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Chapter 12: the Church of the Disciples: in war time

I must here ask leave to turn back a little in the order of my reminiscences, my narrative having led me to pass by certain points which I desire to mention.

The great comfort which I had in Parker's preaching came to an end when my children attained an age at which it appeared desirable that they should attend public worship. Concerning this my husband argued as follows:—

‘The children [our two eldest girls] are now of an age at which they should receive impressions of reverence. They should, therefore, see nothing at the Sunday service which would militate against that feeling. At Parker's meeting individuals read the newspapers before the exercises begin. A good many persons come in after the prayer, and some go out before the conclusion of the sermon. These irregularities offend my sense of decorum, and appear to me undesirable in the religious education of the family.’

It was a grievous thing for me to comply with my husband's wishes in this matter. I said of it [245] to his friend, Horace Mann, that to give up Parker's ministry for any other would be like going to the synagogue when Paul was preaching near at hand. Parker was soon made aware of Dr. Howe's views, but no estrangement ensued between the two friends. He did, however, write to my husband a letter, in which he laid great stress upon the depth and strength of his own concern in religion.

My husband cherished an old predilection for King's Chapel, and would have been pleased if I had chosen to attend service there. My mind, however, was otherwise disposed. Having heard Parker, at the close of one of his discourses, speak in warm commendation of James Freeman Clarke, announcing at the same time that Mr. Clarke was about to begin a new series of services at Williams Hall, I determined to attend these.

With Mr. Clarke I had indeed some slight acquaintance, having once heard him preach at Freeman Place Chapel, and having met him on divers occasions. It is well known that this, his first pastorate in Boston, was nearly lost to him in consequence of his inviting Theodore Parker on one occasion to occupy his pulpit. The feeling against the latter was then so strong as to cause an influential part of the congregation to withdraw from the society, which therefore threatened to fail for want of funds. Some years later Mr. Clarke [246] resigned his charge and went abroad for a prolonged stay, possibly with indefinite ideas as to the future employment of his life. He was possessed of much literary and artistic taste, and might easily have added one to the number of those who, like George Bancroft, Jared Sparks, and others, had entered the Unitarian ministry, to leave it, after a few years, for fields of labor in which they were destined to achieve greater success.

Fortunately, the suggestion of such a course, if entertained by him at all, did not prevail. Mr. Clarke's interest in the Christian ministry was too deeply grounded to be easily overcome. Returning from a restful and profitable sojourn in Europe, he sought to gather again those of his flock who had held to him and to each other. He found them ready to welcome him back with unabated love and trust. It was at this juncture that I heard Theodore Parker make the mention of him which brought him to my remembrance, bringing me also very reluctantly to his new place of worship.

The hall itself was unattractive, and the aspect of its occupants decidedly unfashionable. Indeed, a witty friend of mine once said to me that the bonnets seen there were of so singular a description, as constantly to distract her attention from the minister's sermon. [247]

This absence of fashion rather commended the place to me; for I had had in my life enough and too much of that church-going in which the bonnets, the pews, and the doctrine appear to rest on one dead level of conventionalism.

Mr. Clarke's preaching was as unlike as possible to that of Theodore Parker. While not wanting in the critical spirit, and characterized by very definite views of the questions which at that time were foremost in the mind of the community, there ran through the whole course of his ministrations an exquisite tone of charity and good-will. He had not the philosophic and militant genius of Parker, but he had a genius of his own, poetical, harmonizing. In after years I esteemed myself fortunate in having passed from the drastic discipline of the one to the tender and reconciling ministry of the other. The members of the congregation were mostly strangers to me, yet I felt from the first a respect for them. In process of time I came to know something of their antecedents, and to make friends among them.

After some years of attendance at Williams Hall, our society, somewhat increased in numbers, removed to Indiana Place Chapel, where we remained until we were able to erect for ourselves the commodious and homelike building which we occupy to-day.

Our minister was a man of much impulse, but [248] of more judgment. In his character were blended the best traits of the conservative and of the liberal. His ardent temperament and sanguine disposition bred in him that natural hopefulness which is so important an element in all attempted reform. His sound mind, well disciplined by culture, held fast to the inherited treasures of society, while a fortunate power of apprehending principles rendered him very steadfast, both in advance and in reserve. In the agitated period which preceded the civil war and in that which followed it, he in his modest pulpit became one of the leaders, not of his own flock alone, but of the community to which he belonged. I can imagine few things more instructive and desirable than was his preaching in those troublous times, so full of unanswered question and unreconciled discord. His church was like an organ, with deep undertones and lofty, aspiring treble,—the master hand pressing the keys, the heart of the congregation responding with a full melody. Festivals of sorrow were held in Indiana Place Chapel, and many of them,—James Buchanan's hollow fast, a day of mourning for John Brown, and, saddest and greatest of all, a solemn service following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. We were led through these shadows of death by the radiant light of a truly Christian faith, which our pastor ever held before us. Among the many who stood by him [249] in his labors of love was a lady possessed of rare taste in the disposition of floral and other decorations. We came at last to confer on her the title of the Flower Saint. On the occasion last mentioned, when we entered the building, full of hopeless sorrow, we saw pulpit and altar adorned with a rich violet pall, on which, at intervals, hung wreaths of white lilies. So something of the pomp of victory was mingled with our bitter sense of loss. The nation's chief was gone, but with the noble army of martyrs we now beheld him, crowned with the unfading glory of his work.

