The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes — Volume 08: Bunker Hill and Other Poems
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His literary writings, on the whole, are partly the leisure-born meditations of a physician, partly a means of spreading certain items of professional propaganda, partly a distillation of his social life. Like Samuel Johnson in 18th-century England, Holmes was noted for his conversational powers in both his life and literary output. Although his essay on puerperal fever has been deemed "the most important contribution made in America to the advancement of medicine" up to that time,  Holmes is most famous as a humorist and poet. Editor and critic George Ripley , an admirer of Holmes, referred to him as "one of the wittiest and most original of modern poets".
Poems by Holmes, along with those by the other Fireside or Schoolroom Poets, were often required to be memorized by schoolchildren. Although learning by rote recitation began fading out by the s, these poets nevertheless remained fixed as ideal New England poets. His work is the least likely of the Fireside Poets to find its way into American literature anthologies. Items from Holmes's personal library—including medical papers, essays, songs and poems—are held in the library's Special Collections department.
It ends with a quote from Horace 's Ars Poetica: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Metcalf and Company, Boston Sights and Insights: Archived from the original on February 27, Retrieved December 21, American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 16, Blanchard and Lea, Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. University of Iowa Press , Journal of Photography of the George Eastman House. Retrieved April 11, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Oxford University Press, His Life and Work.
Little, Brown and Company, University of Illinois, A Literary History of New England. Lehigh University Press, Simon and Schuster, Hymns and Hymn Makers. The Autocrat at the Breakfast-Table. Columbia University Press, Transcendentalist and Utopian Socialist. University of Georgia Press, Childhood, Performance, and the Place of American Poetry, — University of New Hampshire Press, New England Literary Culture: From Revolution Through Renaissance.
Cambridge University Press, Oliver Wendell Holmes Library. Retrieved May 6, A History and Guide. Faber and Faber, The Fields Were Green: Stanford University Press, University of South Carolina , Oliver Wendell Holmes in Paris: University Press of New England , Oliver Wendell Holmes and the Culture of Conversation.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Wikisource has original works written by or about: The Innocent and the Merciless. Mark Twain Samuel Clemens. The Complete Wilfred Owen. The Poetry Of Edward Thomas. Poems Of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ballads of a Cheechako, Canadian poetry. Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. A Boy's Will, a poem. Black Beetles In Amber. A Book of Fairy Poems. Walter de la Mare. A Selection of Poems. Emily Dickinson, The Poetry.
McGuffey's Fourth Eclectic Reader. The Junior Classics — Volume 1. The Congo and Other Poems. Ontario Ministry Of Education. Good Stories for Holidays. America, A Nation In Verse. The Book of the Native. Turner Sargent, and Edward Jackson Holmes. All these losses came after the Doctor had moved, in more prosperous days, to Beacon Street, on the river side.
At the very end of the Doctor happened through Mont- gomery Place and saw workmen tearing down the modest house where, in the distant past, he and his wife and children had spent so many happy years. It was a site he had coveted since his boyhood. By the time his ambition was fulfilled it was no longer an island, but the artificial site had the advantages he coveted: In his later years Oliver Wendell Holmes and his wife moved in to care for the aging author.
In the Beacon Street house, asleep in an armchair in his beloved library, he died October 7, Until summoned to the Supreme Court in Washington in December, , Judge Holmes lived in the dignified four-story brick house his father had built; then his nephew, Edward J.
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Holmes, took over the place. Not all the time of the Holmes family was spent amid the slush and murk of a wintry Boston. From the standpoint of the children the gay and delightful months were those in the coun- try. When Wendell was eight years old, in , the Doctor built a summer home on the Lenox road near Pittsfield, on land which had been in the family for generations.
In that day the name of the place was Canoe Meadows. There seven summers were spent, until the place threatened to become too great a drain upon the family purse.
