And that is the history of any day at Camp Cameron. It is monotonous, it is not monotonous, it is laborious, it is lazy, it is a bore, it is a lark, it is half war, half peace, and totally attractive, and not to be dispensed with from one's experience in the nineteenth century.
OUR ADVANCE INTO VIRGINIA.
Meantime the weeks went on. May 23d arrived. Lovely creatures with their taper fingers had been brewing a flag for us. Shall I say that its red stripes were celestial rosy as their cheeks, its white stripes virgin white as their brows, its blue field cerulean as their eyes, and its stars scintillating as the beams of the said peepers? Shall I say this? If I were a poet, like Jeff. Davis and each and every editor of each and every newspaper in our misbehaving States, I might say it. And involuntarily I have said it.
So the young ladies of New York—including, I hope, her who made my sandwiches for the march hither—had been making us a flag, as they have made us havelocks, pots of jelly, bundles of lint, flannel dressing-gowns, embroidered slippers for a rainy day in camp, and other necessaries of the soldier's life.
May 23d was the day we were to get this sweet symbol of good-will. At evening parade appeared General Thomas, as the agent of the ladies, the donors, with a neat speech on a clean sheet of paper. He read it with feeling; and Private W., who has his sentimental moments, avows that he was touched by the General's earnest manner and patriotic words. Our Colonel responded with his neat speech, very apropos. The regiment then made its neat speech, nine cheers and a roar of tigers,—very brief and pointed.
There had been a note of preparation in General Thomas's remarks,—a "Virginia, cave canem!" And before parade was dismissed, we saw our officers holding parley with the Colonel.
Something in the wind! As I was strolling off to see the sunset and the ladies on parade, I began to hear great irrepressible cheers bursting from the streets of the different companies.
"Orders to be ready to march at a moment's notice!"—so I learned presently from dozens of overjoyed fellows. "Harper's Ferry!" says one. "Alexandria!" shouts a second. "Richmond!" only Richmond will content a third. And some could hardly be satisfied short of the hope of a breakfast in Montgomery.
What a happy thousand were the line-companies! How their suppressed ardors stirred! No want of fight in these lads! They may be rather luxurious in their habits, for camp-life. They may be a little impatient of restraint. They may have—as the type regiment of militia—the type faults of militia on service. But a desire to dodge a fight is not one of these faults.
Every man in camp was merry, except two hundred who were grim. These were the two artillery companies, ordered to remain in guard of our camp. They swore as if Camp Cameron were Flanders.
I by rights belonged with these malecontent and objurgating gentlemen; but a chronicler has privileges, and I got leave to count myself into the Eighth Company, my old friend Captain Shumway's. We were to move, about midnight, in light marching order, with one day's rations.
It has been always full moon at our camp. This night was full moon at its fullest,—a night more perfect than all perfection, mild, dewy, refulgent. At one o'clock the drum beat; we fell into ranks, and marched quietly off through the shadowy trees of the lane, into the highway.
ACROSS THE LONG BRIDGE.
I have heretofore been proud of my individuality, and resisted, so far as one may, all the world's attempts to merge me in the mass. In pluribus unum has been my motto. But whenever I march with the regiment, my pride is that I lose my individuality, that I am merged, that I become a part of a machine, a mere walking gentleman, a No. 1 or a No. 2, front rank or rear rank, file-leader or file-closer. The machine is so steady and so mighty, it moves with such musical cadence and such brilliant show, that I enjoy it entirely as the unum and lose myself gladly as a pluribus.
Night increases this fascination. The outer world is vague in the moonlight. Objects out of our ranks are lost. I see only glimmering steel and glittering buttons and the light-stepping forms of my comrades. Our array and our step connect us. We move as one man. A man made up of a thousand members and each member a man is a grand creature,—particularly when you consider that he is self-made. And the object of this self-made giant, men-man, is to destroy another like himself, or the separate pigmy members of another such giant. We have failed to put ourselves—heads, arms, legs, and wills—together as a unit for any purpose so thoroughly as to snuff out a similar unit. Up to 1861, it seems that the business of war compacts men best.
Well, the Seventh, a compact projectile, was now flinging itself along the road to Washington. Just a month ago, "in such a night as this," we made our first promenade through the enemy's country. The moon of Annapolis,—why should we not have our ominous moon, as those other fellows had their sun of Austerlitz?—the moon of Annapolis shone over us. No epithets are too fine or too complimentary for such a luminary, and there was no dust under her rays.
So we pegged along to Washington and across Washington,—which at that point consists of Willard's Hotel, few other buildings being in sight. A hag in a nightcap reviewed us from an upper window as we tramped by.
Opposite that bald block, the Washington Monument, and opposite what was of more importance to us, a drove of beeves putting beef on their bones in the seedy grounds of the Smithsonian Institution, we were halted while the New Jersey brigade—some three thousand of them—trudged by, receiving the complimentary fire of our line as they passed. New Jersey is not so far from New York but that the dialects of the two can understand each other. Their respective slangs, though peculiar, are of the same genus. By the end of this war, I trust that these distinctions of locality will be quite annulled.
We began to feel like an army as these thousands thronged by us. This was evidently a movement in force. We rested an hour or more by the road. Mounted officers galloping along down the lines kept up the excitement.
At last we had the word to fall in again and march. It is part of the simple perfection of the machine, a regiment, that, though it drops to pieces for a rest, it comes together instantly for a start, and nobody is confused or delayed. We moved half a mile farther, and presently a broad pathway of reflected moonlight shone up at us from the Potomac.
