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The Last Leaf
Observations, during Seventy-five Years, of Men and Events in America and Europe
James Kendall Hosmer, LL.D.
Member of the Minnesota Historical Society, Corresponding Member of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Colonial Society of Massachusetts
Author of “A Short History of German Literature,” “The Story of the Jews,” the Lives of Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Sir Henry Vane, etc.
Standing on the threshold of my eightieth year, stumbling badly, moreover, through the mutiny, well justified, of a pair of worn-out eyes, I, a veteran maker of books, must look forward to the closing of an over-long series.
I retain in my memory certain films, which record impressions of long ago. Can I not possibly develop and present these film records for a moving picture of the men and events of an eventful period?
We old story-tellers do our talking under a heavy handicap. Homer, long ago, found us garrulous, and compared us to cicadas chirping unprofitably in the city-gate. In the modern time, too, Dr. Holmes, ensconced in smug youth, could “sit and grin” at one of our kind as he
“Totters o’er the ground
With his cane.”
“His breeches and all that
Were so queer.”
The “all that” is significant. To the callow young doctor, men of our kind were throughout queered, and so, too, think the spruce and jaunty company who are shouldering us so fast out of the front place. In their thought we are more than depositors of last leaves, in fact we are last leaves ourselves, capable in the green possibly of a pleasant murmur, but in the dry with no voice but a rattle prophetic of winter. I hope Dr. Holmes lived to repent his grin. At any rate he lived to refute the notion that youthful fire and white hairs exclude each other. If we must totter, what ground we have to totter over, with two generations and more behind us! The ground is ours. We only have looked into the faces of the great actors, and have taken part in the epoch-making events. As I unroll my panorama I may totter, but I hope I shall not dodder.
Retiring, as I must soon do from my somewhat Satanic activity, from “going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it,” I can claim, like my ill-reputed exemplar, to have encountered some patient Jobs, servants of the Lord, but more who were impatient, yet not the less the Lord’s servants, and the outward semblance of these I try to present. My pictures have to some extent been exhibited before, in the _Atlantic Monthly_, the New York _Evening Post_, and the Boston _Transcript_, and I am indebted to the courtesy of the publishers of these periodicals for permission to utilise them here. I am emboldened by the favour they met to present them again to the public, retouched, and expanded. I attempt no elaborate characterisation of men, or history of events or exposition of philosophies. My films are snap-shots, caught from the curbstone, from the gallery of an assembly, in a scholar’s study, or by the light of a camp-fire. I have ventured to address my reader as friend might talk to a friend, with the freedom of familiar intercourse, and I hope that the reader may not be conscious of any undue intrusion of the showman as the figures and scenes appear. Go, little book, with this setting forth of what you are and aim to do.
MINNEAPOLIS, October, 4, 1912.
STATESMEN OF OUR CRITICAL PERIOD
“Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” Millard Fillmore. Abraham Lincoln at Church. Stephen A. Douglas. Daniel Webster. William H. Seward. Edward Everett. Robert C. Winthrop. Charles Sumner. John A. Andrew.
SOLDIERS I HAVE MET
U.S. Grant. Philip H. Sheridan. George G. Meade. W.T. Sherman. Jacob D. Cox. N.P. Banks. B.F. Butler. John Pope. Henry W. Slocum. O.O. Howard. Rufus Saxton. James H. Wilson. T.W. Sherman. Horatio G. Wright. Isaac I. Stevens. Harvard Soldiers. W.F. Bartlett. Charles R. Lowell. Francis C. Barlow.
HORACE MANN AND ANTIOCH COLLEGE
Horace Mann. “The New Wrinkle at Sweetbrier.” Dramatics in the Schools of Germany, of France, of England, at Antioch College.
THE GIANT IN THE SPIKED HELMET
Prussia in 1870. Militarism in the Schools, in the Universities, in the Home, in the Sepulchre. The Hohenzollern Lineage.
A STUDENT’S EXPERIENCE IN THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR
Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. The Emperor Frederick. Wilhelm II. Francis Joseph of Austria. King Ludwig of Bavaria. Munich in War-time. A Deserted Switzerland. France in Arms. Paris on the Verge of the Siege.
George Bancroft. Justin Winsor. John Fiske.
ENGLISH AND GERMAN HISTORIANS
Sir Richard Garnett. S.R. Gardiner. E.A. Freeman. Goldwin Smith. James Bryce. The House of Commons. Lord Randolph Churchill and W.E. Gladstone as Makers of History. Von Treitschke. Ernst Curtius. Leopold von Ranke. Theodor Mommsen. Lepsius. Hermann Grimm.
POETS AND PROPHETS
Henry W. Longfellow. Oliver Wendell Holmes. James Russell Lowell. The Town of Concord. Henry D. Thoreau. Louisa M. Alcott. Nathaniel Hawthorne. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Phillips Brooks.
MEN OF SCIENCE
German Scientists: Kirchoff, the Physicist. Bunsen, the Chemist. Helmholtz. American Scientists: Simon Newcomb, Asa Gray, Louis Agassiz, Alexander Agassiz.
William Grey, Ninth Earl of Stamford. The Franciscan of Salzburg. The Berlin Dancer. Visits to Old Battle-fields. Eupeptic Musings.
The Last Leaf
STATESMEN OF OUR CRITICAL PERIOD
I came to consciousness in the then small town of Buffalo in western New York, whither, in Andrew Jackson’s day, our household gods and goods were conveyed from Massachusetts for the most part by the Erie Canal, the dizzy rate of four miles an hour not taking away my baby breath. Speaking of men and affairs of state, as I shall do in this opening paper, I felt my earliest political thrill in 1840. I have a distinct vision, the small boy’s point of view being not much above the sidewalk, of the striding legs in long processions, of wide-open, clamorous mouths above, and over all of the flutter of tassels and banners. Then began my knowledge of log-cabins, coon-skins, and of the name hard cider, the thump of drums, the crash of brass-bands, cockades, and torch-lights. My powers as a singer, always modest, I first exercised on “For Tippecanoe and Tyler too,” which still obtrudes too obstinately upon my tympanum, though much fine harmony heard since in cathedrals and the high shrines of music is quite powerless now to make that organ vibrate. Four years later, my emerging voice did better justice to “Harry Clay of Old Kentucky,” and my early teens found me in an environment that quickened prematurely my interest in public affairs. My father, the pioneer apostle of an unpopular faith, ministered in a small church of brick faced with stone to a congregation which, though few in numbers, contained some remarkable people. Millard Fillmore and his partner, Nathan K. Hall, soon to be Postmaster-General, were of his fold, together with Hiram Barton, the city’s mayor, and other figures locally noteworthy. Fillmore was only an accidental President, dominated, no doubt, and dwarfed in the perspective by greater men, while the part he played in a great crisis brought upon him obloquy with many good people. “Say what you will about Fillmore,” said a fellow-totterer to me the other day, adjusting his “store” teeth for an emphatic declaration, “by signing the Fugitive Slave Bill he saved the country. That act postponed the Civil War ten years. Had it come in 1850, as it assuredly would but for that scratch of Fillmore’s pen, the Union would have gone by the board. The decade that followed greatly increased the relative strength of the North. A vast immigration poured in which almost universally came to stand for the Union. Moreover the expanding West, whose natural outlet until then had been down the Mississippi to the South, became now linked to the East by great lines of railroad, and West and East entered into such a new bond of sympathy that there was nothing for it, in a time of trial, but to stand together. As it was, it was only by the narrowest margin that the Union weathered the storm. Had it come ten years earlier, wreck would have been inevitable, and it is to Fillmore’s signature that we owe that blessed postponement.” As the old man spoke, I had a vision of the grave, troubled face of my father as he told us once of a talk he had just had with Mr. Fillmore. The relations of the pastor and the parishioner, always cordial, had become more than ever friendly through an incident creditable to both. Mr. Fillmore had good-naturedly offered my father a chaplaincy in the Navy, a post with a comfortable salary, which he might easily hold, taking now and then a pleasant sea-cruise with light duties, or indeed not leaving home at all, by occasional trips and visits to the one man-of-war which the Government maintained on the Great Lakes. To an impecunious minister, with a large family to educate, it was a tempting offer. But my father in those days was a peace-man, and he was also disinclined to nibble at the public crib while rendering no adequate service. He declined the appointment, a course much censured. “The fool parson, to let such a chance go!” Mr. Fillmore admired it and their friendship became heartier than ever. In the interview, my father had asked his friend to explain his course on the Fugitive Slave Law, an act involving suffering for so many, and no doubt took on a tone of remonstrance. He told us the President raised his hands in vehement appeal. He had only a choice between terrible evils–to inflict suffering which he hoped might be temporary, or to precipitate an era of bloodshed with the destruction of the country as a probable result. He did not do evil that good might come, but of two imminent evils he had, as he believed, chosen the lesser.
Fillmore lives in my memory a stately, massive presence, with hair growing grey and kindly blue eyes looking down upon the little boy with a pleasant greeting. His wife was gentle and unassuming. His daughter Abby matured into much beauty and grace, and her sudden death, by cholera, in the bloom of young womanhood cast a shadow on the nation. They were homely folk, thrust up suddenly into high position, but it did not turn their heads. In their lives they were plainly sweet and honest. No taint of corruption attaches to Fillmore in either his private or public career. He was my father’s friend. I think he meant well, and am glad that our most authoritative historian of the period, Rhodes, can say that he discharged the duties of his high office “with ability and honour.”
When in February, 1861, Abraham Lincoln, on his way to Washington, arrived in Buffalo Saturday night and it became known he would spend Sunday, the town was alive with curiosity as to where he would go to church. Mr. Lincoln was Mr. Fillmore’s guest. They had known each other well in Congress–Fillmore a veteran at the head of the Committee of Ways and Means, Lincoln then quite unknown, serving his only term. Both were Whigs of the old school, in close contact and I suppose not afterwards far apart. Lincoln was prepared to execute the Fugitive Slave Law, while Fillmore was devoted to the Union, and probably would have admitted at the end that Lincoln’s course throughout was good. My father’s church was looked on somewhat askance. “It’s lucky,” said a parishioner once, “that it has a stone face.” Would Lincoln go to the Unitarian church? Promptly at service-time Mr. Fillmore appeared with his guest, the two historic figures side by side in the pew. Two or three rows intervened between it and that in which sat my mother and our household. I beheld the scene only through the eyes of my kindred, for by that time I had flown the nest. But I may be pardoned for noting here an interesting spectacle. As they stood during the hymns, the contrast was picturesque. Both men had risen from the rudest conditions through much early hardship. Fillmore had been rocked in a sap-trough in a log-cabin scarcely better than Lincoln’s early shelter, and the two might perhaps have played an even match at splitting rails. Fillmore, however, strangely adaptive, had taken on a marked grace of manner, his fine stature and mien carrying a dignified courtliness which is said to have won him a handsome compliment from Queen Victoria–a gentleman rotund, well-groomed, conspicuously elegant. Shoulder to shoulder with him rose the queer, raw-boned, ramshackle frame of the Illinoisan, draped in the artless handiwork of a prairie tailor, surmounted by the rugged, homely face. The service, which the new auditor followed reverently, being finished, the minister, leaving the pulpit, gave Lincoln God-speed–and so he passed on to his greatness. My mother, sister, and brothers–the youngest of whom before two years were gone was to fill a soldier’s grave–stood close at hand.