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Most of the trees on the tract itself were planted by the Doctor, assisted by a tenant; some were slips from English nur- series, not more than a foot high when set out. The two small boys helped with these tasks, and played among the pine xvoods on the hilly slopes around, or among the clover and hay, once patches began to be cultivated. They rolled in the grass and waded in the streams.
It was a healthful, rollicking life. Yet the land lay more than a thousand feet above sea level, in Berkshire County, a rolling plain betxveen the Hoosacs and the Taconics, cast and west. The village of Pittsfield, christened in honor of the Earl of Chatham, was not incorporated until , five years after the Holmes family, whose place was two miles south of the village, had moved from the neighborhood. Until the incorporation, the community was known as Boston Plantation, and the name was reminiscent.
Even in the boyhood of Oliver Wendell Holmes, slaves had vanished as household servants in his Boston. They did not thrive amid the rigors of New England winters, and the descendants of men who had bought and sold them like any other chattel began to perceive the moral implications of the traffic.
And although the political background of the gentlemen and yeomanry who settled Massachusetts were not greatly different from tlie experi- ence of the so-called Cavaliers in Virginia, the climatic and geo- graphic conditions of the one made for small farms and compact communities, while the plantation— which was the feudalistic aim of the colonizing companies— was readily possible in the other. In colonial Boston mantels were adorned with images of the sacred— and profitable— cod; nor were New Englanders ashamed of dealing in rum, grindstones and fishing tackle.
Vir- ginians would have blushed to acknowledge such occupations. These facts, as legend and tradition, infiltrated into the con-  The Boston of His Boyhood sciousness of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and often came upper- most ill later years. No, after the Civil War and Reconstruction, so she says, the South had nothing left but a social attitude.
It made me feel pretty bad. Indeed, church membership was a condition for sixty years of the suf- frage in Massachusetts, and for a century thereafter property qualifications for the vote were maintained. John Adams feared the masses as much as he feared any monarch, and said so. The good Doctor him- self, however, was no snob, and had a high faith in democratic processes.
It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations. It has no past; it has an onward and prospective look. The rest of the nations must soon be in our rear. We are the pio- neers of the world; the advance guard, sent on tlirough the wil- derness of untried things, to break a new path in the New World that is ours. In our youth is our strength; in our inexperience, our wisdom. Many winds of doctrine, political, economic and religious, were to blow about the boy and the man Wendell Holmes, and many tides of mass emotion were to sweep across the land. To a certain extent Boston was an enclave amid this excitement and confu- sion.
For nearly two centuries after the city was founded, in , it had stuck loyally to its old form of government, and had debated its municipal problems in town meetings. Thus, until a city charter was granted in , the community was distinctly homogeneous. It had a color and a character of its own, which persisted well into the life of Wendell Holmes. Every man who walked Tremont Street, so it was said, had under his hat his own theory of the cosmos.
Elsewhere, half a century earlier, the Founding Fathers had supplanted the Church Fathers as vener- ated oracles; in New England, despite its weighty delegation of Founders, and despite tlie fact that politics was still regarded as a career, metaphysics was a thing apart. Spiritual monitors were not necessarily apart. He was a member, too, of the PorceUian Club and the Knights of the Square Table subsequently merged , of whose meetings he spoke with gusto after Wendell was well past his majority. Fortunately, there were no reporters at these meetings, for many tongues for- got the lessons they had been taught at the sober fam- ily board, and indulged in wit, or what passed for it,.
Wine was very freely drunk in those days, without fear and without reproach from the pul- pit or the platform. Elizabeth Cady Stanton has told vividly what that thralldom was. Women could not hold property, whether they earned it or inherited it; if unmarried, they must put it into the hands of trustees, and if married, they were required to give up all title to it. Boston standards were high for the male, fortunately for the youthful Holmes.
