There are cheerier phases. Side by side lay a New-Yorker, a Pennsylvanian, and a Scotch boy, all terribly wounded. By the by, it is a curious fact that there are few sabre-wounds, and almost literally none from the bayonet; the work of destruction being, in almost all cases, that of the rending Minie ball. The fathers of the New-Yorker and Pennsylvanian had just visited them, and they were chatting cheerily of their homes. The Scotch boy, who had lost a leg, looked up, brightly smiling also.
"My mother will be here on Wednesday, from Scotland. When she knew that I had enlisted, she sent me word that I had done well to take up arms for a country that had been so good to me; and when she heard that I was wounded, she wrote that she should take the next steamer for the United States."
And, as might have been expected from such a woman, on Wednesday she was by his bedside, redeeming her word to the very day.
Sometimes the men grumble a little. One poor fellow, with a bullet through his lungs, took high and strong ground against the meat:—"Oh! God love ye! how could a body eat it, swimming in fat? but the eggs, they was beautiful; and the toast is good; ye'll send me some of that for me supper?" But as a rule they are cheery and contented, grow strongly attached to their nurses and the visitors, and, when back in camp, write letters of fond remembrance to their hospital-homes.
No one has ever suspected ledgers of a latent angelic principle,—and yet, if unpaid benevolence, consolation poured on wounded hearts, hope given to despair, and help to poverty and misery, have in them anything heavenly, then have our soldiers a guardian angel in the Hospital Directory. There has been a battle, and three or four days of maddening suspense, and then the cold, hopeless newspaper-list; and your son, mother, who played about your knee only a little time ago, and went out in his youthful pride to battle, is there, wounded,—or your lover, girl, who has taught you the deeper meaning of a woman's life,—or your husband, sad woman, whose children stand at your knee scared by your tears.
"The regiment stood like a rock against the enemy's furious onset, and its blood-stained colors are forever glorious"; but it went out nine hundred strong, and it comes back with two hundred, and what do you care now for laurel-wreaths? He is not with them. There are railroads,—you can near the battle-field, but you cannot reach it; you can inquire, but the officers must care for the living,—"let the dead bury their dead"; and while you are frantically asking and searching, he is dying, suffering, calling for you; and then you find that the Hospital Directory has trace of him, and the kindly, patient members of the Sanitary Commission are ready with time, and money, if needed, to put you on it; and if ever you have had that horror of uncertainty strong upon you, you will not think that I have strained the language, when I call this most pitiful and Christian charity a guardian angel. Hear the inquiries:—"By the love you bear your own mother, tell me where my boy is! only give me some tidings!" "I pray you, tell me of these two nephews for whom I am seeking: I have had fourteen nephews in the service, and these two are the only ones left." Words like these put soul and meaning into the following statistics, given by Mr. Brown, Superintendent of the Hospital Directory at Washington.
"The Washington Bureau of the Hospital Directory of the United States Sanitary Commission was opened to the public on the twenty-seventh of November, 1862. In the month of December following I was ordered to Louisville, Ky., to organize a Directory Bureau for the Western Department of the Sanitary Commission, and in January ended my labor in that department. Returning to Washington, and thence proceeding to Philadelphia and New York upon the same duty performed at the West, I completed the entire organization of the four bureaus by the fifth of March, 1863. Since the first of June, at these several bureaus, the returns from every United States General Hospital of the army, 233 in number, have been regularly received.
"The total number of names on record is 513,437. The total number of inquiries for information has been 12,884, and the number of successful answers rendered 9,203, being seventy-two per cent. on the number received. The remaining twenty-eight per cent., of whom no information could be obtained, are of those who perished in the Peninsula campaign, before Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, etc."
In the Sanitary Commission, mentioned here, our soldiers have yet another friend, for whom even our copious Anglo-Saxon can find no word of description at once strong, wise, tender, and far-reaching; but perhaps a simple story, taken from the Sanitary Commission Bulletin, will speak more clearly, and better to the heart, than pages of dry records.
"Away up in the fourth story of Hospital No. 3, and in a far corner of the ward, was seen, one day, an old lady sitting by the side of a mere lad, who was reduced to the verge of death by chronic diarrhoea. She was a plain, honest-hearted farmer's wife, her face all aglow with motherly love, and who, to judge from appearances, had likely never before travelled beyond the limits of her neighborhood, but now had come many a long mile to do what might be done for her boy. In the course of a conversation she informed her questioner, that, 'if she could only get something that tasted like home,—some good tea, for instance, which she could make herself, and which would be better than that of the hospital,—she thought it might save her son's life.' Of course it was sent to her, and on a subsequent visit she expressed her thanks in a simple, hearty way, quite in keeping with her appearance. Still she seemed sad; something was on her mind that evidently troubled her, and, like Banquo's ghost, 'would not down.' At length it came out in a confiding, innocent way,—more, evidently, because it was uppermost in her thoughts than for the purpose of receiving sympathy,—that her means were about exhausted. 'I didn't think that it would take so much money; it is so much farther away from home than I had thought, and board here is so very high, that I have hardly enough left to take me back; and by another week I will have to leave him. I have been around to the stores to buy some little things that he would eat,—for he can't eat this strong food,—but the prices are so high that I can't buy them, and I am afraid, that, if I go away, and if he doesn't get something different to eat, that maybe,' and the tears trickled down her cheeks, 'he won't—be so well.'
"Her listener thought that difficulty might be overcome, and, if she would put on her bonnet, they would go to a store where articles were cheap. Accordingly they arrived in front of the large three-story building which Government has assigned to the Commission, and the old lady was soon running her eyes over the long rows of boxes, bales, and barrels that stretched for a hundred feet down the room, but was most fascinated by the bottles and cans on the shelves. He ordered a supply of sugar, tea, soft crackers, and canned fruit, then chicken and oysters, then jelly and wine, brandy, milk, and under-clothing, till the basket was full. As the earlier articles nestled under its lids, her face was glowing with satisfaction; but as the later lots arrived, she would draw him aside to whisper that 'it was too much,'—'really she hadn't enough money'; and when the more expensive items came from the shelves, the shadow of earnestness which gloomed her countenance grew into one of perplexity, her soul vibrating between motherly yearning for the lad on his bed and the scant purse in her pocket, till, slowly, and with great reluctance, she began to return the costliest.
"'Hadn't you better ask the price?' said her guide.
"'How much is it?'
"'Nothing,' replied the store-keeper.
"'Sir!' queried she, in the utmost amazement, 'nothing for all this?'
"'My good woman,' asked the guide, 'have you a Soldiers' Aid Society in your neighborhood?'
"Yes, they had; she belonged to it herself.
"'Well, what do you suppose becomes of the garments you make, and the fruit have you put up?'
"She hadn't thought,—she supposed they went to the army,—but was evidently bothered to know what connection there could be between their Aid Society and that basket.
"'These garments that you see came from your society, or other societies just like yours; so did these boxes and barrels; that milk came from New York; those fruits from Boston; that wine was likely purchased with gold from California; and it is all for sick soldiers, your son as much as for any one else. This is the United States Sanitary Commission storehouse; you must come here whenever you wish, and call for everything you want; and you must stay with your son until he is able to go home: never mind the money's giving out; you shall have more, which, when you get back, you can refund for the use of other mothers and sons; when you are ready to go, I will put him in a berth where he can lie down, and you shall save his life yet.'
"She did,—God bless her innocent, motherly heart!—when nothing but motherly care could have achieved it; and when last seen, on a dismal, drizzly morning, was, with her face beaming out the radiance of hope, making a cup of tea on the stove of a caboose-car for the convalescent, who was snugly tucked away in the caboose-berth, waiting the final whistle of the locomotive that would speed them both homeward."
But for many of our soldiers there is yet another phase in store,—that sad time when the clangor and fierce joy and wild, exulting hurrah of the battle are over forever; and so, too, is over tender hospital-nursing, and they are sent out by hundreds, cured of their wounds, but maimed, the sources of life half drained, vigor gone, hope all spent, to limp through the blind alleys and by-ways of life, dropped out of the remembrance of a country that has used and forgotten them. They have given for her, not life, but all that makes life pleasant, hopeful, or even possible. It seems to me, that, in common decency, if she has no laurels to spare, she should at least give them in return—a daily dinner. Already, however, has the idea been set forth, after a better fashion than I can hope to do,—in wood and stone, and by the aid of a charter.
