May 24

May 24, 1864

Tuesday. Thomas Dorsey, one of the brightest of my company, is dead. Before I knew what ailed him, I had done all I could to make him comfortable, even to giving him my blanket to keep him off the ground. His death scared the others so they could not be got near his tent. As I had been exposed as much as it was possible to be, I rolled him up in his blanket and dragged him into a hole that had been dug outside the tent and covered him up.

May Twenty-Fourth

Yet to all Americans it must be a regrettable chapter in our history when it is remembered that this man was no common felon, but a prisoner of state, a distinguished Indian fighter, a Mexican veteran, a man who had held a seat in Congress, who had been Secretary of War of the United States, and who for four years had stood at the head of the Confederate States.

Myrta Lockett Avary
(Davis in chains )



Whit-Monday.—Very few in to-day again. I have only six, and am making the most of the chance of a rest in the garden; one doesn't realise till after a rush how useful a rest can be. There has been a fearful bombardment going on all last night and yesterday and to-day; it is a continual roar, and in the night is maddening to listen to; you can't forget the war. Mosquitoes, nightingales, frogs, and two horses also helped to make the night interesting.

8.30 p.m.—Waiting for supper. Wounded have been coming in, and we've had a busy afternoon and evening.

The weather continues very warm, but thanks to the citizens along our line of march for their ice houses we are doing very well by helping ourselves to such needed comforts as happen to be in sight. Probably they would rather the Johnnies should have them, but they are on their last legs—they are playing out. We broke camp this morning about 6 o'clock a. m.; arriving at the North Anna river about 10 o'clock a. m.; found the Fifth Corps had crossed last night after a hard artillery duel which was what we heard. We crossed the river at Jericho Mills and laid on the south side of the river until 6 o'clock p. m., and then moved to the left to reinforce General Russell; saw General U. S. Grant to-day for the first time, at his mess table under a tent fly; was in his shirtsleeves; good view. The men enjoyed the bathing this afternoon greatly. The whole army seemingly has been in swimming. At any rate I never saw so many in bathing at once before or those who seemed to enjoy it more. It was a sight to be remembered. We marched towards the South Anna river till 8 o'clock p. m. when we ran into the enemy's pickets, fell back a little, camped and threw up breastworks.

35. Abigail Adams

Braintree, 24 May, 1775.

I suppose you have had a formidable account of the alarm we had last Sunday morning. When I rose, about six o'clock, I was told that the drums had been some time beating, and that three alarm guns were fired; that Weymouth bell had been ringing, and Mr. Weld's was then ringing. I immediately sent off an express to know the occasion, and found the whole town in confusion.[73] Three sloops and one cutter had come out and dropped anchor just below Great Hill. It was difficult to tell their designs; some supposed they were coming to Germantown, others to Weymouth; people, women, children, from the iron-works, came flocking down this way; every woman and child driven off from below my father's; my father's family flying. The Dr.[74] is in great distress, as you may well imagine, for my aunt had her bed thrown into a cart, into which she got herself, and ordered the boy to drive her to Bridgewater, which he did. The report was to them that three hundred had landed, and were upon their march up into town. The alarm flew like lightning, and men from all parts came flocking down, till two thousand were collected. But it seems their expedition was to Grape Island for Levett's hay. There it was impossible to reach them, for want of boats; but the sight of so many persons, and the firing at them, prevented their getting more than three tons of hay, though they had carted much more down to the water. At last a lighter was mustered, and a sloop from Hingham, which had six port-holes. Our men eagerly jumped on board, and put off for the island. As soon as they perceived it, they decamped. Our people landed upon the island, and in an instant set fire to the hay, which, with the barn, was soon consumed,—about eighty tons, it is said. We expect soon to be in continual alarms, till something decisive takes place.

We wait, with longing expectation, in hopes to hear the best accounts from you, with regard to union and harmony, etc. We rejoice greatly on the arrival of Dr. Franklin, as he must certainly be able to inform you very particularly of the situation of affairs in England. I wish you would, if you can get time, be as particular as you may, when you write. Every one hereabouts comes to me, to hear what accounts I have. I was so unlucky as not to get the letter you wrote at New York. Captain Beale forgot it, and left it behind. We have a flying report here, with regard to New York, but cannot give any credit to it, as yet, that they had been engaged with the ships, which Gage sent there, and had taken them, with great loss upon both sides.

