I HAD intended to call this study Two Wars, but I was afraid lest I should be under the domination of the title, and an elaborate comparison of the Peloponnesian war and the war between the States would undoubtedly have led to no little sophistication of the facts. Historical parallel bars are usually set up for exhibiting feats of mental agility. The mental agility is often moral suppleness, and nobody expects a critical examination of the parallelism itself. He was not an historian of the first rank, but a phrase-making rhetorician, who is responsible for the current saying, History is philosophy teaching by example. This definition is about as valuable as some of those other definitions that express one art in terms of another : poetry in terms of painting, and painting in terms of poetry. “ Architecture is frozen music ” does not enable us to understand either perpendicular Gothic or a fugue of Bach ; and when an historian defines history in terms of philosophy, or a philosopher philosophy in terms of history, you may be on the lookout for sophistication. Your philosophical historian points his moral by adorning his tale. Your historical philosopher allows no zigzags in the march of his evolution.
In like manner, the attempt to express one war in terms of another is apt to lead to a wresting of facts. No two wars are as like as two peas. Yet as any two marriages in society will yield a certain number of resemblances, so will any two wars in history, whether war itself be regarded as abstract or concrete,— a question that seems to have exercised some grammatical minds, and ought therefore to be settled before any further step is taken in this disquisition, which is the disquisition of a grammarian. Now most persons would pronounce war an abstract, but one excellent manual with which I am acquainted sets it down as a concrete, and I have often thought that the author must have known something practically about war. At all events, to those who have seen the midday sun darkened by burning homesteads, and wheatfields illuminated by stark forms in blue and gray, war is sufficiently concrete. The very first dead soldier one sees, enemy or friend, takes war forever out of the category of abstracts.
When I was a student abroad, American novices used to be asked in jest, " Is this your first ruin ? ” “ Is this your first nightingale?” I am not certain that I can place my first ruin or my first nightingale, but I can recall my first dead man on the battlefield. We were making an advance on the enemy’s position near Huttonsville. Nothing, by the way, could have been more beautiful than the plan, which I was privileged to see ; and as we neared the objective point, it was a pleasure to watch how column after column, marching by this road and that, converged to the rendezvous. It was as if some huge spider were gathering its legs about the victim. The special order issued breathed a spirit of calm resolution worthy of the general commanding and his troops. Nobody that I remember criticised the tautological expression, “ The progress of this army must be forward.” We were prepared for a hard fight, for we knew that the enemy was strongly posted. Most of us were to be under fire for the first time, and there was some talk about the chances of the morrow as we lay down to sleep. Moralizing of that sort gets less and less common with experience in the business, and this time the moralizing may have seemed to some premature. But wherever the minié ball sang its diabolical mosquito song there was death in the air, and I was soon to see brought into camp, under a flag of truce, the lifeless body of the heir of Mount Vernon, whose graceful riding I had envied a few days before. However, there was no serious fighting. The advance on the enemy’s position had developed more strength in front than we had counted on, or some of the spider’s legs had failed to close in. A misleading report had been brought to headquarters. A weak point in the enemy’s line had been reinforced. Who knows ? The best laid plans are often thwarted by the merest trifles, — an insignificant puddle, a jingling canteen. This game of war is a hit or miss game, after all. A certain fatalism is bred thereby, and it is well to set out, with a stock of that article. So our resolute advance became a forced reconnaissance, greatly to the chagrin of the younger and more ardent spirits. We found out exactly where the enemy was, and declined to have anything further to do with him for the time being. But in finding him we had to clear the ground and drive in the pickets. One picket had been posted at the end of a loop in a chain of valleys. The road we followed skirted the base of one range of hills. The house which served as the headquarters of the picket was on the other side. A meadow as level as a board stretched between. I remember seeing a boy come out and catch a horse, while we were advancing. Somehow it seemed to be a trivial thing to do just then. I knew better afterwards. Our skirmishers had done their work, had swept the woods on either side clean, and the pickets had fallen back on the main body ; but not all of them. One man, if not more, had only had time to fall dead. The one I saw, the first, was a young man, not thirty, I should judge, lying on his back, his head too low for comfort. He had been killed outright, and there was no distortion of feature. No more peaceful faces than one sees at times on the battlefield, and sudden death, despite the Litany, is not the least enviable exit. In this case there was something like a mild surprise on the countenance. The rather stolid face could never have been very expressive. An unposted letter was found on the dead man s body. It was written in German, and I was asked to interpret it, in case it should contain any important information. There was no important information ; just messages to friends and kindred, just the trivialities of camp life.
The man was an invader, and in my eyes deserved an invader’s doom. If sides had been changed, he would have been a rebel, and would have deserved a rebel’s doom. I was not stirred to the depths by the sight, but it gave me a lesson in grammar, and war has ever been concrete to me from that time on. The horror I did not feel at first grew steadily. “ A sweet thing,” says Pindar, “ is war to those that have not tried it.”
