October 29

October Twenty-Ninth

Swing, rustless blade, in the dauntless hand;
Ride, soul of a god, through the deathless band,
Through the low green mounds, or the breadth of the land,
Wherever your legions dwell!
Virginia Frazer Boyle


Gen. N. B. Forrest dies, 1877



Thursday, October 29th, Nieppe.—Woke up to the familiar bangs and rattles again—this time at a wee place about four miles from Armentières. We are to take up 150 here and go back to Bailleul for 150 there. It is a lovely sunny morning, but very cold; the peasants are working in the fields as peacefully as at home. An R.A.M.C. lieutenant was killed by a shell three miles from here three days ago. We've just been giving out scarves and socks to some Field Ambulance men along the line.

Just seen a British aeroplane send off a signal to our batteries—a long smoky snake in the sky; also a very big British aeroplane with a machine-gun on her. A German aeroplane dropped a bomb into this field on Tuesday, meant for the Air Station here. This is the Headquarters of the 4th Division.

October 29

October 29, 1880. (Geneva ).--The ideal which a man professes may itself be only a matter of appearance--a device for misleading his neighbor, or deluding himself. The individual is always ready to claim for himself the merits of the badge under which he fights; whereas, generally speaking, it is the contrary which happens. The nobler the badge, the less estimable is the wearer of it. Such at least is the presumption. It is extremely dangerous to pride one's self on any moral or religious specialty whatever. Tell me what you pique yourself upon, and I will tell you what you are not.

But how are we to know what an individual is? First of all by his acts; but by something else too--something which is only perceived by intuition. Soul judges soul by elective affinity, reaching through and beyond both words and silence, looks and actions.

The criterion is subjective, I allow, and liable to error; but in the first place there is no safer one, and in the next, the accuracy of the judgment is in proportion to the moral culture of the judge. Courage is an authority on courage, goodness on goodness, nobleness on nobleness, loyalty on uprightness. We only truly know what we have, or what we have lost and regret, as, for example, childish innocence, virginal purity, or stainless honor. The truest and best judge, then, is Infinite Goodness, and next to it, the regenerated sinner or the saint, the man tried by experience or the sage. Naturally, the touchstone in us becomes finer and truer the better we are.

Fair day. The Smith band came up and gave a serenade this forenoon; have had a pleasant time at Mr. West's. News came today that Captain L. D. Thompson of Waterbury was decapitated by a solid shot in battle at Cedar Creek, Va., and that Adjutant Wyllys Lyman, Captain C. F. Nye, Lieuts. G. E. Davis, G. P. Welch, A. W. Fuller and B. B. Clark were also wounded there. We have had seven officers killed, twelve wounded and two captured since the first of June, making twenty-one in all, the regiment's full quota not including non-combatants, were they all present which is never the case, being thirty-four. Who will say we haven't stood up to the rack? I guess they intend to kill us all off—men and all! I may not have included all the casualties among the officers in the foregoing. Poor Dillingham, Stetson and Thompson! They were my original officers in Company B—all gone—killed in battle. They were good fellows—intrepid and valiant to a fault. Lieut. Stetson was a considerate, kindly friend, and a man who was fair and manly, and never took a mean, unfair advantage of anyone so far as I know; he won my esteem. I became fond of Captain Thompson; he grew on me constantly until we were good friends, and the manner of his unfortunate death shocks me.Poor fellow! I sincerely regret his tragic end; he was brave, always genial, obliging and friendly. They grew to like, respect and esteem me, and I have lost three staunch friends—probably among the best in the regiment with the officers. They have all been martyrs to the cause of the Union. May their souls go marching on and finally welcome mine in eternity!

October 29, 1863

Thursday. After a council on matters and things in general, we have made some changes, looking to a more orderly arrangement of our camp life in these quarters. The hangers on about camp have been driven away. The quartermaster's stores and those of the commissary department have been separated and placed in tents outside, where they can be found and got at. The most intelligent among the recruits have been appointed corporals and sergeants, and the screws of discipline turned on just a little more. Guards are placed, more for their instruction than for our safety, and things are putting on more the appearance of a military camp than a mere lounging place, as it has heretofore been. Just as we had got everything to our notion, a boat came, and on it were Captains Merritt and Enoch with 120 more recruits. Tents and blankets were given them and quarters assigned them, which altogether has made a busy day for us. Discipline, what little there had been, went to the winds when the men all got together. They all seemed to be acquainted, and such jabbering French as they had. I suppose they had lots of news to tell each other. Some can talk English, but all of them can and do talk French when talking to each other. They came from Colonel B.'s headquarters at Opelousas, and were in charge of Colonel Parker, who got left behind at Newtown, and will be along on the next boat. At night Dr. Warren, our surgeon to be, came from New Orleans, and to-morrow will examine the recruits. Sol Drake has been sent for to join Colonel B. at Opelousas and expects to leave on the next boat. Opelousas is beyond where I have been. I have posted Sol in getting as far as Mouton's, where we were, and beyond that he must find out for himself.

74. John Adams

Philadelphia, 29 October, 1775.

