S. Millet Thompson.

Thirteenth regiment of New Hampshire volunteer infantry in the war of the rebellion, 1861-1865: a diary covering three years and a day online

. (page 75 of 81)
Online LibraryS. Millet ThompsonThirteenth regiment of New Hampshire volunteer infantry in the war of the rebellion, 1861-1865: a diary covering three years and a day → online text (page 75 of 81)
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hate is no jiatriotism.

To fight for the sake of fighting was contrary to the spirit and genius
of the Northern army in this struggle — to build a Nation was the real
issue ; there was no instance, however, where combativeness was required
where our Regiment, at least, failed to furnish it in abundance ; and such
instances were extremely rare in the army in general. Beware the hand
of a man, slow to anger, when once you have roused him.

Excepting a few men, and they for the most part the floating ' soldiers
of fortune,' who were thrust in among the regular volunteers, the men of
the Union army were sustained by a high jjatriotism, and by the conscious-
ness of the justice, honor and right of their cause — they felt it through
and through ; and went into battle with the same cool, stern feelings with
which any sane and good man encounters danger to his life and limb :
because the honorable necessity is laid upon him. With all its faults, the
Northern army as a whole was good, honest, honorable and of clean grit.
There was much loud cheering over victories, no matter what the cost to
either side ; but no cheers, not one, that army ever gave over the rebel
wounded or dead, and no jeering at or insulting pi'isoners taken. A
clear sense of danger and a high purjiose is necessary to a noble courage
— this can face danger down ; this characterized the Northern army.

Curiously enough, after making the final copy of this page for the
press, the writer's attention was called to Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman's
contribution to the Century Magazine for February 1888, in which he
writes (condensed) :

" We veterans believe that in 1861-5 we fought a holy war, with abso-
lute right on our side, with pure patriotism, and achieved a result which
enabled tlie United States of America to resume her glorious career in
the interest of all mankind."

Of himself and Gen. Grant he adds : " We were as brothers — I the
older man in years, but he the higher in rank. We both believed in our
heart of hearts that the success of the Union cause was not only necessary
to the then generation of Americans, but to all future generations. We
both professed to be gentlemen and professional soldiers, educated in the
science of war by our generous Government for the very occasion which
had arisen. Neither of us by nature was a combative man ; but with
honest hearts and a clear purpose to do what man could we embarked on
that campaign."

He also adds a description of our old campaigning methods, that is too
good and clear to be passed by : '' A regiment, brigade, division or corps,
halting for the night or for battle, faced the enemy ; moved forward to
ground with a good outlook to the front ; stacked arms ; gathered logs,
stumps, fence-rails, and anything which would stop a bullet ; piled these



634 THIRTEENTH NEW HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT.

to their front, and, digging a ditch behind, threw the dirt forward, and
made a parapet which covered their })ersons as perfectly as a granite
wall."

As to the Thirteenth the writer does not act as a critic ; does not draw
any invidious comparisons between man and man ; does not decry one
nor exalt another ; he merely endeavors to give the facts with the utmost
possible exactness, and with an impartial hand. There was a remarkable
evenness among the officers, and also among the enlisted men. It is
fortunate that no pet hero stands for the Thirteenth, that no mere in-
dividual name overshadows this organization with a great, a buncombe or
a bounceful personality. This is no one-man regiment ; any member of
this regiment is mentioned only as the incidental, fortunate or unfortu-
nate part of the one grand whole. The Thirteenth is a historic Regi-
ment, in which ' I ' goes to the rear, and ' We ' stands at the front.

Of the members of the Thirteenth each one had his own natural way
of acting his part ; all could not excel in any one direction, but all found
a useful place — and take them for all in all it is doubtless safe to assert
that thirteen hundred better men and soldiers did not fill any regimental
organization in the Union service in the war of 1861—5.

In civil life the worst enemy the Union Veterans have among them-
selves is General Blab — the big talker who does not talk truly ; the
worst enemy outside of their own numbers, the meanest opponent, the
least trustworthy and shabbiest person generally, w'hom the Union Veteran
soldier now meets, knows, or has anything to do with, is the Northern
man of near his own age, who w^as then able-bodied for military service,
bat vrho ignobly, cowardly, and without honorable cause or reason shirked
the war of 1861-5, — in anything whatever trust him not at all. The
writer speaks from a long and a most unsatisfactory personal experience
with, and observation of, many persons of this class, native born, but still
unworthy of American citizensliip.

Widening our view again, the men of tbe Southern army were of the
same race as the Northern, differing only in training, education and in
the hotness of temperament that a hot climate seems to provoke in Eng-
lish stock ; and nine out of every ten men of both armies now, 1888, meet
as friends, and are as proud as can be of nuitual prowess, honor and grit.
This now national kindliness and fraternity of spirit, that comes of kin,
as well as from other sources, is increasing wherever persons of the two
sections meet, at home or abroad, and the old soldiers of both armies, and
of all grades of rank, take the lead in it ; and the schemer for jjersonal
ends who works against it, should be held as unworthy of public official
place, should be reckoned a consummate fool, a mischief-maker, and no
American — he ought to be pitched ignominiously head-foremost into the
nearest goosp-pond, and there be left to cool off. In the language of
our noble old commander, the world's first Genei'al, Ulysses S. Grant :
" Let us have peace."



ADDENDA. 635

This book is no place for a sermon, but the oft repeated remark that,
comparatively sj^eaking, the Southern army was more religious than the
Northern army — as if that were any great credit — ought not to be passed
in silence, for religion may be this thing and may be that thing, from
Confucianism to Voudooism, or better or worse, and Christianity be alto-
gether another thing ; and it is always far better than aU else combined.

The South was led wrong. Bring together in like circumstance, cus-
tom and habit the white people of the North and of the South, and they
of the two sections would scarcely be separable.

There was a fearful bar to unity between these English peoples ; and
when God, the father of us all, found slavery as the political corner-stone,
and the economical and social corner-stone, of the Southern Confederacy,
standing as a determined bar to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this great
American commonwealth — and there is no disputing that — He gathered,
in the free Northland, ninety-nine out of every hundred of her best young
men, formed them into a compact body, and hurled them at a stroke
against this system of human slavery, crushed that Confederacy's corner-
stone to powder, and scattered it to the four winds ; and all the world,
and gradually this very Soutliland also, rose up and said Amen ! The
Old South passed out into history and tradition.

That the most of those ninety-nine out of every hundred of the best
young men of the entire North were Christians needs no proof. Their
life before, during and since the war, their every thought, word and act
of truth, hoaior, kindliness and right, is proof direct to the point — they
are our fellow citizens. He must be a blind, narrow and bigoted person
indeed who cannot, or will not, see the workings of the providence of
God, and the advance of Christianity and the best interests of mankind —
and these two are a unity — in the events and issues between 1860 and
1888, this one generation, nearly, of the white people of these United
States. Probably the most of the story of the differences in and be-
tween the peoples of the two sections in 1860-5 can be written in one
sentence — the South was the more religious, the North was the more
Christian. The New South is now free to build upon a new foundation,
hand in hand and heart in heart, with the free North.













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Online LibraryS. Millet ThompsonThirteenth regiment of New Hampshire volunteer infantry in the war of the rebellion, 1861-1865: a diary covering three years and a day → online text (page 75 of 81)