June 25

June Twenty-Fifth

But far away another line is stretching dark and long,
Another flag is floating free where armed legions throng;
Another war-cry's on the air, as wakes the martial drum,
And onward still, in serried ranks, the Southern soldiers come.
George Herbert Sass

 

Beginning of Seven Days' Battle around Richmond, 1862

 

 

Still we are behind our works sweltering in the sun. The only way we can possibly keep comfortable is to stick up brush which gives us a little shade; enemy made no attack last night as expected on our left. The Second Corps was attacked during the night, the enemy gaining some advantage, but our troops rallied and regained what they had lost. It's quite comfortable this evening; the bands are all playing, and seem determined to help us pass the time as pleasantly as possible in spite of our uncomfortable surroundings. But if we are uncomfortable what condition must the enemy be in? It's a poor soldier who never thinks of such things.

June 25, 1863

Thursday. We have been listening and expecting to hear the beginning of the third attempt to take Port Hudson by storm. But the day has passed without any great excitement. Five deserters came in this morning, and said there was others that would come if they were sure of good, fair treatment. They had agreed upon a signal, which was to be a green bush fastened upon the end of an old building close by. If the bush was put up it would mean they were well treated, otherwise they were to say nothing about the signal, and it would be a warning to their comrades to stay where they are.

A letter from Jane to-day. They have just heard where we are, and are very anxious. The newspapers have Banks' army all cut to pieces.

48. Abigail Adams

Braintree, 25 June, 1775.

My father has been more afflicted by the destruction of Charlestown than by anything which has heretofore taken place. Why should not his countenance be sad, when the city, the place of his father's sepulchre, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Scarcely one stone remaineth upon another; but in the midst of sorrow we have abundant cause of thankfulness, that so few of our brethren are numbered with the slain, whilst our enemies were cut down like the grass before the scythe. But one officer of all the Welsh fusileers remains to tell his story. Many poor wretches die for want of proper assistance and care of their wounds.

Every account agrees in fourteen or fifteen hundred slain and wounded upon their side, nor can I learn that they dissemble the number themselves. We had some heroes that day, who fought with amazing intrepidity and courage.

"Extremity is the trier of spirits;—common chances common men can bear."And, "When the sea is calm, all boats alike Show mastership in floating: fortune's blows When most struck home, being bravely  warded, crave A noble cunning."

I hear that General Howe said that the battle upon the Plains of Abram was but a bauble to this. When we consider all the circumstances attending this action, we stand astonished that our people were not all cut off. They had but one hundred feet intrenched, the number who were engaged did not exceed eight hundred, and they with not half ammunition enough; the reinforcement not able to get to them seasonably. The tide was up, and high, so that their floating batteries came upon each side of the causeway, and their row-galleys kept a continual fire. Added to this, the fire from Copp's Hill, and from the ships; the town in flames, all around them, and the heat from the flames so intense as scarcely to be borne; the day one of the hottest we have had this season, and the wind blowing the smoke in their faces,—only figure to yourself all these circumstances, and then consider that we do not count sixty men lost.[83] My heart overflows at the recollection.

We live in continual expectation of hostilities. Scarcely a day that does not produce some; but, like good Nehemiah, having made our prayer unto God, and set the people with their swords, their spears, and their bows, we will say unto them, "Be not ye afraid of them; remember the Lord, who is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives and your houses."

I have just received yours of the 17th of June, in seven days only; every line from that far [84] country is precious; you do not tell me how you do, but I will hope better. Alas, you little thought what distress we were in the day you wrote. They delight in molesting us upon the Sabbath. Two Sabbaths we have been in such alarm that we have had no meeting; this day we have sat under our own vine in quietness; have heard Mr. Taft, from Psalms, "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." The good man was earnest and pathetic; I could forgive his weakness for the sake of his sincerity, but I long for a Cooper and an Eliot. I want a person who has feeling and sensibility, who can take one up with him,—

And "in his duty prompt, at every call,"Can "watch, and weep, and pray, and feel for all."

Mr. Rice joins General Heath's regiment to-morrow, as adjutant. Your brother is very desirous of being in the army, but your good mother is really violent against it. I cannot persuade nor reason her into a consent. Neither he nor I dare let her know that he is trying for a place. My brother has a captain's commission, and is stationed at Cambridge. I thought you had the best of intelligence, or I should have taken pains to be more particular. As to Boston, there are many persons yet there who would be glad to get out if they could. Mr. Boylston, and Mr. Gill, the printer, with his family, are held upon the black list, it is said. 'T is certain they watch them so narrowly that they cannot escape. Mr. Mather got out a day or two before Charlestown was destroyed, and had lodged his papers and what else he got out at Mr. Carey's, but they were all consumed; so were many other people's, who thought they might trust their little there till teams could be procured to remove them. The people from the almshouse and workhouse were sent to the lines, last week, to make room for their wounded, they say. Medford people are all removed. Every seaport seems in motion. O North, may the groans and cries of the injured and oppressed harrow up thy soul. We have a prodigious army, but we lack many accommodations which we need. I hope the appointment of these new Generals will give satisfaction; they must be proof against calumny. In a contest like this, continual reports are circulated by our enemies, and they catch with the unwary and the gaping crowd, who are ready to listen to the marvelous without considering of consequences, even though their best friends are injured.

I have not ventured to inquire one word of you about your return. I do not know whether I ought to wish for it; it seems as if your sitting together was absolutely necessary, whilst every day is big with events.

Mr. Bowdoin called Friday and took his leave of me, desiring I would present his affectionate regards to you. I have hopes that he will recover; he has mended a good deal. He wished he could have stayed in Braintree, but his lady was fearful.

Yours evermore,     Portia.

Footnotes:

[83]Of course the statements in this letter, gathered from the rumors of the moment, are not to be relied on as precisely accurate.

[84]The "far country" was Philadelphia.