October 16

Ryland came down to see me early this morning. Fernando Thompson brought me some letters; got one from Dr. J. H. Jones; friends in Chelsea all well; am at Uncle Howe's to-night; Jim brought us down this forenoon; no one home but Uncle Howe; no change in Williamstown; terribly quiet.

October Sixteenth

This button here upon my cuff is valueless, whether for use or for ornament, but you shall not tear it from me and spit in my face besides; no, not if it cost me my life. And if your time be passed in the attempt to so take it, then my time and my every thought shall be spent in preventing such outrage. Let alone, the Virginian would gladly have made an end of slavery, but, strange hap, malevolence and meddling bound it up with every interest that was dear to his heart.

George W. Bagby
(Slavery )


John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, 1859



October 16

October 16, 1869.--Laboremus seems to have been the motto of Sainte-Beuve, as it was that of Septimius Severus. He died in harness, and up to the evening before his last day he still wrote, overcoming the sufferings of the body by the energy of the mind. To-day, at this very moment, they are laying him in the bosom of mother earth. He refused the sacraments of the church; he never belonged to any confession; he was one of the "great diocese"--that of the independent seekers of truth, and he allowed himself no final moment of hypocrisy. He would have nothing to do with any one except God only--or rather the mysterious Isis beyond the veil. Being unmarried, he died in the arms of his secretary. He was sixty-five years old. His power of work and of memory was immense and intact. What is Scherer thinking about this life and this death?

October 16

October 16, 1864.--I have just read a part of Eugénie de Guérin's journal over again. It charmed me a little less than the first time. The nature seemed to me as beautiful, but the life of Eugénie was too empty, and the circle of ideas which occupied her, too narrow.

It is touching and wonderful to see how little space is enough for thought to spread its wings in, but this perpetual motion within the four walls of a cell ends none the less by becoming wearisome to minds which are accustomed to embrace more objects in their field of vision. Instead of a garden, the world; instead of a library, the whole of literature; instead of three or four faces, a whole people and all history--this is what the virile, the philosophic temper demands. Men must have more air, more room, mere horizon, more positive knowledge, and they end by suffocating in this little cage where Eugenie lives and moves, though the breath of heaven blows into it and the radiance of the stars shines down upon it.

October 16, 1862

Thursday, 5 a. m. The cars shrink, or the men swell, for certainly everybody had less room last night than before. Cross and crabbed, sore in every joint, and mad at everything and everybody, we crawled out of our beds (?) and shook ourselves together. In spite of strict orders to the contrary, some fresh pork and some poultry found its way past the guards during the night. The owners needn't come looking for it, they would find only bristles and feathers if they did. I suppose the partaker is as bad as the thief, but I didn't feel guilty at all for accepting a slice of pork. I soon found a canteen with no owner, melted it apart over a fire and fried my pork and divided with my chums. There was no question about its being fresh, for we had no salt to make it otherwise. About 9 o'clock we tumbled into the cars and with no more adventures reached Camp Millington late in the afternoon. Can any one imagine our surprise and our great delight at finding the 150th N. Y. in camp right across the road from our camp? In a twinkling we were together. Discipline went to the winds. The officers tried to make a show of authority, but might as well have ordered the wind not to blow. All being from the same neighborhood, we were one great happy family, reunited after a long separation. I doubt if there is a man in either regiment who has not a friend, if not a brother, in the other. They have passed through about the same experiences in the recruiting camp and passed over the same route to this place. They knew the same people we knew and could give us late information about them. My own brother, John Van Alstyne, the same John who scolded me for enlisting, who called me a "fool" and lots of other bad names, had made the same sort of a fool of himself and was here with Uncle Sam's uniform on. Dozens of others I knew almost as well, and the same was the case all through, officers and men alike. As soon as the first round of handshaking was over and our volleys of questions about home and home people were answered, we took our turn at answering as to where we had been and what we had done, and how we liked it, etc., etc. Then we couldn't help standing up a little straighter, and showing as best we could the superiority of old bronzed soldiers like us over raw recruits like them. We had just returned from a sally against the enemy. The enemy had run off and given us no chance to show what we might have done, but that was no fault of ours. But soon the pangs of hunger, which had been forgotten for the time, came back, and as soon as the 150th took in the situation, over the fences and into their deserted camp they went, and soon everything eatable that their camp contained was transferred to ours, and soon afterwards to our stomachs. And how much good it did them to see us eat! They bought out the sutler and fed us until we could eat no more. And then we smoked and talked and chatted until late into the night. Surely I have never seen so much supreme satisfaction crammed into so small a space of time. But we finally separated and have quieted down, and now that I have written up my diary I will crawl in with my snoring comrades.

