During the summer of 1881 I was a sojourner for a few weeks at a popular hotel in the White Mountains
Among the two hundred or more guests who were enjoying its retirement and good cheer were from twelve to twenty lads, varying in age from ten to fifteen years. When tea had been disposed of, and darkness had put an end to their daily romp and hurrah without, they were wont to take in charge a gentleman from Chicago
, formerly a gallant soldier in the Army of the Cumberland, and in a quiet corner of the spacious hotel parlor, or a remote part of the piazza, would listen with eager attention as he related chapters of his personal experience in the Civil War
Less than two days elapsed before they pried out of the writer the acknowledgment that he too had served Uncle Sam; and immediately followed up this bit of information by requesting me to alternate evenings with the veteran from the West
in entertaining them with stories of the war as I saw it. I assented to the plan readily enough, and a more interested or interesting audience of its size could not be desired than that knot of boys who clustered around us on alternate nights, while we related to them in an offhand way many facts regarded as too commonplace for the general histories of the war.
This trifling piece of personal experience led to the preparation of these sketches, and will largely account for the didactic manner in which they are written.
They are far from complete.
Many topics of interest are left untreated --they will readily suggest themselves to veterans; but it
was thought best not to expand this volume beyond its present proportions.
It is believed that what is herein written will appeal largely to a common experience among soldiers.
In full faith that such is the case, they are now presented to veterans, their children, and the public as an important contribution of warp to the more majestic woof which comprises the history of the Great Civil War
That history, to date, is a history of battles, of campaigns and of generals.
This is the first attempt to record comprehensively army life in detail; in which both text and illustrations aim to permanently record information which the history of no other war has preserved with equal accuracy and completeness.
I am under obligations to many veterans for kindly suggestions and criticisms during the progress of this work, to Houghton
& Mifflin for the use of Holmes
' “Sweet little man,” and especially to Comrade Charles W. Reed
, for his many truthful and spirited illustrations.
The large number of sketches which he brought from the field in 1865 has enabled him to reproduce with telling effect many sights and scenes once very familiar to the veterans of the Union
armies, which cannot fail to recall stirring experiences in their soldier's life.
Believing they will do this, and that these pages will appeal to a large number to whom the Civil War
is yet something more than a myth, they are confidently put forth, the pleasant labor of spare hours, with no claim for their literary excellence, but with the full assurance that they will partially meet a want hitherto unsupplied.