October 26

October Twenty-Sixth

Give us back the ties of Yorktown!
Perish all the modern hates!
Let us stand together, brothers,
In defiance of the Fates;
For the safety of the Union
Is the safety of the States!
James Barron Hope
(Centennial Ode )

 

 

This has been the first pleasant day I've seen in Vermont since I came home; met Captain P. D. Blodget on the street; was glad to see him for he is a nice, fair  man. His wounded arm is looking very badly; do not think he will ever return to the regiment again. I went up to the hospital with him and he gave me an introduction to Dr. James who examined my wounds and gave me a certificate for thirty days extension of sick leave; have been up to the State House this evening to hear Mrs. Chester read.

222. John Adams

Yorktown, 26 October, 1777.

Mr. Colman goes off for Boston to-morrow. I have seized a moment to congratulate you on the great and glorious success of our arms at the northward and in Delaware River. The forts at Province Island and Redbank have been defended with a magnanimity which will give our country a reputation in Europe. Colonel Greene repulsed the enemy from Redbank and took Count Donop and his aid prisoners. Colonel Smith repulsed a bold attack upon Fort Mifflin, and our galleys disabled two men-of-war, a sixty-four and a twenty gun ship, in such a manner that the enemy blew them up. This comes confirmed this evening, in letters from General Washington, inclosing original letters from officers in the forts.

Congress will appoint a thanksgiving; and one cause of it ought to be that the glory of turning the tide of arms is not immediately due to the Commander-in-chief nor to southern troops. If it had been, idolatry and adulation would have been unbounded; so excessive as to endanger our liberties, for what I know. Now, we can allow a certain citizen to be wise, virtuous, and good, without thinking him a deity or a savior.

October 26, 1863

Brashear City, La. Monday. On going out this morning who should appear to me but George Story of Company B, who was captured with General Dow at Port Hudson last summer. He says he was well treated by his captors, and has no fault to find with them. They took him and the general to Richmond, and put them in Libby Prison. After a while he was paroled, and sent to Annapolis, Md. There he was kept until exchanged, and then sent south in charge of the provost marshal to be turned over to the 128th New York. Through a mistake at headquarters he was sent here, as the 128th was supposed to be at the front in the Teche country. If he had not met us as he did, he would have gone up the Teche on the next boat. As it is he will go back to New Orleans to-morrow, and look for his regiment up the river, probably at Baton Rouge, where we left them.

We commenced teaching our recruits the rudiments of soldiering. They are awkward, but very anxious to learn, and as that is the main thing, we look for little trouble in drilling them. By shoving them together, lock-step fashion, they soon got the idea of marching in time, and on the whole did as well or better than we did at Hudson, when we took our first lesson. The quartermaster has gone to the city for equipments, tents, etc., and when he returns we will soon be at the Manual of Arms. We expect Major Palon here to-day to take charge, and by the time Colonel B. and the rest get back, hope to have our recruits fit for turning over to any regiment that needs them.

October 26

October 26, 1875.--All origins are secret; the principle of every individual or collective life is a mystery--that is to say, something irrational, inexplicable, not to be defined. We may even go farther and say, Every individuality is an insoluble enigma, and no beginning explains it. In fact, all that has become may be explained retrospectively, but the beginning of anything whatever did not become. It represents always the "fiat lux," the initial miracle, the act of creation; for it is the consequence of nothing else, it simply appears among anterior things which make a milieu, an occasion, a surrounding for it, but which are witnesses of its appearance without understanding whence it comes.

Perhaps also there are no true individuals, and, if so, no beginning but one only, the primordial impulse, the first movement. All men on this hypothesis would be but man in two sexes; man again might be reduced to the animal, the animal to the plant, and the only individuality left would be a living nature, reduced to a living matter, to the hylozoism of Thales. However, even upon this hypothesis, if there were but one absolute beginning, relative beginnings would still remain to us as multiple symbols of the absolute. Every life, called individual for convenience sake and by analogy, would represent in miniature the history of the world, and would be to the eye of the philosopher a microscopic compendium of it.

The history of the formation of ideas is what, frees the mind.

* * * *

A philosophic truth does not become popular until some eloquent soul has humanized it or some gifted personality has translated and embodied it. Pure truth cannot be assimilated by the crowd; it must be communicated by contagion.