No orders, at this, came from the Colonel, "Attention, battalion! Be sentimental!" Perhaps privates have no right to perceive the beautiful. But the sections in my neighborhood murmured admiration. The utter serenity of the night was most impressive. Cool and quiet and tender the moon shone upon our ranks. She does not change her visage, whether it be lovers or burglars or soldiers who use her as a lantern to their feet.
The Long Bridge thus far has been merely a shabby causeway with waterways and draws. Shabby,—let me here pause to say that in Virginia shabbiness is the grand universal law, and neatness the spasmodic exception, attained in rare spots, an aeon beyond their Old Dominion age.
The Long Bridge has thus far been a totally unhistoric and prosaic bridge. Roads and bridges are making themselves of importance and shining up into sudden renown in these times. The Long Bridge has done nothing hitherto except carry passengers on its back across the Potomac. Hucksters, planters, dry-goods drummers, Members of Congress, et ea genera omnia, have here gone and come on their several mercenary errands, and, as it now appears, some sour little imp—the very reverse of a "sweet little cherub"—took toll of every man as he passed,—a heavy toll, namely, every man's whole store of Patriotism and Loyalty. Every man—so it seems—who passed the Long Bridge was stripped of his last dollar of Amor Patriae, and came to Washington, or went home, with a waistcoat-pocket full of bogus in change. It was our business now to open the bridge and see it clear, and leave sentries along to keep it permanently free for Freedom.
There is a mile of this Long Bridge. We seemed to occupy the whole length of it, with our files opened to diffuse the weight of our column. We were not now the tired and sleepy squad which just a moon ago had trudged along the railroad to the Annapolis Junction, looking up a Capital and a Government, perhaps lost.
By the time we touched ground across the bridge, dawn was breaking,—a good omen for poor old sleepy Virginia. The moon, as bright and handsome as a new twenty-dollar piece, carried herself straight before us,—a splendid oriflamme.
Lucky is the private who marches with the van! It may be the post of more danger, but it is also the post of less dust. My throat, therefore, and my eyes and beard, wore the less Southern soil when we halted half a mile beyond the bridge, and let sunrise overtake us.
Nothing men can do—except picnics, with ladies in straw flats with feathers—is so picturesque as soldiering. As soon as the Seventh halt anywhere, or move anywhere, or camp anywhere, they resolve themselves into a grand tableau.
Their own ranks should supply their own Horace Vernet. Our groups were never more entertaining than at this halt by the roadside on the Alexandria road. Stacks of guns make a capital framework for drapery, and red blankets dot in the lights most artistically. The fellows lined the road with their gay array, asleep, on the rampage, on the lounge, and nibbling at their rations.
By-and-by, when my brain had taken in as much of the picturesque as it could stand, it suffered the brief congestion known as a nap. I was suddenly awaked by the rattle of a horse's hoofs. Before I had rubbed my eyes the rider was gone. His sharp tidings had stayed behind him. Ellsworth was dead,—so he said hurriedly, and rode on. Poor Ellsworth! a fellow of genius and initiative! He had still so much of the boy in him, that he rattled forward boyishly, and so died. Si monumentum requiris, look at his regiment. It was a brilliant stroke to levy it; and if it does worthily, its young Colonel will not have lived in vain.
As the morning hours passed, we learned that we were the rear-guard of the left wing of the army advancing into Virginia. The Seventh, as the best organized body, acted as reserve to this force. It didn't wish to be in the rear; but such is the penalty of being reliable for an emergency. Fellow-soldier, be a scalawag, be a bashi-bazouk, be a Billy-Wilsoneer, if you wish to see the fun in the van!
When the road grew too hot for us, on account of the fire of sunshine in our rear, we jumped over the fence into the Race-Course, a big field beside us, and there became squatter sovereigns all day. I shall be a bore, if I say again what a pretty figure we cut in this military picnic, with two long lines of blankets draped on bayonets for parasols.
The New Jersey brigade were meanwhile doing workie work on the ridge just beyond us. The road and railroad to Alexandria follow the general course of the river southward along the level. This ridge to be fortified is at the point where the highway bends from west to south. The works were intended to serve as an advanced tete du pont,—a bridge-head, with a very long neck connecting it with the bridge. That fine old Fabius, General Scott, had no idea of flinging an army out broadcast into Virginia, and, in the insupposable case that it turned tail, leaving it no defended passage to run away by.
This was my first view of a field-work in construction,—also, my first hand as a laborer at a field-work. I knew glacis and counterscarp on paper; also, on paper, superior slope, banquette, and the other dirty parts of a redoubt. Here they were, not on paper. A slight wooden scaffolding determined the shape of the simple work; and when I arrived, a thousand Jerseymen were working, not at all like Jerseymen,—with picks, spades, and shovels, cutting into Virginia, digging into Virginia, shovelling up Virginia, for Virginia's protection against pseudo-Virginians.
I swarmed in for a little while with our Paymaster, picked a little, spaded a little, shovelled a little, took a hand to my great satisfaction at earth-works, and for my efforts I venture to suggest that Jersey City owes me its freedom in a box, and Jersey State a basket of its finest Clicquot.
Is my gentle reader tired of the short marches and frequent halts of the Seventh? Remember, gentle reader, that you must be schooled by such alphabetical exercises to spell bigger words—skirmish, battle, defeat, rout, massacre—by-and-by.
