CIVIL WAR JOURNAL OF JAMES B. LOCKNEY

WIS. 28th REGMT., CO. G

 Letters and "Stray Thoughts"

Copyright © 1986, 1997-2014 [James R. Shirey]. All rights reserved.


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In camp Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Friday Night, December 4th 1863.

Some of My Own Thoughts.
As the sports in Camp are of such a character that I very seldom join in them & the subjects of conversation are often of a very low & vulgar sort, I very often, in fact nearly all the time have thoughts of the past and some of the present time with which most of my fellow soldiers have very little sympathy. This evening Gilbert & myself took a walk about the town, and as usual with us when together, our thoughts were heavy & our talk serious, chiefly about the scarcity of high aims & good principles in the army & in the World. When we returned to camp it was nearly dark and my thoughts turned on my own condition in the World, & my relations to my fellow beings and chiefly to the fact that though in my 27th year, still I do not know who may be the future partner of my life's Joys and sorrows, and who may be the object of my most devoted love and anxious care and solicitude. In fact no very definite idea exists in my mind as to who that person may be. This is so very important a matter as very naturally to be an object of very deep solicitude to me, as I think it should be to every right minded person of either sex in the world who has reached mature age.
Long ago when attending school in the old log schoolhouse, in the winter I think of 1852-3 when in my eighteenth year a little girl of clear bright eye, well formed features and in general at that time of a lovable way, for she then had a love for her Teacher and a will and ability well & rapidly to learn any lesson that was set before her, for she excelled in spelling as she had a good memory, and as whispering was a very common habit, but from which I conscientiously abstained, one day she used some such an expression, with an assumed boldness as that I was her "old man", for very many thought it was very like an old man so strictly to abstain from the common transgressions of the schoolroom. I know she loved me though then in her twelfth year and young as she was the idea might have gleamed in her mind that at some time in the future I might be the one most dear to her for all her mature life. But ere the end of five short years during which time she continued to attend school & I had began to teach school, very grave differences of opinion and consequently of action & influence arose which formed an impossible barrier between us that could never be removed. Owing to the lack of proper influences at home she became insubordinate in school, and her strength of will was developed but not her kind and gentle way, which should always form one of the chief charms of every woman especially a young girl & maiden.
That same winter I happened to see for the first time a young girl in her thirteenth year who was so very different from all those by whom I was surrounded that I was very sensibly impressed with a sense of her superiority over all with whom I had ever been acquainted. Her expression of countenance, her whole demeaner was self restrained and of a sort of majestic quietness, mingled with a very apparent thoughtfulness and refinement which was at once commanding for all one's respect, and prepossessing by its majestic grandeur rather than for her warm glowing beauty and physical loveliness. Her personal appearance as regards size of person and outline of feature was then good, and I have since seen it ripen into a state of womanhood, fulfilling in every respect, the promise of early years except perhaps brilliancy of address, but this is rather proper and strictly decorous than fascinating. Her opinions of which I can judge quite accurately and her conduct also being strictly proper & unexceptional, are very much in accordance with my own, except perhaps some differences of religious opinions, in regard to which she may entertain some very strong prejudices, but her thoughts must be most serious in regard to all reasonable opinions entertained in regard to a Life beyond the tomb of which think she does not entertain a doubt.
Both of those are now in full maturity of womanhood, the first being in her 23rd year or past it, while the last referred to may be a year older. The first I think possesses the greatest versatility of talent, as well I think, as the power of more easily acquiring knowledge, while the latter possesses a more strict sense of the vast responsibilities of human life, though this I think is more the result of home influences & training began in early years and continued till it had taken a firm hold on her mind and thus became a part of her very being. For this reason her mood is serious and grave, inclined to much deep thought very extensive and varied reading & I think very deep & serious meditation on the great questions of human life & duty. Thus her mind is well stored with varied & useful practical knowledge of the various ways of life, which gives strength to her mind & sustaining stability to her principles of virtue & morality. She has experience in the various ways of female industry, and she is so convinced of its necessity and utility as to find in labor a great help to health and performs it with pleasure.
The ways of the other are very different in every respect. She being very deficient in respect for herself, as well as for others. She is not convinced of the necessity of dilligent labor continuous industry and study nor does she duly value time as being every moment of most incalculable value. She is not a dilligent reader of good books nor does she seek every opportunity for the increase of her store of useful information. Alas! she has acquired the habit of sitting for hours idle day as well as evening while there is so much to do & to learn in life. She does not try to cultivate sweetness of temper, and gentleness of manner, which is so clearly every persons duty and so much the interest of every girl & woman Especially unlike the other she has no system in regard to dividing her time between work & study and so finds much time on her hands with which she does not know what to do, while the other has plenty of work for her own employment & the advancement of the interests of her father's home & household. The first neglects & seems got to realize the vast influence for good & right she could & should wield over the ways & minds of many younger brothers & sisters at home.