In Philadelphia stands the first chartered "Home" for disabled soldiers, a cheery old house, dating back to the occupation of the city by the British army in 1777-8, founded and supported by private citizens, open to all, of whatever State, and fully looking its title, a "Home"; and as the want is more widely felt, and presses closer upon us, I cannot but think that everywhere we shall find such "Homes," and as we grow graver, sadder, and wiser, under the hard teaching of our war, and more awake to the thought that we have done with our splendid unclouded youth, and must now take upon us the sterner responsibilities of our manhood, that a new spirit will spring up among us,—the spirit of that woman who, with a bedridden mother, an ailing sister, and a shop to tend, as their only means of support, yet finds time to visit our sick soldiers, and carry to them the little that she can spare, and that which she has begged of her wealthier neighbors,—the spirit of that poor seamstress who snatches an hour daily from her exhausting toil to sew for the soldiers,—the spirit of that mechanic, who, having nothing to give, makes boxes in his evening leisure, and sells them for the soldiers,—the spirit of the brooks, that never hesitate between up-hill and down, because "all the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is never full,"—the spirit of all who do with love and zeal whatever their hands find to do, and sigh, not because it is so little, but because it is not better.
God grant that this spirit may obtain among us,—that our soldiers, and their helpless families, may be to us a national trust, for which we are bound individually, even the very humblest and meanest of us, to care. The field is vast, and white for the harvest. Now, for the love of Christ, in the name of honor, for very shame's sake, where we counted our laborers by tens, let us number them by fifties,—where there were hundreds, let there be thousands.
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY.
BY ONE WHO KNEW HIM.
The great master of English prose has left us suddenly, but to himself not unexpectedly. In the maturity of his powers, with his enduring position in literature fairly won and recognized, with the provision which spurred him to constant work secured to those he loved, his death saddens us rather through the sense of our own loss than from the tragic regret which is associated with an unaccomplished destiny. More fortunate than Fielding, he was allowed to take the measure of his permanent fame. The niche wherein he shall henceforth stand was chiselled while he lived. One by one the doubters confessed their reluctant faith, unfriendly critics dropped their blunted steel, and no man dared to deny him the place which was his, and his only, by right of genius.
In one sense, however, he was misunderstood by the world, and he has died before that profounder recognition which he craved had time to mature. All the breadth and certainty of his fame failed to compensate him for the lack of this: the man's heart coveted that justice which was accorded only to the author's brain. Other pens may sum up the literary record he has left behind: I claim the right of a friend who knew and loved him to speak of him as a man. The testimony, which, while living, he was too proud to have desired, may now be laid reverently upon his grave.
There is a delicacy to be observed in describing one's intercourse with a departed great man, since death does not wholly remove that privacy which it is our duty to respect in life. Yet the veil which we charitably drop upon weakness or dishonor may surely be lifted to disclose the opposite qualities. I shall repeat no word of Thackeray's which he would have wished unsaid or suppressed: I shall say no more than he would himself have said of a contemporary to whom the world had not done full justice. During a friendship of nearly seven years, he permitted me to see that one true side of an author's nature which is never so far revealed to the public that the malignant may avail themselves of his candor to assail or the fools to annoy him. He is now beyond the reach of malice, obtrusive sentiment, or vain curiosity; and the "late remorse of love," which a better knowledge of the man may here and there provoke, can atone for past wrong only by that considerate, tender judgment of the living of which he was an example.
I made Thackeray's acquaintance in New York towards the close of the year 1855. With the first grasp of his broad hand, and the first look of his large, serious gray eyes, I received an impression of the essential manliness of his nature,—of his honesty, his proud, almost defiant candor, his ever-present, yet shrinking tenderness, and that sadness of the moral sentiment which the world persisted in regarding as cynicism. This impression deepened with my further acquaintance, and was never modified. Although he belonged to the sensitive, irritable genus, his only manifestations of impatience which I remember were when that which he had written with a sigh was interpreted as a sneer. When so misunderstood, he scorned to set himself right. "I have no brain above the eyes," he was accustomed to say; "I describe what I see." He was quick and unerring in detecting the weaknesses of his friends, and spoke of them with a tone of disappointment sometimes bordering on exasperation; but he was equally severe upon his own shortcomings. He allowed no friend to think him better than his own deliberate estimate made him. I have never known a man whose nature was so immovably based on truth.
In a conversation upon the United States, shortly after we first met, he said,—
"There is one thing in this country which astonishes me. You have a capacity for culture which contradicts all my experience. There are ——" (mentioning two or three names well known in New York) "who I know have arisen from nothing, yet they are fit for any society in the world. They would be just as self-possessed and entertaining in the presence of stars and garters as they are here to-night. Now, in England, a man who has made his way up, as they have, doesn't seem able to feel his social dignity. A little bit of the flunky sticks in him somewhere. I am, perhaps, as independent in this respect as any one I know, yet I'm not entirely sure of myself."
"Do you remember," I asked him, "what Goethe says of the boys in Venice? He explains their cleverness, grace, and self-possession as children by the possibility of any one of them becoming Doge."
"That may be the secret, after all," said Thackeray. "There is no country like yours for a young man who is obliged to work for his own place and fortune. If I had sons, I should send them here."
Afterwards, in London, I visited with him the studio of Baron Marochetti, the sculptor, who was then his next-door neighbor in Onslow Square, Brompton. The Baron, it appeared, had promised him an original wood-cut of Albert Duerer's, for whom Thackeray had a special admiration. Soon after our entrance, the sculptor took down a small engraving from the wall, saying,—
"Now you have it, at last."
The subject was St. George and the Dragon.
Thackeray inspected it with great delight for a few minutes: then, suddenly becoming grave, he turned to me and said,—
"I shall hang it near the head of my bed, where I can see it every morning. We all have our dragons to fight. Do you know yours? I know mine: I have not one, but two."
"What are they?" I asked.
"Indolence and Luxury!"
I could not help smiling, as I thought of the prodigious amount of literary labor he had performed, and at the same time remembered the simple comfort of his dwelling, next door.
"I am serious," he continued; "I never take up the pen without an effort; I work only from necessity. I never walk out without seeing some pretty, useless thing which I want to buy. Sometimes I pass the same shop-window every day for months, and resist the temptation, and think I'm safe; then comes the day of weakness, and I yield. My physician tells me I must live very simply, and not dine out so much; but I cannot break off the agreeable habit. I shall look at this picture and think of my dragons, though I don't expect ever to overcome them."
After his four lectures on the Georges had been delivered in New York, a storm of angry abuse was let loose upon him in Canada and the other British Provinces. The British-Americans, snubbed both by Government and society when they go to England, repay the slight, like true Christians, by a rampant loyalty unknown in the mother-country. Many of their newspapers accused Thackeray of pandering to the prejudices of the American public, affirming that he would not dare to repeat the same lectures in England, after his return. Of course, the papers containing the articles, duly marked to attract attention, were sent to him. He merely remarked, as he threw them contemptuously aside,—"These fellows will see that I shall not only repeat the lectures at home, but I shall make them more severe, just because the auditors will be Englishmen." He was true to his promise. The lecture on George IV. excited, not, indeed, the same amount of newspaper-abuse as he had received from Canada, but a very angry feeling in the English aristocracy, some members of which attempted to punish him by a social ostracism. When I visited him in London, in July, 1856, he related this to me, with great good-humor. "There, for instance," said he, "is Lord ——" (a prominent English statesman) "who has dropped me from his dinner-parties for three months past. Well, he will find that I can do without his society better than he can do without mine." A few days afterwards Lord —— resumed his invitations.
About the same time I witnessed an amusing interview, which explained to me the great personal respect in which Thackeray was held by the aristocratic class. He never hesitated to mention and comment upon the censure aimed against him in the presence of him who had uttered it. His fearless frankness must have seemed phenomenal. In the present instance, Lord ——, who had dabbled in literature, and held a position at Court, had expressed himself (I forget whether orally or in print) very energetically against Thackeray's picture of George IV. We had occasion to enter the shop of a fashionable tailor, and there found Lord ——. Thackeray immediately stepped up to him, bent his strong frame over the disconcerted champion of the Royal George, and said, in his full, clear, mellow voice,—"I know what you have said. Of course, you are quite right, and I am wrong. I only regret that I did not think of consulting you before my lecture was written." The person addressed evidently did not know whether to take this for irony or truth: he stammered out an incoherent reply, and seemed greatly relieved when the giant turned to leave the shop.
At other times, however, he was kind and considerate. Reaching London one day in June, 1857, I found him at home, grave and sad, having that moment returned from the funeral of Douglas Jerrold. He spoke of the periodical attacks by which his own life was threatened, and repeated what he had often said to me before,—"I shall go some day,—perhaps in a year or two. I am an old man already." He proposed visiting a lady whom we both knew, but whom he had not seen for some time. The lady reminded him of this fact, and expressed her dissatisfaction at some length. He heard her in silence, and then, taking hold of the crape on his left arm, said, in a grave, quiet voice,—"I must remove this,—I have just come from poor Jerrold's grave."