Concrete or abstract, there are general resemblances between any two wars, and so war lends itself readily to allegories. Every one has read Bunyan’s Holy War. Not every one has read Spangenberg’s Grammatical War. It is an ingenious performance, which fell into my hands many years after I had gone forth to see and to feel what war was like. In Spangenberg’s Grammatical War the nouns and the verbs are the contending parties. Poeta is king of the nouns, and Amo king of the verbs. There is a regular debate between the two sovereigns. The king of the verbs summons the adverbs to his help, the king of the nouns the pronouns. The camps are pitched, the forces marshaled. The neutral power, participle, is invoked by both parties, but declines to send open assistance to either, hoping that in this contest between noun and verb the third party will acquire the rule over the whole territory of language. After a final summons on the part of the king of the verbs, and a fierce response from the rival monarch, active hostilities begin. We read of raids and forays. Prisoners are treated with contumely, and their skirts are docked as in the Biblical narrative. Treachery adds excitement to the situation. Skirmishes precede the great engagement, in which the nouns are worsted, though they have come off with some of the spoils of war; and peace is made on terms dictated by Priscian, Servius, and Donatus. Spangenberg’s Grammatical War is a not uninteresting, not uninstructive squib, and the salt of it, or saltpetre of it, has not all evaporated after the lapse of some three centuries. There are bits that remind one of the Greco-Turkish war of a few weeks ago.
But there is no military science in Bunyan’s Holy War nor in Spangenberg’s Grammatical War: why should there be? Practical warfare is rough work. To frighten, to wound, to kill, — these three abide under all forms of military doctrine, and the greatest of these is frightening. Ares, the god of war, has two satellites, Terror and Affright. Fear is the Gorgon’s head. The serpents are very real, very effective, in their way, but logically they are unessential tresses. The Gorgon stares you out of countenance, and that suffices. The object is the removal of an obstacle. Killing and wounding are but means to an end. Handto-hand fighting is rare, and it would be easy to count the instances in which cavalry meets the shock of cavalry. Crossing sabres is not a common pastime in the red game of war. It makes a fine picture, to be sure, the finer for the rarity of the thing itself.
To frighten, to wound, to kill, being the essential processes, war amounts to the same thing the world over, world of time and world of space. Whether death or disability comes by Belgian ball or Spencer bullet, by the stone of a Balearic slinger, by a holt from a crossbow, is a matter of detail which need not trouble the philosophic mind, and the ancients showed their sense in ascribing fear to divine inspiration.
If the processes of war are primitive, the causes of war are no less so. It has been strikingly said of late by a Scandinavian scholar that “ language was born in the courting-days of mankind : the first utterance of speech [was] something between the nightly love-lyrics of puss upon the tiles and the melodious love-songs of the nightingale.” “ War, the father of all things,”goes back to the same origin as language. The serenade is matched by the battle-cry. The fight between two cock - pheasants for the love of a hen-pheasant is war in its last analysis, in its primal manifestation. Selfish hatred is at the bottom of it. It is the hell-fire to which we owe the heat that is necessary to some of the noblest as to some of the vilest manifestations of human nature. Righteous indignation, sense of injustice, sympathy with the oppressed, consecration to country, fine words all, fine things, but so many of the men who represent these fine things perish. It wrings the heart at a distance of more than thirty years to think of those who have fallen, and love still maintains passionately that they were the best. At any rate, they were among the best, and both sides are feeling the loss to this day, not only in the men themselves, but in the sons that should have been born to them.
Any two wars, then, will yield a sufficient number of resemblances, in killed, wounded, and missing, in the elemental matter of hatred, or, if you choose to give it a milder name, rivalry. These things are of the essence of war, and the manifestations run parallel even in the finer lines. One cock-pheasant finds the drumming of another cock - pheasant a very irritating sound, Chanticleer objects to the note of Chanticleer, and the more articulate human being is rasped by the voice of his neighbor. The Attic did not like the broad Bœotian speech. Parson Evans’s “ seese and putter ” were the bitterest ingredients in Falstaff’s dose of humiliation. “ Yankee twang” and “ Southern drawl ” incited as well as echoed hostility.
Borderers are seldom friends. “An Attic neighbor ” is a Greek proverb. Kentucky and Ohio frown at each other across the river. Cincinnati looks down on Covington, and Covington glares at Cincinnati. Aristophanes, in his mocking way, attributes the Peloponnesian war to a kidnapping affair between Athens and Megara. The underground railroad preceded the aboveground railroad in the history of the great American conflict.
There were jealousies enough between Athens and Sparta in the olden times, which correspond to our colonial days, and in the Persian war, which was in a sense the Greek war of independence. In like manner the chronicles of our Revolutionary period show that there was abundance of bad blood between Northern colonies and Southern colonies. The Virginian planter whom all have agreed to make the one national hero was after all a Virginian, and Virginians have not forgotten the impatient utterances of the “ imperial man ” on the soil of Massachusetts and in the streets of New York. Nobody takes Knickerbocker’s History of New York seriously, as owlish historians are wont to take Aristophanes. Why not? We accept the hostility of Attica and Bœotia, of Attica and Megara ; and there are no more graphic chapters than those which set forth the enmity between New York and Maryland, between New Amsterdam and Connecticut.
