May 27

As I expected the army has commenced another flank movement to the left. We were ordered to hold the line until 11 o'clock then withdraw quietly and overtake the balance of the army. Goodness! I wonder if we are always to be rear guard? It's worrying, besides, we have to march so rapidly, such duty should be passed round. We crossed the North Anna about three miles below Noles Station. It has been terrible marching the roads are so blocked with army supply wagons or trains—however we have made a thirty-mile march and find ourselves near the ford at Hanover Court House. The men stood the march well for we are on the road to Richmond. Goodness! but I'm tired.

May 27

May 27, 1849.--To be misunderstood even by those whom one loves is the cross and bitterness of life. It is the secret of that sad and melancholy smile on the lips of great men which so few understand; it is the cruelest trial reserved for self-devotion; it is what must have oftenest wrung the heart of the Son of man; and if God could suffer, it would be the wound we should be forever inflicting upon Him. He also--He above all--is the great misunderstood, the least comprehended. Alas! alas! never to tire, never to grow cold; to be patient, sympathetic, tender; to look for the budding flower and the opening heart; to hope always, like God; to love always--this is duty.

May Twenty-Seventh

Representing nothing on God's earth now,
And naught in the water below it,
As a pledge of a nation that's dead and gone,
Keep it, dear Captain, and show it.
Show it to those who will lend an ear
To the tale this paper can tell
Of liberty born, of the patriot's dream,
Of a storm-cradled nation that fell.

Too poor to possess the precious ores,
And too much of a stranger to borrow,
We issued to-day our promise to pay,
And hoped to repay on the morrow.
Major S. A. Jonas
(From “Lines on the back of a Confederate note”)

 

 

May 27, 1863

Was awake early. In fact was often awake all night long. No news of Captain Gifford yet. His men have searched everywhere it is possible to go, and we think he must have been captured, just how, none of his company can imagine, for he was with them all through the squabble at the Slaughter house, and himself gave the order to fall back. Heavy firing is heard to the right and left of us. This must keep the Rebs in our front busy, for no shot or shell have yet come our way. Commissary sergeants have orders to be ready with rations all the time. It looks as if the fight would be over and the 128th have no hand in the taking of Port Hudson.

Later. The noise grows louder all the time. A general assault on Port Hudson must be what is going on, and Dow's Brigade seems to be forgotten. On the right and left, as far as sound can be heard, there is heavy artillery firing, and now and then the rattle of musket firing gets through the noise of the bigger guns.

May 27, 1864

Friday. With a horse to ride and a company of men from a western regiment, I went out about one and a half miles to relieve a part of the picket line. Quite an army goes out every day, for the line about our present stopping-place is many miles in length. I had about half a mile, almost all the way through bushes and wet ground. An empty house near one end of the line was my headquarters, and from there I hobbled over the line every two hours, the line being too rough to ride. I was not called out once, everything being quiet along my line, and I heard no calls from those on either side of me. The officer of the day came round as often as he could ride the line, and at midnight the grand rounds came.

Sol and Gorton came out and brought me a supper and visited me until I had to go over the line. Orders were very strict at night to halt everything. An Irishman on one of the posts asked me if he should halt a pig if he came along, and I repeated the order to "halt everything." At midnight, when I went over the line with the grand rounds, there was fresh pork frying at that post, and as the orders were strictly against foraging I said to the man, "You paid for the pig, didn't you?" "Yes, sor," said he; "it's only the loikes of them Indiana fellers that'll steal." That almost made me yell, for the grand officer was colonel of an Indiana regiment that were noted foragers. He grinned at the joke on him, and with that one adventure we reached the end of the line, where I turned him over to the next and came back. I got a generous slice of the stolen pig for my breakfast.

May 27

May 27, 1860. (Sunday).--I heard this morning a sermon on the Holy Spirit--good but insufficient. Why was I not edified? Because there was no unction. Why was there no unction? Because Christianity from this rationalistic point of view is a Christianity of dignity, not of humility. Penitence, the struggles of weakness, austerity, find no place in it. The law is effaced, holiness and mysticism evaporate; the specifically Christian accent is wanting. My impression is always the same--faith is made a dull poor thing by these attempts to reduce it to simple moral psychology. I am oppressed by a feeling of inappropriateness and malaise at the sight of philosophy in the pulpit. "They have taken away my Saviour, and I know not where they have laid him;" so the simple folk have a right to say, and I repeat it with them. Thus, while some shock me by their sacerdotal dogmatism, others repel me by their rationalizing laicism. It seems to me that good preaching ought to combine, as Schleiermacher did, perfect moral humility with energetic independence of thought, a profound sense of sin with respect for criticism and a passion for truth.

