OFF TO THE WARS

Contributed by Sarah Reveley, [email protected], on 8/20/03

Source: England Newspaper

Cheneys Grove, Illinois, U. S. Aug, 30, 1861.

Sir -- It has often been said that war times yield the richest produce for the newspaper editor; this is truly the case; but I hope the Observer, as much as it deserves success, may never be able to increase its circulation from recounting the fearful deeds of civil war. Such is the case in the country at the present time. Newspapers a year ago only of a few hundreds in circulation, now throw off as many thousands to the eyes' perusal of their readers. Let the Old country (as England is generally called) rejoice in her blessings of peace; here the horrors and trials of civil war are rampant throughout the land -- the war-hounds are loose and the peaceful Cares is already becoming a victim.

It may be of some little interest attendant on the weekly columns of American war news to pourtray to the quite and peaceful homes of Westmoreland and Cumberland a specimen of the incidents every day occurring on this side of the Atlantic. The flat(?) has just gone forth -- the Union is in danger and 500,000 more men are required to defend it; no sooner said than done. Recruiting officers are sent out in all directions, who, in many case, find volunteer companies already got up, anxious to be accepted; and almost wherever they go the young and robust, married or single rally round them and enter their names for the wars. Such was one of the scenes. I am going to pourtray if your readers will condescend to follow in imagination.

I strolled one morning with my sketch book and gun--armed to catch nature in her wild, wide extended prairie scenery, or its feathered inhabitants. The day being clear, the overpowering heat of the sun towards noon caused me to beat a retreat to the timber, ascending a knoll I rested awhile to look round. Away to the north-east and south stretch the limitless prairies--not exactly flat, but undulating(?) in surface, in proportion like the ripple marks on a sea beach; in some directions not having a bush or tree to see, while in others the monotony is broken by clumps or groves of timber, more or less extensive, like some oasis in the desert, and in many cases indicating the ____________ windings of the streams. In the neighbourhood of the groves generally may be seen the scattered houses of the prairie farmers, and everywhere bounded in the horizon by a low line of blue, unbroken, save by specks here and there, indicating perhaps, some village or grove from 20 to 25 miles away. The knolls near at hand are clothed in a lovely green grass, varying from 1 to 5 feet, and through a great part of the year intermingled with flowers of every variety in class and colour; and amongst it are hundreds of big, fat cattle grazing in herds, some here and some there, and occasionally a startled dear may bound, with head erect, away amongst the tall grass. Towards the west was a grove of timber 5 or 6 miles long, and from 1 to 2 in width, around which settlers have fixed their homes during the last 20 or 30 years. While then looking around, the deep bantings of a drum swelled from the direction of the timber; following the course of the sound I entered the woods by a waggon track, winding about amongst the trees, which finally brought me to an opening of about 6 or 8 acres, on which were about twenty dwellings surrounded by wood on every side and connected with the outer world only by tracks through the woods. The drum again sounded forth which lead me into the woods where a meeting was being held 'neath the soft green shade of the forest trees. I joined the crowd and soon became interested in the speaker whose subject is best described in the motto, everywhere to be seen, "the Union, the Constitution, and the enforcement of the Laws." The object of the meeting was to raise recruits to fight the Southerns; and the speaker referred to the present hard times or the battle field, there was a rising flush on each bronzed cheek, and patriotism, no doubt, wrestled with the ties of home in many a bosom to be victor, or vanquished; in many cases the train had been laid, the spark was being applied , and what was the result? -- At a call for volunteers, though numbers around the grove had gone before, up sprung amid the cheers of the company a dozen or more; with buoyant spirits they cheered in return, and friend cheered friend, though many a mother's and sister's tears dropt as they saw their sons and brothers stand -- in for the wars! But each saw his friend and companion going so he must go also -- victims to honour, patriotism, "the ear-piercing pipe, and the heart stirring drum." Matters were then explained to the volunteers, and three days were given to prepare for their departure. The company then filed off in procession into the village, headed by the band, the volunteers, ladies, and others, following in due order to the tune of "The Girls I left behind me." Another meeting was given out to take place on the day of parting, and the company separated. For those three days the village was a place of rendezvous, when each volunteer called on his friend and companion to join; and such was the enthusiasm that doubled the number was soon made up, even three and four out of one family. The appointed day came, August 27th, and soon after noon the the company assembled to upwards of 300, old and young, to bid farewell. A good part of the time was occupied by the speaking, music ___ and in summing up it was found that in one company or other something over fifty volunteers had joined the army from around the grove. At the close of the meeting a procession in the order of the previous day paraded the village; after which the volunteers were drawn up in single file to bid farewell to friends they would that night perhaps leave behind them for ever. The ladies, comprising old and young, passed along shaking hands with each separately, and followed by the sterner sex left behind. If the natures of those present contained the lest feeling 'twas then it was brought out; there were fathers, sons, brothers, and those bound by the tenderest ties of love shaking their last adleu--'twas a mournful night, yet somehow romantic and grand, there was something both to admire and weep over as that crowd took leave of the devoted few. Then the fair-cheeked, bright-eyed girl looked sad as she passed, and at the slender grasp of some loved one, tears gushed o'er her pale cheeks. The mother embraced her sons and blessed the companions of their youth. 'Twas a hard fight for those departing, their stouter hearts gave way to the softer feelings; the robust frame trembled and the tears rolled down their bearded cheeks, yet there was a working of the muscles which told of future fearless bravery; and who dare, with the thoughts of victory, meet at the point of the bayonet such whose souls are so knit to their loved ones at home, yet so devoted to the cause? -- Yes, Mr. Editor, 'twas a scene ever to be remembered by the beholder; though in a foreign land, yet the same race of people, raising up the poetical reminiscences of Britain's old warfare immortalized by time and so___. Oh, 'tis hard to realize the power of some of those old tunes, such as "The girl I left behind me," and many others well known, without seeing it bear on the point, then truly 'tis music. This country is now modelling its chivalric history, and looking to the future, if some native son of song could take up the theme what a glorious past for the future to look upon if the bravery and courage of her soldiers carry out the willingness and enthusiasm of her volunteers. Looking to the past what a contrast between the scenes that took place 'neath perhaps, those self same trees when the wild Indians held his council of war--the mute debate--the frantic declaration and the wild war-whoop which rung through the woods as it is now sounding, though modified, over the whole country. But I have already intruded too much on your space, so adleu to further comments.

I remain yours truly, XYZ

 

J. A. Bland



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