May 19

May Nineteenth

But the fame of the Wilderness fight abides,
And down into history grandly rides
Calm and unmoved as in battle he sat,
The gray-bearded man in the black slouch hat.
John R. Thompson
(From “Lee to the Rear”)



We were ready according to orders to march early this morning. General Burnside moved his Corps to the left of us during the night. We all moved about a mile and a half to the left and threw up a new line of entrenchments: enemy about twelve hundred yards in our front; weather fine; small shower about 5 o'clock p. m. cooled the air greatly; enemy quiet in our front, but heard heavy guns about dark on the extreme left; don't know the cause or result.

Wednesday, May 19th, 12 noon.—Mr —— has been working at No.— at full pitch for twenty-four hours on end, and had just got into bed when they sent for him there again. They are all nearly dead, and so are the orderlies at both places; but they never dream of grousing or shirking, as they know there's not another man to be had.

Two more officers died last night, and three more were dying.

The Padre came and had a Celebration in my ward. Three R.A.M.C. officers are in badly wounded. They are extraordinarily good.

May 19, 1863

Night. Camp Parapet again. We started from Ponchatoula about 4 a. m. and at 11 reached Pass Man Shak, by way of the railroad. The trestlework is burned in places and across these we passed the best we could. One man dropped a frying pan he had stolen, and in getting it stirred up an alligator, and decided he didn't want the frying pan after all. Several fell and were more or less hurt, but we all came through and were nearly the rest of the day being taken across in small boats. Then without mishap we came on to a point opposite camp and were soon here. The trip has done me a world of good. I don't ask any odds of any now that I am well again. I guess I only needed parboiling, and that I got sleeping in clothes soaking wet. The men are all feeling fine and the stories they are telling such as did not go are wonderful to hear.

May 19

May 19, 1878.--Criticism is above all a gift, an intuition, a matter of tact and flair ; it cannot be taught or demonstrated--it is an art. Critical genius means an aptitude for discerning truth under appearances or in disguises which conceal it; for discovering it in spite of the errors of testimony, the frauds of tradition, the dust of time, the loss or alteration of texts. It is the sagacity of the hunter whom nothing deceives for long, and whom no ruse can throw off the trail. It is the talent of the Juge d'Instruction, who knows how to interrogate circumstances, and to extract an unknown secret from a thousand falsehoods. The true critic can understand everything, but he will be the dupe of nothing, and to no convention will he sacrifice his duty, which is to find out and proclaim truth. Competent learning, general cultivation, absolute probity, accuracy of general view, human sympathy and technical capacity--how many things are necessary to the critic, without reckoning grace, delicacy, savoir vivre, and the gift of happy phrase-making!

May 19, 1864

Thursday. Our dead were picked up and brought to the bayou, where they were laid in rows on the ground. Those that were identified were buried in separate graves, and the others put crosswise in a wide ditch, with blankets spread under and over them. Our loss was estimated at 500 and that of the Rebs at 800. That must mean killed and wounded, for no such number was buried. The rebel dead were buried in the field, I suppose, for none of them were brought in.

Later. A couple of our men are sick and Dr. Warren called in another doctor to look at them. They called it smallpox, and the men were put in a wagon and carted off right away. When the team came back the driver said they were put in the first house they came to, and a man who has had the disease was left to give them medicine. By night everything but the rear guard was across the bridge, and we had orders to be ready to march. We settled down to get some sleep if we could, but the long roll soon sounded and we sprang to our places. No enemy appearing, we built fires and made coffee, and then sat round nodding our sleepy heads until 4 o'clock in the morning.

May 19

May 19, 1880.--Inadaptibility, due either to mysticism or stiffness, delicacy or disdain, is the misfortune or at all events the characteristic of my life. I have not been able to fit myself to anything, to content myself with anything. I have never had the quantum of illusion necessary for risking the irreparable. I have made use of the ideal itself to keep me from any kind of bondage. It was thus with marriage: only perfection would have satisfied me; and, on the other hand, I was not worthy of perfection.... So that, finding no satisfaction in things, I tried to extirpate desire, by which things enslave us. Independence has been my refuge; detachment my stronghold. I have lived the impersonal life--in the world, yet not in it, thinking much, desiring nothing. It is a state of mind which corresponds with what in women is called a broken heart; and it is in fact like it, since the characteristic common to both is despair. When one knows that one will never possess what one could have loved, and that one can be content with nothing less, one has, so to speak, left the world, one has cut the golden hair, parted with all that makes human life--that is to say, illusion--the incessant effort toward an apparently attainable end.