Although, from his experience of life, he was completely desillusionne, the well of natural tenderness was never dried in his heart. He rejoiced, with a fresh, boyish delight, in every evidence of an unspoiled nature in others,—in every utterance which denoted what may have seemed to him over-faith in the good. The more he was saddened by his knowledge of human weakness and folly, the more gratefully he welcomed strength, virtue, sincerity. His eyes never unlearned the habit of that quick moisture which honors the true word and the noble deed.
His mind was always occupied with some scheme of quiet benevolence. Both in America and in England, I have known him to plan ways by which he could give pecuniary assistance to some needy acquaintance or countryman without wounding his sensitive pride. He made many attempts to procure a good situation in New York for a well-known English author, who was at that time in straitened circumstances. The latter, probably, never knew of this effort to help him. In November, 1857, when the financial crisis in America was at its height, I happened to say to him, playfully, that I hoped my remittances would not be stopped. He instantly picked up a note-book, ran over the leaves, and said to me, "I find I have three hundred pounds at my banker's. Take the money now, if you are in want of it; or shall I keep it for you, in case you may need it?" Fortunately, I had no occasion to avail myself of his generous offer; but I shall never forget the impulsive, open-hearted kindness with which it was made.
I have had personal experience of Thackeray's sense of justice, as well as his generosity. And here let me say that he was that rarest of men, a cosmopolitan Englishman,—loving his own land with a sturdy, enduring love, yet blind neither to its faults nor to the virtues of other lands. In fact, for the very reason that he was unsparing in dealing with his countrymen, he considered himself justified in freely criticizing other nations. Yet he never joined in the popular depreciation of everything American: his principal reason for not writing a book, as every other English author does who visits us, was that it would be superficial, and might be unjust. I have seen him, in America, indignantly resent an ill-natured sneer at "John Bull,"—and, on the other hand, I have known him to take our part, at home. Shortly after Emerson's "English Traits" appeared, I was one of a dinner-party at his house, and the book was the principal topic of conversation. A member of Parliament took the opportunity of expressing his views to the only American present.
"What does Emerson know of England?" he asked. "He spends a few weeks here, and thinks he understands us. His work is false and prejudiced and shallow."
Thackeray happening to pass at the moment, the member arrested him with—
"What do you think of the book, Mr. Thackeray?"
"I don't agree with Emerson."
"I was sure you would not!" the member triumphantly exclaimed; "I was sure you would think as I do."
"I think," said Thackeray, quietly, "that he is altogether too laudatory. He admires our best qualities so greatly that he does not scourge us for our faults as we deserve."
Towards the end of May, 1861, I saw Thackeray again in London. During our first interview, we talked of little but the war, which had then but just begun. His chief feeling on the subject was a profound regret, not only for the nation itself, whose fate seemed thus to be placed in jeopardy, but also, he said, because he had many dear friends, both North and South, who must now fight as enemies. I soon found that his ideas concerning the cause of the war were as incorrect as were those of most Englishmen at that time. He understood neither the real nature nor the extent of the conspiracy, supposing that Free Trade was the chief object of the South, and that the right of Secession was tacitly admitted by the Constitution. I thereupon endeavored to place the facts of the case before him in their true light, saying, in conclusion,—"Even if you should not believe this statement, you must admit, that, if we believe it, we are justified in suppressing the Rebellion by force."
He said,—"Come, all this is exceedingly interesting. It is quite new to me, and I am sure it will be new to most of us. Take your pen and make an article out of what you have told me, and I will put it into the next number of the 'Cornhill Magazine.' It is just what we want."
I had made preparations to leave London for the Continent on the following day, but he was so urgent that I should stay two days longer and write the article that I finally consented to do so. I was the more desirous of complying, since Mr. Clay's ill-advised letter to the London "Times" had recently been published, and was accepted by Englishmen as the substance of all that could be said on the side of the Union. Thackeray appeared sincerely gratified by my compliance with his wishes, and immediately sent for a cab, saying,—"Now we will go down to the publishers, and have the matter settled at once. I am bound to consult them, but I am sure they will see the advantage of such an article."
We found the managing publisher in his office. He looked upon the matter, however, in a very different light. He admitted the interest which a statement of the character, growth, and extent of the Southern Conspiracy would possess for the readers of the "Cornhill," but objected to its publication, on the ground that it would call forth a counter-statement, which he could not justly exclude, and thus introduce a political controversy into the magazine. I insisted that my object was not to take notice of any statements published in England up to that time, but to represent the crisis as it was understood in the Loyal States and by the National Government; that I should do this simply to explain and justify the action of the latter; and that, having once placed the loyal view of the subject fairly before the English people, I should decline any controversy. The events of the war, I added, would soon draw the public attention away from its origin, and the "Cornhill," before the close of the struggle, would probably be obliged to admit articles of a more strongly partisan character than that which I proposed to write. The publisher, nevertheless, was firm in his refusal, not less to Thackeray's disappointment than my own. He decided upon what then seemed to him to be good business-reasons; and the same consideration, doubtless, has since led him to accept statements favorable to the side of the Rebellion.
As we were walking away, Thackeray said to me,—
"I am anxious that these things should be made public: suppose you write a brief article, and send it to the 'Times'?"
"I would do so," I answered, "if there were any probability that it would be published."
"I will try to arrange that," said he. "I know Mr. ——," (one of the editors,) "and will call upon him at once. I will ask for the publication of your letter as a personal favor to myself."
We parted at the door of a club-house, to meet again the same afternoon, when Thackeray hoped to have the matter settled as he desired. He did not, however, succeed in finding Mr. ——, but sent him a letter. I thereupon went to work the next day, and prepared a careful, cold, dispassionate statement, so condensed that it would have made less than half a column of the "Times." I sent it to the editor, referring him to Mr. Thackeray's letter in my behalf, and that is the last I ever heard of it.
All of Thackeray's American friends will remember the feelings of pain and regret with which they read his "Roundabout Paper" in the "Cornhill Magazine," in (February, I think) 1862,—wherein he reproaches our entire people as being willing to confiscate the stocks and other property owned in this country by Englishmen, out of spite for their disappointment in relation to the Trent affair, and directs his New-York bankers to sell out all his investments, and remit the proceeds to London, without delay. It was not his fierce denunciation of such national dishonesty that we deprecated, but his apparent belief in its possibility. We felt that he, of all Englishmen, should have understood us better. We regretted, for Thackeray's own sake, that he had permitted himself, in some spleenful moment, to commit an injustice, which would sooner or later be apparent to his own mind.
Three months afterwards, (in May, 1862,) I was again in London. I had not heard from Thackeray since the publication of the "Roundabout" letter to his bankers, and was uncertain how far his evident ill-temper on that occasion had subsided; but I owed him too much kindness, I honored him too profoundly, not to pardon him, unasked, my share of the offence. I found him installed in the new house he had built in Palace Gardens, Kensington. He received me with the frank welcome of old, and when we were alone, in the privacy of his library, made an opportunity (intentionally, I am sure) of approaching the subject, which, he knew, I could not have forgotten. I asked him why he wrote the article.
"I was unwell," he answered,—"you know what the moral effects of my attacks are,—and I was indignant that such a shameful proposition should be made in your American newspapers, and not a single voice be raised to rebuke it."
"But you certainly knew," said I, "that the —— —— does not represent American opinion. I assure you, that no honest, respectable man in the United States ever entertained the idea of cheating an English stockholder."
"I should hope so, too," he answered; "but when I saw the same thing in the —— ——, which, you will admit, is a paper of character and influence, I lost all confidence. I know how impulsive and excitable your people are, and I really feared that some such measure might be madly advocated and carried into effect. I see, now, that I made a blunder, and I am already punished for it. I was getting eight per cent. from my American investments, and now that I have the capital here it is lying idle. I shall probably not be able to invest it at a better rate than four per cent."
I said to him, playfully, that he must not expect me, as an American, to feel much sympathy with this loss: I, in common with his other friends beyond the Atlantic, expected from him a juster recognition of the national character.
"Well," said he, "let us say no more about it. I admit that I have made a mistake."
Those who knew the physical torments to which Thackeray was periodically subject—spasms which not only racked his strong frame, but temporarily darkened his views of men and things—must wonder, that, with the obligation to write permanently hanging over him, he was not more frequently betrayed into impatient or petulant expressions. In his clear brain, he judged himself no less severely, and watched his own nature no less warily, than he regarded other men. His strong sense of justice was always alert and active. He sometimes tore away the protecting drapery from the world's pet heroes and heroines, but, on the other hand, he desired no one to set him beside them. He never betrayed the least sensitiveness in regard to his place in literature. The comparisons which critics sometimes instituted between himself and other prominent authors simply amused him. In 1856, he told me that he had written a play which the managers had ignominiously rejected. "I thought I could write for the stage," said he; "but it seems I can't. I have a mind to have the piece privately performed, here at home. I'll take the big footman's part." This plan, however, was given up, and the material of the play was afterwards used, I believe, in "Lovel, the Widower."
