Sunday, June 19, 2016

Major Wilder Dwight: February 2, 1862

Cantonment Hicks, February 2, 1862.

A Sunday-morning inspection of your letter, received last evening, prompts me to answer; though it must come out of the blank which is now my book of chronicles. I might write to you, it is true, out of myself. In this case, I should probably exaggerate the thoughts and feelings which spring naturally from the experiences of this new, and, in some sort, intense life. Not that it is now a life of even mental, much less moral or emotional, activity; but I choose the word for its derivative, rather than its acquired significance. The life is tense, in the sense of keeping one on the stretch. All the chords seem to be kept at their highest vibratory capacity. With occasional lapses of depressional laxity, this is true; and it gives the meaning to our seemingly dull existence. Action would be a great relief. You good people, who sit at home and ask for a battle with such impatience for result, can only feebly guess at the temper of the army itself. I do not agree at all with some who speak of our being demoralized. I think we are becoming restive, eager, sore; but, I trust, all the more ready and willing for sacrifice, effort, suffering. I can imagine McClellan himself chafing “to himself within himself” while his hand is on the curb.

But bother reflection; and of all spections the foolishest is introspection. I do not care to analyze my present state; but I do pray that Heaven has not three months more of this kind of life in store for me.

“Aut cita mors, aut victoria lata.”

You may conjecture, from the above, it has been particularly rainy and muddy this week I can call up your coasting scene, not without envy. There is youth in it, and everything young I like. Our snow here is so undecided and capricious that it gives no such hope of enjoyment. And Tug,* too, you say he is depressed. I can well understand the serious concern with which he must regard his country's trial. I hope he will not be doomed to close his eyes, after a last look at the dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union. You must guard his old age till my return. His life has been one of constant struggle and inquiry; he should have an old age of ease and contemplation. I know not what fate is in store for him, but few of us can look back on a life of so many purposes and so much attainment.

* A favorite old dog, who survived his master but one year.

SOURCE: Elizabeth Amelia Dwight, Editor, Life and Letters of Wilder Dwight: Lieut.-Col. Second Mass. Inf. Vols., p. 193-4

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