Friday, October 16th, 2 p.m.—Have had a very busy time since last entry. The shelling of the village was aimed at the church, the steeple of which was being used by the French for signalling. A butcher was killed and a boy injured, and as the British Clearing Hospital was in the church and the French Hospital next door they were all cleared out into our train; many very bad cases, fractured spine, a nearly dying lung case, a boy with wound in lung and liver, three pneumonias, some bad enterics (though the worst have not been moved). A great sensation was having four badly wounded French women, one minus an arm, aged 16; another minus a foot, aged 61, amputation after shell wounds from a place higher up. They are in the compartment next three wounded officers. They are all four angelically good and brave and grateful; it does seem hard luck on them. It was not easy getting them all settled in, in a pitch-dark evening, the trains so high from the ground; and a good deal of excitement all round over the shelling, which only left off at dusk. One of the C.S.'s had a narrow shave on his way from the train to the R.T.O.; he had just time to lie flat, and it burst a few yards from him, on the line. S. and I stayed up till 3 a.m. and then called the others, and we got up again at 8 and were all busy all the morning. It is a weird business at night, picking your way through kitchens and storerooms and wards with a lantern over the rickety bridges and innumerable heavy swing-doors. I was glad of the brown overall G. sent me, and am wearing the mackintosh apron to-day that N. made me. We are probably staying here several days, and are doing day and night duty entire—not divided as last night. I am on day. We have a great many washings in the morning, and have to make one water do for one compartment—(the train ran out of water this morning—since refilled from the river alongside); and bed-makings, and a lot of four-hourly treatment with the acutes. The enteric ward has a very good orderly, and excellent disinfecting arrangements. It is in my division of the train. Lack of drinking water makes things very difficult.

I thought things were difficult in the hospitals at Le Mans owing to lack of equipment, but that was child's play compared to the structural difficulties of working a hospital on a train, especially when it stands in a siding several days. One man will have to die on the train if we don't move soon, but we are not full up yet. Twenty-seven men—minor cases—bolted from the church yesterday evening on to the train when the shells were dropping, and were ignominiously sent back this morning.

It has so far been the most exciting journey the train has had. Jack Johnson has been very quiet all the morning, but he spoke for a little again just now. I'm going to have a rest now till four.

Four Tommies in one bunk yesterday told me things about the trenches and the fighting line, which you have to believe because they are obviously giving recent intimate personal experiences; but how do they or any one ever live through it? These came all through the Retreat from Mons. Then through the wet weather in the trenches on the Aisne—where they don't always get hot tea (as is said in the papers, much to their scorn). They even had to take the tea and sugar out of the haversacks of dead Germans; no one had had time to bury for twelve days—"it warn't no use to them," they said, "and we could do with it."

In the Retreat they said men's boots were worn right off and they marched without; the packs were thrown away, and the young boys died of exhaustion and heat. The officers guarded each pump in case they should drink bad water, and they drank water wrung out of their towels!

"And just as Bill got to the pump the shell burst on him—it made a proper mess of him"—this with a stare of horror. And they never criticise or rant about it, but accept it as their share for the time being.

The train is to-day in a place with a perfect wood on both sides, glowing with autumn colours, and through it goes a road with continual little parties of French cavalry, motors, and transport waggons passing up it.

October 16, 1863

Friday. On Wednesday morning before we left Nelson's there was another try for something to ride, and by hook or crook we all made out. Colonel B. loaned me his horse to go and look for another. Along the Bayou about a mile below camp I found several horses hitched to the trees about a house, in which the owners were getting a breakfast. Only a couple of them had military trappings, the others having ordinary saddles and bridles. One of these was hitched to the upturned roots of a blown-over tree, the bridle being thrown over the root. I noticed this as I rode past, and as soon as I was out of sight I turned back, and riding close up to the stump I slipped the bridle off the root, and old sorrel followed me right along. Everything was ready for a start when I got back and away we went. I felt a little guilty, but I know by the trappings the fellow had stolen the horse, and the old saying, that it's no crime to steal from a thief, came to mind and comforted me.[6]

