gratuitously to the armies, bearing their stamp and “Soldier's letter” in one corner.
Besides letter-writing the various games of cards were freely engaged in. Many men played for money.
Cribbage and euchre were favorite games.
Reading was a pastime quite generally indulged in, and there was no novel so dull, trashy, or sensational as not to find some one so bored with nothing to do that he would wade through it. I, certainly, never read so many such before or since.
The mind was hungry for something, and took husks when it could get nothing better.
A great deal of good might have been done by the Christian Commission or some other organization planned to furnish the soldiers with good literature, for in that way many might have acquired a taste for the works of the best authors who would not have been likely to acquire it except under just such a condition as they were then in, viz.: a want of some entertaining pastime.
There would then have been much less gambling and sleeping away of daylight than there was. Religious tracts were scattered among the soldiers by thousands, it is true, and probably did some good.
I heard a Massachusetts soldier say, not long ago, that when his regiment arrived in New York en route
for the seat of war, the men were presented with “a plate of thin soup and a Testament.”
This remark to me was very suggestive.
It reminded me of the vast amount of mistaken or misguided philanthropy that was expended upon the army by good Christian men and women, who, with the best of motives urging them forward no doubt, often labored under the delusion that the army was composed entirely of men thoroughly bad, and governed their actions accordingly.
That there were bad men in the army is too well known to be denied if one cared to deny it; and, while I may forgive, I cannot forget a war governor who granted pardon to several criminals that were serving out sentences in prison, if they would enlist.
But the morally bad soldiers were in the minority.
The good men should