May 25

May Twenty-Fifth

A rich and well-stored mind is the only true philosopher's stone, extracting pure gold from all the base material around. It can create its own beauty, wealth, power, happiness. It has no dreary solitudes. The past ages are its possession, and the long line of the illustrious dead are all its friends.

George Davis

 

 

It has been a very warm day, but we have not had to march much; laid on our arms in line of battle last night behind our works at Quarles' Mills; no skirmishing in front till this morning. A portion of the Sixth Corps passed by us to the left and ran into the enemy a few rods beyond. Our brigade started about 10 o'clock a. m. and marched to Noles Station as did the First Division of our Corps. We burned the depot, destroyed the Virginia Central Railroad for about seven miles, and returned to the train; remained there about an hour, changed position to the left about two miles and camped for the night.

May 25, 1864

Wednesday. All hands have been vaccinated. All stood in line and as fast as the job was done the line moved up until all had had a dose. This is the fourth or fifth time I have been vaccinated in the army, and so far nothing has come of it. In the afternoon I borrowed the adjutant's horse and went with Sol and Gorton for a ride. They both have the shakes yet. Stragglers kept coming in, among them being Sergeant Nace, who has not yet found his regiment. When he found we had smallpox he cut short his visit. He is a dead beat, I thought so before and am sure of it now. I hope his regiment will find him, if he don't find it.

The picket lines are well out, and videttes are still farther out. This gives us a large territory to feel at home in. The enemy is said to be hovering around on the outside, but give us no trouble. Maybe they, too, are tired and are taking a rest.

185. John Adams

Philadelphia, 25 May, 1777.

At half past four this morning I mounted my horse and took a ride in a road that was new to me. I went to Kensington and then to "Point-no-point" by land, the place where I went once before with a large company in the row-galleys by water. That frolic was almost two years ago. I gave you a relation of it in the time, I suppose. The road to Point-no-point lies along the river Delaware, in fair sight of it and its opposite shore. For near four miles the road is as straight as the streets of Philadelphia. On each side are beautiful rows of trees, buttonwoods, oaks, walnuts, cherries, and willows, especially down towards the banks of the river. The meadows, pastures, and grass-plats are as green as leeks. There are many fruit trees and fine orchards set with the nicest regularity. But the fields of grain, the rye and wheat, exceed all description. These fields are all sown in ridges, and the furrow between each couple of ridges is as plainly to be seen as if a swath had been mown along. Yet it is no wider than a plough-share, and it is as straight as an arrow. It looks as if the sower had gone along the furrow with his spectacles, to pick up every grain that should accidentally fall into it. The corn is just coming out of the ground. The furrows struck out for the hills to be planted in are each way as straight as mathematical right lines; and the squares between every four hills as exact as they could be done by plumb and line, or scale and compass.

I am ashamed of our farmers. They are a lazy, ignorant set; in husbandry, I mean; for they know infinitely more of everything else than these. But after all, the native face of our country, diversified as it is with hill and dale, sea and land, is to me more agreeable than this enchanting artificial scene.

27 May.

The post brought me yours of May 6th and 9th. You express apprehensions that we may be driven from this city. We have no such apprehensions here. Howe is unable to do anything but by stealth. Washington is strong enough to keep Howe where he is.

How could it happen that you should have £5 counterfeit New Hampshire money? Can't you recollect who you had it of? Let me entreat you not to take a shilling of any but Continental money or Massachusetts, and be very careful of that. There is a counterfeit Continental bill abroad, sent out of New York, but it will deceive none but fools, for it is copper-plate, easily detected, miserably done.

May 25, 1863

Monday morning. We had orders to advance last night and our brigade formed in column, where we remained all night, and where we are yet. One by one we dropped down and went to sleep on the grass, where the dew soon soaked one side while the wet ground soaked the other. A man lying near me jumped up and raved around like a crazy man; he kept pawing at his ear as if in great pain. A doctor sleeping near was soon at him and found a bug had crawled into his ear. After the sun had dried us off we began to look for rations. The mail soon after came, and I had two letters. One of them contained a photograph of my dear old father and mother. I won't try to tell how rejoiced I am to have this with me. I don't think either of them ever had one taken before. Dear old couple, how glad I am they cannot see their boy and his surrounding's just now!

