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lost in New Orleans,—went to the dogs.” It is a chronicle not recorded on the monuments, but remembered in many a blighted household. The financial debt the war left behind it was not the heaviest part of the after-cost.
Nor must there be forgotten the temper which war begets, of mutual hate between whole peoples. Forty years later we bring ourselves, some of us, and in a measure,to see that our opponents of either side had some justification or some excuse; that they perhaps were honest as we. But little room was there for such mutual forbearance of judgment while the fight was on. For the average man, for most men, to fight means also to hate. While the contest lasted, Northerners habitually spoke of their foes as “the rebels,”—not in contumely, but as matter-of-fact description. They were “rebels ” in common speech, and when one warmed a little they were traitors." Good men said that now for the first time they saw why the imprecatory Psalms were written,-theirs was the only cursing strong enough for the country's enemies. Quite as hearty was the South's detestation of the Yankee invaders and despots,-the fanatics and their hired minions. The Southern feeling took the keener edge, because sharpened by the bitter fact of invasion and the hardships it brought. With them the home suffered, not only as at the North, by the departure of father or son to danger or death; the Southern homes often saw the foes in their midst, and sometimes suffered ravage and spoil. “How can you expect me to be well reconstructed," asked a Virginian after the war, “When I remember the family vaults in which the silver plates were wrenched from the coffins by your soldiers?” When the fighting was over, the life of the reunited nation had to work its way for a generation,-and the end is not yet,-against the hostilities, the rancors, the misunderstandings, generated in those four years of strife.
The reality of war where it fell heaviest,-in the border States, where neighborhoods and families were divided, and both armies marched and fought,-is touched by the graphic pen of a woman, Mrs. Rebecca Harding Davis, who saw and felt a part of it: “ The histories which we have of the great tragedy give no idea of the general wretchedness, the squalid misery, which entered into every individual life in the region given up to the war.
Where the armies camped the destruction was absolute. Even on the border, your farm was a waste, all your horses or cows were seized by one army or the other, or your shop or manufactory was closed, your trade ruined. You had no money; you drank coffee made of roasted parsnips for breakfast, and ate only potatoes for dinner. Your nearest kinsfolk and friends passed you on the street silent and scowling; if you said what you thought you were liable to be dragged to the county jail and left there for months. The subject of the war was never broached in your
home where opinions differed; but one morning the boys were missing. No one said a word, but one gray head was bent, and the happy light died out of the old eyes and never came to them again. Below all the squalor and discomfort was the agony of suspense or the certainty of death. But the parsnip coffee and the empty purse certainly did give a sting to the great overwhelming misery, like gnats tormenting a wounded man.”
Visiting in war-time the sages of Concord, she saw the difference between war as viewed by visionaries at a distance and the reality: “I remember listening during one long summer morning to Louisa Alcott's father as he chanted pæans to the war, the 'armed angel which was wakening the nation to a lofty life unknown before.' We were in the little parlor of the Wayside, Mr. Hawthorne's house in Concord. Mr. Alcott stood in front of the fire
place, his long gray hair streaming over his collar, his pale eyes turning quickly from one listener to another to hold them quiet, his hands waving to keep time with the orotund sentences which had a stale, familiar ring as if often repeated before. Mr. Emerson stood listening, his head sunk on his breast, with profound submissive attention, but Hawthorne sat astride of a chair, his arms folded on the back, his chin dropped on them, and his laughing, sagacious eyes watching us, full of mockery.
“I had come up from the border where I had seen the actual war; the filthy spewings of it; the political jobbery in Union and Confederate camps; the malignant personal hatreds wearing patriotic masks, and glutted by burning homes and outraged women; the chances in it, well improved on both sides, for brutish men to grow more brutish, and for honorable gentlemen to degenerate into thieves and sots. War may be an armed angel with a mission, but she has the personal habits of the slums. This would be seer who was talking of it, and the real seer who listened, knew no more of war as it was, than I had done in my cherry-tree time, when I dreamed of bannered legions of crusaders debouching in the misty fields."
The youth who reads may ask in wonder, “And was then the war to which we have been used to look back with exultation and pride,-was it but a horror and a crime?" No; it was something other and more than that; it had its aspects of moral grandeur and of gain for humanity; it was a field for noble self-sacrifice, for utmost striving of men and deepest tenderness of women, it had its heroes and martyrs and saints; it was in the large view the tremendous price of national unity and universal freedom. But in the exaltation of these better aspects, we have as a people too much forgotten the other and awful side. That is what we need now to be reminded of. For among our present
dangers none is greater than the false glorification of war. Against such glorifications stands Sherman's word, “War is hell.” And on that grand tomb with which our greatest city crowns its proudest height is inscribed, as the one word by which Grant forever speaks to his countrymen, “ Let us have peace."
The nobler side of the war is told and will be told in many a history and biography, romance and poem. In the broad view, the grandest fact was that a multitude of men and women felt and acted as never before for a cause greater than any personal gain. Under the discipline of sacrifice and suffering, and with the personal horizon widened to take in nations and races, a multitude on the field and at home grew to loftier stature. The hardships and perils which wrecked some strengthened others. The development of energy and resource was beyond measure. The North created armies and navies; it organized a new system of finance; it transformed a peaceful industrial community into an irresistible military force; and all the while it carried on its productive industries with scarcely visible shrinkage; farm and mill, school and college, kept on with their work. The South made itself into a solid army of resistance; cut off from its accustomed sources of supply, it developed for itself all the essentials of material life; it showed an ingenuity and resourcefulness beyond all expectation; and the fidelity of its slaves supplied its armies with food while keeping its homes secure. In peace haunted always by latent dread of insurrection, in war the South found its servants its best friends. So, in both sections, wonders were wrought and deeds never dreamed of were achieved.
In justly viewing the evil and the good of war, we must compare it with other disturbances and catastrophes. The finest traits and highest efficiency of men come out under
disasters which yet it must be our habitual effort to avert. It is the ship on the rocks, the theater on fire, that shows the hero. But what should we think of one who ran a ship on shore, or set fire to a theater, in order to call out heroism? Exactly so are we to regard those who glorify war as in itself a fine and admirable thing, a proper school and arena of manhood. The refutation of such talk comes not so well from men of the church or closet as from those who have drunk deepest of war's reality. A man of exuberant vitality, whose personal delight in physical strife colors his statesmanship, and who is exhilarated by the memory of a skirmish or two in Cuba, may talk exultantly of “glory enough to go round," and preach soldiering as a splendid manifestation of the strenuous life. But the grim old warrior whose genius and resolution split the Confederacy like a wedge, General Sherman, in the very midst of his task wrote to a friend: “I confess without shame that I am sick and tired of the war. Its glory is all moonshine. Even success, the most brilliant, is over dead and mangled bodies, the anguish and lamentation of distant families appealing to me for missing sons, husbands, and fathers. It is only those who have not heard a shot, nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded and lacerated (friend or foe), that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.”
One glance we here may give at the traits which against this dark background shone with the light which redeems humanity. The worst scenes of all were not on the battlefield but in the military prisons. At Andersonville, and other points, thousands of Northern prisoners were crowded together, with insufficient supply of unnutritious food, with scanty and foul water; surrounded by harsh guards, quick to shoot if the “dead line” was crossed by a foot; harassed by petty tyranny; starved, homesick, diseased, dying like