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 The pages of this volume tell little of war's pomp and pageantry. Their subject is, and must be, grim and terrible. Though prisoners of war were not criminals, but often men whose courage was their only fault, and though their detention must not be considered as deserved punishment, but as a military necessity, nevertheless all prisons are unlovely. The groans of men, one moment vigorous, the next shattered and broken, or the sight of strength visibly ebbing away from disease, are awful. It is the dark and cruel side of war that must here be told. The reader who finds nothing more than this is, however, careless and superficial, seeing only the object immediately before his eyes, and neglecting relations and perspective. One may hold a dime so that it shuts out the sun. A fact out of its relations to other facts is no better than a lie. Just so far as history enables us to see any particular epoch in its relation to those before, and as the portent of those coming after, to that extent history is true. The failure of the sentimentalist and the social reformer often grows out of myopia. They see only what is near their eyes. That men must be judged by the standard of their times is a platitude, but it is well to emphasize platitudes, for the obvious is often forgotten. We are prone to judge the past by the standards of the present, and some of our standards are rising. Unpleasant as is the story of the prisons of the Civil War, however great their shortcomings, the treatment of prisoners, taken as a whole, marks a decided advance over the general practice of the world before that time. Instances of theatrical generosity have always been plentiful, but never before had the dictates of humanity so profoundly influenced the action of so many. We must believe that the greatest horrors—for there were horrors— arose from ignorance or apparent necessity, rather than from intention. During our own Revolution, the treatment of prisoners is a subject upon which both we and the English must prefer not to dwell. Less than three score years separated the Civil War from the War of 1812 and from the
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