Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

"I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good".

With these words, Charles Appleton Longfellow notified his father, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, that he was joining the Union army in 1863. The younger Longfellow was wounded in November 1863 during the Mine Run Campaign in Virginia, giving his father great cause to worry about the life of his son. With his own son having shed blood in the war and the conflagration of death and suffering across the nation showing no sign of ending soon, Christmas of 1863 saw Henry Wadsworth Longfellow pen the words to a poem which would eventually become one of the most celebrated Christmas Carols of all time.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the soundThe carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlornThe households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men."