Mr. Clarke's life possesses an especial interest from the fact of its having been one of those rare lives which start in youth with an ideal, and follow it through manhood to old age; parting from it only at the last breath, and bequeathing it to posterity in its full growth and beauty. This ideal appeared to him in the guise of a free church, whose pews should not be sold, whose seats should be open to all, with no cumbrous encounter of cross-interests,—a church of true worship and earnest interpretation, which should be held together by the bond of veritable sympathy. This living church he built out of his own devout and tender heart. A dream at first, he saw it take shape and grow, and when he flitted from its sphere he felt that it would stand and endure.

In marriage Mr. Clarke had been most fortunate. [250] He became attached early in life to a young lady of rare beauty, and of character not less uncommon, to whom he once wrote some charming lines, beginning,—

When shall we meet again, dearest and best?
Thou going eastward, and I to the west?

This attachment probably dated from the period of his theological studies at Meadville, Pa. In due course of time the two lives became united in a most happy and helpful partnership. Mrs. Clarke truly attained the dignity of a mother in Israel. She went hand-in-hand with her husband in all his church work. She made his home simple in adornment but exquisite in comfort. She was less social in disposition than he, less excitable, indeed, so calm of nature that her husband, in giving her a copy of my first volume of poems, wrote on the fly-leaf, ‘To the passionless, “ Passion Flowers,” ’ and in the lines that followed compared her to the Jungfrau with its silvery light. This calmness, which was not coldness, sometimes enabled her to render a service which might have been difficult to many. I remember that a young minister, a fresh convert from Calvinistic doctrine, preached one Sunday a rather crude sermon, in Mr. Clarke's absence. After the close of the service Mrs. Clarke went up to the speaker, who was expected to preach that evening at a well-known church in the city, and said, ‘Mr.——, if [251] you intend to give the sermon we have just heard at the——church this evening, you will do well to omit certain things in it.’ She proceeded to mention the changes which appeared to her desirable. Her advice, most kindly given, was no doubt appreciated.

Let me here record my belief that society rarely attains anywhere a higher level than that which all must recognize in the Boston of the last forty years. The religious philosophy of the Unitarian pulpit; the intercourse with the learned men of Harvard College, more frequent formerly than at present; the inheritance of solid and earnest character, most precious of estates; the nobility of thought developed in Margaret Fuller's pupils; the cordial piety of such leaders as Phillips Brooks, James Freeman Clarke, and Edward Everett Hale; the presence of leading authors,—Holmes, Longfellow, Emerson, and Lowell,—all these circumstances combined have given to Massachusetts a halo of glory which time should not soon have power to dim.

Massachusetts, as I understand her, asks for no false leadership, for no illusory and transient notoriety. Where Truth and Justice command, her sons and daughters will follow; and if she should sometimes be found first in the ranks, it will not be because her ambition has displaced others, but because the strength of her convictions [252] has carried her beyond the ranks of the doubting and deliberate.

The decade preceding the civil war was indeed a period of much agitation. The anomalous position of a slave system in a democratic republic was beginning to make itself keenly felt. The political preponderance of the slaveholding States, fostered and upheld by the immense money power of the North, had led their inhabitants to believe that they needed to endure no limits. Recent legislation, devised and accomplished by their leaders, had succeeded in enforcing upon Northern communities a tame compliance with their most extravagant demands. The extension of the slave system to the new territories, soon to constitute new States, became the avowed purpose of Southern politicians. The conscience of the North, lulled by financial prosperity, awoke but slowly to an understanding of the situation. To enlighten this conscience was evidently the most important task of public-spirited men. Among other devices to this end, a newspaper was started in Boston with the name of ‘The Commonwealth.’ Its immediate object was to reach and convince that important portion of the body politic which distrusts rhetoric and oratory, but which sooner or later gives heed to dispassionate argument and the advocacy of plain issues.

My husband took an active interest in the management [253] of this paper, and indeed assumed its editorship for one entire winter. In this task I had great pleasure in assisting him. We began our work together every morning,—he supervising and supplying the political department of the paper, I doing what I could in the way of social and literary criticism. Among my contributions to the work were a series of notices of Dr. Holmes's Lowell lectures on the English poets, and a paper on Mrs. Stowe and George Sand. ‘The Commonwealth’ did good service in the battle of opinion which unexpectedly proved a prelude to the most important event in our history as a nation.

