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American Heros

Farragut At Mobile Bay
Ha, old ship, do they thrill, The brave two hundre...

The brilliant historian of the English people [*] has written...

The Charge At Gettysburg
For the Lord On the whirlwind is abroad; I...

King's Mountain
Our fortress is the good greenwood, Our tent the ...

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The General Armstrong Privateer
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Sheridan At Cedar Creek
Inspired repulsed battalions to engage, And taught...

Robert Gould Shaw
Brave, good, and true, I see him stand before me n...

John Quincy Adams And The Right Of Petition
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The Cruise Of The Wasp
A crash as when some swollen cloud Cracks o'er th...

Remember The Alamo
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat The soldier'...

Hampton Roads
Then far away to the south uprose A little feathe...

Francis Parkman
(1822-1893) He told the red man's story; far and wide...

George Rogers Clark And The Conquest Of The Northwest
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General Grant And The Vicksburg Campaign
What flag is this you carry Along the sea and sho...

The Battle Of Trenton
And such they are--and such they will be found: No...

Lieutenant Cushing And The Ram Albemarle
God give us peace! Not such as lulls to sleep, But...

Gouverneur Morris
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. PARIS. AUGUST 10, 1792. Justum et ...

The Death Of Stonewall Jackson
Like a servant of the Lord, with his bible and his sword...

O captain. My captain. Our fearful trip is done; T...

Charles Russell Lowell

Wut's wurds to them whose faith an' truth
On war's red techstone rang true metal,
Who ventered life an' love an, youth
For the gret prize o' death in battle?

To him who, deadly hurt, agen
Flashed on afore the charge's thunder,
Tippin' with fire the bolt of men
Thet rived the rebel line asunder?

Charles Russell Lowell was born in Boston, January 2, 1835. He was the
eldest son of Charles Russell and Anna Cabot (Jackson) Lowell, and the
nephew of James Russell Lowell. He bore the name, distinguished in many
branches, of a family which was of the best New England stock. Educated
in the Boston public schools, he entered Harvard College in 1850.
Although one of the youngest members of his class, he went rapidly to
the front, and graduated not only the first scholar of his year, but
the foremost man of his class. He was, however, much more than a fine
scholar, for even then he showed unusual intellectual qualities. He read
widely and loved letters. He was a student of philosophy and religion, a
thinker, and, best of all, a man of ideals--"the glory of youth," as
he called them in his valedictory oration. But he was something still
better and finer than a mere idealist; he was a man of action, eager to
put his ideals into practice and bring them to the test of daily life.
With his mind full of plans for raising the condition of workingmen
while he made his own career, he entered the iron mills of the Ames
Company, at Chicopee. Here he remained as a workingman for six months,
and then received an important post in the Trenton Iron Works of New
Jersey. There his health broke down. Consumption threatened him, and all
his bright hopes and ambitions were overcast and checked. He was obliged
to leave his business and go to Europe, where he traveled for two years,
fighting the dread disease that was upon him. In 1858 he returned, and
took a position on a Western railroad. Although the work was new to
him, he manifested the same capacity that he had always shown, and more
especially his power over other men and his ability in organization. In
two years his health was reestablished, and in 1860 he took charge of
the Mount Savage Iron Works, at Cumberland, Maryland. He was there
when news came of the attack made by the mob upon the 6th Massachusetts
Regiment, in Baltimore. Two days later he had made his way to
Washington, one of the first comers from the North, and at once applied
for a commission in the regular army. While he was waiting, he employed
himself in looking after the Massachusetts troops, and also, it is
understood, as a scout for the Government, dangerous work which suited
his bold and adventurous nature.

In May he received his commission as captain in the United States
cavalry. Employed at first in recruiting and then in drill, he gave
himself up to the study of tactics and the science of war. The career
above all others to which he was suited had come to him. The field, at
last, lay open before him, where all his great qualities of mind and
heart, his high courage, his power of leadership and of organization, and
his intellectual powers could find full play. He moved rapidly forward,
just as he had already done in college and in business. His regiment,
in 1862, was under Stoneman in the Peninsula, and was engaged in many
actions, where Lowell's cool bravery made him constantly conspicuous.
At the close of the campaign he was brevetted major, for distinguished
services at Williamsburg and Slatersville.

