March 8

March 8, 1863

Had a wash and a shave and am tired out. The regiment has marching orders. Wish I was out of this to go with them.

It has been raining quite hard all day. The entertainment did not close last night till 2 a. m. to-day; have been returning the things borrowed for the hall last night; am feeling dull; no drill to-day; expect to be reviewed by General French to-morrow.

March 8, 1864

Tuesday. Another perfect day. A shower passed over just at night and sprinkled the boat with warm water. I have been off my feed for several days, but begin to be myself again and think I will be able to crack a hard-tack by the time I get into camp. My vacation, or leave of absence, that seemed so like heaven to look at, is over now, and the stern realities of a soldier's life are looking me right in the face. Well, I have a lot to think of that I didn't have then, and a whole lot of things to talk about, too.

Tail-end of Monday, March 8th.—On way down to Êtretat, where No.— G.H. is, which we shall reach to-morrow about tea-time. A load of woundeds this time; very busy all day till now (midnight), and haven't had time to hear many of their adventures. They seem to all come from a line of front where the Boches are persistently hammering to break through, and though they don't get any forrarder they cause a steady leakage. We heard guns all the while we were loading. A dressing-station five miles away had just been shelled, and a major, R.A.M.C., killed and two other R.A.M.C. officers wounded.

I have a man wounded in eight places, including a fractured elbow and a fractured skull, which has been trephined. What is left of him that hasn't stopped bullets is immensely proud of his bandages! He was one of nineteen who were in a barn when a shell came through the roof and burst inside, spitting shrapnel bullets all over them; all wounded and one killed. We have just put off an emergency case of gas gangrene, temp. 105, who came on as a sitter! They so often say after a bad dressing, "I'm a lot of trouble to ye, Sister."

Later.—Just time for a line before I do another round and then call my relief. It is an awfully cold night.

March Eighth


... The Virginia, that iron diadem of the South, whose thunders in Hampton Roads consumed the Cumberland, overcame the Congress, put to flight the Federal Navy, and achieved a victory, the novelty and grandeur of which convulsed the maritime nations of the world.

Charles Colcock Jones, Jr.


Confederate Tribute to the Commander and Men of the Cumberland : “No ship was ever better handled, or more bravely fought.”

Virginius Newton, C. S. N.


On Boarding the Congress :

Confusion, death, and pitiable suffering reigned supreme; and the horrors of war quenched the passion and enmity of months.

Virginius Newton, C. S. N.


Confederate Tribute to the Commanders of the MinnesotaSt. Lawrence, and Roanoke, which vessels ran aground in flight from the terrible Virginia :

I take occasion to say that their character as officers of skill, experience, and bravery was well established at the time, and suffered no diminution then or thereafter.

Virginius Newton, C. S. N.


Battle between the “Virginia” (“Merrimac”) and Federal men-of-war, 1862



227. Abigail Adams

8 March, 1778.

'T is a little more than three weeks since the dearest of friends and tenderest of husbands left his solitary partner, and quitted all the fond endearments of domestic felicity for the dangers of the sea, exposed, perhaps, to the attack of a hostile foe, and, O good Heaven! can I add, to the dark assassin, to the secret murderer, and the bloody emissary of as cruel a tyrant as God, in his righteous judgments, ever suffered to disgrace the throne of Britain.

I have travelled with you over the wide Atlantic, and could have landed you safe, with humble confidence, at your desired haven, and then have set myself down to enjoy a negative kind of happiness in the painful part which it has pleased Heaven to allot me; but the intelligence with regard to that great philosopher, able statesman, and unshaken friend of his country,[189] has planted a dagger in my breast, and I feel, with a double edge, the weapon that pierced the bosom of a Franklin.

"For nought avail the virtues of the heart,Nor towering genius claims its due reward;From Britain's fury, as from death's keen dart,No worth can save us, and no fame can guard."

The more distinguished the person, the greater the inveteracy of these foes of human nature. The argument of my friends to alleviate my anxiety, by persuading me that this shocking attempt will put you more upon your guard and render your person more secure than if it had never taken place, is kind in them, and has some weight; but my greatest comfort and consolation arise from the belief of a superintending Providence, to whom I can with confidence commit you, since not a sparrow falls to the ground without his notice. Were it not for this, I should be miserable and overwhelmed by my fears and apprehensions.