 

[Jan. 28, 1865]

One evening lately, I was standing in the ranks for roll call, & as I gazed on the new Moon that was slowly sinking in the West, I thought of the noted & stirring words which Gen. Bonaparte addressed to his troops before one of his fights with the Mamalukes near the great Pyramids in Egypt:  “Twenty centuries look down upon you.”  The object of his words was to fire them as was his wont with such an enthusiasm & courage as would render his arms invincible & victorious.  The result was such as he desired, the effect of his words was felt by all his soldiers, & the evidences of the works of antiquity were impressive though silent witnesses of their valor.  I have often entertained the thought How forgetful is man of the great & wonderful witnesses of all his acts, words, & thoughts.  Besides the truism that ‘God is everywhere’ what venerable spectators always surround us in the darkest night as well as during the brightest day.  In daytime the air is ever present & constantly acts as a testimony against us when we transgress His high law, & also at night this wonderful agent is ever nigh.  By day & by night, either the Sun or Moon & stars watch us from their distant seats as silent but ever present watchers of the most High God, & who may guess but that on some of those distant outposts of the vast creation may be stationed some recording Angel who executes the will of his high lord & notes our deeds of merit or demerit as our acts deserve!
Certain it is that witnesses more worthy of our regard, respect, & obedience than those decaying works of man’s hands, as senseless as stone & but made to be man’s servant, call to us daily, nay every hour to so pass our hours & days that will secure to our souls the joys of endless eternities; to our minds that cultivation which the better prepares us for the performance of the duties of life & the fullest enjoyment of its highest Pleasures;  & well as the preservation of the health of our bodies till a full old age is attained.

 

[Feb 14, 1865]

How strange the thoughts that crowd into a war farer’s mind when he gazes for the first time on scenes that for so long a time were invested with so great an interest, so universally felt as that of Vicksburg!!  While for so many long months it yet was held by the rebel foe, & so as if with the Hey of Fate locked the tide of The Father of Waters as it rushed from northern lake & river to mingle with the warm waters of Gulf, the clear & icy waters of the land where school boy slides gleefully over the glassy ice & the school girl—his sister or playmate, mounts the huge snow drift on her way to the district school on the bright frosty winter morning.  But now how changed is all this!  Instead of Rebel rags waving defiantly on the morning breeze, now floats our loved Starry banner, firm in its hold as the foundations of the earth, & sure to be kissed on high by the breeze & to have its bright stars gilded & made as the breezes blow and sunrise follows sunrise!!  The cannons that once howled Death to Liberty & Union & Peace, hold now as high & a stronger place than ever, & though silent, are still eloquent orators in defense of Truth & Right & Justice to all!!  How little are we apt to realize the great privileges of living at such a time as this, when all may act the heroic part of high & noblest duty bravely done, & this in defense of principles as pure & high, & privileges as valuable as any that man ever employed or desired.                    The Court House is the first prominent objects that is seen & at first in going round the bend you fear you may not approach nearer than many miles of it, but when the bend in rounded, the landing is found directly beneath it.  The bluffs are so high & steep as to afford better opportunities than any place I ever before saw & as they rise very near the waters edge.  The range is very short & 3 or four tiers of guns & works might be made in the face of the hill.  The courthouse presents an imposing appearance at a distance, but some of the boys who were at it say it looks old & decayed.  Streets seem to be very narrow.  Lieut. & Adj. Eldridge, formerly of Co. B. but now in a Col. Regt. came aboard of the boat

 

Stray Thoughts
No. 21 June 24 [1865]

