Atlantic Monthly, Volume 8, Issue 45, July, 1861
Part 5 out of 5
which lies before me:--
"First. The gradual concentration of all business pertaining to the
militia now conducted by the several bureaus of this Department.
"Second. The collection and systematizing of accurate information of the
number, arm, and condition of the militia of all classes of the several
States, and the compilation of yearly reports of the same for the
information of this Department.
"Third. The compilation of a report of the actual condition of the
militia and the working of the present systems of the General Government
and the various States.
"Fourth. The publication and distribution of such information as is
important to the militia, and the conduct of all correspondence relating
to militia affairs.
"Fifth. The compilation of a system of instruction for light troops for
distribution to the several States, including everything pertaining to
the instruction of the militia in the school of the soldier,--company
and battalion, skirmishing, bayonet, and gymnastic drill, adapted for
"Sixth. The arrangement of a system of organization, with a view to the
establishment of a uniform system of drill, discipline, equipment, and
dress, throughout the United States."
His plan for this purpose was very complete and symmetrical. Though
enthusiastic, he was never dreamy. His idea always went forth fully
armed and equipped.
Nominally, he was a student of law in the office of Lincoln and Herndon,
but in effect he passed his time in completing his plans of militia
reform. He made in October many stirring and earnest speeches for the
Republican candidates. He was very popular among the country people.
His voice was magnificent in melody and volume, his command of language
wonderful in view of the deficiencies of his early education, his humor
inexhaustible and hearty, and his manner deliberate and impressive,
reminding his audiences in Central Illinois of the earliest and best
days of Senator Douglas.
When the Legislature met, he prepared an elaborate military bill, the
adoption of which would have placed the State in an enviable attitude
of defence. The stupid jealousy of colonels and majors who had won
bloodless glory, on both sides, in the Mormon War, and the malignant
prejudice instigated by the covert treason that lurked in Southern
Illinois, succeeded in staving off the passage of the bill, until it was
lost by the expiration of the term. Many of these men are now in the
ranks, shouting the name of Ellsworth as a battle-cry.
He came to Washington in the escort of the President elect. Hitherto he
had been utterly independent of external aid. The time was come when he
must wait for the cooperation of others, for the accomplishment of his
life's great purpose. He wished a position in the War Department, which
would give him an opportunity for the establishment of the Militia
Bureau. He was a strange anomaly at the capital. He did not care for
money or luxury. Though sensitive in regard to his reputation, for the
honor of his work, his motto always was that of the sage Merlin,--"I
follow use, not fame." An office-seeker of this kind was an eccentric
and suspicious personage. The hungry thousands that crowded and pushed
at Willard's thought him one of them, only deeper and slier. The
simplicity and directness of his character, his quick sympathy and
thoughtless generosity, and his delicate sense of honor unfitted him for
such a scramble as that which degrades the quadrennial rotations of our
Departments. He withdrew from the contest for the position he desired,
and the President, who loved him like a younger brother, made him a
lieutenant in the army, intending to detail him for special service.
The jealousy of the staff-officers of the regular army, who always
discover in any effective scheme of militia reform the overthrow of
their power, and who saw in the young Zouave the promise of brilliant
and successful innovation, was productive of very serious annoyance
and impediment to Ellsworth. In the midst of this, he fell sick at
Willard's. While he lay there, the news from the South began to show
that the rebels were determined upon war, and the rumors on the street
said that a wholesome North-westerly breeze was blowing from the
Executive Mansion. These indications were more salutary to Ellsworth
than any medicine. We were talking one night of coming probabilities,
and I spoke of the doubt so widely existing as to the loyalty of the
people. He rejoined, earnestly,--"I can only speak for myself. You know
I have a great work to do, to which my life is pledged; I am the only
earthly stay of my parents; there is a young woman whose happiness I
regard as dearer than my own: yet I could ask no better death than to
fall next week before Sumter. I am not better than other men. You will
find that patriotism is not dead, even if it sleeps."
Sumter fell, and the sleeping awoke. The spirit of Ellsworth, cramped by
a few weeks' intercourse with politicians, sprang up full-statured
in the Northern gale. He cut at once the meshes of red tape that had
hampered and held him, threw up his commission, and started for New York
without orders, without assistance, without authority, but with the
consciousness that the President would sustain him. The rest the world
knows. I will be brief in recalling it.