The reading public hardly needs to-day to be reminded that Mrs. Stowe's story of ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin’ played an important part in the change of base, which in time became evident in the North. The torch of her sympathy, held before the lurid pictures of slave life, set two continents on fire with loathing and indignation against abuses so little in accordance with civil progress and Christian illumination. Europeans reproached us with this enthroned and persevering barbarism. ‘Why is it endured?’ they asked, and we could only answer: ‘It has a legal right to exist.’

Some time in the fifties, my husband spoke to me of a very remarkable man, of whom, he said, I should be sure to hear sooner or later. This [254] man, Dr. Howe said, seemed to intend to devote his life to the redemption of the colored race from slavery, even as Christ had willingly offered his life for the salvation of mankind. It was enjoined upon me that I should not mention to any one this confidential communication; and to make sure that I should not, I allowed the whole matter to pass out of my thoughts. It may have been a year or more later that Dr. Howe said to me: ‘Do you remember that man of whom I spoke to you,—the one who wished to be a saviour for the negro race?’ I replied in the affirmative. ‘That man,’ said the doctor, ‘will call here this afternoon. You will receive him. His name is John Brown.’ Thus admonished, I watched for the visitor, and prepared to admit him myself when he should ring at the door.

This took place at our house in South Boston, where it was not at all infra dig. for me to open my own door. At the expected time I heard the bell ring, and, on answering it, beheld a middle-aged, middle-sized man, with hair and beard of amber color, streaked with gray. He looked a Puritan of the Puritans, forceful, concentrated, and self-contained. We had a brief interview, of which I only remember my great gratification at meeting one of whom I had heard so good an account. I saw him once again at Dr. Howe's office, and then heard no more of him for some time. [255]

I cannot tell how long after this it was that I took up the ‘Transcript’ one evening, and read of an attack made by a small body of men on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry. Dr. Howe presently came in, and I told him what I had just read. ‘Brown has got to work,’ he said. I had already arrived at the same conclusion. The rest of the story is matter of history: the failure of the slaves to support the movement initiated for their emancipation, the brief contest, the inevitable defeat and surrender, the death of the rash, brave man upon the scaffold. All this is known, and need not be repeated here. In speaking of it, my husband assured me that John Brown's plan had not been so impossible of realization as it appeared to have been after its failure. Brown had been led to hope that, upon a certain signal, the slaves from many plantations would come to him in such numbers that he and they would become masters of the situation with little or no bloodshed. Neither he nor those who were concerned with him had it at all in mind to stir up the slaves to acts of cruelty and revenge. The plan was simply to combine them in large numbers, and in a position so strong that the question of their freedom would be decided then and there, possibly without even a battle.

I confess that the whole scheme appeared to me wild and chimerical Of its details I knew [256] nothing, and have never learned more. None of us could exactly approve an act so revolutionary in its character, yet the great-hearted attempt enlisted our sympathies very strongly. The weeks of John Brown's imprisonment were very sad ones, and the day of his death was one of general mourning in New England. Even there, however, people were not all of the same mind. I heard a friend say that John Brown was a pig-headed old fool. In the Church of the Disciples, on the other hand, a special service was held on the day of the execution, and the pastor took for his text the saying of Christ, ‘It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master.’ Victor Hugo had already said that the death of John Brown would thenceforth hallow the scaffold, even as the death of Christ had hallowed the cross.

The record of John Brown's life has been fully written, and by a friendly hand. I will only mention here that he had much to do with the successful contest which kept slavery out of the territory of Kansas. He was a leading chief in the border warfare which swept back the proslavery immigration attempted by some of the wild spirits of Missouri. In this struggle, he one day saw two of his own sons shot by the Border Ruffians (as the Missourians of the border were then called), without trial or mercy. Some people thought that this dreadful sight had maddened his brain, as well it might. [257]

I recall one humorous anecdote about him, related to me by my husband. On one occasion, during the border war, he had taken several prisoners, and among them a certain judge. Brown was always a man of prayer. On this occasion, feeling quite uncertain as to whether he ought to spare the lives of the prisoners, he retired into a thicket near at hand, and besought the Lord long and fervently to inspire him with the right determination. The judge, overhearing this petition, was so much amused at it that, in spite of the gravity of his own position, he laughed aloud. ‘Judge——,’ cried John Brown, ‘if you mock at my prayers, I shall know what to do with you without asking the Almighty.’

I remember now that I saw John Brown's wife on her way to visit her husband in prison and to see the last of him. She seemed a strong, earnest woman, plain in manners and in speech.