He was not bom wealthy, but he was born into a society which even European capitals might envy. In any coun- try the writers of that day would have merited distinction, al- though here, to be sure, sex barriers were not erected as in the home and in the courts and at the polls: There was a saying that if one were bom in Boston there was no need to be born again; it remained for Irvin Cobb to modify this irreverently by averring that a man born in Boston and educated at Harvard was like a twice-laid egg.
Parker, disregarding the dictum of Saul of Tarsus, actually vowed there was a maternal element in the Di- vine Being; but Boston as a whole could not quite go that. No one seems to know just what the Puritan was, or is, if there are any of the simon-pure type remaining. That is, no one seems able to frame a definite and certain description or analysis to which large numbers of persons will agree. This much is sure: The settlers of Jamestown, who preceded the Puritans to this country, accepted the Church of England and it became the State Church of Virginia, as of other Southern States.
Yet it does not appear that the South was less severe than New England in its disciplines. Benjamin Franklin proved clearly enough that even the Massachusetts of his day could produce an independent soul, as unconventional socially as a Greenwich Villager pretends to be and an authentic free-thinker to boot.
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The Puritan came, moreover, to associate God pragmatically with go-getting; and under the impact of evolution and the Machine Age he surren- dered his harshest postures toward original sin, predestination and such-like. He even came to approve divorce, in cases of deser- tion and cruelty. A people witb few social graces, yet capable of deep friendships and abiding loyalties; law-abiding yet indi- vidualistic, and impatient of restraint by government or regulation in business; ever attempting to repress certain traits of human nature, but finding an outlet in broad, crude humor and deep-sea voyages.
A race whose typical mernber is tom between a passion for righteousness and a desire to get on in the world. Grinnell quoted this passage in his paper, John Winthrop and the Constitutional [ 63 ] Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Undoubtedly the Puritan has been made a popular scapegoat, and the word has become a catch-basin for undeserved re- proaches. Some of these animadversions were deflected to the Fundamentalists of the South during the period when Dayton, Tennessee, was a news cynosure, but there does not seem to have been much inclination to admit that the Fundamentalists were but continuing the Puritan tradition and practices.
Let us see for a moment what Mr. Justice Holmes thinks of the Puritan. One might expect him, in view of the upbringing which I have attempted to describe, to be a bit impatient of the sect. Our doctrines may have changed, but the cold Puritan passion is still here. Never a hot-headed man, the tides of passion had for years run high in him, and it had been a cold passion; yet one fancies that the Puritanism of it was fairly Thinking of John Adams, for the Massachusetts Historical Society, which has incor- porated it in Volume 63, February, His father had been the Class Poet in ; the son was to be Class Poet in The father, after studying law somewhat lackadaisically for a year, had turned to medicine, and had taught anatomy in the university; there the son, after turning aside from philosophy as a life pursuit, was to teach law.
Practically all the boys the son knew had attended Mr. DixwelFs Latin school; nearly all of them were to become fellow students at Harvard.
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So that when the youth walked down the steps of Mr. Dixwell, principal of the school he was leav- ing, was to become his bride some sixteen years later. In the Class of were Henry Pickering Bowditch and Frank Emmons, the one a celebrated physiologist, the other, for thirty years with the United States Geological Survey, a world- famous geologist. The roster is studded with names associated with New England's part in the intellectual and social history of this country: Scollay Parker, although a Georgian by birth, had a New England ancestry which went back to , and his mother was a granddaughter of William Scollay of Boston, for whom Scollay Square was named.
Hallowell, a Philadelphian of Quaker parentage, who became Class Orator, served with Holmes in the Twentieth Massachusetts, and was wounded with him at Antietam. His death in evoked from the Justice a stately sonnet. Other students at Harvard in those days were to become warm friends of Holmes, if they had not been warm friends even before that association. William James was a boon companion, not a fellow-student; although they drifted somewhat apart later, chiefly because James was so much abroad before he began teach- ing in the university. James, a year the elder, urged Holmes to join the Society for Psychical Research.