In an incredibly short space of time he enlisted and organized a
regiment, eleven hundred strong, of the best fighting material that ever
went to war. He divided it, according to an idea of his own, into
groups of four comrades each, for the campaign. He exercised a personal
supervision over the most important and the most trivial minutiae of the
regimental business. The quick sympathy of the public still followed
him. He became the idol of the Bowery and the pet of the Avenue. Yet not
one instant did he waste in recreation or lionizing. Indulgent to all
others, he was merciless to himself. He worked day and night, like an
incarnation of Energy. When he arrived with his men in Washington, he
was thin, hoarse, flushed, but entirely contented and happy, because
busy and useful.
Of the bright enthusiasm and the quenchless industry of the next few
weeks what need to speak? Every day, by his unceasing toil and care, by
his vigor, alertness, activity, by his generosity, and by his relentless
rigor when duty commanded, he grew into the hearts of his robust and
manly followers, until every man in the regiment feared him as a Colonel
should be feared, and loved him as a brother should be loved.
On the night of the twenty-third of May, he called his men together,
and made a brief, stirring speech to them, announcing their orders to
advance on Alexandria. "Now, boys, go to bed, and wake up at two o'clock
for a sail and a skirmish." When the camp was silent, he began to work.
He wrote many hours, arranging the business of the regiment. He finished
his labor as the midnight stars were crossing the zenith. As he sat in
his tent by the shore, it seems as if the mystical gales from the near
eternity must have breathed for a moment over his soul, freighted with
the odor of amaranths and asphodels. For he wrote two strange letters:
one to her who mourns him faithful in death; one to his parents. There
is nothing braver or more pathetic. With the prophetic instinct of love,
he assumed the office of consoler for the stroke that impended.
In the dewy light of the early dawn he occupied the first rebel town.
With his own hand he tore down the first rebel flag. He added to the
glories of that morning the seal of his blood.
The poor wretch who stumbled upon an immortality of infamy by murdering
him died at the same instant. The two stand in the light of that
event--clearly revealed--types of the two systems in conflict to-day:
the one, brave, refined, courtly, generous, tender, and true; the other,
not lacking in brute courage, reckless, besotted, ignorant, and cruel.
Let the two systems, Freedom and Slavery, stand thus typified forever,
in the red light of that dawn, as on a Mount of Transfiguration. I
believe that may solve the dark mystery why Ellsworth died.
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
_Chambers's Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge for
the People; on the Basis of the Latest Edition of the German
Conversations-Lexicon_. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co. Vols. I. and
An Encyclopaedia is both a luxury and a necessity. Few readers now
collect a library, however scant, without including one of some sort.
Many of them, even in the absence of all other books, of themselves
constitute a complete library. The Britannica, Edinburgh, Metropolitana,
English, Penny, London, Oxford, and that of Kees, are most elaborate
works, extending respectively to about a score of heavy volumes,
averaging eight or nine hundred pages each. Such publications must
necessarily be expensive. They are, moreover, to be regarded rather as a
collection of exhaustive treatises,--great prominence being given to
the physical and mathematical sciences, and to general history. For
instance, in the Britannica, the publication of the eighth edition
of which is just completed, the length of some of the articles is as
follows: Astronomy, 155 quarto pages; Chemistry, 88; Electricity, 104;
Hydrodynamics, 119; Optics, 176; Mammalia, 120; Ichthyology, 151;
Entomology, 265; Britain, 300; England, 136; France, 284. Each one of
these papers is equal to a large octavo volume; some of them would
occupy several volumes; and the entire work, containing a collection of
such articles, can be regarded in no other light than as an attempted
exhibition of the sum of human knowledge, commending itself, of course,
to professional and highly educated minds, but far transcending, in
extent and costliness, the requirements and the means of the great class
of general readers. For the wants of this latter class a different sort
of work is desirable, which shall be cheaper in price, less exhaustive
in its method, and more diversified in its range. In these particulars
the Germans seem to have hit upon the happy medium in their famous
"Conversations-Lexicon," which has passed through a great many editions,
and been translated into the principal languages of Europe. This is
taken as the type, and in some respects as the basis, of the present
publication,--there being engrafted upon it new contributions from
leading authors of this and other countries, together with such
extensive improvements, revisals, rewritings, additions, and
modifications throughout, as to constitute a substantially new work,
exhibiting in combination the results of the best labors of the German,
English, and American mind. In the departments of statistics, geography,
history, and science, the articles are all within readable limits,
accurate, and up to the times; while in the biographical and literary
articles there is a freshness and originality of criticism, and a
vivacity of style, seldom met with in this class of publications.