Business is often more potent than blood. Nullification, the forerunner of disunion, rose from a question of tariff. The echoes had not died out when I woke to conscious life. I knew that I was the son of a nullifier, and the nephew of a Union man. It was whispered that our beloved family physician found it prudent to withdraw from the public gaze for a while, and that my uncle’s windows were broken by the palmettos of a nullification procession ; and I can remember from my boyhood days how unreconciled citizens of Charleston shook their fists at the revenue cutter and its “ foreign flag.” Such an early experience enables one to understand our war better. It enables one to understand the Peloponnesian war better, the struggle between the union of which Athens was the mistress and the confederacy of which Sparta was the head. Non-intercourse between Athens and Megara was the first stage. The famous Megarian decree of Pericles, which closed the market of Athens to Megarians, gave rise to angry controversy, and the refusal to rescind that decree led to open war. But Megara was little more than a pretext. The subtle influence of Corinth was potent. The great merchant city of Greece dreaded the rise of Athens to dominant commercial importance, and in the conflict between the Corinthian brass and the Attic clay, the clay was shattered. Corinth does not show her hand much in the Peloponnesian war. She figures at the beginning, and then disappears. But the old mole is at work the whole time, and what the Peloponnesians called the Attic war, and the Attics the Peloponnesian war, might have been called the Corinthian war. The exchange, the banking-house, were important factors then as now. “ Sinews of war ” is a classical expression. The popular cry of “ Persian gold ” was heard in the Peloponnesian war as the popular cry of “ British gold ” is heard now.
True, there was no slavery question in the Peloponnesian war, for antique civilization without slavery is hardly thinkable ; but after all, the slavery question belongs ultimately to the sphere of economics. The humanitarian spirit, set free by the French Revolution, was at work in the Southern States as in the Northern States, but it was hampered by economic considerations. Virginia, as every one knows, was on the verge of becoming a free State. Colonization flourished in my boyhood. A friend of my father’s left him trustee for his “ servants,” as we called them. They were quartered opposite our house in Charleston, and the pickaninnies were objects of profound interest to the children of the neighborhood. One or two letters came from the emigrants after they reached Liberia. Then silence fell on the African farm.
Some of the most effective anti-slavery reformers were Charlestonians by birth and breeding. I cannot say that Grimké was a popular name, but homage was paid to the talent of Frederick, as I remember only too well, for I had to learn a speech of his by heart, as a schoolboy exercise. But the economic conditions of the South were not favorable to the spread of the ideas represented by the Grimkés. The slavery question kept alive the spirit that manifested itself in the tariff question. State rights were not suffered to slumber. The Southerner resented Northern dictation as Pericles resented Lacedæmonian dictation, and our Peloponnesian war began.
The processes of the two wars, then, were the same, — killing, wounding, frightening. The causes of the two wars resolved themselves into the elements of hatred. The details of the two wars meet at many points ; only one must be on one’s guard against merely fanciful, merely external resemblances.
In 1860 I spent a few days in Holland, and among my various excursions in that fascinating country I took a solitary trip on a treckschuit from Amsterdam to Delft. Holland was so true to Dutch pictures that there was a retrospective delight in the houses and in the people. There was a charm in the very signs, in the names of the villas ; for my knowledge of Dutch had not passed beyond the stage at which the Netherlandish tongue seems to be an EnglishGerman Dictionary, disguised in strong waters. But the thing that struck me most was the general aspect of the country. Everywhere gates. Nowhere fences. The gates guarded the bridges and the canals were the fences, but the canals and the low bridges were not to be seen at a distance, and the visual effect was that of isolated gates. It was an absurd landscape even after the brain had made the necessary corrections.
In the third year of the war I was not far from Fredericksburg. The country had been stripped, and the forlorn region was a sad contrast to the smug prosperity of Holland. And yet of a sudden the Dutch landscape flashed upon my inward eye, for Spottsylvania, like Holland, was dotted with fenceless gates. The rails of the inclosures had long before gone to feed bivouac fires, but the great gates were too solidly constructed to tempt marauders. It was an absurd landscape, an absurd parallel.
Historical parallels are often no better. When one compares two languages of the same family, the first impression is that of similarity. It is hard for the novice to keep his Italian and his Spanish apart. The later and more abiding impression is that of dissimilarity. A total stranger confounds twins in whom the members of the household find but vague likeness. There is no real resemblance between the two wars we are contemplating outside the inevitable features of all armed conflicts, and we must be on our guard against the sophistication deprecated in the beginning of this study. And yet one coming fresh to a comparison of the Peloponnesian war and the war between the States might see a striking similarity, such as I saw between the Dutch landscape and the landscape in Spottsylvania.
