September 4

Got our line established about 10 o'clock last night; rained hard; got very wet; day has passed quietly; moved our skirmish line about fifty yards to the front this forenoon. The enemy appeared on the left of our division about dark and commenced skirmishing, but all's quiet at 9 o'clock p. m. Dr. Clark has been down to see us this afternoon. He's always welcome. It's cloudy and cool; will probably rain before morning.

September Fourth

TOAST OF MORGAN'S MEN

Unclaimed by the land that bore us,
Lost in the land we find,
The brave have gone before us,
Cowards are left behind!
Then stand to your glasses, steady,
Here's health to those we prize,
Here's a toast to the dead already,
And here's to the next who dies.

 

General John H. Morgan killed, 1864

 

 

September 4, 1863

We were up early and at the St. Charles to see General Grant and staff start for Carrolton. General Banks has his headquarters in Julia Street, and soon after we got to the St. Charles he and his staff rode up. A horse was led out for General Grant, which took two men to hold. He was in full uniform now and made a better appearance mounted than on foot. It was a fine sight to see them ride off up St. Charles Street, and I wished I could see the review. I had much rather see it than take part in it, for there is a lot of hard work about such affairs. Later we went to the mustering office and reported according to order received at Baton Rouge. We also got our fatigue uniforms and are now ready for business. This is the first I have been off duty since I left the hospital at Camp Parapet last spring. We have had quite a rest up and upon the whole are anxious to tackle the unknown which now lies before us. The strangest thing to me has been to undress and go to bed. I have not, and I do not expect to sleep sound again, until I can drop down as I am and pulling a blanket over my face to keep off the mosquitoes, know that however sudden the call I can be ready inside of two minutes.

September 4, 1862

We go to-day, sure; that is, if reports are true. The Government bounty was paid to-day, and the oath of allegiance taken by the regimental officers, as well as the men. Every day the net is drawn a little tighter. No use in kicking now. We are bound by a bond none of us can break, and I am glad to be able to say, for one, that I don't want to break it. But it seems as if things dragged awfully slow. I suppose it is because I know so little about the many details that are necessary for the full organization of a regiment.

Night. Here yet. I wish we might go. We are all ready and the sooner we go the more patriotism will be left in us. Too much of it is oozing out through the eyes. People keep coming to have a last word, a last good-bye and usually a last cry over it. I am heartily glad my folks have sense enough to keep away, for it is all I can stand to see the others. No doubt for many it is a last good-bye. In the nature of things we cannot all expect to come back, but God is good, and he keeps that part hidden from us, leaving each one to think he will be the lucky one. To make matters worse, the change of water, food, and mode of living is having its effects on many, myself among the number, and I feel pretty slim to-night. I will spread my blanket on my soft pine board, and, if my aching bones will let me, will try what a good sleep will do, for we are of all men know not what to-morrow may have in store for us.

Friday, September 4th. R.M.S.P. Asturias, Havre.—At last we are uprooted from that convent up the hot hill and are on an enormous hospital ship, who in times of peace goes to New York and Brazil and the Argentine. There are 240 Sisters on her, one or two M.O.'s, and all the No.— equipment. She is like a great white town; you can walk for miles on her decks; she is the biggest I have ever been on; we are in the cabins, and the wards and operating-theatres are all equipped for patients, but at the moment she is being used as a transport for us. We are supposed to be going to St Nazaire, the port for Nantes. They can't possibly be going to dump No.—, No.—, No.—, No.—, and No.— all down at the new base, so I suppose one or two of the hospitals will be sent up the new lines of communication.

Poor Havre is very desolate. All the flags came down when the British left, and the people looked very sad. Paris refugees are crowding in, and sleeping on the floors of the hotels, and camping out in their motor cars, and many crossing to England. There is a Proclamation up all over the town telling the people to pull themselves together whatever happens, and to forget everything that is not La Patrie. Also another about the military necessity for the Government to leave Paris, and that they mustn't be afraid of anything that may happen, because we shall win in the end, &c., &c.