* * * *

The free being who abandons the conduct of himself, yields himself to Satan; in the moral world there is no ground without a master, and the waste lands belong to the Evil One.

The poetry of childhood consists in simulating and forestalling the future, just as the poetry of mature life consists often in going backward to some golden age. Poetry is always in the distance. The whole art of moral government lies in gaining a directing and shaping hold over the poetical ideals of an age.

107. John Adams

Philadelphia, 27 May, 1776.

I have three of your favors before me. The last has given me relief from many anxieties. It relates wholly to private affairs, and contains such an account of wise and prudent management as makes me very happy. I begin to be jealous that our neighbors will think affairs more discreetly conducted in my absence than at any other time. Whether your suspicions concerning a letter under a marble cover are just or not, it is best to say little about it. It is a hasty,[141] hurried thing, and of no great consequence, calculated for a meridian at a great distance from New England. If it has done no good, it will do no harm. It has contributed to set people thinking upon the subject, and in this respect has answered its end. The manufacture of governments having, since the publication of that letter, been as much talked of as that of saltpetre was before.

I rejoice at your account of the spirit of fortification, and the good effects of it. I hope by this time you are in a tolerable posture of defense. The inhabitants of Boston have done themselves great honor by their laudable zeal, the clergymen, especially.

I think you shine as a stateswoman of late, as well as a farmeress. Pray where do you get your maxims of state? They are very apropos. I am much obliged to Judge Cushing and his lady for their polite visit to you. I should be very happy to see him, and converse with him about many things, but cannot hope for that pleasure very soon. The affairs of America are in so critical a state, such great events are struggling into birth, that I must not quit this station at this time. Yet I dread the melting heats of a Philadelphia summer, and know not how my frail constitution will endure it. Such constant care, such incessant application of mind, drinking up and exhausting the finer spirits, upon which life and health so essentially depend, will wear away a stronger man than I am. Yet I will not shrink from this danger or this toil. While my health shall be such that I can discharge, in any tolerable manner, the duties of this important post, I will not desert it.

I am pleased to hear that the Superior Court is to sit at Ipswich in June. This will contribute to give stability to the government, I hope, in all its branches. But I presume other steps will be taken for this purpose. A Governor and Lieutenant-governor, I hope, will be chosen, and the Constitution a little more fixed. I hope too, that the Council will, this year, be more full, and augmented by the addition of good men. I hope Mr. Bowdoin will be Governor, if his health will permit, and Dr. Winthrop Lieutenant-governor. These are wise, learned, and prudent men. The first has a great fortune and wealthy connections. The other has the advantage of a name and family which is much reverenced, besides his personal abilities and virtues, which are very great.

Our friend,[142] I sincerely hope, will not refuse his appointment. For although I have ever thought that the bench should be filled from the bar, and once labored successfully to effect it, yet as the gentlemen have seen fit to decline, I know of no one who would do more honor to the station than my friend. None would be so agreeable to me, whether I am to sit by him or before him. I suppose it must be disagreeable to him and his lady, because he loves to be upon his farm, and they both love to be together. But you must tell them of a couple of their friends, who are as fond of living together, who are obliged to sacrifice their rural amusements and domestic happiness to the requisitions of the public.

The Generals, Washington, Gates, and Mifflin, are all here, and we shall derive spirit, unanimity, and vigor from their presence and advice. I hope you will have some general officers at Boston soon. I am, with constant wishes and prayers for your health and prosperity, forever yours.

Footnotes:

[141]Thoughts on Government.

[142]James Warren.

108. Abigail Adams

What can be the reason I have not heard from you since the 20th of April, and now 't is the 27th of May. My anxious, foreboding heart fears every evil, and my nightly slumbers are tortured. I have sent and sent again to the post-office, which is now kept in Boston at the office of the former Solicitor General. Not one line for me, though your handwriting is to be seen to several others. Not a scrip have I had since the General Assembly rose, and the very idea casts such a gloom upon my spirits that I cannot recover them for hours, nor reason myself out of my fears. Surely if letters are delivered to any other hand than those to whose care they are directed, 't is cruel to detain them. I believe for the future you had better direct them to be left in the post-office, from whence I shall be sure of obtaining them.