The Peloponnesian war, like our war, was a war between two leagues, a Northern Union and a Southern Confederacy. The Northern Union, represented by Athens, was a naval power. The Southern Confederacy, under the leadership of Sparta, was a land power. The Athenians represented the progressive element, the Spartans the conservative, The Athenians believed in a strong centralized government. The Lacedæmonians professed greater regard for autonomy. A little ingenuity, a good deal of hardihood, might multiply such futilities indefinitely. In fact, it would be possible to write the story of our Peloponnesian war in phrases of Thucydides, and I should not be surprised if such a task were a regular school exercise at Eton or at Rugby. Why, it was but the other day that Professor Tyrrell, of Dublin, translated a passage from Lowell’s Riglow Papers into choice Aristophanese.
Unfortunately, such feats, as I have already said, imperil one’s intellectual honesty, and one would not like to imitate the Byzantine historians who were given to similar tricks. One of these gentlemen, Choricius by name, had a seaport to describe. How the actual seaport lay mattered little to Choricius, so long as the Epidamnus of Thucydides was at hand ; and if the task of narrating our Peloponnesian war were assigned to the ghost of Choricius, I have no doubt that he would open it with a description of Charleston in terms of Epidamnus. Little matters of topography would not trouble such an one. To the sophist an island is an island, a river a river, a height a height, everywhere. Sphacteria would furnish the model for Morris Island ; the Achelous would serve indifferently for Potomac or Mississippi, the Epipolæ for Missionary Ridge, Platæa for Vicksburg, the harbor of Syracuse for Hampton Roads ; and Thucydides’ description of the naval engagement and the watching crowds would be made available for the fight between Merrimac and Monitor.
The debates in Thucydides would be a quarry for the debates in either Congress, as they had been a quarry for centuries of rhetorical historians. And as for the “ winged words,” why should they have wings if not to flit from character to character? A well-known scholar, at a loss for authentic details as to the life of Pindar, fell back on a lot of apophthegms attributed to his hero, and in so doing maintained the strange doctrine that apophthegms were more to be trusted than any other form of tradition. There could not have been a more hopeless thesis. The general who said that he would burn his coat if it knew his plans has figured in all the wars with which I have been contemporary, was a conspicuous character in the Mexican war, and passed from camp to camp in the war between the States. The mot, familiar to the classical scholar, was doubtless attributed in his day to that dashing sheik Chedorlaomer, and will be ascribed to both leaders in the final battle of Armageddon. The hank of yarns told about Socrates is pieced out with tabs and tags borrowed from different periods. I have heard, say, in the afternoon, a good story at the expense of a famous American revival preacher which I had read that morning in the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, and there is a large stock of anecdotes made to screw on and screw off for the special behoof of college presidents and university professors. Why hold up Choricius to ridicule ? He was no worse than others of his guild. It was not Choricius, it was another Byzantine historian who conveyed from Herodotus an unsavory retort, over which the unsuspecting Gibbon chuckles in the dark cellar of his notes, where he keeps so much of his high game. The Greek historian of the Roman empire, the Roman historian of every date, are no better, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who has devoted many pages to the arraignment of Thucydides’ style, cribs with the utmost composure from the author he has vilipended. Still, we must not set down every coincidence as borrowing. Thucydides himself insists on the recurrence of the same or similar events in a history of which human nature is a constant factor. “ Undo this button ” is not necessarily a quotation from King Lear. “ There is no way but this” was original with Macaulay, and not stolen from Shakespeare. “Never mind, general, all this has been my fault,”are words attributed to General Lee after the battle of Gettysburg. This is very much the language of Gylippus after the failure of his attack on the Athenian lines before Syracuse. How many heroic as well as unheroic natures have had to say ” Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”
Situations may recur, sayings may recur, but no characters come back. Nature always breaks her mould. “ I could not help muttering to myself,”says Coleridge in his Biographia Literaria, “ when the good pastor this morning told me that Klopstock was the German Milton ‘ a very German Milton, indeed ! ! ! ’ ” and Coleridge’s italics and three exclamation points may answer for all parallelisms. When historical characters get far enough off it may be possible to imitate Plutarch, but only then. Victor Hugo wrote a passionate protest against the execution of John Brown, in which he compared Virginia hanging John Brown with Washington putting Spartacus to death. What Washington would have done with Spartacus can readily be divined. Those who have stood nearest to Grant and Sherman, to Lee and Jackson, the men, fail to see any strong resemblance to leaders in other wars. Nicias, in the Peloponnesian war, whose name means Winfield, has nothing in common with General Scott, whose plan of putting down the rebellion, the “ Anaconda Plan,” as it was called, bears some resemblance to the scheme of Demosthenes, the Athenian general, for quelling the Peloponnese. Brasidas was in some respects like Stonewall Jackson, but Brasidas was not a Presbyterian elder, nor Stonewall Jackson a cajoling diplomatist.