I have just read a notice of Thackeray, which asserts, as an evidence of his weakness in certain respects, that he imagined himself to be an artist, and persisted in supplying bad illustrations to his own works. This statement does injustice to his self-knowledge. He delighted in the use of the pencil, and often spoke to me of his illustrations being a pleasant relief to hand and brain, after the fatigue of writing. He had a very imperfect sense of color, and confessed that his forte lay in caricature. Some of his sketches were charmingly drawn upon the block, but he was often unfortunate in his engraver. The original MS. of "The Rose and the Ring," with the illustrations, is admirable. He was fond of making groups of costumes and figures of the last century, and I have heard English artists speak of his talent in this genre: but he never professed to be more than an amateur, or to exercise the art for any other reason than the pleasure it gave him.
He enjoyed the popularity of his lectures, because they were out of his natural line of work. Although he made several very clever after-dinner speeches, he always assured me that it was accidental,—that he had no talent whatever for thinking on his feet.
"Even when I am reading my lectures," he said, "I often think to myself, 'What a humbug you are, and I wonder the people don't find it out!'"
When in New-York, he confessed to me that he should like immensely to find some town where the people imagined that all Englishmen transposed their hs, and give one of his lectures in that style. He was very fond of relating an incident which occurred during his visit to St. Louis. He was dining one day in the hotel, when he overheard one Irish waiter say to another,—
"Do you know who that is?"
"No," was the answer.
"That," said the first, "is the celebrated Thacker!"
"What's he done?"
"D——d if I know!"
Of Thackeray's private relations I would speak with a cautious reverence. An author's heart is a sanctuary into which, except so far as he voluntarily reveals it, the public has no right to enter. The shadow of a domestic affliction which darkened all his life seemed only to have increased his paternal care and tenderness. To his fond solicitude for his daughters we owe a part of the writings wherewith he has enriched our literature. While in America, he often said to me that his chief desire was to secure a certain sum for them, and I shall never forget the joyous satisfaction with which he afterwards informed me, in London, that the work was done. "Now," he said, "the dear girls are provided for. The great anxiety is taken from my life, and I can breathe freely for the little time that is left me to be with them." I knew that he had denied himself many "luxuries" (as he called them) to accomplish this object. For six years after he had redeemed the losses of a reckless youthful expenditure, he was allowed to live and to employ an income, princely for an author, in the gratification of tastes which had been so long repressed.
He thereupon commenced building a new house, after his own designs. It was of red brick, in the style of Queen Anne's time, but the internal arrangement was rather American than English. It was so much admired, that, although the cost much exceeded his estimate, he could have sold it for an advance of a thousand pounds. To me the most interesting feature was the library, which occupied the northern end of the first floor, with a triple window opening toward the street, and another upon a warm little garden-plot shut in by high walls.
"Here," he said to me, when I saw him for the last time, "here I am going to write my greatest work,—a History of the Reign of Queen Anne. There are my materials,"—pointing to a collection of volumes in various bindings which occupied a separate place on the shelves.
"When shall you begin it?" I asked.
"Probably as soon as I am done with 'Philip,'" was his answer; "but I am not sure. I may have to write another novel first. But the History will mature all the better for the delay. I want to absorb the authorities gradually, so that, when I come to write, I shall be filled with the subject, and can sit down to a continuous narrative, without jumping up every moment to consult somebody. The History has been a pet idea of mine for years past. I am slowly working up to the level of it, and know that when I once begin I shall do it well."
It is not likely that any part of this history was ever written. What it might have been we can only regretfully conjecture: it has perished with the uncompleted novel, and all the other dreams of that principle of the creative intellect which the world calls Ambition, but which the artist recognizes as Conscience.
That hour of the sunny May-day returns to memory as I write. The quiet of the library, a little withdrawn from the ceaseless roar of London; the soft grass of the bit of garden, moist from a recent shower, seen through the open window; the smoke-strained sunshine, stealing gently along the wall; and before me the square, massive head, the prematurely gray hair, the large, clear, sad eyes, the frank, winning mouth, with its smile of boyish sweetness, of the man whom I honored as a master, while he gave me the right to love him as a friend. I was to leave the next day for a temporary home on the Continent, and he was planning how he could visit me, with his daughters. The proper season, the time, and the expense were carefully calculated: he described the visit in advance, with a gay, excursive fancy; and his last words, as he gave me the warm, strong hand I was never again to press, were, "Auf wiedersehen!"
What little I have ventured to relate gives but a fragmentary image of the man whom I knew. I cannot describe him as the faithful son, the tender father, the true friend, the man of large humanity and lofty honesty he really was, without stepping too far within the sacred circle of his domestic life. To me, there was no inconsistency in his nature. Where the careless reader may see only the cynic and the relentless satirist, I recognize his unquenchable scorn of human meanness and duplicity,—the impatient wrath of a soul too frequently disappointed in its search for good. I have heard him lash the faults of others with an indignant sorrow which brought the tears to his eyes. For this reason he could not bear that ignorant homage should be given to men really unworthy of it. He said to me, once, speaking of a critic who blamed the scarcity of noble and lovable character in his novels,—"Other men can do that. I know what I can do best; and if I do good, it must be in my own way."
The fate which took him from us was one which he had anticipated. He often said that his time was short, that he could not certainly reckon on many more years of life, and that his end would probably be sudden. He once spoke of Irving's death as fortunate in its character. The subject was evidently familiar to his thoughts, and his voice had always a tone of solemn resignation which told that he had conquered its bitterness. He was ready at any moment to answer the call; and when, at last, it was given and answered,—when the dawn of the first Christmas holiday lighted his pale, moveless features, and the large heart throbbed no more forever in its grand scorn and still grander tenderness,—his released spirit could have chosen no fitter words of farewell than the gentle benediction his own lips have breathed:—
"I lay the weary pen aside, And wish you health and love and mirth, As fits the solemn Christmas-tide. As fits the holy Christmas birth, Be this, good friends, our carol still,— Be peace on earth, be peace on earth, To men of gentle will!"
THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN.
It has been said that "the history of war is a magnificent lie," and from what we know in our times, particularly of the history of the Mexican War and of the present Rebellion, if the despatches from the battle-fields are to be received as history, we are inclined to believe the saying is true; and it is natural that it should be so. A general writes his despatches under the highest mental excitement. His troops have won a great victory, or sustained a crushing defeat; in either event, his mind is riveted to the transactions that have led to the result; in the one case, his ambition will prompt him to aspire to a name in history; in the other, he will try to save himself from disgrace. He describes his battles; he gives an account of his marches and counter-marches, of the hardships he has endured, the disappointments he has experienced, and the difficulties he has had to overcome. The principal events may be truthfully narrated; but his hopes of rising a hero from the field of victory, or of appearing a martyr from one of defeat, will mould his narrative to his wishes.
If it be frequently the misfortune of our generals, in writing their reports, not to content themselves with the materials at hand, but to draw on their imaginations, not for gross falsehoods, but for that coloring which, diffused through their despatches, makes the narrative affecting, while it leaves us in doubt where to draw the line between fiction and fact, it is not always so, particularly when their despatches are not written amidst the excitement of the battle-field, but are deferred until the events which they describe have passed into history.
Such, we may suppose, to be the case in respect to the Reports of Brigadier-Generals Barnard and Barry on the Engineer and Artillery Operations of the Army of the Potomac. Written, as these Reports were, after the organization of that army had been completed and the Peninsular campaign had terminated, by men who, though playing an important part in its organization and throughout this its first campaign, yet never aspired to be its heroes, we may reasonably hope, that, if they have not told the "whole truth," they have told us "nothing but the truth."
The points of particular interest in these Reports, so far as relates to organization, are the inauguration of a great system of field-fortifications for the defence of the national capital, and the preparation of engineer-equipments, particularly bridge-equipage for crossing rivers. These are only sketched, but the outline is drawn by an artist who is master of the subject. The professional engineer, when he examines the immense fortifications of Washington and sees their skilful construction, can appreciate the labor and thought which must have been bestowed on them. He alone could complete the picture. To appreciate these works, they must be seen. No field-works on so extensive a scale have been undertaken in modern times. The nearest approach to them were the lines of Torres Vedras, in Portugal, constructed by the British army in 1809-10; but the works constructed by General Barnard for the defence of Washington are larger, more numerous, more carefully built, and much more heavily armed than were those justly celebrated lines of Wellington.
