Sends all her handmaid armies back to spin: the return home of the sixteenth Massachusetts infantry, July 27, 1864 This scene of 1864, at the corner of Cambridge and Fourth Streets, East Cambridge, is in mournful contrast to the rejoicing which filled the nation the next year while Lowell was reading his ode in Harvard University. As these riders passed through Cambridge the Wilderness campaign had been fought, with little, apparently, accomplished to compensate for the fearful loss of life. Sherman was still struggling in the vicinity of Atlanta, far from his base of supplies, with no certainty of escaping an overwhelming defeat. Early had recently dashed into the outskirts of Washington. In fact an influential political party was about to declare the war a failure. So these Massachusetts troops returned with heavy hearts to be mustered out. Many of them reenlisted, to fight with the armies that captured Petersburg, and to be present at the surrender at Appomattox. Then they could return with those of whom Lowell sang: America ‘sends all her handmaid armies back to spin.’
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