I once saw Stephen A. Douglas, the man who was perhaps more closely associated than any other with the fame of Lincoln, for he was the human obstacle by overcoming whom Lincoln proved his fitness for the supreme place. Douglas was a man marvellously strong. Rhodes declares it would be hard to set bounds to his ability. I saw him in 1850, when he was yet on the threshold, just beginning to make upon the country an impress of power. Fillmore had recently, through Taylor’s death, become President, and was making his first visit to his home after his elevation, with members of his Cabinet and other conspicuous figures of his party. How Douglas came to be of the company I wonder, for he was an ardent Jacksonian Democrat, but there he was on the platform before the multitude, and I, a boy of sixteen, watched him curiously, for he was young as compared with the grey heads about him. His image, as he stood up to speak, is very clear to me even now–a face strong-featured and ruddy with vigour beneath a massive forehead whose thatch had the blackness and luxuriance of youth. His trunk was disproportionately large, carried on legs sturdy enough but noticeably short. The wits used to describe him as the statesman “with coat-tails very near the ground.” It is worth while to remark on this physical peculiarity because it was the direct opposite of Lincoln’s configuration. He, while comparatively short-bodied, had, as all the world knows, an abnormal length of limb, a fact which I suppose will account for much of his ungainly manner. In an ordinary chair he was undoubtedly uncomfortable, and hence his familiar attitude with his feet on the table or over the mantelpiece. The two fought each other long and sternly on those memorable platforms in Illinois in 1858, and in their physique there must have been, as they stood side by side, a grotesque parody of their intellectual want of harmony. Douglas’s usual sobriquet was “the little giant,” and it fitted well–a man of stalwart proportions oddly “sawed off.” His voice was vibrant and sonorous, his mien compelling. It was no great speech, a few sentences of compliment to the city and of good-natured banter of the political foes among whom he found himself; but it was _ex pede Herculem_, a leader red-blooded to the finger-tips. I treasure the memory of this brief touch into which I once came with Douglas for I have come to think more kindly of him as he has receded. Not a few will now admit that, taken generally, his doctrine of “squatter sovereignty” was right. Congress ought not to have power to fix a status for people of future generations. If a status so fixed becomes repugnant it will be repudiated, and rightfully. Douglas was certainly cool over the woes of the blacks; but he refused, it is said, to grow rich, when the opportunity offered, from the ownership of slaves or from the proceeds of their sale. His rally to the side of Lincoln at last was finely magnanimous and it was a pleasant scene, at the inauguration of March 4, 1861, when Douglas sat close by holding Lincoln’s hat. There was an interview between the two men behind closed doors, on the night the news of Sumter came, of which one would like to have a report. Lincoln came out from it to issue, through the Associated Press, his call for troops, and Douglas to send by the same channel the appeal to his followers to stand by the Government. What could the administration have done without the faithful arms and hearts of the War Democrats? And what other voice but that of Douglas could have rallied them to its support? Had he lived it seems inevitable that the two so long rivals would have been close friends–that Douglas would have been in Lincoln’s Cabinet, perhaps in Stanton’s place. This, however, is not a memory but a might-have-been, and those are barred out in this Last Leaf.
Daniel Webster came home to die in 1852. He was plainly failing fast, but the State for which he stood hoped for the best, and arranged that he should speak, as so often before, in Faneuil Hall. As I walked in from Harvard College, over the long “caterpillar bridge” through Cambridge Street and Dock Square, my freshman mind was greatly perplexed. My mother’s family were perfervid Abolitionists, accepting the extremest utterances of Garrison and Wendell Phillips. I was now in that environment, and felt strong impress from the power and sincerity of the anti-slavery leaders. Fillmore and his Postmaster-General, N.K. Hall, were old family friends. We children had chummed with their children. Their kindly, honest faces were among the best known to us in the circle of our elders. I had learned to respect no men more. I was about to behold Webster, Fillmore’s chief secretary and counsellor. On the one hand he was much denounced, on the other adored, in each case with fiery vehemence, and in my little world the contrasting passions were wildly ablaze. In the mass that crowded Faneuil Hall we waited long, an interval partly filled by the eccentric and eloquent Father Taylor, the seamen’s preacher, whom the crowd espied in the gallery and summoned clamorously. My mood was serious, and it jarred upon me when a classmate, building on current rumours, speculated irreverently as to the probable contents of the pitcher on Mr. Webster’s desk. He came at last, tumultuously accompanied and received, and advanced to the front, his large frame, if I remember right, dressed in the blue coat with brass buttons and buff vest usual to him on public occasions, which hung loosely about the attenuated limbs and body. The face had all the majesty I expected, the dome above, the deep eyes looking from the caverns, the strong nose and chin, but it was the front of a dying lion. His colour was heavily sallow, and he walked with a slow, uncertain step. His low, deep intonations conveyed a solemn suggestion of the sepulchre. His speech was brief, a recognition of the honour shown him, an expression of his belief that the policy he had advocated and followed was necessary to the country’s preservation. Then he passed out to Marshfield and the death-bed. What he said was not much, but it made a strange impression of power, and here I am minded to tell an ancient story. Sixty years ago, when I was ensconced in my smug youth, and could “sit and grin,” like young Dr. Holmes, at the queernesses of the last leaves of those days, I heard a totterer whose ground was the early decades of the last century, chirp as follows:
“This Daniel Webster of yours! Why, I can remember when he had a hard push to have his ability acknowledged. We used to aver that he never said anything, and that it was only his big way that carried the crowd. I have in mind an old-time report of one of his deliverances: ‘Mr. Chairman (_applause_), I did not graduate at this university (_greater applause_), at this college (_tumultuous applause_), I graduated at another college (_wild cheering with hats thrown in the air_), I graduated at a college of my native State (_convulsions of enthusiasm, during which the police spread mattresses to catch those who leaped from the windows_).'”
That day in Faneuil Hall I felt his “big way” and it overpowered, though the sentences were really few and commonplace. What must he have been in his prime! What sentences in the whole history of oratory have more swayed men than those he uttered! I recall that in 1861 we young men of the North did not much argue the question of the right of secession. The Constitution was obscure about it, and one easily became befogged if he sought to weigh the right and the wrong of it. But Webster had replied to Hayne. Those were the days when schoolboys “spoke pieces,” and in thousands of schoolhouses the favourite piece was his matchless peroration. From its opening, “When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in the heavens,” to the final outburst, “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!” it was all as familiar to us as the sentences of the Lord’s Prayer, and scarcely less consecrated. No logical unravelling of the tangle, but that burning expression of devotion to the Union, lay behind the enthusiasm with which we sprang to arms. The ghost of Webster hovered in the battle-smoke, and it was his call more than any other that rallied and kept us at the firing-line.
I think my mother told me once that on the canal-boat as we went West in the thirties, we had Webster for a time as a fellow-passenger, who good-naturedly patted the heads of the two little boys who then made up her brood. I wish I could be sure that the hand of Webster had once rested on my head. His early utterances as to slavery are warm with humane feeling. I have come to feel that his humanity did not cool, but he grew into the belief that agitation at the time would make sure the destruction of the country, in his eyes the supreme calamity. The injustice, hoary from antiquity, not recognised as injustice until within a generation or two, might wait a generation or two longer before we dealt with it. Let the evil be endured a while that the greater evil might not come. I neither defend nor denounce him. I am now only remembering; and what a stately and solemn image it is to remember!
* * * * *
William H. Seward, unlike Webster, had the handicap of an unimpressive exterior, nor had his voice the profound and conquering note which is so potent an ally of the mind in subduing men. I heard Seward’s oration at Plymouth in 1855, a worthy effort which may be read in his works, but I do better here to pick up only the straws, not meddling with the heavy-garnered wheat. I recall an inconspicuous figure, of ordinary stature, and a face whose marked feature was the large nose (Emerson called it “corvine”), but that, as some one has said, is the hook which nature makes salient in the case of men whom fortune is to drag forward into leadership. He spoke in the pulpit of my grandfather, who at the time had been for nearly sixty years minister of the old Pilgrim parish. From that coign of vantage, my faithful grandsire had no doubt smoked out many a sinner, and had not been sparing of the due polemic fulminations in times of controversy. The old theology, too, had undergone at his hands faithful fumigation to make it sanitary for the modern generations. From one kind of smoke, however, that venerable pulpit had been free until the hour of Seward’s arrival. It arched my eyebrows well when I saw him at the end of his address light a cigar in the very shrine, a burnt-offering, in my good grandfather’s eyes certainly, more fitting for altars satanic. My grandfather promptly called him down, great man though he was, a rub which the statesman received from the white-haired minister, good-naturedly postponing his smoke. But Seward rode rough-shod too often over conventions, and sometimes over real proprieties. In an over-convivial frame once, his tongue, loosened by champagne, nearly wagged us into international complications, and there is a war-time anecdote, which I have never seen in print and I believe is unhackneyed, which casts a light. A general of the army, talking with Lincoln and the Cabinet, did not spare his oaths. “What church do you attend?” interposed the President at last, stroking his chin in his innocent way. Confused at an inquiry so foreign to the topic under discussion, the soldier replied he did not attend much of any church himself, but his folks were Methodists. “How odd!” said. Lincoln, “I thought you were an Episcopalian. You swear just like Seward, and Seward is an Episcopalian.”
But I should be sorry to believe there was any trouble with Seward but a surface blemish. Though in ’61 he advocated a foreign war as a means for bringing together North and South, and desired to shelve practically Lincoln while he himself stood at the front to manage the turmoil, he made no more mistakes than statesmen in general. He had been powerful for good before the war, and during its course, with what virile stiffness of the upper lip did he face and foil the frowning foreign world! He had the insight and candour to do full justice at last to Lincoln, whom at first he depreciated. Then the purchase of Alaska! Writing as I do on the western coast I am perhaps affected by the glamour of that marvellous land. When news of the bargain came in the seventies, the scorners sang:
“Hear it all ye polar bears,
Waltz around the pole in pairs.
All ye icebergs make salaam,
You belong to Uncle Sam.
Lo, upon the snow too plain
Falls his dark tobacco stain.”
We thought that very funny and very apt,–but now! I am glad I have his image vivid, in the pulpit beside my grandfather scratching a match for a too careless cigar. Between smokes he had done, and was still to do, some fine things.
* * * * *
In those days, Edward Everett and Robert C. Winthrop were often under my immature gaze. Men much alike in views, endowments, and accomplishments, they had played out their parts in public life and had been consigned to their Boston shelf. In the perspective they are statuettes rather than statues, of Parian spotlessness, ribboned and gilt-edged through an elegant culture, well appointed according to the best taste, companion Sevres pieces, highly ornamental, and effectually shelved. By the side of the robust protagonists of those stormy years they stand as figurines, not figures, and yet it was rather through their fate than through their fault perhaps that they are what they are in our Pantheon. They were not at all without virile quality. Everett bore himself well in some rough Senatorial debates, and Winthrop, as Speaker of the House at Washington, was in stormy times an able and respected officer. But coarse contacts jarred upon their refinement; and when, like the public men in general who saw in postponement of the slavery agitation the wiser course, they were retired from the front, it is easy to see why the world judged them as it did. Everett’s son, Mr. Sidney Everett, at one time Assistant Secretary of State, was my classmate, and honoured me once with a request to edit his father’s works. I declined the task, but not from the feeling that the task was not worth doing. Everett had the idea that the armed rush of the North and South against each other might be stayed even at the last, by reviving in them the veneration for Washington, a sentiment shared by both. The delivery of his oration on Washington as a means to that end was well meant, but pathetic in its complete futility to accomplish such a purpose. So small a spill of oil upon a sea so raging! He was a master of beautiful periods, and I desire here to record my testimony that he also possessed a power for off-hand speech. The tradition is that his utterances were all elaborately studied, down to the gestures and the play of the features. I have heard him talk on the spur of the moment, starting out from an incident close at hand and touching effectively upon circumstances that arose as he proceeded.