Yesterday we had an account of three ships coming into Boston. I believe it is true, as there was a salute from the other ships, though I have not been able to learn from whence they come. I suppose you have had an account of the fire, which did much damage to the warehouses, and added greatly to the distresses of the inhabitants, whilst it continued. The bad conduct of General Gage [75] was the means of its doing so much damage.

Our house has been, upon this alarm, in the same scene of confusion that it was upon the former. Soldiers coming in for a lodging, for breakfast, for supper, for drink, etc. Sometimes refugees from Boston, tired and fatigued, seek an asylum for a day, a night, a week. You can hardly imagine how we live; yet,—

"To the houseless child of want,Our doors are open still;And though our portions are but scant,We give them with good will."

My best wishes attend you, both for your health and happiness, and that you may be directed into the wisest and best measures for our safety and the security of our posterity. I wish you were nearer to us; we know not what a day will bring forth, nor what distress one hour may throw us into. Hitherto I have been able to maintain a calmness and presence of mind, and hope I shall, let the exigency of the time be what it will. Adieu, breakfast calls.

Your affectionate,     Portia.


[73]This alarm came from the part of the town farthest removed from Boston. Mr. Weld's meeting-house was in the south precinct, and immediately to the west of Weymouth. It was accessible by the river Monatiquot, which was the cause of the apprehension.

[74]Dr. Cotton Tufts, a resident of Weymouth, the neighboring town. He had married one of the daughters of John Quincy, a sister of the writer's mother.

[75]He had taken the engine under guard, in consequence of a report that the liberty party intended to fire the town. See The Remembrancer  for 1775, pp. 95, 98.

Conversation With Children

Monday, 24.

My book of Conversations, held with Children in Boston near forty years ago, has found an admiring reader at last. He writes:—

"I have just found in a second-hand bookstore your two volumes of Conversations on the Gospels, and have read them with benefit and delight. Nowhere have I seen the Gospels so spiritualized, so rationalized, Platonized. The naïveté aside, it seems the product of a company of idealists. Is it possible that common human nature in children, thrown upon its own resources, can exhibit such intelligence, or instinct, if you please to call it so? Were these children taken as they came, or were they selected, culled?"

They came from families occupying various social advantages, and were a fair average of children thus born and bred. I give a sample of one of the conversations as reported from their lips at the time. Their ages were from six to twelve years.

Conversation on Worship

Mr. Alcott read (having previously read the beginning) the remainder of the Conversation of Jesus with the woman of Samaria (John iv. 16–30),—

16. Jesus saith unto her, Go call thy husband, and come hither.

17. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said I have no husband:

18. For thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

19. The woman said unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.

20. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

21. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

22. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.

23. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the father seeketh such to worship him.

24. God is  a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him  in spirit and in truth.

25. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things.

26. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he .

27. And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?

28. The woman then left her water-pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,

29. Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

30. Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

Before he had time to ask the usual question,—

Samuel T. (spoke ). I was most interested in this verse: "He that drinks of this water shall thirst again, but he that drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst." He means by this, that those who heard what he taught, and did it, should live always, should never die, their spirits should never die.

Mr. Alcott. Can spirits die?

Samuel T. For a spirit to die is to leave off being good.

Edward J. I was interested in the words, "For the water I shall give him will be in him a well of water." I think it means that when people are good and getting better, it is like water springing up always. They have more and more goodness.

Samuel R. Water is an emblem of holiness.

Mr. Alcott. Water means spirit, pure and unsoiled.

Edward J. It is holy spirit.

Ellen. I was most interested in these words: "Ye worship ye know not what." The Samaritans worship idols, and there was no meaning to that.

Mr. Alcott. What do you mean by their worshipping idols?

Ellen. They cared about things more than God.

Mr. Alcott. What kind of false worship do you think Jesus was thinking about when he said: "Woman, the hour is coming and now is, when neither in this mountain—"?

Ellen. Oh! she thought the place of worship was more important than the worship itself.

Mr. Alcott. Well! how did Jesus answer that thought?

Ellen. He told her what she ought to worship, which was more important than where.

Mr. Alcott. Some of you, perhaps, have made this mistake, and thought that we only worshipped God in churches, and on Sundays. How is it,—who has thought so?

(Several held up hands, smiling.)

Who knew that we could worship God anywhere?

(Others held up hands.)

What other worship is there besides that in the church?

Edward J. The worship in our hearts.

Mr. Alcott. How is that carried on?

Edward J. By being good.

Nathan. We worship God by growing better.

Augustine. We worship God when we repent of doing wrong.