In July, Lowell was detailed for duty as an aid to General McClellan.
At Malvern Hill and South Mountain his gallantry and efficiency were
strongly shown, but it was at Antietam that he distinguished himself
most. Sent with orders to General Sedgwick's division, he found it
retreating in confusion, under a hot fire. He did not stop to think
of orders, but rode rapidly from point to point of the line, rallying
company after company by the mere force and power of his word and look,
checking the rout, while the storm of bullets swept all round him. His
horse was shot under him, a ball passed through his coat, another
broke his sword-hilt, but he came off unscathed, and his service was
recognized by his being sent to Washington with the captured flags of
the enemy.

The following winter he was ordered to Boston, to recruit a regiment
of cavalry, of which he was appointed colonel. While the recruiting was
going on, a serious mutiny broke out, but the man who, like Cromwell's
soldiers, "rejoiced greatly" in the day of battle was entirely capable
of meeting this different trial. He shot the ringleader dead, and by
the force of his own strong will quelled the outbreak completely and at

In May, he went to Virginia with his regiment, where he was engaged in
resisting and following Mosby, and the following summer he was opposed
to General Early in the neighborhood of Washington. On July 14, when
on a reconnoissance his advance guard was surprised, and he met them
retreating in wild confusion, with the enemy at their heels. Riding into
the midst of the fugitives, Lowell shouted, "Dismount!" The sharp word
of command, the presence of the man himself, and the magic of discipline
prevailed. The men sprang down, drew up in line, received the enemy,
with a heavy fire, and as the assailants wavered, Lowell advanced at
once, and saved the day.

In July, he was put in command of the "Provisional Brigade," and joined
the army of the Shenandoah, of which in August General Sheridan took
command. He was so struck with Lowell's work during the next month that
in September he put him in command of the "Reserved Brigade," a very
fine body of cavalry and artillery. In the fierce and continuous
fighting that ensued Lowell was everywhere conspicuous, and in thirteen
weeks he had as many horses shot under him. But he now had scope to
show more than the dashing gallantry which distinguished him always and
everywhere. His genuine military ability, which surely would have
led him to the front rank of soldiers had his life been spared, his
knowledge, vigilance, and nerve all now became apparent. One brilliant
action succeeded another, but the end was drawing near. It came at
last on the famous day of Cedar Creek, when Sheridan rode down from
Winchester and saved the battle. Lowell had advanced early in the
morning on the right, and his attack prevented the disaster on that wing
which fell upon the surprised army. He then moved to cover the retreat,
and around to the extreme left, where he held his position near
Middletown against repeated assaults. Early in the day his last horse
was shot under him, and a little later, in a charge at one o'clock, he
was struck in the right breast by a spent ball, which embedded itself
in the muscles of the chest. Voice and strength left him. "It is only
my poor lung," he announced, as they urged him to go to the rear; "you
would not have me leave the field without having shed blood." As a
matter of fact, the "poor" lung had collapsed, and there was an internal
hemorrhage. He lay thus, under a rude shelter, for an hour and a half,
and then came the order to advance along the whole line, the victorious
advance of Sheridan and the rallied army. Lowell was helped to his
saddle. "I feel well now," he whispered, and, giving his orders through
one of his staff, had his brigade ready first. Leading the great charge,
he dashed forward, and, just when the fight was hottest, a sudden cry
went up: "The colonel is hit!" He fell from the saddle, struck in the
neck by a ball which severed the spine, and was borne by his officers to
a house in the village, where, clear in mind and calm in spirit, he died
a few hours afterward.

"I do not think there was a quality," said General Sheridan, "which
I could have added to Lowell. He was the perfection of a man and a
soldier." On October 19, the very day on which he fell, his commission
was signed to be a brigadier-general.