Of the two men, often seen side by side, so similar in tastes, education, and character, both for the same cause ostracised from public life by their common wealth, a repugnance to reform which scouted all counting of costs, Winthrop impressed me in my young days as being the abler. His public career closed early, but he had time to show he could be vigorous and finely eloquent. I remember him most vividly as I saw him presiding at a Commencement dinner, a function which he discharged with extraordinary felicity. He had an alertness, as he stood lithe and graceful, derived perhaps from his strain of Huguenot blood. His wit was excelling, his learning comprehensive and well in hand. He was no more weighed down by his erudition than was David by his sling. Encomium, challenge, repartee,–all were quick and happy, and from time to time in soberer vein he passed over without shock into befitting dignity. I have sat at many a banquet, but for me that ruling of the feast by Winthrop is the masterpiece in that kind. He lived long after retiring from politics, the main stay of causes charitable, educational, and for civic betterment. My memory is enriched by the image of him which it holds.
* * * * *
Sixty years ago, one met, under the elms of the streets of Cambridge, two men who plainly were close friends: one of moderate height, well groomed in those days almost to the point of being dapper, very courteous, bowing low to every student he met, Henry W. Longfellow. Of him I shall have something to say later on. The other was a man of unusual stature and stalwart frame, with a face and head of marked power. His rich brown hair lay in heavy locks; the features were patrician. He would have been handsome but for an hauteur about the eyes not quite agreeable. His presence was commanding, not genial. It was Charles Sumner.
I often encountered the two men in those days, receiving regularly the poet’s sunny recognition and the statesman’s rather unsympathetic stare. Both men were overwhelmingly famous, but, touched simultaneously by warmth and frost, I, a shy youngster, could keep my balance in their presence. Sumner in those years was the especial _bete noire_ of the South and the conservative North, and the idol of the radicals–at once the most banned and the most blessed of men. I had, besides, a personal reason for looking upon him with interest. He was a man with whom my father had once had a sharp difference, and I wondered, as I watched the stride of the stately Senator down the street, if he remembered, as my father did, that difference of twenty-five years before.
My father, in the late twenties a divinity student at Harvard, was a proctor, living in an entry of Stoughton Hall, for the good order of which he was expected to care. The only man he ever reported was Charles Sumner, and this was my father’s story.
Sumner, an undergraduate, though still a boy, had nearly attained his full stature and weight. He was athletic in his tastes, and given to riding the velocipede of those days, a heavy, bonebreaking machine, moved not by pedals but by thrusting the feet against the ground. This Sumner kept in his room, carrying it painfully up the stairs, and practised on it with the result, his size and energy being so unusual, that the building, solid as it was, was fairly shaken, to the detriment of plaster and woodwork, and the complete wreck of the proper quiet of the place. My father remonstrated mildly, but without effect. A second more emphatic remonstrance was still without effect, whereupon came an ultimatum. If the disturbance continued, the offender would be reported to the college authorities.
The bone-breaker crashed on and the stroke fell. Sumner was called up before President Kirkland and received a reprimand. He came from the faculty-room to the proctor’s apartment in a very boyish fit of tears, complaining between sobs that he was the victim of injustice, and upbraiding the proctor. My father was short with him; he had brought it upon himself, the penalty was only reasonable, and it would be manly for him to take it good-naturedly. Long afterward, when Sumner rose into great fame, my father remembered the incident perhaps too vividly.
My curiosity as to whether Mr. Sumner had any rankling in his heart from that old difference was at length gratified. The years passed, the assault in the Senate Chamber by Brooks roused the whole country; then came the time of slow recovery. Sumner had come back from the hands of Dr. Brown-Sequard at Paris to Boston, and was mustering strength to resume his great place. Calling one day on a friend in Somerset Street, I found a visitor in the parlour, a powerful man weighed down by physical disability, whom I recognised as the sufferer whose name at the moment was uppermost in millions of hearts.
As he heard my name in the introduction which followed my entrance, he said quickly, while shaking my hand, “I wonder if you are the son of the man who reported me in college.” The tone was not quite genial. The old difference was not quite effaced. I told him as sturdily as I could that I was the son of his old proctor and that I had often heard my father tell the story. He said plainly he thought it unnecessary and unfair, and that that was the only time since his childhood when he had received a formal censure. Long after, he received censure from the Massachusetts Legislature for an act greatly to his credit, the suggestion that the captured battle-flags should be returned to the Southern regiments from which they had been taken.
But it was only a momentary flash. He settled back into the easy-chair with invalid languor, and began to tell me good-naturedly about his old velocipede, describing its construction, and the feats he had been able to perform on it, clumsy though it was. He could keep up with a fast horse in riding into Boston, but at the cost of a good pair of shoes. The contrivance supported the weight of the body, which rolled forward on the wheels, leaving the legs free to speed the machine by alternate rapid kicks. From that he branched off into college athletics of his day in a pleasant fashion, and at the end of the not short interview I felt I had enjoyed a great privilege.
Another contact with Charles Sumner was a rather memorable one. We were in the second year of the Civil War. He was in his high place, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Senate, a main pillar of the Northern cause. I meantime had been ordained as minister of a parish in the Connecticut valley, and was a zealous upholder of the cause of the Union. John A. Andrew was Governor of Massachusetts. I had come to know him through having preached in the church at Hingham with which he was connected. He was superintendent of the Sunday-school, and had introduced me once for an address to his charge. We were theologically in sympathy, but for me it was a closer bond that he was the great war Governor.
At an Amherst commencement we had talked about recruiting in the Connecticut valley, and he had impressed me much. Short in stature, square, well-set in frame, he had a strong head and face. His colour was white and pink almost like that of a boy, and the resolute blue eyes looked out from under an abundant mat of light curling hair that confirmed the impression he made of youth. Not many months before, he had been the target of much ridicule, being held over-anxious about a coming storm. He had bought three thousand overcoats for the militia, and otherwise busied himself to have soldiers ready. He was “our merry Andrew.” But the Massachusetts Sixth had been first on the ground at Washington, with many more close behind, and the Governor had had splendid vindication.
Early in September, 1862, I went to Boston with a deputation of selectmen from four towns of the Connecticut valley. They had an errand, and my function was, as an acquaintance of the Governor, to introduce them. Little we knew of what had just happened in Virginia, the dreadful second Bull Run campaign, with the driving in upon Washington of the routed Pope, and the pending invasion of Maryland. The despatches, while not concealing disappointment, told an over-flattering tale. More troops were wanted for a speedy finishing of the war, which we fondly believed was, in spite of all, nearing its end. Our errand was to ask that in a regiment about to be raised in two western counties the men might have the privilege of electing the officers, a pernicious practice which had been in vogue, and always done much harm. But in those days our eyes were not open.
Entering the Governor’s room in the State House with my farmer selectmen, I found it densely thronged. Among the civilians were many uniforms, and men of note in the field and out stood there in waiting. Charles Sumner presently entered the room, dominating the company by his commanding presence, that day apparently in full vigour, alert, forceful, with a step before which the crowd gave way, his masterfulness fully recognised and acknowledged. He took his seat with the air of a prince of the blood at the table, close at hand to the Chief Magistrate.
Naturally abashed, but feeling I was in for a task which must be pushed through, I made my way to the other elbow of the Governor, who, looking up from his documents, recognised me politely and asked what I wanted. I stated our case, that a deputation from Franklin and Hampshire counties desired the privilege for the men of the new regiment about to be raised to elect their own officers, and not be commanded by men whom they did not know.
“Where are your selectmen?” said Governor Andrew, rising and pushing back his chair with an energy which I thought ominous. My companions had taken up a modest position in a far corner. When I pointed them out, the Governor made no pause, but proceeded to pour upon them and me a torrent of impassioned words. He said that we were making trouble, that the country was in peril, and that while he was trying to send every available man to the front in condition to do effective work he was embarrassed at home by petty interference with his efforts. “I have at hand soldiers who have proved themselves brave in action, have been baptised in blood and fire. They are fit through character and experience to be leaders, and yet I cannot give them commissions because I am blocked by this small and unworthy spirit of hindrance.”
For some minutes the warm outburst went on. The white, beardless face flushed up under the curls, and his hands waved in rapid gesture. “A capital speech, your Excellency,” cried out Sumner, “a most capital speech!” and he led the way in a peal of applause in which the crowd in the chamber universally joined, and which must have rung across Beacon Street to the Common far away. My feeble finger had touched the button which brought this unexpected downpour, and for the moment I was unpleasantly in the limelight.
“Now introduce me to your selectmen,” said Governor Andrew, stepping to my side. I led the way to the corner to which the delegation had retreated, and presented my friends in turn. His manner changed. He was polite and friendly, and when, after a hand-shaking, he went back to his table, we felt we had not understood the situation and that our petition should have been withheld. For my part, I enlisted at once as a private and went into a strenuous campaign.
Sumner was intrepid, high-purposed, and accomplished, but what is the world saying now of his judgment? His recent friendly but discriminating biographer, Prof. George H. Haynes, declares that even in matters of taste he was at fault. The paintings he thought masterpieces, his gift to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, are for the most part consigned to the lumber-room. In sculpture his judgment was not better. As to literary art, his writing was ponderous and over-weighted with far-fetched allusion. The world felt horror at the attack of Brooks, but the whole literature of invective contains nothing more offensive than the language of Sumner which provoked it and which he lavished right and left upon opponents who were sometimes honourable. It was in the worst of taste.
In great affairs his service was certainly large. Perhaps he was at his highest in the settlement of the _Trent affair_, but his course in general in guiding our foreign relations was able and useful. He put his hand to much reconstruction of ideas and institutions. Often he made, but too often he marred. He suffered sadly from the lack of a sense of humour. “What does Lincoln mean?” he would blankly exclaim, impervious alike to the drollery and to the keen prod concealed within it. In his fancied superiority he sought to patronise and dominate the rude Illinoisian. The case is pathetic. The width and the depth of the chasm which separates the two men in the regard of the American people!
SOLDIERS I HAVE MET
In speaking of soldiers I shall do better to pay slight attention to the men of chief importance; for them the trumpets have sounded sufficiently and I came into personal contact with only one or two. Grant, I saw once, after he was Lieutenant-General, on the platform of a railroad station submitting stoically to the compliments of a lively crowd of women. Once again I saw him, in academic surroundings, sturdy and impassive, an incongruous element among the caps and gowns; but it was among such men that he won what is to my mind one of his greatest victories. What triumph of Grant’s was greater than his subjugation of Matthew Arnold! I rode once on the railroad-train for some hours immediately behind Sheridan, and had a good chance to study the sinewy little man in his trim uniform which showed every movement of his muscles. Though the ride was hot and monotonous I was impressed with his vitality. He seemed to have eyes all around his head. The man was in repose, but it was the repose of a leopard; at a sudden call, every fibre would evidently become tense, the servant of a nimble brain, and an instant pounce upon any opposition could be depended upon. What a pity, I found myself thinking, that the fellow has no longer a chance for his live energy (the war was then well over), and I had to check an incipient wish that a turmoil might arise that would again give a proper scope to his soldierly force. Happily there was no longer need for such service, but I feel that Sheridan was really more than a good sword. One finds in his memoirs unexpected outbursts of fancy and high sentiment, and he could admire the fine heroism of a character like Charles Russell Lowell. It is fair to judge a man by what he admires.
