July 12

Still the Tenth and Sixty-seventh regiments are allowed to remain undisturbed by the enemy while it is having things pretty much its own way in the vicinity of Baltimore and Washington. It's reported this evening Gilmore's rebel cavalry have burned the Gunpowder Bridge, destroyed a railroad train, robbed the passengers, etc. The greatest consternation prevails throughout the country, as the enemy is reported to be only three miles from the National Capital. We wait anxiously for the next news.

July Twelfth

Jackson's genius for war, Lee's resistless magnetism, were not vouchsafed to Hill; but in those characteristics in which he excelled: invincible tenacity, absolute unconsciousness of fear, a courage never to submit or yield, no one has risen above him, not even in the annals of the Army of Northern Virginia. He was the very “Ironsides” of the South—Cromwell in some of his essential characteristics coming again in the person and genius of D. H. Hill.

Henry E. Shepherd

 

D. H. Hill born, 1821

 

 

July 12, 1863

Baton Rouge, La. Sunday. Here at last and about tired out. We left Port Hudson about dark and were all night and until noon to-day getting here. Many of the men gave out and slept by the side of the road. I suppose they will be coming in all the afternoon. Some of them were skylarking around Port Hudson and did not get any supper. We were all hungry as bears when we got here, and my clean suit, that I felt so proud of, shows no signs of its recent washing. It had not got dry and the dust we picked up seemed to all settle on and stick to me. However, we have had a feed and I have shook out the most of the dirt I brought with me. We hear good news from down the river, that 5,000 Rebs were captured at Donaldsonville. The boys that were wounded at Port Hudson May 27 are here, and except those in the general hospital at New Orleans, the company is together again. This is the capital of Louisiana, and like most all southern cities, is built up of low wooden buildings although there are houses of all patterns, sizes and shapes. The streets are narrow and dirty, and the citizens mostly speak French among themselves. Negroes are everywhere, little and big, some jet black and some almost white. As we may have to stay here, I won't run down the place or the people any more. We are already settling down for the night, and hope for an all-night's sleep.

July 12

July 12, 1876.--Trouble on trouble. My cough has been worse than ever. I cannot see that the fine weather or the holidays have made any change for the better in my state of health. On the contrary, the process of demolition seems more rapid. It is a painful experience, this premature decay!... "Après tant de malheurs, que vous reste-t-il? Moi." This "moi" is the central consciousness, the trunk of all the branches which have been cut away, that which bears every successive mutilation. Soon I shall have nothing else left than bare intellect. Death reduces us to the mathematical "point;" the destruction which precedes it forces us back, as it were, by a series of ever-narrowing concentric circles to this last inaccessible refuge. Already I have a foretaste of that zero in which all forms and all modes are extinguished. I see how we return into the night, and inversely I understand how we issue from it. Life is but a meteor, of which the whole brief course is before me. Birth, life, death assume a fresh meaning to us at each phase of our existence. To see one's self as a firework in the darkness--to become a witness of one's own fugitive phenomenon--this is practical psychology. I prefer indeed the spectacle of the world, which is a vaster and more splendid firework; but when illness narrows my horizon and makes me dwell perforce upon my own miseries, these miseries are still capable of supplying food for my psychological curiosity. What interests me in myself, in spite of my repulsions is, that I find in my own case a genuine example of human nature, and therefore a specimen of general value. The sample enables me to understand a multitude of similar situations, and numbers of my fellow-men.

To enter consciously into all possible modes of being would be sufficient occupation for hundreds of centuries--at least for our finite intelligences, which are conditioned by time. The progressive happiness of the process, indeed may be easily poisoned and embittered by the ambition which asks for everything at once, and clamors to reach the absolute at a bound. But it may be answered that aspirations are necessarily prophetic, for they could only have come into being under the action of the same cause which will enable them to reach their goal. The soul can only imagine the absolute because the absolute exists; our consciousness of a possible perfection is the guarantee that perfection will be realized.

Thought itself is eternal. It is the consciousness of thought which is gradually achieved through the long succession of ages, races, and humanities. Such is the doctrine of Hegel. The history of the mind is, according to him one of approximation to the absolute, and the absolute differs at the two ends of the story. It was at the beginning; it knows itself at the end. Or rather it advances in the possession of itself with the gradual unfolding of creation. Such also was the conception of Aristotle.

If the history of the mind and of consciousness is the very marrow and essence of being, then to be driven back on psychology, even personal psychology, is to be still occupied with the main question of things, to keep to the subject, to feel one's self in the center of the universal drama. There is comfort in the idea. Everything else may be taken away from us, but if thought remains we are still connected by a magic thread with the axis of the world. But we may lose thought and speech. Then nothing remains but simple feeling, the sense of the presence of God and of death in God--the last relic of the human privilege, which is to participate in the whole, to commune with the absolute.

"Ta vie est un éclair qui meurt dans son nuage, Mais l'éclair t'a sauvé s'il t'a fait voir le ciel."