August 28

August 28, 1862

Have been down town and had my picture taken to send home by Herman and John. Have also been drilling, and altogether have had a busy day. The ladies of Hudson (God bless them) are going to give us a supper to-night, and H. and J. are going to stay.

Later. It is all over, except an uncomfortable fullness. Biscuit and butter, three kinds of cake, beef tongue, fruit of several kinds and LEMONADE. We gave the ladies three cheers that must have been heard across the river. There are lots of people here now. It seems as if I knew half of them, too. We entertained our visitors until they had to leave camp, and then had a prayer meeting and after it a stag dance, both of which I attended.

Received marching orders for to-morrow morning at 10 o'clock last evening. We were up at 3 o'clock a. m. and ready to march at daylight, but did not until near 8 o'clock. The Nineteenth Corps marched on our left in three different columns and the Sixth Corps moved on the right in the same order. We took dinner about two miles from Charlestown, and marched again about 1 o'clock p. m.; went through Charlestown about 3 o'clock p. m., with the bands playing "Old John Brown" to the accompanying chorus of the entire column. It was grand! We camped on our old ground just outside the city; no signs of any enemy yet.[1]

[1]It is a fact that General Crook's Corps, when forming line near Berryville, was "blundered" into by General Kershaw's Division of infantry and artillery en route to Petersburg via Ashby's Gap. After a little brush in which Kershaw got the worst of it, he fell back. This was a great disappointment to General Sheridan, as Kershaw was detained fifteen days longer.

August Twenty-Eighth


Weak and haggard from their diet of green corn and apples, one can well imagine with what surprise their eyes opened upon the contents of the sutler's stores, containing an amount and variety of property such as they had never conceived. Then came a storming charge of men rushing in a tumultuous mob over each other's heads, under each other's feet, anywhere, everywhere to satisfy a craving stronger than a yearning for fame. There were no laggards in that charge.... Men ragged and famished clutched tenaciously at whatever came in their way, and whether of clothing or food, of luxury or necessity. A long yellow-haired, bare-footed son of the South claimed as prizes a tooth-brush, a box of candles, a barrel of coffee. From piles of new clothing the Southerners arrayed themselves in the blue uniforms of the Federals. The naked were clad, the barefooted were shod, and the sick provided with luxuries to which they had long been strangers.

George H. Gordon, U. S. A.



August 28, 1863

Wednesday. Yesterday passed like any other day, trying to keep cool. Nothing happened worth telling of. To-day a party has been mounted and sent out to gather up the horses that are running loose all over the country. They came in with quite a drove. They went toward Donaldsonville. What the horses are for we do not know. Perhaps we are to be made over into mounted infantry. A mail came in last night and I was skipped again. I hope they have not forgotten me. Ransom White is now our second lieutenant and Lieutenant Pierce is promoted to first lieutenant. Second Lieutenant John Langdon of Company K is now its captain. These are all good promotions. They are all deserving of them. I suppose Tom Dutcher will be our captain as he is in line for it. He is one of the very best of the whole lot, but has been on detached duty so much of the time, we have almost forgotten him. A change has come over the weather. It is cool and pleasant as it can be. For this we are truly grateful. Lieutenant Pierce hinted to me about a change in fortune for me, but would not let out what it was or when it would come. I expect it is what Drake spoke of a few days ago. I hate to think of leaving the 128th, and yet I would hate to miss a better job.

9 p. m. Colonel Smith, who has been in New Orleans, came up on the Thomas about 5 p. m. and soon after the Arago came up, having order to report to Colonel Smith. This means a move, sure. We went right at it and are all packed up and waiting. The Arago has anchored close to shore and seems to be waiting for us. (Something wrong with dates here for the next is Saturday and yet it appears to be a continuation of Wednesday, August 28.)

Saturday Morning. (No date.) Reveille aroused us from an uneasy sleep on the boards that had formed the floor to our tents, and before it was fairly daylight, two days' rations were distributed, and the finishing touches to our packing up had been made. At 9 a. m. we were once more on board the Arago, that old prison that held us for those dreary six weeks and killed off more of us than the Rebels have yet been able to. About noon we unloaded at Baton Rouge and went into camp just back of the Orphan Asylum. We are in a good place, in the city and yet out of it. We can get into the city in a few minutes if we want to. A great many seem to want to, for Lieutenant Pierce has been busy writing passes to go down town. I guess I will go too and see what the place looks like. When we were here before we were glad to lie and rest, and that is about all we did.