At the Harvard commemoration of 1865, standing under the archway at the northern end of Gore Hall, I encountered the thin, plainly clad figure of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I was in soldier’s dress and as he gave me a nod of recognition he said, looking at my chevrons, very simply but with feeling, “This day belongs to you.” Passing around then to the west front, I had before me a contrast in a brilliant group marshalled by my friend and classmate Colonel Theodore Lyman, in the centre of which rose the stately figure in full uniform of Major-General Meade. “Ah, Jimmy,” said Theodore with the aggressive geniality which his old associates so well remember, “come right here,” and catching me by the arm he pulled the corporal into the immediate presence of the victor of Gettysburg. “This is Corporal Hosmer,” said he, “and this, Jimmy, is Major-General Meade,” introducing us with much friendly patting of my shoulder and a handling of the Major-General almost equally familiar. He had long been a trusted member of Meade’s staff but the war was over and a close friendship held them on common ground. “He has written a book, General, about the war.” Then came a word of commendation and the tall General, as he gave my hand a cordial pressure, beamed down upon me with pleasant eyes. In the peaceful time that had come, we were all citizens together; the private and the General were on a level, though that aquiline face had been called upon not long before to confront, at the head of one hundred thousand men, the hosts of Lee.
Of our other great commanders I never saw Thomas, but my knowledge of Sherman was something more than the mere glimpse I had of the figures of his compeers. His home was in St. Louis, in which city I was then residing, and he was much in society. He was really a Connecticut Yankee though transplanted to Ohio, and he was, in figure and character, thoroughly a New Englander. He was tall and slender, his prominent forehead standing out from light straight hair, a stubby beard veiling a well-pronounced and well-worked jaw (for he was one of the readiest of talkers), it would require little scratching to get to the uncontaminated Yankee underneath. A New Englander of the best type, shrewd, kindly, deeply concerned for the welfare of his country and of men. A fashionable lady invited him to dine without his wife. Sherman, on arriving, found other ladies present; to his hostess, who came forward to receive him with effusion, he said: “Madam, I dine with Mrs. Sherman to-night,” and the party went forward without the lion who was to have given it distinction. He would not have his wife slighted; nor in more important things would he endure to see a lame outcome when he might set things in better shape. He encouraged schools and worthy charities by giving them his hearty countenance. No arm was more potent than his in saving the country, nor was his patriotism selfish. He saved his country because he believed it was for the good of the world.
Sherman has been criticised for his ruthlessness, but no one can say that he was not effective. He bore on hard but with the belief that only such action could bring the war to a close. No one could come in contact with him without feeling that he was a soft-hearted man. It was one of the most interesting evenings of my life when, as a guest of N.O. Nelson, the philanthropic captain of industry in St. Louis, I was one of a company of a dozen to hear Sherman tell John Fiske his story of the war. We sat at table from seven o’clock until midnight, the two illustrious figures with their heads together exchanging a rapid fire of question and answer, but the rest of us were by no means silent. Sherman was full of affability and took good-naturedly the sharp inquiries. “How was it, General, at Shiloh; was not your line quite too unguarded on the Corinth side, and was not the coming on of Sidney Johnston a bad surprise for you?” “Oh, later in the war,” said Sherman, “we no doubt should have done differently, but we got ready for them as they came on.” “Was there not bad demoralisation,” I said, “ten thousand or more skulkers huddled under the bluff on the Tennessee?” “Oh,” said Sherman, “the rear of an army in battle is always a sorry place; but on the firing line, where I was, things did not look so bad.”–“Your adversaries, General, were often good fellows, were they not, and you are good friends now?” “The best fellows in the world,” said Sherman, “and as to friendship, Hood wants me to be his literary executor and take care of his memoirs.”
He was ready to confess to mistakes, and with frank and proper exultation pointed out the gradual improvement and the triumphant result. Plenty of good stories and much hearty laughter came in among the more tragic episodes. We saw John Fiske take it all in, swaying in his chair ponderously back and forth, but the _War in the Mississippi Valley_, which came out soon after, showed that his memory retained every point. On another occasion, as Sherman on a stormy night took me home in his carriage, we skirted the blocks which had been the site of Camp Jackson, the first field of the Civil War that Sherman had witnessed. That was the beginning of things in the West, and he on that day only a by-stander. He was at the time possibly irresolute as to what he should do, and he certainly had no premonition of the large part he was destined to play. As he looked out of the window that night into the driving storm on the spot where once he had brooded so anxiously, I wondered if he had any memory of the soul struggle of that crisis.
After his death, there took place in the streets of St. Louis an imposing military funeral. As the cortege paused for a moment, I stood at the side of the gun-carriage which bore the coffin wrapped in the flag, and paid my tribute to this good man and great citizen who had played his part well.
A controversy, which has now died away, used to be waged during and soon after the Civil War as to whether West Point had really vindicated a place for itself. Many an American, full of that over-confidence which besets us, maintained that a man could become a good soldier by a turn of the hand as it were. Given courage, physical vigour, and fair practical aptitude, a lawyer, a merchant, or a civil engineer could take sword in hand and at short notice head a squadron or muster an army. This view has so far as I know been set forward by no one more plausibly than by Jacob D. Cox, a stout civilian soldier who led well the Twenty-third Corps and later became Governor of Ohio and a successful Secretary of the Interior. I once met General Cox in an interesting way, on a Sunday afternoon, at the home of Judge Alfonso Taft at Walnut Hills, a pleasant suburb of Cincinnati. Judge Taft in those days was a somewhat noteworthy figure. He had served the country well as Minister to Russia and also as a member of the Cabinet at Washington, and was one of the foremost men of the fair city where he lived. His sister-in-law married an intimate friend of mine, and there were other reasons which gave me some title to his notice, and I was for the time his guest. A sturdy white-haired boy of ten or so sat at the table at dinner and hung with his brothers about the group of elders as they talked in the afternoon. This boy was William H. Taft taking in the scraps of talk as the chatting progressed on his father’s porch. General Cox dropped in for an afternoon call and I scanned eagerly his scholarly face and figure, well knit through the harshest experiences in camp and battle. He was a man of fine tastes and well accomplished both in science and literature with a substratum of manly tenacity and good sense, who did noble duty on many a field and produced, in his _Military Reminiscences_ one of our most satisfactory books on the Civil War period. The manner of the veteran was simple and pleasant. Nothing betrayed that he had been the hero in such an eventful past. I have of course no thought of sketching his career or criticising his account of it. As to the point to which I have referred, his claim that a peaceful American can be turned into a soldier off-hand and that the West Pointers no more made good in the war than did the civilians, he sets forth the case calmly. He takes the curriculum at West Point as it was sixty years ago and plainly shows that as regards acquirements in general it bears a poor comparison with that of civilian universities and colleges of that period. As to especial military education, he claims that the instruction at West Point was comparatively trifling; the cadets were well drilled only in the elements, while as regards the larger matters of strategy and the management of armies there was slight opportunity to learn. The cadet came out qualified to drill a company or at most a regiment, while as to manoeuvring of divisions and corps he had no chance to perfect himself. The cadet, moreover, had this handicap–he had been made the slave of routine and his natural enterprise had been so far repressed that he magnified petty details and precedents and was slow to adapt himself to an unlooked-for emergency. He cites an example where he himself was set to fight a battle by a West Point superior with old-fashioned muzzle-loading guns, the improved arms which were at hand and which might easily have been used with good effect remaining in the rear. His conclusion is that a wide-awake American trained in the hustle of daily life, with a good basis of common sense and some capacity for adaptation, could, with a few month’s experience, undertake to good advantage the direction of soldiers, and that the West Point preceding 1861 had an influence rather nugatory in bringing about success. It is perhaps sufficient answer to arguments of this kind that while during our Civil War there was a most relentless sifting of men for high positions, little regard being paid to the education and antecedents of those submitted to it, the men who finally emerged at the front were almost exclusively West Pointers. Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Thomas, the Union champions _par excellence_, were West Pointers. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, the Johnstons, and Longstreet are no less conspicuous among the Confederates. Civilians for the most part were not found in the high places, or if they were so placed the results were unfortunate, as in the cases of Butler, Banks, and McClernand. There were of course good soldiers who came from civil life. Cox himself is a conspicuous instance, and there were Terry, John A. Logan, and other good division commanders. On the Southern side may be instanced N.B. Forrest and J.B. Gordon; but these men rarely attained to more than secondary positions, the highest places falling, as if by gravitation, into the hands of West Pointers. An influence there was in the little academy on the Hudson which somehow brought to pass a superior warlike efficiency. The training at West Point, supplemented as it usually was by campaigning on the plains, although duty was done only by men in squads, and the hardships and perils were scarcely greater than those encountered by the ordinary pioneer and railroad-builder, somehow evoked the field-marshal quality and made it easier to grapple with the tremendous problems with which the army was so suddenly confronted.
A certain pathos attaches to the story of some of those civilian soldiers. In my youthful days, I had often seen N.P. Banks, who had risen from the humblest beginning into much political importance. No large distinction can be claimed for him in any direction, and for elevation of character he was certainly not marked; but he was a man of respectable ability and he climbed creditably from factory-boy to mechanic and thence (through no noisome paths) to Congress, to the post of Governor, and to the Speakership at Washington.
He had military ambition and with the beginning of the war went at once into the army, unfortunately for him, as major-general and commander of a department. Could he have gone in as captain or colonel, his fortune would probably have been different. But, sent to command in the Shenandoah Valley, it was his fate to meet at the outset the most formidable of adversaries, Stonewall Jackson. He was sorely hoodwinked and humiliated, but so were several of his successors. At Cedar Mountain, understanding that his orders were peremptory, he threw his corps upon double their numbers and fought with all the bravery in the world though with defective tactics. Another corps should have been at hand, but it failed to arrive. There was a moment when Banks, weak though he was, was near to victory, but he failed in the end in an impossible task and was made scapegoat for the blunders of others. He was sent to supersede Butler in Louisiana with a force quite inadequate for the duty expected. It was here that I came into contact with him. Interested friends had laid my case before him, as one who might serve well in a higher position than that of a private, and he good-naturedly sent word to me to report to him at a certain hour in the rotunda of the St. Charles Hotel at New Orleans. The city was in the firm grasp of the Union, as our transport had sailed up the evening before. The ships of Farragut, their decks crowded with blue jackets held under their broad-sides a dense and sullen multitude. A heavy salute reverberated from the river as the new commander took his place, but conditions were precarious.
As I walked up the street in my soldier’s dress, a handsome Southern girl almost ran me off the sidewalk with a look in her face which, but for fear of the calaboose, might have been backed up by words and acts of insult, while the faces of the men were full of hate. I stood at last in the rotunda of the St. Charles Hotel and presently the commander-in-chief, threading his way through a throng of officers, was at my side. I was much dishevelled and still ill after a stormy passage in a crowded ship, but the General was very courteous to the private. He had heard of my enlistment and indicated that he would be glad to utilise me, as he desired to utilise every man, for the best welfare of the service. What did I desire? I told him I had no thought but to do my duty as well as I could wherever I might be put. He discussed the situation reasonably, then offered me a clerkship at headquarters, where I might escape the chief perils of the campaign and where perhaps my education would serve the public. For a moment I hesitated and he passed on, leaving me to decide. My friends felt that I had not the physical strength for work in the field; should I accept the snug place back of the firing-line or risk it at the front? By the next day, I had fully determined to stick to my regiment. I sought the General again at headquarters. Colonel Irwin of his staff at the moment was arranging around his shoulders the yellow sash of the major-general for the formal ceremony of taking command, which was close at hand. But the General had a kindly recognition of the private, assented to my decision, and gave me a pass to the regiment, which had already been hurried onward to the front. I laid my knapsack down by the side of that of my young brother in the camp, which was then at the front.
