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Brothers at/in War: One Phase of Post-Civil-War Reconciliation CRUCE STARK In 1869, in the nation's capital, the marines were again on the alert. Washington, far from begin imperilled, was celebrating the first national Memorial Day; the marines were there to insure that no flowers be placed on graves of "traitorous" Confederate soldiers. 1 More than a decade passed; in 1881, in New Orleans, Union and Confederate soldiers met officially and fraternally in joint reunion. The Southern soldier had become initiated into the Northern fraternity of arms.2 According to a mid western orator in 1869, the Union soldier entered the war in 1860 convinced that the "American republic, just as it was then, was good enough to live and fight and die for" (Memorial Day, p. 145). Many cultured Northerners would have disagreed. These men, unhappy with the nation's ante-bellum condition, had hoped that the war would bring about change. Underlying the often diverse motivations of Northern men of letters was a hope that in some way the response to war would inject a spiritual element into the materialism of the age.3 Along with the conflict, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., declared hopefully in 1863, "the wrecks of precious virtues, which had been covered with the waves of prosperity, came up also." 4 Charles Russell Lowell, fighting in Virginia, wrote to his fiancee that "comfortable times are not the ones that make a people great." If the North could be purged of its mindless, selfcentered materialism - if its citizens could become "more or less soldierly simple and unsettled; simple because unsettled" - there was hope that the nation might profit by the hardships of war. 5 Men of letters insisted, of course, on the inhumanity of war. The hero of ex-Corporal James K.Hosmer's TheThinking Bayonet (1865)described the horrors of war to a friend: "You will say all this is terrible; and yet these things are happening everywhere where war comes. They almost unman me, - shake me in the belief I have felt that war is sometimes just. It is the cause, the cause alone, that justifies it." 6 The scholarly soldier found martial activity morally acceptable only because it stemmed from a selfless concern (see Aaron, p. xiv). Emerson explained, shortly before the firing on Sumter, that "Courage charms us, because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his money, but will venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind." 7 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. - at the time a captain in the Federal cavalry-wrote to Charles Eliot Norton that"we need allthe examples of chivalry to help us bind our rebellious desires to steadfastness in the Christian Crusade of the 19th century. If one didn't believe the war was such a THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL. VI, NO. 2, FALL 1975 crusade, in the cause of the whole civilized world, it would be hard indeed to keepthe hand to the sword. 118 Emerson was confident in 1867 that the "armies mustered in the North were as much missionaries to the mind of the country as they were carriers of material force."9 A Union colonel expressed the hopes of many in a speech delivered at the Washington, D.C., celebration of the first national Memorial Day: "We were told byunfriendly nations - and ourselves repeated and half believed the charges thatwe were such worshippers of gold that we had lost the love of country .... Thisreproach has been taken away forever" (MemorialDay, p. 20). For men of such high hope, the aftermath of the war was anticlimactic. "We hoped," Emerson wrote, "that in the peace, after such a war, a great expansion would follow in the mind of the country; grand views in every direction .... But the energy of the nation seems to have expended itself in the war, and every interest is found as sectional and timorous as before" (Journals,X, 116). Albion Tourgee,through the character of a fisherman-veteran, complained that "we got thenotion that the war was agoin' to set everything right for all...


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