We don't start till to-morrow, I believe; meanwhile, cleanliness and privacy and sheets, and cool, quick meals and sea breeze, are cheering after the grime and the pigging and the squash and the awful heat of the last fortnight. I have picked up a bad cold from the foul dust-heaps and drainless condition of the smelly Havre streets, but it will soon disappear now.

I wish I could tell you the extraordinary beauty of yesterday evening from the ship. There was a flaming sunset below a pale-green sky, and then the thousand lights of the ships and the town came out reflected in the water, and then a brilliant moon. A big American cruiser was alongside of us.

We shall get no more letters till we land. I have a "State-room" all to myself on the top deck; the waiters and stewards are English, very polite to us, and the crew are mostly West African negroes, who talk good English. The ship is very becoming to the white, grey, and red of our uniforms, or else our uniforms are becoming to the ship, and her many decks; but why, oh why, are we not all in hospital somewhere?

September 4

September 4, 1855.--In the government of the soul the parliamentary form succeeds the monarchical. Good sense, conscience, desire, reason, the present and the past, the old man and the new, prudence and generosity, take up their parable in turn; the reign of argument begins; chaos replaces order, and darkness light. Simple will represents the autocratic régime, interminable discussion the deliberate regime of the soul. The one is preferable from the theoretical point of view, the other from the practical. Knowledge and action are their two respective advantages.

But the best of all would be to be able to realize three powers in the soul. Besides the man of counsel we want the man of action and the man of judgment. In me, reflection comes to no useful end, because it is forever returning upon itself, disputing and debating. I am wanting in both the general who commands and the judge who decides.

Analysis is dangerous if it overrules the synthetic faculty; reflection is to be feared if it destroys our power of intuition, and inquiry is fatal if it supplants faith. Decomposition becomes deadly when it surpasses in strength the combining and constructive energies of life, and the separate action of the powers of the soul tends to mere disintegration and destruction as soon as it becomes impossible to bring them to bear as one undivided force. When the sovereign abdicates anarchy begins.

It is just here that my danger lies. Unity of life, of force, of action, of expression, is becoming impossible to me; I am legion, division, analysis, and reflection; the passion for dialectic, for fine distinctions, absorbs and weakens me. The point which I have reached seems to be explained by a too restless search for perfection, by the abuse of the critical faculty, and by an unreasonable distrust of first impulses, first thoughts, first words. Unity and simplicity of being, confidence, and spontaneity of life, are drifting out of my reach, and this is why I can no longer act.

Give up, then, this trying to know all, to embrace all. Learn to limit yourself, to content yourself with some definite thing, and some definite work; dare to be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not, and to believe in your own individuality. Self-distrust is destroying you; trust, surrender, abandon yourself; "believe and thou shalt be healed." Unbelief is death, and depression and self-satire are alike unbelief.

* * * *

From the point of view of happiness, the problem of life is insoluble, for it is our highest aspirations which prevent us from being happy. From the point of view of duty, there is the same difficulty, for the fulfillment of duty brings peace, not happiness. It is divine love, the love of the holiest, the possession of God by faith, which solves the difficulty; for if sacrifice has itself become a joy, a lasting, growing and imperishable joy--the soul is then secure of an all-sufficient and unfailing nourishment.

* * * *

I had gone to bed early on Friday night, and had passed an uneasy night. It was before four when I got up and opened my shutters. It was a lovely day. Perhaps I have told you that the weather all last week was simply perfect.

I went downstairs to get coffee for the picket, but when I got out to the gate there was no picket there. There was the barricade, but the road was empty. I ran up the road to Amelie's. She told me that they had marched away about an hour before. A bicyclist had evidently brought an order. As no one spoke English, no one understood what had really happened. Pere had been to Couilly—they had all left there. So far as any one could discover there was not an English soldier, or any kind of a soldier, left anywhere in the commune.