We go through life staking our salva- tion on incomplete and imperfect knowledge. You pull out a day; only an hour or two is available for spiritual thoughts. From Berlin, on September 17, , he wrote, in part: Men differ, thank Heaven! Mind, I should not have found fault with you if you had not written at all. There would have been a fine brutality about that At Harvard which would have commanded respect rather than otherwise— certainly not pity. Let it be as substantial and succulent as the last, with its hollow hyperbolic expression of esteem, was the op- posite, and I assure you that the past shall be for- gotten.
I should like to have you opposite me in any mood, whether the facetiously excursive, the metaphysically discursive, the personally confidential, or the jadedly cursive and argumentative— so that the oyster shells which enclose my being might slowly turn open on their rigid hinges under the radiation, and the critter within loll out his dried-up gills into the circumfused ichor of life, till they grew so fat as not to know themselves again. I feel as if a talk with you of any kind could not fail to set me on my legs again for three weeks at least.
I have been chewing on two or three dried-up old cuds of ideas I brought from America with me, till they have disappeared, and the nudity of the Kosmos has got beyond anything I have as yet experienced. I have not succeeded in finding any companion yet, and I feel the want of some outward stimulus to my Soul. After returning to the United States, James expressed the fear, quite common in that day among the whole group, that Holmes worked too hard.
That the future Justice of the United States Supreme Court and the future founder of Pragmatism were exceptions in the personnel of nearly any university is obvious; yet it is to be noted that there were differences of mental posture between the Harvard men of that day and of this, and that there were certain differences between the university then and now.
It is worth our while, without invidious intention, to clarify somewhat the di- mensions of these discrepancies. If Webster and the Adamses had been born three- quarters of a century later, probably they would have developed into Captains of Industry, although it is a little difficult to fancy Webster in that capacity.
The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes — volume 08: Bunker Hill And Other Poems
Quite the same thing would have been true had they been born, say, a century later , of Clay and Cal- houn, Washington and Jefferson and Marshall and Madison in the South. As late as the middle of the Nineteenth Century, how- ever, the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham largely colored the po- litical and social thought of the whole United States; and al-  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes though New England was in favor of a protective tarifE, the belief prevailed generally that it was injudicious to interfere otherwise with the operation of economic and social forces.
The principles of laissez-faire were ascendant. That school of philosophy was abandoned by Daniel Webster, it is true, after he was hard-bitten during the forties by the Presi- dential bee, but his apostasy did not carry with him the majority of those who had been his followers; his political shiftiness brought him but disappointment and regret.
The intellectual element of New England, deeply influenced by English thought, sought economic, political and religious freedom. The Puritan no longer exercised rigid authority over deportment or opinion, and the community practiced a large tolerance, albeit seldom a friendly or cordial tolerance. There were exceptions, of course, mostly individual, and the heightening bitterness between the North and South increased the number of exceptions. Gray, a good friend of both James and Holmes, wrote to another friend: Nor would the Boston of that day have insisted that the nude cherubim beside the city seal on the granite facade of a public library be draped with stony ribbons.
It must not be supposed from this that either Boston or its famous university wais of conspicuously loose morals. The motto of the university in was Veritas, but around , probably during the presidency of Increase Mather, it was changed to Christo et Ecclesiae; and the elder Oliver Wendell Holmes stirred up something of a tempest when he proposed light-mind- edly that Harvard return to the earlier seal.
Holmes to speak at its annual dinner on February 21, ; this he had to refuse to do, because he  At Harvard dreaded travel at that season, and he regretted it because, so he said. Eliot, who had become president, did no more than mention to Dr. Holmes, casually, that he had received a letter about the sonnets.
