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 In 1860 he was elected a member of the Salem Light Infantry, and entered with his characteristic earnestness and zeal upon his duties, engaging with ardor in the drill, determined to be satisfied with nothing short of perfection. During this year, he began in earnest to fit himself for the life of a soldier, long before the pressing need for his services in his country's defence was even anticipated; lying at night upon a carpet with but a slight covering, and with a pillow of wood for his head, and engaging in manual exercises calculated to increase his strength and augment his powers of endurance. He prophesied that the disaffection and disturbances in different portions of the country would result in civil war, which his friends, however, were slow even to fear. When the crisis at last came, the commander of the Salem Light Infantry tendered promptly to the government the services of his well-trained little band. They were at once accepted, and the company was joined to the Eighth Massachusetts Regiment of Volunteer Militia, and left Salem for Washington, bearing with it the blessings and prayers of all true and patriotic hearts. George was at this time Second Sergeant of the company, and, with his elder and only brother, hesitated not to share its fortunes, though he deeply mourned the stern necessity of civil strife. ‘Were I going out to contend with a foreign power,’ he said, ‘with what different feelings should I meet the emergency.’ But the necessity that was laid upon him was no less binding, and he accepted it with a soldierly bearing and a patriot's spirit. During his three months campaign, which he afterwards describes as being, ‘in comparison with the three years service, but a mere militia training,’ his letters to his friends were frequent, bright, and cheering, giving constant evidence of his deep love for home, friends, and country. He writes from New York: ‘Every day I am swelling with pride for Massachusetts, and the position which she has taken in this struggle; and she will not be behind other States in what comes afterwards, no matter how hard fighting there may be.’ June 24, the anniversary of the Class Day of 1859, he writes from the Relay House:—
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