May 5

May Fifth

Lord of Hosts, that beholds us in battle, defending
The homes of our sires 'gainst the hosts of the foe,
Send us help on the wings of thy angels descending,
And shield from his terrors and baffle his blow.
Warm the faith of our sons, till they flame as the iron,
Red glowing from the fire-forge, kindled by zeal;
Make them forward to grapple the hordes that environ,
In the storm-rush of battle, through forests of steel!
From the Charleston Mercury


Battle of the Wilderness; Lee, with 60,000 men, attacks Grant with 140,000, 1864



May 5

May 5, 1860.--To grow old is more difficult than to die, because to renounce a good once and for all, costs less than to renew the sacrifice day by day and in detail. To bear with one's own decay, to accept one's own lessening capacity, is a harder and rarer virtue than to face death.

* * * *

There is a halo round tragic and premature death; there is but a long sadness in declining strength. But look closer: so studied, a resigned and religious old age will often move us more than the heroic ardor of young years. The maturity of the soul is worth more than the first brilliance of its faculties, or the plentitude of its strength, and the eternal in us can but profit from all the ravages made by time. There is comfort in this thought.

May 5, 1864

Thursday. Reported for duty and was put on as officer of the guard. The 128th got in touch with the rebel skirmish line and Casey, of Company I, was shot through the mouth. The dam is being pushed in every possible way. Trees are cut and dragged in the river, and bags filled with earth are thrown in to fill up the spaces. Stones are so scarce that brick houses not in use are torn down and used for ballast. I bought a horse, saddle and bridle to-day for four dollars, and he is now eating government hay with the mules. He may come handy when we skip out, which we expect to do as soon as the gunboats are over the falls. General Smith fought quite a battle above here to-day and took some prisoners. It is reported to-night that the John Warner, the boat that brought us from Grand Ecore, has been sunk in the river below here, and Sim Bryan captured. He had our mail, and if the Rebs read our letters they know about what we think of them. I'd like to hear the comments they make. The tables have been turned, and we are now the besieged, instead of the besiegers.

Pleasant and warm; remained at the fort until about 8 o'clock a. m. waiting for General Burnside's forces to relieve us, and then marched about two miles up the plank road and formed line of battle in a piece of woods to the right of the road; remained here until noon when Burnside's corps again came up and occupied our line when we pushed on to the front passing many corralled and moving army trains, and through the outskirts of the field hospital near the right of our army's infantry line of battle until we struck the Orange turnpike when we turned to the right and followed it some distance until near enough the enemy to draw the fire of its artillery when seemingly the air was full of solid shot and exploding shells as far each side the pike as could be seen. The road here ran in a straight line ahead of us almost as far as the eye could reach bordered on either side with a dense forest and underbrush which was also being shelled in places. Shortly after, when within shelling distance, the enemy fired a solid shot straight along the pike which tore screeching through the air just a little above the heads of the men in column in our regiment till it struck the pike about midway the regiment, providentially where the men had split and were marching on either side of the road, when it viciously rebounded along the pike lengthwise the column to the great consternation of the men all along the extended column in our own and other regiments. This situation was most trying for every moment I dreaded the effect of a better directed shot which would go destructively through our long column lengthwise and do untold damage.

Soon, however, we turned to the left or southerly into the woods and formed line of battle almost as soon as there was room after leaving the road with the enemy close in our front with a field piece of artillery hardly a hundred yards away through the brush which kept each from seeing the other. Before Captain H. R. Steele had hardly finished dressing his company after forming line a shell from this gun exploded in the ranks of Company K, killing a private and wounding others. The shell had burst actually inside the man completely disemboweling and throwing him high in the air in a rapidly whirling motion above our heads with arms and legs extended until his body fell heavily to the ground with a sickening thud.

I was in the line of file closers hardly two paces away and just behind the man killed. We were covered with blood, fine pieces of flesh, entrails, etc., which makes me cringe and shudder whenever I think of it. The concussion badly stunned me. I was whirled about in the air like a feather, thrown to the ground on my hands and knees—or at least was in that position with my head from the enemy when I became fully conscious—face cut with flying gravel or something else, eyes, mouth and ears filled with dirt, and was feeling nauseated from the shake-up. Most of the others affected went to the hospital, and I wanted to but didn't give up. I feared being accused of trying to get out of a fight.

The Division Commander and staff were about three hundred yards more or less, behind us in direct line with this gun that was shelling us. Another shell from it which went screeching close over us—for we immediately after the first shot lay flat on the ground—disemboweled Captain G. B. Damon's horse of the Tenth Vermont on the Division staff, on which he was mounted, and killed two others. This party could be seen from where I was in line plainly. I was surprised at the quickness with which Company K got into line again after being so disrupted by the exploding shell in its ranks.

Cannes May 5, 1882

We have nothing later than Tuesday's speech, so that the lines are not traceable into the future, and I am still in a very anxious and doubting stage.

It is not apparent why Spencer occupies a position between earth and heaven. He looks like a warming pan. Not for a prince, for that is out of the question. For Dufferin?[179 ] But Dufferin, who is easy, dexterous, and popular, has not the sterling and transparent quality of Spencer himself. It may well be the basis of a vast change in the machinery for the government of Ireland; but that would require legislation for which there is no time. Perplexity No. 1.

Then one must conclude that the change comes from assurances given by the moderate Irish members, that it would enable them to moderate the raging ones. But to ensure that, they must have a finger in the pie, and Russell or Shaw would have to have the offer of the Irish Office. It seems clear, from the delay, that that is not to be; and one hears of Lefevre and Chamberlain.... Perplexity 2.

There is a look of uncertainty and want of clearness about the whole thing. Cowper resigns; after an interval, half a successor is appointed; then the suspects are released; then Forster resigns; and then, after another interval showing want of preparation, there is a new Secretary. This way of doing whatever is to be done suggests that the Ministry had not the foresight to anticipate opinion, or strength to lead it. Dropping one colleague after another in their Irish course makes that course appear wanting in deliberation and design, and strengthens the notion that, under heavy pressure, they may be driven nobody knows where, like men who yield, not like men who lead. I presume that there is some evidence of ensured improvement, consequent upon concession. But one doubts that again, when Forster resigns; and it seems that the change is in the ideas more than in the facts. As to any gain on Irish opinion from the grace of concession, I should not expect it, as so many suspects remain in custody. If so, then the advantage would be derived from the new position of the Irish leaders—a very doubtful policy. Then again, I don't like the moment; immediately after Cairns's stroke, and the untimely publication of his draft report.[180 ] I don't like anything which looks like overtrumping, because it is not fit for such a Prime Minister to follow initiative, whether that of opponents, or of English or Irish opinion.

These misgivings occur to me although you know, if nobody else does, that I was not convinced by the argument in favour of coercion, and saw no evidence of greater demoralisation than was the direct effect of actual suffering. Since then there has been so much atrocity in Ireland, so much foreign influence, and so manifest a change for the worse in the conduct of the clergy, that I have grown reconciled to the strong hand. Even if full of sympathy with the spirit of the present policy, I cannot satisfy myself with the mode of its inception, and I shall not feel comfortable for some days, until the design grows clear. To you, they will be intensely interesting, and I shall be very glad indeed to hear that confidence reigns in Downing Street.


CANNES, 5.14, 8/5, 11.54, on the 8/5, 1882.

Do not let him lose confidence in himself.[181 ]


[179 ] The late Marquis of Dufferin.

[180 ] On the working of the Irish Laud Act, 1881.

[181 ] Sent immediately after the murders in the Phœnix Park.