Freedom of sentiment, the life and soul of friendship, is in a great measure cut off by the danger of miscarriage and the apprehension of letters falling into the hands of our enemies. Should this meet with that fate, may they blush for their connection with a nation who have rendered themselves infamous and abhorred by a long list of crimes, which not their high achievements, nor the lustre of former deeds, nor the tender appellation of parent, nor the fond connection which once subsisted, can ever blot from our remembrance, nor wipe out those indelible stains of their cruelty and baseness. They have engraven them with a pen of iron on a rock forever.

To my dear son remember me in the most affectionate terms. I would have written to him, but my notice is so short that I have not time. Enjoin it upon him never to disgrace his mother, and to behave worthily of his father. Tender as maternal affection is, it was swallowed up in what I found a stronger, or so intermixed that I felt it not in its full force till after he had left me. I console myself with the hopes of his reaping advantages, under the careful eye of a tender parent, which it was not in my power to bestow upon him.

There has nothing material taken place in the political world since you left us. This letter will go by a vessel for Bilbao, from whence you may perhaps get better opportunities of conveyance than from any other place. The letter you delivered to the pilot came safe to hand. All the little folks are anxious for the safety of their papa and brother, to whom they desire to be remembered; to which are added the tenderest sentiments of affection, and the fervent prayers for your happiness and safety, of your



[189]A rumor was at this time current that Franklin had been assassinated in Paris. It is this which gave rise to the vehement emotions visible here.

March 8

March 8, 1868.--Madame----kept me to have tea with three young friends of hers--three sisters, I think. The two youngest are extremely pretty, the dark one as pretty as the blonde. Their fresh faces, radiant with the bloom of youth, were a perpetual delight to the eye. This electric force of beauty has a beneficent effect upon the man of letters; it acts as a real restorative. Sensitive, impressionable, absorbent as I am, the neighborhood of health, of beauty, of intelligence and of goodness, exercises a powerful influence upon my whole being; and in the same way I am troubled and affected just as easily by the presence near me of troubled lives or diseased souls. Madame ---- said of me that I must be "superlatively feminine" in all my perceptions. This ready sympathy and sensitiveness is the reason of it. If I had but desired it ever so little, I should have had the magical clairvoyance of the somnambulist, and could have reproduced in myself a number of strange phenomena. I know it, but I have always been on my guard against it, whether from indifference or from prudence. When I think of the intuitions of every kind which have come to me since my youth, it seems to me that I have lived a multitude of lives. Every characteristic individuality shapes itself ideally in me, or rather molds me for the moment into its own image; and I have only to turn my attention upon myself at such a time to be able to understand a new mode of being, a new phase of human nature. In this way I have been, turn by turn, mathematician, musician, savant, monk, child, or mother. In these states of universal sympathy I have even seemed to myself sometimes to enter into the condition of the animal or the plant, and even of an individual animal, of a given plant. This faculty of ascending and descending metamorphosis, this power of simplifying or of adding to one's individuality, has sometimes astounded my friends, even the most subtle of them. It has to do no doubt with the extreme facility which I have for impersonal and objective thought, and this again accounts for the difficulty which I feel in realizing my own individuality, in being simply one man having his proper number and ticket. To withdraw within my own individual limits has always seemed to me a strange, arbitrary, and conventional process. I seem to myself to be a mere conjuror's apparatus, an instrument of vision and perception, a person without personality, a subject without any determined individuality--an instance, to speak technically, of pure "determinability" and "formability," and therefore I can only resign myself with difficulty to play the purely arbitrary part of a private citizen, inscribed upon the roll of a particular town or a particular country. In action I feel myself out of place; my true milieu is contemplation. Pure virtuality and perfect equilibrium--in these I am most at home. There I feel myself free, disinterested, and sovereign. Is it a call or a temptation?

It represents perhaps the oscillation between the two geniuses, the Greek and the Roman, the eastern and the western, the ancient and the Christian, or the struggle between the two ideals, that of liberty and that of holiness. Liberty raises us to the gods; holiness prostrates us on the ground. Action limits us; whereas in the state of contemplation we are endlessly expansive. Will localizes us; thought universalizes us. My soul wavers between half a dozen antagonistic general conceptions, because it is responsive to all the great instincts of human nature, and its aspiration is to the absolute, which is only to be reached through a succession of contraries. It has taken me a great deal of time to understand myself, and I frequently find myself beginning over again the study of the oft-solved problem, so difficult is it for us to maintain any fixed point within us. I love everything, and detest one thing only--the hopeless imprisonment of my being within a single arbitrary form, even were it chosen by myself. Liberty for the inner man is then the strongest of my passions--perhaps my only passion. Is such a passion lawful? It has been my habit to think so, but intermittently, by fits and starts. I am not perfectly sure of it.