The Graduate School of Business Administration, the last act of his official career, was still unborn by nearly half a century. Education erects a caste system, founded primarily upon taste and intelligence; and Har- vard still educated young men on the caste basis. It was then and it still is the leading and the oldest American college, and in a sense a national institution. He himself has uttered as good a reply, perhaps, as any other to Dr. About these halls there has always been an aroma of high feeling, not to be found or lost in science or Greek— not to be fixed, yet all-pervading, and the warrant of Harvard College for writing the names of its dead graduates upon its tablets is not in the mathematics, the chemistry, the political economy, which it taught them, but that in ways not to be dis- covered, by traditions not to be written down, it helped men of lofty natures to make good their faculties.
I hope and I believe that it long will give such help to its children. On the two hundred and fiftieth an- niversary of the College we find Holmes telling the law school: Its aspi-  At Harvard rations are concealed because they are chastened and instructed; but I believe in ray soul that they are not the less noble that they are silent. The golden light of the University is not confined to the undergraduate department; it is shed over all the schools.
He who has once seen it becomes other than he was, forever- more. Gray, Henry Adams, T. Sedgwick and Francis Parkman; among later members were Henry L. Higginson, Sturgis Bige- low, John T. Here the young men discussed, without special preparation, current as well as past and future questions. Darwinism, a subject of eager debate during college days, was still fresh and novel as a dinner-dub topic.
Henry Adams, a student at Harvard when Wendell Holmes was there and a member of the dinner club, was somewhat too acutely conscious of being an Adams and a little too priggish ever to win a large place in the heart of Holmes. It is probable that the future professor of law exercised a greater influence on the future professor of history at Harvard than Adams exercised [ 66 ] 'At Harvard on him.
Toward the dose of , while Holmes was recovering from a wound received at Antietam, Adams, secretary to his father at the Court of St. James, attended a houseparty given by Richard Monckton Milnes Lord Houghton at Fryston, and there met Swinburne, at the time an unknown. Not harsh in manners or judgment, rather liberal and open- minded, they were still as a body the most formidable critics one would care to meet, in a long life exposed to criticism.
They never flattered, seldom praised; free from vanity, they were not intolerant of it; they were objectiveness itself; their attitude was a law of nature; their judgment beyond appeal, not an act either of intellect or emotion or of will, but a sort of gravitation. At any rate, it was very New England. He met there also, as undergraduates, excellent examples of that Southern aristocracy with which the Northern aristocracy was soon to be locked in lethal embrace. Henry Adams thought this young Virginian had changed little from the type of the grandfather.
When a Virginian had brooded a few days over an imaginary grief and substantial whiskey, none of his northern friends could [ 68 ] At Harvard be sure that he might not be waiting, round the corner, with a knife or pistol, to revenge insult by the dry light of delirium tremens; and when things reached this condition, Lee had to exhaust his authority over his own stafiE. Lee was a gentleman of the old school, and, as everyone knows, gentlemen of the old school drank almost as much as gentlemen of the new school; but this was not his trouble.
He was sober even in the excessive violence of political opinion in those years; he kept his temper and his friends under control. But he doubted whether these slave-owning Southerners were any less fit to survive in the modem struggle for existence than were well-bred New Englanders like himself. James; Holmes and the ma- jority of his class saw it amid the sweat and blood of camp and battlefield.
The warmest friend Adams made at Harvard was H. Adams was amazed that he was chosen Class Orator, and had only the Class Poet as a rival on Commence- ment Day; it was foregone almost from the outset that Holmes should be Class Poet. Ollapod before a gala audience of the Hasty Pudding. Holmes learned new lessons in self-possession and self-control under bat- tle-fire. Of the eighty-one men in the Class of at Harvard, forty- seven fought for the Union, three for the Confederacy; of the non-graduates, twelve for the Union, two for the Confederacy.
Eight were killed or died of their wounds; two died of disease contracted in the service. How fought our brothers, and how died, the story You bid me tell, who shared with them the praise. The bloody birthright of heroic days. At Harvard But, all untuned amid the din of battle. At the fiftieth anniversary dinner of the class, held at the Union Club in Boston, June 27, 1, seventeen of the twenty-five liv- ing members were present, and Mr.
