May 8

May 8, 1845

I am too weak to write much, and shall therefore continue at another time.

[Note.—On the 17th of May the author's life was closed.]

May Eighth

Having completed our repairs on May 8th, and while returning to our old anchorage, we heard heavy firing, and, going down the harbor, found the Monitor, with the iron-clads Galena,Naugatuck, and a number of heavy ships, shelling our batteries at Sewell's Point. We stood directly for the Monitor, but as we approached they all ceased firing and retreated below the forts.

Col. John Taylor Wood

 

The “Virginia” again challenges the “Monitor” to battle, 1862

Battle of Palo Alto, 1846

 

 

Saturday, May 8th, 9 a.m.—This is Der Tag. Could anybody go to bed and undress?

I have been cutting dressings all night. One of the most stabbing things in this war is seeing the lines of empty motor ambulances going up to bring down the wrecks who at this moment are sound and fit, and all absolutely ready to be turned into wrecks.

10.30 p.m.—Der Tag was a wash-out, but it is to begin at 1.15 to-night. (It didn't!)

The tension is more up than ever. A boy who has just come in with a poisoned heel (broken-hearted because he is out of it, while his battalion moves up) says, "You'll be having them in in cartloads over this."

May 8, 1864

Sunday. A very hot day. The men are being examined and any not fit for a hard tramp are put on the boats. The dam is nearly completed. All but the deepest draught boats are below the rapids waiting for the dam to be blown up so they can come down and load up for the run down the river. From all I can learn the plans are for the gunboats, provided they get over the rapids all right, to protect the left flank, which is to follow the right bank of the river and go as fast as infantry can possibly go. General Smith is to take care of the rear and as much of the right flank as he can. General Banks is to open up the way and also to look out for the right flank. No hard fighting is expected, but skirmish fighting is looked for all the way down. I went up to the dam just at night. The water rushes over it and through it like a young Niagara. It is a big job, and the engineers deserve great credit, whether it does all it is expected to or not.

It has been very  warm and sultry. Our forces commenced a flank movement last night. We withdrew from the enemy's front about 10 o'clock p. m. and marched, via the Chancellorsville turnpike—where we passed many trains, our wounded and Burnside's Corps—through the old battlefield of Chancellorsville of a year ago, as far as Piney Branch Church, when we left the pike at Alsop's house, and after marching southerly some time on the Todd's Tavern road formed line of battle near Alsop's farm about 3 o'clock p. m., our Division being on the right of the Sixth Corps. We advanced across the Ny river—a mere creek—but meeting with a sharp artillery fire from a rebel battery on the opposite ridge to us skirting the valley, we were ordered to halt. This was about three miles north of Spottsylvania Court House and is called the Battle of Alsop's Farm. Our regiment lost sixteen men here. Generals Robinson and Griffin's Divisions of the Fifth Corps took two thousand prisoners and lost about one thousand.

We continued to change position from one point to another till just after passing Spottsylvania when just before dark we found the enemy in our front in force. It had felled trees across the road which delayed us considerably, but our artillery soon opened the way for us. We proceeded about two miles and found the enemy strongly intrenched across an open slightly rising field from us in the edge of the woods which was fiercely charged by us but without effect except to be repulsed with the field covered largely with our killed and badly wounded. General Meade was in rear of our regiment which formed a rear line in our assaulting column, superintending the assault, and when jocularly reminded by a wag that he (Meade) was in a dangerous place, he graciously replied: "It's safe enough behind a Vermont regiment anywhere!" Which was a clever thing to say to the men and they appreciated it. We threw up breastworks after the assault, uncomfortably close to the enemy and are well fortified, but not in as naturally a strong position as the enemy. Assaulting in the dark is unsatisfactory and very demoralizing. It ought not to be done when it can be avoided, one is so apt to shoot his own men and straggle into the enemy's lines and be captured; it's very trying and nerve-taxing. It has been a strenuous day.

34. John Adams

New York, May 8, 1775.

I have an opportunity by Captain Beale to write you a line. We all arrived last night in this city. It would take many sheets of paper to give you a description of the reception we found here. The militia were all in arms, and almost the whole city out to meet us. The Tories are put to flight here as effectually as the Mandamus Council at Boston. They have associated to stand by Continental and Provincial Congresses, etc., etc., etc. Such a spirit was never seen in New York.

Jose Bass met with a misfortune in the midst of some of the unnecessary parade that was made about us. My mare, being galled with an ugly buckle in the tackling, suddenly flinched and started in turning short round a rock, in a shocking bad road, overset the sulky, which frightened her still more. She ran and dashed the body of the sulky all to pieces. I was obliged to leave my sulky, slip my baggage on board Mr. Cushing's carriage, buy me a saddle, and mount on horseback. I am thankful that Bass was not killed. He was in the utmost danger, but not materially hurt.