Well,—to be Xenophontic,—from the Race-Course that evening we marched one stadium, one parasang, to a cedar-grove up the road. In the grove is a spring worthy to be called a fountain, and what I determined by infallible indications to be a lager-bier saloon. Saloon no more! War is no respecter of localities. Be it Arlington House, the seedy palace of a Virginia Don,—be it the humbler, but seedy, pavilion where the tired Teuton washes the dust of Washington away from his tonsils,—each must surrender to the bold soldier-boy. Exit Champagne and its goblet; exit lager and its mug; enter whiskey-and-water in a tin pot. Such are the horrors of civil war!
And now I must cut short my story, for graver matters press. As to the residence of the Seventh in the cedar-grove for two days and two nights,—how they endured the hardship of a bivouac on soft earth and the starvation of coffee sans milk,—how they digged manfully in the trenches by gangs all these two laborious days,—with what supreme artistic finish their work was achieved,—how they chopped off their corns with axes, as they cleared the brushwood from the glacis,—how they blistered their hands,—how they chafed that they were not lunging with battailous steel at the breasts of the minions of the oligarchs,—how Washington, seeing the smoke of burning rubbish, and hearing dropping shots of target-practice, or of novices with the musket shooting each other by accident,—how Washington, alarmed, imagined a battle, and went into panic accordingly,—all this, is it not written in the daily papers?
On the evening of the 26th, the Seventh travelled back to Camp Cameron in a smart shower. Its service was over. Its month was expired. The troops ordered to relieve it had arrived. It had given the other volunteers the benefit of a month's education at its drills and parades. It had enriched poor Washington to the tune of fifty thousand dollars. Ah, Washington! that we, under Providence and after General Butler, saved from the heel of Secession! Ah, Washington, why did you charge us so much for our milk and butter and strawberries? The Seventh, then, after a month of delightful duty, was to be mustered out of service, and take new measures, if it would, to have a longer and a larger share in the war.
I took advantage of the day of rest after our return to have a gallop about the outposts. Arlington Heights had been the spot whence the alarmists threatened us daily with big thunder and bursting bombs. I was curious to see the region that had had Washington under its thumb.
So Private W., tired of his foot-soldiering, got a quadruped under him, and felt like a cavalier again. The horse took me along the tow-path of the Cumberland Canal, as far as the redoubts where we had worked our task. Then I turned up the hill, took a look at the camp of the New York Twenty-Fifth at the left, and rode along for Arlington House.
Grand name! and the domain is really quite grand, but ill-kept. Fine oaks make beauty without asking favors. Fine oaks and a fair view make all the beauty of Arlington. It seems that this old establishment, like many another old Virginian, had claimed its respectability for its antiquity, and failed to keep up to the level of the time. The road winds along through the trees, climbing to fairer and fairer reaches of view over the plain of Washington. I had not fancied that there was any such lovely site near the capital. But we have not yet appreciated what Nature has done for us there. When civilization once makes up its mind to colonize Washington, all this amphitheatre of hills will blossom with structures of the sublimest gingerbread.
Arlington House is the antipodes of gingerbread, except that it is yellow, and disposed to crumble. It has a pompous propylon of enormous stuccoed columns. Any house smaller than Blenheim would tail on insignificantly after such a frontispiece. The interior has a certain careless, romantic, decayed-gentleman effect, wholly Virginian. It was enlivened by the uniforms of staff-officers just now, and as they rode through the trees of the approach and by the tents of the New York Eighth, encamped in the grove to the rear, the tableau was brilliantly warlike. Here, by the way, let me pause to ask, as a horseman, though a foot-soldier, why generals and other gorgeous fellows make such guys of their horses with trappings. If the horse is a screw, cover him thick with saddle-cloths, girths, cruppers, breast-bands, and as much brass and tinsel as your pay will enable you to buy; but if not a screw, let his fair proportions be seen as much as may be, and don't bother a lover of good horseflesh to eliminate so much uniform before he can see what is beneath.
From Arlington I rode to the other encampments,—the Sixty-Ninth, Fifth, and Twenty-Eighth, all of New York,—and heard their several stories of alarms and adventures. This completed the circuit of the new fortification of the Great Camp. Washington was now a fortress. The capital was out of danger, and therefore of no further interest to anybody. The time had come for myself and my regiment to leave it by different ways.
"PARTANT POUR LA SYRIE."
I should have been glad to stay and see my comrades through to their departure; but there was a Massachusetts man down at Fortress Monroe, Butler by name,—has any one heard of him?—and to this gentleman it chanced that I was to report myself. So I packed my knapsack, got my furlough, shook hands with my fellows, said good-bye to Camp Cameron, and was off, two days after our month's service was done.
FAREWELL TO THE SEVENTH.
Under Providence, Washington owes its safety, 1st, To General Butler, whose genius devised the circumvention of Baltimore and its rascal rout, and whose utter bravery executed the plan;—he is the Grand Yankee of this little period of the war. 2d, To the other Most Worshipful Grand Yankees of the Massachusetts regiment who followed their leader, as he knew they would, discovered a forgotten colony called Annapolis, and dashed in there, asking no questions. 3d, And while I gladly yield the first places to this General and his men, I put the Seventh in, as last, but not least, in saving the capital. Character always tells. The Seventh, by good, hard, faithful work at drill, had established its fame as the most thorough militia regiment in existence. Its military and moral character were excellent. The mere name of the regiment carried weight. It took the field as if the field were a ball-room. There were myriads eager to march; but they had not made ready beforehand. Yes, the Seventh had its important share in the rescue. Without our support, whether our leaders tendered it eagerly or hesitatingly, General Butler's position at Annapolis would have been critical, and his forced march to the capital a forlorn hope,—heroic, but desperate.