Banks was a kindly man who meant and did the best he could for the humblest soldier in his army. His further military career I can only briefly sketch. He planned two fierce and calamitous assaults upon Port Hudson; errors no doubt, but Grant and Lee at the moment were making just such errors. The Red River campaign was a disastrous failure, but Banks had every handicap which a general could suffer: an insufficient force, a demand from the Administration that he should attend to a civil reordering when only fighting was in place, subordinates insolent and disobedient. And finally nature herself took arms against him, for the Red River fell when, by all precedents, it should have risen. It was an enterprise which his judgment utterly disapproved, the difficulties of which he faced with good resolution. It ended his career, for though once at a later time he went to Congress, he ever afterwards stood a discredited figure, dying, as I have heard, poor and broken-hearted in obscurity. His State has tried to render him a late justice by setting him up in bronze on Beacon Hill. It was done through opposition and the statue is sneered at more often than admired. He was an able man I believe and meant well, and I for one find it pathetic that the lines of my old commander did not fall more pleasantly.
Butler, on the other hand, I do not regard as a pathetic figure. On the night of my arrival in New Orleans, strolling about the strange city, I found myself at headquarters, and a Massachusetts boy standing sentry on the porch in a spirit of comradeship invited me up. As I ascended the steps Butler, who had been standing at the door, closed it with a crash and retired within. Through a crevice in the blinds he was plain to be seen seated at his desk in profound thought, his bull-dog face in repose, his rude forcefulness very manifest. His rule at New Orleans had come to an end and no doubt he was pondering it and dreaming of what the future had in store for him. His burly frame was relaxed, his bluff unshaken countenance with the queer sinister cast of the eyes fully lighted up by the lamp on his table. I studied him at leisure, his marvellous energy for a moment in repose. In those days his name was much in the mouths of men, and whatever may be said in his disfavour, it cannot be denied after fifty years that his rule of New Orleans was a masterpiece of resolution, a riding rough-shod over a great disaffected city which marked him as full of intrepidity and executive force. In the field he was a worse failure than ever Banks had been. In my idea he deserves in 1864 the characterisation by Charles Francis Adams. He was the Grouchy who made futile Grant’s advance upon Richmond and he blundered at Fort Fisher, but he was a pachyderm of the toughest–too thick-skinned to be troubled by the scratches of criticism, always floundering to the front with unquenched energy, sometimes a power for good and sometimes for evil. It is hard to strike the balance and say whether for the most part he helped or hindered, but our past would lack a strong element of picturesqueness if old Ben Butler were eliminated.
There were pathetic figures among the West Pointers as well as among the civilian generals. At St. Louis, in the seventies, I used to see sometimes an unobtrusive man in citizen’s dress, marked by no trait which distinguished him from the ordinary, a man serious in his bearing, who one might easily think had undergone some crushing blow. This was Major-General John Pope. His son was in our university and his sister, a most kind and gracious lady, was a near friend. Pope seems destined to go down in our history merely as a braggart and an incompetent. Probably no man of that time meant better or was more abused by capricious fate. Cox, whose daughter married the son of Pope and who therefore came to know him well in his later years, defends him vigorously. In the early years of the war he showed himself bold and active. The capture of Island Number Ten with its garrison was rather a naval and engineering exploit than an achievement of the army, but Pope seems to have done well what was required of him and probably deserved his promotion to the command of a corps at Corinth when an advance southward was meditated in the early summer of ’62. It was with deep unwillingness that he received the summons of the Administration to command an army in Virginia, and only assumed the place from the feeling that a soldier must stand where he is put. Arrived at Washington, he found himself in an atmosphere hot with wrath and mortification. The Peninsular campaign had failed and strong spirits like Stanton and Ben Wade, Chairman of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, were on fire through disappointment. The new General, whose position until within a few months had been a humble one, was brow-beaten and dominated by powerful personalities and forced to stand for acts and words which were not really his own. He declared, said Cox, that his bombastic and truculent orders were practically dictated by others. The declaration that his headquarters would be his saddle, which Lee so wittily turned, saying, “then his headquarters would be where his hindquarters ought to be,” Pope declares he never made. When his environment had in this way aroused prejudice against him, he was set to command an army whose higher officers felt outraged at his sudden rise over their heads and whose soldiers were discouraged by defeat. He was expected to oppose skilful and victorious foes with instruments that bent and broke in the crisis as he tried to wield them. Only supreme genius could have wrought success in such a situation, and that Pope did not at all possess. He was only a man of resolution, with no exceptional gifts, who desired to do his best for his country. In the West he had proceeded usefully and honourably, and it was the worst misfortune for him that he was taken for the new place. I hope that history will deal kindly with him and that, since he was a worthy and strenuous patriot, he will not live merely as an object of execration and ridicule.
In August, 1863, my too brief term of service having expired, I came home to the Connecticut Valley and resumed my pulpit, which I had left for a vacation and powder-smoke. Gettysburg and Vicksburg had taken place, and we at the North too fondly hoped that all was over and that we might confidently settle down to peace. When going west to Buffalo for a visit I was delayed a few hours at Syracuse and took the occasion to call on an intimate friend of my father and myself, the Rev. Samuel J. May. Mr. May, a bright and beautiful spirit, was by nature a strong peace man, but, fired by the woes of the slave, he had become an extreme abolitionist and was ready to fight for his principles. Entering Mr. May’s quiet study I found him in intimate talk with a man of unassuming demeanour, in citizen’s dress, marked by no distinction of face or figure. He might have been a delegate to a peace convention, or a country minister from way-back calling on a professional brother. What was my astonishment when Mr. May introduced him as Major-General Henry W. Slocum, commander of the Twelfth Corps, who, taking a short furlough after Gettysburg, was at home for the moment and had dropped in for a friendly call. Slocum had been in the thick of most of the bitter Virginia battles from the first, and all the world knew that at Gettysburg, by beating back the thrust of the Stonewall division toward the Baltimore pike, he had secured the threatened rear of the army of the Potomac and averted defeat. This had taken place in the preceding month, and I naturally marvelled that the unpretending, simple man could be that victorious champion, but for the time being we were there plain citizens, and, American fashion, the Major-General and the Corporal shook hands and fraternised on equal terms. It probably helped me with Slocum that I too had been in danger. About the time he was defending Culp’s Hill, I had been in the ditch at the foot of the Port Hudson rampart.
While reticent as to his part at Gettysburg, he spoke with feeling of what his corps had been through, and knowing that both Mr. May and I were Massachusetts men took an evident pleasure in commending the regiments from that State. Of the 2d Massachusetts he spoke with high appreciation; it was an admirable body of men and thoroughly disciplined. It was always ready; its losses were fearful and he felt that he ought to spare it if he could, but a crisis always came when only the best would answer, and again and again the 2d Massachusetts was thrown in. Particularly at Gettysburg its services had been great and its sacrifice costly. He spoke feelingly of the young officers who had been slain and also of humbler men. Since that time I have stood by the simple stone at the “bloody swale at the foot of Culp’s Hill,” which marked the position held that day by the 2d Massachusetts. It takes no trained eye to see that it was a point of especial difficulty and importance. Some of the men of that regiment who fell that day were my own college comrades. I was glad to know from his lips that the commander thought their work heroic.
One naturally brackets the name of Slocum with that of Howard, secondary figures of course in the great Civil War drama and yet both steadfast and worthy soldiers. They rose together into places of responsibility during the Peninsular campaign, became commanders of corps about the same time, served side by side at Gettysburg, went together to the West, and finally, one at the head of Sherman’s right wing and the other at the head of the left, made the march to the sea and through the Carolinas. Neither perhaps was a brilliant soldier. So far as the records show, Slocum always did his work well, was increasingly trusted to the last, and nowhere made a grave mistake. In Howard’s case, the rout at Chancellorsville will always detract from his fame; he was, however, on that day new in his place, and the infatuation of Hooker by an evil contagion passed down to his lieutenants. But he too steadily improved, refusing resolutely to be discouraged by his mistakes and always doing better next time. Perhaps no one act during the war was more important than the occupation of Cemetery Hill on the morning of July 1, 1863, by a Federal division. I think that the credit of that act cannot be denied to Howard. In a later time he passed under the control of Sherman in the West, a shrewd and relentless judge of men, and Sherman trusted him to the utmost. To a group of officers in their cups who were chaffing Howard for being Puritanical, Sherman curtly said: “Let Howard alone; I want one general who doesn’t drink.”
I saw General Howard at Gettysburg on the fortieth anniversary of the battle. We were under the same roof, and during the evening I sat close to him in the common room and heard him talk,–a strenuous old man, his empty sleeve recalling tragically the combats through which he had passed. Close by under the stars could still be traced the lines occupied by Steinwehr’s division, the troops which with such momentous results Howard had posted on Cemetery Hill. I might easily have talked with him, for he was affable to old and young, but I preferred to study the good veteran from a distance and let others draw out his story while I listened.
In the winter of 1861 I went to Port Royal, through the good offices of my friend Rufus Saxton, then a captain and quartermaster of the expedition under which Dupont had taken possession of the Sea Islands in South Carolina. The capture of Port Royal had taken place a few weeks before and the army was encamped on the conquered territory. Saxton was an interesting figure, who in an unusual way showed during the war a fine spirit of self-sacrifice. At the outbreak, a high position in the field was within his grasp; he was second in command to Lyon in St. Louis, and being intimate with McClellan might have held a position of responsibility in the field. He was indeed made a general. Once in 1862 he was in command of a considerable force, and when Banks was driven out of the Shenandoah Valley by Stonewall Jackson he withstood at Harper’s Ferry the rush of the Confederates into Maryland. But at the solicitation of Lincoln and Stanton he gave up service in the field, for which he was well fitted and which he earnestly desired, to act as Military Governor of the Sea Islands, where his work was to receive and care for the thousands of negroes who by the flight of their masters in that region had been left to themselves. Here he remained throughout the war, while his old comrades were winning fame at the head of divisions and corps, a patient, humane teacher and administrator among the nation’s wards. He was content to live through the stirring time inconspicuous, but he won the respect of all kindly hearts at the North and deep gratitude from the helpless blacks whom he so long and humanely befriended.
I came in contact during that visit with a number of soldiers soon to be famous. In the boat which carried me from the transport to the shore I had as a fellow-passenger James H. Wilson, then a lieutenant but soon to be a famous cavalry commander. He was a restless athletic young man, who when I met him was on fire with wrath over the giving up of Mason and Slidell, the news of which had come to the post by our steamer. I tried to argue with him, that we had enough on our hands with the South without rushing into war with England besides, but he was impetuously confident that we could take care of all foes outside and in, and maintained that the giving up of the envoys was a burning shame. His vigour and confidence were excessive, I thought, but they carried him far in a time soon to come.
I talked with General Thomas W. Sherman, the commander of the expedition, in his tent, but was more interested in a dispute which presently sprang up between the General and a companion of mine, Jonathan Saxton, father of Rufus Saxton, an abolitionist of the most perfervid type, a good talker and quite unabashed, plain farmer though he was, by a pair of epaulettes.
