July 16

July Sixteenth

I shall yet live to see it an English nation.

Sir Walter Raleigh

 

Raleigh's first colony arrives at Roanoke Island, 1584

 

 

Arrived at the crossroads about dark and camped for the night. Lieut. Merritt Barber and I went on a scout for some supper, but couldn't find much, as the rebels have taken everything in the country. The men are very tired; arrived at the Potomac about dark and waded the river two miles below Edward's Ferry at Young's Island; are in camp for the night on the Leesburg pike just on the south side of Goose Creek. The rest of the Sixth Corps is at Leesburg.

July 16

BERLIN, July 16. 1848.--There is but one thing needful--to possess God. All our senses, all our powers of mind and soul, all our external resources, are so many ways of approaching the divinity, so many modes of tasting and of adoring God. We must learn to detach ourselves from all that is capable of being lost, to bind ourselves absolutely only to what is absolute and eternal, and to enjoy the rest as a loan, a usufruct.... To adore, to understand, to receive, to feel, to give, to act: there is my law my duty, my happiness, my heaven. Let come what come will--even death. Only be at peace with self, live in the presence of God, in communion with Him, and leave the guidance of existence to those universal powers against whom thou canst do nothing! If death gives me time, so much the better. If its summons is near, so much the better still; if a half-death overtake me, still so much the better, for so the path of success is closed to me only that I may find opening before me the path of heroism, of moral greatness and resignation. Every life has its potentiality of greatness, and as it is impossible to be outside God, the best is consciously to dwell in Him.

July 16, 1863

Donaldsonville, La. Thursday. We landed here about midnight last night. A heavy shower overtook us on the way and wet us to the skin, consequently what sleep we had was on wet ground and in wet clothes. This has been a very pretty place. The levee hides it from view from the river, but the place and the country around it is beautiful. It has been fortified, and when the gunboats fought their way up the river a year ago they were obliged to mar its beauty somewhat. There is a sugar mill near by with lots of sugar and molasses in it. The best thing is an immense cornfield right beside us, and the corn is just right to roast or boil. It is the southern variety, great big stalks, with great big ears on, and we can get a mouthful at every bite. There are a lot of troops here—I should think at least 10,000. Just what we are here for none of us have yet found out. The colored population is all I have yet seen. I visited the sugar mill and from an old darkey learned all about making sugar and molasses. There is a long shed, and under it is an endless chain arrangement upon which the sugar cane is laid as it comes in carts from the field. This carries the cane into the mill, where it passes between heavy iron rollers, which squeeze the cane so dry that it is used for fuel under the boilers that furnish steam to drive the rollers. The juice runs into a big copper kettle, where it is boiled awhile and then dipped into another and so on, until when it comes from the last it is run into what I should call a cellar under the sugar house. This is made tight in some way, probably with cement, and in it the sugar settles to the bottom. I was told that the bottom of this cellar slopes from the sides towards the center, so that the sugar settles in the center. Over this cellar is a floor that slopes from the sides to the center just as the cellar bottom does. The getting of the sugar into hogsheads is the next operation. Hogsheads are placed on the sloping floor, with one head open. Holes are bored in the lower head and into these sugar canes are stuck before any sugar is put in. They have immense great hoes, with long handles, and with these the men dig up the sugar and dump it into the open-ended hogshead. The molasses drains out through the holes in the bottom and runs back into the cellar, "vat," he called it. The men are all barefoot, and when I asked him if they washed their feet before beginning work, he said the molasses did that just as well as water. The hogsheads are left as long as any molasses drains out, when they are headed up and are ready for market. The molasses is scooped up with long-handled scoops and the barrels filled, any waste there may be running back into the vat.

It is said we are here to attract the attention of the Rebs until Grant can get in their rear, and so force them to a fair field fight. A New York paper has been going the rounds until it is worn out. When I got it I made out that General Lee got the worst of it at Gettysburg, and that he himself was wounded. Also that his line of retreat is cut off. Good enough, if true, and I hope it is. But General Lee ought to pattern after some officers I know and keep out of danger, when danger is near. After the danger is past then he can come out and shout as loud as any.