Monday, October 26th, 7 a.m.Ypres.—We got here again about 10 p.m. last night in pouring wet, and expected another night like Friday night, but we for some reason remained short of the station, and when we found there was nothing doing, lay down in our clothes and slept, booted and spurred in mackintosh, aprons, &c. We were all so tired and done up yesterday, M.O.'s, Sisters, and orderlies, that we were glad of the respite. There was a tremendous banging and flashing to the north about three o'clock, and this morning it was very noisy, and shaking the train. Some of it sounds quite close. It is a noise you rather miss when it leaves off.

One of the last lot of officers told us he had himself seen in a barn three women and some children, all dead, and all with no hands.

The noise this morning is like a continuous roll of thunder interrupted by loud bangs, and the popping of the French mitrailleuses, like our Maxims. The nearest Tommy can get to that word is "mileytrawsers." There are two other A.T.'s in, but I hear we are to load up first.

This place is full of Belgian women and children refugees in a bad way from exhaustion.

A long line of our horse ambulances is coming slowly in.

Had a very interesting morning. Got leave to go into the town and see the Cathedral of St Martin. None of the others would budge from the train, so I went alone; town chock-full of French and Belgian troops, and unending streams of columns, also Belgian refugees, cars full of staff officers. The Cathedral is thirteenth century, glorious as usual. There are hundreds of German prisoners in the town in the Cloth Hall. It was a very warrish feeling saying one's prayers in the Cathedral to the sound of the guns of one of the greatest battles in the world.

An M.O. from the Clearing Hospital, with a haggard face, asked me if I could give him some eau-de-Cologne and Bovril for a wounded officer with a gangrenous leg—lying on the station. Sister X. and I took some down, also morphia, and fed them all—frightful cases on stretchers in the waiting-room. They are for our train when we can get in. He told me he had never seen such awful wounds, or such numbers of them. They are being brought down in carts or anything. He said there are 1500 dead Germans piled up in a field five miles off. They say that German officers of ten days' service are commanding.

October 26

October 26, 1870.--Sirocco. A bluish sky. The leafy crowns of the trees have dropped at their feet; the finger of winter has touched them. The errand-woman has just brought me my letters. Poor little woman, what a life! She spends her nights in going backward and forward from her invalid husband to her sister, who is scarcely less helpless, and her days are passed in labor. Resigned and indefatigable, she goes on without complaining, till she drops.

Lives such as hers prove something: that the true ignorance is moral ignorance, that labor and suffering are the lot of all men, and that classification according to a greater or less degree of folly is inferior to that which proceeds according to a greater or less degree of virtue. The kingdom of God belongs not to the most enlightened but to the best; and the best man is the most unselfish man. Humble, constant, voluntary self-sacrifice--this is what constitutes the true dignity of man. And therefore is it written, "The last shall be first." Society rests upon conscience and not upon science. Civilization is first and foremost a moral thing. Without honesty, without respect for law, without the worship of duty, without the love of one's neighbor--in a word, without virtue--the whole is menaced and falls into decay, and neither letters nor art, neither luxury nor industry, nor rhetoric, nor the policeman, nor the custom-house officer, can maintain erect and whole an edifice of which the foundations are unsound.

A state founded upon interest alone and cemented by fear is an ignoble and unsafe construction. The ultimate ground upon which every civilization rests is the average morality of the masses, and a sufficient amount of practical righteousness. Duty is what upholds all. So that those who humbly and unobtrusively fulfill it, and set a good example thereby, are the salvation and the sustenance of this brilliant world, which knows nothing about them. Ten righteous men would have saved Sodom, but thousands and thousands of good homely folk are needed to preserve a people from corruption and decay.

If ignorance and passion are the foes of popular morality, it must be confessed that moral indifference is the malady of the cultivated classes. The modern separation of enlightenment and virtue, of thought and conscience, of the intellectual aristocracy from the honest and vulgar crowd, is the greatest danger that can threaten liberty. When any society produces an increasing number of literary exquisites, of satirists, skeptics, and beaux esprits, some chemical disorganization of fabric may be inferred. Take, for example, the century of Augustus, and that of Louis XV. Our cynics and railers are mere egotists, who stand aloof from the common duty, and in their indolent remoteness are of no service to society against any ill which may attack it. Their cultivation consists in having got rid of feeling. And thus they fall farther and farther away from true humanity, and approach nearer to the demoniacal nature. What was it that Mephistopheles lacked? Not intelligence certainly, but goodness.