How much are we all liable to be influenced by vanity & in what a great variety of ways does this trait of human character show itself. I for the second time since I came south have been till this day, much in need of a hat having failed when at Mobile to get a size to fit me. The time when ai had such need before was in the fall of 1863 at Little Rock. To most of our boys, the appearance I presented was a matter of Humorous remark, though a few times a few when under the influence of drink, acted in an abusive manner toward me. I have forgiven & may soon forget those things. This A.M. I borrowed Daugherty's hat for an hour to go to the river bank hoping I might find a hat to suit me, which I might buy. I met R. D. Lewis in my rambles & each of us bought a hat for $2.00. This was the first white hat I ever had & he said it becomes me very well. Great was the surprise when we reached camp & many were the expressions of satisfaction in Co. B. as well as n our own Co. at the change wrought in my appearance. Notwithstanding all the harshness that we sometimes meet there is yet good nature in every breast. Clarksville, Texas

 

No. 22 June 25th 1865

Here one sees much of what books are filled with life in its severest & least winsome aspects. 'Tis the Sabbath day, but how little is it like the Sabbath of Christian people wherever Christ is followed in spirit & in truth and yet very many here are professing believes in the ways & teachings of the lamb. Some are busy at their trafficing some build shanties for traffic & thus is passed the weary day. Many long for home where others still more impatiently doubt if the time for our return--so long delayed will ever come!!
Clarksville, Texas at mouth of Rio Grande

 

Stray Thoughts
No. 23 June 26th 1865

Long ago I heard it said that 'Gray Hairs were an honor to a man', but I learned by personal observations that his was true only in some cases, & that in many instances they are but the sure & true, though silent witnesses of dishonor, shame & transgression. I often thought of this & now I have daily before me a sad specimen of this kind. A fellow soldier in Co. __ more than 50 years old--of much more than ordinary natural ability, having a good memory so that he is rich in anecdote, though this is too often of an indecent kind or distorted & incorrect in detail because of the drink whose effects he has too often felt & the many hours & days he must have wasted in the soul-destroying stupor of the vile master in whose service he has so long & willingly lingered. His varied experiences are worst than last, for his influence is chiefly for evil on young & old alike. How many such are homeless, childless, & friendless, & all their earnings too often are devoted to the support of some dram shop or saloon, till from neglect & exposure he is born to the silent grave that so few, if any will ever care to visit. Who can tell the various ways that the progress of the world & the condition of Society are affected by this large class? How many homes are never organized for which there is such a plenty of room & such a profusion of means in the world. How many good & faithful maidens are never wed, & of so many who become the wife of such how little is ever known of the happiness of a well ordered home except the bright happy days of bright joy & hope that was experienced in the days of girlhood & earliest womanhood. Surely there is want & misery & woe in the world where plenty & joy & peace could abide & were designed to be by the Creator.
Clarksville, Texas

 

Stray Thoughts No.24
How great & sudden are many of the changes of Life is shown, very strikingly by the career of Jefferson Davis, late Pres. of the Southern Confederacy. He is now on trial for treason & perhaps he will be tried for complicity in the murder of Pres. Lincoln. For many years the leader of the extreme Southern Party, he achieved a position so conspicuous that at the outbreak of the rebellion he was chosen Chief of Traitors, chief of the foes of Freedom & of God. How imperiously & defiantly he used his decrees in the support of Oppression, & so severely taxed the means & services of several millions during four long years of such bitterness & pain as were never known in our land since the dark bitter days of the old times that 'tried Men's Souls'. In days past many would assert that he was a brave & fearless man, but this is forever disproved by the fact that he tried to effect his escape by disguising himself in female attire & allowed his wife to try to pass him off from his captors as her 'Old Mother'!!! Why did he not form one of Lee's Army, & in some capacity with his hands help sustain the falling cause of the Slave masters, & with it surrender or fight to the last bitter end-- to very death. Certain it is there were many in that band of desperate & mistakenly devoted men who would continue the fight till scarce one was left & if brave, why did he not unite his fate with theirs? Thus might he have made his name immortal, for the world would accept this as proof, at least, of his sincerity & devotion to a cause that he professed to believe just & right. Now he occupies a cell prepared for felons, refuses to eat the common army rations, raves & threatens the guards, & even pretends to insanity. Many unfeelingly mock at his humiliation, but much as we must rejoice at this downfall & of his cause, still is he human & we may pity him while we wish Justice & Right the most complete triumph. June 27th [1865]

