August 24

Monday, August 24th.—The news looks bad to-day; people say it is très sérieux, ce moment-ci; but there is a cheering article in Saturday's 'Times' about it all. The news is posted up at the Préfeture (dense crowd always) several times a day, and we get many editions of the papers as we go through the day.

August Twenty-Fourth

I have led the young men of the South in battle; I have seen many of them fall under my standard. I shall devote my life now to training young men to do their duty in life.

Robert E. Lee

 

General Lee accepts the Presidency of Washington College, 1865

 

 

This is my twenty-second birthday; enemy still in front; skirmishing still on the left; don't think it amounts to much; heavy cannonading in front of the Nineteenth Corps from 2 o'clock to 3 o'clock p. m. Dr. Almon Clark and Lieutenant E. P. Farr returned to the regiment to-day. I have been busy on clothing rolls and Company books and wrote to James Burnham this evening; not feeling well to-day; very warm; all's quiet.

August 24

August 24, 1880.--As years go on I love the beautiful more than the sublime, the smooth more than the rough, the calm nobility of Plato more than the fierce holiness of the world's Jeremiahs. The vehement barbarian is to me the inferior of the mild and playful Socrates. My taste is for the well-balanced soul and the well-trained heart--for a liberty which is not harsh and insolent, like that of the newly enfranchised slave, but lovable. The temperament which charms me is that in which one virtue leads naturally to another. All exclusive and sharply-marked qualities are but so many signs of imperfection.

August 24, 1862

Sunday at home. Herman and John, Betsy and Jane came to dinner. Such a dinner, too, as mother cooked for us. Dear old soul, how I wished I could eat enough to last until the war is over. Daniel McElwee came up and wanted me to go with him to Mabbettsville and see Mr. and Mrs. Haight. I put the best side of soldiering out, as Mrs. Haight wanted to know how her boy was faring. This seems to me the saddest side of war. Those that go have excitement enough to live on, but those that are left can only wonder how it is with their loved ones, and imagine worse things than may ever happen. I reached home in time to visit with father and mother awhile and then went to bed tired out.

August 24, 1863

Monday. Through an interpreter I sold over ten dollars' worth of rations to-day, to a Frenchman. Everyone here is French though the most of them can talk United States. Sol Drake, the regimental commissary clerk, sent for me to-day, and said a list of the names that Bostwick wants to make up his official staff had been sent in and that he had seen it. Also that his name and my own was among them. Just when we will be transferred he doesn't know, nor does he know yet for certain that the transfer will be made. I am to say nothing about it outside, nor will he, until further developments.

Something is going on about here. About noon forty men were mounted on confiscated horses and hastily left camp. They are probably on picket duty some ways out, and will give us warning before trouble can reach us. I presume it is some scattering guerrillas, such as gobbled General Dow and George Story at Port Hudson.

202. John Adams

Philadelphia, 24 August, 1777.

My dearest Friend,—We had, last evening, a thunder-gust very sharp and violent, attended with a plentiful rain. The lightning struck in several places. It struck the Quaker almshouse in Walnut Street, between Third and Fourth Streets, not far from Captain Duncan's, where I lodge. They had been wise enough to place an iron rod upon the top of the steeple, for a vane to turn on, and had provided no conductor to the ground. It also struck in Fourth Street, near Mrs. Cheesman's. No person was hurt.

This morning was fair, but now it is overcast and rains very hard, which will spoil our show and wet the army.

12 o'clock.

The rain ceased, and the army marched through the town between seven and ten o'clock. The wagons went another road. Four regiments of light horse, Bland's, Baylor's, Sheldon's, and Moylan's. Four grand divisions of the army, and the artillery with the matrosses. They marched twelve deep, and yet took up above two hours in passing by. General Washington and the other general officers with their aids on horseback. The Colonels and other field-officers on horseback. We have now an army well appointed between us and Mr. Howe, and this army will be immediately joined by ten thousand militia, so that I feel as secure here as if I was at Braintree, but not so happy. My happiness is nowhere to be found but there.

After viewing this fine spectacle and firm defense, I went to Mr. Duffield's meeting to hear him pray, as he did most fervently, and I believe he was most sincerely joined by all present, for its success.

The army, upon an accurate inspection of it, I find to be extremely well armed, pretty well clothed, and tolerably disciplined. Gill and Town, by the motto to their newspapers, will bring discipline into vogue in time. There is such a mixture of the sublime and the beautiful together with the useful in military discipline, that I wonder every officer we have is not charmed with it. Much remains yet to be done. Our soldiers have not yet quite the air of soldiers. They don't step exactly in time. They don't hold up their heads quite erect, nor turn out their toes so exactly as they ought. They don't all of them cock their hats; and such as do, don't all wear them the same way.