So, honor to whom honor is due.
Here I must cut short my story. So good-bye to the Seventh, and thanks for the fascinating month I have passed in their society. In this pause of the war our camp-life has been to me as brilliant as a permanent picnic.
Good-bye to Company I, and all the fine fellows, rough and smooth, cool old hands and recruits verdant but ardent! Good-bye to our Lieutenants, to whom I owe much kindness! Good-bye, the Orderly, so peremptory on parade, so indulgent off! Good-bye, everybody!
And so in haste I close.
BETWEEN SPRING AND SUMMER.
(A BIRTHDAY POEM, WITH ROSES.)
To her whose birth and being Touch summer out of spring, These roses, reaching forward From May to June, I bring.
To her whose fragrant friendship Sweetens the life I live, These flowers, Love's message hinting With perfumed breath, I give.
The violet and the lily Shall stand for these and those; But give her roses only Whose soul suggests the rose,—
Whose Life's idea ranges Through all of sweet and bright, A vernal flow of feeling, A summer day of light.
I bless the child whose coming Sheds grace around us, where Her voice falls soft as music, Her step drops light as air:
Fair grace, to good related In her, sweet sisters twin; As in this House of Roses The fruits and flowers are kin.
* * * * *
The beginnings of great periods have often been marked and made memorable by striking events. Out of the cloud that hangs around the vague inceptions of revolutions, a startling incident will sometimes flash like lightning, to show that the warring elements have begun their work. The scenes that attended the birth of American nationality formed a not inaccurate type of those that have opened the crusade for its perpetuation. The consolidation of public sentiment which followed the magnificent defeat at Bunker's Hill, in which the spirit of indignant resistance was tempered by the pathetic interest surrounding the fate of Warren, was but a foreshadowing of the instant rally to arms which followed the fall of the beleaguered fort in Charleston harbor, and of the intensity of tragic pathos which has been added to the stern purpose of avenging justice by the murder of Colonel Ellsworth.
Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth was born in the little village of Mechanicsville, on the left bank of the Hudson, on the 23d day of April, 1837. When he was very young, his father, through no fault of his own, lost irretrievably his entire fortune, in the tornado of financial ruin that in those years swept from the sea to the mountains. From this disaster he never recovered. Misfortune seems to have followed him through life, with the insatiable pertinacity of the Nemesis of a Greek tragedy. And now in his old age, when for a moment there seemed to shine upon his path the sunshine that promised better days, he finds that suddenly withdrawn, and stands desolate, "stabbed through the heart's affections, to the heart." His younger son died some years ago, of small-pox, in Chicago, and the murder at Alexandria leaves him with his sorrowing wife, lonely, amid the sympathy of the world.
The days of Elmer's childhood and early youth—were passed at Troy and in the city of New York, in pursuits various, but energetic and laborious. There is little of interest in the story of these years. He was a proud, affectionate, sensitive, and generous boy, hampered by circumstance, but conscious of great capabilities,—not morbidly addicted to day-dreaming, but always working heartily for something beyond. He was still very young—when he went to Chicago, and associated himself in business with Mr. Devereux of Massachusetts.[A] They managed for a little while, with much success, an agency for securing patents to inventors. Through the treachery of one in whom they had reposed great confidence they suffered severe losses which obliged them to close their business, and Devereux went back to the East. The next year of Ellsworth's life was a miracle of endurance and uncomplaining fortitude. He read law with great assiduity, and supported himself by copying, in the hours that should have been devoted to recreation. He had no pastimes and very few friends. Not a soul beside himself and the baker who gave him his daily loaf knew how he was living. During all that time, he never slept in a bed, never ate with friends at a social board. So acute was his sense of honor, so delicate his ideas of propriety, that, although himself the most generous of men, he never would accept from acquaintances the slightest favors or courtesies which he was unable to return. He told me once of a severe struggle between inclination and a sense of honor. At a period of extreme hunger, he met a friend in the street who was just starting from the city. He accompanied his friend into a restaurant, wishing to converse with him, but declined taking any refreshment. He represented the savory fragrance of his friend's dinner as almost maddening to his famished senses, while he sat there pleasantly chatting, and deprecating his friend's entreaties to join him in his repast, on the plea that he had just dined.
[Footnote A: Arthur F. Devereux, Esq., now in command of the Salem Zouave Corps, Eighth Massachusetts Regiment, distinguished for the gallant part borne by it in opening the route to Washington through Annapolis, and in the rescue of the frigate Constitution, "Old Ironsides," from the hands of the rebels.]