This paper is rapidly becoming what life is, — a series of renunciations, — and the reader is by this time sufficiently enlightened as to the reasons why I gave up the ambitious title Two Wars, and substituted A Southerner in the Peloponnesian War. If I were a military man, I might have been tempted to draw some further illustrations from the history of the two struggles, but my short and desultory service in the field does not entitle me to set up as a strategist. I went from my books to the front, and went back from the front to my books, from the Confederate war to the Peloponnesian war, from Lee and Early to Thucydides and Aristophanes. I fancy that I understood my Greek history and my Greek authors better for my experience in the field, but some degree of understanding would have come to me even if I had not stirred from home. For while my home was spared until the month preceding the surrender, every vibration of the great struggle was felt at the foot of the Blue Ridge. We were not too far off to sympathize with the scares at Richmond. There was the Pawnee affair, for instance. Early in the war all Richmond was stirred by the absurd report that the Pawnee was on its way up James River to lay the Confederate capital in ashes, just as all Athens was stirred, in the early part of the Peloponnesian war, by a naval demonstration against the Piræus. The Pawnee war, as it was jocularly called, did not last long. Shot-guns and revolvers, to which the civilian soul naturally resorts in every time of trouble, were soon laid aside, and the only artillery to which the extemporized warriors were exposed was the artillery of jests. Even now survivors of those days recur to the tumultuous excitement of that Pawnee Sunday as among the memorable things of the war, and never without merriment. Perhaps nobody expected serious resistance to be made by the clergymen and the department clerks and the business men who armed themselves for the fray. Home guards were familiar butts on both sides of the line, but home guards have been known to die in battle, and death in battle is supposed to be rather tragic than otherwise. Nor is the tragedy made less tragic by the age of the combatant. The ancients thought a young warrior dead something fair to behold. To Greek poet and Roman poet alike an aged warrior is a pitiable spectacle. No one is likely to forget Virgil’s Priam, Tyrtæus’ description of an old soldier on the field of battle came up to me more than once, and there is stamped forever on my mind the image of one dying Confederate, " with white hair and hoary beard, breathing out his brave soul in the dust” on the western bank of the fair Shenandoah. Yet a few weeks before, that same old Confederate, as a member of the awkward squad, would have been a legitimate object of ridicule; and so the heroes of the Pawnee war, the belted knights, or knights who would have been belted could belts have been found for their civic girth, were twitted with their heroism.
But our scares were not confined to scares that came from Richmond. One cavalry raid came up to our very doors, and Custer and his men were repelled by a handful of reserve artillerymen. Our home guard was summoned more than once to defend Rockfish Gap, and I remember one long summer night spent as a mounted picket on the road to Palmyra. Every battle in that “ dancing ground of war ” brought to the great Charlottesville hospital sad reinforcements of wounded men. Crutch-races between one-legged soldiers were organized, and there were timber-toe quadrilles and one - armed cotillons. Out of the shelter of the Blue Ridge it was easy enough to get into the range of bullets. A semblance of college life was kept up at the University of Virginia. The students were chiefly maimed soldiers and boys under military age; but when things grew hot in front, maimed soldiers would edge nearer to the hell of battle and the boys would rush off to the game of powder and ball. One little band of these college boys chose an odd time for their baptism of fire, and were put into action during the famous fight of “ the bloody angle.” From the night when word was brought that the Federals had occupied Alexandria to the time when I hobbled into the provost marshal’s office at Charlottesville and took the oath of allegiance, the war was part of my life, and it is not altogether surprising that the memories of the Confederacy come back to me whenever I contemplate the history of the Peloponnesian war, which bulks so largely in all Greek studies. And that is all this paper really means. It belongs to the class of inartistic performances of which Aristotle speaks so slightingly. It has no unity except the accidental unity of person. A Southerner in the Peloponnesian War has no more artistic right to be than A Girl in the Carpathians or A Scholar in Politics, and yet it may serve as a document. But what will not serve as a document to the modern historian ? The historian is no longer the poor creature described by Aristotle. He is no annalist, no chronicler. He is not dragged along by the mechanical sequence of events. “ The master of them that know ” did not know everything. He did not know that history was to become as plastic as poetry, as dramatic as a play.
