September 21

September Twenty-First


God bless the forlorn and ragged remnants of a race now passing away. God bless the old black hand that rocked our infant cradles, smoothed the pillow of our infant sleep, and fanned the fever from our cheeks. God bless the old tongue that immortalized the nursery rhyme, the old eyes that guided our truant feet, and the old heart that laughed at our childish freaks.

Peter Francisco Smith



September 21, 1862

Sunday morning. Nothing happened during the night. We bought a good breakfast of a family who make a business of feeding the soldiers that come here, for I was told there is a detail here every day. I wish it might be us every time. As soon as the new guard arrives we are to go back to camp and camp fare again.

2 p. m. In camp again. It seems hotter and dirtier than ever after our day in the country. Before we left Catonsville we filled our haversacks with great luscious peaches. Those that ripen on the tree the people cannot sell, so they gave us all that would fall with a gentle shake of the tree. How I wished I could empty my haversack in your lap, mother. On the way to camp we met a drove of mules, said to be 400 of them, loose, and being driven like cattle. They were afraid of us and all got in a close bunch, and the 400 pairs of ears all flapping together made a curious sight. We were told they came from Kentucky and are for use in the army. They were all bays, with a dark stripe along the back and across the shoulders, looking like a cross laid on their backs. It hasn't seemed much like Sunday. But Sunday doesn't count for much in the army. Many of our hardest days have been Sundays. But I am sleepy, having been awake all last night. It is surprising how little sleep we get along with. I, who have been such a sleepy-head all my life, get only a few hours' sleep any night, and many nights none at all. I suppose we will sometime get accustomed to the noise and confusion, that so far has had no end, night or day.

September 21

September 21, 1868. (Villars ).--A lovely autumn effect. Everything was veiled in gloom this morning, and a gray mist of rain floated between us and the whole circle of mountains. Now the strip of blue sky which made its appearance at first behind the distant peaks has grown larger, has mounted to the zenith, and the dome of heaven, swept almost clear of cloud, sends streaming down upon us the pale rays of a convalescent sun. The day now promises kindly, and all is well that ends well.

Thus after a season of tears a sober and softened joy may return to us. Say to yourself that you are entering upon the autumn of your life; that the graces of spring and the splendors of summer are irrevocably gone, but that autumn too has its beauties. The autumn weather is often darkened by rain, cloud, and mist, but the air is still soft, and the sun still delights the eyes, and touches the yellowing leaves caressingly; it is the time for fruit, for harvest, for the vintage, the moment for making provision for the winter. Here the herds of milch-cows have already come down to the level of the châlet, and next week they will be lower than we are. This living barometer is a warning to us that the time has come to say farewell to the mountains. There is nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by despising the example of nature, and making arbitrary rules of life for one's self. Our liberty, wisely understood, is but a voluntary obedience to the universal laws of life. My life has reached its month of September. May I recognize it in time, and suit thought and action to the fact!

Monday, September 21st.—In train on way back to Le Mans from St Nazaire. We did the journey in twelve hours, and arrived at 9 this morning, which was very good, considering the congestion on the line. In the middle of the night we pulled up alongside an immense troop train, taking a whole Brigade of D. of Cornwall's L.I. up to the front, such a contrast to our load coming away from the front. Our lot will be a long time getting to bed; the Medical Officers at St N. told us there were already two trains in, and no beds left on hospitals or ships, and 1300 more expected to-day; four died in one of the trains; ours were pretty well, after the indescribable filth and fug of the train all night; it was not an ambulance train, but trucks and ordinary carriages. The men say there are hardly any officers left in many regiments. There has never been this kind of rush to be coped with anywhere, but the Germans must be having worse. We had thirteen German prisoners tacked on to us with a guard of the London Scottish, the first Territorials to come out, bursting with health and pride and keenness. They are not in the fighting line yet, but are used as escorts for the G.P. among other jobs. One of the men on our train had had his shoulder laid open for six inches by a shell, where he couldn't see the wound. He asked me if it was a bullet wound! He himself thought it was too large for that, and might be shrapnel! He hadn't mentioned it all night.

We had some dressings to be done again this morning, and then left them in charge of the M.O. and two orderlies, and went to report ourselves to the A.D.M.S. and get a warrant for the return journey. We shall get in to Le Mans somewhere about midnight. I'm not a bit tired, strange to say; we got a few rests in the night, but couldn't sleep.

