February 27

Saturday, February 27th, 9 p.m.Hotel at Boulogne.—All the efforts to get my seven days' leave have failed, as I thought they would.

Pleasant but chilly. The Sixth Corps is on the move this morning for Madison Court House—probably a reconnoissance. Governor Smith arrived in camp this forenoon. I started for picket about 4 p. m. to relieve the First Division of our Corps which is to accompany the Sixth Corps to Madison Court House; arrived on picket line at 2 a. m. Feb. 28.

February 27

February 27, 1880.--I have finished translating twelve or fourteen little poems by Petöfi. They have a strange kind of savor. There is something of the Steppe, of the East, of Mazeppa, of madness, in these songs, which seem to go to the beat of a riding-whip. What force and passion, what savage brilliancy, what wild and grandiose images, there are in them! One feels that the Magyar is a kind of Centaur, and that he is only Christian and European by accident. The Hun in him tends toward the Arab.

February Twenty-Seventh

We follow where the Swamp Fox guides,
We leave the swamp and cypress-tree,
Our spurs are in our coursers' sides,
And ready for the strife are we.
The Tory camp is now in sight,
And there he cowers within his den;
He hears our shouts, he dreads the fight,
He fears, and flies from Marion's men.
William Gilmore Simms

 

Francis Marion dies, 1795

Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, N. C., 1776

 

 

February 27

February 27, 1874.--Among the peoples, in whom the social gifts are the strongest, the individual fears ridicule above all things, and ridicule is the certain result of originality. No one, therefore, wishes to make a party of his own; every one wishes to be on the side of all the world. "All the world" is the greatest of powers; it is sovereign, and calls itself we. We dress, we dine, we walk, we go out, we come in, like this, and not like that. This we is always right, whatever it does. The subjects of We are more prostrate than the slaves of the East before the Padishah. The good pleasure of the sovereign decides every appeal; his caprice is law. What we does or says is called custom, what it thinks is called opinion, what it believes to be beautiful or good is called fashion. Among such nations as these we is the brain, the conscience, the reason, the taste, and the judgment of all. The individual finds everything decided for him without his troubling about it. He is dispensed from the task of finding out anything whatever. Provided that he imitates, copies, and repeats the models furnished by we, he has nothing more to fear. He knows all that he need know, and has entered into salvation.

249. John Adams

Passy, 27 February, 1779.

The weather continuing fine, I went to Saint Denis, a little village about eight miles from this place, where are the tombs of all the kings and queens. The statues of all lie in state in marble. The church is called the royal Church of Saint Denis, is magnificent, and there is an apartment in a chamber, where the crowns and many other curiosities are preserved. It is curious to see such a collection of gold, ivory, and precious stones, as there is every species, I suppose, that is mentioned in the Revelation. The diamonds and rubies glitter. But I confess I have so much of the savage sachem in me that these things make no great impression upon me. There are several little crucifixes here, which the ecclesiastic who showed them told us were made of bits of the true cross. This may be, for anything that I know.

In my return, I took a circuit round by Montmartre, and dined at home with the Dr.,[204] who has a fit of the gout, but is getting better.

The situation in which my masters have left me puzzles me very much. They have said nothing to me. But one set of gentlemen write that I am to go to Spain, another to Holland, a third to Vienna; upon the whole, I believe they don't intend to send me to either, but leave me to stay here in a ridiculous situation, or return home if I can get there. I shall return unless I should receive, before the time arrives for the vessel to sail, orders which I can execute with honor and with a prospect of rendering some service to the public. But of these two last points I will judge for myself.

Footnotes:

[204]Franklin.

February 27

February 27, 1851.--Read over the first book of Emile. I was revolted, contrary to all expectation, for I opened the book with a sort of hunger for style and beauty. I was conscious instead of an impression of heaviness and harshness, of labored, hammering emphasis, of something violent, passionate, and obstinate, without serenity, greatness, nobility. Both the qualities and the defects of the book produced in me a sense of lack of good manners, a blaze of talent, but no grace, no distinction, the accent of good company wanting. I understood how it is that Rousseau rouses a particular kind of repugnance, the repugnance of good taste, and I felt the danger to style involved in such a model as well as the danger to thought arising from a truth so alloyed and sophisticated. What there is of true and strong in Rousseau did not escape me, and I still admired him, but his bad sides appeared to me with a clearness relatively new.