267. Abigail Adams

Sunday Evening, 16 July, 1780.

My dearest Friend,—I had just returned to my chamber and taken up my pen to congratulate you upon the arrival of the fleet of our allies at Newport, when I was called down to receive the most agreeable of presents,—letters from my dearest friend. One bearing date March 28th, by Mr. Izard, and one of May 3d, taken out of the post-office; but to what port they arrived first I know not. They could not be those by the fleet, as in these you make mention of letters which I have not yet received, nor by the Alliance, since Mr. Williams sailed twenty-five days after the fleet, and she was then in France. A pity, I think, that she should stay there when here we are almost destitute. Our navy has been unfortunate indeed. I am sorry to find that only a few lines have reached you from me. I have written by way of Spain, Holland, and Sweden, but not one single direct conveyance have I had to France since you left me. I determine to open a communication by way of Gardoqui, and wish you would make use of the same conveyance.

What shall I say of our political affairs? Shall I exclaim at measures now impossible to remedy? No. I will hope all  from the generous aid of our allies, in concert with our own exertions. I am not suddenly elated or depressed. I know America capable of anything she undertakes with spirit and vigor. "Brave in distress, serene in conquest, drowsy when at rest," is her true characteristic. Yet I deprecate a failure in our present effort. The efforts are great, and we give, this campaign, more than half our property to defend the other. He who tarries from the field cannot possibly earn sufficient at home to reward him who takes it. Yet, should Heaven bless our endeavors, and crown this year with the blessings of peace, no exertion will be thought too great, no price of property too dear. My whole soul is absorbed in the idea. The honor of my dearest friend, the welfare and happiness of this wide-extended country, ages yet unborn, depend for their happiness and security upon the able and skillful, the honest and upright, discharge of the important trust committed to him. It would not become me to write the full now of my heart upon this occasion. My constant petition for him is that he may so discharge the trust reposed in him as to merit the approving eye of Heaven, and peace, liberty, and safety crown his latest years in his own native land.

The Marchioness, at the Abbé Raynal's, is not the only lady who joins an approving voice to that of her country, though at the expense of her present domestic happiness. It is easier to admire virtue than to practice it; especially the great virtue of self-denial. I find but few sympathizing souls. Why should I look for them? since few have any souls, but of the sensitive kind. That nearest allied to my own they have taken from me, and tell me honor and fame are a compensation.

"Fame, wealth, or honor,—what are ye to love?"

But hushed be my pen. Let me cast my eye upon the letters before me. What is the example? I follow it in silence. I have repeated to you in former letters that I had received all your letters from Spain, unless you wrote by Captain Trask, who brought me some articles, but no letters. My father desires to be remembered to you, but will, I fear, never again see you. He declines daily; has a slow fever hanging about him, which wastes his flesh and spirits. These are tender ties, and how far soever advanced in life, the affectionate child feels loath to part with the guide of youth, the kind adviser of riper years. Yet the pillars must moulder with time, and the fabric fall to the dust.

Present my compliments to Mr. Dana. Tell him I have called upon his lady, and we enjoyed an afternoon of sweet communion. I find she would not be averse to taking a voyage, should he be continued abroad. She groans most bitterly, and is irreconcilable to his absence. I am a mere philosopher to her. I am inured, but not hardened, to the painful portion. Shall I live to see it otherwise?

Your letters are always valuable to me, but more particularly so when they close with an affectionate assurance of regard, which, though I do not doubt, is never repeated without exciting the tenderest sentiments; and never omitted without pain to the affectionate bosom of your

Portia.

July 16, 1914.


Your Fourth of July letter came this morning. It was lively reading, especially coming so soon after my first quatorze de juillet in the country. The day was a great contrast to the many remembrances I have of Bastille Day in Paris. How I remember my first experience of that fete, when my bedroom window overlooked one of the squares where the band played for the three nights of dancing. That was a fierce experience after the novelty of the first night had worn off, when hour after hour the dance music droned on, and hour after hour the dancing feet on the pavement nearly drove me frantic. To offset it I have memories of the Champs-Elysees and the Place de l'Hotel de Ville turned into a fairyland. I am glad I saw all that. The memory hangs in my mind like a lovely picture. Out here it was all as still as—I was going to say Sunday, but I should have to say a New England Sunday, as out here Sunday is just like any other day. There was not even a ringing of bells. The only difference there was to me was that Amelie drove Pere over to Coutevroult, on the other side of the valley of the Grand Morin, where he played for the dance, and did not get back until long after daylight. I did put out my flags in honor of the day. That was the extent of my celebrating.