Justice Holmes told them that, descending the western slope, he had found that middle life was better than youth, the later years better than middle life. On the following day, at the meeting of the Alumni Association, he delivered a more formal address. The Twentieth never wrote about itself to the newspapers, but for its killed and wounded in battle it stood in the first half-dozen of all the regiments of the North. This little Class never talked about itself, but, graduat- ing just as the War of Secession was beginning, out of its eighty- one members it had fifty-one under arms, the largest proportion that any class sent to that war.
Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. As twenty men of genius, looking out of the same window, will paint twenty canvases, each different from all the rest, and every one correct, so am I apt to think men may be allowed the defects of their qualities if they have the qualities of their defects. We all of us have our notions of what is best. I think that [sort of] training is much fitter to make a man than for a youth to have at twenty all the luxuries of life poured into a trough for him.
To act is to affirm the worth of an end; to persist in affirming the worth of an end is to make an ideal. Although he freed himself from the group loyalties and prejudices and pas- sions which are a heritage of those reared in the security of the genteel tradition, he remained faithful to Class and Regiment, to College and Cause. Let us follow him into the war. The young officer made shift to crawl back. As he began to recover his wits and his wind, he thought he was not so much hurt after all. He could have remained back of the line in com- parative safety, but at his urging a sergeant lent a hand to help him to his feet, and Holmes found his way back to the front.
There, his sword upraised, he was a fair target for the enemy; and in less than three minutes another missile struck him, this time not a spent bullet but a conical minie ball, which tore off his shirt, entered the left breast just above the heart, and emerged on the right side. The ball missed the heart, perhaps by a quarter of an inch, but it appeared to have perforated the lung.
A surgeon who made a quick examination felt sure the wound was mortal. To this haven the defeated Union forces were trying, amid showers of bullets, to transport their dead and wounded [7S] Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in frail skiffs, a scow, and a small metallic lifeboat. Hundreds were struggling for their lives to reach the island shore; some were drowning, some were slain as they escaped. Lieutenant Holmes recovered consciousness as he lay in a boat.
Some of its occupants were dead, and he supposed, as the surgeon had supposed, that he was dying. Next to him a man groaned in agony. The ball had passed outside the cavities containing the heart and lungs. They did all that men could be expected to do. Stone, although the precise nature of the charges against him remain a military mystery.
The Twentieth stands fifth on the roll of northern regiments that suffered the heaviest losses during the war, according to this historian. Brevet Major-General William F. Andrew of Massachu- setts on June 27, , to command the Twentieth. Here, with gently sloping sandy soil which dried quickly after rains, with  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes the hills of Milton in the distance and with a pond of clear cool water nearby, the men drilled, bathed, and occasionally made sorties for drinks nearby. Tents were pitched the afternooir of July lo, and the place was named Camp Massasoit, in honor of that chief of the Wampanoag Indians who had been in alliance with the Plymouth settlers some two centuries earlier.
Recruiting was slow, because earlier regiments had exhausted the enthusiasm and to a large extent the young manhood of the community. It was not until July i8 that the regiment could be mustered into the United States Army; and even then the mus- tering officer reported the men as so deficient in stamina and capability that not more than one-third of them measured up to the average of his previous experience. There was indeed a good deal of drunkenness among those who were fond of hard liquors; so that finally Major Revere with a small detail raided the bar and dumped into the street the whiskies, brandies and gins.
A recruit who was bathing with some comrades in the Neponsit River, close to the camp, was drowned. On the evening of August 12, when the regiment boasted but enlisted men, Sergeant Buguey left the camp with a squad of fourteen of Company G, and encountered an agent of the New York Irish Brigade, who induced him and eleven of his men to desert. The twelve were  Under Arms: One week later orders were received from Washington to for- ward the regiment immediately. Colonel Lee was thus required to send along a complete roster of his officers; and young Oliver Wendell Holmes, walking down Beacon Hill with a copy in his hand of Leviathan, or the Matter, Form and Power of a Com- monwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil, by Thomas Hobbes phil- osopher of English Puritanism , got the glad tidings that he had a commission as First Lieutenant.
