September 17

Warm and pleasant: gentle south breeze; looks like a southern storm. General Grant came to-day, but has gone. It looks like a move. Fifty men from our regiment went on picket this afternoon. We have been moving camp, another indication of a move. Let it come. Orry Blanchard and Nate Harrington have been over this evening.

September Seventeenth

The moon, rising above the mountains, revealed the long lines of men and guns, stretching far across hill and valley, waiting for the dawn to shoot each other down, and between the armies their dead lay in such numbers as civilised war has seldom seen. So fearful had been the carnage, and comprised within such narrow limits, that a Federal patrol, it is related, passing into the corn-field, where the fighting had been fiercest, believed that they had surprised a whole Confederate brigade. There, in the shadow of the woods, lay the skirmishers, their muskets beside them; and there, in regular ranks, lay the line of battle, sleeping, as it seemed, the profound sleep of utter exhaustion. But the first man that was touched was cold and lifeless, and the next, and the next; it was the bivouac of the dead.

Lieut.-Col. G. F. R. Henderson, C.B.


Battle of Antietam, 1862



211. Abigail Adams

17 September, 1777.

I have to acknowledge a feast of letters from you since I wrote last; their dates from August 19th to September 1st. It is a very great satisfaction to me to know from day to day the movement of Howe and his banditti. We live in hourly expectation of important intelligence from both armies. Heaven grant us victory and peace; two blessings, I fear, we are very undeserving of.

Inclosed you will find a letter to Mr. Lovell, who was so obliging as to send me a plan of that part of the country which is like to be the present seat of war. He accompanied it with a very polite letter, and I esteem myself much obliged to him; but there is no reward this side the grave that would be a temptation to me to undergo the agitation and distress I was thrown into by receiving a letter in his handwriting, franked by him. It seems almost impossible that the human mind could take in, in so small a space of time, so many ideas as rushed upon mine in the space of a moment. I cannot describe to you what I felt.

The sickness or death of the dearest of friends, with ten thousand horrors, seized my imagination. I took up the letter, then laid it down, then gave it out of my hand unable to open it, then collected resolution enough to unseal it but dared not read it; began at the bottom,—read a line,—then attempted to begin it, but could not. A paper was inclosed; I ventured upon that, and finding it a plan, recovered enough to read the letter; but I pray Heaven I may never realize such another moment of distress.

I designed to have written you a long letter, for really I owe you one, but have been prevented by our worthy Plymouth friends, who are here upon a visit, in their way home; and it is now so late at night, just struck twelve, that I will defer anything further till the next post. Good night, friend of my heart, companion of my youth, husband, and lover. Angels watch thy repose!

278. John Adams

Hague, 17 September, 1782.

My dearest Friend,—I have transmitted money to the young men whom you mentioned to me, and have expected, every day for a long time, to hear of their sailing in a cartel for America. They have been better treated since the change of ministers. My respects to their parents.

It is now five months since my public reception here, but we have not yet learned that any news of it has arrived in America. The refugees in England are at their old game again. Andrew Sparhawk has published, in the "Morning Post," that his brother has received a letter from New York, that Massachusetts and several other States were upon the point of overturning the new government, throwing off the authority of Congress, and returning to the government of Great Britain. Their blood-thirsty souls are not yet satiated. They are laboring to bring on again an offensive war. But I think they can't succeed. I suppose the unhappy affair of the county of Hampshire is the thing that gave occasion to this representation. Our countrymen must be very unreasonable if theycan't be easy and happy under the government they have. I don't know where they will find a better, or how they will make one. I dread the consequences of the differences between chiefs. If Massachusetts gets into parties, they will worry one another very rudely. But I rely on the honesty and sobriety as well as good sense of the people. These qualities will overawe the passions of individuals and preserve a steady administration of the laws.

My duty to my mother and to your father. I hope to see them again. Love to the children and all friends. What shall I say of my brother Cranch? I long, and yet I dread, to hear from him.

I hope to sign the Treaty this week or next, or the week after. All points are agreed on and nothing remains but to transcribe the copies fair. This government is so complicated that months are consumed in doing what might be done in another in an hour.

I don't know what to do with the list of articles you send me. It would be better for you to write to Ingraham and Bromfield. I will pay.

61. John Adams

Philadelphia, 17 September, 1775.

