December 31

December Thirty-First

'Tis midnight's holy hour—and silence now
Is brooding, like a gentle spirit, o'er
The still and pulseless world. Hark! on the winds,
The bells' deep notes are swelling. 'Tis the knell
Of the departed year. No funeral train
Is sweeping past; yet on the stream and wood,
With melancholy light, the moonbeams rest
Like a pale, spotless shroud; the air is stirred,
As by a mourner's sigh; and on yon cloud,
That floats so still and placidly through heaven,
The spirits of the seasons seem to stand—
Young Spring, bright Summer, Autumn's solemn form,
And Winter, with his aged locks—and breathe
In mournful cadences, that come abroad
Like the far wind harp's wild and touching wail,
A melancholy dirge o'er the dead Year,
Gone from the earth forever.
George Denison Prentice

 

Battle of Murfreesboro, Tenn., 1862

Thursday, December 31st, New Year's Eve.—Still at Sotteville, and clemmed with cold. There was no paraffin on the train this morning, so we couldn't even have the passage lamps lit.

This afternoon I went with Major —— and the French Major and the little fat French Caporal (who is the same class as the French Major—or better) into Rouen, and they trotted us round sight-seeing. The little Caporal showed us all the points of the cathedrals, and the twelfth-century stone pictures on the north porch and on the towers, and also the church of St Maclou with the wonderful "Ossuare" cloisters, now a college for Jeunes Filles. We had tea in the town and trammed back. This evening, New Year's Eve, the French Staff had decorated the Restaurant with Chinese lanterns, and we had a festive New Year's Eve dinner, with chicken, and Xmas pudding on fire, and Sauterne and Champagne and crackers. The putting on of caps amused every one infiniment, and we had more speeches and toasts. I forgot to tell you that the French Major's home is broken up by Les Allemands, and he doesn't know where his wife and three children are. On Xmas night, during toasts, he suddenly got up and said in a broken voice, "À mes petits enfants et ma femme."

The coach is mended and back from l'atelier, and we may go off at any moment. I hope we shall wake up on the way to Boulogne and mails.

Well, here I am again in winter quarters, but how different from twelve months ago. I confess, though, that my prayer has been answered, the year having been passed as happily by me as could have been expected under the circumstances. I have been called upon to pass through a great many ordeals but with God's grace have come out alive. I shudder when I think how many have been killed out of our little band, yet I am spared perhaps for some good purpose; I hope so, anyway.[1] I'm about to commence another year. I feel sad to bid the old one farewell. It has been a strenuous, eventful and historic one. May the next end the war, if it is God's will.

[1]Possibly I was spared during the Civil War to be God's medium to civilize the Indians—the most distinguished service of my life—as I was greatly honored in 1877-78, by being selected from the army to study them, and recommend what would be the best thing to do to civilize and take them from the war path, which I did, and the government adopted my plan, which was successful, in opposition to most of the leading generals of the army, as they deemed it impracticable. The history of this can be found in Addenda No. 2, pp. 1057-80, Vol. II, Descendants of George Abbott of Rowley, Mass., which can be found in most leading libraries.

December 31, 1863

Thursday. The last of the year 1863. A year ago we were at the quarantine station seventy-two miles below here, hardly any well ones among us, and from one to three deaths every day. All were discouraged and ready for any change, no matter what, for nothing could be worse than the condition we were in. We were about as hard hit as any regiment I have yet heard of. What a heaven our present quarters would have been to us then! Then we came up to Chalmette, just below here, where several more died, and then on to Camp Parapet, where I was so sick that Colonel B., then Captain B., wrote his father I would probably be dead before the letter reached him. But God was good to me. The next the captain knew I was better, and I have never seen any one get well as fast as I did. Before I was discharged from the hospital I followed the regiment on a scout to Ponchatoula, and that completed the cure. We then went to Port Hudson and through the siege of six weeks before the works there, and were rewarded by being one of the seven regiments to go in and receive the surrender. Then after marching back to Baton Rouge, we went to Donaldsonville, and then by easy marches up the river to Plaquemine, and from there to Baton Rouge again. Then came the split up, the 128th to remain where they since have been, and a few of us sent back to this city for discharge from the 128th and for muster into the Corps de Afrique. An exciting trip to the mouth of the Sabine River and back, and then a run up the Teche country and back here, brings me round to the present time and place. Thus I have summed up the most eventful year of my life. I have captured no medals for bravery, neither have I had a single reprimand for cowardice or lack of duty in any place I have been put. This much I amtelling you, diary, and don't you ever tell how many times I have been scared most to death in the making up of this record. It is not one to brag about, neither is it, from my standpoint, one to be ashamed of. I have been on duty as officer of the guard to-day, but the duties are so light, and the sergeants so well drilled, I have found plenty of time to write. One of the officers—I won't mention his name, but will say he is the one responsible for our muster rolls being sent to the paymaster—got on a spree and forgot to send them. Colonel B. has talked him sober and he has gone to deliver them personally. If he don't get going again on the way, we stand a good chance of getting paid off to-morrow. To-night is recitation night, but being on duty excuses me. However I have the lesson at my tongue's end, for we have not yet got beyond what Colonel Smith pounded into us at Camp Millington. I shall never forget how, as knowledge rolled in, the sweat rolled out while in that hot and dusty school camp at Millington. Good night, 1863.