(Same day.)--The pensée -writer is to the philosopher what the dilettante is to the artist. He plays with thought, and makes it produce a crowd of pretty things in detail, but he is more anxious about truths than truth, and what is essential in thought, its sequence, its unity, escapes him. He handles his instrument agreeably, but he does not possess it, still less does he create it. He is a gardener and not a geologist; he cultivates the earth only so much as is necessary to make it produce for him flowers and fruits; he does not dig deep enough into it to understand it. In a word, the pensée -writer deals with what is superficial and fragmentary. He is the literary, the oratorical, the talking or writing philosopher; whereas the philosopher is the scientific pensée -writer. The pensée -writers serve to stimulate or to popularize the philosophers. They have thus a double use, besides their charm. They are the pioneers of the army of readers, the doctors of the crowd, the money-changers of thought, which they convert into current coin. The writer of pensée is a man of letters, though of a serious type, and therefore he is popular. The philosopher is a specialist, as far as the form of his science goes, though not in substance, and therefore he can never become popular. In France, for one philosopher (Descartes) there have been thirty writers of pensées ; in Germany, for ten such writers there have been twenty philosophers.

February 27, 1864

Saturday. From January 23 on I was too busy, visiting and being visited, to do more with my diary than keep notes enough to remind me, when I got time, to write up again. Time was too precious to even write about, I had the free run of everything. Horses and wagons, or sleighs as the case might call for, were free, and the houses of my friends were all open for me either night or day. Many times the younger set met somewhere for an evening and in that way I did much wholesale visiting. I feel ashamed now, as I look over the list, to think I spent so much of the time away from home. But there seemed no other way. The main object of my coming, that of getting a place for father and mother to live after April, was accomplished by buying the place opposite Mott Drake's, with which they are well pleased. They will be among old and tried friends, and about central for the girls to visit them—near the church and store, and where the mail passes every day. With land enough to keep the cow, and to raise all the vegetables they need, they have never been so comfortably situated since my time began. Through Mr. Bostwick's kindness I was able to accomplish all this, and I go back to my task with a lighter heart and a heavier debt of gratitude then I came home with. I cannot mention all the people I visited and that visited me. It would be easier to tell those I did not meet. Those who had dear ones in the South that I could tell them about were never tired hearing about them. Some whose dear ones lie buried where they fell were the hardest for me. I could not tell them the worst, and the best seemed so awful to them I was glad when such visits were over.

Almost at the last I got track of Henry Holmes, and left him with John Loucks to pass along to Mrs. Gorton. He told me the man who tried to hire him in New York followed him into the restaurant and told him I had left a trunk on the Creole, and that I wanted him to go and get it. He jumped in the same wagon that had brought us there and was taken down town to a recruiting office, where he was asked to enlist. His being lame prevented that, and he was turned out in the street again. He asked everyone where the depot was where Lieutenant Larry went for tickets. Finally he told his story to someone who was humane enough to help him, and in that way got back to the 26th Street depot. There the policeman to whom I had given his ticket saw him, and, as there was no train that night, sent him to some place for the night, and saw him on the train the next day. He was asleep on the train when it reached Millerton, and was taken through to Albany, where he kept up the search and inquiry for Lieutenant Larry. Some kind-hearted people then set about quizzing him for my last name, and hearing the name Van Alstyne, which is common in Albany, he at once said it was Lieutenant Larry Van Alstyne. After a while he recalled Major Palon and Colonel Bostwick to mind. As neither of these names were of Albany, and as the Palons were known to live in Hudson, he was sent there. The Palons got him a place with a farmer at Johnstown, below Hudson, and also put an advertisement in the paper giving the particulars as Henry had given them. One of these papers fell into the hands of Colonel Bostwick's mother, who sent for me. John Loucks then went to Johnstown and found Henry, who had a good place with people who were good to him, and he refused to go, saying he had been fooled so many times he had rather stay where he was. As John was about to leave he happened to say in Henry's hearing, "I don't know what Larry will say." At the name Larry, which it appears had not been spoken before, Henry at once asked if he meant Lieutenant Larry, and upon being told he did, he said, "If you know Lieutenant Larry, I'll go with you." And so it came about that we came together only the night before I was to start for the South again. I was certainly glad to see Henry, and if actions are any guide, Henry was glad to see me.[8]