This was a noble life and a noble death, worthy of much thought and
admiration from all men. Yet this is not all. It is well for us to see
how such a man looked upon what he was doing, and what it meant to him.
Lowell was one of the silent heroes so much commended by Carlyle. He
never wrote of himself or his own exploits. As some one well said, he
had "the impersonality of genius." But in a few remarkable passages
in his private letters, we can see how the meaning of life and of that
great time unrolled itself before his inner eyes. In June, 1861, he

I cannot say I take any great pleasure in the contemplation of the
future. I fancy you feel much as I do about the profitableness of a
soldier's life, and would not think of trying it, were it not for a
muddled and twisted idea that somehow or other this fight was going to
be one in which decent men ought to engage for the sake of humanity,--I
use the word in its ordinary sense. It seems to me that within a year
the slavery question will again take a prominent place, and that many
cases will arise in which we may get fearfully in the wrong if we put
our cause wholly in the hands of fighting men and foreign legions.

In June, 1863, he wrote:

I wonder whether my theories about self-culture, etc., would ever have
been modified so much, whether I should ever have seen what a necessary
failure they lead to, had it not been for this war. Now I feel every
day, more and more, that a man has no right to himself at all; that,
indeed, he can do nothing useful unless he recognizes this clearly. Here
again, on July 3, is a sentence which it is well to take to heart, and
for all men to remember when their ears are deafened with the cry that
war, no matter what the cause, is the worst thing possible, because it
interferes with comfort, trade, and money-making: "Wars are bad," Lowell
writes, "but there are many things far worse. Anything immediately
comfortable in our affairs I don't see; but comfortable times are not
the ones t hat make a nation great." On July 24, he says:

Many nations fail, that one may become great; ours will fail, unless we
gird up our loins and do humble and honest days' work, without trying
to do the thing by the job, or to get a great nation made by a patent
process. It is not safe to say that we shall not have victories till we
are ready for them. We shall have victories, and whether or no we are
ready for them depends upon ourselves; if we are not ready, we shall
fail,--voila tout. If you ask, what if we do fail? I have nothing to
say; I shouldn't cry over a nation or two, more or less, gone under.

Finally, on September 10, a little more than a month before his death,
he wrote to a disabled officer:

I hope that you are going to live like a plain republican, mindful of
the beauty and of the duty of simplicity. Nothing fancy now, sir, if you
please; it's disreputable to spend money when the government is so
hard up, and when there are so many poor officers. I hope that you have
outgrown all foolish ambitions, and are now content to become a "useful
citizen." Don't grow rich; if you once begin, you will find it much
more difficult to be a useful citizen. Don't seek office, but don't
"disremember" that the "useful citizen" always holds his time, his
trouble, his money, and his life ready at the hint of his country. The
useful citizen is a mighty, unpretending hero; but we are not going to
have any country very long, unless such heroism is developed. There,
what a stale sermon I'm preaching. But, being a soldier, it does seem to
me that I should like nothing so well as being a useful citizen. Well,
trying to be one, I mean. I shall stay in the service, of course, till
the war is over, or till I'm disabled; but then I look forward to a
pleasanter career.

I believe I have lost all my ambitions. I don't think I would turn my
hand to be a distinguished chemist or a famous mathematician. All I now
care about is to be a useful citizen, with money enough to buy bread
and firewood, and to teach my children to ride on horseback, and look
strangers in the face, especially Southern strangers.

There are profound and lofty lessons of patriotism and conduct in these
passages, and a very noble philosophy of life and duty both as a man
and as a citizen of a great republic. They throw a flood of light on
the great underlying forces which enabled the American people to save
themselves in that time of storm and stress. They are the utterances of
a very young man, not thirty years old when he died in battle, but much
beyond thirty in head and heart, tried and taught as he had been in a
great war. What precisely such young men thought they were fighting for
is put strikingly by Lowell's younger brother James, who was killed at
Glendale, July 4, 1862. In 1861, James Lowell wrote to his classmates,
who had given him a sword:

Those who died for the cause, not of the Constitution and the laws,--a
superficial cause, the rebels have now the same,--but of civilization
and law, and the self-restrained freedom which is their result. As the
Greeks at Marathon and Salamis, Charles Martel and the Franks at Tours,
and the Germans at the Danube, saved Europe from Asiatic barbarism, so
we, at places to be famous in future times, shall have saved America
from a similar tide of barbarism; and we may hope to be purified and
strengthened ourselves by the struggle.