This brings me to the period of the civil war. What can I say of it that has not already been said? Its cruel fangs fastened upon the very heart of Boston, and took from us our best and bravest. From many a stately mansion father or son went forth, followed by weeping, to be brought back for bitterer sorrow. The work of the women in providing comforts for the soldiers was unremitting. In organizing and conducting the great bazaars, which were held in furtherance [258] of this object, many of these women found a new scope for their activities, and developed abilities hitherto unsuspected by themselves.

Even in gay Newport there were sad reverberations of the strife; and I shall never forget an afternoon on which I drove into town with my son, by this time a lad of fourteen, and found the main street lined with carriages, and the carriages filled with white-faced people, intent on I knew not what. Meeting a friend, I asked, ‘Why are these people here? What are they waiting for, and why do they look as they do?’

‘They are waiting for the mail. Don't you know that we have had a dreadful reverse?’ Alas! this was the second battle of Bull Run. I have made some record of it in a poem entitled ‘The Flag,’ which I dare mention here because Mr. Emerson, on hearing it, said to me, ‘I like the architecture of that poem.’

Prominent among the helpers called out by the war was our noble war governor, John Albion Andrew. My first acquaintance with him was formed in the early days of the Free-Soil Party, of which he and my husband were leading members. This organization, if I remember rightly, grew out of an earlier one which marked the very beginning of a new movement. Its members were spoken of as ‘young Whigs,’ and its principles were friendship for the negro and opposition to [259] war, which at that time was particularly directed against the Mexican war. It was as a young Whig that Dr. Howe consented to become a candidate for a seat in the Congress of the United States. The development of a pro-slavery policy on the part of our government, and the intention made evident of not only maintaining but also extending the area of slavery, soon gave to the new party a very serious raison daetre, and under its influence the young Whigs became Free Soilers.1

Some of these gentlemen came often to our house, and among them I soon learned to distinguish Mr. Andrew. As time went on, he became a familiar friend in our household. Our mutual interest in the Church of the Disciples, and our regard for its pastor were bonds which drew us together. He was, indeed, a typical American of the best sort. Most happy in temperament, with great vitality and enjoyment of life, he united in his make — up the gifts of quick perception and calm deliberation. His judgments were broad, sound, and charitable, his disposition full of good-will, his tastes at once simple and comprehensive. He was at home in high society, and not less so among the lowly. He was very social in disposition, and [260] much ‘given to hospitality,’ but without show or pretense. He had been one of the original members of the Church of the Disciples, and had certainly been drawn toward Mr. Clarke by a deep and genuine religious sympathy. Although a man of most serious convictions, he was able to enter heartily into the spirit of every social occasion. He was with us sometimes at our rural retreat on Newport Island, far from the scenes of fashionable life. I once had the honor of entertaining in this place the members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. While we were all busy with preparations for the reception of these eminent persons, Mr. Andrew—he was not as yet governor—offered to compound for the company a pleasing beverage. He took off his coat, and went to work with lemons, sugar, and other ingredients, and was very near being found in his shirt-sleeves by those of the scientists who were first upon the ground.

At another time we were arranging some tableaux for one of my children's parties, and had chosen the subjects from Thackeray's fairy tale of the ‘Rose and the Ring.’ I came to our friend in some perplexity, and said, ‘Dear Mr. Andrew, in the tableaux this evening Dr. Howe is to personate Kutasoff Hedzoff; would you be willing to pose as Prince Bulbo?’ ‘By all means,’ was the response. I brought the book, [261] and Mr Andrew studied and imitated the costume of the prince, even to the necktie and the rose in his buttonhole.

In the years that followed, he as well as we had little time for merry-making. While the political sky was darkening and the thunder of war was faintly rumbling in the air, Dr. Howe said to me one day, ‘Andrew is going to be governor of Massachusetts.’ My first recollection of him in war time concerns the attack made upon the United States troops as they were passing through Baltimore. The telegram sent by him to the mayor of that city seemed to give an earnest of what we might expect from him. He requested that the bodies of our soldiers who had fallen in the streets should be tenderly cared for, and sent to their State, Massachusetts. We were present when these bodies were received at King's Chapel burial-ground, and could easily see how deeply the governor was moved at the sad sight of the coffins draped with the national flag. This occasion drew from me the poem beginning,—

Weave no more silks, ye Lyons looms,
     To deck our girls for gay delights:
The crimson flower of battle blooms,
     And solemn marches fill the nights.

When James Freeman Clarke's exchanging pulpits with Theodore Parker alienated from him a part of his congregation, Governor Andrew [262] strongly opposed the views of the seceders, and at a meeting called in connection with the movement made so eloquent a plea against the separation as to move his hearers to tears.

