Slike strani

were raising, to check the progress of disease, to furnish articles for the hospitals and for the individual sick and wounded, which were not contemplated in the army regulations, to care for soldiers who were in transitu from camp to home, or from home to camp, to collect statistics on all the various subjects which pertained to the sanitary condition of the army, and, in short, to do all the work which was requisite for the aid and comfort of the sick, the wounded, the disabled and the bereaved.

The Sanitary Commission was the organized benevolence of the nation, as applied to the army. An appeal was made to the people at the beginning of the war. The people, particularly the women of the nation, responded nobly, generously, ceaselessly. A stream of contributions in supplies and money flowed into the storehouses and treasury of the Commission. For five years it continued. This good will and liberality 'never gave the slightest indication of exhaustion. When the war ended, the Commission was supplied for a long campaign. The people were not deceived. They did not give in vain. The agents of the Commission were prompt, vigilant and active on every battle field and in every hospital. Sometimes they were the first on the ground with their needed supplies. Often they were among the last to leave. The Ninth Corps, in common with the rest of the army, was the recipient of the bounty which the two Commissions dispensed. Many a poor fellow, far away from home and friends, had them brought to him by the kindness of these benevolent associations and their agents. His loneliness was cheered, his mind soothed, and his dying moments blest, as he was taught to feel that Christian sympathy was freely given him, and Christian love had chosen him for its special object.

There is another class of men, filling a comparatively obscure position, but performing a vast amount of useful labor in the promotion of the effectiveness of an army. The Chaplains, who have served in the hospital or in the field, have rendered an inestimable, though not always recognized service in the

cause of the Union. Their names very seldom appeared in official reports, but the duties which they performed, when faithfully discharged, were of the utmost benefit. They have been subject to all the casualties of a soldier's career. Some have suffered imprisonment, others have received wounds, others have contracted disease and died, and others still have lost their lives on the field of battle, while performing the duties of their sacred profession. A Chaplain's status in the army has never been defined. He was an officer, yet he had no rank, and could exercise no authority except that which his personal influence commanded. Most frequently, if he were a man of faithful spirit and of active temperament, he was a servant of all work. It has sometimes been the case, that the Chaplain of a regiment has been called upon to fill the position of postmaster, teacher, amanuensis, private secretary, aide de camp, and even commissary and quarter master, while the Surgeons in the regimental hospitals have at all times felt justified in calling upon him for aid. Left in charge of the wounded after a battle, when the army has been compelled to retreat, Chaplains have not unfrequently fallen into the hands of the enemy. It is true that, in some cases, they have not been retained as prisoners for any long period. "We don't want Yankee Chaplains in the South," said General Stuart to Chaplain Ball of the 21st Massachusetts, after the battle of Chantilly, when he learned the name and position of his prisoner; "I think we will let you go." But all rebel officers were not so lenient as the good-natured cavalry general. Some of the Chaplains who were captured were treated with great severity, and still bear the marks of their confinement.

The labors of these officers and the influence which they have exerted, belong rather to the unseen and unwritten part of life, than to that which is apparent and well understood. Certainly there was no place where religious teaching was more needed than in the army, and there was no better or more encouraging field to an industrious and faithful man. The influence which a good Chaplain exerted was not alto

gether temporary. It remains and does its silent work, long after the official connection between him and the soldier has ceased. Men like James of the 25th Massachusetts, who, at the battle of Roanoke Island, personally served the gun of a battery, the men of which had been disabled; Benton of the 51st New York, who was killed at the battle of Newbern, while in attendance upon the wounded and dying men of his regiment; Ball of the 21st Massachusetts, who, at the battle of Camden, and in the movements of the regiment, performed at different times the duties of every office of the regimental staff; Hunting of the 27th Michigan, who was always active, zealous and efficient in the camp and field; and others, less known, but not less faithful, have, in the course of the war, done a work the results of which are permanent in their duration. Upon men placed in the circumstances of a soldier's life, if there is any receptivity of good influences, religious services, conducted by a sincere and devoted man, have a wonderful effect. They are a restraint, an encouragement, a help, and an inspiration. The uncertainty of the life in which these men are engaged, the necessity of obeying the commands of a superior at any moment, without any question and in utter ignorance of what may be the issue, and the consequent loss, to a certain extent, of self-confidence, naturally induce a feeling of dependence on a higher Power. It is a time when trust in Divine Providence can be awakened and obedience to Divine laws enforced. The most thoughtless must be affected in some degree, even though no apparent result is produced. In subsequent hours, the words and personal influence of the religious teacher will be remembered, recognized and felt. Or, if death has come upon the field or in the hospital, it is certainly a satisfaction to know that the last hours of many a dying soldier have been solaced, and his pains assuaged by the kindly and gentle ministrations of the devoted Chaplain, who has pointed the struggling spirit to a world of unfading brightness and eternal peace.

There is still another class of men, whom not to mention

would be an act of injustice as well as neglect. These are known as "the rank and file" of our volunteer army. The private soldier does not always receive the attention and the grateful acknowledgment which his services merit. In the great war for the preservation of the Union, the enlisted men of the army have been for the most part especially remarkable for the readiness, with which they first entered upon the duty, the fearlessness which they manifested in the contest, the spirit of self-sacrifice with which they exposed and, by thousands, laid down their lives, and for the facility with which the survivors reëntered upon peaceful occupations and became once more absorbed into the life of the State. In recounting the more distinguished service of officers high in command, the claims of the private soldier to an honorable recognition should not be overlooked.

There were many cases of young men of the best social position, of fine scholarship and even of great wealth, who volunteered to serve as privates in the armies of the Union. Many who enlisted in the three months' regiments at the beginning of the war, served again as officers in regiments subsequently organized for a longer period. Of the members of General Burnside's staff, Messrs. Richmond, Goddard, Pell, French and Cutts were privates in the First Rhode Island. This regiment alone furnished from its private soldiers no less than two hundred and twenty officers of all grades in the army from Second Lieutenant to brevet Brigadier General, and twelve officers in the navy. This is but a single instance. Other regiments could doubtless furnish its parallel. Add to these the promotions which have been made from the ranks, and some estimate can be made of the character of those who have occupied the humble position of the private soldier.

One of the best features of the war has been manifested in the alacrity with which our young men of all classes and conditions undertook the dangerous duty. What a contribution was made by the sturdy yeomanry of the free States! How readily did the laboring men furnish their quota to fill the

ranks! All were ready and even eager to participate in the perils and privations of the camp and the field. Accustomed to the free and independent life of northern communities, they yet learned the difficult lesson of obedience and self-abnegation. Wonted to think for themselves, they yet brought themselves to the unquestioning action which the discipline of the army required. Few were the rewards for which their ambition looked. By them, little distinction was to be won. Little glory would gather round their names. Their chief incentive was a spirit of fidelity to the duty which the Republic demanded. That duty they well and thoroughly performed. The State which the fathers founded the sons with equal virtue preserved. They carried their country through the hour of its extreme peril, and proved to all the nations of the world that "the government of the people, by the people and for the people," was not to "perish from the earth." In concluding this narrative of the campaigns through which the NINTH ARMY CORPS passed, let the final word be a grateful tribute to the courage, the fortitude, the loyalty and self-devotion which the private soldiers exhibited on every scene of action, suffering or death!

« PrejšnjaNaprej »