This was Saturday morning, September 5, and one of the loveliest days I ever saw. The air was clear. The sun was shining.

The birds were singing. But otherwise it was very still. I walked out on the lawn. Little lines of white smoke were rising from a few chimneys at Joncheroy and Voisins. The towns on the plain, from Monthyon and Penchard on the horizon to Mareuil in the valley, stood out clear and distinct. But after three days of activity, three days with the soldiers about, it seemed, for the first time since I came here, lonely; and for the first time I realized that I was actually cut off from the outside world. All the bridges in front of me were gone, and the big bridge behind me. No communication possibly with the north, and none with the south except by road over the hill to Lagny. Esbly evacuated, Couilly evacuated, Quincy evacuated. All the shops closed. No government, no post-office, and absolutely no knowledge of what had happened since Wednesday. I had a horrible sense of isolation.

Luckily for me, part of the morning was killed by what might be called an incident or a disaster or a farce—just as you look at it. First of all, right after breakfast I had the proof that I was right about the Germans. Evidently well informed of the movements of the English, they rode boldly into the open. Luckily they seemed disinclined to do any mischief. Perhaps the place looked too humble to be bothered with. They simply asked—one of them spoke French, and perhaps they all did—where they were, and were told, "Huiry, commune of Quincy." They looked it up on their maps, nodded, and asked if the bridges on the Marne had been destroyed, to which I replied that I did not know,—I had not been down to the river. Half a truth and half a lie, but goodness knows that it was hard enough to have to be polite. They thanked me civilly enough and rode down the hill, as they could not pass the barricade unless they had wished to give an exhibition of "high school." Wherever they had been they had not suffered. Their horses were fine animals, and both horses and men were well groomed and in prime condition.

The other event was distressing, but about that I held my tongue.

Just after the Germans were here, I went down the road to call on my new French friends at the foot of the hill, to hear how they had passed the night, and incidentally to discover if there were any soldiers about. Just in the front of their house I found an English bicycle scout, leaning on his wheel and trying to make himself understood in a one-sided monosyllabic dialogue, with the two girls standing in their window.

I asked him who he was. He showed his papers. They were all right—an Irishman—Ulster—Royal Innisfall Fusiliers—thirteen years in the service.

I asked him if there were any English soldiers left here. He said there was still a bicycle corps of scouts at the foot of the hill, at Couilly. I thought that funny, as Pere had said the town was absolutely deserted. Still, I saw no reason to doubt his word, so when he asked me if I could give him his breakfast, I brought him back to the house, set the table in the arbor, and gave him his coffee and eggs. When he had finished, he showed no inclination to go—said he would rest a bit. As Amelie was in the house, I left him and went back to make the call my encounter with him had interrupted. When I returned an hour later, I found him fast asleep on the bench in the arbor, with the sun shining right on his head. His wheel, with his kit and gun on it was leaning up against the house. It was nearly noon by this time, and hot, and I was afraid he would get a sunstroke; so I waked him and told him that if it was a rest he needed,—and he was free to take it,—he could go into the room at the head of the stairs, where he would find a couch and lie down comfortably. He had sleepily obeyed, and must have just about got to sleep again, when it occurred to me that it was hardly prudent to leave an English bicycle with a khaki-covered kit and a gun on it right on the terrace in plain sight of the road up which the Germans had ridden so short a time before. So I went to the foot of the stairs, called him, and explained that I did not care to touch the wheel on account of the gun, so he had better come down and put it away, which he did. I don't know whether it was my saying "Germans" to him that explained it, but his sleepiness seemed suddenly to have disappeared, so he asked for the chance to wash and shave; and half an hour later he came down all slicked up and spruce, with a very visible intention of paying court to the lady of the house. Irish, you see,—white hairs no obstacle. I could not help laughing. "Hoity-toity," I said to myself, "I am getting all kinds of impressions of the military."