What would have killed an ordinary man did not injure Ellsworth. His iron frame seemed incapable of dissolution or waste. Circumstance had no power to conquer his spirit. His hearty good-humor never gave way. His sense of honor, which was sometimes even fantastic in its delicacy, freed him from the very temptation to wrong. He knew there was a better time coming for him. Conscious of great mental and bodily strength, with that bright outlook that industry and honor always give a man, he was perfectly secure of ultimate success. His plans mingled in a singular manner the bright enthusiasm of the youthful dreamer and the eminent practicality of the man of affairs. At one time, his mind was fixed on Mexico,—not with the licentious dreams that excited the ragged Condottieri who followed the fated footsteps of the "gray-eyed man of Destiny," in the wild hope of plunder and power,—nor with the vague reverie in which fanatical theorists construct impossible Utopias on the absurd framework of Icarias or Phalansteries. His clear, bold, and thoroughly executive mind planned a magnificent scheme of commercial enterprise, which, having its centre of operations at Guaymas, should ramify through the golden wastes that stretch in silence and solitude along the tortuous banks of the Rio San Jose. This was to be the beginning and the ostensible end of the enterprise. Then he dreamed of the influence of American arts and American energy penetrating into the twilight of that decaying nationality, and saw the natural course of events leading on, first, Emigration, then Protection, and at last Annexation. Yet there was no thought of conquest or rapine. The idea was essentially American and Northern. He never wholly lost that dream. One day last winter, when some one was discussing the propriety of an amputation of the States that seemed thoroughly diseased, Ellsworth swept his hand energetically over the map of Mexico that hung upon the wall, and exclaimed,—"There is an unanswerable argument against the recognition of the Southern Confederacy."
But the central idea of Ellsworth's short life was the thorough reorganization of the militia of the United States. He had studied with great success the theory of national defence, and, from his observation of the condition of the militia of the several States, he was convinced that there was much of well-directed effort yet lacking to its entire efficiency. In fact, as he expressed it, a well-disciplined body of five thousand troops could land anywhere on our coast and ravage two or three States before an adequate force could get into the field to oppose them. To reform this defective organization, he resolved to devote whatever of talent or energy was his. This was very large undertaking for a boy, whose majority and moustache were still of the substance of things hoped for. But nothing that he could propose to himself ever seemed absurd. He attacked his work with his usual promptness and decision.
The conception of a great idea is no proof of a great mind; a man's calibre is shown by the way in which he attempts to realize his idea. A great design planted in a little mind frequently bursts it, and nothing is more pitiable than the spectacle of a man staggering into insanity under a thought too large for him. Ellsworth chose to begin his work simply and practically. He did not write a memorial to the President, to be sent to the Secretary of War, to be referred to the Chief Clerk, to be handed over to File-Clerk No. 99, to be glanced at and quietly thrust into a pigeon-hole labelled "Crazy and trashy." He did not haunt the anteroom of Congressman Somebody, who would promise to bring his plan before the House, and then, bowing him out, give general orders to his footman, "Not at home, hereafter, to that man." He did not float, as some theorists do, ghastly and seedy, around the Adyta of popular editors, begging for space and countenance. He wisely determined to keep his theories to himself until he could illustrate them by living examples. He first put himself in thorough training. He practised the manual of arms in his own room, until his dexterous precision was something akin to the sleight of a juggler. He investigated the theory of every movement in an anatomical view, and made several most valuable improvements on Hardee. He rearranged the manual so that every movement formed the logical groundwork of the succeeding one. He studied the science of fence, so that he could hold a rapier with De Villiers, the most dashing of the Algerine swordsmen. He always had a hand as true as steel, and an eye like a gerfalcon. He used to amuse himself by shooting ventilation-holes through his window-panes. Standing ten paces from the window, he could fire the seven shots from his revolver and not shiver the glass beyond the circumference of a half-dollar.
I have seen a photograph of his arm taken at this time. The knotted coil of thews and sinews looks like the magnificent exaggerations of antique sculpture.
His person was strikingly prepossessing. His form, though slight,—exactly the Napoleonic size,—was very compact and commanding; the head statuesquely poised, and crowned with a luxuriance of curling black hair; a hazel eye, bright, though serene, the eye of a gentleman as well as a soldier; a nose such as you see on Roman medals; a light moustache just shading the lips, that were continually curving into the sunniest smiles. His voice, deep and musical, instantly attracted attention; and his address, though not without soldierly brusqueness, was sincere and courteous. There was one thing his backwoods detractors could never forgive: he always dressed well; and sometimes wore the military insignia presented to him by different organizations. One of these, a gold circle, inscribed with the legend, NON NOBIS, SED PRO PATRIA, was driven into his heart by the slug of the Virginian assassin.
He had great tact and executive talent, was a good mathematician, possessed a fine artistic eye, sketched well and rapidly, and in short bore a deft and skilful hand in all gentlemanly exercise.
No one ever possessed greater power of enforcing the respect and fastening the affections of men. Strangers soon recognized and acknowledged this power; while to his friends he always seemed like a Paladin or Cavalier of the dead days of romance and beauty. He was so generous and loyal, so stainless and brave, that Bayard himself would have been proud of him. The grand bead-roll of the virtues of the Flower of Kings contains the principles that guided his life; he used to read with exquisite appreciation these lines:—
"To reverence the King as if he were Their conscience, and their conscience as their King,— To break the heathen and uphold the Christ,— To ride abroad redressing human wrongs,— To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it,— To lead sweet lives in purest chastity,— To love one maiden only, cleave to her, And worship her by years of noble deeds, Until they won her";
and the rest,—
"high thoughts, and amiable words, And courtliness, and the desire of fame, And love of truth, and all that makes a man."
Such, in person and character, was Ellsworth, when he organized, on the 4th day of May, 1859, the United States Zouave Cadets of Chicago.
This company was the machine upon which he was to experiment. Disregarding all extant works upon tactics, he drew up a simpler system for the use of his men. Throwing aside the old ideas of soldierly bearing, he taught them to use vigor, promptness, and ease. Discarding the stiff buckram strut of martial tradition, he educated them to move with the loafing insouciance of the Indian, or the graceful ease of the panther. He tore off their choking collars and binding coats, and invented a uniform which, though too flashy and conspicuous for actual service, was very bright and dashing for holiday occasions, and left the wearer perfectly free to fight, strike, kick, jump, or run.
