This “uprising of a great people,” as it was well termed by a foreign writer, was a kindling and noble spectacle.
The heart of the whole land throbbed like the heart of one.
But we cannot now look back upon that brilliant and burning enthusiasm without a touch of sadness, because there was mingled with it so much ignorance, not merely of the magnitude of the contest before us, but of the — nature of war itself.
The spirited young men who, at the call of patriotic duty, thronged to swell the ranks of our volunteer force, marched off as gayly as if they had been going to a hunting-party or a picnic excursion.
The rebellion was to be put down at once, and by little more than the mere show of the preponderating force of the loyal States; and the task of putting it down was to be attended with no more of danger than was sufficient to give to the enterprise a due flavor of excitement.
War was unknown to us except by report: the men of the Revolution had passed away, and even the soldiers of the War
of 1812 had become gray-haired veterans.
We had read of battles; we had seen something of the pride and pomp of holiday soldiers; but of the grim realities of war we were absolutely ignorant.
Indeed, not a few had come to the conclusion that war was a relic of barbarism, which the world had outgrown, and that modern civilization could dispense with the soldier and his sword.
It need hardly be added that we were wholly unprepared for the gigantic struggle that was before us. Our regular army was insignificant in numbers,