I was moved up to Winchester yesterday with the rest of the wounded. The city is one vast hospital—in fact nearly every house is used to accommodate the wounded, and it was a smart place of about four thousand before the war, but now is one of about ten thousand, owing to this battle. Most of the wounded officers were left at Taylor's Hotel. The surgeons are very busy amputating limbs. It is said that there are over 1300 wounded in this hotel. My wounds are doing well considering but are very painful. Oh, what a horrible sight! I have seen piles of arms and legs today at the hospital thrown from the windows of operating rooms as big as haycocks. It's a shocking sight! So many lying about dead, too! It is rumored that we have again given Early battle and completely routed his forces capturing a large number of prisoners, but this needs confirmation.


No. 10.

Taylor Hotel, Winchester, Va., used during the Civil War by the Union and Confederate armies as Headquarters and Hospital, 1861-65. Said to have sheltered 1,300 wounded of both armies after Sheridan's battle of Winchester, Sept. 19, 1864; it was here Lieut. D. G. Hill, Tenth Vermont Volunteer Infantry, died. It is now (1908) vacant.

No. 10.

Taylor Hotel, Winchester, Va., used during the Civil War by the Union and Confederate armies as Headquarters and Hospital, 1861-65. Said to have sheltered 1,300 wounded of both armies after Sheridan's battle of Winchester, Sept. 19, 1864; it was here Lieut. D. G. Hill, Tenth Vermont Volunteer Infantry, died. It is now (1908) vacant.

No. 10.

Taylor Hotel, Winchester, Va., used during the Civil War by the Union and Confederate armies as Headquarters and Hospital, 1861-65. Said to have sheltered 1,300 wounded of both armies after Sheridan's battle of Winchester, Sept. 19, 1864; it was here Lieut. D. G. Hill, Tenth Vermont Volunteer Infantry, died. It is now (1908) vacant.

Tegernsee Sept. 21, 1880

I ought to write no more. I ought to hide my useless hand altogether. There was a week during which I looked forward to a summons home, a summons that never came; and after having persistently applied for it, I thought that it was better not to make the offer of my vote more urgent than the demand for it. I know how much I have missed and lost. Circumstances over which I have no control would probably have arrested my maritime enterprise at Gravesend.[44 ] But how pleasant Holmbury would have been! And then there was, and is, so much to talk to you about, so much that evaporates in writing and will not keep, so much that will. As there can hardly be an autumn session after prorogation in September, I must wait for the end of January. Meanwhile I hope you will cultivate the notion of Tegernsee. Such a break with the great world would do Mr. Gladstone good, and I fancy we could make you like the place once more. Let me have that hope before me.


My children went to Ammergau and came back not deeply moved, but strongly impressed. I let them go without me from a sort of dread many people must have felt, not because of the chief actor, for a pious, simple-minded peasant's conception of the two natures is probably not more inadequate than my own, but what we do gradually realise in meditating the Passion is the character and experience of the disciples, the effect of that companionship, the utter human weakness that survived in the midst of the intense feelings it must have awakened in them. Those are contrasts that can be expressed, and are apparently too subtle for the performers at Ammergau. I am told that, on the whole, the audience remained cold.

The answer to my telegram was signed in a way that led me to doubt whether it came from you. I trust it was sent by your brother, and that Mr. Gladstone was not molested by my inquiries on the top of so many more. It is beginning at the wrong end to read David Copperfield first, but he is worth anything to busy men, because his fun is so hearty and so easy, and he rouses the emotions by such direct and simple methods. I am ashamed to think how much more often I return to Dickens than to George Eliot.

Do some of the brothers or secretaries make a point of reading the Temps ? Of all that is written against the Ministry and its general policy, the Temps  articles seem to me the most serious and suggestive, and at Marienbad I went through a course of Austrian newspapers, which are very hostile, and better written than our Tory organs, but not near so good as the Temps. I am afraid it is my friend Scherer. Not being a Frenchman, his patriotism is peculiarly lively. Don't call Chenery my friend. I have never seen him, and only know that he is making a mess of the Times. But my reasons were those you know well, and they will hold good next year.

You are quite right in all your corrections. —— —— is a very good fellow. His only artifice is his discretion. His mind is accustomed to travel along roads straight, and wide, and beaten, so that it accumulates conventional truths and borrowed convictions, but he is as well meaning and as sincere as a man can well be who is not on the watch to root up prejudices. His son is threatened with Toryism as with the gout. I don't know which is worse.... I talk nonsense at times, because sense is monotonous. It won't do to shrink from hard speeches and judgments when they are necessary. But it is horrible to make them when one is not compelled. Do believe me when I say that is what makes you delightful, and a certain generous, unselfish, courageous credulity is part of it. Commynes says: "It is no shame to be suspicious, but only to be deceived." That is a contemporary of Machiavelli. Two centuries later you will find in Télémaque these words: "Celui qui craint avec excès d'être trompé merite de l'être, et l'est presque toujours grossièrement." That is the progress of 200 years. Don't you think you see the distance between Bismarck and your father?

