July 27

Marched about 5 o'clock a. m.; took a crossroad and went to the Rockville and Alexandria pike; hard march; camped at Hyattstown; are headed for Frederick Junction on the Monocacy River, where we had our fight July 9, 1864.

July Twenty-Seventh

'Tis night! calm, lovely, silent, cloudless night!
Unnumbered stars on Heaven's blue ocean-stream,
Ships of Eternity! shed silver light,
Pure as an infant's or an angel's dream;
And still exhaustless, glorious, ever-bright,
Such as Creation's dawn beheld them beam,
In changeless orbits hold their ceaseless race
For endless ages over boundless space!
Richard Henry Wilde

 

 

July 27, 1863

Monday. We have been put in the Third Brigade, in the Fourth Division, under Emory. There seems to be a regular reorganization going on. I suppose things are being arranged for another campaign. The darkeys had a dance in the road last night. I had gone to bed, but there was so much noise I got up and went to the ball. They had no music, but one of them patted his hands on his leg, at the same time stamping his foot, and it answered every purpose. Half the regiment was there looking on and there was lots of fun. They were in dead earnest too, and there are some right down good dancers among them. The dignity of it all, and their extreme politeness to the ladies, would shame some white dances I have attended.

A New Orleans paper says General Lee has got safely back into Virginia. We hoped for a different report from that. But there is no such thing as suiting both sides in this business. It also tells of a riot in New York City on account of the draft. Here comes the mail man, so good-bye.

Later. I have a letter from Jane and have read it. John is dead, killed at the first fire that came his way. The 150th marched thirty-six miles to get there, and were put right in as soon as they reached the field. Poor John! I'll bet he was in the front ranks, for he always was in anything he undertook. He was instantly killed. To know he did not suffer as some have to, is a great relief. I had hoped the Pine Plains Herald  report was not true, but I can hope no longer. I feel so for father and mother. I must write them oftener now, for they will feel more than ever anxious to hear from me. Jane says they are brave, but I know that sort of bravery cuts like a knife. Colonel Ketcham wrote them a nice letter, telling what a good soldier John had been, and how he sympathized with them in losing him. I suppose his body can sometime be brought home, that is, if it can be identified. If many were killed they were probably tumbled into a long ditch together, for that is the way it is usually done.

Through rebel sources we hear General Dow is in Libby Prison. Also that Charleston is taken. Also that Lee, with his army, is safe in Virginia. How I wish I knew more about the Gettysburg fight. How it came about, and how it came out. How Lee and his army came to be in Pennsylvania. Why he was allowed to go so far north without a move being made to stop him. For all we know or can find out, he dropped right down from the clouds, and then our forces were gathered about him, some of them from long distances, and were just able to drive him back into Virginia.

191. John Adams to John Q. Adams.[175]

Philadelphia, 27 July, 1777.

If it should be the design of Providence that you should live to grow up, you will naturally feel a curiosity to learn the history of the causes which have produced the late Revolution of our Government. No study in which you can engage will be more worthy of you.

It will become you to make yourself master of all the considerable characters which have figured upon the stage of civil, political, or military life. This you ought to do with utmost candor, benevolence, and impartiality; and if you should now and then meet with an incident which shall throw some light upon your father's character, I charge you to consider it with an attention only to truth.

It will also be an entertaining and instructive amusement to compare our American Revolution with others that resemble it. The whole period of English history, from the accession of James the First to the accession of William the Third will deserve your most critical attention.

The History of the Revolutions in Portugal, Sweden, and Rome, by the Abbot de Vertot, is well worth your reading.

The separation of the Helvetic Confederacy from the dominion of the House of Austria is also an illustrious event, that particularly resembles our American struggle with Great Britain.

But above all others I would recommend to your study the history of the Flemish Confederacy, by which the seven United Provinces of the Netherlands emancipated themselves from the domination of Spain.

There are several good histories of this great revolution. Sir William Temple's is short but elegant and entertaining. Another account of this period was written by Puffendorf, and another by Grotius.

But the most full and complete history that I have seen is one that I am now engaged in reading. It is entitled "The History of the Wars of Flanders," written in Italian by that learned and famous Cardinal Bentivoglio, Englished by the Right Honorable Henry, Earl of Monmouth. The whole work illustrated with a map of the seventeen Provinces and above twenty figures of the chief personages mentioned in the history.