And it should not be forgotten, that, after the Battle of Bull Run, we were thrown on the defensive, and the fortifications of our capital were called for in a hurry. There were no models, in this country, from which to copy,—and few, if any, in Europe. Luckily, however, the art of fortification is not imitative; it is based on scientific principles; and we found in General Barnard and his assistants the science to comprehend the problem before them, and the experience and skill to grasp its solution.
Only the citizens of Washington and those who happened to be there after the two disastrous defeats at Bull Run can appreciate the value of these fortifications. They have twice saved the capital,—perhaps the nation; yet forts are passive,—they never speak, unless assailed. But let Washington be attacked by a powerful army and successfully defended, and they would proclaim General Barnard one of the heroes of the war.
As has already been said, the engineer-equipage is only sketched; but enough is said to show its value. Speaking of the bridges, General Barnard says,—"They were used by the Quartermaster's department in discharging transports, were precisely what was needed for the disembarkation of General Franklin's division, constituted a portion of the numerous bridges that were built over Wormley Creek during the siege of Yorktown, and were of the highest use in the Chickahominy; while over the Lower Chickahominy, some seventy-five thousand men, some three hundred pieces of artillery, and the enormous baggage-trains of the army, passed over a bridge of the extraordinary length of nearly six hundred and fifty yards,—a feat scarcely surpassed in military history." Pontoons, like forts, cannot talk; but every soldier of the Army of the Potomac knows that these same bridges, which were prepared when that army was first organized, have since carried it in safety four times over the Rappahannock, twice at the Battle of Fredericksburg and twice again at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and three times over the Upper Potomac, once after the Battle of Antietam, and again both before and after the Battle of Gettysburg.
Of the Peninsular campaign General Barnard does not profess to give a history. He mentions only the operations which came under his supervision as the Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac. The siege of Yorktown was a matter of engineering skill. General Barnard gives us his report to General Totten, the Chief Engineer of the Army, on the engineering operations of the siege,—also his journal, showing the progress of the siege from day to day. These, with the maps, convey a very clear idea of the place to be taken, and the way it was to have been reduced, had the enemy continued his defence until our batteries were opened; but they do not convey to the mind of any except the professional engineer the magnitude of the works which were constructed. General Barnard says that fifteen batteries and four redoubts were built during the siege, and he gives the armament of each battery. On comparing this armament with that used in other sieges, we find the amount of metal ready to be hurled on Yorktown when the enemy evacuated that place second only to that of the Allies at Sebastopol, the greatest siege of modern times.
But these batteries, with a single exception, never spoke. Like their predecessors around Washington, they conquered by their mere presence. After all the skill and labor that had been bestowed on their construction, the enemy evacuated Yorktown just as our batteries were about to open. He was at our mercy. General Barnard says that "the enemy's position had become untenable,—that he could not have endured our fire for six hours." We can readily understand how mortifying it must have been to the Commanding General, and particularly to the officers of engineers and artillery who had planned, built, and armed these siege-works, to hear that the enemy had evacuated his fortifications just at the moment when we were prepared to drive him from them by force; and we can appreciate the regrets of General Barnard, when he says, in reviewing the campaign, and pointing out the mistakes that had been committed, that "we should have opened our batteries on the place as fast as they were completed. The effect on the troops would have been inspiring. It would have lightened the siege and shortened our labors; and, besides, we would have had the credit of driving the enemy from Yorktown by force of arms; whereas, as it was, we only induced him to evacuate for prudential considerations." And General Barry says, in his report of the artillery operations at the siege,—"It will always be a source of great professional disappointment to me, that the enemy, by his premature and hasty abandonment of his defensive line, deprived the artillery of the Army of the Potomac of the opportunity of exhibiting the superior power and efficiency of the unusually heavy metal used in this siege, and of reaping the honor and just reward of their unceasing labors, day and night, for nearly one month."
The next serious obstacle to be overcome, after the siege of Yorktown, was the passage of the Chickahominy. Here, says General Barnard, "if possible, the responsibility and labor of the engineer officers were increased." The difficulties of that river, considered as a military obstacle, are given in a few touches; but in the sketch of the opposing heights, and of the intermediate valley, filled up with the stream, the heavily timbered swamp, and the overflowed bottom-lands, we have the Chickahominy brought before us so vividly that we can almost feel the difficulty of crossing it. Well may General Barnard say that "it was one of the most formidable obstacles that could be opposed to the advance of an army,—an obstacle to which an ordinary river, though it be of considerable magnitude, is comparatively slight."
The labors of the engineers in bridging this formidable swamp are detailed with considerable minuteness. Ten bridges, of different characters, were constructed, though some of them were never used, because the enemy held the approaches on his side of the river.
We are glad that General Barnard has elaborated this part of his Report. There is a melancholy interest attaching to the Chickahominy. To it, and to the events connected with it, history will refer the defeat of General McClellan's magnificent army, and the failure of the Peninsular campaign. And what a lesson is here to be learned! The fate of the contending armies was suspended in a balance. The hour when a particular bridge was to be completed, or rendered impassable by the rising floods, was to turn the scales!
That mistakes were committed on the Chickahominy the country is prepared to believe. Our army was placed astride of that stream, and in this situation we fought two battles, each time with only a part of our force; thus violating, not only the maxims of war, but the plainest principles of common sense.
The Battle of Fair Oaks began on the thirty-first of May. At that time our army was divided by the Chickahominy. Of the five corps constituting the Army of the Potomac, two were on its right bank, or on the side nearest to Richmond, while the other three were on the left bank. There had been heavy rains, the river was rising, and the swamps and bottom-lands were fast becoming impassable. None of the upper bridges had yet been built. We had then only Bottom's Bridge, the railroad-bridge, and the two bridges built by General Sumner some miles higher up the river. Bottom's Bridge and the railroad-bridge were too distant to be of any service in an emergency such as a battle demands. At the time of the enemy's attack, which was sudden and unexpected, completely overwhelming General Casey's division, our sole reliance to reinforce the left wing was by Sumner's corps, and over his two bridges. It happened to be the fortune of the writer to see "Sumner's upper bridge,"—the only one then passable,—at the moment the head of General Sumner's column reached it. The possibility of crossing was doubted by all present, including General Sumner himself.
The bridge was of rough logs, and mostly afloat, held together and kept from drifting off by the stumps of trees to which it was fastened; the portion over the thread of the stream being suspended from the trunks of large trees, which had been felled across it, by ropes which a single blow with a hatchet would have severed. On this bridge and on these ropes hung the fate of the day at Fair Oaks, and, probably, the fate of the Army of the Potomac too; for, if Sumner had not crossed in time to check the movement of the enemy down the river, the corps of Heintzelman and Keyes would have been taken in flank, and it is fair to suppose that they must have been driven into an impassable river, or captured.
But Sumner crossed, and saved the day. Forever honored be his name!
As the solid column of infantry entered upon the bridge, it swayed to and fro to the angry flood below or the living freight above, settling down and grasping the solid stumps, by which it was made secure as the line advanced. Once filled with men, it was safe until the corps had crossed. It then soon became impassable, and the "railroad-bridge," says General Barnard, "for several days was the only communication between the two wings of the army." Never was an army in a more precarious situation. Fortunately, however, whatever mistakes we made in allowing ourselves to be attacked when the two wings of the army were almost separated, the enemy also committed serious blunders, both as to the point of his attack and the time when his blow was delivered. His true point of attack was on the right flank of our left wing. Had the attack which Sumner met and repulsed been made simultaneously with the assault in front, a single battalion, nay, even a single company, could have seized and destroyed "Sumner's upper bridge," the only one, as before remarked, then passable, Sumner would consequently have been unable to take part in the battle, and our left wing would have been taken in flank, and, in all probability, defeated; or, had the attack been deferred until the next day, or even for several days, as the bridges became impassable during the night of the thirty-first, it would probably have been successful.
It is easy to make such criticisms after the events have happened; their mere statement will carry conviction to the minds of all who were in a position, during these memorable days, to know the facts that decided the movements; and it is right that they should be made, for it is only by pointing out the causes of success or failure in military affairs, as, indeed, in every human undertaking, that we can hope to be successful. But, in doing so, we need not confine ourselves to one side of the question; we may look at our enemies as well as at ourselves. Nor need they be made in a spirit of censoriousness; for the importance of individuals, in speaking of such great events, may safely be overlooked without affecting the lesson we would learn. Neither should it be forgotten that the general who has always fought his battles at the right time, in the right place, with the proper arms, and pursued his victories to their utmost attainable results, has yet to appear. He would, indeed, be an intellectual prodigy.