We rode until noon and then stopped for something to eat and to let the horses fill up on grass. Then we went on across the prairie, which seemed to have no end. We kept an eye out for guerrillas, but saw none. About 4 p. m. I saw a cornfield a little off the way and went to it to get some corn for my horse. While I was gone the colonel decided to camp for the night in a grove near the road, and went there thinking to see me when I came along. But in some way we missed each other and I kept on, finally reaching Vermillion Bayou. The guard told me no such party had come in. As troops were scattered all about I kept up the search until dark, when I crossed over into the village, stabled and fed my horse in an empty building, and spread my blanket on the piazza of a house close by. A woman came out, and although it was rather late to ask permission, I did so, when she flounced back inside and I heard her tell some one not to let such things lie on the stoop. I didn't take any such hints and was soon asleep. An old dog acted much more friendly, for he sat by me until I went to sleep and was still there when I awoke. In the morning I fed the rest of the corn to old sorrel and then went on to Vermillionville, enquiring everywhere for Colonel B. and rest of the gang. Not finding them I came back, and on the way traded horses with a colored gentleman who was having trouble, his horse going backwards in a circle, instead of straight ahead. She was a beautiful black mare, small, but wiry, probably one of the thousands that run wild on the prairies. After we got the trappings changed I had quite a time getting aboard my new craft, but by coaxing I finally mounted, and for a while sat there, while the lady was considering whether to go or stay and fight it out. The nigger had tried whipping, so I tried petting, and she soon started to walk and in a short time was taking a gait that soon brought me to the Bayou, where I got some breakfast with the engineers who came in late last night.[7]

After breakfast I was about to start for headquarters to report the probable capture of Colonel B. and party, when in they came as surprised to see me as I was to see them. They were going to report me captured, for they thought sure I had been. The engineers kindly offered a breakfast which the party was glad to accept, after which the colonel said we must go on to headquarters and report for orders. My "Black Bess" was afraid of so many people around her and kept as far away as the picket rope would allow. Whether she had a grudge against me I don't know, but as she swung around the circle she suddenly wheeled and with both her bare hind feet hit me squarely in the breast. My canteen had swung around in just the right position to receive the blow and that probably saved my life. As it was, one side of the canteen was smashed against the other and I was knocked flat on the ground. I was picked up and in a minute or so was as good as ever. The blow had knocked the breath out of my body, and as soon as I had recovered that I was all right, with not even a sore spot to remind me of the affair. We then pushed on about four miles beyond Vermillionville, where we halted to wait until our baggage wagon arrived. We encamped near a sugar mill on the Rebel General Mouton's plantation.

From among the negroes that came flocking about we found that many of them knew how to cook, so we divided our party into messes and each hired a cook. Lieutenants Gorton, Reynolds, Smith and myself were one, and we immediately set out for something to try our new cook with. Smith and I got after a pig which ran in General Mouton's yard and all the way round the house, but we finally got a shot in the right place, and had some of the most delicious fresh pork for dinner. After dinner we got hold of the English-speaking darkies and explained our mission among them. They were more anxious to enlist than we were to have them. Even the women and children wanted to go, and we had more trouble to make them understand that only able-bodied men were wanted, than we did to get them to enlist. That night they built a big bonfire, and hundreds upon hundreds were dancing about it, until I got tired watching them and went to sleep. They have some good fiddlers among them, and many more that are not so good. Those that saw the thing out say they finally got to singing, "Glory to God," and "Abe Linkum," and wound up with a prayer meeting, in which Massa Linkum and the Linkum Sogers were the names most often heard.

[6]After the war and after I was married, my wife and I went on a visit to relatives of mine in Albany County. While there it was proposed that we all go over into Green County and take dinner with some of my cousins whom I had never met. We went, and had the best sort of a time and dinner. It happened that one of the boys had been in the army, and naturally we talked of the war. He had been in the Gulf Department, as was I, and he was also in the Teche country. This led to my telling about stealing the horse, when he jumped up, declaring "You are the man who stole my horse!" He supposed the horse had got away, and having no time to look for him, rode through on one of the wagons of the Engineer Corps, of which he was a member. He described the horse, and some of the others, so I knew he was telling the truth. He said they had bargained with the people for a breakfast and were too busy eating to notice anything going on outside. L. V. A.

[7]The man whose horse I had stolen the day before was of this company, and if I had not traded horses, no doubt I would have had some explanations to make. L. V. A.

28. Abigail Adams

Braintree, 16 October, 1774.