In the evening there was a procession at Voisins, and from Meaux and the other towns on the hill there was an occasional rocket. It was not really an exciting day.

The procession at Voisins was a primitive affair, but, to me, all the prettier for that. It looked so quaint with its queer lanterns, its few flags, its children and men in blouses, strolling through the crooked, hilly streets of the old town, to the tap of the drum. No French procession, except it be soldiers, ever marches. If you ever saw a funeral procession going through the street, or one going about a church, you do not need to be told that.

I was glad that this little procession here kept so much of its old-time character, but I was sorry it was not gayer. Still, it was so picturesque that it made me regret anew, what I have so many times regretted of late years, that so many of the old habits of country life in France are passing away, as they are, for that matter, all over Europe, along with ignorance and national costumes.

I must tell you that up to three years ago it was the custom in this commune, which, simply because it is not on a railroad, has preserved its old-days air and habits, for wedding and baptismal parties to walk in procession through the streets from the house to the church and back again. Pere Abelard used to head the procession, playing on his violin. There has been but one event of that kind since I came, and I am afraid it will be the last. That was for the baptism of the first grandchild of a French officer who had married a woman born in this commune, and the older members of the family had a desire to keep up the old traditions. The church is at Quincy, just a step off the route nationale to Meaux. Pere walked ahead,—he could not be accused of marching,—fiddling away for dear life. The pretty young godmother carried the baby, in its wonderful christening finery, walking between the grandmother and the father, and the guests, all in their gayest clothes, followed on as they liked behind, all stepping out a little on account of the fiddle ahead. They came back from the church in the same way, only father carried the baby, and the godmother scattered her largesse among the village children.

It is a pity that such pretty customs die out. Wedding parties must have looked so attractive going along these country roads. The fashion that has replaced it is unattractive. To-day they think it much more chic to hire a big barge and drive down to Esbly and have a rousing breakfast and dance in the big hall which every country hotel has for such festivities. Such changes are in the spirit of the times, so I suppose one must not complain. I should not if people were any happier, but I cannot see that they are. However, I suppose that will come when the Republic is older. The responsibility which that has put on the people has made them more serious than they used to be.

I don't blame you for laughing at the idea of me in a donkey cart. You would laugh harder if you could see the cart and me. I do look droll. But this is the land where nothing astonishes any one, thank Heaven. But you wait until I get my complet de velours—which is to say my velveteens. I shall match up with the rig then, never fear. Rome was not built in a day, nor can a lady from the city turn into a country-looking lady in the wink of an eye. By the time you have sufficiently overcome your prejudices as to come out and see me with your own eyes, I'll fit into the landscape and the cart in great style.

Absolutely no news to write you, unless you will consider it news that my hedge of dahlias, which I planted myself a month ago, is coming up like nothing else in the world but Jack's Beanstalk. Nothing but weeds ever grew so rank before. Pere says I was too generous with my biogene—the latest French thing in fertilizers. But I did want them to be nourished in a rich soil—and come up quick. They did. I can actually see them grow. I am almost afraid to tell you that they are over two feet high now. Of course you won't believe me. But it is not a fairy tale. I would not have believed it myself if I had not seen it.

Alas! I find that I cannot break myself of reading the newspapers, and reading them eagerly. It is all the fault of that nasty affair in Servia. I have a dim recollection that I was very flippant about it in my last letter to you. After all, woman proposes and politics upset her proposition. There seems to be no quick remedy for habit, more's the pity. It is a nasty outlook. We are simply holding our breaths here.



51. Abigail Adams

Braintree, 16 July, 1775.

