Second Lieutenant 55th Mass. Vols. (Infantry), May 12, 1863; died at Hilton head, S. C., October 5, 1863, of disease contracted in the service.
Leonard case Alden was born, December 22, 1839, in the city of Boston,—the son of William Vinton Alden and of Nancy Adams (Vinton) Alden. His autobiography in the Class-Book, after stating these facts, continues as follows:—
On my father's side I am descended from John Alden, one of the passengers in the Mayflower upon its first voyage to Plymouth, A. D. 1620. The most important facts of his history can be found in any work upon the early history of Plymouth; and the romantic story of his courtship has been made by Mr. Longfellow the subject of his poem, “The Courtship of miles Standish.” John Alden settled first in Plymouth, afterwards in Duxbury, and was at a later period one of the original proprietors of the old town of Bridgewater. In some part of the old town, my ancestors in the line of my family name have resided since that time, engaged principally, as I suppose, in farming. . . . John Alden himself is supposed to have been of German blood. On my mother's side I am descended from John Vinton, who came to this country not far from the year 1640. His branch of the family had probably recently lived in France, and belonged to the French Huguenots. The family is, however, an old English one, and the name can be traced back in England several centuries. . . . . The branch of the family from which I am descended has lived for the most part in the town of Braintree. I have lived in Boston all my life; and previous to entering college I had attended only the public schools of that city. I began my education at a primary school, kept in the basement of the Warren Street Chapel, from which I passed successively through the higher grades of public schools. In 1846 I entered the Brimmer Grammar School, taught by Mr. Joshua Bates; in 1852, the English High School, taught by Mr. Thomas Sherwin; and in 1855, the  public Latin School, taught by Mr. Francis Gardner. After spending two years in this last institution, I entered Harvard College in September, 1857. At the Brimmer, the English High, and the Latin Schools I received Franklin medals. I also received a Lawrence prize each year of my attendance at the High School, for proficiency either in scientific or the literary department; and in the second year of my course there, I took an additional Lawrence prize for an essay upon “ Human Progress.” At the Latin School also, in the last year of my attendance there, I received a Lawrence prize for a translation into Greek of the concluding stanzas of Childe Harold. In college I have been a regular attendant upon recitations, never having lost a day from sickness or other cause. I have been a member of the Rumford Society, the Institute of 1770, the Temperance Society, and the *f *b *k. I may also mention, that in the Exhibition which took place October 18, 1859, I deliverd a Latin version from a speech of Brougham on “The Law reform” ; and for the Exhibition, May 7, 1861, an English oration was assigned me as my part, for the subject of which I selected “ Compromise.” My life has thus far been a quiet one, spent principally in study, and not diversified by many events of special interest. In study, my tastes lead me principally towards physical and mathematical science, though I am also fond of philological study and of literature. During my Senior year I have been engaged in reading Dante with Professor Lowell, and have spent many pleasant evenings with him over the pages of the Divina Commedia. Of my devotion to mathematics, I have also given a painful proof by continuing alone the study of that science with Professor Peirce, all the other members of the Mathematical Divison having relinquished the study at the close of the Junior year. The idea of coming to college has been familiar to me ever since I was quite young. During the last part of my attendance at the English High School, however, I had in a great degree given up this purpose, as I then intended to make civil-engineering my profession; and therefore designed, as soon as I left that institution, to prepare myself for that business. But upon inquiry I found that I was then too young to pursue with advantage the studies of the Scientific School, and therefore I decided to come to college. But I nevertheless still cherish the intention of becoming a civil-engineer, and have continued to do so until quite recently.  Of late, however, my plans for the future have become rather unsettled, and I have no course well marked out before me.Closing his college course by delivering the oration second in rank at the Commencement, on ‘National Character elevated by National Affliction,’—which indicated the lively concern he even then felt in his country's highest interests, —Alden continued his studies during July and August, as was his wont even during his vacations, and returned to Cambridge in September to enter upon the duties of ‘Proctor and Assistant in Chemistry.’ While he held that appointment, his time was spent in assisting Professor Cooke in the lecture-room, in hearing recitations, in the instruction of private pupils, and in personal scientific investigations. Although study was his life, and from his physical, mental, and moral constitution he was averse to war, still the holy cause of our country appealed to him with great power. If, however, he felt uneasy on this account in his position at Harvard, he concealed the fact from his friends until the last moment. Continuing faithful to every duty, as he had always been, few knew that occupations which would have been in ordinary times most in harmony with his tastes were now chafing his soul. At last he was compelled to relieve his burdened mind. In a letter to a friend, of the date January 30, 1863, he says: ‘The question sometimes comes to me very seriously, especially when the American cause has met with reverses, or when I hear of friends and acquaintances who have laid their lives on the altar of patriotism, whether I ought to be here.’ This passage hints at what is believed to have had great influence upon his mind,—the patriotic death of many lamented classmates. When in charge of the Class-Book in the absence of the Secretary, from September, 1862, to June, 1863, he watched with well-grounded pride the swelling army and navy list; and when death took away one after another of those whose names were there recorded, he said to himself, ‘The places of these brothers must be filled. Is it not my turn now?’ In his biographies of his  classmates,—Almy and Doolittle,—to be found later in this volume, this working of inward solicitude is to be plainly traced. When permission was finally obtained for Massachusetts to send out colored regiments, and he saw how they would need brave, intelligent, sympathizing, Christian officers, his duty seemed to him plain,—so plain that neither the entreaties nor the arguments of friends, who thought his usefulness as a patriot would be greater in the study than in the camp, could convince him that he was mistaken. In this state of mind he writes:
I regret now that I did not enter the struggle earlier. My mind is pretty well decided that I shall take the first commission I can get. I may go even as a private,—at least I am willing to go in that capacity.Another extract from a letter will show that it was to him a privilege as well as a duty to take up arms in his country's defence.
You suggest a doubt whether it is my duty to go to the war. . . . . Ought I to wait till it is proved to a demonstration that it is my duty to go? Or should I feel any happier, if I should one day have it to reflect upon, that though the country was ruined, I had been so prudent as to save myself harmless. Is it not as much a privilege as a duty to fight in this holy war?Accordingly, at the recommendation of his classmate Hallowell, then the prospective Colonel of the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, Alden was commissioned Second Lieutenant in that regiment, May 12, 1863; and he reported at Readville, without a day's delay. We have the comforting assurance in his own words that he did not regret his decision; for he says, ‘I have felt happier since I have known that I am going, for I have been a looker — on long enough.’ He was not one to take such a step without the most serious consideration of all the possible consequences. He did not await the summons of disease before preparing  himself to encounter its results. Evidence of this forethought is continually recurring in his letters:—Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
I have not a great deal of that sort of courage which renders one insensible to danger. But yet I trust I can meet danger or death without flinching. . . . . If it please God, my life is as safe on the battle-field as at home; and if not, why should I wish to live?. . . . I have gained something. A man is not completely a man, until he is strong enough to lay down his life with composure and contentment. I am at least much nearer to that point than I was. And whether I go or stay, I shall feel much happier now that I have settled that point, that I am ready to go. I don't know that I ever quite understood before—certainly I did not by experience-what those words of Christ meant, “He that saveth his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life for my sake, the same shall find it.”In the last part of this extract our attention is called to an epoch in Alden's spiritual experience. He was justly characterized, in the resolutions passed by the Class upon learning his death, as ‘possessed of a spirit thoroughly progressive and craving growth.’ This was seen, not merely in his course with regard to the common moral reform questions of the day, in which he gradually reached and then openly and firmly maintained positions at that time called radical, but also, and perhaps quite as clearly, in his own inner religious life. No one would have called Alden in college an irreligious man,—so pure, so true, so conscientious, so earnest for the right and against the wrong,—and yet we find him not satisfied with rectitude of deportment and unimpeachable morality, but seeking during the last year of his life something higher. This may be described in his own words:—
Do I truly live now? O, I dare not speak confidently, but I hope I do. I do love God. I do desire to take up my cross and follow Christ and .be his disciple. I do wish to live in communion with the