This is a remarkable passage and a deep thought. Coming from a young
fellow of twenty-four, it is amazing. But the fiery trial of the times
taught fiercely and fast, and James Lowell, just out of college, could
see in the red light around him that not merely the freedom of a race
and the saving of a nation were at stake, but that behind all this
was the forward movement of civilization, brought once again to the
arbitrament of the sword. Slavery was barbarous and barbarizing. It
had dragged down the civilization of the South to a level from which it
would take generations to rise up again. Was this barbarous force now
to prevail in the United States in the nineteenth century? Was it to
destroy a great nation, and fetter human progress in the New World? That
was the great question back of, beyond and above all. Should this force
of barbarism sweep conquering over the land, wrecking an empire in its
onward march, or should it be flung back as Miltiades flung back Asia
at Marathon, and Charles Martel stayed the coming of Islam at Tours? The
brilliant career, the shining courage, best seen always where the dead
were lying thickest, the heroic death of Charles Lowell, are good for
us all to know and to remember. Yet this imperfect story of his life
has not been placed here for these things alone. Many thousand others,
officers and soldiers alike, in the great Civil War gave their lives as
freely as he, and brought to the service of their country the best that
was in them. He was a fine example of many who, like him, offered up
all they had for their country. But Lowell was also something more
than this. He was a high type of a class, and a proof of certain very
important things, and this is a point worthy of much consideration.

The name of John Hampden stands out in the history of the
English-speaking people, admired and unquestioned. He was neither a
great statesman, nor a great soldier; he was not a brilliant orator, nor
a famous writer. He fell bravely in an unimportant skirmish at Chalgrove
Field, fighting for freedom and what he believed to be right. Yet he
fills a great place in the past, both for what he did and what he
was, and the reason for this is of high importance. John Hampden was
a gentleman, with all the advantages that the accidents of birth could
give. He was rich, educated, well born, of high traditions. English
civilization of that day could produce nothing better. The memorable
fact is that, when the time came for the test, he did not fail. He was
a type of what was best among the English people, and when the call
sounded, he was ready. He was brave, honest, high-minded, and he
gave all, even his life, to his country. In the hour of need, the
representative of what was best and most fortunate in England was put to
the touch, and proved to be current gold. All men knew what that meant,
and Hampden's memory is one of the glories of the English-speaking

Charles Lowell has the same meaning for us when rightly understood. He
had all that birth, breeding, education, and tradition could give. The
resources of our American life and civilization could produce nothing
better. How would he and such men as he stand the great ordeal when it
came? If wealth, education, and breeding were to result in a class
who could only carp and criticize, accumulate money, give way to
self-indulgence, and cherish low foreign ideals, then would it have
appeared that there was a radical unsoundness in our society, refinement
would have been proved to be weakness, and the highest education would
have been shown to be a curse, rather than a blessing. But Charles
Lowell, and hundreds of others like him, in greater or less degree, all
over the land, met the great test and emerged triumphant. The Harvard
men may be taken as fairly representing the colleges and universities of
America. Harvard had, in 1860, 4157 living graduates, and 823 students,
presumably over eighteen years old. Probably 3000 of her students and
graduates were of military age, and not physically disqualified for
military service. Of this number, 1230 entered the Union army or navy.
One hundred and fifty-six died in service, and 67 were killed in action.
Many did not go who might have gone, unquestionably, but the record is a
noble one. Nearly one man of every two Harvard men came forward to serve
his country when war was at our gates, and this proportion holds true,
no doubt, of the other universities of the North. It is well for the
country, well for learning, well for our civilization, that such a
record was made at such a time. Charles Lowell, and those like him,
showed, once for all, that the men to whom fortune had been kindest were
capable of the noblest patriotism, and shrank from no sacrifices. They
taught the lesson which can never be heard too often--that the man to
whom the accidents of birth and fortune have given most is the man who
owes most to his country. If patriotism should exist anywhere, it should
be strongest with such men as these, and their service should be ever
ready. How nobly Charles Lowell in this spirit answered the great
question, his life and death, alike victorious, show to all men.

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