Stevenson, and had gone into training at Fort Independence, in Boston Harbor; there, as Class Poet of Harvard, , he had written an ode for delivery at the exercises on July His com- mission was for Company A of the Twentieth, but he was trans- ferred, before he went into battle, to Company G. As a fact, the aggregate strength of the regiment was , but ad- ditional men were transferred from other Massachusetts forces. Full ranks were never attained. Boston ladies sent a silk standard to the regiment, and the Governor presented it. The smooth- bore muskets with which the men had been training were ex- changed for Enfield rifles, bought in England by a Massachusetts agent just after Fort Sumter was fired on.
Unlike most of the Massachusetts regiments, the Twentieth did not parade on Boston Common amid the cheers and tears of onlookers. Although officered almost entirely from that city, the regiment never appeared there as an organization, during or  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes after the war.
In New York there was a parade. The Sons of Massachusetts in that city gave the regiment a reception and dinner, at which there was much speech-making, and the men marched up Broad- way to the ferry before moving on to Philadelphia. Thence to Baltimore, and thence in cattle cars to Washington, the regiment made its way, before being hurried to the front with its ranks but three-quarters filled.
It had spent fifty-seven hours moving by trains and boats from camp to the capital. It was dusty and hot, and the camps were full of hubbub and confusion as the tired men pitched their tents at evenfall. It was the first long march for the men, and the day was hot; but the next day they made fifteen miles and reached Poolesville, their objective, on September Until that encounter the regiment went through a steady gruelling of drills, dress parades and reviews.
Although the regiment, posted as it was on the front line, was so burdened with picket and guard duty that the men spent an  Under Arms: No other troops were better equipped. When the Commander-in-Chief asked whether there was a supply of arms, uniforms and accouterments. Sir, is from Massachusetts. No other Massachusetts regi- ment, so it was said, enjoyed this distinction. On Sunday, October 20, came the call to arms. Begun as a reconnaissance, the encounter was dignified by the name of battle only because of the heavy losses suffered. General Stone, examin- ing a Negro deserter from the Thirteenth Mississippi the day before, had been told that the rebels in Leesburg were expecting him to attack, and had sent back their heavy baggage, because they anticipated being driven out.
The Century Cyclopedia g;ives the' number of Union men en- gaged as , their losses as , the rebel losses, In a letter written two years after the battle by John C. The reserve, however, enabled the whole to fight. I do not mean that I have the materials for forming an estimate of our privates, for I have seen but comparatively few, and these chiefly Irish, but let the opinion go for what it is worth. Especially on military matters were these rebels well-informed and accurate, or desirous to be accurate.
In manners they were exceedingly affable, and had the ease of manner which in the North we never see except among the upper classes. It strikes me as very probable that one would notice the same difference between the English and French private soldiers.
Certainly there is much the same difference between the English and French peasantry and lower classes. It is in short the difference between South and North, and is not, in my judgment, attributable to the influence of Slavery, except very indirectly, as most of these men probably never owned a slave.
I imagine it to result from the much greater sociability produced by a mild and genial climate; and perhaps also from the greater equality of the white race produced by the laboring class being a distinct caste. Whatever the reason, such seemed to me to be the fact. Generosity of that sort, indeed, was characteristic of well-bred New Englanders. It may not be amiss, since reference has been made to the Holmes attitude toward the enemy, to quote from a speech he delivered on May 30, , at Keene, New Hampshire, before the John Sedgwick Post of the Grand Army of the Republic: I have heard more than one of those who had been gallant and distinguished officers on the Confederate side say that they had no such feeling.
I know that I and those whom I knew best had not.
