January 29

Friday, January 29th.—One of those difficult-to-bear days; hung up all day at a place beyond St Omer, listening to guns, and doing nothing when there's so much to be done. The line is probably too busy to let us up. It happens to be a dazzling blue day, which must be wiping off 50 per cent of the horrors of the Front. The other 50 per cent is what they are out for, and see the meaning of.

We are to go on in an hour's time, "destination unknown."

January 29, 1863

For excitement to-day a man in the tent next ours tried to shoot himself. He is crazy. He rolled himself up in his blanket and then fired his revolver, on purpose maybe, and it may be by accident. At any rate he put a ball in the calf of his leg which stopped under the skin near his heel, and the doctor cut it out with a jackknife. He has acted half crazy for some time and should be taken care of before he kills himself or someone else.

It has been really uncomfortable all day, it's been so warm. Lieut G. E. Davis started for Vermont this forenoon; have completed the ordnance return but it's not mailed yet. Most of the officers have been playing ball this afternoon. The non-commissioned officers have given us a challenge to play for the oysters to-morrow, and the Colonel has accepted it; received a letter from brother Roy and wife and one from home; have been reading army regulations, etc. Colonel A. B. Jewett has refused to approve Lieut. E. P. Farr's application.

January Twenty-Ninth

It was Lee who suggested the capture of Stony Point, and it was a band of North Carolinians who formed Wayne's head of column in the assault upon that fortress. Three hundred Virginians followed Lee in his successful dash against Paulus Hook on the Jersey coast, August, 1779.

Henry A. White

 

Henry Lee (“Light Horse Harry”) born, 1756

 

 

January 29

January 29, 1866. (Nine o'clock in the morning ).--The gray curtain of mist has spread itself again over the town; everything is dark and dull. The bells are ringing in the distance for some festival; with this exception everything is calm and silent. Except for the crackling of the fire, no noise disturbs my solitude in this modest home, the shelter of my thoughts and of my work, where the man of middle age carries on the life of his student-youth without the zest of youth, and the sedentary professor repeats day by day the habits which he formed as a traveler.

What is it which makes the charm of this existence outwardly so barren and empty? Liberty! What does the absence of comfort and of all else that is wanting to these rooms matter to me? These things are indifferent to me. I find under this roof light, quiet, shelter. I am near to a sister and her children, whom I love; my material life is assured--that ought to be enough for a bachelor.... Am I not, besides, a creature of habit? more attached to the ennuis I know, than in love with pleasures unknown to me. I am, then, free and not unhappy. Then I am well off here, and I should be ungrateful to complain. Nor do I. It is only the heart which sighs and seeks for something more and better. The heart is an insatiable glutton, as we all know--and for the rest, who is without yearnings? It is our destiny here below. Only some go through torments and troubles in order to satisfy themselves, and all without success; others foresee the inevitable result, and by a timely resignation save themselves a barren and fruitless effort. Since we cannot be happy, why give ourselves so much trouble? It is best to limit one's self to what is strictly necessary, to live austerely and by rule, to content one's self with a little, and to attach no value to anything but peace of conscience and a sense of duty done.

It is true that this itself is no small ambition, and that it only lands us in another impossibility. No--the simplest course is to submit one's self wholly and altogether to God. Everything else, as saith the preacher, is but vanity and vexation of spirit.

It is a long while now since this has been plain to me, and since this religious renunciation has been sweet and familiar to me. It is the outward distractions of life, the examples of the world, and the irresistible influence exerted upon us by the current of things which make us forget the wisdom we have acquired and the principles we have adopted. That is why life is such weariness! This eternal beginning over again is tedious, even to repulsion. It would be so good to go to sleep when we have gathered the fruit of experience, when we are no longer in opposition to the supreme will, when we have broken loose from self, when we are at peace with all men. Instead of this, the old round of temptations, disputes, ennuis, and forgettings, has to be faced again and again, and we fall back into prose, into commonness, into vulgarity. How melancholy, how humiliating! The poets are wise in withdrawing their heroes more quickly from the strife, and in not dragging them after victory along the common rut of barren days. "Whom the gods love die young," said the proverb of antiquity.

Yes, but it is our secret self-love which is set upon this favor from on high; such may be our desire, but such is not the will of God. We are to be exercised, humbled, tried, and tormented to the end. It is our patience which is the touchstone of our virtue. To bear with life even when illusion and hope are gone; to accept this position of perpetual war, while at the same time loving only peace; to stay patiently in the world, even when it repels us as a place of low company, and seems to us a mere arena of bad passions; to remain faithful to one's own faith without breaking with the followers of the false gods; to make no attempt to escape from the human hospital, long-suffering and patient as Job upon his dung hill--this is duty. When life ceases to be a promise it does not cease to be a task; its true name even is trial.