Very generous was his conduct in the case of John Brown, when the latter lay in a Southern prison, about to be tried for his life, without counsel and without money. Mr. Andrew, on becoming acquainted with his condition, telegraphed to eminent lawyers in Washington to engage them for the defense of the prisoner, and made himself responsible for the legal expenses of the case, amounting to thirteen hundred dollars. He was elected governor of Massachusetts in 1860, and his forethought and sagacity were soon shown in the course of action instituted by him to prepare the State for immediate and active participation in the military movements which he felt to be near at hand. The measures then taken by him were much derided; but, when the crisis came, the heart of the public went out to him in gratitude, for every emergency had been thought out and provided for.

The governor now became a very busy man. Who can number the hurried journeys which he made between Boston and Washington, when his counsel was imperatively demanded in the one place and no less needed in the other? These exhausting labors, which continued throughout the [263] war, never disturbed the serenity of his countenance, always luminous with cheerfulness. They were, no doubt, undermining his bodily vigor; but his devotion to public duty was such that he was well content to spend and be spent in its fulfillment.

I was present at the State House when Governor Andrew presented to the legislature of Massachusetts the parting gift of Theodore Parker, —the gun which his grandfather had carried at the battle of Lexington. After a brief but very appropriate address, the governor pressed the gun to his lips before giving it into the keeping of the official guardian of such treasures. This scene was caricatured in one of the public prints of the time. I remember it as most impressive.

The governor was an earnest Unitarian, and as already said a charter member of the Church of the Disciples. His religious sympathies, however, outwent all sectarian limits. He prized and upheld the truly devout spirits, wherever found, and delighted in the Methodism of Father Taylor. He used to say, ‘When I want to enjoy a good warm time, I go to Brother Grimes's colored church.’

Although himself a Protestant of the Protestants, he entertained a sincere esteem for individuals among the Catholic clergy. Among these I remember Father Finotti as one of whom he [264] often spoke, and who was sometimes a guest at his table. When Madame Ristori made her first visit to this country, Father Finotti entertained her one day at dinner, inviting also GovernorAndrew and Mrs. Andrew. The governor told me afterward that he enjoyed this meeting very much, and described some song or recitation which the great actress gave at table, and which the aged priest heard with emotion, recalling the days of his youth and the dear land of his birth.

Once, when Governor Andrew was with us at our summer home, my husband suddenly proposed that we should hold a Sunday service in the shade of our beautiful valley. This was on the Sunday morning itself, and the time admitted of no preparation. I had with me neither hymnal nor book of sermons, and was rather at a loss how to carry out my husband's design. The governor at once came to my assistance. He gave the Scripture lessons from memory, and deaconed out the lines of a favorite hymn,—

The dove let loose in eastern skies,
Returning fondly home.

This we sang to the best of our ability. The governor had in memory some writing of his own appropriate to the occasion; and, all joining in the Lord's prayer, the simple and beautiful rite was accomplished.

The record of our State during the war was a [265] proud one. The repeated calls for men and for money were always promptly and generously answered. And this promptness was greatly forwarded by the energy and patriotic vigilance of the governor. I heard much of this at the time, especially from my husband, who was greatly attached to the governor, and who himself took an intense interest in all the operations of the war.

I am glad to remember that our house was one of the places in which Governor Andrew used to take refuge, when the need of rest became imperative. Having, perhaps, passed much of the night at the State House, receiving telegrams and issuing orders, he would sometimes lie down on a sofa in my drawing-room, and snatch a brief nap before dinner would be announced.

I seemed to live in and along with the war, while it was in progress, and to follow all its ups and downs, its good and ill fortune with these two brave men, Dr. Howe and Governor Andrew. Neither of them for a moment doubted the final result of the struggle, but both they and I were often very sad and much discouraged. Andrew was especially distressed at the disastrous retreat in the Wilderness, when medicines, stores, and even wounded soldiers were necessarily left behind. He said of this, ‘When I read the accounts of it I thought that the bottom had [266] dropped out of everything.’ He was not alone in feeling thus.

While Governor Andrew held himself at the command of the government, and was ready to answer every call from the White House with his presence, he was no less persistent in the visitations required in his own State. Of some of these I can speak from personal experience, having often had the pleasure of accompanying him and Mrs. Andrew in such excursions. I went twice with the gubernatorial party to attend the Agricultural Fair at Barnstable. The first time we were the guests of Mr. Phinney, the veteran editor of a Barnstable paper. On another occasion we visited Berkshire, and were entertained at Greenfield, North Adams, and Stockbridge. Dress parades were usually held at these times. How well I have in mind the governor's appearance as, in his military cloak, wearing scrupulously white kid gloves, he walked from rank to rank, receiving the salute of the men and returning it with great good humor! He evidently enjoyed these meetings very much. His staff consisted of several young men of high position in the community, who were most agreeable companions,—John Quincy Adams, Henry Lee, handsome Harry Ritchie, and one or two others whose names I do not recall. In the jollity of these outings the governor did not forget to visit [267] the public institutions, prisons, reform schools, insane asylums, etc. His presence carried cheer and sunshine into the most dreary places, and his deep interest in humanity made itself felt everywhere.