Such we may suppose to be the reflections of General Barnard, when he points out the mistakes which were made in the Army of the Potomac while on the Chickahominy. He does not, indeed, bring to our view the mistakes of the enemy. That would have been travelling outside of the record in the report of the operations falling under his supervision, and such criticism is wisely left for some of the enemy's engineers, or for a more general history. In speaking of the difficulties of crossing the Chickahominy immediately after the battle of the thirty-first of May, General Barnard says,—"There was one way, however, to unite the army on the other side; it was to take advantage of a victory at Fair Oaks, to sweep at once the enemy from his position opposite New Bridge, and, simultaneously, to bring over by the New Bridge our troops of the right wing, which would then have met with little or no resistance"; and again, in a more general criticism of the campaign, he says,—"The repulse of the Rebels at Fair Oaks should have been taken advantage of. It was one of those 'occasions' which, if not seized, do not repeat themselves. We now know the state of disorganization and dismay in which the Rebel army retreated. We now know that it could have been followed into Richmond. Had it been so, there would have been no resistance to overcome to bring over our right wing."
But the "occasion" which the morning of the first of June presented of uniting the two wings of the army, and thus achieving a great victory, was not seized, because, as General Barnard says, "we did not then know all that we now do." At the moment when the New Bridge became passable, 8.15, A. M., it is not probable the Commanding General knew it. Nor did he know, that, at this very moment, the enemy was retreating to Richmond in a "state of disorganization and dismay." Besides, the troops of the left wing had fought a hard battle the preceding afternoon, and they had been up all night, throwing up works of defence, and making dispositions to resist another assault by the enemy. They were not in a condition to assume the offensive against an enemy who was supposed to be in force and in position, himself preparing to resume the attack of the previous day, however competent they may have been to pursue a demoralized foe flying from the field. The propitious moment was lost, not to return,—for, during the day, the rising flood rendered all the bridges, except the railroad-bridge, impassable.
The necessity for more substantial bridges to connect the two wings of the army had now been made manifest, and two fine structures, available for all arms, were completed by the nineteenth. At the same time two foot-bridges were made, the other bridges repaired, and their approaches made secure, though the enemy still held the approaches of the three upper bridges on the right bank.
While these bridges were being made, mostly by the right wing of the army, the left wing was engaged in constructing a strong line of defence, stretching from the White-Oak Swamp to the Chickahominy, consisting of six redoubts connected by rifle-pits or barricades. General Barnard says,—"The object of these lines (over three miles long) was to hold our position of the left wing against the concentrated force of the enemy, until communications across the Chickahominy could be established; or, if necessary, to maintain our position on this side, while the bulk of the army was thrown upon the other, should occasion require it; or, finally, to hold one part of our line and communication by a small force, while our principal offensive effort was made upon another." At the same time, several batteries were constructed on the left bank of the river in the neighborhood of the upper bridges, either to operate on the enemy's positions in their front, or to defend these bridges.
All these preparations were made with the understood purpose of driving the enemy from his positions in front of New Bridge; and they appear to have been about completed, for on the night of the twenty-sixth "an epaulement for putting our guns in position" to effect this object was thrown up. But it was too late. Lee's guns had been heard in the afternoon, in the neighborhood of Mechanicsville, attacking the advance of our right wing, and Jackson was within supporting distance. The battle of the twenty-seventh of June, on which "hinged the fate of the campaign," was to be fought to-morrow. This battle, or rather the policy of fighting it, or suffering it to be fought, has been more criticized than any other battle of the campaign. We fought a battle which was decisive against us with less than one-third of our force.
General Barnard is severe in his criticisms. In his "retrospect, pointing out the mistakes that were made," he says,—
"At last a moment came when action was imperative. The enemy assumed the initiative, and we had warning of when and where he was to strike. Had Porter been withdrawn the night of the twenty-sixth, our army would have been concentrated on the right bank, while two corps at least of the enemy's force were on the left bank. Whatever course we then took, whether to strike at Richmond and the portion of the enemy on the right bank, or move at once for the James, we would have had a concentrated army, and a fair chance of a brilliant result, in the first place; and in the second, if we accomplished nothing, we would have been in the same case on the morning of the twenty-seventh as we were on that of the twenty-eighth,—minus a lost battle and a compulsory retreat; or, had the fortified lines (thrown up expressly for the object) been held by twenty thousand men, (as they could have been,) we could have fought on the other side with eighty thousand men instead of twenty-seven thousand; or, finally, had the lines been abandoned, with our hold on the right bank of the Chickahominy, we might have fought and crushed the enemy on the left bank, reopened our communications, and then returned and taken Richmond.
"As it was, the enemy fought with his whole force, (except enough left before our lines to keep up an appearance,) and we fought with twenty-seven thousand men, losing the battle and nine thousand men.
"By this defeat we were driven from our position, our advance of conquest turned into a retreat for safety, by a force probably not greatly superior to our own."
It is to be hoped that the forthcoming report of General McClellan will give us the reasons which induced him to risk such a battle with such a force, and modify, to some extent at least, the justice of such outspoken censure.
The services of the engineers in passing the army over White-Oak Swamp, in reconnoitring the line of retreat to James River, in posting troops, and in defending the final position of the army at Harrison's Landing, are detailed with great clearness. Of his officers the General speaks in the highest terms. It appears, that, with a single exception, they were all lieutenants, whereas "in a European service the chief engineer serving with an army-corps would be a field-officer, generally a colonel." In this want of rank in the corps of engineers the General says there is a twofold evil.
"First, the great hardships and injustice to the officers themselves: for they have, almost without exception, refused or been refused high positions in the volunteer service, (to which they have seen their contemporaries of the other branches elevated,) on the ground that their services as engineers were absolutely necessary. Second, it is an evil to the service: since an adequate rank is almost as necessary to an officer for the efficient discharge of his duties as professional knowledge. The engineer's duty is a responsible one. He is called upon to decide important questions,—to fix the position of defensive works, (and thereby of the troops who occupy them,)—to indicate the manner and points of attack of fortified positions. To give him the proper weight with those with whom he is associated, he should have, as they have, adequate rank.
"The campaign on the Peninsula called for great labor on the part of the engineers. The country, notwithstanding its early settlement, was a terra incognita. We knew the York River and the James River, and we had heard of the Chickahominy; and this was about the extent of our knowledge. Our maps were so incorrect that they were found to be worthless before we reached Yorktown. New ones had to be prepared, based on reconnoissances made by officers of engineers.
"The siege of Yorktown involved great responsibility, besides exposure and toil. The movements of the whole army were determined by the engineers. The Chickahominy again arrested us, where, if possible, the responsibility and labor of the engineer officers were increased. In fact, everywhere, and on every occasion, even to our last position at Harrison's Landing, this responsibility and labor on the part of the engineers was incessant.
"I have stated above in what manner the officers of engineers performed their duties. Yet thus far their services are ignored and unrecognized, while distinctions have been bestowed upon those who have had the good fortune to command troops. Under such circumstances it can hardly be expected that the few engineer officers yet remaining will willingly continue their services in this unrequited branch of the military profession. We have no sufficient officers of engineers at this time with any of our armies to commence another siege, nor can they be obtained. In another war, if their services are thus neglected in this, we shall have none."
It is to be hoped that the General's appeal for additional rank to the officers of engineers will not be overlooked. The officers of this corps have demonstrated not only their skill as engineers, but also their ability to command troops and even armies. On the side of our country's cause we have McClellan, Halleck, Rosecrans, Meade, Gillmore, and Barnard, besides a score of others, all generals; and in the ranks of the Rebels we find Lee, Joe Johnston, Beauregard, Gilmer, and Smith, all generals, too, and all formerly officers of engineers. Nobly have they all vindicated the scale of proficiency which placed them among the distinguished of their respective classes at their common Alma Mater.
Whatever may have been the services of other men during our present struggle for nationality, and whatever may be their services in the future, to General Barry, the Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Potomac, from the organization of that army to the close of the Peninsular campaign, more than to any other person, belongs the credit of organizing our admirable system of field-artillery.
We have two reports from General Barry: one, on "The Organization of the Artillery of the Army of the Potomac"; the other, a "Report of the Operations of the Artillery at the Siege of Yorktown." Of the services of the artillery during the remainder of the campaign we have no record from its chief; but they were conspicuous on every battle-field, and will not be forgotten until Malvern Hill shall have passed into oblivion.
After the first Battle of Bull Run, the efforts of the nation were directed to organizing an army for the defence of the national capital. Of men and money we had plenty; but men and money, however necessary they may be, do not make an army. Cannon, muskets, rifles, pistols, sabres, horses, mules, wagons, harness, bridges, tools, food, clothing, and numberless other things, are required; but men and money, with all this added materiel of war, still will not make an efficient army. Organization, discipline, and instruction are necessary to accomplish this. At the time of which we speak the people of this country did not comprehend what an army consisted of, or, if they did, they comprehended it as children,—by its trappings, its men and horses, its drums and fifes, its "pomp and circumstance."
