May 10

May 10, 1864

Tuesday. A rainy day, a rare thing nowadays. Colonel Parker succeeded in getting arms for our men, and they are wild with delight. Few of them ever had a gun in their hands before, and are as awkward with them as can be. We have been drilling them in the manual of arms and they did as well as could be expected. The army is getting straightened out for a start as soon as the ironclads are released. The wagon train is said to be fifteen miles long now, and the final start will add miles to it.

May 10, 1863

Sunday. Yesterday this regiment and many others were reviewed by General Banks. Evidently something is going to happen soon. The health of our regiment is fairly good now. I begin to find out that some had rather be sick than to be on duty, and they play it till Dr. Andrus sends them back to camp. We have some very hot weather, and then again some not so hot. Mosquitoes are the pest of our lives. They hide in our tents, ready to pounce upon us the minute we enter, and the only place we are free from them is in the hot sun outside. At night and on cloudy days they give us no peace. Their name is legion.

May Tenth

Fearless and strong, self-dependent and ambitious, he had within him the making of a Napoleon, and yet his name is without spot or blemish.

Lieut.-Col. G. F. R. Henderson, C.B.

... Ask the world—
The world has heard his story—
If all its annals can unfold
A prouder tale of glory?
If ever merely human life
Hath taught diviner moral—
If ever round a worthier brow
Was twined a purer laurel?
Margaret J. Preston

 

Stonewall Jackson dies, 1863

 

 

May 10

May 10, 1878.--I have just come back from a solitary walk. I heard nightingales, saw white lilac and orchard trees in bloom. My heart is full of impressions showered upon it by the chaffinches, the golden orioles, the grasshoppers, the hawthorns, and the primroses. A dull, gray, fleecy sky brooded with a certain melancholy over the nuptial splendors of vegetation. Many painful memories stirred afresh in me; at Pré l'Evèque, at Jargonnant, at Villereuse, a score of phantoms--phantoms of youth--rose with sad eyes to greet me. The walls had changed, and roads which were once shady and dreamy I found now waste and treeless. But at the first trills of the nightingale a flood of tender feeling filled my heart. I felt myself soothed, grateful, melted; a mood of serenity and contemplation took possession of me. A certain little path, a very kingdom of green, with fountain, thickets, gentle ups and downs, and an abundance of singing-birds, delighted me, and did me inexpressible good. Its peaceful remoteness brought back the bloom of feeling. I had need of it.

Warm and sultry. The stench from the dead between the lines is terrible. There has been hard fighting on our right all day. As for the Tenth Vermont it has been supporting a battery most of the time. According to rumor we have captured a large number of prisoners and several pieces of artillery. About 6 o'clock p. m. our batteries opened a tremendous fire on the enemy's works, and kept it up for two hours, but with what result I do not know, except that the guns in our front were silenced. It was a fine artillery duel and the roar appalling even to a practiced ear. We are getting the best of Lee in this battle but it's stubborn fighting on both sides.

The accuracy with which our gunners fire is wonderful. I have seen one piece of the enemy's artillery opposite me turned completely over backwards carriage and all, by a solid shot from one of our guns in front of our regiment; it evidently hit the enemy's cannon square in the muzzle. It is awe-inspiring to see the regularity, the determined set look and precision with which our begrimed artillerymen stick to their work; shot and shell screeching close by don't seem to disturb them. I was spellbound and speechless with awe and admiration for their splendid pluck and nerve for some time, at first. No words can picture such a scene. I'd rather be a "doughboy"[1] though—anything but an artilleryman, for I hate shells and solid shot. I think I can face anything in a charge without flinching after this splendid exhibition of nerve.

Our regiment relieved the One Hundred and Fifty-first Ohio Volunteer Infantry on the skirmish line to-night. I am on lookout in a grave-like hole about the length of a man some two feet deep on top of a hillock with cut bushes stuck all about as a mask in the soft dirt thrown from the hole. The cheerfully suggestive grave-like hole is wide enough for two, and I have Corporal Shedd with me. Even such a place is fine  under the circumstances for there is a constant whizzing of bullets and shrieking shells over my abode. We are not more than fifty yards from our main line so close are the two armies at this point. We have to relieve each other at night stealthily under the cover of darkness.

[1]An infantryman.