Among our regular officers there were few abolitionists. Rufus Saxton told me that Lyon was the only one of any distinction who could be so classed among the men he knew. T.W. Sherman was like his fellows and listened impatiently to what he felt was fanaticism gone mad, but the fluent old farmer drove home his radicalism undauntedly. T.W. Sherman before the war had been a well-known figure as commander of Sherman’s flying artillery, which was perhaps the most famous organisation of the regular army, but his name scarcely appears in the history of the Civil War, more perhaps from lack of good fortune than of merit. He was crippled with wounds in the first important battle in which he was concerned. The two brigadiers at Port Royal, Horatio G. Wright and Isaac I. Stevens, both became soldiers of note. Wright was a handsome fellow in his best years, whom I recall stroking his chin with an amused quizzical expression while Jonathan Saxton poured out his Garrisonism. His brigade lay well to the south and his headquarters were at the old Tybee lighthouse which marked the entrance to the harbour of Savannah. I climbed with him up the sand hill, from the top of which we looked down upon Fort Pulaski then in Confederate hands and within short range. We peered cautiously over the summit, for shells frequently came from the fort. Wright held in his hand a fragment of one which had just before exploded. “How well it took the groove!” he said, pointing out to me the signs on the iron that the rifled cannon from which it had come had given the missile in the discharge the proper twist. Wright’s after-career is part of the war’s history, always strenuous and constantly rising. The fame which attaches to the Sixth Corps is largely due to the leadership of Wright. If he fell short at Cedar Creek in 1864 it was a lapse which may be pardoned in the circumstances. Sheridan retrieved the day and magnanimously palliated the misfortune of Wright. “It might have happened to me or to any man.” The good soldier deserves the fine monument which stands by his grave in the foreground at Arlington.
I had at Port Royal a long and friendly talk with Isaac I. Stevens. He was already a man of note. After achieving the highest honours at West Point he had gone to the West, and in the great unexplored Pacific Northwest had conquered, built, and systematised until a fair foundation was laid for the fine civilisation which now sixty years later has been reared upon it. He was modest in his bearing, with well-knit and sinewy frame, and possessed at the same time refined manners and a taste for the higher things of life. Before the year had passed, his life went out in the second battle of Bull Run. In the end of that terrible campaign, he essayed with Phil Kearny to stem at Chantilly the rush of Stonewall Jackson upon Washington. The attempt was successful, but Stevens died waving the colours at the head of his men. It is said that Lincoln had marked him for the command of the Army of the Potomac. He had made good in all previous positions, and perhaps would have made good in the chief place, but here I stumble once more upon a might-have-been and am silent.
Dear ghosts of old-time friends swarm in my thought as I dream of those days. The white marbles in Memorial Chapel solemnly bear the names of Harvard’s Civil War soldiers and tell how they died. There was one of whom I might say much, an elder companion, a wise and pleasant spirit who did something toward my shaping for life. A cannon-ball at Cold Harbor was the end for him. There was another, a brilliant, handsome young Irishman, bred a Catholic, who under the influence of Moncure D. Conway had come out as a Unitarian and left his Washington home for a radical environment in the North. He was brilliant and witty with small capacity or taste for persistent plodding, but forever hitting effectively on the spur of the moment. He was as chivalrous as a palladin and went to his early grave light-hearted, as part of the day’s work which must not be shirked. I have his image vividly as he laughed and joked in our last interview. “Dress-parade at six o’clock; come over and see the dress-paradoes!” He fell wounded at Chancellorsville, and while being carried off the field was struck a second time as he lay on the stretcher, and so he passed.
There were fine fellows, too, in those days who stood on the other side: McKim, President of the Hasty Pudding Club, who fell in Virginia; W.H.F. Lee, who was in the Law School and whom I recall as a stalwart athlete rowing on the Charles. It helped me much a few years ago when I visited many Southern battle-fields that I could tell old Confederates “Rooney” Lee and I had in our youth been college mates. My classmate J.B. Clark of Mississippi was a graceful magnetic fellow who had small basis of scholarship, perhaps, but a marked power for effective utterance. He fascinated us by his warm Southern fluency, and we gave him at last the highest distinction we could confer, the class oration. He left us then and we did not see him for fifty years. He enlisted in the 21st Mississippi and passed through the roughest hardships and perils. We felt afterwards that he held coldly aloof from us through long years. At our jubilee, however, he came back wrinkled and white-haired, but quite recognisable as the fascinating boy of fifty years before. He had a long and good record behind him as an officer of the University of Texas, and we gave him reason to think that we loved him still. The most cordial meetings I have ever known have been those between men who had fought each other bitterly, each with an honest conviction that he was in the right, but who at last have come out on common ground.
Among the Harvard soldiers three stand out in my thought as especially interesting, William Francis Bartlett, Charles Russell Lowell, and Francis Channing Barlow. Bartlett was younger than I, entering service when scarcely beyond boyhood, losing a leg at Ball’s Bluff, and when only twenty-three Colonel of the 49th Massachusetts. I remember well a beautiful night, the moon at the full, and the hospital on the river bank just below Port Hudson where hundreds of wounded men were arriving from a disastrous battle-field close at hand.
Bartlett had ridden into battle on horseback, his one leg making it impossible for him to go on foot, and he was a conspicuous mark for the sharpshooters. A ball had passed through his remaining foot, and still another through his arm, causing painful wounds to which he was forced to yield. He lay stretched out, a tall, slender figure with a clear-cut patrician face, very pale and still but with every sign of suffering stoically repressed. He was conscious as I stood for a moment at his side. It was not a time to speak even a word, but I hoped he might feel through some occult influence that a Harvard brother was there at hand, full of sympathy for him. He afterwards recovered in part, and, with unconquerable will, though he was only a fragment of a man, went in again and was still again stricken. He survived it all, and to me it was perhaps the most thrilling incident of the Harvard commemoration of 1865 to see Bartlett, too crippled to walk without their support, helped to a place of honour on the stage by reverent friends.
Charles Russell Lowell was in the class preceding mine; his father had been my father’s classmate, and had done me many a favour; his mother was Mrs. Anna Jackson Lowell, one of the best and ablest Boston women of her time. In her house I had been a guest. Charles and James, the sons, were youths of the rarest intellectual gifts, each first scholar of his class, of whom the utmost was expected. How strange that fate should have made them soldiers! They both perished on the battle-field. As I remember Charlie Lowell, the boy was fitly the father of the man. We were playing football one day on the Delta, the old-fashioned game of those days, at which modern athletes smile, but which we old fellows think was a good tough game for all that. I had secured the ball, and thinking I had time, placed it rather leisurely, promising myself an effective kick. A slight figure bounded with lightning rush from the opposing line, and from under my very foot drove the ball far behind me to a point which secured victory.
How little I knew that I had just witnessed a small exhibition of the quickness and prompt decision which no long time after on critical battle-fields were to be put to splendid use. He proved to be a nearly perfect soldier; Sheridan said of him, that he knew of no virtue that could be added to Lowell. To us he seems one of the manliest of men, thoughtful for others, even for dumb beasts. In Edward Emerson’s charming life of him, nothing, perhaps, is sweeter than his affection for his horses, of which it was said that thirteen were killed under him before he came to death himself. He studied their characters as if they had been human beings, and dwells in his letters on the particular lovable traits each one showed–these mute companions who stood so closely by him in life and death.
When our class first assembled in 1851 there was a slight boy of seventeen in the company, Francis Channing Barlow. He was inconspicuous through face or figure, but it early became clear that he was to be our first scholar, and a wayward deportment with an odd sardonic wit soon made him an object of interest. Barlow came admirably fitted, and this good preparation, standing back of great quickness and power of mind, made it easy for him almost without study to take a leading place. As a boy he was well grounded, outside of his special accomplishments, in Latin, Greek, and mathematics. I remember his telling me that his mother read Plutarch to him when he was a child, and that and many another good book he had thoroughly stored away. Such accomplishments were an exasperation to us poor fellows who had come in from the remote outskirts and found we must compete for honours with men so well equipped. We perhaps magnified the gifts and acquirements of the fellows who had been more favourably placed. Barlow seemed like a paragon of scholarship, and the nonchalance with which he always won in the classrooms was a constant marvel. He had a queer way of turning serious things into fun. With a freshman desire for self-improvement, a thing apt to evaporate in the college atmosphere, we had formed a society for grave writing and debate and hired for our meetings the lodge-room of the “Glorious Apollers” or some such organisation. At an early meeting of the society, while we were solemnly struggling through a dignified programme, Barlow suddenly appeared from a side-door rigged out most fantastically in plumes and draperies. He had somehow got hold of the regalia of the order and drawlingly announced himself as the great panjandrum who had come to take part. He danced and paraded before the conclave and had no difficulty in turning the session into a wild revel of extravagant guffaws and antics, and after that time the occasions were many when Barlow gave a comic turn to things serious. It was said that Barlow, going back and forth on the train between Concord and Boston as he did at one time, got hold of an impressionable brake-man, and by exhortation brought about in him a change of heart, after the most approved evangelical manner, counterfeiting perfectly the methods of a revivalist, which he did for the fun of the thing. The story, of course, was an invention, but quite in character.
He was no respecter of conventions and sometimes trod ruthlessly upon proprieties. “What will Barlow do next?” was always the question. In the class-room he was never rattled in any emergency, his really sound scholarship was always perfectly in hand and in a strait no one could bluff it with such _sang-froid_ and audacity. He kept his place at the head of the class to the very end, but there Robert Treat Paine came out precisely his equal. Among the many thousand marks accumulating through four years the total for both men was exactly alike–a thing which I believe has never happened before or since.
Before the Arsenal in Cambridge stood an innocent old cannon that had not been fired since the War of 1812, perhaps not since the Revolution. The grass and flowers grew about its silent muzzle, and lambs might have fed there as in the pretty picture of Landseer. Any thought that the old cannon could go off had long ceased to be entertained. One quiet night a tremendous explosion took place; the cannon had waked up from its long sleep, arousing the babies over a wide region and many a pane of glass was shivered. What had got into the old cannon that night was long a mystery. Many years after Barlow was discovered at the bottom of it–it was the first shot he ever fired.
