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Harper's Round Table, June 4, 1895   By:

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[Illustration: HARPER'S ROUND TABLE]

Copyright, 1895, by HARPER & BROTHERS. All Rights Reserved.







[Illustration: Decorative I]

n no war since the close of the great Napoleonic struggles has the fighting been so obstinate and bloody as in the civil war. Much has been said in song and story of the obstinate courage of the Guards at Inkerman, of the charge of the Light Brigade, and of the terrible fighting and loss of the German at Mars la Tour and Gravelotte. The praise bestowed upon the British and Germans for their valor, and for the loss that proved their valor, was well deserved. But there were over one hundred and twenty regiments, Union and Confederate, each of which in some one battle of the civil war suffered a greater loss than any English regiment at Inkerman or at any other battle in the Crimea; greater loss than was suffered by any German regiment at Gravelotte, or at any other battle of the Franco Prussian war. No European regiment in any recent struggle has suffered such losses as at Gettysburg befell the 1st Minnesota, when 82 per cent. of the officers and men were killed and wounded; or the 141st Pennsylvania, which lost 76 per cent., or the 26th North Carolina, which lost 72 per cent.; such as at the second battle of Manassas befell the 101st New York, which lost 74 per cent.; and the 21st Georgia, which lost 76 per cent. At Cold Harbor the 25th Massachusetts lost 70 per cent., and the 10th Tennessee at Chickamauga 68 per cent.; while at Shiloh the 9th Illinois lost 63 per cent., and the 6th Mississippi 70 per cent.; and at Antietam the 1st Texas lost 82 per cent. The loss of the Light Brigade in killed and wounded in its famous charge at Balaklava was but 37 per cent.

These figures show the terrible punishment endured by these regiments chosen at random from the head of the list which shows the slaughter roll of the civil war. Yet the shattered remnant of each regiment preserved its organization, and many of the severest losses were suffered by regiments in the hour of triumph, and not of disaster. Thus, the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg suffered its appalling loss while charging a greatly superior force, which it drove before it; and the little huddle of wounded and unwounded men who survived their victorious charge actually kept both the flag they had captured and the ground from which they had driven their foes.

A number of the Continental regiments under Washington, Greene, and Wayne did valiant fighting, and suffered severe loss. Several of the regiments raised on the Northern frontier in 1814 showed, under Brown and Scott, that they were able to meet the best troops of England on equal terms in the open, and even to overmatch them in fair fight with the bayonet. The regiments which in the Mexican war, under the lead of Taylor, captured Monterey, and beat back Santa Anna at Buena Vista, or which, with Scott as commander, stormed Molino Del Rey and Chapultepec, proved their ability to bear terrible loss, to wrest victory from overwhelming numbers, and to carry by open assault positions of formidable strength held by a veteran army. But in none of these three wars was the fighting so resolute and bloody as in the civil war.

Countless deeds of heroism were performed by Northerner and by Southerner, by officer and by private, in every year of the great snuggle. The immense majority of these deeds went unrecorded, and were known to few beyond the immediate participants. Of those that were noticed it would be impossible even to make a dry catalogue in ten such volumes as this. All that can be done is to choose out two or three acts of heroism not as exceptions, but as examples of hundreds of others. The times of war are iron times, and bring out all that is best as well as all that is basest, in the human heart... Continue reading book >>

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