A disciplinarian has affixed to him commonly the ideas of cruelty, severity, tyranny, etc., but if I were an officer, I am convinced I should be the most decisive disciplinarian in the army. I am convinced there is no other effective way of indulging benevolence, humanity, and the tender social passions in an army. There is no other way of preserving the health and spirits of the men. There is no other way of making them active and skillful in war; no other way of guarding an army against destruction by surprises; and no other method of giving them confidence in one another, of making them stand by one another in the hour of battle. Discipline in an army is like the laws in civil society. There can be no liberty in a commonwealth where the laws are not revered and most sacredly observed, nor can there be happiness or safety in an army for a single hour where the discipline is not observed.

Obedience is the only thing wanting now for our salvation. Obedience to the laws in the States, and obedience to officers in the army.

12 o'clock.

No express nor accidental news from Maryland to-day, as yet.

Selden's Table Talk

Tuesday, 24.

"Learned Selden," learned in civil and political wisdom as were few of his great contemporaries. If his book of Table Talk has less repute than Bacon's famous Essays, like that, opened anywhere, it displays the author's eminent discretion, his comprehensive understanding, apposite illustration of his theme. His homely, familiar manner, has its attractions as well for the scholar as for the common reader; pregnant as are his sentences with his great good sense, rare learning, bringing abstruse subjects home to the affairs of life in a style at once perspicuous and agreeable. "He was a person," says Lord Clarendon, "whom no character can flatter, or transmit in any expressions equal to his merit. He was of such stupendous learning in all kinds of languages that a man would have thought he had been entirely conversant among books, and had never spent an hour but in reading and writing. Yet his humanity, courtesy, and affability were such, that he would have been thought to have been bred in the best courts, but that his good-nature, charity, and delight in doing good, and in communicating all he knew, exceeded his breeding. His style in all his writings seems harsh, and sometimes obscure, which is not wholly to be imputed to the abstruse subjects of which he commonly treated, but to a little undervaluing of style, and too much propensity to the language of antiquity; but in his conversation he was the most clear discourser, and had the best faculty of making hard things easy, and of presenting them to the understanding, of any man that hath been known."

Coleridge, who never let any person of eminence, in thought or erudition, escape his attention, says: "There is more weighty bullion sense in this book (The Table Talk) than I ever found in the same number of pages of any uninspired writer."

Ben Jonson addressed him thus:—

… "You that have been

Ever at home, yet have all countries seen,

And like a compass keeping one foot still

Upon your centre, do your circle fill

Of general knowledge.…

I wondered at the richness, but am lost

To see the workmanship so excel the cost!

To mark the excellent seasoning of your style,

And manly elocution! not one while

With horror rough, then rioting with wit,

But to the subject still the colors fit,

In sharpness of all search, wisdom choice,

Newness of sense, antiquity of voice!

I yield, I yield. The matter of your praise

Floods in upon me, and I cannot raise

A bank against it; nothing but the round

Large clasp of nature such a wit can bound."

One's pen cannot be better drawn across paper, than in transcribing some of his wise and pithy sayings:—

"Books. 'Tis good to have translators, because they serve as a comment, so far as the judgment of the man goes."

"Quoting of authors is most for matter of fact; and then I cite them as I would produce a witness, sometimes for a free expression; and then I give the author his due, and gain myself praise for reading him."

"Henry the Eighth made a law that all men might read the Scripture, except servants; but no woman except ladies and gentlewomen who had leisure and might ask somebody the meaning. The law was repealed in Edward Sixth's days."

"Laymen have best interpreted the hard places in the Bible, such as Scaliger, Grotius, Salmasius, etc. The text serves only to guess by; we must satisfy ourselves fully out of the authors that lived about those times."

"Ceremony. Ceremony keeps up all things. 'Tis like a penny glass to a rich spirit, or some excellent water; without it the water were spilt, the spirit lost."

"Damnation. To preach long, loud, and damnation, is the way to be cried up. We love a man that damns us, and we run after him to save us."

"Friends. Old friends are best. King James used to call for his old shoes, they were easiest to his feet."

"Language. Words must be fitted to a man's mouth. 'Twas well said of the fellow that was to make a speech for my Lord Mayor: he desired to take measure of his lordship's mouth."

"Learning. No man is wiser for his learning; it may administer matter to work in, or objects to work upon; but wit and wisdom are born with a man."

"Power. Syllables govern the world."

"Reason. The reason of a thing is not to be inquired after till you are sure the thing itself is so. We commonly are at 'What's the reason of it?' before we are sure of the thing. 'Twas an excellent question of my Lady Cotton, when Sir Robert Cotton was magnifying of a shoe which was Moses' or Noah's, and wondering at the strange shape and fashion of it,—'But, Mr. Cotton,' says she, 'are you sure it is a shoe?'"