From an early period in the war he saw that the emancipation of the negroes of the South was imperatively demanded to insure the success of the North. It had always been a moral obligation. It had now become a military necessity. When the act was consummated, he not only rejoiced in it, but bent all his energies upon the support of the President in an act so daring and so likely to be deprecated by the half-hearted. His efforts to this end were not confined to his own State. He did much to promote unity of opinion and concert in action among the governors of other States. He strongly advocated the organization of colored regiments, and the first of these that reached the field of battle came from his State.

All of us, I suppose, have met with people who are democratic in theory, but who in practical life prefer to remain in relation mostly with individuals of their own or a superior class. Our great governor's democracy was not founded on intellectual conviction alone. It was a democracy of taste and of feeling. I say of taste, because he discerned the beauty of life which is often [268] found among the lowly, the faithfulness of servants, the good ambition of working people to do their best with hammer and saw, with needle and thread. He earnestly desired that people of all degrees, high and low, rich and poor, should enjoy the blessings of civilization, should have their position of use and honor in the great human brotherhood. And it was this sweet and sincere humanity of heart which gave him so wide and varied a sphere of influence. He could confer with the cook in her kitchen, with the artisan at his task, with the convict in his cell, and always leave behind him an impression of kindness and sympathy. I have often in my mind compared society to a vast orchestra, which, properly led, gives forth a heavenly music, and which, ill conducted, utters only harsh and discordant sounds. The true leader of the orchestra has the music in his mind. He can read the intricate scroll which is set up before him; and so the army of melody responds to his tap, and instrument after instrument wakes at his bidding and is silent at his command.

I cannot help thinking of Governor Andrew as such a leader. In his heart was written the music of the law of love. Before his eyes was the scroll of the great designs of Providence. And so, being at peace in himself, he promoted peace and harmony among those with whom he had to do; [269] unanimity of action during the war, unanimity of consent and of rejoicing when peace came.

So beneficent a presence has rarely shown itself among us. I trust that something of its radiance will continue to enlighten our national counsels and to cheer our hearts with the great hope which made him great.

During the years of the war, Washington naturally became the great centre of interest. Politicians of every grade, adventurers of either sex, inventors of all sorts of military appliances, and simple citizens, good and bad, flocked thither in great numbers. My own first visit to it was in the late autumn of 1861, and was made in company with Rev. James Freeman Clarke, Governor Andrew, and my husband. Dr. Howe had already passed beyond the age of military service, but was enabled to render valuable aid as an officer of the Sanitary Commission, and also on the commission which had in charge the condition and interests of the newly freed slaves.

Although Dr. Howe had won his spurs many years before this time, in the guerrilla contests of the Greek struggle for national life, his understanding of military operations continued to be remarkable. Throughout the course of the war, I never remember him to have been deceived by an illusory report of victory. He would carefully consider the plan of the battle, and when he [270] would say, ‘This looks to me like a defeat,’ the later reports were sure to justify his surmises.

As we approached the city, I saw from time to time small groups of armed men seated on the ground near a fire. Dr. Howe explained to me that these were the pickets detailed to guard the railroad. The main body of the enemy's troops was then stationed in the near neighborhood of Washington, and the capture of the national capital would have been of great strategic advantage to their cause. In order to render this impossible, the great Army of the Potomac was encamped around the city, with General McClellan in command. Within the city limits mounted officers and orderlies galloped to and fro. Ambulances, drawn by four horses, drove through the streets, stopping sometimes before Willard's Hotel, where we had all found quarters. From my window I saw the office of the ‘New York Herald,’ and near it the ghastly advertisement of an agency for embalming and forwarding the bodies of those who had fallen in the fight or who had perished by fever. William Henry Channing, nephew of the great Channing, and heir to his spiritual distinction, had left his Liverpool pulpit, deeply stirred by love of his country and enthusiasm in a noble cause. On Sundays, his voice rang out, clear and musical as a bell, within the walls of the Unitarian church. I went more than once with him [271] and Mr. Clarke to visit camps and hospitals. It was on the occasion of one of these visits that I made my very first attempt at public speaking. I had joined the rest of my party in a reconnoitring expedition, the last stage of which was the headquarters of Colonel William B. Greene, of the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. Our friend received us with a warm welcome, and presently said to me, ‘Mrs. Howe, you must speak to my men.’ Feeling my utter inability to do this, I ran away and tried to hide myself in one of the hospital tents. Colonel Greene twice found me and brought me back to his piazza, where at last I stood, and told as well as I could how glad I was to meet the brave defenders of our cause, and how constantly they were in my thoughts.

