Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 01.djvu/92
Southern Historical Society Papers.
Let those scoff who will; but let them know that such a parting is itself a new and wonderful power, a soul-enlarging, purifying and elevating power, worth the danger, toil and suffering of the soldier. The sister's tears, the father's words, the mother's kiss, planted in the memory of that boy will surely bring forth fruit beautiful as a mother's love.
As he journeys to the camp, how dear do all at home become! Oh! what holy tears he sheds! His heart, how tender! Then, as he nears the line, and sees for the first time the realities of war, the passing sick and weary, and the wounded and bloody dead, his soldier spirit is born; he smiles, his chest expands, his eyes brighten, his heart swells with pride; he hurries on, and soon stands in the magic circle around the glowing fire, the admired and loved pet of a dozen true hearts. Is he happy? Aye! Never before has he felt such glorious, swelling, panting joy. He's a soldier now! He is put on guard. No longer the object of care and solicitude, he stands in the solitude of the night, himself a guardian of those who sleep. Courage is his now. He feels he is trusted as a man, and is ready at once nobly to perish in the defence of his comrades.
He marches. Dare he murmur or complain? No; the eyes of all are upon him, and endurance grows silently, till pain and weariness are familiar, and cheerfully borne.
At home he would be pitied and petted; but now he must endure, or have the contempt of the strong spirits around him.
He is hungry. So are others; and he must not only bear the privation, but he must divide his pitiful meal when he gets it with his comrades; and so generosity strikes down selfishness. In a thousand ways he is tried, and that by sharp critics. His smallest faults are necessarily apparent, for, in the varying conditions of the soldier, every quality is put to the test. If he shows the least cowardice he is undone. His courage must never fail. He must be manly and independent, or he will be told he's a baby, ridiculed, teased and despised. When war assumes her serious dress, he sees the helplessness of women and children, he hears their piteous appeals, and chivalry burns him till he does his utmost of sacrifice and effort to protect and comfort and cheer them.It is a mistake to suppose that the older men in the army encouraged vulgarity and obscenity in the young recruit; for even those who themselves indulged in these would frown on the first show of them in a boy, and without hesitation put him down mercilessly. No parent could watch a boy as closely as his mess-mates