You have had an excellent idea about those letters. If you go on and arrange them, it will be very precious to him some idle day, if that should ever come, and to you all. The inner reality of history is so unlike the back of the cards, and it takes so long to get at it, which does not prevent us from disbelieving what is current as history, but makes us wish to sift it, and dig through mud to solid foundations. I conclude that all political correspondence has been set in order regularly, otherwise that ought to be thought of too.


The bit of scandal suspected in the unwritten part of the Rémusat Memoirs, was supposed to have belonged to the time of the camp at Boulogne, of which she gives very full accounts. But it is not necessary to believe all those things. There would be no pure reputations. I suspend my belief even about Fersen.... They cannot publish Talleyrand's Memoirs because he tells so many tales of that kind, and people still living would be surprised to find out who they are.

I was flattered to know that I had supplied topics of conversation and even of dispute at Holmbury. I should like always to be accused by Lord Granville, defended by your father, and sentenced by you. But don't always associate me with bottles of physic, even in dreams.

From something you wrote I gather that Mr. Gladstone did not altogether disagree with Forster's sentiments; I am sure I did not; yet it seemed to me very hazardous to make such a speech in Mr. Gladstone's absence, suggesting wide differences in the Ministry, rousing expectations which will go on growing through the autumn, making the Lords more angry than repentant, using terms so vague that they can be almost honestly misrepresented, and a great deal more. Home Rule will make great capital out of the events that happened after your father fell ill.

J. McCarthy's two last volumes[45 ] are not equal to the first, but you will be interested in reading them. But here is post-time, and I cannot say one-half.

[44 ] Mr. Gladstone's voyage in the Grantully Castle.

[45 ] "History of Our Own Times."

213. Abigail Adams

21 September.

I imagine before this reaches you some very important event must take place between the two armies. Affairs on all sides seem to be worked up to a crisis. Howe is putting his whole force in action, and seems determined to drive or be driven.

I feel in a most painful situation between hope and fear. There must be fighting, and very bloody battles too, I apprehend. How my heart recoils at the idea. Why is man called humane, when he delights so much in blood, slaughter, and devastation? Even those who are styled civilized nations think this little spot worth contending for even to blood.

23 September.

We have confused accounts of a battle at the northward,[180] last Friday, in which the enemy were put to flight. God grant it may prove true. Vigorous exertions now on all sides may prove of the most happy consequence and terminate this cruel war. I long for a decisive battle and for peace, an honorable peace. I hope the enemy are as much in our power as you fancy them.

24 September.

Have just read a handbill giving a particular account of the engagement at the northward. You will have it long before this reaches you. The loss of Ticonderoga has awakened the sleeping genius of America, and called forth all her martial fire. May it never again be lulled to rest till crowned with victory and peace. Good officers will make good soldiers. Xanthippus, the Macedonian General, who had been educated in the discipline of Sparta and had learned the art of war in that renowned and excellent school, when he was called to assist the Carthaginians, who had been defeated in several battles against the Romans, declared publicly, and repeated it often in the hearing of their officers, that the misfortunes of the Carthaginians were owing entirely to the incapacity of their Generals; and be proved clearly to the council that by a conduct opposite to the former, they would not only secure their dominions, but drive the enemy out of them. Upon his accepting the command of the Carthaginians, the gloomy consternation (says Rollin)which had before seized the whole army was succeeded by joy and alacrity. The soldiers were urgent to be led against the enemy, in the firm assurance of being victorious under their new leader and of obliterating the disgrace of former defeats. Xanthippus did not suffer their ardor to cool, but led them on to battle, and entirely routed and defeated the Romans, making Regulus their prisoner. That General, who a few days before was insolent with victory, inexorable to the conquered, and deaf to all their remonstrances, in a few days experienced by the fate of war a sad reverse of fortune.

This is a case, I think, very similar to our own. May it prove so in the end! "There are two ways," says Rollin, "of acquiring improvement and instruction: first, by one's own experience, and secondly, by that of other men. It is much more wise and useful to improve by other men's miscarriages than by our own."