Night. Lots of powder has been burned to-day, but Port Hudson is still there. Our brigade has been skirmishing and one of the Sixth Michigan is wounded. Roads are being cut through the woods, and everything looks and acts as if business would soon begin. It does no good to ask questions, no one seems to know any more than I do, and I only know what goes on right close by me. Generals with their staffs are racing about, and everything is in a whirl. Evidently something is going to happen. All sorts of rumors are in the air. Human nature shows even here. Some news gatherers seem to know all about it, but I notice that what happens rarely agrees with their predictions. One of Company B, I won't write his name, is nearly scared to death. The doctor says he will die of fright if kept in the ranks. Another is nearly as badly off, and he has been the biggest brag of all; has hungered and thirsted for a chance to fight and now that he has it, has wilted. I hope he will be kept at it. I have often envied him his courage, but I shall never do it again. I don't deny that I am a coward, but I have so far succeeded in keeping it to myself. The 128th is nearest the point where the road enters the woods in the direction of the biggest noise. The skirmishers that have been down this road say it soon reaches the corner of another open field; that a house and outbuildings are on the side next the fortifications and only a short distance from them; that rebel sharpshooters are in those buildings and it is they who are picking off every man that sticks his nose out of the woods on that side. From one of the Sixth Michigan who was on the skirmish line I have such a vivid description I have mapped out what he says is about the thing.

Every now and then a shell comes tearing through the woods, and so far, in the direction of the 128th. None of them have yet burst, but from an examination I made of one, they are intended to. This one was perfectly round and painted black. A big screw head shows on one side, and is turned off smooth with the shell. It is about six inches in diameter. It hit the ground beyond us and rolled up against the foundation of the house I have mentioned and stopped. It was then I examined it.

Later. Just as I had written the above, one did burst right over Company B. The pieces, however, kept on in the same direction the shell was going and no one was hit or hurt. Such dodging though I never saw, and I didn't see all of it at that. Myself and two others were filling our canteens from a kettle of coffee which sat on the ground near a big tree. When we heard the shell coming through the tree tops we expected it would go past as all the others had done. But it burst when right over us. We all jumped for the tree, and our heads came together with a bang. The first thing I saw was stars, and the next was men all over the field dodging in every direction. This was our first experience under fire. One could not laugh at another, for so far as I could see all acted alike.

Later. They keep coming, and we dodge less and less. If they keep at it long enough I suppose we shall get used to it, as we have to a great many other things. A cavalryman went down the road marked with an arrow, and his horse has just come back without him.

Night. About 5 p. m. a detachment from another regiment and Companies A, C, H and I from ours, went down this same road, and soon the most infernal racket began. They drove the rebels out of the "Slaughter House," and set fire to every building there. (The man who owned the house is named Slaughter). Only one man was wounded, but Captain Gifford of Company A has not returned, and we fear the Rebs got him. The house near us has been taken for a hospital. From appearances we will need it. Our brigade remains where first halted, but troops of all kinds are constantly on the move about us, some going one way and some another. It is plain that a general movement is soon going to be made. It seems to me as if all of Uncle Sam's army must be here, there are so many. The 128th is only a small affair just now. We have thought our brigade was about all there was of it, and that that was largely composed of the 128th New York. I will put up my diary, and get what sleep I can with all this confusion about me.

272. Abigail Adams

25 May, 1781.

In this beautiful month, when nature wears her gayest garb, and animal and vegetable life is diffused on every side, when the cheerful hand of industry is laying a foundation for a plentiful harvest, who can forbear to rejoice in the season, or refrain from looking "through nature up to nature's God;"

"To feel the present Deity, and taste The joy of God, to see a happy world."