While I was, with amusement, putting up fences, the gardener next door came down the hill in great excitement to tell me that the Germans were on the road above, and were riding down across Pere's farm into a piece of land called "la terre blanche," where Pere had recently been digging out great rocks, making it an ideal place to hide. He knew that there was an English scout in my house and thought I ought to know. I suppose he expected the boy in khaki to grab his gun and capture them all. I thanked him and sent him away. I must say my Irishman did not seem a bit interested in the Germans. His belt and pistol lay on the salon table, where he put them when he came downstairs. He made himself comfortable in an easy chair, and continued to give me another dose of his blarney. I suppose I was getting needlessly nervous. It was really none of my business what he was doing here. Still he was a bit too sans gene.

Finally he began to ask questions. "Was I afraid?" I was not. "Did I live alone?" I did. As soon as I had said it, I thought it was stupid of me, especially as he at once said,—"If you are, yer know, I'll come back here to sleep to-night. I'm perfectly free to come and go as I like,—don't have to report until I 'm ready."

I thought it wise to remind him right here that if his corps was at the foot of the hill, it was wise for him to let his commanding officer know that the Germans, for whom two regiments had been hunting for three days, had come out of hiding. I fancy if I had not taken that tack he'd have settled for the day.

"Put that thing on," I said, pointing to his pistol; "get your wheel out of the barn, and I'll take a look up the road and see that it's clear. I don't care to see you attacked under my eyes."

I knew that there was not the slightest danger of that, but it sounded businesslike. I am afraid he found it so, because he said at once, "Could you give me a drink before I go?"

"Water?" I said.

"No, not that."

I was going to say "no" when it occurred to me that Amelie had told me that she had put a bottle of cider in the buffet, and—well, he was Irish, and I wanted to get rid of him. So I said he could have a glass of cider, and I got the bottle, and a small, deep champagne glass. He uncorked the bottle, filled a brimming glass, recorked the bottle, drank it off, and thanked me more earnestly than cider would have seemed to warrant. While he got his wheel out I went through the form of making sure the road was free. There was no one in sight. So I sent him away with directions for reaching Couilly without going over the part of the hill where the Uhlans had hidden, and drew a sigh of relief when he was off. Hardly fifteen minutes later some one came running up from Voisins to tell me that just round the corner he had slipped off his wheel, almost unconscious,—evidently drunk. I was amazed. He had been absolutely all right when he left me. As no one understood a word he tried to say, there was nothing to do but go and rescue him. But by the time I got to where he had fallen off his wheel, he was gone,—some one had taken him away,—and it was not until later that I knew the truth of the matter, but that must keep until I get to the way of the discovery.

All this excitement kept me from listening too much to the cannon, which had been booming ever since nine o'clock. Amelie had been busy running between her house and mine, but she has, among other big qualities, the blessed habit of taking no notice. I wish it were contagious. She went about her work as if nothing were hanging over us. I walked about the house doing little things aimlessly. I don't believe Amelie shirked a thing. It seemed to me absurd to care whether the dusting were done or not, whether or not the writing-table was in order, or the pictures straight on the wall.

As near as I can remember, it was a little after one o'clock when the cannonading suddenly became much heavier, and I stepped out into the orchard, from which there is a wide view of the plain. I gave one look; then I heard myself say, "Amelie,"—as if she could help,—and I retreated. Amelie rushed by me. I heard her say, "Mon Dieu." I waited, but she did not come back. After a bit I pulled myself together, went out again, and followed down to the hedge where she was standing, looking off to the plain.

The battle had advanced right over the crest of the hill. The sun was shining brilliantly on silent Mareuil and Chauconin, but Monthyon and Penchard were enveloped in smoke. From the eastern and western extremities of the plain we could see the artillery fire, but owing to the smoke hanging over the crest of the hill on the horizon, it was impossible to get an idea of the positions of the armies. In the west it seemed to be somewhere near Claye, and in the east it was in the direction of Barcy. I tried to remember what the English soldiers had said,—that the Germans were, if possible, to be pushed east, in which case the artillery at the west must be either the French of English. The hard thing to bear was, that it was all conjecture.

