From Pieces For Every Occasion, compiled and arranged by Caroline B. Le Row; New York City: Hinds, Noble & Eldredge, Publishers, c. 1901; pp. 55-57
NOBODY sees a battle. The common soldier fires away amid a smoke-mist, or hurries on to the charge in a crowd which hides everything from him. The officer is too anxious about the performance of what he is especially charged with to mind what others are doing.
The commander cannot be present everywhere, and see every wood, watercourse, or ravine, in which his orders are carried into execution; he learns from reports how the work goes on. It is well; for a battle is one of those jobs which men do without daring to look upon.
Over miles of country, at every field-house, in every gorge of a valley, or entry into a wood, there is murder committing — wholesale, continuous, reciprocal murder. The human form, God’s image, is mutilated, deformed, lacerated, in every possible way, and by every variety of torture.
The wounded are jolted off in carts to the rear, their bared nerves crushed into maddening pain at every stone or rut; or the flight and pursuit trample over them, leaving them to writhe and groan without assistance; and fever and thirst, the most enduring painful sensations, possess them entirely.
Thirst, too, has seized upon the yet able-bodied soldier, who, with bloodshot eye and tongue lolling out, plies his trade; blaspheming, killing with savage delight, callous when the brains of his best-loved comrade are spattered over him! The battlefield is, if possible, a more painful object of contemplation than 56 the combatants. They are, in their vocation, earning their bread. What will not men do for a shilling a day?
But their work is carried on amid the fields, gardens, and homesteads of men unused to war. They left their homes, with all that habit and happy association have made precious, to bear its brunt. The poor, the aged, the sick are left in a hurry, to be killed by stray shots or beaten down, as the charge or counter-charge goes over them. The ripening grain is trampled down; the garden is trodden into a black mud; the fruit-trees, bending beneath their luscious load, are shattered by the cannon-shot; churches and private dwellings are used as fortresses, and ruined in the conflict; barns and granaries take fire, and the conflagration spreads on all sides.
At night the steed is stabled beside the altar, and the weary homicides of the day complete the wrecking of houses to make their lairs for slumber. The fires of the bivouac complete what the fires kindled by the battle have not consumed.
The surviving soldiers march on, to act the same scenes over again elsewhere; and the remnant of the scattered inhabitants return, to find the mangled bodies of those they loved amid the blackened ruins of their homes: to mourn, with more than agonizing grief, over the missing, of whose fate they are uncertain; to feel themselves bankrupt in the world’s stores, and look from their children to the desolate fields and garners, and think of famine and pestilence, engendered by the rotting bodies of the half-buried myriads of slain.
Give me the money that has been spent in war and 57 I will purchase every foot of land upon the globe. I will clothe every man, woman and child in an attire of which kings and queens would be proud. I will build a school-house on every hill-side and in every valley over the whole earth. I will build an academy and endow it, and a college in every State, and fill it with able professors. I will crown every hill-side with a place of worship consecrated to the gospel of peace. I will support in every pulpit an able teacher of righteousness, so that on every Sabbath morning the chime on one hill should answer the chime on another around the earth’s wide circumference, and the voice of prayer and the song of praise should ascend like a universal holocaust to heaven.