was likely to result in the speedy capture of the Rebel capital and downfall of the Rebellion. During our homeward voyage we all felt certain that these joyous tidings would greet our ears as we again set foot upon our native shore. You, who witnessed the gradual change from victory to defeat, can scarcely imagine the sudden revulsion of our feelings, on hearing from the pilot who boarded us that the scene of active operations had been shifted from before the enemy's capital to within a few miles of our own; that our troops were being beaten back upon Washington; that six hundred thousand new levies had been called for by proclamation of the President; and that now, fourteen months after the commencement of the war, thousands of armed men were rushing to the defence of the national capital. As soon as I landed I heard of the formation of the Forty-fourth, and C——'s commission. I at once wished to join this; but mother and C——--both opposed it, saying that it was your intention and desire that I should rejoin my Class at once, and expressed themselves so strongly against my enlisting, that on the following Monday I went to Cambridge, and resumed my studies with what zeal I could. During that week we heard that the Rebel forces were pushing forward and northward in every point along our borders, and that the points at which they were now aiming were no longer Washington and Nashville, but Philadelphia and Cincinnati and St. Louis. . . . . The excitement and intensity of feeling, the daily agony of doubt and suspense, is a thing scarcely to be appreciated in full by one who was not here at the time, and who did not pass through it. I assure you, my dear father, I know of nothing in the course of my life which has caused me such deep and serious thought as this trying crisis in the history of our nation. What is the worth of this man's life or of that man's education, if this great and glorious fabric of our Union, raised with such toil and labor by our forefathers, and transmitted to us in value increased tenfold, is to be shattered to pieces by traitorous hands, and allowed to fall crumbling into the dust? If our country and our nationality is to perish, better that we should all perish with it, and not survive to see it a laughing-stock for all posterity to be pointed at as the unsuccessful trial of republicanism. It seems to me the part of a coward to stay at home and allow others to fight my battles and incur dangers for me. What shame, what mortification would it cause me years hence to be obliged to confess that, in the great struggle for our national existence, I stood aloof, an idle spectator, without any peculiar ties to retain me at home, and yet
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Ode recited at the Harvard commemoration, July 21 , 1865 .
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.