Human nature, with all its infirmities and deprivation, is still capable of great things. It is capable of attaining to degrees of wisdom and of goodness which, we have reason to believe, appear respectable in the estimation of superior intelligences. Education makes a greater difference between man and man, than nature has made between man and brute. The virtues and powers to which men may be trained, by early education and constant discipline, are truly sublime and astonishing. Newton and Locke are examples of the deep sagacity which may be acquired by long habits of thinking and study. Nay, your common mechanics and artisans are proofs of the wonderful dexterity acquired by use; a watchmaker, in finishing his wheels and springs; a pin or needle-maker, etc. I think there is a particular occupation in Europe, which is called a paper-stainer or linen-stainer. A man who has been long habituated to it shall sit for a whole day, and draw upon paper fresh figures to be imprinted upon the papers for rooms, as fast as his eye can roll and his fingers move, and no two of his draughts shall be alike. The Saracens, the Knights of Malta, the army and navy in the service of the English republic, among many others, are instances to show to what an exalted height valor, or bravery, or courage may be raised by artificial means.

It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives.

But their bodies must be hardened, as well as their souls exalted. Without strength and activity and vigor of body, the brightest mental excellences will be eclipsed and obscured.

75. John Adams

Same date.

There is in the human breast a social affection which extends to our whole species, faintly indeed, but in some degree. The nation, kingdom, or community to which we belong is embraced by it more vigorously. It is stronger still towards the province to which we belong, and in which we had our birth. It is stronger and stronger as we descend to the county, town, parish, neighborhood, and family, which we call our own. And here we find it often so powerful as to become partial, to blind our eyes, to darken our understandings, and pervert our wills.

It is to this infirmity in my own heart that I must perhaps attribute that local attachment, that partial fondness, that overweening prejudice in favor of New England, which I feel very often, and which, I fear, sometimes leads me to expose myself to just ridicule.

New England has, in many respects, the advantage of every other colony in America, and, indeed, of every other part of the world that I know anything of.

1. The people are purer English blood; less mixed with Scotch, Irish, Dutch, French, Danish, Swedish, etc., than any other; and descended from Englishmen, too, who left Europe in purer times than the present, and less tainted with corruption than those they left behind them.

2. The institutions in New England for the support of religion, morals, and decency exceed any other; obliging every parish to have a minister, and every person to go to meeting, etc.

3. The public institutions in New England for the education of youth, supporting colleges at the public expense, and obliging towns to maintain grammar schools, are not equaled, and never were, in any part of the world.

4. The division of our territory, that is, our counties, into townships; empowering towns to assemble, choose officers, make laws, mend roads, and twenty other things, gives every man an opportunity of showing and improving that education which he received at college or at school, and makes knowledge and dexterity at public business common.

5. Our law for the distribution of intestate estates occasions a frequent division of landed property, and prevents monopolies of land.

But in opposition to these we have labored under many disadvantages. The exorbitant prerogative of our Governors, etc., which would have overborne our liberties if it had not been opposed by the five preceding particulars.

73. John Adams

29 October.

I cannot exclude from my mind your melancholy situation. The griefs of your father and sisters, your uncles and aunts, as well as the remoter connections, often crowd in upon me, when my whole attention ought to be directed to other subjects. Your uncle Quincy,[111] my friend as well as uncle, must regret the loss of a beloved sister. Dr. Tufts, my other friend, I know bewails the loss of a friend, as well as an aunt and a sister. Mr. Cranch, the friend of my youth as well as of my riper years, whose tender heart sympathizes with his fellow-creatures in every affliction and distress, in this case feels the loss of a friend, a fellow-Christian, and a mother. But, alas! what avail these mournful reflections? The best thing we can do, the greatest respect we can show to the memory of our departed friend, is to copy into our own lives those virtues which, in her lifetime, rendered her the object of our esteem, love, and admiration. I must confess I ever felt a veneration for her, which seems increased by the news of her translation.

Above all things, my dear, let us inculcate these great virtues and bright excellences upon our children.

Your mother had a clear and penetrating understanding, and a profound judgment, as well as an honest, and a friendly, and a charitable heart. There is one thing, however, which you will forgive me if I hint to you. Let me ask you, rather, if you are not of my opinion? Were not her talents and virtues too much confined to private, social, and domestic life? My opinion of the duties of religion and morality comprehends a very extensive connection with society at large and the great interests of the public. Does not natural morality and much more Christian benevolence make it our indispensable duty to lay ourselves out to serve our fellow-creatures, to the utmost of our power, in promoting and supporting those great political systems and general regulations upon which the happiness of multitudes depends? The benevolence, charity, capacity, and industry which, exerted in private life, would make a family, a parish, or a town happy, employed upon a larger scale, in support of the great principles of virtue and freedom of political regulations, might secure whole nations and generations from misery, want, and contempt. Public virtues and political qualities, therefore, should be incessantly cherished in our children.


[111]Norton Quincy, the only brother of Mrs. Adams's mother. Mr. Cranch had married the elder sister of Mrs. Adams.