Dr. James Walker, the college president, said to a friend of mine at the beginning of the war, speculating on the probable futures of the boys who had been under his care, “There’s Barlow, now he’ll go in and come out at the top.” Barlow had been a sad puzzle to the faculty, good men, often perplexed to know what to do with him or what would become of him. Dr. Walker’s astuteness divined well the outcome. As I review those early years I can see now that Barlow then gave plain signs of the qualities which he was later to display. I remember sleeping with him once in a room in the top story of Stoughton in our sophomore year and he talked for a great part of the night about Napoleon. The Corsican was the hero who beyond all others had fascinated him, whose career he would especially love to emulate. We were a pair of boys in a peaceful college, living in a time which apparently would afford no opportunity for a soldier’s career. I have often thought of that talk. Barlow was really not unlike the youthful Napoleon, in frame he was slender and delicate, his complexion verged toward the olive, his face was always beardless. I never saw him thrown off his poise in any emergency. The straits of course are not great in which a college boy is placed, but such as they were, Barlow was always cool, with his mind working at its best in the midst of them. He was never abashed, but had a resource and an apt one in every emergency. He was absolutely intrepid before the thrusts of our sharpest examiners and as I have said could bluff it boldly and dexterously where his knowledge failed; then the odd cynicism with which he turned down great pretentions and sometimes matters of serious import, had a Napoleonic cast. In ’61 he enlisted as a private but rose swiftly through the grades to the command of a regiment. At Antietam he had part of a brigade and coralled in a meteoric way on Longstreet’s front line some hundreds of prisoners. His losses were great but he was in the thick of it himself, his poise unruffled until he was borne desperately wounded from the field. The surgeon who attended him told me, if I remember right, that a ball passed entirely through his body carrying with it portions of his clothing, if such a thing were possible; but, with his usual nonchalance he laughed at wounds and while still weak and emaciated went back to his place again in the following spring at the head of a brigade. He underwent Chancellorsville, and for the Union cause it was a great misfortune that his fine brigade was taken from its place on Hooker’s right before Stonewall Jackson made his charge. Had Barlow been there he might have done something to stay the disaster. At Gettysburg, however, he was in the front in command of a division. An old soldier, a lieutenant that day under Barlow, told me that he had charge of the ambulances of the division and on the march near Emmitsburg Barlow put into the lieutenant’s especial charge the ambulance of his wife who, with a premonition of calamity, insisted on being near at hand to help. When the battle joined and Gordon swept overwhelmingly upon Barlow’s division, the lieutenant had difficulty in restraining Mrs. Barlow from rushing at once upon the field among the fighting men. He held her back almost by force but she remained close at hand. Barlow was again desperately wounded, so hurt that his death seemed inevitable, and when the faithful wife, at last making her way, presented herself even in the rebel lines with a petition for her husband, supposed to be dying, Gordon chivalrously gave him up. It was magnanimous, but for him ill-timed. Again Barlow laughed at his wounds. In May, 1864, he was in the field at the head of the first division of Hancock’s corps and on the 12th of May performed the memorable exploit, breaking fairly the centre of Lee’s army and bringing it nearer to defeat than it ever came until the catastrophe at Appomattox. He captured the Spottsylvania salient together with the best division of the army of northern Virginia, Stonewall Jackson’s old command, two generals, thirty colours, cannon, and small arms to correspond. John Noyes, a soldier of a class after us, told me that in the salient he and Barlow worked like privates in the confusion of the capture, turning with their own hands against the enemy a cannon that had just been taken. Barlow was as cool as when he fired off the old cannon in Cambridge ten years before. This stroke proved futile, but from no shortcoming of Barlow’s. A few weeks later at Cold Harbor he effected a lodgment within the Confederate works when all others failed. That too proved futile, but his reputation was confirmed as one of the most brilliant of division commanders. There is a photograph in existence portraying Hancock and his division generals as they appeared during that terrible campaign. It was taken in the woods in the utmost stress of service. Barlow stands in the group just as he looked in college, the face thin and beardless, almost that of a boy, and marked with the nonchalance which always characterised him. There are no military trappings, a rough checked shirt, trousers, slouching from the waist to campaign boots, hang loosely about the attenuated limbs. Soon after that he was carried from the field, not wounded, but in utter exhaustion after exposures which no power of will could surmount. A few months’ respite and he was at his post again, intercepting by a swift march Lee’s retreating column, almost the last warlike act of the Army of the Potomac before Appomattox. In this “Last Leaf” I do not deal with “might-have-beens.” I only remember, but we old classmates of Barlow have a feeling that had the war continued, if only the bullets to which he was always so hospitable had spared him, he would have gone on to the command of a corps, and perhaps even to greater distinctions. The photograph of Barlow, published after his death in the _Harvard Graduates’ Magazine_, presents him as he was soon after the war was over. He had recovered from the hardships, the face is fairly well rounded but still rather that of a beardless, laughing boy than of a man. A stranger studying the face would hear with incredulity the story of the responsibilities and dangers which that face had confronted. He laughed it all off lightly, and that was his way when occasionally in his later years he came to our meetings.
I recall a reunion in 1865, ten years after our graduation. We sat in full numbers about a sumptuous banquet at the Parker House in Boston, and naturally in that year the returned soldiers were in the foreground. In our class were two major-generals, four colonels, a distinguished surgeon, and many more of lower rank. Barlow was the central figure. Theodore Lyman, who presided, introduced him with a glowing tribute, recounting his achievements, a long list from the time he had entered as a private to his culmination as a full Major-General. He called at last for nine cheers for the man who had captured the Spottsylvania salient, and we gave them with a roar that shook the building. Barlow was the only man in the room who showed not the slightest emotion. He stood impassive, his face wearing his queer smile. Other men might have been abashed at the tumultuous warmth of such a reception from his old mates; a natural utterance at such a time would have been an expression of joy that the war was over and that the country had been saved, coupled with modest satisfaction that he had borne some part in the great vindication, but that was not Barlow’s way. He laughed it off lightly, as if it had been a huge joke. My classmate, the late Joseph Willard of Boston, told me of a reunion of the class at a time much later. The men were discussing the stained-glass window which it had been decided should be put in Memorial Hall. Since the class had a distinguished military record it was felt that there should be martial suggestion in the window and the question was what classic warrior should be portrayed. The face, it was thought, should have the lineaments of our most famous soldier. Barlow, who was present, pooh-poohed the whole idea, especially the suggestion that his face should appear, but someone present having suggested Alcibiades, probably not seriously as a proper type, that seemed to strike Barlow’s sense of humour. That reckless classic scapegrace to his cynical fancy perhaps might pass, he might be Alcibiades, but who should be the dog? Alcibiades had a dog whose misfortune in losing his tail has been transmitted through centuries by the pen of Plutarch. “Who will be the dog?” said Barlow and called upon someone to furnish a face for the hero’s canine companion. The scheme for the window came near to going to wreck amid the outbursts of laughter. It was carried through later, however, but Alcibiades and the dog do not appear, although Barlow does. No other Harvard soldier reached Barlow’s eminence, and probably in the whole Army of the Potomac there were few abler champions. He was a strange, gifted, most picturesque personality, no doubt a better man under his cynical exterior than he would ever suffer it to be thought. His service was great, and the memory of him is an interesting and precious possession to those who knew him in boyhood and were in touch with him to the end.
HORACE MANN AND ANTIOCH COLLEGE
The cataclysm of the Civil War, in which as the preceding pages show I had been involved, had shaken me in my old moorings. I found myself not content in a quiet parish in the Connecticut Valley, and as I fared forth was fortunate enough to meet a leader in a remarkable personage. Horace Mann was indeed dead, but remained, as he still remains, a power. His brilliant gifts and self-consecration made him, first, a great educational path-breaker. From that he passed into politics, exhibiting in Congress abilities of the highest. Like an inconstant lover, however, he harked back to his old attachment, and putting aside a fine preferment, the governorship of Massachusetts, it was said, forsook his old home for the headship of Antioch College in south-western Ohio. I shall not dispute here whether or not he chose wisely; much less, how far a lame outcome at Antioch was due to his human limitations, and how far to the inevitable conditions. He was a potent and unselfish striver for the betterment of men, and his words and example still remain an inspiration.
My father in these years was a trustee of Antioch College, and this brought our household into touch with the illustrious figure of whom all men spoke. My memory holds more than a film of him, rather a vivid picture, his stately height dominating my boyish inches, as I stood in his presence. He was spare to the point of being gaunt, every fibre charged with a magnetism which caused a throb in the by-stander. Over penetrating eyes hung a beetling brow, and his aggressive, resonant voice commanded even in slight utterances. I recall him in a public address. The newspapers were full of the Strassburg geese, which, nails being driven through their web feet to hold them motionless, were fed to develop exaggerated livers,–these for the epicures of Paris. “For health and wholesome appetite,” he exclaimed, “I counsel you to eschew _les pates de foie gras_, but climb a mountain or swing an axe.” No great sentence in an exhortation to vigorous, manful living. But the scornful staccato with which he rolled out the French, and the ringing voice and gesture with which he accompanied his exhortation, stamped it indelibly. From that day to this, if I have felt a beguilement toward the flesh-pots, I still hear the stern tones of Horace Mann. In general his eloquence was extraordinary, and I suppose few Americans have possessed a power more marked for cutting, bitter speech. His invective was masterly, and too often perhaps merciless, and it was a weapon he was not slow to wield on occasions large and small. In Congress he lashed deservedly low-minded policies and misguided blatherskites, but his wrathful outpourings upon pupils for some trivial offence were sometimes over-copious. There are Boston schoolmasters, still living perhaps, who yet feel a smart from his scourge. His personality was so incisive that probably few were in any close or long contact with him without a good rasping now and then. My father was the most amiable of men, yet even he did not escape. As an Antioch trustee he was in charge of funds which were not to be applied unless certain conditions were satisfied. Horace Mann demanded the money, and it was withheld on occasions and a deluge of ire was poured upon my poor father’s head. It did not cause him to falter in his conviction of Horace Mann’s greatness and goodness. Nor has this over-ready impetuosity ever caused the world to falter in its reverence. He came bringing not peace but a sword, in all the spheres in which he moved, and in Horace Mann’s world it was a time for the sword. He was a path-breaker in regions obstructed by mischievous accumulations. There was need of his virile championship, and none will say that there was ever in him undue thought of self or indifference to the best humanity.
My father held fast to the sharp-cornered saint and prophet, though somewhat excoriated in the association. He held fast to his trusteeship of Antioch; and in 1866, Horace Mann having some years before been laid in his untimely grave, he stood in his place as president of the college. Through the agency of my dear friends of those years, Dr. Henry W. Bellows and Dr. Edward Everett Hale, I was to go with him as, so to speak, his under-study, discharging the work of English professor and sometimes the duties of preacher. I went gladly. The spirit of the dead leader haunted pervasively the shades where he had laboured and died. The tradition of Horace Mann was paramount among the students, the graduates, and the whole environment. I had felt as a boy the spell of his voice and presence and knew no hero whom I could follow more cordially. It was a joy to become domiciled in the house which had been built for him and where he had breathed his last, and to labour day by day along the noble lines which he had laid down. This was my post for six years, one of which, however, was spent in Europe, in the hope of gaining an added fitness for my place.
I have no mind to set down here a record of those Antioch years. One experiment we tried in a field then very novel and looked upon askance. To-day in our schools and universities the pageant and the drama play a large part. Forty years ago they were unknown or in hiding, and it may be claimed that our little fresh-water college bore a part in initiating a development that has become memorable and widely salutary. In 1872 I wrote out the story of our attempt for Mr. Howells, in the _Atlantic Monthly_, a film which may appropriately be staged among my pictures.
_The New Wrinkle at Sweetbrier; or, The Drama in Colleges_
I have been distressed, dear Fastidiosus, by your remonstrance concerning the performance at our college at Sweetbrier of a “stage play.” You have heard the facts rightly; that it was given under the superintendence of the English professor, the evening before Commencement, “with many of the accessories of a theatre.” You urge that it is unprecedented to have at a dignified institution, which aims at a high standard, under the superintendence of a professor, such a performance; that it excites the prejudices of some people against us; and you quote the sharp remarks of _David’s Harp_, the organ of the Dunkers. You urge that such things can be nothing more than the play of boys and girls, and are something worse than mere waste of time, for they set young people to thinking of the theatre, which is irretrievably sunk and only harmful. In your character of trustee, you are sorry it has been done, and beg that it may not be done again.