The war was a good time for the study of the conflict between Athens and Sparta. It was a great time for reading and re-reading classical literature generally, for the South was blockaded against new books as effectively, almost, as Megara was blockaded against garlic and salt. The current literature of those three or four years was a blank to most Confederates. Few books got across the line. A vigorous effort was made to supply our soldiers with Bibles and parts of the Bible, and large consignments ran the blockade. Else little came from abroad, and few books were reprinted in the Confederacy. Of these I recall especially Bulwer’s Strange Story; Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, popularly pronounced “Lee’s Miserables; ” and the historical novels of Louise Mühlbach, known to the Confederate soldier as “ Lou Mealbag.” All were eagerly read, but Cosette and Fantine and Joseph the Second would not last forever, and we fell back on the old stand-bys. Some of us exhumed neglected treasures, and I remember that I was fooled by Bulwer’s commendation of Charron into reading that feebler Montaigne. The Southerner, always conservative in his tastes and no great admirer of American literature, which had become largely alien to him, went back to his English classics, his ancient classics. Old gentlemen past the military age furbished up their Latin and Greek. Some of them had never let their Latin and Greek grow rusty. When I was serving on General Gordon’s staff, I met at Millwood, in Clarke County, a Virginian of the old school who declaimed with fiery emphasis, in the original, choice passages of Demosthenes’ tirade against Æschines. Not Demosthenes himself could have given more effective utterance to “ Hearest thou, Æschines ? ” I thought of my old friend again not so very long ago, when I read the account that the most brilliant of modern German classicists gives of his encounter with a French schoolmaster at Beauvais in 1870, during the Franco-Prussian war, and of the heated discussion that ensued about the comparative merits of Euripides and Racine. The bookman is not always killed in a man by service in the field. True, Lachmann dropped his Propertius to take up arms for his country, but Reisig annotated bis Aristophanes in camp, and everybody knows the story of Courier, the soldier Hellenist. But the tendency of life in the open air is to make the soul imbody and imbrute, and after a while one begins to think scholarship a disease, or, at any rate, a bad habit; and the Scythian nomad, or, if you choose, the Texan cowboy, seems to be the normal, healthy type. You put your Pickering Homer in your kit. It drops out by reason of some sudden change of base, and you do not mourn as you ought to do. The fact is you have not read a line for a month. But when the Confederate volunteer returned, let us say, from Jack’s Shop or some such homely locality, and opened his Thucydides, the old charm came back with the studious surroundings, and the familiar first words renewed the spell.
“ Thucydides of Athens wrote up the war of the Peloponnesians and Athenians.” “ The war of the Peloponnesians and Athenians ” is a somewhat lumbering way of saying “ the Peloponnesian war.” But Thucydides never says “the Peloponnesian war.” Why not ? Perhaps his course in this matter was determined by a spirit of judicial fairness. However that may be, either he employs some phrase like the one cited, or he says “ this war ” as we say “ the war,” as if there were no other war on record. “ Revolutionary war,” “ war of 1812,” “Seminole war,” “ Mexican war,” — all these run glibly from our tongues, but we also lumber when we wish to be accurate. The names of wars, like the names of diseases, are generally put off on the party of the other part. We say “ French and Indian war ” without troubling ourselves to ask what the French and Indians called it, but “Northern war” and “ Southern war ” were never popular designations. “ The war between the States,” which a good many Southerners prefer, is both bookish and inexact. “ Civil war ” is an utter misnomer. It was used and is still used by courteous people, the same people who are careful to say “Federal” and “Confederate.” “War of the rebellion,” which begs the very question at issue, has become the official designation of the struggle, but has found no acceptance with the vanquished. To this day no Southerner uses it except by way of quotation, as in Rebellion Record, and even in the North it was only by degrees that ” reb ” replaced “ secesh.” “ Secession ” was not a word with which to charm the " old-line Whigs” of the South. They would fight the battles of the secessionists, but they would not bear their name. “ The war of secession " is still used a good deal in foreign books, but it has no popular hold. “The war,” without any further qualification, served the turn of Thucydides and Aristophanes for the Peloponnesian war. It will serve ours, let it be hoped, for some time to come.
A Confederate commentary on Thucydides, projected on the scale of the remarks just made on the name of the war, would outrun the lines of this study and the pages of this magazine. Let us pass from Thucydides to the other contemporary chronicler who turns out some sides of the “ Doric war ” about which Thucydides is silent. The antique Clio gathers up her robe and steps tiptoe over rubbishy details that are the delight of the comic poet and the modern Muse of History. Thucydides, it is true, gives us a minute account of the plague. That was a subject which commended itself to his saturnine spirit, and in his description he deigns to speak of the " stuffy cabooses ” into which the country people were crowded when the Lacedæmonians invaded Attica. But when Aristophanes touches the same chapter, he goes into picturesque details about the rookeries and the wine-jars inhabited by the newcomers. Diogenes’ jar, commonly misnamed a tub, was no invention, and I have known less comfortable quarters than the hogshead which I occupied for a day or two in one of my outings during the war.
The plague was too serious a matter for even Aristophanes to make fun of, and the annalist of the war between the States will not find any parallel in the chronicles of the South. There was no such epidemic as still shows its livid face in the pages of Thucydides and the verses of Lucretius. True, some diseases of which civic life makes light proved to be veritable scourges in camp. Measles was especially fatal to the country-bred, and for abject misery I have never seen anything like those cases of measles in which nostalgia had supervened. Nostalgia, which we are apt to sneer at as a doctor’s name for homesickness, and to class with cachexy and borborygmus, was a power for evil in those days, and some of our finest troops were thinned out by it, notoriously the North Carolinians, whose attachment to the soil of their State was as passionate as that of any Greeks, ancient or modern, Attic or Peloponnesian.