Among my recollections of this period I especially cherish that of an interview with President Abraham Lincoln, arranged for us by our kind friend, Governor Andrew. The President was laboring at this time under a terrible pressure of doubt and anxiety. He received us in one of the drawing-rooms of the White House, where we were invited to take seats, in full view of Stuart's portrait of Washington. The conversation took place mostly between the President and Governor Andrew. I remember well the sad expression of Mr. Lincoln's deep blue eyes, the only feature of his face which could be called other than plain. [272] Mrs. Andrew, being of the company, inquired when we could have the pleasure of seeing Mrs. Lincoln, and Mr. Lincoln named to us the day of her reception. He said to Governor Andrew, apropos of I know not what, ‘I once herd George Sumner tell a story.’ The unusual pronunciation fixed in my memory this one unimportant sentence. The talk, indeed, ran mostly on indifferent topics.

When we had taken leave, and were out of hearing, Mr. Clarke said of Mr. Lincoln, ‘We have seen it in his face; hopeless honesty; that is all.’ He said it as if he felt that it was far from enough.

None of us knew then—how could we have known?—how deeply God's wisdom had touched and inspired that devout and patient soul. At the moment few people praised or trusted him. ‘Why did he not do this, or that, or the other? He a President, indeed! Look at this war, dragging on so slowly! Look at our many defeats and rare victories!’ Such was the talk that one constantly heard regarding him. The most charitable held that he meant well. Governor Andrew was one of the few whose faith in him never wavered.

Meanwhile, through evil and good report, he was listening for the mandate which comes to one alone, bringing with it the decision of a mind convinced [273] and of a conscience resolved. When the right moment came, he issued the proclamation of emancipation to the slaves. He sent his generals into the enemy's country. He lived to welcome them back as victors, to electrify the civilized world with his simple, sincere speech, to fall by the hand of an assassin, to bequeath to his country the most tragical and sacred of her memories.

It would be impossible for me to say how many times I have been called upon to rehearse the circumstances under which I wrote the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic.’ I have also had occasion more than once to state the simple story in writing. As this oft-told tale has no unimportant part in the story of my life, I will briefly add it to these records. I distinctly remember that a feeling of discouragement came over me as I drew near the city of Washington at the time already mentioned. I thought of the women of my acquaintance whose sons or husbands were fighting our great battle; the women themselves serving in the hospitals, or busying themselves with the work of the Sanitary Commission. My husband, as already said, was beyond the age of military service, my eldest son but a stripling; my youngest was a child of not more than two years. I could not leave my nursery to follow the march of our armies, neither had I the practical deftness which the preparing and packing of sanitary stores demanded. Something [274] seemed to say to me, ‘You would be glad to serve, but you cannot help any one; you have nothing to give, and there is nothing for you to do.’ Yet, because of my sincere desire, a word was given me to say, which did strengthen the hearts of those who fought in the field and of those who languished in the prison.

We were invited, one day, to attend a review of troops at some distance from the town. While we were engaged in watching the manoeuvres, a sudden movement of the enemy necessitated immediate action. The review was discontinued, and we saw a detachment of soldiers gallop to the assistance of a small body of our men who were in imminent danger of being surrounded and cut off from retreat. The regiments remaining on the field were ordered to march to their cantonments. We returned to the city very slowly, of necessity, for the troops nearly filled the road. My dear minister was in the carriage with me, as were several other friends. To beguile the rather tedious drive, we sang from time to time snatches of the army songs so popular at that time, concluding, I think, with

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the ground;
His soul is marching on.

The soldiers seemed to like this, and answered back, ‘Good for you!’ Mr. Clarke said, ‘Mrs. Howe, why do you not write some good words for [275] that stirring tune?’ I replied that I had often wished to do this, but had not as yet found in my mind any leading toward it.

I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, ‘I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.’ So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper. I had learned to do this when, on previous occasions, attacks of versification had visited me in the night, and I feared to have recourse to a light lest I should wake the baby, who slept near me. I was always obliged to decipher my scrawl before another night should intervene, as it was only legible while the matter was fresh in my mind. At this time, having completed my writing, I returned to bed and fell asleep, saying to myself, ‘I like this better than most things that I have written.’

The poem, which was soon after published in the ‘Atlantic Monthly,’ was somewhat praised on its appearance, but the vicissitudes of the war [276] so engrossed public attention that small heed was taken of literary matters. I knew, and was content to know, that the poem soon found its way to the camps, as I heard from time to time of its being sung in chorus by the soldiers.