He drilled these young men for about a year at short intervals. His discipline was very severe and rigid. Added to the punctilio of the martinet was the rigor of the moralist. The slightest exhibition of intemperance or licentiousness was punished by instant degradation and expulsion. He struck from the rolls at one time twelve of his best men for breaking the rule of total abstinence. His moral power over them was perfect and absolute. I believe anyone of them would have died for him.
In two or three principal towns of Illinois and Wisconsin he drilled other companies: in Springfield, where he made the friends who best appreciated what was best in him; and in Rockford, where he formed an attachment which imparted a coloring of tender romance to all the days of his busy life that remained. This tragedy would not have been perfect without the plaintive minor strain of Love in Death.
His company took the Premium Colors at the United States Agricultural Pair, and Ellsworth thought it was time to show to the people some fruit of his drill. They issued their soldierly defi and started on their Marche de Triomphe. It is useless to recall to those who read newspapers the clustering glories of that bloodless campaign. Hardly had they left the suburbs of Chicago when the murmur of applause began. New York, secure in the championship of half a century, listened with quiet metropolitan scorn to the noise of the shouting provinces; but when the crimson phantasms marched out of the Park, on the evening of the 15th of July, New York, with metropolitan magnanimity, confessed herself utterly vanquished by the good thing that had come out of Nazareth. There was no resisting the Zouaves. As the erring Knight of the Round Table said,—
"men went down before his spear at a touch, But knowing he was Lancelot; his great name conquered."
There were one or two Southern companies that issued insulting defiances, but, after a little expenditure of epistolary valor, prudently, though ingloriously, stayed afar,—as is usual in New Gascony. With these exceptions, the heart of the nation went warmly out to these young men. Their endurance, their discipline, their alertness, their elan, surprised the sleepy drill-masters out of their propriety, and waked up the people to intense and cordial admiration. Chicago welcomed them home proudly, covered with tan and dust and glory.
Ellsworth found himself for his brief hour the most talked-of man in the country. His pictures sold like wildfire in every city of the land. School-girls dreamed over the graceful wave of his curls, and shop-boys tried to reproduce the Grand Seigneur air of his attitude. Zouave corps, brilliant in crimson and gold, sprang up, phosphorescently, in his wake, making bright the track of his journey. The leading journals spoke editorially of him, and the comic papers caricatured his drill.
So one thing was accomplished. He had gained a name that would entitle him hereafter to respectful attention, and had demonstrated the efficiency of his system of drill. The public did not, of course, comprehend the resistless moral power which he exercised,—imperiously moulding every mind as he willed,—inspiring every soul with his own unresting energy. But the public recognized success, and that for the present was enough.
He quietly formed a regiment in the upper counties of Illinois, and made his best men the officers of it. He tendered its services to Governor Yates immediately on his inauguration, "for any service consistent with honor." This was the first positive tender made of an organized force in defence of the Constitution. He seemed to recognize more clearly than others the certainty of the coming struggle. It was the soldierly instinct that heard "the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting."
Still intent upon the great plan of militia reform, he came to Springfield. He hoped, in case of the success of Mr. Lincoln in the canvass then pending, to be able to establish in the War Department a Bureau of Militia, which would prove a most valuable auxiliary to his work. His ideas were never vague or indefinite. Means always presented themselves to him, when he contemplated ends. The following were the duties of the proposed bureau, which may serve as a guide to some future reformer: I copy from his own exquisitely neat and clear memorandum, which lies before me:—
"First. The gradual concentration of all business pertaining to the militia now conducted by the several bureaus of this Department.
"Second. The collection and systematizing of accurate information of the number, arm, and condition of the militia of all classes of the several States, and the compilation of yearly reports of the same for the information of this Department.
"Third. The compilation of a report of the actual condition of the militia and the working of the present systems of the General Government and the various States.
"Fourth. The publication and distribution of such information as is important to the militia, and the conduct of all correspondence relating to militia affairs.
"Fifth. The compilation of a system of instruction for light troops for distribution to the several States, including everything pertaining to the instruction of the militia in the school of the soldier,—company and battalion, skirmishing, bayonet, and gymnastic drill, adapted for self-instruction.
"Sixth. The arrangement of a system of organization, with a view to the establishment of a uniform system of drill, discipline, equipment, and dress, throughout the United States."
His plan for this purpose was very complete and symmetrical. Though enthusiastic, he was never dreamy. His idea always went forth fully armed and equipped.
Nominally, he was a student of law in the office of Lincoln and Herndon, but in effect he passed his time in completing his plans of militia reform. He made in October many stirring and earnest speeches for the Republican candidates. He was very popular among the country people. His voice was magnificent in melody and volume, his command of language wonderful in view of the deficiencies of his early education, his humor inexhaustible and hearty, and his manner deliberate and impressive, reminding his audiences in Central Illinois of the earliest and best days of Senator Douglas.
When the Legislature met, he prepared an elaborate military bill, the adoption of which would have placed the State in an enviable attitude of defence. The stupid jealousy of colonels and majors who had won bloodless glory, on both sides, in the Mormon War, and the malignant prejudice instigated by the covert treason that lurked in Southern Illinois, succeeded in staving off the passage of the bill, until it was lost by the expiration of the term. Many of these men are now in the ranks, shouting the name of Ellsworth as a battle-cry.