But the frightful mortality of the camp does not strike the imagination so forcibly as does the carnage of the battlefield, and no layman cares to analyze hospital reports and compare the medical with the surgical history of the war. Famine, the twin evil of pestilence, is not so easily forgotten, and the dominant note of Aristophanes, hunger, was the dominant note of life in the Confederacy, civil as well as military. The Confederate soldier was often on short rations, but the civilian was not much better off. I do not mean those whose larders were swept by the besom of the invaders. “ Not a dust of flour, not an ounce of meat, left in the house,” was not an uncommon cry along the line of march; but it was heard elsewhere, and I remember how I raked up examples of European and Asiatic frugality with which to reinforce my editorials and hearten my readers, — the scanty fare of the French peasant, the raw oatmeal of the Scotch stone-cutter, the flinty bread of the Swiss mountaineer, the Spaniard’s cloves of garlic, the Greek’s handful of olives, and the Hindoo’s handful of rice. The situation was often gayly accepted. The not infrequent proclamation of fastdays always served as a text for mutual banter, and starvation-parties were the rule, social gatherings at which apples were the chief refreshment. Strange streaks of luxury varied this dead level of scant and plain fare. The stock of fine wines, notably madeiras, for which the South was famous, did not all go to the hospitals. Here and there provident souls had laid in boxes of tea and bags of coffee that carried them through the war, and the chief outlay was for sugar, which rose in price as the war went on, until it almost regained the poetical character it bore in Shakespeare’s time. Sugar, tea, and coffee once compassed, the daintiness of old times occasionally came back, and I have been assured by those who brought gold with them that Richmond was a paradise of cheap and good living during the war, just as the United States will be for foreigners when our currency becomes as abundant as it was in the last years of the Confederacy. Gresham’s law ought to be called Aristophanes’ law. In all matters pertaining to the sphere of civic life, merry Aristophanes is of more value than sombre Thucydides, and if the gospel of peace which he preaches is chiefly a variation on the theme of something to eat, small blame to him. Critics have found fault with the appetite of Odysseus as set forth by Homer. No Confederate soldier will subscribe to the censure, and there are no scenes in Aristophanes that appeal more Strongly to the memory of the Southerner, civilian or soldier, than those in which the pinch of war makes itself felt.
Farmers and planters made their moan during the Confederacy, and doubtless they had much to suffer. " Impressment ” is not a pleasant word at any time, and the tribute that the countryman had to yield to the defense of the South was ruinous, — the indirect tribute as well as the direct. The farmers of Virginia were much to be pitied. Their houses were filled with refugee kinsfolk ; wounded Confederates preferred the private house to the hospital. Hungry soldiers, and soldiers who forestalled the hunger of weeks to come, laid siege to larder, smoke-house, spring-house. Pay, often tendered, was hardly ever accepted. The cavalryman was perhaps a trifle less welcome than the infantryman, because of the capacious horse and the depleted corn-bin, but few were turned away. Yet there was the liberal earth, and the farmer did not starve, as did the wretched civilian whose dependence was a salary, which did not advance with the rising tide of the currency. The woes of the war clerks in Richmond and of others are on record, and important contributions have been made to the economical history of the Confederate States. I will not draw on these stores. I will only tell of what I have lived, as demanded by the title of this paper. The income of the professors of the University of Virginia was nominally the same during the war that it was before, but the purchasing power of the currency steadily diminished. If it had not been for a grant of woodland, we should have frozen as well as starved during the last year of the war, when the quest of food had become a serious matter. In our direst straits we had not learned to dispense with household service, and the household servants were never stinted of their rations, though the masters had to content themselves with the most meagre fare. The farmers, generous enough to the soldiers, were not overconsiderate of the non-combatants. Often the only way of procuring our coarse food was by making contracts to be paid after the war in legal currency, and sometimes payment in gold was exacted. The contracts were not always kept, and the unfortunate civilian had to make new contracts at an enhanced price. Before my first campaign in 1861, I had bought a little gold and silver, for use in case of capture, and if it had not been for that precious hoard I might not be writing this sketch. But despite the experience of the airy gentlemen who alighted in Richmond during the war, even gold and silver would not always work wonders. Bacon and corned beef in scant measure were the chief of our diet, and not always easy to procure. I have ridden miles and miles, with silver in my palm, seeking daintier food for the women of my household, but in vain. There was nothing to do except to tighten one’s belt, and to write editorials showing up the selfishness of the farming class and prophesying the improvement of the currency.
No wonder, then, that with such an experience a bookish Confederate should turn to the Aristophanic account of the Peloponnesian war with sympathetic interest. The Athenians, it is true, were not blockaded as we were, and the Athenian beaux and belles were not reduced to the straits that every Confederate man, assuredly every Confederate woman, can remember. Our blockade-runners could not supply the demands of our population. We went back to first principles. Thorns were for pins, and dogwood sticks for toothbrushes. Rag-bags were ransacked. Impossible garments were made possible. Miracles of turning were performed, not only in coats, but even in envelopes. Whoso had a dress coat gave it to his womankind in order to make the body of a riding-habit. Dainty feet were shod in home-made foot-gear which one durst not call shoes. Fairy fingers which had been stripped of jeweled rings wore bone circlets carved by idle soldiers. There were no more genuine tears than those which flowed from the eyes of the Southern women resident within the Federal lines when they saw the rig of their kinswomen, at the cessation of hostilities. And all this grotesqueness, all this dilapidation, was shot through by specimens of individual finery, by officers who had brought back resplendent uniforms from beyond seas, by heroines who had engineered themselves and their belongings across the Potomac.