The peculiar merit of this Encyclopaedia is its convenient adaptedness
to popular use. The subjects treated of are broken up and distributed
alphabetically under their proper heads, so as to facilitate reference.
We are thus furnished with a dictionary of facts and events, where we
may readily find whatever properly appertains to any particular point,
without being compelled to explore an entire treatise. This, by the
way, makes it a sort of hand-book even for those who possess the more
voluminous works. As a necessary result of such a method of treatment,
it will be found, upon an actual count and comparison, to contain more
separate titles than any other Encyclopaedia ever published. Although
the articles are generally brief, it must not be supposed that they are
meagre, for they will be found to present a clear and comprehensive view
of the existing information upon the particular topic, with a mastery
which arises only from familiarity. Montesquieu said that Tacitus
abridged all because he knew all; and no reader can peruse a number of
this Encyclopaedia without being convinced that the success in preparing
the perspicuous abridgments it contains is due to thorough knowledge.
Its excellence is not confined, however, to the letter-press; for we are
furnished with a series of colored maps, embodying the results of
the most recent explorations, and also with a profusion of admirable
woodcuts, illustrating the subject wherever pictorial exposition may aid
the verbal. It will be recollected that no other Encyclopaedia published
in this country has the advantage of illustrations.
The character of Messrs. William and Robert Chambers of itself gives
ample assurance that the work is prepared and executed in a superior
manner; but when we superadd to this the fact that they have spared no
labor or expense, but have devoted to it all the resources of their
experience, enterprise, and skill, in order to make the work, in all its
departments, their crowning contribution to the cause of knowledge, we
are the more ready to believe that it actually is all that it claims to
be. The American edition by J.B. Lippincott & Co., of Philadelphia,
is published in numbers simultaneously with the Edinburgh and London
edition, and in an unexceptionable style of typography. Its low price
brings it within the reach of almost every reader. Indeed, when we
consider the size of the volumes, the number of illustrations and maps,
the mechanical execution, and the compensation to the writers, we are
at a loss to conceive how it can be profitably furnished at so cheap a
_The Recreations of a Country Parson_. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 12mo.
The essays of which this volume is made up were originally contributed
to "Fraser's Magazine." The "Recreations" they record are therefore
those of an English, and not an American "Parson"; but there is nothing
in them which a parson of any church or denomination would feel inclined
to repudiate, on the score either of their fineness of mental perception
or healthiness of moral sense. The author tells us, that, in writing
these essays, he has not been rapt away into heroic times and distant
scenes, but has written of daily work and worry amid daily work and
worry: and herein lies the charm of his discourses. He has one of those
sensible, elastic, cheerful natures whose ideal qualities are not
perverted by fretfulness and discontent. That most wicked of Byronisms,
which consists in depreciating the duties of common life in order to
exalt the claims of a kind of spiritualized sensuality and poetic
self-importance, he instinctively avoids. The thirteen shrewd,
suggestive, and practical essays which compose the present volume are
transcripts of his own experience and meditations, and teem with facts
and observations such as might be expected from the clear insight of a
man who has mingled with his fellow-men, and who is curiously critical
of the non-romantic phenomena of their daily life. The essays on the Art
of Putting Things, on Petty Malignity and Petty Trickery, on Tidiness,
on Nervous Fears, on Hurry and Leisure, on Work and Play, on Dulness,
and on Growing Old, are full of fresh and delicate perceptions of the
ordinary facts of human experience. His best and brightest remarks
surprise us with the unexpectedness of homely common sense, as flashed
on a world of organized illusions. The entire absence of rhetoric in the
author's mode of "putting things" adds to its effectiveness. He attempts
to reveal the common,--one of the rarest of revelations; and shows what
heroic qualities are needed to overcome the superficial circumstances
of our life, and transmute them into occasions for that humble, obscure
heroism which God alone apprehends and rewards. The freedom of the
writer from all the stereotyped phraseology of sanctity in doing this
work, and his innocent sympathy with everything cheerful, pleasurable,
and lovable in Nature and human nature, only add to the power of his
teachings. These "Recreations" of the "Parson" will, to the generality
of readers, produce more beneficent results than could have been
produced, had he given us his most carefully prepared sermons,--for they
connect religion with life. Nobody can read the volume without feeling
the moral and religious purpose which underlies its graceful and genial
exhibition of human character and manners. The common objection to
clergymen is, that they are ignorant of the world. No sagacious reader
of the present book can doubt that this parson, at least, is an
exception to the general rule; for he palpably knows more of the world
than most men who have made it a special study.
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