So often, when I first took this place on the hill, I had looked off at the plain and thought, "What a battlefield!" forgetting how often the Seine et Marne had been that from the days when the kings lived at Chelles down to the days when it saw the worst of the invasion of 1870. But when I thought that, I had visions very different from what I was seeing. I had imagined long lines of marching soldiers, detachments of flying cavalry, like the war pictures at Versailles and Fontainebleau. Now I was actually seeing a battle, and it was nothing like that. There was only noise, belching smoke, and long drifts of white clouds concealing the hill.

By the middle of the afternoon Monthyon came slowly out of the smoke. That seemed to mean that the heaviest firing was over the hill and not on it,—or did it mean that the battle was receding? If it did, then the Allies were retreating. There was no way to discover the truth. And all this time the cannon thundered in the southeast, in the direction of Coulommiers, on the route into Paris by Ivry.

Naturally I could not but remember that we were only seeing the action on the extreme west of a battle-line which probably extended hundreds of miles. I had been told that Joffre had made a frontier of the Marne. But alas, the Meuse had been made a frontier-but the Germans had crossed it, and advanced to here in little less than a fortnight. If that—why not here? It was not encouraging.

A dozen times during the afternoon I went into the study and tried to read. Little groups of old men, women, and children were in the road, mounted on the barricade which the English had left. I could hear the murmur of their voices. In vain I tried to stay indoors. The thing was stronger than I, and in spite of myself, I would go out on the lawn and, field-glass in hand, watch the smoke. To my imagination every shot meant awful slaughter, and between me and the terrible thing stretched a beautiful country, as calm in the sunshine as if horrors were not. In the field below me the wheat was being cut. I remembered vividly afterward that a white horse was drawing the reaper, and women and children were stacking and gleaning. Now and then the horse would stop, and a woman, with her red handkerchief on her head, would stand, shading her eyes a moment, and look off. Then the white horse would turn and go plodding on. The grain had to be got in if the Germans were coming, and these fields were to be trampled as they were in 1870. Talk about the duality of the mind—it is sextuple. I would not dare tell you all that went through mine that long afternoon.

It was just about six o'clock when the first bomb that we could really see came over the hill. The sun was setting. For two hours we saw them rise, descend, explode. Then a little smoke would rise from one hamlet, then from another; then a tiny flame—hardly more than a spark—would be visible; and by dark the whole plain was on fire, lighting up Mareuil in the foreground, silent and untouched. There were long lines of grain-stacks and mills stretching along the plain. One by one they took fire, until, by ten o'clock, they stood like a procession of huge torches across my beloved panorama.

It was midnight when I looked off for the last time. The wind had changed. The fires were still burning. The smoke was drifting toward us—and oh! the odor of it! I hope you will never know what it is like.

I was just going to close up when Amelie came to the door to see if I was all right. My mind was in a sort of riot. It was the suspense—the not knowing the result, or what the next day might bring. You know, I am sure, that physical fear is not one of my characteristics. Fear of Life, dread of Fate, I often have, but not the other. Yet somehow, when I saw Amelie standing there, I felt that I needed the sense of something living near me. So I said, "Amelie, do you want to do me a great service?"

She said she 'd like to try.

"Well, then," I replied, "don't you want to sleep here to-night?"

With her pretty smile, she pulled her nightdress from under her arm: that was what she had come for. So I made her go to bed in the big bed in the guest-chamber, and leave the door wide open; and do you know, she was fast asleep in five minutes, and she snored, and I smiled to hear her, and thought it the most comforting sound I had ever heard.

As for me, I did not sleep a moment. I could not forget the poor fellows lying dead out there in the starlight—and it was such a beautiful night.