I REACHED  New York on my return journey Feb. 23, and sent my trunk to the Creole, which was to sail the next morning. Returning to the Washington Hotel for the night, I found Daniel McElwee, who told me if I would wait until Saturday he would send me through free of expense. This was inducement enough for me to send and get my trunk and wait. Sixty dollars saved in three days was not to be missed even at the risk of a slower boat and poorer accommodations. John Thompson was also there. With a letter from Daniel to George Starr, the head of the transportation department, we went and gave him a call. He seemed glad of a chance to do his friend McElwee a favor, telling me to be on board the transport McClellan on Saturday morning and he would do the rest. I had promised Mrs. Gibson to call on my way back and tell her more about her brother, Lieutenant John Mathers, and we next went there. From there to Brooks Brothers to find out about Colonel B.'s clothes, and then back to the Washington, where I met several old acquaintances and spent a very pleasant evening. The next morning I got to thinking of a donation party that was to come off at the city that night, and how nice it would be to drop in and surprise them. By train time I had figured out a programme that would cost no more than waiting in New York, and at 8 p. m. I was in Amenia, and in one of the worst storms of the whole winter. Rain, snow, and hail, and a high wind to drive it. There was nothing to do but go to Putnam's and stay over. The next day I took the stage to the city and  and found out the donation party did not come off. The storm continued and for all I could do it would not stop. I put in the day as best I could and the next morning went back to Amenia and took the train for New York, having been within five miles of home, when they supposed I was somewhere on the Atlantic. I put up at the Washington but found no one with whom I was acquainted. I spent a dull enough evening, and went to bed disgusted with everything, but mostly with myself for putting such a miserable finish to the vacation which I had so longed for and had so much enjoyed.

I was on board the McClellan at 10 o'clock, as agreed upon, and found Mr. Starr already there. He introduced me to the captain, the surgeon, and the purser, as his friend, whom he wished them to give as good as the boat afforded, and to land me safely in New Orleans, as a personal favor to him. They appeared to know him well, and seemed glad to do him the favor. I told Mr. Starr I felt under great obligations. He said as he could not fight for his country himself, he was happy to help those who could, and said: "If you ever get the chance, just give the Rebellion one blow for George Starr." But after all said and done, the McClellan is not the Creole. It is a government transport, much after the pattern of the Arago. There are a dozen or so of military officers on board, one of them with an eagle on his shoulder, several with one and two bars, and the rest like myself, second lieutenants, with their bars to get. I was given a stateroom to myself, but not very much like the one I had coming home. However, beggars must not be choosers. The cargo so far as I could see was commissary stores and other warlike material. We went a little way out into the stream and anchored, and soon a smaller vessel came alongside with the toughest-looking lot of people I had ever seen together. There were four hundred of them, and they were counted as they stepped on board, as sheep are, running through a gate. They were stowed in below, just as we were on the Arago, only there being so few they had plenty of room. I had never seen such evil-looking faces on human beings as some of them had. The purser told me they were conscripts, deserters and bounty jumpers; that they had been in close confinement, and for safety were not brought on board until we were away from the dock. Their language was as vile as their faces, and they seemed to have neither fear nor respect for the officers who had charge of them. Not all were like that, but there was quite a sprinkling of them. There was perhaps a company of soldiers in uniform and with arms, which I found to be men who had been sick or wounded, and were now returning to their regiments. The last to come on board were a couple who it appears had gotten away while on their way from prison to the boat, and had been rounded up by the police. One of these was accused of robbing another of a hundred-dollar bill, and as the accuser had some proof the fellow was stripped on deck, but no money was found on him or in his clothes. Just as he was to be released, one of the soldiers I have mentioned stepped up and running his finger in the thief's mouth hooked out what I supposed was a chew of tobacco, but which proved to be the hundred-dollar bill. He was then allowed to go below. Then we started for Dixie. The wind blew like a hurricane and we were soon in rough water. Rain kept falling, and altogether it was a most dismal setting out. Soon a great rumpus was heard below, and something that sounded like shooting. The officers in charge of them paid more attention to a demijohn of whiskey they had than to the men. So it went till night. Cries of murder were heard and such cursing and swearing and quarreling I never heard even in the army. A man came in the cabin with a broken arm, and told who broke it, but nothing was done about it. A little Dutch doctor undertook to set it, but both the doctor and the patient were drunk and got to quarreling, and the man was hustled back with the broken  bone unset. Altogether it was the blackest picture I had ever looked upon. I shut myself in my little coop wondering how it all would end, and hating myself for deserting the Creole, for a free ride on this old tub. If I had a chance to swap the $60 I had saved for a berth on the Creole, the bargain would have been made then and there.

[8]After the war I became a citizen of Sharon, and soon after Henry Holmes came there to live and so conducted himself that only good can be said of him. In the book of Sharon epitaphs, published in 1903, appears the following:

"Henry Holmes
Died May 19, 1887
Free at last."

"Henry Holmes was probably about seventy years old at the time of his death. He was born a slave and so remained until freed by the Civil War. He was last owned by a cotton planter in Louisiana from whom he took his name. He came north in the winter of 1864-5 and lived nearly all the remainder of his life in Sharon. He was a Methodist, and was buried from that church. The ministers from both the other churches attended and requested the privilege of taking part in the services. They each in turn gave testimony to the help and encouragement they had received from the words and example of this good old man. He was entirely self-supporting and at his death it was found he had laid by a sum sufficient to defray the expenses of his burial, and to pay for the enduring monument which marks his grave in Hillside Cemetery."