We have not yet received any intelligence from the southern army since the account of the engagement on the 11th,[181] which must have been very severe upon both sides. You now experience what we suffered when the army lay this way. I feel very anxious for their success. The suspense which the distance occasions is painful, but still I find very different sensations between having the enemy at such a distance and having them in my own neighborhood. I hope you will all look to your own safety. As you are not called to action, kidnapping would be rather disagreeable, but were you in the army I should despise myself for such a sentiment,——as much as I did a certain gentleman who was in the horrors a few days ago upon hearing that General Washington had retreated to within six miles of Philadelphia. If Howe should get possession of that city, it would immediately negotiate a peace. I could not help warmly replying that I did not believe it, even though that should be the case, and the General with his whole army should be cut off. I hoped then that an army of women would oppose him. Was it not the Saracens who turned their backs upon the enemy, and were slain by their women, who were placed behind them for that purpose?

Your favors of the 2d and 8th reached me upon the 20th. Your observations with regard to luxury are just, but trade and commerce will always support it. The necessity of the time will be a temporary restraint upon it, and put us upon seeking resources among ourselves. An instance of that may be seen in the progress which is made in grinding cornstalks and boiling the liquor into molasses. Scarcely a town or parish within forty miles of us but what has several mills at work; and had the experiment been made a month sooner, many thousand barrels would have been made. No less than eighty have been made in the small town of Manchester. It answers very well to distill, and may be boiled down to sugar. There are two mills fitting up in this parish. They have three rollers, one with cogs and two smooth. The stalks are stripped of the leaves and tops, so that it is no robbery upon the cattle, and the juice ground out. 'T is said four barrels of juice will make one of molasses, but in this, people differ widely. They have a method of refining it so that it looks as well as the best imported molasses.

Thus you see we go from step to step in our improvements. We can live much better than we deserve within ourselves. Why should we borrow foreign luxuries? Why should we wish to bring ruin upon ourselves? I feel as contented when I have breakfasted upon milk as ever I did with Hyson or Souchong. Coffee and sugar I use only as a rarity. There are none of these things but I could totally renounce. My dear friend knows that I could always conform to times and circumstances. As yet I know nothing of hardships. My children have never cried for bread nor been destitute of clothing. Nor have the poor and needy gone empty from my door, whenever it was in my power to assist them.

Heaven grant that I may continue to receive its blessings. One of its greatest is that I can subscribe myself wholly yours.


[180]The action between General Gates and Burgoyne on the 19th of September.

[181]The battle of Brandywine.

September 21

September 21, 1874. (Charnex ).--A wonderful day! Never has the lake been bluer, or the landscape softer. It was enchanting. But tragedy is hidden under the eclogue; the serpent crawls under the flowers. All the future is dark. The phantoms which for three or four weeks I have been able to keep at bay, wait for me behind the door, as the Eumenides waited for Orestes. Hemmed in on all sides!

"On ne croit plus à son étoile, On sent que derrière la toile Sont le deuil, les maux et la mort."

For a fortnight I have been happy, and now this happiness is going.

There are no more birds, but a few white or blue butterflies are still left. Flowers are becoming rare--a few daisies in the fields, some blue or yellow chicories and colchicums, some wild geraniums growing among fragments of old walls, and the brown berries of the privet--this is all we were able to find. In the fields they are digging potatoes, beating down the nuts, and beginning the apple harvest. The leaves are thinning and changing color; I watch them turning red on the pear-trees, gray on the plums, yellow on the walnut-trees, and tinging the thickly-strewn turf with shades of reddish-brown. We are nearing the end of the fine weather; the coloring is the coloring of late autumn; there is no need now to keep out of the sun. Everything is soberer, more measured, more fugitive, less emphatic. Energy is gone, youth is past, prodigality at an end, the summer over. The year is on the wane and tends toward winter; it is once more in harmony with my own age and position, and next Sunday it will keep my birthday. All these different consonances form a melancholy harmony.

* * * *

The distinguishing mark of religion is not so much liberty as obedience, and its value is measured by the sacrifices which it can extract from the individual.

* * * *

A young girl's love is a kind of piety. We must approach it with adoration if we are not to profane it, and with poetry if we are to understand it. If there is anything in the world which gives us a sweet, ineffable impression, of the ideal, it is this trembling modest love. To deceive it would be a crime. Merely to watch its unfolding life is bliss to the beholder; he sees in it the birth of a divine marvel. When the garland of youth fades on our brow, let us try at least to have the virtues of maturity; may we grow better, gentler, graver, like the fruit of the vine, while its leaf withers and falls.

* * * *

To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.

* * * *

He who asks of life nothing but the improvement of his own nature, and a continuous moral progress toward inward contentment and religious submission, is less liable than any one else to miss and waste life.