friends good-bye, and had a general settling up of my affairs, which, by the way, took but little time. But I never before knew I had so many friends. Everyone seemed to be my friend. A few spoke encouragingly, but the most of them spoke and acted about as I would expect them to, if I were on my way to the gallows. Pity was so plainly shown that when I had gone the rounds, and reached home again, I felt as if I had been attending my own funeral. Poor old father and mother! They had expected it, but now that it had come they felt it, and though they tried hard, they could not hide from me that they felt it might be the last they would see of their baby.

Then came the leaving it all behind. I cannot describe that. The good-byes and the good wishes ring in my ears yet. I am not myself. I am some other person. My surroundings are new, the sights and sounds about me are new, my aims and ambitions are new;—that is if I have any. I seem to have reached the end. I can look backwards, but when I try to look ahead it is all a blank. Right here let me say, God bless the man who wrote "Robert Dawson," and God bless the man who gave me the book. "Only a few drops at a time, Robert." The days are made of minutes, and I am only sure of the one I am now living in. Take good care of that and cross no bridges until you come to them.

I have promised to keep a diary, and I am doing it. I have also promised that it should be a truthful account of what I saw and what I did. I have crawled off by myself and have been scribbling away for some time, and upon reading what I have written I find it reads as if I was the only one. But I am not. There are hundreds and perhaps thousands here, and I suppose all could, if they cared to, write just such an experience as I have. But no one else seems foolish enough to do it. I will let this stand as a preface to my diary, and go on to say that we, the first installment of recruits from our neighborhood, gathered at Amenia, where we had a farewell dinner, and a final handshake, after which we boarded the train and were soon at Ghent, where we changed from the Harlem to the Hudson & Berkshire R. R., which landed us opposite the gates of the Hudson Fair Grounds, about 4 p. m. on the 14th. We were made to form in line and were then marched inside, where we found a lot of rough board shanties, such as are usually seen on country fair grounds, and which are now used as offices, and are full of bustle and confusion. After a wash-up, we were taken to a building which proved to be a kitchen and dining room combined. Long pine tables, with benches on each side, filled the greater part of it, and at these we took seats and were served with good bread and fair coffee, our first meal at Uncle Sam's table, and at his expense. After supper we scattered, and the Amenia crowd brought up at the Miller House in Hudson. We took in some of the sights of the city and then put up for the night.

The next morning we had breakfast and then reported at the camp grounds ready for the next move, whatever that might be. We found crowds of people there, men, women and children, which were fathers and mothers, wives and sweethearts, brothers and sisters of the men who have enlisted from all over Dutchess and Columbia counties. Squads of men were marching on the race track, trying to keep step with an officer who kept calling out "Left, Left, Left," as his left foot hit the ground, from which I judged he meant everyone else should put his left foot down with his. We found these men had gone a step further than we. They had been examined and accepted, but just what that meant none of us exactly knew. We soon found out, however. Every few minutes a chap came out from a certain building and read from a book, in a loud voice, the names of two men. These would follow him in, be gone a little while and come out, when the same performance would be repeated. My name and that of Peter Carlo, of Poughkeepsie, were called together, and in we went. We found ourselves in a large room with the medical examiner and his clerks. His salutation, as we entered, consisted of the single word, "Strip." We stripped and were examined just as a horseman examines a horse he is buying. He looked at our teeth and felt all over us for any evidence of unsoundness there might be. Then we were put through a sort of gymnastic performance, and told to put on our clothes. We were then weighed and measured, the color of our eyes and hair noted, also our complexion, after which another man came and made us swear to a lot of things, most of which I have forgotten already. But as it was nothing more than I expected to do without swearing I suppose it makes no difference.