Friday, August 28th.—Hot and brilliant. Eleven fugitive Sisters of No.— have come back to-day from Amiens, and the others are either hung up somewhere or on the way. The story is that Uhlans were arriving in the town, and that it wasn't safe for women; I don't know if the hospital were receiving wounded or not. Yes, they were. Another rumour to-day says that No.— Field Ambulance has been wiped out by a bomb from an aeroplane. Another rumour says that one regiment has five men left, and another one man—but most of these stories turn out myths in time.

Wounded are being taken in at No.—, and are being shipped home from there the same day.

This morning Matron took two of us out to our Hospital camp, three miles along the Harfleur road. The tram threaded its way through thousands of our troops, who arrived this morning, and through a regiment of French Sappers. There were Seaforths (with khaki petticoats over the kilt), R. Irish Rifles, R.B. Gloucesters, Connaughts, and some D.G.'s and Lancers. They were all heavily loaded up with kit and rifles (sometimes a proud little French boy would carry these for them), marching well, but perspiring in rivers. It was a good sight, and the contrast between the khaki and the red trousers and caps and blue coats of the French was very striking. We went nearly to Harfleur (where Henry V. landed before Agincourt), and then walked back towards No.— Camp, along a beautiful straight avenue with poplars meeting over the top. About 20 motors full of Belgian officers passed us.

The camp is getting on well. All the Hospital tents are pitched, and all the quarters except the Sisters and the big store tents for the Administration block are ready. The operating theatre tent is to have a concrete floor and is not ready.

The ground is the worst part. It is a very boggy hay-field, and in wet weather like Wednesday and Tuesday they say it is a swamp. We are all to have our skirts and aprons very short and to be well provided with gum-boots. We shall be two in a bell-tent, or dozens in a big store tent, uncertain yet which, and we are to have a bath tent. I am to be surgical.

While waiting for the tram on the way back, on a hot, white road, we made friends with a French soldier, who stopped a little motor-lorry, already crammed with men and some sort of casks, and made them take us on. I sat on the floor, with my feet on the step, and we whizzed back into Havre in great style. There is no speed limit, and it was a lovely joy-ride!

We are seeing the 'Times' a few days late and fairly regularly. Have not seen any list of the Charleroi casualties yet. It all seems to be coming much nearer now. The line is very much taken up with ammunition trains.

To show that there is a good deal going on, though we've as yet had no work, I'm only half through my 7d. book, and we left home a fortnight and two days ago. If you do have a chance to read anything but newspapers, you can't keep your mind on it.

We are getting quite used to a life shorn of most of its trappings, except for the two hotel meals a day.

My mattress, on the floor along the very low large window, with two rugs and cushions, and a holdall for a bolster, is as comfortable as any bed, and you don't miss sheets after a day or two. There is one bathroom for 120 or more people, but I get a cold bath every morning early. S—— gets our early morning tea, and M. sweeps our room, and I wash up and roll up the beds. We are still away from our boxes, and have a change of some clothes and not others. I have to wash my vest overnight when I want a clean one and put it on in the morning. We have slung a clothes-line across our room. The view is absolutely glorious.

14. John Adams

Princeton, New Jersey, 28 August, 1774.

I received your kind letter at New York, and it is not easy for you to imagine the pleasure it has given me. I have not found a single opportunity to write since I left Boston, excepting by the post, and I don't choose to write by that conveyance, for fear of foul play. But as we are now within forty-two miles of Philadelphia, I hope there to find some private hand by which I can convey this.

The particulars of our journey I must reserve, to be communicated after my return. It would take a volume to describe the whole. It has been upon the whole an agreeable jaunt. We have had opportunities to see the world and to form acquaintances with the most eminent and famous men in the several colonies we have passed through. We have been treated with unbounded civility, complaisance, and respect. We yesterday visited Nassau Hall College, and were politely treated by the scholars, tutors, professors, and president, whom we are this day to hear preach. To-morrow we reach the theatre of action. God Almighty grant us wisdom and virtue sufficient for the high trust that is devolved upon us. The spirit of the people, wherever we have been, seems to be veryfavorable. They universally consider our cause as their own, and express the firmest resolution to abide by the determination of the Congress.