I am sorry for this accident, both on account of the trouble and expense occasioned by it. But in times like these such little accidents should not afflict us.

Let me caution you, my dear, to be upon your guard against the multitude of affrights and alarms which, I fear, will surround you. Yet I hope the people with you will grow more composed than they were.

Our prospect of a union of the colonies is promising indeed. Never was there such a spirit. Yet I feel anxious, because there is always more smoke than fire—more noise than music.

Our province is nowhere blamed. The accounts of the battle are exaggerated in our favor. My love to all. I pray for you all, and hope to be prayed for. Certainly there is a Providence; certainly we must depend upon Providence, or we fail; certainly the sincere prayers of good men avail much. But resignation is our duty in all events. I have this day heard Mr. Livingston in the morning, and Mr. Rogers this afternoon—excellent men, and excellent prayers and sermons.

Footnotes:

[72]Nos. 29, 30.

Pastorals

Saturday, 8.

False were the muse, did she not bring

Our village poet's offering—

Haunts, fields, and groves, weaving his rhymes,

Leaves verse and fame to coming times.

Is it for the reason that rural life here in New England furnishes nothing for pastoral verse, that our poets have as yet produced so little? Yet we cannot have had almost three centuries' residence on this side of the Atlantic, with old England's dialect, traditions, and customs still current in our rural districts for perspective, not to have so adorned life and landscape with poetic associations as to have neither honey nor dew for hiving in sweet and tender verse, though it should fall short of the antique or British models. Our fields and rivers, brooks and groves, the rural occupations of country-folk, have not been undeserving of being celebrated in appropriate verse. Our forefathers delighted in Revolutionary lore. We celebrate natural scenery, legends of foreign climes, historic events, but rarely indulge in touches of simple country life. And the idyls of New England await their poet, unless the following verses announce his arrival:—

NEW ENGLAND.

"My country, 'tis for thee I strike the lyre;

My country, wide as is the free wind's flight,

I prize New England as she lights her fire

In every Prairie's midst; and where the bright

Enchanting stars shine pure through Southern night,

She still is there the guardian on the tower,

To open for the world a purer hour.

"Could they but know the wild enchanting thrill

That in our homely houses fills the heart,

To feel how faithfully New England's will

Beats in each artery, and each small part

Of this great Continent, their blood would start

In Georgia, or where Spain once sat in state,

Or Texas, with her lone star, desolate.

•     •     •     •     •

"'Tis a New-England thought, to make this land

The very home of Freedom, and the nurse

"Of each sublime emotion; she does stand

Between the sunny South, and the dread curse

Of God, who else should make her hearse

Of condemnation to this Union's life,—

She stands to heal this plague, and banish strife.

"I do not sing of this, but hymn the day

That gilds our cheerful villages and plains,

Our hamlets strewn at distance on the way,

Our forests and the ancient streams' domains;

We are a band of brothers, and our pains

Are freely shared; no beggar in our roads,

Content and peace within our fair abodes.

"In my small cottage on the lonely hill,

Where like a hermit I must bide my time,

Surrounded by a landscape lying still

All seasons through as in the winter's prime,

Rude and as homely as these verses chime,

I have a satisfaction which no king

Has often felt, if Fortune's happiest thing.

"'Tis not my fortune, which is meanly low,

'Tis not my merit that is nothing worth,

'Tis not that I have stores of thought below

Which everywhere should build up heaven on earth;

Nor was I highly favored in my birth;

Few friends have I, and they are much to me,

Yet fly above my poor society.

"But all about me live New-England men,

Their humble houses meet my daily gaze,—

The children of this land where Life again

Flows like a great stream in sunshiny ways,

This is a joy to know them, and my days

Are filled with love to meditate on them,—

These native gentlemen on Nature's hem.

"That I could take one feature of their life,

Then on my page a mellow light should shine;

Their days are holidays, with labor rife,

Labor the song of praise that sounds divine,

And better, far, than any hymn of mine;

The patient Earth sets platters for their food,

Corn, milk, and apples, and the best of good.

"See here no shining scenes for artist's eye,

This woollen frock shall make no painter's fame;

These homely tools all burnishing deny;

The beasts are slow and heavy, still or tame;

The sensual eye may think this labor lame;

'Tis in the man where lies the sweetest art,

His true endeavor in his earnest part.