"Religion. Religion is like the fashion; one man wears his doublet slashed, another laced, another plain; but every man has a doublet. So every man has his religion. We differ about trimming."

"We look after religion as the butcher did after his knife, when he had it in his mouth."

August 24, 1914.


I seem to be able to get my letters off to you much more regularly than I dared to hope.

I went up to Paris on the 19th, and had to stay over one night. The trip up was long and tedious, but interesting. There were soldiers everywhere. It amused me almost to tears to see the guards all along the line. We hear so much of the wonderful equipment of the German army. Germany has been spending fortunes for years on its equipment. French taxpayers have kicked for years against spending public moneys on war preparations. The guards all along the railroad were not a jot better got up than those in our little commune. There they stand all along the track in their patched trousers and blouses and sabots, with a band round the left arm, a broken soldier cap, and a gun on the shoulder. Luckily the uniform and shaved head do not make the soldier.

Just before we reached Chelles we saw the first signs of actual war preparations, as there we ran inside the wire entanglements that protect the approach to the outer fortifications at Paris, and at Pantin we saw the first concentration of trains—miles and miles of made-up trains all carrying the Red Cross on their doors, and line after line of trucks with gray ammunition wagons, and cannons. We were being constantly held up to let trainloads of soldiers and horses pass. In the station we saw a long train being made up of men going to some point on the line to join their regiments. It was a crowd of men who looked the lower laboring class. They were in their working clothes, many of them almost in rags, each carrying in a bundle, or a twine bag, his few belongings, and some of them with a loaf of bread under the arm. It looked as little martial as possible but for the stern look in the eyes of even the commonest of them. I waited on the platform to see the train pull out. There was no one to see these men off. They all seemed to realize. I hope they did. I remembered the remark of the woman regarding her husband when she saw him go: "After all, I am only his wife. France is his mother"; and I hoped these poor men, to whom Fate seemed not to have been very kind, had at least that thought in the back of their minds.

I found Paris quiet, and every one calm—that is to say, every one but the foreigners, struggling like people in a panic to escape. In spite of the sad news—Brussels occupied Thursday, Namur fallen Monday—there is no sign of discouragement, and no sign of defeat. If it were not for the excitement around the steamship offices the city would be almost as still as death. But all the foreigners, caught here by the unexpectedness of the war, seemed to be fighting to get off by the same train and the same day to catch the first ship, and they seemed to have little realization that, first of all, France must move her troops and war material. I heard it said—it may not be true—that some of the consular officers were to blame for this, and that there was a rumor abroad among foreigners that Paris was sure to be invested, and that foreigners had been advised to get out, so that there should be as few people inside the fortifications as possible. This rumor, however, was prevalent only among foreigners. No French people that I saw seemed to have any such feeling. Apart from the excitement which prevailed in the vicinity of the steamship offices and banks the city had a deserted look. The Paris that you knew exists no longer. Compared with it this Paris is a dead city. Almost every shop is closed, and must be until the great number of men gone to the front can be replaced in some way. There are streets in which every closed front bears, under a paper flag pasted on shutter or door, a sign saying, "Closed on account of the mobilization"; or, "All the men with the colors."

There are almost no men in the streets. There are no busses or tramways, and cabs and automobiles are rare. Some branches of the underground are running at certain hours, and the irregular service must continue until women, and men unfit for military service, replace the men so suddenly called to the flag, and that will take time, especially as so many of the organizers as well as conductors and engineers have gone. It is the same with the big shops. However, that is not important. No one is in the humor to buy anything except food.

It took me a long time to get about. I had to walk everywhere and my friends live a long way apart, and I am a miserable walker. I found it impossible to get back that night, so I took refuge with one of my friends who is sailing on Saturday. Every one seems to be sailing on that day, and most of them don't seem to care much how they get away—"ameliorated steerage," as they call it, seems to be the fate of many of them. I can assure you that I was glad enough to get back the next day. Silent as it is here, it is no more so than Paris, and not nearly so sad, for the change is not so great. Paris is no longer our Paris, lovely as it still is.

I do not feel in the mood to do much. I work in my garden intermittently, and the harvest bug (bete rouge we call him here) gets in his work unintermittently on me. If things were normal this introduction to the bete rouge would have seemed to me a tragedy. As it is, it is unpleasantly unimportant. I clean house intermittently; read intermittently; write letters intermittently. That reminds me, do read Leon Daudet's "Fantomes et Vivantes"—the first volumes of his memoirs. He is a terrible example of "Le fils a papa." I don't know why it is that a vicious writer, absolutely lacking in reverence, can hold one's attention so much better than a kindly one can. In this book Daudet simply smashes idols, tears down illusions, dances gleefully on sacred traditions, and I lay awake half the night reading him,—and forgot the advancing Germans. The book comes down only to 1880, so most of the men he writes about are dead, and most of them, like Victor Hugo, for example, come off very sadly.

