May 11

May 11, 1864

Wednesday. We put in a solid day of drilling in the manual of arms. No loading has been attempted, but the times and motions have been drilled into the woolly heads, so that a very encouraging improvement is the result. Captain Laird, my captain, is missing, and whether he has run away or been carried away, no one seems to know. At any rate, the care and conduct of Company D now comes upon your humble servant.

May Eleventh

The Spanish legend tells us of the Cid,
That after death he rode erect, sedately
Along his lines, even as in life he did,
In presence yet more stately.

And thus our Stuart at this moment seems
To ride out of our dark and troubled story
Into the region of romance and dreams,
A realm of light and glory.
John R. Thompson

 

J. E. B. Stuart mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern, 1864

 

 

May 11, 1863

Monday. Charles Wardwell, and a fellow named Hamlin made me a call to-day. I was as much surprised as if they had risen right out of the ground before us. I did not know Charlie had enlisted. He is in the 23d Connecticut, which is doing guard duty along the railroad between Algiers and Brashear City, which they say is not very far from here. It is a nine months' regiment and their time is out in August. Though the news they could tell was rather old, I was very glad to see someone from God's country again, and we had much to tell each other of our experiences. They had only about a week on the transport and came through in good shape. They swallowed hard and tried to take down what I told them of our experience on board the Arago and in camp and hospital since, but I don't feel like blaming them if they did think I was lying. But in the short time we were together the half could not be told.

Night. Marching orders. Three days' cooked rations and ten days' raw, to be packed for an early start to-morrow. Wardwell and his friend stay with us to-night.

Tuesday, May 11th, 6.30 p.m.—In bed. I went to bed pretty tired this morning after an awful night (only a few of the less seriously wounded had been evacuated yesterday, and all the worst ones, of course, left), and slept like a top from 10.30 to 5, and feel as fit as anything after it.

The fighting seems to have stopped now, and no more have come in to-day. Last night a stiff muddy figure, all bandages and straw, on the stretcher was brought in. I asked the boy how many wounds? "Oh, only five," he said cheerfully. "Nice clean wounds,—machine-gun,—all in and out again!"

The Padre came at 7.30 and had a Celebration in each ward, but I was too busy to take any notice of it.

One of these officers was hit by a German shell on Sunday morning early, soon after our bombardment began. He crawled about till he was hit again twice by other shells, and then lay there all that day and all that night, with one drink from another wounded's water-bottle; every one else was either dead or wounded round him. Next morning his servant found him and got stretcher-bearers, and he got here.

I don't know how they live through that.

Very sultry until about 5 o'clock p. m. when the heavens became shrouded with dark and threatening clouds and a terrific thunder-storm followed, which continued till about dark, when our whippoorwill again dolefully sang out "Whip-em-well! Whip-em-well!" as our men are pleased to interpret it. A whippoorwill has appeared midway between the lines every evening since we left winter camp, with its solemn song, until the men regard it as a good omen. It don't seem to occur to them that the enemy may regard it the same way, as meant for them to whip us.

There has been a furious cannonading kept up by our side all day. The enemy has made three or four fruitless attempts to plant batteries, and return the fire in our front, but without success; has been hard fighting on our left all day by the rest of the Sixth Corps and General Hancock's men; was relieved from my pit by Lieut. G. E. Davis. I ache all over from having been in the hole twenty-four hours in the same position. It wasn't safe to stand up nor did I try it, as it would draw the sharpshooter's fire up the trees, etc. One could only occasionally raise his head high enough to peek under the bushes, during lulls in firing, which masked our position as the place was almost continually under fire. It is close by on the ground occupied by our regiment and in its front that General Sedgwick, our Corps Commander, was killed by a sharpshooter when locating a battery, and where General W. H. Morris, our Brigade Commander was wounded when changing the position of two regiments which makes us doubly cautious. It's a dangerous point being high and furthest advanced of any part of the line. The stench from the dead is sickening and terrible.

May 11

May 11, 1853.--Psychology, poetry, philosophy, history, and science, I have swept rapidly to-day on the wings of the invisible hippogriff through all these spheres of thought. But the general impression has been one of tumult and anguish, temptation and disquiet.

I love to plunge deep into the ocean of life; but it is not without losing sometimes all sense of the axis and the pole, without losing myself and feeling the consciousness of my own nature and vocation growing faint and wavering. The whirlwind of the wandering Jew carries me away, tears me from my little familiar enclosure, and makes me behold all the empires of men. In my voluntary abandonment to the generality, the universal, the infinite, my particular ego evaporates like a drop of water in a furnace; it only condenses itself anew at the return of cold, after enthusiasm has died out and the sense of reality has returned. Alternate expansion and condensation, abandonment and recovery of self, the conquest of the world to be pursued on the one side, the deepening of consciousness on the other--such is the play of the inner life, the march of the microcosmic mind, the marriage of the individual soul with the universal soul, the finite with the infinite, whence springs the intellectual progress of man. Other betrothals unite the soul to God, the religious consciousness with the divine; these belong to the history of the will. And what precedes will is feeling, preceded itself by instinct. Man is only what he becomes--profound truth; but he becomes only what he is, truth still more profound. What am I? Terrible question! Problem of predestination, of birth, of liberty, there lies the abyss. And yet one must plunge into it, and I have done so. The prelude of Bach I heard this evening predisposed me to it; it paints the soul tormented and appealing and finally seizing upon God, and possessing itself of peace and the infinite with an all-prevailing fervor and passion.