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We believed that it was most desirable that the North should win; we believed in the principle that the Union is indissoluble; we, or many of us at least, also believed that the conflict was inevitable, and that sla- very had lasted long enough. But we equally believed that those who stood against us held just as sacred convictions that were the opposite of ours, and we respected them as every man with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief.
You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where over- whelming victory was impossible because neither side would run as they ought when beaten, without getting at last something of  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south— each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other.
As it was then, it is now. In that same Memorial Day speech he said: The other, after passing harmless through all the previous bat- tles, went into Fredericksburg with strange premonition of the end, and there met his fate. The Twentieth dozed supperless on the towpath while another detachment crossed to the island and sent a scouting party on to the Virginia shore without finding rebel pickets. As to the misunderstandings between Union commanders we need not go into detail here; it is enough for our purposes, since Lieutenant Holmes was attached to the Twentieth, to know that Colonel Lee sent two companies of this regiment quickly to the Virginia shore and ordered the remaining five to the island.
Lieutenant Holmes was among the latter. Around noon the next morning these began following their comrades across to the Virginia side; only twenty-five could make the journey at a time, so inadequate was the equipment. The narrow strip of river on that side was not covered by enemy sharp-shooters, and the landing was shel- tered by a strip of woodland at the foot of the bluff. The cliff, nearly one hundred feet high, was too steep to climb in a straight  Under Arms: BalVs Bluff line, and the men, in single file, ascended along a winding sheep- path. Lieutenant Macy as he was then guarded the rear with twenty-five men.
There were minor casualties in scouting and skirmishing during the early morning, but the real fighting did not begin until the afternoon of the twenty-first. He had spent two hours in getting his Californians from the Mary- land to the Virginia side, and had scarcely half an hour to arrange his forces before the enemy opened the battle. After the lines were formed he said to Colonel Lee: Putnam of Company H was soon wound- ed he lost his right arm, and was the second man of the Twen- tieth to be hit , and was sent over to the island.
Colonel Lee of the Twen- tieth succeeded to the command, until Colonel Cogswell of the Forty-second New York claimed that post by reason of seniority. Finding that he could not break through the enemy line. Colonel Cogswell ordered a retreat to the river, and directed his subor- dinate officers to save as many men as they could.
The Confederates on the crest of the bluff could not descend without breaking up their formation; they remained at bay because of the skirmish line and the shots of scattered groups of Union soldiers, but they fired steadily at the men among the trees, on the shore, in the boats or swimming.
The scow, returning for its second load of wounded, was over- loaded by a rush of uninjured men, and set out with her gun-  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wales almost flush with the water. Midstream, one of the men poling her was shot and fell to one side, capsizing her. As the men, wounded or unhurt, rose to the surface, they struggled in a huge animate ball, entangled, rolling over and over as men tried to break apart and get their arms free for swimming.
Only one was known to have escaped with his life from that fateful boat- load. The scow floated downstream and was lost. The frail skiffs disappeared. Within an hour there was no craft of any sort at hand, and those remaining on the Virginia shore who could not swim had no prospect of relief. Colonel Lee, who had refused to leave the shore so long as wounded men had not been taken to the island, started with some subordinates up the river, attempted in vain to make a raft of fence rails, bribed a Negro to show them a boat, which proved to be water-logged, and finally was captured by a squad of Con- federates.
Bartlett, in command of the men who re- mained, told all who could swim to plunge into the river and escape if tliey could. Many of the men threw their guns and other equipment into the stream to prevent the Confederates from getting them, and some disrobed. Although the distance was not great, the water was cold and the current strong; good swimmers sometimes found the effort too great after their exhausting afternoon. The water was like a lather where the rebel bullets struck, and many were either killed or disabled.
Caspar Crown- inshield, a junior Captain, swam across with his watch in his mouth and his sword in his hand, but forgot and left the watch beneath a haystack where he took shelter for the night. Lieuten- ant Norwood P. Hallowell swam across with his sword dangling from his neck.