•     •     •     •     •

"He meets the year confiding; no great throws,

That suddenly bring riches, does he use,

But like Thor's hammer vast, his patient blows

Vanquish his difficult tasks, he does refuse

To tread the path, nor know the way he views;

No sad complaining words he uttereth,

But draws in peace a free and easy breath.

•     •     •     •     •

"This man takes pleasure o'er the crackling fire,

His glittering axe subdued the monarch oak,

He earned the cheerful blaze by something higher

Than pensioned blows,—he owned the tree he stroke,

And knows the value of the distant smoke

When he returns at night, his labor done,

Matched in his action with the long day's sun.

•     •     •     •     •

"I love these homely mansions, and to me

A farmer's house seems better than a king's;

The palace boasts its art, but liberty

And honest pride and toil are splendid things;

They carved this clumsy lintel, and it brings

The man upon its front; Greece hath her art,—

But this rude homestead shows the farmer's heart.

"I love to meet him on the frozen road,

How manly is his eye, as clear as air;—

He cheers his beasts without the brutal goad,

His face is ruddy, and his features fair;

His brave good-day sounds like an honest prayer;

This man is in his place and feels his trust,—

'Tis not dull plodding through the heavy crust.

"And when I have him at his homely hearth,

Within his homestead, where no ornament

Glows on the mantel but his own true worth,

I feel as if within an Arab's tent

His hospitality is more than meant;

I there am welcome, as the sunlight is,

I must feel warm to be a friend of his.

•     •     •     •     •

"How many brave adventures with the cold,

Built up the cumberous cellar of plain stone;

How many summer heats the bricks did mould,

That make the ample fireplace, and the tone

Of twice a thousand winds sing through the zone

Of rustic paling round the modest yard,—

These are the verses of this simple bard.

"Who sings the praise of Woman in our clime?

I do not boast her beauty or her grace;

Some humble duties render her sublime,

She the sweet nurse of this New-England race,

The flower upon the country's sterile face,

The mother of New England's sons, the pride

Of every house where these good sons abide.

"There is a Roman splendor in her smile,

A tenderness that owes its depth to toil;

Well may she leave the soft voluptuous wile

That forms the woman of a softer soil;

She does pour forth herself a fragrant oil

Upon the dark austerities of Fate,

And make a garden else all desolate.

"From early morn to fading eve she stands,

Labor's best offering on the shrine of worth,

And Labor's jewels glitter on her hands,

To make a plenty out of partial dearth,

To animate the heaviness of earth,

To stand and serve serenely through the pain,

To nurse a vigorous race and ne'er complain.

"New-England women are New-England's pride,

'Tis fitting they should be so, they are free,—

Intelligence doth all their acts decide,

Such deeds more charming than old ancestry.

I could not dwell beside them, and not be

Enamored of them greatly; they are meant

To charm the Poet, by their pure intent.

"A natural honest bearing of their lot,

Cheerful at work, and happy when 'tis done;

They shine like stars within the humblest cot,

And speak for freedom centred all in one.

From every river's side I hear the son

Of some New-England woman answer me,

'Joy to our Mothers, who did make us free.'

"And when those wanderers turn to home again,

See the familiar village, and the street

Where they once frolicked, they are less than men

If in their eyes the tear-drops do not meet,

To feel how soon their mothers they shall greet:

Sons of New England have no dearer day,

Than once again within those arms to lay.

"These are her men and women; this the sight

That greets me daily when I pass their homes;

It is enough to love, it throws some light

Over the gloomiest hours; the fancy roams

No more to Italy or Greece; the loams

Whereon we tread are sacred by the lives

Of those who till them, and our comfort thrives.

"Here might one pass his days, content to be

The witness of those spectacles alway;

Bring if you may your treasure from the sea,

My pride is in my Townsmen, where the day

Rises so fairly on a race who lay

Their hopes on Heaven after their toil is o'er,

Upon this rude and bold New-England shore.

"Vainly ye pine woods rising on the height

Should lift your verdant boughs and cones aloft;

Vainly ye winds should surge around in might,

Or murmur o'er the meadow stanzas soft;

To me should nothing yield or lake or crost,

Had not the figures of the pleasant scene

Like trees and fields an innocent demean.

"I feel when I am here some pride elate,

Proud of your presence who do duty here,

For I am some partaker of your fate,

Your manly anthem vibrates in my ear;

Your hearts are heaving unconsumed by fear;

Your modest deeds are constantly supplied;

Your simpler truths by which you must abide.

"Therefore I love a cold and flinty realm,

I love the sky that hangs New England o'er,

And if I were embarked, and at the helm

I ran my vessel on New England's shore,

And dashed upon her crags, would live no more,

Rather than go seek those lands of graves

Where men who tread the fields are cowering slaves."

W. Ellery Channing.