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United States. Army. Ohio Infantry Regiment, 21st - MS 562: Transcripts
Bowling Green, O, June 9th, 1889
I suppose I am rather tardy on making response to your two postal cards. I have been out of town a part of the time, and very busy the balance, and so it is, I have put off writing until now. I saw the article you referred to in the Commercial, and it occurred to me from a hasty perusal of it that Vance was very uncertain of his grounds when it came to a test. He certainly did not manifest any great disposition to attack you, and seemed to encourage the feeling that no matter what his statements and recollections or information had been, it was after all just as you said it was. And of course that leaves no grounds for controversy, unless it should be that someone else should take up the cudgel, and then there is no knowing when it might end. Glory as I take it, on the battlefield is an uncertain quantity, that almost every fellow would be willing at the time of it, would be perfectly willing that any other fellow might have the privilege of winning, provided that privilege carried with it personal safety and a chance to draw further rations, to the fellow giving up his chances, but once it is won, incidentally, willingly, unwillingly or otherwise, the fellow winning it very much dislikes to see his Laurals licking the brow of some other fellow, and should it chance now that the little talk in the papers should come under the observation of some other fellow, who has all these long years lain the impression that he and his squad performed the service therein claimed the 21st, he will be the first fellow to kick, because he can't afford trust to a fair statement of facts, and the fellows who did the work, and withstood the danger can and therein constitutes a wide difference of condition, so that it may not be well to lay aside, beyond reach and use the implements for "repelling boarders". I have thought considerably upon our conversation in your office, on the subject, and I fully appreciate your disinclination to take up the cudgel for the reg't and I will not deny that it does credit to your self respect. But Col. I think there is that connected with it all that you have not yet taken into account, you will bear in mind that the bulk of the boys were plain country boys, many of them had hardly been out of sight of the smoke of their firesides, they were devoid of any preparation for the radical change from civil to military life, their conceptions of the surroundings, and the duties of a patriotic, intelligent soldier were very limited, they assumed no responsibility, and expected the officers to carry them through, keep them straight, and preserve the honor and efficiency of the command intact, in spite of all their evaisions and derelictions, they expected to gratify all their whims and challenge the officers to keep them straight if they could. And they thought it a right enough course to pursue too, that so long as they were not caught or punished. There was no odium attached to their line of conduct. But with you Col., allow me to say that it was entirely different, to explain more fully what I mean, I must say that in my opinion, you are one of the most conscientiously honest men I ever knew. You fully realized the responsibility and duty as an officer and soldier that rested upon you and you subordinated everything else to the strict performance of that duty. You might and doubtless did has [sic] as strong desire to see home and friends as others, might have had as great reluctance for the dangers of the field, but being enlisted for the war, you could not entertain those sentiments and be loyal to your convictions of duty, life, with you was only valuable secondarially to duty, and friendly sentiments that infringed in the least the performance of duty much be put aside, and there now lays the great difference between you and the men, except in the matter of personal inclination, they were unanimous in feeling that you must think for them, consider their comfort, and all that. Could they have looked into the secret recesses of your heart, and seen things in the same light that you saw them, it would have been very different, I think that though they are more generally coming to regard those things in their true light, and I only wish they could more nearly approach the truth. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to know that every man who served under you, accorded you the full credit that is your due. However, time, that healer of all wrongs is working a cure in this case, and I assure you Col. that no officer of the reg't today stands as high in the estimation of the men, than you do, and that esteem grows with the lapsing years. And ere long they will be willing to accord the full Mede of justice and esteem. They have been slow to do this, but they are surely coming to that point.
Begging you indulgence both for my long delay in writing, and inflicting this long letter upon you, I am
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