 

Stray Thoughts No. 25
How often a person in the army is afforded an opportunity to compare the joys & comforts of home with the troubles & difficulties unavoidable while a soldier.  This must be felt most severely by those so numerous in our ranks, who had pleasant homes of their own which they had enjoyed for many long years & where they left their wives & families so anxiously & often with tears, to await their long-delayed return.  Even such as I who left Parents in a humble home am often forced to reflect on the wide difference between the various advantages & comforts there afforded & the discomforts from which money will not relieve a soldier while here.  How often must not a fond Father’s dreams be of the fond attentive wife, with whom his comfort & satisfaction were also leaned as if it were a vast & immovable tower of support.  How his little ones come crowding about his knees each claiming the place of preferment on his knee which he at last decides belongs to the weakest & youngest.  Those memories of past joys often haven’t[?] his reveries while the sun shines as well as dreams in the still hour of midnight.
How often are the reveries of those who as yet have no families awaiting them filled with fond pleasant fancies of what might have been!!  How clearly I remember my fancies one night when on Picket at Pine Bluff when sitting quietly on post my thoughts wandered back to the days of 1857 when I had so favorable an opportunity to wed one who would in every respect more than fulfill my heartiest wishes.  I thought how joyous it would be to have her welcome me with outstretched arms as well as to stoop to raise one or more little cherubs to my lips to taste the sweet kiss of their parental affection from their innocent warm lips.  But by neglect & delay, or rather the absence of a realization of the value of the prize the ease with which it might be secured, she was wooed & won by one not worthy of her varied powers, her youth & loveliness & devotion, & thus doomed to a life where want may grow & neglect may sting one possessed of very many high traits of character & of very fine sensibilities.  Thus am I yet left to muse & regret the greater joys & pleasures that might have been!!
Mouth of the Rio Grand, June 28th [1865]

 

Stray Thoughts No. 26
How sad it is that the loveliest persons in the world are like all things else doomed to enter the dark & noisome grave.  It seems not so much surprising that the aged who may be tired & weary of Life’s long way feel willing to take rest in an abode so uninviting nor that the innocent little people who die young should feel no repugnance to give up a state of whose conditions they know not, neither of its joys & bliss nor yet of its deep dark sins & sorrows.  But that the young & the lovely & the brave, having reached the time of usefulness, prepared alike for Life’s labors & joys with ready hand & willing mind, all powers qualified for most efficient & pleasant action—that at once a fabric as skillfully & gracefully formed should so alive & warm with noble activities so full of kind tenderness on the one hand united to a devotion that does not realize the existence of bounds to the unselfish good she may accomplish & on the other, an enterprise & comage that defies all danger & despised all opposition for such to be grasped in the icy hand of Death & doomed to become the food of worms & to waste away beyond our reach or sympathy.  This is truly sad, yet inevitable.
Clarksville Texas  June 27th  1865

 

Stray Thoughts No. 27
One of the weaknesses of Human Nature as shown in hero worship is clearly indicated by the prominence given to that habit of smoking cigars to which it is said Gen. U.S. Grant is invetuately addicted.  I could not help noticing this while reading an article lately that very much interested me, but as I have often felt the useless expense, disgusting filthiness, & various inconveniences caused by this very disagreeable & almost universal use of tobacco in some ways could not help noticing the too frequent mention of the cigar in connection often with the momentous results of the greatest Battles of the War.  It must be evident that the use of this noxious weed becomes more general every year, & the fear may well be entertained that it will ere long become very nearly universal among males, unless some very improbable reaction soon takes place.    If our Lieut. Gray be so sadly the slave of so debasing a habit his misfortune should be regretted by every rightminded person, & especially by his true friends.  Instead of this the fault is paraded as if it were really a virtue, & as if sensible people could be persuaded that the poisonous narcotic had a virtue [having] a strange power which they had always denied or never know, certainly no influence should be given to the still greater development of this habit among the youth of this or other lands, for how large is the multitude who waste tenfold what would afford a competence for the wintry days of Old Age, for this show how we are yet tainted with that punicious partiality for the faults of great Men which is akin to the Old Idea that the ‘King can do no wrong’ or rather that all he does is right.   June 30, 1865

 


last modified 2/4/2003