Josiah. I was most interested in this verse: "God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." It means that to feel our prayers is more important than to say the words.

Lemuel. And when we pray and pray sincerely.

Mr. Alcott. What is praying sincerely?

Lemuel. Praying the truth.

Mr. Alcott. What is to be done in praying the truth? When you think of prayer, do you think of a position of the body—of words?

Lemuel  (earnestly ). I think of something else, but I cannot express it.

Mr. Alcott. Josiah is holding up his hand; can he express it?

Josiah  (burst out ). To pray, Mr. Alcott, is to be good, really; you know it is better to be bad before people and to be good to God alone, because then we are good for goodness sake, and not to be seen, and not for people's sake. Well, so it is about prayer. There must be nothing outward with prayer; but we must have some words, sometimes; sometimes we need not. If we don't feel the prayer, it is worse than never to say a word of prayer. It is wrong not to pray, but it is more wrong to speak prayer and not pray. We had better do nothing about it, Mr. Alcott! we must say words in a prayer, and we must feel the words we say, and we must do what belongs to the words.

Mr. Alcott. Oh! there must be doing, must there?

Josiah. Oh! yes, Mr. Alcott! doing is the most important part. We must ask God for help, and at the same time try to do the thing we are to be helped about. If a boy should be good all day, and have no temptation, it would not be very much; there would be no improvement; but if he had temptation, he could pray and feel the prayer, and try to overcome it, and would overcome it; and then there would be a real prayer and a real improvement. That would be something. Temptation is always necessary to a real prayer, I think. I don't believe there is ever any real prayer before there is a temptation; because we may think and feel and say our prayer; but there cannot be any doing, without there is something to be done.

Mr. Alcott. Well, Josiah, that will do now. Shall some one else speak?

Josiah. Oh, Mr. Alcott, I have not half done!

Edward J. Mr. Alcott, what is the use of responding in church?

Mr. Alcott. Cannot you tell?

Edward J. No; I never knew.

Josiah. Oh! Mr. Alcott!

Mr. Alcott. Well, Josiah, do you know?

Josiah. Why, Edward! is it not just like a mother's telling her child the words? The child wants to pray; it don't know how to express its real thoughts, as we often say to Mr. Alcott here; and the mother says words, and the child repeats after her the words.

Edward J. Yes; but I don't see what good it does.

Josiah. What! if the mother says the words, and the child repeats them and feels them,—really wants the things that are prayed for,—can't you see that it does some good?

Edward J. It teaches the word-prayer—it is not the real prayer.

Josiah. Yet it must be the real prayer, and the real prayer must have some words.

But, Mr. Alcott, I think it would be a great deal better, if, at church, everybody prayed for themselves. I don't see why one person should pray for all the rest. Why could not the minister pray for himself, and the people pray for themselves? and why should not all communicate their thoughts? Why should only one speak? Why should not all be preachers? Everybody could say something; at least, everybody could say their own prayers, for they know what they want. Every person knows the temptations they have, and people are tempted to do different things. Mr. Alcott, I think Sunday ought to come oftener.

Mr. Alcott. Our hearts can make all time Sunday.

Josiah. Why, then, nothing could be done! There must be week-days, I know—some week-days; I said, Sunday oftener.

Mr. Alcott. But you wanted the prayers to be doing prayers. Now some of the rest may tell me, how you could pray doing prayers.

George K. Place is of no consequence. I think prayer is in our hearts. Christian prayed in the cave of Giant Despair. We can pray anywhere, because we can have faith anywhere.

Mr. Alcott. Faith, then, is necessary?

George K. Yes; for it is faith that makes the prayer.

Mr. Alcott. Suppose an instance of prayer in yourself.

George K. I can pray going to bed or getting up.

Mr. Alcott. You are thinking of time, place, words.

George K. And feelings and thoughts.

Mr. Alcott. And action?

George K. Yes; action comes after.

John B. When we have been doing wrong and are sorry, we pray to God to take away the evil.

Mr. Alcott. What evil, the punishment?

John B. No; we want the forgiveness.

Mr. Alcott. What is for-give-ness? Is it anything given?

Lemuel. Goodness, holiness.

John B. And the evil is taken away.

Mr. Alcott. Is there any action in all this?

John B. Why, yes; there is thought and feeling.

Mr. Alcott. But it takes the body also to act; what do the hands do?

John B. There is no prayer in the hands.

Mr. Alcott. You have taken something that belongs to another; you pray to be forgiven; you wish not to do so again; you are sorry. Is there anything to do?