I am anxious for our perplexed, distressed province; hope they will be directed into the right path. Let me entreat you, my dear, to make yourself as easy and quiet as possible. Resignation to the will of Heaven is our only resource in such dangerous times. Prudence and caution should be our guides. I have the strongest hopes that we shall yet see a clearer sky and better times.

Remember my tender love to little Abby; tell her she must write me a letter and inclose it in the next you send. I am charmed with your amusement with our little Johnny. Tell him I am glad to hear he is so good a boy as to read to his mamma for her entertainment, and to keep himself out of the company of rude children. Tell him I hope to hear a good account of his accidence and nomenclature when I return. Remember me to all inquiring friends, particularly to uncle Quincy,[37] your papa and family, and Dr. Tufts and family. Mr. Thaxter,[38] I hope, is a good companion in your solitude. Tell him, if he devotes his soul and body to his books, I hope, notwithstanding the darkness of these days, he will not find them unprofitable sacrifices in future. I have received three very obliging letters from Tudor, Trumbull, and Hill.[39] They have cheered us in our wanderings and done us much service.

Your account of the rain refreshed me. I hope our husbandry is prudently and industriously managed. Frugality must be our support. Our expenses in this journey will be very great. Our only [recompense will [40]] be the consolatory reflection that we toil, spend our time, and [encounter] dangers for the public good—happy indeed if we do any good.

The education of our children is never out of my mind. Train them to virtue. Habituate them to industry, activity, and spirit. Make them consider every vice as shameful and unmanly. Fire them with ambition to be useful. Make them disdain to be destitute of any useful or ornamental knowledge or accomplishment. Fix their ambition upon great and solid objects, and their contempt upon little, frivolous, and useless ones. It is time, my dear, for you to begin to teach them French. Every decency, grace, and honesty should be inculcated upon them.

I have kept a few minutes by way of journal, which shall be your entertainment when I come home; but we have had so many persons and so various characters to converse with, and so many objects to view, that I have not been able to be so particular as I could wish. I am, with the tenderest affection and concern,

Your wandering     John Adams.


[37]Norton Quincy, a graduate of Harvard College in 1736, and the only brother of Mrs. Adams's mother. Sympathizing with the patriotic movement he was placed on the first committee of safety organized by the Provincial Assembly. But no inducements could prevail to draw him from his seclusion at Mount Wollaston, where he lived, and died in 1801.

[38]John Thaxter, Jr., who with the three others here named and two more were clerks with Mr. Adams at the breaking out of the Revolution. Mr. Thaxter afterwards acted as private secretary to Mr. Adams during his second residence in Europe, down to the date of the treaty of peace, of which he was made the bearer to the United States.

[39]William Tudor, John Trumbull, and Jeremiah Hill. Some of these letters remain, and are not without interest as contemporaneous accounts of Revolutionary events.

[40]The words in brackets supplied, as the manuscript is defective.

August 28

August 28, 1875. (Geneva ).--A word used by Sainte-Beuve à propos of Benjamin Constant has struck me: it is the word consideration. To possess or not to possess consideration was to Madame de Staël a matter of supreme importance--the loss of it an irreparable evil, the acquirement of it a pressing necessity. What, then, is this good thing? The esteem of the public. And how is it gained? By honorable character and life, combined with a certain aggregate of services rendered and of successes obtained. It is not exactly a good conscience, but it is something like it, for it is the witness from without, if not the witness from within. Consideration is not reputation, still less celebrity, fame, or glory; it has nothing to do with savoir faire, and is not always the attendant of talent or genius. It is the reward given to constancy in duty, to probity of conduct. It is the homage rendered to a life held to be irreproachable. It is a little more than esteem, and a little less than admiration. To enjoy public consideration is at once a happiness and a power. The loss of it is a misfortune and a source of daily suffering. Here am I, at the age of fifty-three, without ever having given this idea the smallest place in my life. It is curious, but the desire for consideration has been to me so little of a motive that I have not even been conscious of such an idea at all. The fact shows, I suppose, that for me the audience, the gallery, the public, has never had more than a negative importance. I have neither asked nor expected anything from it, not even justice; and to be a dependent upon it, to solicit its suffrages and its good graces, has always seemed to me an act of homage and flunkeyism against which my pride has instinctively rebelled. I have never even tried to gain the good will of a côterìe or a newspaper, nor so much as the vote of an elector. And yet it would have been a joy to me to be smiled upon, loved, encouraged, welcomed, and to obtain what I was so ready to give, kindness and good will. But to hunt down consideration and reputation--to force the esteem of others--seemed to me an effort unworthy of myself, almost a degradation. I have never even thought of it.