Few even of our best officers who had honestly studied their profession had ever seen an army, or fully realized the amount of labor that was necessary, even with our unbounded resources, to organize an efficient army ready for the field. Happily for our country, there were some who in garrison had learned the science and theory of war, and in Mexico, or in expeditions against our Western Indians, had acquired some knowledge of its practice. Of these General McClellan was selected to be the chief. He had seen armies in Europe, and it was believed that he could bring to his aid more of the right kind of experience for organization than any other man. If there is any one thing more than another for which General McClellan is distinguished, it is his ability to make an army. Men may have their opinions as to his genius or his courage, his politics or his generalship; they may think he is too slow or too cautious, or they may say he is not equal to great emergencies; but of his ability to organize an army there is a concurrent opinion in his favor.
By himself, however, he would have been helpless. He required assistance. He was obliged to have chiefs of the several arms about him,—a chief of engineers, of artillery, of cavalry, and chiefs of the several divisions of infantry.
General Barry was his chief of artillery. To him was assigned the duty of organizing this arm of the service. We learn from his Report, that, "when Major-General McClellan was appointed to the command of the 'Division of the Potomac,' July 25th, 1861, a few days after the first Battle of Bull Run, the whole field-artillery of his command consisted of no more than parts of nine batteries, or thirty pieces of various, and, in some instances, unusual and unserviceable calibres. Most of these batteries were also of mixed calibres. My calculations were based upon the expected immediate expansion of the 'Division of the Potomac' into the 'Army of the Potomac,' to consist of at least one hundred thousand infantry. Considerations involving the peculiar character and extent of the force to be employed, the probable field and character of operations, the utmost efficiency of the arm, and the limits imposed by the as yet undeveloped resources of the nation, led to the following general propositions, offered by me to Major-General McClellan, and which received his full approval."
These propositions in brief were,—
1st. "That the proportion of artillery should be in the ratio of at least two and a half pieces to one thousand men."
2d. "That the proportion of rifled guns should be one-third, and of smooth bores two-thirds."
3d. "That each field-battery should, if practicable, be composed of six guns."
4th. "That the field-batteries were to be assigned to 'divisions,' and not to brigades."
5th. "That the artillery reserve of the whole army should consist of one hundred guns."
6th. "That the amount of ammunition to accompany the field-batteries was not to be less than four hundred rounds per gun."
7th. That there should be "a siege-train of fifty pieces."
8th. "That instruction in the theory and practice of gunnery, as well as in the tactics of the arm, was to be given to the officers and non-commissioned officers of the volunteer batteries, by the study of suitable text-books, and by actual recitations in each division, under the direction of the regular officer commanding the divisional artillery."
9th. That inspections should be made.
Such, with trifling modifications, were the propositions upon which the artillery of the Army of the Potomac was organized; and this organization finds its highest recommendation in the fact that it remains unchanged, (except very immaterially,) and has been adopted by all other armies in the field. The sudden and extensive expansion of the artillery of the Army of the Potomac, that occurred from July 25, 1861, to March, 1862, is unparalleled in the history of war. Tabulated, it stands thus:—
Batteries, Guns Men Horses parts of
July 25, 1861 9 30 650 400 imperfectly equipped.
March, 1862 92 520 12,500 11,000 fully equipped and in readiness for actual field-service.
Well may General Barry and the officers of the Ordnance Department, who had, as it were, to create the means of meeting the heavy requisitions upon them, be proud of such a record. It is one of the most striking exponents of the resources of the nation which the war has produced.
Of this force thirty batteries were regulars and sixty-two volunteers. The latter had to be instructed not only in the duties of a soldier, but in the theory and practice of their special arm. Defective guns and materiel furnished by the States had to be withdrawn, and replaced by the more serviceable ordnance with which the regular batteries were being armed. Boards of examination were organized, and the officers thoroughly examined. Incompetency was set aside, zeal and efficiency rewarded by promotion.
"Although," says General Barry, "there was much to be improved," yet "many of the volunteer batteries evinced such zeal and intelligence, and availed themselves so industriously of the instructions of the regular officers, their commanders, and of the example of the regular battery, their associate, that they made rapid progress, and finally attained a degree of proficiency highly creditable."
At the siege of Yorktown, as has already been stated, only one of the fifteen batteries was permitted to open fire on the enemy's works. This was armed with one hundred- and two hundred-pounder rifled guns, and it is remarkable that this is the first time the practicability of placing, handling, and serving these guns in siege-operations, and their value at the long range of two and a half to three miles, were fully demonstrated. These guns, as also the thirteen-inch sea-coast mortars, which were placed in position ready for use, were giants when compared with the French and English pigmies which were used at Sebastopol.
General Barry, as well as General Barnard, complains of the want of rank of his officers. With the immense artillery force that accompanied the Army of the Potomac to the Peninsula, consisting of sixty batteries of three hundred and forty-three guns, he had only ten field-officers, "a number obviously insufficient, and which impaired to a great degree the efficiency of the arm, in consequence of the want of rank and official influence of the commanders of corps and divisional artillery. As this faulty organization can only be suitably corrected by legislative action, it is earnestly hoped that the attention of the proper authorities may be at an early day invited to it."
When the report of General McClellan is published, the services of the artillery of the Army of the Potomac will doubtless fill a conspicuous place. These services were rendered to the commanders of divisions and corps, giving them an historic name, and in their reports we may expect the artillery to be honorably mentioned. General Barry says, in conclusion,—"Special detailed reports have been made and transmitted by me of the general artillery operations at the siege of Yorktown,—and by their immediate commanders, of the services of the field-batteries at the Battles of Williamsburg, Hanover Court-House, and those severely contested ones comprised in the operations before Richmond. To those several reports I respectfully refer the Commanding General for details of services as creditable to the artillery of the United States as they are honorable to the gallant officers and brave and patient enlisted men, who, (with but few exceptions,) struggling through difficulties, overcoming obstacles, and bearing themselves nobly on the field of battle, stood faithfully to their guns, performing their various duties with a steadiness, a devotion, and a gallantry worthy the highest commendation."
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Mental Hygiene. By I. RAY, M. D. Boston: Ticknor & Fields.
Dr. Ray, as many of our readers may know, is a physician eminent in the speciality of mental disorders. He is at present the head of the Butler Hospital for the Insane in Providence, Rhode Island. The four first chapters of his book, chiefly relating to matters which may be observed outside of a hospital, come under our notice. The fifth and last division, addressed to the limited number of persons who are conscious of tendencies to insanity, has no place in an unprofessional review.
This little treatise upon "Mental Hygiene" carries its own evidence as the work of a disciplined mind, content to labor patiently among the materials of exact knowledge, and gradually to approximate laws in the spirit of scientific investigation. Mental phenomena are analyzed by Dr. Ray as material substances are analyzed by the chemist,—though, from the nature of the case, with far less certainty in results. Yet there is scarcely anything of practical moment in the book which may not be found in the popular writings of other prominent men,—such, for example, as Brodie, Holland, Moore, Marcel, and Herbert Spencer. We say this in no disparagement; there is no second-hand flavor about these cautious sentences. Dr. Ray has investigated for himself, and his conclusions are all the more valuable from coinciding with those of other accurate observers. It is agreeable to chronicle a contrast to that flux of quasi-medical literature put forth by men who have no title (save, perhaps, a legal one) to affix the M. D. so pertinaciously displayed. For there has lately been no lack of books of quotations, clumsily put together and without inverted commas, designed to puff some patent panacea, the exclusive property of the compiler, or of volumes whose claim to originality lay in the bold attempt to work off a life-stock of irrelevant anecdotes, the miscellaneous accumulations of a country-practitioner. Such authors—by courtesy so called—are possibly well-meaning amateurs, but can never be mistaken for scientists. We thank Dr. Ray for a book which, as a popular medical treatise, is really creditable to our literature.
Yet, mixed with much admirable counsel hereafter to be noticed, there are impressions given in this volume to which we cannot assent. And our chief objection might be translated into vulgar, but expressive parlance, by saying, that, in generalizing about society, the writer does not always seem able to sink the influences of the shop. We have been faintly reminded of the professional bias of Mr. Bob Sawyer, when he persuaded himself that the company in general would be better for a blood-letting. We respectfully submit that we are not quite so mad as—for the interests of science, no doubt—Dr. Ray would have us. The doctrine, that, do what he will, the spiritual welfare of man is in fearful jeopardy, is held by many religionists: we are loath to believe that his mental soundness is in no less peril. Yet a susceptible person will find it hard to put aside this book without an uncomfortable consciousness, that, if not already beside himself, the chances of his becoming so are desperately against him. For what practicable escape is offered from this impending doom? Shall we leave off work and devote ourselves to health? Idleness is a potent cause of derangement. Shall we engage in the hard and monotonous duties of an active calling? Paralysis and other organic lesions use up professional brains with a frequency which is positively startling. Shall we cultivate our imagination and make statues or verses? The frenzy of artists and poets is proverbial. At least, then, we may give our life-effort to some grand principle which shall redeem society from its misery and sin? Quite impossible! The contemplation of one idea, however noble, is sure to produce a morbid condition of the mind and distort its healthy proportions. Still there is a last refuge. By fresh air and vigorous exercise a man may surely keep his wits. We will labor steadily upon the soil, and never raise our thoughts from the clod we are turning! Even here the Doctor is too quick for us, and cries, "Checkmate!" with the fact that the Hodges of England and the agriculturists of Berkshire have a great and special gift at lunacy.