John B. If you injure anybody, and can repair it, you must, and you will, if you have prayed sincerely; but that is not the prayer.

Mr. Alcott. Would the prayer be complete without it?

John B. No.

Andrew. Prayer is in the spirit.

Mr. Alcott. Does the body help the spirit?

Andrew. It don't help the prayer.

Mr. Alcott. Don't the lips move?

Andrew. But have the lips anything to do with the prayer?

Mr. Alcott. Yes; they may. The whole nature may act together; the body pray; and I want you to tell an instance of a prayer in which are thoughts, feelings, action; which involves the whole nature, body and all. There may be prayer in the palms of our hands.

Andrew. Why, if I had hurt anybody, and was sorry and prayed to be forgiven, I suppose I should look round for some medicine and try to make it well.

(Mr. Alcott here spoke of the connection of the mind with the body, in order to make his meaning clearer.)

Samuel R. If I had a bad habit, and should ask God for help to break it; and then should try so as really to break it, that would be a prayer.

Charles. Suppose I saw a poor beggar boy hurt or sick, and all bleeding; and I had very nice clothes, and was afraid to soil them, or from any such cause should pass him by, and by and by I should look back and see another boy helping him, and should be really sorry and pray to be forgiven, that would be a real prayer; but if I had done the kindness at the time of it, that would have been a deeper prayer.

Augustine. When anybody has done wrong, and does not repent for a good while, but at last repents and prays to be forgiven, it may be too late to do anything about it; yet that might be a real prayer.

Mr. Alcott. Imagine a real doing prayer in your life.

Lucia. Suppose, as I was going home from school, some friend of mine should get angry with me, and throw a stone at me; I could pray not to be tempted to do the same, to throw a stone at her, and would not.

Mr. Alcott. And would the not doing anything in that case be a prayer and an action? Keeping your body still would be the body's part of it.

Lucia. Yes.

Ellen. I heard a woman say, once, that she could pray best when she was at work; that when she was scouring the floor she would ask God to cleanse her mind.

Mr. Alcott. I will now vary my question. Is there any prayer in Patience?

All. A great deal.

Mr. Alcott. In Impatience?

All. No; not any.

Mr. Alcott. In Doubt?

George K. No; but in Faith.

Mr. Alcott. In Laziness?

All  (but Josiah ). No; no kind of prayer.

Josiah. I should think that Laziness was the prayer of the body, Mr. Alcott.

Mr. Alcott. Yes; it seems so. The body tries to be still more body; it tries to get down into the clay; it tries to sink; but the spirit is always trying to lift it up and make it do something.

Edward J. Lazy people sometimes have passions that make them act.

Mr. Alcott. Yes; they act downwards. Is there any prayer in Disobedience?

All. No.

Mr. Alcott. Is there any in submission? In forbearing when injured? In suffering for a good object? In self-sacrifice?

All  (eagerly to each question ). Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

(Mr. Alcott here made some very interesting remarks on loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, etc., and the Idea of Devotion it expressed. Josiah wanted to speak constantly, but Mr. Alcott checked him, that the others might have opportunity, though the latter wished to yield to Josiah.)

Josiah  (burst out ). Mr. Alcott! you know Mrs. Barbauld says in her hymns, everything is prayer; every action is prayer; all nature prays; the bird prays in singing; the tree prays in growing; men pray; men can pray more; we feel; we have more—more than nature; we can know and do right; Conscience prays; all our powers pray; action prays. Once we said here, that there was a "Christ in the bottom of our spirits" when we try to be good; then we pray in Christ; and that is the whole.6

Mr. Alcott. Yes, Josiah, that is the whole. That is Universal Prayer—the adoration of the Universe to its Author!

Charles. I was most interested in this verse—"The day is coming, and now is, when men shall worship the Father," etc. I think that this means that people are about to learn what to worship, and where.

Mr. Alcott. Have you learned this to-day?

Charles. Yes; I have learnt some new things, I believe.

Mr. Alcott. What are you to worship?

Charles. Goodness.

Mr. Alcott. Where is it?

Charles. Within.

Mr. Alcott. Within what?

Charles. Conscience, or God.

Mr. Alcott. Are you to worship Conscience?

Charles. Yes.

Mr. Alcott. Is it anywhere but in yourself?

Charles. Yes; it is in Nature.

Mr. Alcott. Is it in other people?

Charles. Yes; there is more or less of it in other people, unless they have taken it out.

Mr. Alcott. Can it be entirely taken out?