As the war went on, it came to pass that Chaplain McCabe, newly released from Libby Prison, gave a public lecture in Washington, and recounted some of his recent experiences. Among them was the following: He and the other Union prisoners occupied one large, comfortless room, in which the floor was their only bed. An official in charge of them told them, one evening, that the Union arms had just sustained a terrible defeat. While they sat together in great sorrow, the negro who waited upon them whispered to one man that the officer had given them false information, and that the Union soldiers had, on the contrary, achieved an important victory. At this good news they all rejoiced, and presently made the walls ring with my Battle Hymn, which they sang in chorus, Chaplain McCabe leading. The lecturer recited the poem with such effect that those present began to inquire, ‘Who wrote this Battle Hymn?’ It now became one of the leading lyrics of the war. In view of its success, one of my good friends said, ‘Mrs. Howe ought to die now, for she has done the best that she will ever do.’ I was not of this opinion, feeling myself still ‘full of days' works,’ [277] although I did not guess at the new experiences which then lay before me.

While the war was still at its height, I received a kind letter from Hon. George Bancroft, conveying an invitation to attend a celebration of the poet Bryant's seventieth birthday, to be given by the New York Century Club, of which Mr. Bancroft was the newly-elected president. He also expressed the hope that I would bring with me something in verse or in prose, to add to the tributes of the occasion.

Having accepted the invitation and made ready my tribute, I repaired to the station on the day appointed, to take the train for New York. Dr. Holmes presently appeared, bound on the same errand. As we seated ourselves in the car, he said to me, ‘Mrs. Howe, I will sit beside you, but you must not expect me to talk, as I must spare my voice for this evening, when I am to read a poem at the Bryant celebration.’ ‘By all means let us keep silent,’ I replied. ‘I also have a poem to read at the Bryant celebration.’ The dear Doctor, always my friend, overestimated his power of abstinence from the interchange of thought which was so congenial to him. He at once launched forth in his ever brilliant vein, and we were within a few miles of our destination when we suddenly remembered that we had not taken time to eat our luncheon. I find in my diary [278] of the time this record: ‘Dr. Holmes was my companion. His ethereal talk made the journey short and brilliant.’

The journal further says:

Arriving in New York, Mr. Bancroft met us at the station, intent upon escorting Dr. Holmes, who was to be his guest. He was good enough to wait upon me also; carried my trunk, which was a small one, and lent me his carriage. He inquired about my poem, and informed me of its place in the order of exercises. . . .

At 8.15 drove to the Century Building, which was fast filling with well-dressed men and women. Was conducted to the reception room, where I waited with those who were to take part in the performances of the evening.

I will add here that I saw, among others, N. P. Willis, already infirm in health, and looking like the ghost of his former self. There also was Dr. Francis Lieber, who said to me in a low voice: ‘Nur verwegen!’ (Only be audacious.) ‘Presently a double line was formed to pass into the hall. Mr. Bancroft, Mr. Bryant, and I brought up the rear, Mr. Bryant giving me his arm. On the platform were three armchairs, which were taken by the two gentlemen and myself.’

The assemblage was indeed a notable one. The fashion of New York was well represented, but its foremost artists, publicists, and literary [279] men were also present. Mr. Emerson had come on from Concord. Christopher Cranch united with other artists in presenting to the venerable poet a portfolio of original drawings, to which each had contributed some work of his own. I afterwards learned that T. Buchanan Read had arrived from Washington, having in his pocket his newly composed poem on ‘Sheridan's Ride,’ which he would gladly have read aloud had the committee found room for it on their programme. A letter was received from the elder R. H. Dana, in which he excused his absence on account of his seventy-seven years and consequent inability to travel. Dr. Holmes read his verses very effectively. Mr. Emerson spoke rather vaguely. For my part in the evening's proceedings, I will once more quote from the diary:—

Mr. Bryant, in his graceful reply to Mr. Bancroft's address of congratulation, spoke of me as “she who has written the most stirring lyric of the war.” After Mr. Emerson's remarks my poem was announced. I stepped to the middle of the platform, and read it well, I think, as every one heard me, and the large room was crammed. The last two verses were applauded. George H. Boker, of Philadelphia, followed me, and Dr. Holmes followed him. This was, I suppose, the greatest public honor of my life. I record it here for my grandchildren.’ [280]

The existence of these grandchildren lay then in the problematic future. I was requested to leave my poem in the hands of the committee for publication in a volume which would contain the other tributes of the evening. Dr. Holmes told me that he had declined to do this, and said in explanation, ‘I want my honorarium from the “Atlantic monthly.” ’ We returned to Boston twenty-four hours later, by night train. Eschewing the indulgence of the sleeper, we talked through the dark hours. The Doctor gave me the nickname of ‘Madame Comment’ (Mrs. Howe), and I told him that he was the most perfect of traveling companions.

1 In the days here spoken of, the Corchituate water was first brought into Boston. I was asked one day to furnish the toast for a temperance festival, and felt moved to send the following: ‘free soil—free water—free grace,’ which was well received.

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