Monday, May 10th, 9.30 a.m.—We have had a night of it. Every Field Ambulance, barge, Clearing Hospital, and train are blocked with them. The M.O.'s neither eat nor sleep. I got up early yesterday and went down to the barge to see if they wanted any extra help (as the other two were coping with the wounded officers), and had a grim afternoon and evening there. One M.O., no Sisters, four trained orderlies, and some other men were there. It was packed with all the worst cases—dying and bleeding and groaning. After five hours we had three-fourths of them out of their blood-soaked clothes, dressed, fed, hæmorrhage stopped, hands and faces washed, and some asleep. Two died, and more were dying. They all worked like bricks. The M.O., and another from the other barge which hadn't filled up, sent up to the O.D.S., when my hour for night duty there came, to ask if I could stay, and got leave. At 11 p.m. four Sisters arrived (I don't know how—they'd been wired for), two for each barge; so I handed over to them and went to the O.D.S. to relieve the other two there for night duty. The place was unrecognisable: every corner of every floor filled with wounded officers—some sitting up and some all over wounds, and three dying and others critical; and they still kept coming in. They were all awfully good strewing about the floor—some soaked to the skin from wet shell holes—on their stretchers, waiting to be put to bed.

One had had "such a jolly Sunday afternoon" lying in a shell hole with six inches of water in it and a dead man, digging himself in deeper with his trench tool whenever the shells burst near him. He was hit in the stomach.

One officer saw the enemy through a periscope sniping at our wounded.

p.m.—In bed. It seems quiet to-day; there are so few guns to be heard, and not so many ambulances coming. All except the hopeless cases will have been evacuated by now from all the Field Hospitals. There was a block last night, and none could be sent on. The Clearing Hospitals were full, and no trains in.

Those four Sisters from the base had a weird arrival at the barge last night in a car at 11 p.m. It was a black dark night, big guns going, and a sudden descent down a ladder into that Nelson's cockpit. They were awfully bucked when we said, "Oh, I am glad you have come." They buckled to and set to work right off. The cook, who had been helping magnificently in the ward, was running after me with hot cocoa (breakfast was my last meal, except a cup of tea), and promised to give them some. One wounded of the Munsters there said he didn't mind nothink now,—he'd seen so many dead Germans as he never thought on. As always, they have lost thousands, but they come on like ants.

They have only had about seven new cases to-day at the O.D.S., but two of last night's have died. A Padre was with them.

They had no market this morning, for fear of bombs from aeroplanes. There's been no shelling into the town.

180. John Adams

Philadelphia, 10 May, 1777.

The day before yesterday I took a walk with my friend Whipple to Mrs. Wells's, the sister of the famous Mrs. Wright,[172] to see her wax-work. She has two chambers filled with it. In one, the parable of the prodigal son is represented. The prodigal is prostrate on his knees before his father, whose joy and grief and compassion all appear in his eyes and face, struggling with each other. A servant-maid, at the father's command, is puffing down from a closet shelf the choicest robes to clothe the prodigal, who is all in rags. At an outward door in a corner of the room stands the brother, chagrined at this festivity, a servant coaxing him to come in. A large number of guests are placed round the room. In another chamber are the figures of Chatham, Franklin, Sawbridge, Mrs. Macaulay, and several others. At a corner is a miser, sitting at his table weighing his gold, his bag upon one side of the table and a thief behind him endeavoring to pilfer the bag.

There is genius as well as taste and art discovered in this exhibition. But I must confess the whole scene was disagreeable to me. The imitation of life was too faint, and I seemed to be walking among a group of corpses, standing, sitting, and walking, laughing, singing, crying, and weeping. This art, I think, will make but little progress in the world.

Another historical piece I forgot, which is Elisha restoring to life the Shunamite's son. The joy of the mother upon discovering the first symptoms of life in the child is pretty strongly expressed. Dr. Chovet's wax-work, in which all the various parts of the human body are represented for the benefit of young students in anatomy, and of which I gave you a particular description a year or two ago, was much more pleasing to me. Wax is much fitter to represent dead bodies than living ones.

Upon a hint from one of our Commissioners abroad, we are looking about for American curiosities to send across the Atlantic as presents to the ladies. Mr. Rittenhouse's planetarium, Mr. Arnold's collection of varieties in the virtuoso way, which I once saw at Norwalk in Connecticut, Narraganset pacing mares, mooses, wood-ducks, flying squirrels, red-winged blackbirds, cranberries, and rattlesnakes have all been thought of. Is not this a pretty employment for great statesmen as we think ourselves to be? Frivolous as it seems, it may be of some consequence. Little attentions have great influence. I think, however, we ought to consult the ladies upon this point. Pray what is your opinion?

Footnotes:

[172]Mrs. Wright was the niece of John Wesley. Soon after this she went to England, where she made herself quite useful to the American cause. Mrs. Adams gives some account of her in one of her letters written from London in 1784.