He came to Washington in the escort of the President elect. Hitherto he had been utterly independent of external aid. The time was come when he must wait for the cooperation of others, for the accomplishment of his life's great purpose. He wished a position in the War Department, which would give him an opportunity for the establishment of the Militia Bureau. He was a strange anomaly at the capital. He did not care for money or luxury. Though sensitive in regard to his reputation, for the honor of his work, his motto always was that of the sage Merlin,—"I follow use, not fame." An office-seeker of this kind was an eccentric and suspicious personage. The hungry thousands that crowded and pushed at Willard's thought him one of them, only deeper and slier. The simplicity and directness of his character, his quick sympathy and thoughtless generosity, and his delicate sense of honor unfitted him for such a scramble as that which degrades the quadrennial rotations of our Departments. He withdrew from the contest for the position he desired, and the President, who loved him like a younger brother, made him a lieutenant in the army, intending to detail him for special service.
The jealousy of the staff-officers of the regular army, who always discover in any effective scheme of militia reform the overthrow of their power, and who saw in the young Zouave the promise of brilliant and successful innovation, was productive of very serious annoyance and impediment to Ellsworth. In the midst of this, he fell sick at Willard's. While he lay there, the news from the South began to show that the rebels were determined upon war, and the rumors on the street said that a wholesome North-westerly breeze was blowing from the Executive Mansion. These indications were more salutary to Ellsworth than any medicine. We were talking one night of coming probabilities, and I spoke of the doubt so widely existing as to the loyalty of the people. He rejoined, earnestly,—"I can only speak for myself. You know I have a great work to do, to which my life is pledged; I am the only earthly stay of my parents; there is a young woman whose happiness I regard as dearer than my own: yet I could ask no better death than to fall next week before Sumter. I am not better than other men. You will find that patriotism is not dead, even if it sleeps."
Sumter fell, and the sleeping awoke. The spirit of Ellsworth, cramped by a few weeks' intercourse with politicians, sprang up full-statured in the Northern gale. He cut at once the meshes of red tape that had hampered and held him, threw up his commission, and started for New York without orders, without assistance, without authority, but with the consciousness that the President would sustain him. The rest the world knows. I will be brief in recalling it.
In an incredibly short space of time he enlisted and organized a regiment, eleven hundred strong, of the best fighting material that ever went to war. He divided it, according to an idea of his own, into groups of four comrades each, for the campaign. He exercised a personal supervision over the most important and the most trivial minutiae of the regimental business. The quick sympathy of the public still followed him. He became the idol of the Bowery and the pet of the Avenue. Yet not one instant did he waste in recreation or lionizing. Indulgent to all others, he was merciless to himself. He worked day and night, like an incarnation of Energy. When he arrived with his men in Washington, he was thin, hoarse, flushed, but entirely contented and happy, because busy and useful.
Of the bright enthusiasm and the quenchless industry of the next few weeks what need to speak? Every day, by his unceasing toil and care, by his vigor, alertness, activity, by his generosity, and by his relentless rigor when duty commanded, he grew into the hearts of his robust and manly followers, until every man in the regiment feared him as a Colonel should be feared, and loved him as a brother should be loved.
On the night of the twenty-third of May, he called his men together, and made a brief, stirring speech to them, announcing their orders to advance on Alexandria. "Now, boys, go to bed, and wake up at two o'clock for a sail and a skirmish." When the camp was silent, he began to work. He wrote many hours, arranging the business of the regiment. He finished his labor as the midnight stars were crossing the zenith. As he sat in his tent by the shore, it seems as if the mystical gales from the near eternity must have breathed for a moment over his soul, freighted with the odor of amaranths and asphodels. For he wrote two strange letters: one to her who mourns him faithful in death; one to his parents. There is nothing braver or more pathetic. With the prophetic instinct of love, he assumed the office of consoler for the stroke that impended.
In the dewy light of the early dawn he occupied the first rebel town. With his own hand he tore down the first rebel flag. He added to the glories of that morning the seal of his blood.
The poor wretch who stumbled upon an immortality of infamy by murdering him died at the same instant. The two stand in the light of that event—clearly revealed—types of the two systems in conflict to-day: the one, brave, refined, courtly, generous, tender, and true; the other, not lacking in brute courage, reckless, besotted, ignorant, and cruel.
Let the two systems, Freedom and Slavery, stand thus typified forever, in the red light of that dawn, as on a Mount of Transfiguration. I believe that may solve the dark mystery why Ellsworth died.
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Chambers's Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge for the People; on the Basis of the Latest Edition of the German Conversations-Lexicon. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co. Vols. I. and II.