I have seen your letters to Colonels Palmer and Warren. I pity your embarrassments. How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking! How often are the laurels worn by those who have had no share in earning them! But there is a future recompense of reward, to which the upright man looks, and which he will most assuredly obtain, provided he perseveres unto the end.

The appointment of the generals Washington and Lee gives universal satisfaction. The people have the highest opinion of Lee's abilities, but you know the continuation of the popular breath depends much upon favorable events. I had the pleasure of seeing both the generals and their aids-de-camp soon after their arrival, and of being personally made known to them. They very politely express their regard for you. Major Mifflin said he had orders from you to visit me at Braintree. I told him I should be very happy to see him there, and accordingly sent Mr. Thaxter to Cambridge with a card, to him and Mr. Reed, to dine with me. Mrs. Warren and her son were to be with me. They very politely received the message, and lamented that they were not able to come, upon account of expresses which they were on that day to get in readiness to send off.

I was struck with General Washington. You had prepared me to entertain a favorable opinion of him, but I thought the half was not told me. Dignity with ease and complacency, the gentleman and soldier, look agreeably blended in him. Modesty marks every line and feature of his face. Those lines of Dryden instantly occurred to me:—

"Mark his majestic fabric; he's a temple Sacred by birth, and built by hands divine;His soul's the deity that lodges there;Nor is the pile unworthy of the god."

General Lee looks like a careless, hardy veteran, and by his appearance brought to my mind his namesake, Charles the Twelfth, of Sweden. The elegance of his pen far exceeds that of his person.

You have made frequent complaints that your friends do not write to you. I have stirred up some of them. May not I in my turn make complaints? All the letters I receive from you seem to be written in so much haste that they scarcely leave room for a social feeling. They let me know that you exist, but some of them contain scarcely six lines. I want some sentimental effusions of the heart. I am sure you are not destitute of them. Or are they all absorbed in the great public? Much is due to that, I know, but, being part of the public, I lay claim to a larger share than I have had. You used to be more communicative on Sundays. I always loved a Sabbath day's letter, for then you had a greater command of your time; but hush to all complaints.

I am much surprised that you have not been more accurately informed of what passes in the camps. As to intelligence from Boston, it is but very seldom we are able to collect anything that may be relied on; and to report the vague flying rumors would be endless. I heard yesterday, by one Mr. Roulstone, a goldsmith, who got out in a fishing schooner, that their distress increased upon them fast. Their beef is all spent; their malt and cider all gone. All the fresh provisions they can procure they are obliged to give to the sick and wounded. Thirteen of our men who were in jail, and were wounded at the battle of Charlestown, were dead. No man dared now to be seen talking to his friend in the street. They were obliged to be within, every evening, at ten o'clock, according to martial law; nor could any inhabitant walk any street in town after that time, without a pass from Gage. He has ordered all the molasses to be distilled into rum for the soldiers; taken away all licenses, and given out others, obliging to a forfeiture of ten pounds, if any rum is sold without written orders from the General. He gives much the same account of the killed and wounded we have from others. The spirit, he says, which prevails among the soldiers, is a spirit of malice and revenge; there is no true courage and bravery to be observed among them. Their duty is hard; always mounting guard with their packs at their backs, ready for an alarm, which they live in continual hazard of. Dr. Eliot is not on board a man-of-war, as has been reported, but perhaps was left in town, as the comfort and support of those who cannot escape. He was constantly with our prisoners. Messrs. Lovell and Leach, with others, are certainly in jail. A poor milch cow was last week killed in town, and sold for a shilling sterling per pound. The transports arrived last week from York, but every additional man adds to their distress. There has been a little expedition this week to Long Island. There have been, before, several attempts to go on, but three men-of-war lay near, and cutters all round the island, so that they could not succeed. A number of whaleboats lay at Germantown. Three hundred volunteers, commanded by one Captain Tupper, came on Monday evening and took the boats, went on, and brought off seventy odd sheep, fifteen head of cattle, and sixteen prisoners, thirteen of whom were sent by (Simple Sapling)[86] to mow the hay, which they had very badly executed. They were all asleep in the house and barn. When they were taken, there were three women with them. Our heroes came off in triumph, not being observed by their enemies. This spirited up others, who could not endure the thought that the house and barn should afford them any shelter; they did not destroy them the night before for fear of being discovered. Captain Wild, of this town, with about twenty-five of his company, Captain Gold, of Weymouth, with as many of his, and some other volunteers, to the amount of a hundred, obtained leave to go on and destroy the hay, together with the house and barn; and in open day, in full view of the men-of-war, they set off from the Moon, so called, covered by a number of men who were placed there, went on and set fire to the buildings and hay. A number of armed cutters immediately surrounded the island and fired upon our men. They came off with a hot and continued fire upon them, the bullets flying in every direction, and the men-of-war's boats plying them with small arms. Many in this town, who were spectators, expected every moment our men would all be sacrificed, for sometimes they were so near as to be called and damned by their enemies, and ordered to surrender; yet they all returned in safety, not one man even wounded. Upon the Moon  we lost one man, from the cannon on board the man-of-war.[87] On the evening of the same day, a man-of-war came and anchored near Great Hill, and two cutters came to Pig Rocks. It occasioned an alarm in this town, and we were up all night. They remain there yet, but have not ventured to land any men.