Bentivoglio, like Clarendon, was a courtier, and on the side of monarchy and the hierarchy. But allowances must be made for that.

There are three most memorable sieges described in this history, those of Haerlem, Leyden, and Antwerp.

You will wonder, my dear son, at my writing to you at your tender age such dry things as these; but if you keep this letter, you will in some future period thank your father for writing it.

Footnotes:

[175]At this time just ten years old.

July 27

July 27, 1855.--So life passes away, tossed like a boat by the waves up and down, hither and thither, drenched by the spray, stained by the foam, now thrown upon the bank, now drawn back again according to the endless caprice of the water. Such, at least, is the life of the heart and the passions, the life which Spinoza and the stoics reprove, and which is the exact opposite of that serene and contemplative life, always equable like the starlight, in which man lives at peace, and sees everything tinder its eternal aspect; the opposite also of the life of conscience, in which God alone speaks, and all self-will surrenders itself to His will made manifest.

I pass from one to another of these three existences, which are equally known to me; but this very mobility deprives me of the advantages of each. For my heart is worn with scruples, the soul in me cannot crush the needs of the heart, and the conscience is troubled and no longer knows how to distinguish, in the chaos of contradictory inclinations, the voice of duty or the will of God. The want of simple faith, the indecision which springs from distrust of self, tend to make all my personal life a matter of doubt and uncertainty. I am afraid of the subjective life, and recoil from every enterprise, demand, or promise which may oblige me to realize myself; I feel a terror of action, and am only at ease in the impersonal, disinterested, and objective life of thought. The reason seems to be timidity, and the timidity springs from the excessive development of the reflective power which has almost destroyed in me all spontaneity, impulse, and instinct, and therefore all boldness and confidence. Whenever I am forced to act, I see cause for error and repentance everywhere, everywhere hidden threats and masked vexations. From a child I have been liable to the disease of irony, and that it may not be altogether crushed by destiny, my nature seems to have armed itself with a caution strong enough to prevail against any of life's blandishments. It is just this strength which is my weakness. I have a horror of being duped, above all, duped by myself, and I would rather cut myself off from all life's joys than deceive or be deceived. Humiliation, then, is the sorrow which I fear the most, and therefore it would seem as if pride were the deepest rooted of my faults.

This may be logical, but it is not the truth: it seems to me that it is really distrust, incurable doubt of the future, a sense of the justice but not of the goodness of God--in short, unbelief, which is my misfortune and my sin. Every act is a hostage delivered over to avenging destiny--there is the instinctive belief which chills and freezes; every act is a pledge confided to a fatherly providence, there is the belief which calms.

Pain seems to me a punishment and not a mercy: this is why I have a secret horror of it. And as I feel myself vulnerable at all points, and everywhere accessible to pain, I prefer to remain motionless, like a timid child, who, left alone in his father's laboratory, dares not touch anything for fear of springs; explosions, and catastrophes, which may burst from every corner at the least movement of his inexperienced hands. I have trust in God directly and as revealed in nature, but I have a deep distrust of all free and evil agents. I feel or foresee evil, moral and physical, as the consequence of every error, fault, or sin, and I am ashamed of pain.

At bottom, is it not a mere boundless self-love, the purism of perfection, an incapacity to accept our human condition, a tacit protest against the order of the world, which lies at the root of my inertia? It means all or nothing, a vast ambition made inactive by disgust, a yearning that cannot be uttered for the ideal, joined with an offended dignity and a wounded pride which will have nothing to say to what they consider beneath them. It springs from the ironical temper which refuses to take either self or reality seriously, because it is forever comparing both with the dimly-seen infinite of its dreams. It is a state of mental reservation in which one lends one's self to circumstances for form's sake, but refuses to recognize them in one's heart because one cannot see the necessity or the divine order in them. I am disinterested because I am indifferent; I have nothing to say against what is, and yet I am never satisfied. I am too weak to conquer, and yet I will not be Conquered--it is the isolation of the disenchanted soul, which has put even hope away from it.

But even this is a trial laid upon one. Its providential purpose is no doubt to lead one to that true renunciation of which charity is the sign and symbol. It is when one expects nothing more for one's self that one is able to love. To do good to men because we love them, to use every talent we have so as to please the Father from whom we hold it for His service, there is no other way of reaching and curing this deep discontent with life which hides itself under an appearance of indifference.