Perhaps I have lost consideration by my indifference to it. Probably I have disappointed public expectation by thus allowing an over-sensitive and irritable consciousness to lead me into isolation and retreat. I know that the world, which is only eager to silence you when you do speak, is angry with your silence as soon as its own action has killed in you the wish to speak. No doubt, to be silent with a perfectly clear conscience a man must not hold a public office. I now indeed say to myself that a professor is morally bound to justify his position by publication; that students, authorities, and public are placed thereby in a healthier relation toward him; that it is necessary for his good repute in the world, and for the proper maintenance of his position. But this point of view has not been a familiar one to me. I have endeavored to give conscientious lectures, and I have discharged all the subsidiary duties of my post to the best of my ability; but I have never been able to bend myself to a struggle with hostile opinion, for all the while my heart has been full of sadness and disappointment, and I have known and felt that I have been systematically and deliberately isolated. Premature despair and the deepest discouragement have been my constant portion. Incapable of taking any interest in my talents for my own sake, I let everything slip as soon as the hope of being loved for them and by them had forsaken me. A hermit against my will, I have not even found peace in solitude, because my inmost conscience has not been any better satisfied than my heart.

Does not all this make up a melancholy lot, a barren failure of a life? What use have I made of my gifts, of my special circumstances, of my half-century of existence? What have I paid back to my country? Are all the documents I have produced, taken together, my correspondence, these thousands of journal pages, my lectures, my articles, my poems, my notes of different kinds, anything better than withered leaves? To whom and to what have I been useful? Will my name survive me a single day, and will it ever mean anything to anybody? A life of no account! A great many comings and goings, a great many scrawls--for nothing. When all is added up--nothing! And worst of all, it has not been a life used up in the service of some adored object, or sacrificed to any future hope. Its sufferings will have been vain, its renunciations useless, its sacrifices gratuitous, its dreariness without reward.... No, I am wrong; it will have had its secret treasure, its sweetness, its reward. It will have inspired a few affections of great price; it will have given joy to a few souls; its hidden existence will have had some value. Besides, if in itself it has been nothing, it has understood much. If it has not been in harmony with the great order, still it has loved it. If it has missed happiness and duty, it has at least felt its own nothingness, and implored its pardon.

Later on.--There is a great affinity in me with the Hindoo genius--that mind, vast, imaginative, loving, dreamy, and speculative, but destitute of ambition, personality, and will. Pantheistic disinterestedness, the effacement of the self in the great whole, womanish gentleness, a horror of slaughter, antipathy to action--these are all present in my nature, in the nature at least which has been developed by years and circumstances. Still the West has also had its part in me. What I have found difficult is to keep up a prejudice in favor of any form, nationality, or individuality whatever. Hence my indifference to my own person, my own usefulness, interest, or opinions of the moment. What does it all matter? Omnis determinatio est negatio. Grief localizes us, love particularizes us, but thought delivers us from personality.... To be a man is a poor thing, to be a man is well; to be the man--man in essence and in principle--that alone is to be desired.

Yes, but in these Brahmanic aspirations what becomes of the subordination of the individual to duty? Pleasure may lie in ceasing to be individual, but duty lies in performing the microscopic task allotted to us. The problem set before us is to bring our daily task into the temple of contemplation and ply it there, to act as in the presence of God, to interfuse one's little part with religion. So only can we inform the detail of life, all that is passing, temporary, and insignificant, with beauty and nobility. So may we dignify and consecrate the meanest of occupations. So may we feel that we are paying our tribute to the universal work and the eternal will. So are we reconciled with life and delivered from the fear of death. So are we in order and at peace.