Of all this the scholar found nothing in the records of the Peloponnesian war. The women of Megara may have suffered, but hardly the Corinthian women ; and the Athenian dames and damsels were as particular about their shoes and their other cordwainer’s wares as ever. The story that Socrates and his wife had but one upper garment between them is a stock joke, as I have shown elsewhere. “ Who first started the notable jest it is impossible, at this distance of time, to discover, just as it is impossible to tell whose refined wit originated the conception of the man who lies abed while his solitary shirt is in the wash.” The story was intended to illustrate, not the scarcity of raiment in the Peloponnesian war, but the abundance of philosophy in the Socratic soul. All through that war the women of Athens seem to have had as much finery as was good for them. The pinch was felt at other points, and there the Confederate sympathy was keen.
In The Acharnians of Aristophanes, the hero, Dicæopolis, makes a separate peace on his individual account with the Peloponnesians and drives a brisk trade with the different cantons, the enthusiasm reaching its height when the Bœotian appears with his ducks and his eels. This ecstasy can best be understood by those who have seen the capture of a sutler’s wagon by hungry Confederates ; and the fantastic vision of a separate peace became a sober reality at many points on the lines of the contending parties. The Federal outposts twitted ours with their lack of coffee and sugar; ours taunted the Federals with their lack of tobacco. Such gibes often led, despite the officers, to friendly interchange. So, for instance, a toy-boat which bore the significant name of a parasite familiar to both sides made regular trips across the Rappahannock after the dire struggle at Fredericksburg, and promoted international exchange between “Yank” and “Johnny Reb.” The day-dream of Aristophanes became a sober certainty.
The war was not an era of sweetness and light. Perhaps sugar was the article most missed. Maple sugar was of too limited production to meet the popular need. Sorghum was a horror then, is a horror to remember now. It set our teeth on edge and clawed off the coats of our stomachs. In the army sugar was doled out by pinches, and from the tables of most citizens it was banished altogether. There were those who solaced themselves with rye coffee and sorghum molasses regardless of ergot and acid, but nobler souls would not be untrue to their gastronomic ideal. Necessity is one thing, mock luxury another. If there had been honey enough, we should have been on the antique basis; for honey was the sugar of antiquity, and all our cry for sugar was but an echo of the cry for honey in the Peloponnesian war. Honey was then, as it is now, one of the chief products of Attica. It is not likely that the Peloponnesians took the trouble to burn over the beds of thyme that gave Attic honey its peculiar flavor, but the Peloponnesians would not have been soldiers if they had not robbed every beehive on the march; and, sad to relate, the Athenians must have been forced to import honey. When Dicæopolis makes the separate peace mentioned above, he gets up a feast of good things, and there is a certain unction in the tone with which he orders the basting of sausage-meat with honey, as one should say mutton and currant jelly. In The Peace, when War appears and proceeds to make a salad, he says, —
Whereupon Trygæus cries out, —
Be sparing of the Attic. That costs sixpence.”
Attic honey has the ring of New Orleans molasses ; “ those molasses,” as the article was often called, with an admiring plural of majesty.
But a Confederate student, like the rest of his tribe, could more readily renounce sweetness than light, and light soon became a serious matter. The American demands a flood of light, and wonders at the English don who pursues his investigations by the glimmer of two candles. It was hard to go back to primitive tallow dips. Lard might have served, but it was too precious to be used in lamps. The new devices were dismal, such as the vile stuff called terebene, which smoked and smelt more than it illuminated, such as the wax tapers which were coiled round bottles that had seen better days. Many preferred the old way, and read by flickering pine-knots, which cost many an old reader his eyes.
Now, tallow dips, lard, wax tapers, terebene, pine-knots, were all represented in the Peloponnesian war by oil. Oil, one of the great staples of Attica, became scarcer as the war went on. “ A bibulous wick ” was a sinner against domestic economy; to trim a lamp and hasten combustion was little short of a crime. Management in the use of oil — otherwise considered the height of niggardliness — was the rule, and could be all the more readily understood by the Confederate student when he reflected that oil was the great lubricant as well; that it was the Attic butter, and to a considerable extent the Attic soap. Under the Confederacy batter mounted to the financial milky way, not to be scaled of ordinary men, and soap was also a problem. Modern chemists have denied the existence of true soap in antiquity. The soap-suds that got into the eyes of the Athenian hoy on the occasion of his Saturday-night scrubbing were not real soap-suds, but a kind of lye used for desperate cases. The oil-flask was the Athenian’s soap-box. No wonder, then, that oil was exceeding precious in the Peloponnesian war, and no wonder that all these little details of daily hardship come back even now to the old student when he reopens his Aristophanes. No wonder that the ever present Peloponnesian war will not suffer him to forget those four years in which the sea of trouble rose higher and higher.
Basil L. Gildersleeve.