The rest of the day we visited around, getting acquainted and meeting many I had long been acquainted with. In the afternoon the camp ground was full of people, and as night began to come, and they began to go, the good-byes were many and sad enough. I am glad my folks know enough to stay away. That was our first night in camp. After we came from the medical man, we were no longer citizens, but just soldiers. We could not go down town as we did the night before. This was Saturday night, August 17th. We slept but little,—at least I did not. A dozen of us had a small room, a box stall, in one of the stables, just big enough to lie down in. The floor looked like pine, but it was hard, and I shall never again call pine a soft wood, at least to lie on. If one did fall asleep he was promptly awakened by some one who had not, and by passing this around, such a racket was kept up that sleep was out of the question. I for one was glad the drummer made a mistake and routed us out at five o'clock instead of six, as his orders were. We shivered around until roll call and then had breakfast. We visited together until dinner. Beef and potatoes, bread and coffee, and plenty of it. Some find fault and some say nothing, but I notice that each gets away with all that's set before him. In the afternoon we had preaching out of doors, for no building on the grounds would hold us. A Rev. Mr. Parker preached, a good straight talk, no big words or bluster, but a plain man-to-man talk on a subject that should concern us now, if it never did before. I for one made some mighty good resolutions, then and there. Every regiment has a chaplain, I am told, and I wish ours could be this same Mr. Parker. The meeting had a quieting effect on all hands. There was less swearing and less noise and confusion that afternoon than at any time before. After supper the question of bettering our sleeping accommodations came up, and in spite of the good resolutions above recorded I helped steal some hay to sleep on. We made up our minds that if our judge was as sore as we were he would not be hard on us. We spread the hay evenly over the floor and lay snug and warm, sleeping sound until Monday morning, the 18th.

The mill of the medical man kept on grinding and batches of men were sworn in every little while. Guards were placed at the gates, to keep us from going down town. I was one of the guards, but was called off to sign a paper and did not go back. Towards night we had to mount guard over our hay. Talk about "honor among thieves," what was not stolen before we found it out, was taken from under us while we were asleep, and after twisting and turning on the bare floor until my aching bones woke me, I got up and helped the others express themselves, for there was need of all the cuss words we could muster to do the subject justice. But that was our last night in those quarters.

The next day the new barracks were finished and we took possession. They are long narrow buildings, about 100 feet by 16, with three tiers of bunks on each side, leaving an alley through the middle, and open at each end. The bunks are long enough for a tall man and wide enough for two men provided they lie straight, with a board in front to keep the front man from rolling out of bed. There are three buildings finished, and each accommodates 204 men. We were not allowed either hay or straw for fear of fire. As we only had our bodies to move, it did not take long to move in. Those from one neighborhood chose bunks near together, and there was little quarreling over choice. In fact one is just like another in all except location. Walter Loucks and I got a top berth at one end, so we have no trouble in finding it, as some do who are located near the middle. These barracks, as they are here called, are built close together, and ordinary conversation in one can be plainly heard in the others. Such a night as we had, story-telling, song-singing, telling what we would do if the Rebs attacked us in the night, with now and then a quarrel thrown in, kept us all awake until long after midnight. There was no getting lonesome, or homesick. No matter what direction one's thought might take, they were bound to be changed in a little while, and so the time went on. Perhaps some one would start a hymn and others would join in, and just as everything was going nicely, a block of wood, of which there were plenty lying around, would come from no one knew where, and perhaps hit a man who was half asleep. Then the psalm singing would end up in something quite different, and for a while one could almost taste brimstone. I heard more original sayings that night than in all my life before, and only that the boards were so hard, and my bones ached so badly, I would have enjoyed every minute of it.

But we survived the night, and were able to eat everything set before us, when morning and breakfast time came. After breakfast we had our first lesson in soldiering, that is, the men of what will be Captain Bostwick's company, if he succeeds in filling it, and getting his commission, did. A West Point man put us through our paces. We formed in line on the race track, and after several false starts got going, bringing our left feet down as our instructor called out, "Left, Left," etc. A shower in the night had left some puddles on the track, and the first one we came to some went around and some jumped across, breaking the time and step and mixing up things generally. We were halted, and as soon as the captain could speak without laughing, he told us what a ridiculous thing it was for soldiers to dodge at a mud puddle. After a turn at marching, or keeping step with each other, he explained very carefully to us the "position of a soldier," telling how necessary it was that we learn the lesson well, for it would be of great use to us hereafter. He repeated it, until every word had time to sink in. "Heels on the same line, and as near together as the conformation of the man will permit. Knees straight, without stiffness. Body erect on the hips, and inclining a little forward. Arms hanging naturally at the sides, the little finger behind the seam of the pantaloons. Shoulders square to the front. Head erect, with the eyes striking the ground at the distance of fifteen paces." Every bone in my body ached after a little of this, and yet our instructor told us this is the position in which a well-drilled soldier can stand for the longest time and with the greatest ease. This brings my diary up to this date and I must not let it get behind again. There is so much to write about, it takes all my spare time; but now I am caught up, I will try and keep so.