View of Devil's Den from Little Round Top ~ Gettysburg ~ April 2008
Walt Whitman at Fredericksburg, 1862 : “No cots; seldom a mattress, I go around from one case to another. I do not see that I do much good to these wounded and dying; but I can not leave them. Once in a while some youngster holds on to me convulsively, and I do what I can for him...sit near him for hours if he wishes it.”
Lincoln, on the train to Gettysburg, 1863: “When I think of the sacrifices of life yet to be offered, and the hearts and homes yet to be made desolate before this dreadful war is over, my heart is like lead within me, and I feel at times like hiding in deep darkness.”
The U.S. House chaplain, the Rev. Thomas H. Stockton, offers a prayer at Gettysburg: “...As the trees are not dead, though the foliage is gone, so our heroes are not dead though their forms have fallen - with their personality they are all with Thee, and the spirit of their example is here. It fills the air, it fills our hearts, and long as time shall last it will hover in these skies and rest on this landscape....”
Lincoln in Philadelphia, June, 1864: “War at the best is terrible, and this of ours in its magnitude and duration is one of the most terrible the world has ever known...Yet it continues.”
General Sherman at Marietta, July, 1864: “It is enough to make the whole world start at the awful amount of death and destruction that now stalks abroad. Daily for the past two months has the work progressed and I see no signs of a remission till one or both and all the armies are destroyed, when I suppose the balance of the people will tear each other up, as Grant says, re- enacting the story of the Kilkenny cats. I begin to regard the death and mangling of a couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash - and it may be well that we become so hardened.
Lincoln, June 1864: “I’m a tired man. Sometimes I think I’m the tiredest man on earth.”
General Sherman, August, 1864: “War is cruelty and you can’t refine it.”
Leander Stillwell, 61st Illinois Volunteers: "It is more than probable that some of my shots were fatal, but I don’t know it, and am thankful for the ignorance. You see, after all, the common soldiers of the Confederate Armies were American boys, just like us, and conscientiously believed that they were right."
Lincoln writes Mrs. Bixby, November, 1864: Dear Madame, I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully, A. Lincoln.
Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March, 1865: “On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it - all sought to avert it...And the war came.”
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves...”
Walt Whitman, 1865: Future years will never know the seething hell and the black infernal background, the countless minor scenes and interiors of the secession war....The real war will never get in the books.
Lines from Walt Whitman’s poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” written for Lincoln immediately after his assassination:
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Here coffin that slowly passes,
...for the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands-
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