I wrote you two letters about a fortnight ago which were both covered together. Hope you have received them. We have no news here but what you will be informed of long before this reaches you, unless it is the politics of the town. At our May meeting Mr. Wibird was desired to preach a sermon previous to the choice, which he did to great acceptation. The debates were not who, but how many should be sent. They agreed upon three: Mr. Bass for the upper precinct, Colonel Thayer for the middle, and an uncle of ours [143] for this; but he begged to be excused as his state of health was so infirm, and so subject to a nervous headache that he was sure he could not stand it to sit in so numerous an assembly. The next vote was for your brother, and a tie took place between him and Colonel Palmer; but the latter declaring that he would tarry in the House if chosen there, the vote fell upon him.

The disagreeable news we have from Quebec is a great damper to our spirits, but shall we receive good and not evil? Upon this occasion you will recollect the sentiments of your favorite, Sully: "Without attempting to judge of the future, which depends upon too many accidents, much less to subject it to our precipitation in bold and difficult enterprises, we should endeavor to subdue one obstacle at a time, nor suffer ourselves to be depressed by their greatness and their number. We ought never to despair at what has once been accomplished. How many things have had the idea of impossible annexed to them, that have become easy to those who knew how to take advantage of time, opportunity, lucky moments, the faults of others, different dispositions and an infinite number of other circumstances."

These are sentiments worthy of the man who could execute what he planned. I sincerely wish we had the spirit of Sully animating our counsels.

27 May.

My heart is as light as a feather and my spirits are dancing. I received this afternoon a fine parcel of letters and papers by Colonel Thayer. It was a feast to me. I shall rest in quiet, I hope, this night. The papers I have not read, but sit down to write you, for Mr. Bass has just been here to let me know that Harry will call upon him to-morrow and take this letter for me. I would not have you anxious about me. I make out better than I did.

I took a ride last week, and ventured just as far as the stump of Liberty Tree. Roxbury looks more injured than Boston. That is, the houses look more torn to pieces. I was astonished at the extent of our lines and their strength.

We have taken a most noble prize, the inventory of which you will have in the paper. The poor Captain [144] has since lost his life in a desperate engagement with thirteen boats from the men of war, which attacked and attempted to board him; but by a most brave resistance they sunk four of the boats and fought so warmly with their spears and small arms as to oblige them to quit him, though he had but twenty-seven men and they five times his number. He unhappily fell, and was the only one who did. Many dead bodies have since been taken up, among whom is an officer.

We have now in fair sight of my uncle's the Commodore, a thirty-six gun frigate, another large vessel, and six small craft. I hope after election we shall have ways and means devised to drive off these torments. Providence seems to have delivered into our hands the very articles most needed, and at a time when we were weak and not so well provided for as we could wish. We have two row-galleys building, and men of spirit to use them I dare say will be found. One engagement only whets their appetite for another.

I heard last night that we had three regiments coming back to us, with General Gates to head them; at which I most sincerely rejoiced. I think he is the man we want.

You ask my advice with regard to your office. If I was to consult only my own private satisfaction and pleasure, I should request you to resign it; but alas, that is of small moment when compared to the whole, and I think you qualified and know you disposed to serve your country. I must advise you to hold it, at least for the present year. And in saying this I make a sacrifice which those only can judge of whose hearts are one.

I was much affected, the other day, by a letter which I saw from the lady of the late worthy General Montgomery. Speaking of him, she says, "Suffer me to repeat his last words to me: 'You shall never blush for your Montgomery.' Nobly has he kept his word. As a wife I must ever mourn the husband, friend, and lover of a thousand virtues, of all domestic bliss, the idol of my warmest affections, and, in one word, my every dream of happiness. Methinks I am like the poor widow in the Gospel; having given my mite, I sit down disconsolate."

These are only detached parts of the letter, to which I fear I have not done justice, as I have only my memory to serve me; but it was a very fine letter. Oh that I could annihilate space.

Yours.

Footnotes:

[143]Norton Quincy.

[144]Mugford. Gordon's History, Vol. II. p. 263, Bradford, Vol. II. p. 109.