Well, I am reconciled to living a long time now,—much longer than I wanted to before this awful thing came to pass,—just to see all the mighty good that will result from the struggle. I am convinced, no matter what happens, of the final result. I am sure even now, when the Germans have actually crossed the frontier, that France will not be crushed this time, even if she be beaten down to Bordeaux, with her back against the Bay of Biscay. Besides, did you ever know the English bulldog to let go? But it is the horror of such a war in our times that bears so heavily on my soul. After all, "civilization" is a word we have invented, and its meaning is hardly more than relative, just as is the word "religion."

There are problems in the events that the logical spirit finds it hard to face. In every Protestant church the laws of Moses are printed on tablets on either side of the pulpit. On those laws our civil code is founded. "Thou shalt not kill," says the law. For thousands of years the law has punished the individual who settled his private quarrels with his fists or any more effective weapon, and reserved to itself the right to exact "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." And here we are today, in the twentieth century, when intelligent people have long been striving after a spiritual explanation of the meaning of life, trying to prove its upward trend, trying to beat out of it materialism, endeavoring to find in altruism a road to happiness, and governments can still find no better way to settle their disputes than wholesale slaughter, and that with weapons no so-called civilized man should ever have invented nor any so-called civilized government ever permitted to be made. The theory that the death penalty was a preventive of murder has long ago been exploded. The theory that by making war horrible, war could be prevented, is being exploded to-day.

And yet—I KNOW that if the thought be taken out of life that it is worth while to die for an idea a great factor in the making of national spirit will be gone. I KNOW that a long peace makes for weakness in a race. I KNOW that without war there is still death. To me this last fact is the consolation. It is finer to die voluntarily for an idea deliberately faced, than to die of old age in one's bed; and the grief of parting no one ever born can escape. Still it is puzzling to us simple folk—the feeling that fundamental things do not change: that the balance of good and evil has not changed. We change our fashions, we change our habits, we discover now and then another of the secrets Nature has hidden, that delving man may be kept busy and interested. We pride ourselves that science at least has progressed, that we are cleaner than our progenitors. Yet we are no cleaner than the Greeks and Romans in the days when Athens and Rome ruled the world, nor do we know in what cycle all we know to-day was known and lost. Oh, I can hear you claiming more happiness for the masses! I wonder. There is no actual buying and selling in open slave markets, it is true, but the men who built the Pyramids and dragged the stone for Hadrian's Villa, were they any worse off really than the workers in the mines today? Upon my soul, I don't know. Life is only a span between the Unknown and the Unknowable. Living is made up in all centuries of just so many emotions. We have never, so far as I know, invented any new one. It is too bad to throw these things at you on paper which can't answer back as you would, and right sharply I know.

Nothing going on here except the passing now and then of a long line of Paris street busses on the way to the front. They are all mobilized and going as heroically to the front as if they were human, and going to get smashed up just the same. It does give me a queer sensation to see them climbing this hill. The little Montmartre-Saint-Pierre bus, that climbs up the hill to the funicular in front of Sacre-Coeur, came up the hill bravely. It was built to climb a hill. But the Bastille-Madeleine and the Ternes-Fille de Calvaine, and Saint-Sulpice-Villette just groaned and panted and had to have their traction changed every few steps. I thought they would never get up, but they did.

Another day it was the automobile delivery wagons of the Louvre, the Bon Marche, the Printemps, Petit-Saint-Thomas, La Belle Jardiniere, Potin—all the automobiles with which you are so familiar in the streets of Paris. Of course those are much lighter, and came up bravely. As a rule they are all loaded. It is as easy to take men to the front, and material, that way as by railroad, since the cars go. Only once have I seen any attempt at pleasantry on these occasions. One procession went out the other day with all sorts of funny inscriptions, some not at all pretty, many blackguarding the Kaiser, and of course one with the inevitable "A Berlin" the first battle-cry of 1870. This time there has been very little of that. I confess it gave me a kind of shiver to see "A Berlin—pour notre plaisir" all over the bus. "On to Berlin!" I don't see that that can be hoped for unless the Germans are beaten to a finish on the Rhine and the allied armies cross Germany as conquerors, unopposed. If they only could! It would only be what is due to Belgium that King Albert should lead the procession "Under the Lindens." But I doubt if the maddest war optimist hopes for anything so well deserved as that. I don't dare to, sure as I am of seeing Germany beaten to her knees before the war is closed.