Of course, the preceding paragraph is very loosely written. We cheerfully admit that it might be impossible to quote from the book any single proposition to which, taken in a certain sense, a reasonable man would object. Nevertheless, there is a total impression derived from it which we cannot feel to be true. There is no sufficient allowance for the fact that what is most spirited and beautiful and worthy in modern society comes from that diversity of human pursuits which necessitates the concentration of individual energy into narrow channels. Neither to balance his mind in perfect equilibrium, nor to keep his body in highest condition, is the first duty of man upon earth. The Christian requirement of self-sacrifice often commands him to risk both in service to his neighbor. Besides, as we shall presently show, men of equal capacity in other branches of human inquiry do not agree with what seems to be Dr. Ray's estimate of the highest sanity. When we are warned to avoid "men of striking mental peculiarities," (our author advancing the proposition that such association is not entirely harmless to the most hardy intellect,)—when we are called upon to ostracize those who think that their short lives on earth can be most useful to others by exclusive devotion to some great principle or regenerating idea,—the thoughtful reader will question the instruction. The adjectives "extreme" and "fanatical" have, during the last twenty years, been applied to most valuable men of various parties and beliefs; they have been so applied by masses of conventionally respectable and not insincere citizens. But that the persons thus stigmatized have, on the whole, advanced the interests of civilization, freedom, and morality, we fervently believe.
It is in a very different direction that keenest observers have seen the real peril of modern society. De Tocqueville has solemnly warned our Democracy of that over-faith in public opinion which tends to become a species of religion of which the Majority is the prophet. John Stuart Mill has emphasized his conviction that the boldest individuality is of the utmost importance to social well-being, and has urged its direct encouragement as peculiarly the duty of the present time. Herbert Spencer has written most eloquent warnings on the danger of perverting certain generalizations upon society into a law for the private citizen. He has declared that the wise man will regard the truth that is in him not as adventitious, not as something that may be made subordinate to the calculations of policy, but as the supreme authority to which all his actions should bend. He has shown us that the most useful citizens play their appointed part in the world by endeavoring to get embodied in fact their present idealisms: knowing that if they can get done the things aimed at, well; if not, well also, though not so well. Now our complaint is, that Dr. Ray generalizes upon the limited class of facts which has come under his professional observation. There may be a feeble folk who have gone mad over Mr. Phillips's speeches or Mrs. Dall's lectures. This is not the place to discuss the methods or ends of either of these conspicuous persons. But shall we make nothing of the possible numbers of young men, plunging headlong at the prizes of society after the manner which Dr. Ray so intelligently deprecates, who have waked to a new standard of success by seeing one with talents which could gain their coveted distinctions passing them by to pursue, in uncompromising honesty of conviction, his solitary way? Shall we not consider the city-bred girls, confined in circles where the vulgar glitter of wealth was mitigated only by the feeblest dilettanteism,—spirited young women, falling into a morbid condition, whose pitiableness Dr. Ray has well illustrated,—who have yet been strengthened to possess their souls in health and steadiness by a voice without pleading in their behalf the right to choose their own work and command their own lives? When we are warned against those who come to regard it "as a sacred duty to vindicate the claims of abstract benevolence at all hazards, even though it lead through seas of blood and fire," our adviser is either basing his counsel upon the very flattest truism, or else intends to indorse a popular cry against men who claim to have founded their convictions on investigation the most thorough and conscientious. Take the vote of the wealth and education of Europe to-day, and Abraham Lincoln will be pronounced a fanatic vindicating the claims of abstract benevolence "through seas of blood and fire." Go back into the past, and consult one Festus, a highly respectable Roman governor, and we shall learn that Paul was beside himself, nay, positively mad, with his much learning. We repeat that it is for the infinite advantage of society that exceptional men are impelled to precipitate their power into very narrow channels. The most eminent helpers of civilization have been penetrated by their single mission,—they have known that in concentration and courage lay their highest usefulness. Let us not judge men who are other than these. We will not question the importance of a Goethe, with his scientific amusements, stage-plays, ducal companionships, and art of taking good care of himself; but we cannot deny at least an equal sanity to the "fanatic" Milton, who deemed it disgraceful to pursue his own gratification while his countrymen were contending against oppression, who was content to sacrifice sight in Liberty's defence, and to live an "extreme" protester against the profligacies of power and place.
But we linger too long from the solid instruction of this book. Dr. Ray considers the existence of insanity or remarkable eccentricity in a previous generation a prolific source of mental unsoundness. He addresses words of most solemn warning to those who have not yet formed the most important connection in life. A brain free from all congenital tendencies to disease results from a rigid compliance with the laws of parentage. The intermarriage of those related by blood is no uncommon cause of mental deterioration. Dr. Ray thinks that the facts collected in France and America upon this point are much more conclusive than a recent Westminster reviewer will allow. We are told that in this country the mingling of common blood in marriage is more frequent than is generally supposed, and that, of all agencies which have to do with the prevalence of insanity and idiocy, this is probably the most potent. A vigorous body is of course an important condition to high mental health, and what is said upon this head is tersely written and very sensible. We are told that "those much-enduring men and women who encountered the privations of the colonial times have been succeeded by a race incapable of toil and exposure, whom the winds of heaven cannot visit too roughly without leaving behind the seeds of dissolution." Here and elsewhere Dr. Ray cites the passion for light and emotional literature as a proof of our degeneracy. We have certainly nothing to say in behalf of that quality of modern character produced by the indolent reading of sensational writing. Still it may be questioned whether the enormous supply of bad books has not increased the demand for good ones,—just as quacks make practice for physicians. The readers of the Ledger stories have learned to demand a weekly instalment of the good sense and sobriety of Mr. Everett. And we are disposed to accept the view of a late American publisher, who declared that as a business-transaction he could not do better than subscribe to the diffusion of spasmodic literature, since it directly promoted the sale of the best authors in whose works he dealt. The craving for an intense and exciting literature Dr. Ray attributes to "feverish pulse, disturbed digestion, and irritable nerves." No doubt he is right,—within limits. But may not a healthy laborer find in the startling effects of the younger Cobb refreshment as precisely adapted to idealize his life, and divert his thoughts from a hard day's work, as that for which the college-professor seeks a tragedy of Sophocles or a romance of Hawthorne?
The chapter treating of "Mental Hygiene as affected by Physical Influences" begins with such warnings against vitiated air as all intelligent people read and believe,—yet not so vitally as to compel corporations to reform their halls and conveyances. The remarks upon diet have a very practical tendency. Dr. Ray, while declining to commit himself to any theory, is very emphatic in his leanings towards what is called vegetarianism. He questions the popular impression that hard-working men require much larger quantities of animal food than those whose employments are of a sedentary character. Although confessing that we lack statistics from which to establish the relative working-powers of animal and vegetable substances, Dr. Ray declares that the few observations which have met his notice are in favor of a diet chiefly vegetable. The late Henry Colman was satisfied that no men did more work or showed better health than the Scotch farm-laborers, whose diet was almost entirely oatmeal. In the California mines no class of persons better endure hardships or accomplish greater results than the Chinese, who live principally on vegetable food. It is also noticed, as pertinent to the point, that the standard of health is probably much higher among the people just named than among our New-England laborers. Dr. Ray sums up by saying that "there is no necessity for believing that the supply required by the waste of material which physical exercise produces cannot be as effectually furnished by vegetable as by animal substances." This is strong testimony from a physician of standing and authority. Not otherwise have asserted various reform-doctors who are not supposed to move in the first medical circles. The value of any approximate decision of the vegetarian question can hardly be overestimated. There are thousands of families of very moderate means who strain every nerve to feed their children upon beef and mutton,—and this with the tacit approval, or by the positive advice, of physicians in good repute. Can our children be brought up equally well upon potatoes and hasty-pudding? May the two or three hundred dollars thus annually saved be better spent in a trip to the country or a visit to the sea-side? He would be a benefactor to his countrymen who could affirmatively answer these questions from observations, statistics, and arguments which commanded the assent of all intelligent men.