An Encyclopaedia is both a luxury and a necessity. Few readers now collect a library, however scant, without including one of some sort. Many of them, even in the absence of all other books, of themselves constitute a complete library. The Britannica, Edinburgh, Metropolitana, English, Penny, London, Oxford, and that of Kees, are most elaborate works, extending respectively to about a score of heavy volumes, averaging eight or nine hundred pages each. Such publications must necessarily be expensive. They are, moreover, to be regarded rather as a collection of exhaustive treatises,—great prominence being given to the physical and mathematical sciences, and to general history. For instance, in the Britannica, the publication of the eighth edition of which is just completed, the length of some of the articles is as follows: Astronomy, 155 quarto pages; Chemistry, 88; Electricity, 104; Hydrodynamics, 119; Optics, 176; Mammalia, 120; Ichthyology, 151; Entomology, 265; Britain, 300; England, 136; France, 284. Each one of these papers is equal to a large octavo volume; some of them would occupy several volumes; and the entire work, containing a collection of such articles, can be regarded in no other light than as an attempted exhibition of the sum of human knowledge, commending itself, of course, to professional and highly educated minds, but far transcending, in extent and costliness, the requirements and the means of the great class of general readers. For the wants of this latter class a different sort of work is desirable, which shall be cheaper in price, less exhaustive in its method, and more diversified in its range. In these particulars the Germans seem to have hit upon the happy medium in their famous "Conversations-Lexicon," which has passed through a great many editions, and been translated into the principal languages of Europe. This is taken as the type, and in some respects as the basis, of the present publication,—there being engrafted upon it new contributions from leading authors of this and other countries, together with such extensive improvements, revisals, rewritings, additions, and modifications throughout, as to constitute a substantially new work, exhibiting in combination the results of the best labors of the German, English, and American mind. In the departments of statistics, geography, history, and science, the articles are all within readable limits, accurate, and up to the times; while in the biographical and literary articles there is a freshness and originality of criticism, and a vivacity of style, seldom met with in this class of publications.
The peculiar merit of this Encyclopaedia is its convenient adaptedness to popular use. The subjects treated of are broken up and distributed alphabetically under their proper heads, so as to facilitate reference. We are thus furnished with a dictionary of facts and events, where we may readily find whatever properly appertains to any particular point, without being compelled to explore an entire treatise. This, by the way, makes it a sort of hand-book even for those who possess the more voluminous works. As a necessary result of such a method of treatment, it will be found, upon an actual count and comparison, to contain more separate titles than any other Encyclopaedia ever published. Although the articles are generally brief, it must not be supposed that they are meagre, for they will be found to present a clear and comprehensive view of the existing information upon the particular topic, with a mastery which arises only from familiarity. Montesquieu said that Tacitus abridged all because he knew all; and no reader can peruse a number of this Encyclopaedia without being convinced that the success in preparing the perspicuous abridgments it contains is due to thorough knowledge. Its excellence is not confined, however, to the letter-press; for we are furnished with a series of colored maps, embodying the results of the most recent explorations, and also with a profusion of admirable woodcuts, illustrating the subject wherever pictorial exposition may aid the verbal. It will be recollected that no other Encyclopaedia published in this country has the advantage of illustrations.
The character of Messrs. William and Robert Chambers of itself gives ample assurance that the work is prepared and executed in a superior manner; but when we superadd to this the fact that they have spared no labor or expense, but have devoted to it all the resources of their experience, enterprise, and skill, in order to make the work, in all its departments, their crowning contribution to the cause of knowledge, we are the more ready to believe that it actually is all that it claims to be. The American edition by J.B. Lippincott & Co., of Philadelphia, is published in numbers simultaneously with the Edinburgh and London edition, and in an unexceptionable style of typography. Its low price brings it within the reach of almost every reader. Indeed, when we consider the size of the volumes, the number of illustrations and maps, the mechanical execution, and the compensation to the writers, we are at a loss to conceive how it can be profitably furnished at so cheap a rate.
The Recreations of a Country Parson. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 12mo.
The essays of which this volume is made up were originally contributed to "Fraser's Magazine." The "Recreations" they record are therefore those of an English, and not an American "Parson"; but there is nothing in them which a parson of any church or denomination would feel inclined to repudiate, on the score either of their fineness of mental perception or healthiness of moral sense. The author tells us, that, in writing these essays, he has not been rapt away into heroic times and distant scenes, but has written of daily work and worry amid daily work and worry: and herein lies the charm of his discourses. He has one of those sensible, elastic, cheerful natures whose ideal qualities are not perverted by fretfulness and discontent. That most wicked of Byronisms, which consists in depreciating the duties of common life in order to exalt the claims of a kind of spiritualized sensuality and poetic self-importance, he instinctively avoids. The thirteen shrewd, suggestive, and practical essays which compose the present volume are transcripts of his own experience and meditations, and teem with facts and observations such as might be expected from the clear insight of a man who has mingled with his fellow-men, and who is curiously critical of the non-romantic phenomena of their daily life. The essays on the Art of Putting Things, on Petty Malignity and Petty Trickery, on Tidiness, on Nervous Fears, on Hurry and Leisure, on Work and Play, on Dulness, and on Growing Old, are full of fresh and delicate perceptions of the ordinary facts of human experience. His best and brightest remarks surprise us with the unexpectedness of homely common sense, as flashed on a world of organized illusions. The entire absence of rhetoric in the author's mode of "putting things" adds to its effectiveness. He attempts to reveal the common,—one of the rarest of revelations; and shows what heroic qualities are needed to overcome the superficial circumstances of our life, and transmute them into occasions for that humble, obscure heroism which God alone apprehends and rewards. The freedom of the writer from all the stereotyped phraseology of sanctity in doing this work, and his innocent sympathy with everything cheerful, pleasurable, and lovable in Nature and human nature, only add to the power of his teachings. These "Recreations" of the "Parson" will, to the generality of readers, produce more beneficent results than could have been produced, had he given us his most carefully prepared sermons,—for they connect religion with life. Nobody can read the volume without feeling the moral and religious purpose which underlies its graceful and genial exhibition of human character and manners. The common objection to clergymen is, that they are ignorant of the world. No sagacious reader of the present book can doubt that this parson, at least, is an exception to the general rule; for he palpably knows more of the world than most men who have made it a special study.
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