guard,— not a specially agreeable interposition to a man of my ultraism.
Fort Albany, September 14.This stationary life in camp, without any security that we shall be here to-morrow, and without any movement or incident, is the pure prose of war. We have all the solid discomforts which can be combined in camp life. The most sanguinary fighting would be a welcome change,— I had almost said another Bull Run, which was rather more disgraceful than bloody, but still exciting. The Colonel tries to reconcile me with our present inaction, or rather want of action,— for we have work enough,— by assuring me that our previous hardships are “nothing” to those we shall, have to face in the field. But I have no faith in it. I believe that no possibility of camp life in the field can take us by surprise. In fact, I suspect it is a general aspiration in the regiment, not confined to “field and staff,” to take our chance of some hard knocks from the Rebels, rather than die of mildew in these wretched fens near the Potomac.
Fort Albany, October 3.Your pleasant picture of placid, rural Concord takes me miles away from this war-blasted scene, and brings to my mind the murmuring pines and elms of the Avenue and North Branch, and the lowing of cattle and song of birds which usher in a Concord nightfall. Here no bird is heard, but a few desolate cat-owls in the night; all the rest of the feathered tribe have been frightened off by the laying bare to the glare of the sun their ancient shady retreats, where the woods were all felled, or by the firing of artillery and the rattle of drums. No ox or cow can live anywhere this side the Potomac, in presence of the interminable camps of the “grand army.” On the Maryland side of the river there are many vistas of thick, green foliage in the dim distance; but all on this side is devoted to Mars or Pluto, and is appropriated to the one purpose of furnishing a great battle-field on which two hundred thousand men can decide with the sword the issues of this war. All smooth and level places have been scarred and dug in every direction with earthworks and defences, or have been trampled bare of every vestige of vegetation by the marching and manoeuvring of regiments and batteries. Every hill-top has been stripped and cleared, and crowned with the inevitable fort; and every road has been bared of its sheltering trees, and even stripped of its fences and hedges, to remove every cover for the enemy. The whole country has a grim, ravaged look, as far as you can see.
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Ode recited at the Harvard commemoration, July 21 , 1865 .
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