My much loved friend,—I dare not express to you, at three hundred miles' distance, how ardently I long for your return. I have some very miserly wishes, and cannot consent to your spending one hour in town, till, at least, I have had you twelve. The idea plays about my heart, unnerves my hand, whilst I write; awakens all the tender sentiments that years have increased and matured, and which, when with me, every day was dispensing to you. The whole collected stock of ten weeks' absence knows not how to brook any longer restraint, but will break forth and flow through my pen. May the like sensations enter thy breast, and (spite of all the weighty cares of state) mingle themselves with those I wish to communicate; for, in giving them utterance, I have felt more sincere pleasure than I have known since the 10th of August.[60] Many have been the anxious hours I have spent since that day; the threatening aspect of our public affairs, the complicated distress of this province, the arduous and perplexed business in which you are engaged, have all conspired to agitate my bosom with fears and apprehensions to which I have heretofore been a stranger; and, far from thinking the scene closed, it looks as though the curtain was but just drawn, and only the first scene of the infernal plot disclosed. And whether the end will be tragical, Heaven alone knows. You cannot be, I know, nor do I wish to see you, an inactive spectator; but if the sword be drawn, I bid adieu to all domestic felicity, and look forward to that country where there are neither wars nor rumors of war, in a firm belief, that through the mercy of its King we shall both rejoice there together.

I greatly fear that the arm of treachery and violence is lifted over us, as a scourge and heavy punishment from Heaven for our numerous offenses, and for the misimprovement of our great advantages. If we expect to inherit the blessings of our fathers, we should return a little more to their primitive simplicity of manners, and not sink into inglorious ease. We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them. I have spent one Sabbath in town since you left. I saw no difference in respect to ornament, etc.; but in the country you must look for that virtue, of which you find but small glimmerings in the metropolis. Indeed, they have not the advantages, nor the resolution, to encourage our own manufactories, which people in the country have. To the mercantile part, it is considered as throwing away their own bread; but they must retrench their expenses, and be content with a small share of gain, for they will find but few who will wear their livery. As for me, I will seek wool and flax, and work willingly with my hands; and indeed there is occasion for all our industry and economy. You mention the removal of our books, etc., from Boston;[61] I believe they are safe there, and it would incommode the gentlemen to remove them, as they would not then have a place to repair to for study. I suppose they would not choose to be at the expense of boarding out. Mr. Williams, I believe, keeps pretty much with his mother. Mr. Hill's father had some thoughts of removing up to Braintree, provided he could be accommodated with a house, which he finds very difficult.

Mr. Cranch's last determination was to tarry in town unless anything new takes place. His friends in town oppose his removal so much that he is determined to stay. The opinion you have entertained of General Gage is, I believe, just. Indeed, he professes to act only upon the defensive. The people in the country begin to be very anxious for the Congress to rise; they have no idea of the weighty business you have to transact, and their blood boils with indignation at the hostile preparations they are constant witnesses of. Mr. Quincy's so secret departure is matter of various speculation; some say he is deputed by the Congress, others that he is gone to Holland, and the Tories say he is gone to be hanged.[62]

I rejoice at the favorable account you give me of your health. May it be continued to you. My health is much better than it was last fall; some folks say I grow very fat. I venture to write almost anything in this letter, because I know the care of the bearer. He will be most sadly disappointed if you should be broken up before he arrives, as he is very desirous of being introduced by you to a number of gentlemen of respectable character. I almost envy him, that he should see you before I can. Mr. Thaxter and Mr. Rice present their regards to you. Uncle Quincy, too, sends his love to you. He is very good to call and see me, and so have many other of my friends been. Colonel Warren [63] and lady were here on Monday, and send their love to you. The Colonel promised to write. Mrs. Warren will spend a day or two, on her return, with me.

Your mother sends her love to you; and all your family, too numerous to name, desire to be remembered. You will receive letters from two who are as earnest to write to papa as if the welfare of a kingdom depended upon it.[64] If you can give any guess, within a month, let me know when you think of returning.

Your most affectionate     Abigail Adams.


[60]The date of Mr. Adams's departure.

[61]Letter of Mr. Adams, 29 September, 1774.

[62]See the Memoir of the Life of Josiah Quincy, Jr., by his son, Josiah Quincy, p. 182.

[63]James Warren, of Plymouth.

[64]One of these letters has been preserved. The writer was at this time seven years old. His subsequent career may make it interesting enough to print. It is written in a tolerably good, boy's hand, as follows:—

October 13, 1774.

Sir,—I have been trying ever since you went away to learn to write you a letter. I shall make poor work of it; but, sir, mamma says you will accept my endeavors, and that my duty to you may be expressed in poor writing as well as good. I hope I grow a better boy, and that you will have no occasion to be ashamed of me when you return. Mr. Thaxter says I learn my books well. He is a very good master. I read my books to mamma. We all long to see you. I am, sir, your dutiful son,

John Quincy Adams.