Charles. Goodness always lingers in Conscience.

Mr. Alcott. Is Conscience anywhere but in Human Nature?

Charles. It is in the Supernatural.

Mr. Alcott. You said at first that there was something in outward Nature which we should worship.

Charles. No; I don't think we should worship anything but the Invisible.

Mr. Alcott. What is the Invisible?

Charles. It is the Supernatural.

John B. It is the Inward—the Spiritual. But I don't see why we should not worship the sun a little as well—

Mr. Alcott. As well as the Sun-maker? But there are sun-worshippers.

John B. Yes; a little; for the sun gives us light and heat.

Mr. Alcott. What is the difference between your feeling when you think of the sun, or the ocean (he described some grand scenes ), and when you think of Conscience acting in such cases as—(he gave some striking instances of moral power ). Is there not a difference?

(They raised their hands.)

What is the name of the feeling with which you look at Nature?

Several. Admiration.

Mr. Alcott. But when Conscience governs our weak body, is it not a Supernatural Force? Do you not feel the awe of the inferior before a superior nature? And is not that worship? The sun cannot produce it.

Josiah. Spirit worships Spirit. Clay worships Clay.

Mr. Alcott. Wait a moment, Josiah. I wish first to talk with the others; let me ask them this question: Do you feel that Conscience is stronger than the mountain, deeper and more powerful than the ocean? Can you say to yourself, I can remove this mountain?

Josiah  (burst out ). Yes, Mr. Alcott! I do not mean that with my body I can lift up a mountain—with my hand; but I can feel; and I know that my Conscience is greater than the mountain, for it can feel and do; and the mountain cannot. There is the mountain, there! It was made, and that is all. But my Conscience can grow. It is the same kind of Spirit as made the mountain be, in the first place. I do not know what it may be and do. The Body is a mountain, and the Spirit says, be moved, and it is moved into another place.

Mr. Alcott, we think too much about clay. We should think of Spirit. I think we should love Spirit, not Clay. I should think a mother now would love her baby's Spirit; and suppose it should die, that is only the Spirit bursting away out of the Body. It is alive; it is perfectly happy. I really do not know why people mourn when their friends die. I should think it would be matter of rejoicing. For instance: now, if we should go out into the street and find a box—an old dusty box—and should put into it some very fine pearls, and by and by the box should grow old and break, why, we should not even think about the box; but if the pearls were safe, we should think of them and nothing else. So it is with the Soul and Body. I cannot see why people mourn for bodies.

Mr. Alcott. Yes, Josiah; that is all true, and we are glad to hear it. Shall some one else now speak besides you?

Josiah. Oh, Mr. Alcott! then I will stay in the recess and talk.

Mr. Alcott. When a little infant opens its eyes upon this world, and sees things out of itself, and has the feeling of admiration, is there in that feeling the beginning to worship?

Josiah. No, Mr. Alcott; a little baby does not worship. It opens its eyes on the outward world, and sees things, and perhaps wonders what they are; but it don't know anything about them or itself. It don't know the uses of anything; there is no worship in it.

Mr. Alcott. But in this feeling of wonder and admiration which it has, is there not the beginning of worship that will at last find its object?

Josiah. No; there is not even the beginning of worship. It must have some temptation, I think, before it can know the thing to worship.

Mr. Alcott. But is there not a feeling that comes up from within, to answer to the things that come to the eyes and ears?

Josiah. But feeling is not worship, Mr. Alcott.

Mr. Alcott. Can there be worship without feeling?

Josiah. No; but there can be feeling without worship. For instance, if I prick my hand with a pin, I feel, to be sure, but I do not worship.

Mr. Alcott. That is bodily feeling. But may not the little infant find its power to worship in the feeling which is first only admiration of what is without.

Josiah. No, no; I know what surprise is, and I know what admiration is; and perhaps the little creature feels that. But she does not know enough to know that she has conscience, or that there is temptation. My little sister feels, and she knows some things; but she does not worship.

Mr. Alcott. Now I wish you all to think. What have we been talking about to-day?

Charles. Spiritual Worship.7

6. This improvisation is preserved in its words. Josiah, it may be named, was under seven years of age, and the other children were chiefly between the ages of six and twelve years.

7. Here I was obliged to pause, as I was altogether fatigued with keeping my pen in long and uncommonly constant requisition. I was enabled to preserve the words better than usual, because Josiah had so much of the conversation, whose enunciation is slow, and whose fine choice of language and steadiness of mind, makes him easy to follow and remember.—Recorder.