I beg you to listen to a patient stating of the case. It is not without precedent. When you were at Worms, in Germany, do you remember in the Luther Memorial the superb figure of Reuchlin, on one of the outer corners? One or two of the statues may be somewhat grander, but no other seemed to me so handsome, as it stood colossal on its pillar, the scholar’s gown falling from the stately shoulders, and the face so fine there in the bronze, under the abundant hair and cap. Reuchlin is said to be the proper founder of the German drama. Before his time there had been, to be sure, some performing of miracle-plays, and perhaps things of a different sort. The German literary historians, however, make it an era when Reuchlin came as professor to Heidelberg, and, in 1497, set up a stage, with students for actors, at the house of Johann, Kaemmerer von Dalberg. He wrote his plays in Latin. If you wish, I can send you their titles. Each act, probably, was prefaced by a synopsis in German, and soon translations came into vogue, and were performed as well. On that little strip of level which the crags and the Neckar make so narrow, collected then, as now, a fair concourse of bounding youth. One can easily fancy how, when the prototypes of the trim Burschen of to-day stepped out in their representation, the applause sounded across to the vineyards about the Heiligenberg and Hirschgasse, and how now and then a knight and a dame from the court of the Kurfuerst came down the Schlossberg to see it all. What Reuchlin began, came by no means to a speedy end. In the Jesuit seminaries in Germany, in Italy too, and elsewhere, as the Reformation came on, I find the boys were acting plays. This feature in the school was held out as an attraction to win students; and in Prague the Fathers themselves wrote dramas to satirise the Protestants, introducing Luther as the comic figure. But what occurred in the Protestant world was more noteworthy. As the choral singing of the schoolboys affected in an important way the development of music, so the school-plays had much to do with the development of the drama. Read Gervinus to see how for a century or two it was the schools and universities that remained true to a tolerably high standard, while in the world at large all nobler ideals were under eclipse. It was jocund Luther himself who took it under his especial sanction, as he did the fiddle and the dance, in his sweet large-heartedness finding Scriptural precedents for it, and encouraging the youths who came trooping to Wittenberg to relieve their wrestling with Aristotle and the dreary controversy with an occasional play. Melancthon, too, gave the practice encouragement, until not only Wittenberg, but the schools of Saxony in general, and Thuringia, whose hills were in sight, surpassed all the countries of Germany in their attention to plays. In Leipsic, Erfurt, and Magdeburg comedies were regularly represented before the schoolmasters. But it was at the University of Strassburg, even at the time when the unsmiling Calvin was seeking asylum there, that the dramatic life of the German seminaries found a splendid culmination. Yearly, in the academic theatre, took place a series of representations, by students, of marvellous pomp and elaboration. The school and college plays were of various characters. Sometimes they were from Terence, Plautus, or Aristophanes; sometimes modifications of the ancient mysteries, meant to enforce the Evangelical theology; sometimes comedies full of the contemporary life. There are several men that have earned mention in the history of German literature by writing plays for students. The representations became a principal means for celebrating great occasions. If special honour was to be done to a festival, or a princely visit was expected, the market-place, the Rathhaus, or the church was prepared, and it was the professor’s or the schoolmaster’s duty to direct the boys in their performance of a play. We get glimpses, in the chronicles, of the circumstances under which the representations took place. The magistrates, even the courts, lent brilliant dresses. One old writer laments that the ignorant people have so little sense for arts of this kind. “Often tumult and mocking are heard, for it is the greatest joy to the rabble if the spectators fall down through broken benches.” The old three-storied stage of the mysteries was often retained, with heaven above, earth in the middle space, and hell below; where, according to the stage direction of the _Golden Legend_, “the devils walked about and made a great noise.” Lazarus is described as represented in the sixteenth century before a hotel, before which sat the rich man carousing, while Abraham, in a parson’s coat, looked out of an upper window. This rudeness, however, belongs rather to the _Volks-comoedie_ than the _Schul-comoedie_, whose adjuncts were generally far more rational, and sometimes even brilliant, as in the Strassburg representations. It was only in the seminaries that art was preserved from utter decay. One may trace the _Schul-comoedie_ until far down in the eighteenth century, and in the last mention of it I find appears an interesting figure. In 1780, at the military school in Stuttgart the birthday of the Duke of Wuertemberg was celebrated by a performance of Goethe’s _Clavigo_. The leading part was taken by a youth of twenty-one, with high cheek-bones, a broad, low, Greek brow above straight eyebrows, a prominent nose, and lips nervous with an extraordinary energy. The German narrator says he played the part “abominably, shrieking, roaring, unmannerly to a laughable degree.” It was the young Schiller, wild as a pythoness upon her tripod, with the _Robbers_, which became famous in the following year.
But I do not mean, Fastidiosus, to cite only German precedents, nor to uphold the college drama with the names of Reuchlin, Melancthon, and Luther alone, majestic though they are. In the University of Paris the custom of acting plays was one of high antiquity. In 1392 the schoolboys of Angiers performed _Robin and Marian_, “as was their annual custom”; and in 1477 the scholars of Pontoise represented “a certain moralitie or farce, as is their custom.” In 1558 the comedies of Jacques Grevin were acted at the College of Beauvais at Paris; but it is in the next century that we come upon the most interesting case. In the days of Louis XIV. the girls’ school at St. Cyr, of which Madame de Maintenon was patroness, was, in one way and another, the object of much public attention. Mademoiselle de Caylus, niece of Madame de Maintenon, who became famous among the women of charming wit and grace who distinguished the time, was a pupil at St. Cyr, and in her memoirs gives a pleasant sketch of her school life. With the rest, “Madame de Brinon,” she says,
first superior of St. Cyr, loved verse and the drama; and in default of the pieces of Corneille and Racine, which she did not dare to have represented, she composed plays herself. It is to her, and her taste for the stage, that the world owes _Esther_ and _Athalie_, which Racine wrote for the girls of St. Cyr. Madame de Maintenon wished to see one of Madame de Brinon’s pieces. She found it such as it was, that is to say, so bad that she begged to have no more such played, and that instead some beautiful piece of Corneille or Racine should be selected, choosing such as contained least about love. These young girls, therefore, undertook the rendering of _Cinna_, quite passably for children who had been trained for the stage only by an old nun. They then played _Andromaque_; and, whether it was that the actresses were better chosen, or gained in grace through experience, it was only too well represented for Madame de Maintenon, causing her to fear that this amusement would fill them with sentiments the reverse of those which she wished to inspire. However, as she was persuaded that amusements of this sort were good for youth, she wrote to Racine, begging him to compose for her, in his moments of leisure, some sort of moral or historic poem, from which love should be entirely banished, and in which he need not believe that his reputation was concerned, since it would remain buried at St. Cyr. The letter threw Racine into great agitation. He wished to please Madame de Maintenon. To refuse was impossible for a courtier, and the commission was delicate for a man who, like him, had a great reputation to sustain. At last he found in the subject of Esther all that was necessary to please the Court.
So far Mademoiselle de Caylus. A French historian of literature draws a pleasing picture of the old Racine superintending the preparation of _Esther_,
giving advice full of sense and taste on the manner of reciting his verses, never breaking their harmony by a vulgar diction, nor hurting the sense by a wrong emphasis. What a charm must the verses where Esther recounts the history of her triumph over her rivals have had in the mouth of Mademoiselle de Veillanne, the prettiest and most graceful of the pupils of St. Cyr! How grand he must have been, when, with that noble figure which Louis XIV. admired, he taught Mademoiselle de Glapion, whose voice went to the heart, to declaim the beautiful verses of the part of Mordecai!
The genius of Racine glows finely in _Esther._ In the choruses, the inspirations of the Hebrew prophets, framed as it were in a Greek mould, give impressive relief to the dialogue, as in Sophocles and Aeschylus. It was played several times, and no favour was more envied at the Court than an invitation to the representations. The literature of the time has many allusions to them. The splendid world, in all its lace and powder, crowded to the quiet convent. The great soldiers, the wits, the beautiful women were all there. The king and Madame de Maintenon sat in stiff dignity in the foreground. The appliances were worthy of the magnificent Court. In Oriental attire of silk sweeping to their feet, set off with pearl and gold, the loveliest girls of France declaimed and sang the sonorous verse. It is really one of the most innocent and charming pictures that has come down to us of this age, when so much was hollow, pompous, and cruel.
Hamlet says to Polonius, “My lord, you played once in the university, you say.” To which Polonius replies, “That I did, my lord, and was accounted a good actor. I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed in the Capitol.” Do not suppose, Fastidiosus, that the playing of Polonius was any such light affair as you and I used to be concerned in up in the fourth story of “Stoughton,” when we were members of the Hasty Pudding. In the Middle Ages, in convents and churches, flourished the mysteries; but, says Warton, in the _History of English Poetry_, as learning increased, the practice of acting plays went over to the schools and universities. Before the sixteenth century we may find traces of dramatic vitality among the great English seminaries; but if the supposition of Huber, in his account of English universities, is correct, the real founder of the college drama in England was a character no less dignified than its founder in Germany. Erasmus, as he sits enthroned in a scholar’s chair in the market-place at Rotterdam, the buildings about leaning on their insecure foundations out of the perpendicular, and the market-women, with their apple-bloom complexions, crowding around him, shows a somewhat withered face and figure, less genial than the handsome Heidelberg professor as he stands at Worms. But it was Erasmus, probably, who, among many other things he did while in England, lent an important impulse to the acting of plays by students. He, no doubt, was no further interested than to have masterpieces of Greek and Latin drama represented, that the students might have exercise in those languages; but before the reign of Henry VIII. was finished, the practice was becoming pursued for other ends, and growing in importance. _Gammer Gurton’s Needle_, long supposed to be the first English comedy, was first acted by students at Cambridge. That our more rollicking boys had their counterparts then, we may know from its rousing drinking-song, which the fellows rang out at the opening of the second act, way back there in 1551. The chorus is not yet forgotten:
“Backe and side go bare, go bare,
Booth foot and hand go colde;
But, belly, God send thee good ale inoughe, Whether it be new or olde!”
For the most part, probably, the performances were of a more dignified character than this. Among the statutes of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1546, there is one entitled _de praefectu ludorum qui imperator dicitur_, under whose direction and authority Latin comedies are to be exhibited in the hall at Christmas. This “imperator” must be a master of arts, and the society was to be governed by a set of laws framed in Latin verse. The authority of this potentate lasted from Christmas to Candlemas, during which time six spectacles were to be represented. Dr. John Dee, a prodigy of that century, who might have been illustrious like Bacon almost, but who wasted his later years in astrological dreams, in his younger life, while Greek lecturer at Cambridge, superintended in the refectory of the college the representation of the [Greek: _Eirhene_]; of Aristophanes, with no mean stage adjuncts, if we may trust his own account. He speaks particularly of the performance of a “Scarabeus, his flying up to Jupiter’s palace with a man and his basket of victuals on his back; whereat was great wondering and many vain reports spread abroad of the means how that was effected.” The great Roger Ascham, too, has left an indirect testimony to the splendour with which the Cambridge performances at this time were attended. In a journey on the Continent, wishing to express in the highest terms his sense of the beauty of Antwerp, he can say nothing stronger than that it as far surpasses other cities as the refectory of St. John’s College at Cambridge, when adorned for the Christmas plays, surpasses its ordinary appearance. On these occasions, the most dignified personages of the University were invited, and at length, as was the German fashion, the representation of plays was adopted as part of the entertainment of visitors. In 1564, Queen Elizabeth visited Cambridge, and the picture transmitted to us of the festivities is full of brilliant lights. With the rest, five doctors of the University selected from all the colleges the youths of best appearance and address, who acted before the queen a series of plays of varied character, sometimes grave, sometimes gay, in part of classic, in part of contemporary authorship. The theatre for the time was no other place than the beautiful King’s College chapel, across the entire width of which the stage was built. For light, the yeomen of the royal guard, their fine figures in brilliant uniform, stood in line from end to end of the chapel, each holding a torch. It was a superb scene, no doubt; the torches throwing their wavering glare against the tracery and the low, pointed arch of window and portal, so beautiful in this chapel, in the ruins of Kenilworth, or wherever it appears; the great space filled with the splendour that Roger Ascham thought so wonderful; and, among the glitter, the troop of handsome youths doing their best to please the sovereign. Froude gives a story from De Silva, the Spanish ambassador, which reflects so well the character of the time, and shows up boyish human nature with such amusing faithfulness, that I cannot omit it. When all was over, the students would not let well enough alone, but begged the tired queen to see one more play of their own devising, which they felt sure would give her special pleasure. The queen, however, departed, going ten miles on her journey to the seat of one of her nobility. The persistent boys followed her, and she granted them permission to perform before her in the evening. What should the unconscionable dogs do but drag in the bitter trouble of the time, and heedlessly trample on the queen’s prejudices. The actors entered dressed like the bishops of Queen Mary,