This is the first time that I have attempted to write since I left you. I arrived here in good health, after an agreeable journey, last Wednesday. There had not been members enough to make a House, several colonies being absent, so that I was just in time. The next day an adequate number appeared, and Congress has sat ever since. Georgia is now fully represented, and united to the other twelve. Their delegates are Doctor Zubly, a clergyman of the Independent persuasion, who has a parish in that colony, and a good deal of property. He is a native of Switzerland; is a man of learning and ingenuity. It is said he is master of several languages—Greek, Latin, French, Dutch, and English; in the latter it is said he writes tolerably. He is a man of zeal and spirit, as we have already seen upon several occasions. However, as he is the first gentleman of the cloth who has appeared in Congress, I cannot but wish he may be the last. Mixing the sacred character with that of the statesman, as it is quite unnecessary at this time of day, in these colonies, is not attended with any good effects. The clergy are universally too little acquainted with the world and the modes of business, to engage in civil affairs with any advantage. Besides, those of them who are really men of learning, have conversed with books so much more than men as to be too much loaded with vanity to be good politicians. Mr. Bullock is another of the Georgia delegates—a sensible man—a planter, I suppose. Mr. Houston is the third, a young lawyer, of modesty as well as sense and spirit, which you will say is uncommon.

Mr. Jones and Doctor Hall are not yet arrived.

Mr. Henry is made a General in Virginia, and therefore could not come. Mr. Pendleton and Colonel Bland excused themselves on account of age and ill-health. Messrs. Nelson, Wythe, and Lee are chosen, and are here in the stead of the other three. Wythe and Lee are inoculated. You shall hear more about them. Although they come in the room of very good men, we have lost nothing by thechange, I believe. Remember me in the tenderest language to all our little folks. I am yours.

September 17, 1862

Two letters to-day, and two papers, all from home. Seems as if I had been there for a visit. I wonder if my letters give them as much pleasure? I expect they do. It is natural they should. I know pretty nearly what they are about, but of me, they only know what I write in my letters, and in this, my everlasting letter, as I have come to call my diary. It is getting to be real company for me. It is my one real confident. I sometimes think it is a waste of time and paper, and then I think how glad I would be to get just such nonsense from my friends, if our places were changed. I suppose they study out these crow's tracks with more real interest than they would a message from President Lincoln. We are looking for a wet bed again to-night. It does not rain, but a thick fog covers everything and the wind blows it in one side of our tents and out the other.

Maybe I have described our life here before, but as no one description can do it justice I am going to try again. We are in a field of 100 acres, as near as I can judge, on the side of a hill, near the top. The ground is newly seeded and wets up quickly, as such ground usually does. We sleep in pairs, and a blanket spread on the ground is our bed while another spread over us is our covering. A narrow strip of muslin, drawn over a pole about three feet from the ground, open at both ends, the wind and rain, if it does rain, beating in upon us, and water running under and about us; this, with all manner of bugs and creeping things crawling over us, and all the while great hungry mosquitoes biting every uncovered inch of us, is not an overdrawn picture of that part of a soldier's life, set apart for the rest and repose necessary to enable him to endure several hours of right down hard work at drill, in a hot sun with heavy woollen clothes on, every button of which must be tight-buttoned, and by the time the officers are tired watching us, we come back to camp wet through with perspiration and too tired to make another move. Before morning our wet clothes chill us to the marrow of our bones, and why we live, and apparently thrive under it, is something I cannot understand. But we do, and the next day are ready for more of it. Very few even take cold. It is a part of the contract, and while we grumble and growl among ourselves we don't really mean it, for we are learning what we will be glad to know at some future time.

Now I am about it, and nothing better to do, I will say something about our kitchen, dining room and cooking arrangements. Some get mad and cuss the cooks, and the whole war department, but that is usually when our stomachs are full. When we are hungry we swallow anything that comes and are thankful for it. The cook-house is simply a portion of the field we are in. A couple of crotches hold up a pole on which the camp kettles are hung, and under which a fire is built. Each company has one, and as far as I know they are all alike. The camp kettles are large sheet-iron pails, one larger than the other so one can be put inside the other when moving. If we have meat and potatoes, meat is put in one, and potatoes in the other. The one that gets cooked first is emptied into mess pans, which are large sheet-iron pans with flaring sides, so one can be packed in another. Then the coffee is put in the empty kettle and boiled. The bread is cut into thick slices, and the breakfast call sounds. We grab our plates and cups, and wait for no second invitation. We each get a piece of meat and a potato, a chunk of bread and a cup of coffee with a spoonful of brown sugar in it. Milk and butter we buy, or go without. We settle down, generally in groups, and the meal is soon over. Then we wash our dishes, and put them back in our haversacks. We make quick work of washing dishes. We save a piece of bread for the last, with which we wipe up everything, and then eat the dishrag. Dinner and breakfast are alike, only sometimes the meat and potatoes are cut up and cooked together, which makes a really delicious stew. Supper is the same, minus the meat and potatoes. The cooks are men detailed from the ranks for that purpose. Every one smokes or chews tobacco here, so we find no fault because the cooks do both. Boxes or barrels are used as kitchen tables, and are used for seats between meals. The meat and bread are cut on them, and if a scrap is left on the table the flies go right at it and we have so many the less to crawl over us. They are never washed, but are sometimes scraped off and made to look real clean. I never yet saw the cooks wash their hands, but presume they do when they go to the brook for water.