While my heart expands, it, sighing, seeks its associate, and joins its first parent in that beautiful description of Milton:—

"Sweet is the breath of Morn, her rising sweet,With charm of earliest birds; pleasant the sun,When first on this delightful land he spreads His orient beams on herb, tree, fruit, and flower,Glistering with dew; fragrant the fertile earth After soft showers; and sweet the coming on Of grateful Evening mild; then silent Night With this her solemn bird, and this fair moon,And these the gems of heaven, her starry train:But neither breath of morn when she ascends With charm of earliest birds; nor rising sun On this delightful land; nor herb, fruit, flower,Glistering with dew; nor fragrance after showers;Nor grateful Evening mild; nor silent Night With this her solemn bird, nor walk by moon,Or glittering starlight, without thee is sweet."

This passage has double charms for me, painted by the hand of truth; and for the same reason that a dear friend of mine, after having viewed a profusion of beautiful pictures, pronounced that which represented the parting of Hector and Andromache to be worth them all. The journal in which this is mentioned does not add any reason why it was so; but Portia felt its full force, and paid a grateful tear to the acknowledgment.

This day, my dear friend, completes eight months since the date of your last letter, and five since it was received. You may judge of my anxiety. I doubt not but you have written many times since, but Mars, Bellona, and Old Neptune are in league against me. I think you must still be in Holland, from whence no vessels have arrived since the declaration of war. There are some late arrivals from France, but no private letters. I have had the pleasure of hearing of the safety of several vessels which went from hence, by which I wrote to you, so that I have reason to think I have communicated pleasure, though I have not been a partaker in the same way.

This will be delivered to you by Mr. Storer, who is going first to Denmark, and who designs to tarry abroad some time. If you had been a resident in your own country, it would have been needless for me to have told you that Mr. Storer is a gentleman of fair character, I need not add, of amiable manners, as these are so discoverable in him upon the slightest acquaintance.

We are anxiously waiting for intelligence from abroad. We shall have in the field a more respectable army than has appeared there since the commencement of the war; and all raised for three years or during the war, most of them men who have served before. The towns have exerted themselves upon this occasion with a spirit becoming patriots.

We wish for a naval force, superior to what we have yet had, to act in concert with our army. We have been flattered from day to day, yet none has arrived. The enemy exults in the delay, and is improving the time to ravage Carolina and Virginia.

We hardly know what to expect from the United Provinces, because we are not fully informed of their disposition. Britain has struck a blow, by the capture of Eustatia, sufficient to arouse and unite them against her, if there still exists that spirit of liberty which shone so conspicuous in their ancestors, and which, under much greater difficulties, led their hardy forefathers to reject the tyranny of Philip. I wish your powers may extend to an alliance with them, and that you may be as successful against the artifices of Britain as a former ambassador was against those of another nation, when he negotiated a triple alliance in the course of five days, with an address which has ever done honor to his memory. If I was not so nearly connected, I should add that there is no small similarity in the character of my friend and the gentleman, whose memoirs I have read with great pleasure.

Our State affairs I will write you, if the vessel does not sail till after election. Our friend Mr. Cranch goes from here representative, by a unanimous vote. Dr. Tufts, of Weymouth, is chosen senator. Our Governor and Lieutenant-governor, as at the beginning. Our poor old currency is breathing its last gasp. It received a most fatal wound from a collection of near the whole body's entering here from the southward; having been informed that it was treated here with more respect, and that it could purchase a solid and durable dress here for seventy-five paper dollars, but half the expense it must be at there, it travelled here with its whole train; and, being much debauched in its manners, communicated the contagion all of a sudden, and is universally rejected. It has given us a great shock. Mr. Storer can give you more information.

I have by two or three opportunities acquainted you that I received the calicoes you ordered for me, by Sampson, though many of them were much injured by being wet. I have not got my things yet from Philadelphia. I have acquainted you with my misfortune there, owing to the bad package. I have no invoice or letter from Mr. Moylan, though I have reason to think many things have been stolen, as all Dr. Tufts's are missing, and several of mine, according to Mr. Lovell's invoice, who was obliged to unpack what remained and dry them by a fire, most of them much damaged.

To my dear sons I shall write by this opportunity. I have not received a line from them for this twelvemonth. I hope they continue to behave worthy the esteem of everybody, which will never fail to communicate the greatest pleasure to their affectionate parents. I inclosed an invoice of a few articles by Captain Brown. I will repeat it here. Everything in the goods way will be an acceptable remittance to

Your ever affectionate

Portia.