This town have chosen their representative. Colonel Palmer is the man. There was a considerable muster upon Thayer's side, and Vinton's company marched up in order to assist, but got sadly disappointed. Newcomb insisted upon it that no man should vote who was in the army. He had no notion of being under the military power; said we might be so situated as to have the greater part of the people engaged in the military, and then all power would be wrested out of the hands of the civil magistrate.

He insisted upon its being put to vote, and carried his point immediately. It brought Thayer to his speech, who said all he could against it.

As to the situation of the camps, our men are in general healthy, much more so at Roxbury than at Cambridge, and the camp is in vastly better order. General Thomas has the character of an excellent officer. His merit has certainly been overlooked, as modest merit generally is. I hear General Washington is much pleased with his conduct.

Every article here in the West India way is very scarce and dear. In six weeks we shall not be able to purchase any article of the kind. I wish you would let Bass get me one pound of pepper and two yards of black calamanco for shoes. I cannot wear leather, if I go barefoot. Bass may make a fine profit if he lays in a stock for himself. You can hardly imagine how much we want many common small articles, which are not manufactured amongst ourselves; but we will have them in time; not one pin to be purchased for love or money. I wish you could convey me a thousand by any friend travelling this way. It is very provoking to have such a plenty so near us, but, Tantalus-like, not to be able to touch. I should have been glad to have laid in a small stock of the West India articles, but I cannot get one copper; no person thinks of paying anything, and I do not choose to run in debt. I endeavor to live in the most frugal manner possible, but I am many times distressed.

We have, since I wrote you, had many fine showers, and, although the crops of grass have been cut short, we have a fine prospect of Indian corn and English grain. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, the tree beareth her fruit, the vine and the olive yield their increase. We have not yet been much distressed for grain. Everything at present looks blooming. Oh that peace would once more extend her olive branch!

"This day be bread and peace my lot;All else beneath the sun,Thou knowest if best bestowed or not,And let thy will be done."
"But is the almighty ever bound to please,Build by my wish, or studious of my ease?Shall I determine where his frowns shall fall,And fence my grotto from the lot of all?Prostrate, his sovereign wisdom I adore,Intreat his mercy, but I dare no more."

I have now written you all I can collect from every quarter. 'T is fit for no eyes but yours, because you can make all necessary allowances. I cannot copy.

There are yet in town three of the selectmen and some thousands of inhabitants, 't is said. I hope to hear from you soon. Do let me know if there is any prospect of seeing you. Next Wednesday is thirteen weeks since you went away. I must bid you adieu.

You have many friends, though they have not noticed you by writing. I am sorry they have been so negligent. I hope no share of that blame lies upon

Your most affectionate     Portia.

Footnotes:

[86]Simple Sapling is the name given to one of the dramatis personæ in Mrs. Warren's satirical piece called The Group. In one copy, which has a written key to the characters, Nathaniel R. Thomas is named, in another Abijah White.

[87]A brief account of this enterprise by an eye-witness is given in Force's American Archives, Fourth Series, Vol. II., p. 165.