« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
SUFFERINGS OF THE FIELD OF BATTLE.
The Work, upon which we now enter, divides itself into THREE parts,
I, The evils and the remedies of War,
III, The consideration of the subject of a Congress of Nations.
In pursuance of this plan, we commence with an examination of some of the evils of war. In respect to this almost inexhaustible topic, we wish to premise to the reader, that we shall attempt to give only a mere glimpse of it. So numerous are the other topics, on which we shall find it proper and important to touch in the course of this work, it will not be in our power, for this reason among others, to delay upon any single one at much length. Indeed if it were otherwise, if we had time enough and space enough, we should probably find on making the experiment, that a full and perfect exhibition of the evils of war is, from their very intensity and the greatness of their number, wholly beyond our power. And yet we cannot but hope, that the statements which will be made, although necessarily brief, will leave such impressions upon the mind of the reader, as will be fav. orable to the great object we have in view, the promotion of universal peace.
In the first place, let us consider for a moment the objects, which are presented to our notice on the field of battle. Let us place ourselves on some conspicuous spot in the neighborhood of the place of contest, where we may not only distinctly see what is going on, but may be at liberty to indulge those reflections, which such a scene and situation are calculated to inspire. The first thing, that arrests our attention, is the sudden discovery of large masses of men rapidly assembling together. And as we perceive, that they bear the same image, and know that they come from the hand of the same Creator, we naturally conclude, on every principle of reason and humanity, that they are assembling for no other than just and amicable purposes. But we soon discover to our great surprise, that their meeting and salutations, so far from being of a consultative and friendly character, is violent and threatening, and takes place with every demonstration of hostility, amid the clash of swords and the bristling of bayonets. But man, even when placed in this lamentable position of crime and cruelty, discovers traits of character, which show, that he was formed for better things; great sagacity, promptness in the moment of peril, activity, courage, indomitable perseverance. These traits of character might be applied for great good; but here they are applied, and too dreadfully applied, in accelerating the work of destruction; to smite down the opposing combatant, to tear open the fountains of life, to roll onward the dreadful wave of war. In a few moments after these vast masses are met together, we hear the clash of swords, the roar of cannon, the noise and the confusion, the shout of victory, the groans of the wounded and the dying ; but nothing, except some shadowy outlines, is seen. After a while the smoke rolls slowly away; and, in the light of the glaring and sickly sun, we behold the whole plain covered with human bo
dies; multitudes of them dead, and others in a state of intense suffering from their wounds. And if we undertake to count them, the enumeration only increases that overwhelming sensation, which the mere glance had tended to inspire. On the field of Austerlitz twenty thousand; on the field of Bautzen twenty five thousand; at Dresden thirty thousand ; at Waterloo forty thousand; at Eylau fifty thousand; at Borodino eighty thousand.
We do not go back to the dreadful scenes of antiquity, to the days of the Alexanders and the Hannibals and the Cæsars, to the battle fields of Cannæ and Phillippi; but look merely at what has taken place in our own days, and as it were under our own eyes; and what renders it still more surprising, amid the light of civilization and under the blaze of the Gospel. As we cast our eyes over the field of battle, covered with such a multitude of dead and wounded persons, we cannot but be filled with astonishment and horror; especially when we remember, that the combatants are all the dependent and favored children of that great Being, who not only made them, but required them to love one another. Certain it is, that the spectator, as he looks upon the field of battle, has emotions of unmingled surprise and consternation ; he feels that a dreadful crime has been committed, the guilt of which rests somewhere; he is stunned and amazed, and hardly knows what character to attach to man, who can permit himself to be engaged in such transactions; and yet it cannot be doubted that the effect of the scene, which is before him, is lessened by its own dimensions, is diminished by its very vastness. The man, who is thinking of the sufferings of forty or fifty thousands, can have no very distinct conceptions of the sufferings of a particular individual in that vast number. If he could take a full and distinct view of the sufferings of each one in that great multitude; if he could see the tears and the
agonies in each particular case; and by some process of intellectual and sentient arithmetic could bring them all into one sum, and place them all before the mind at once, what a vast amount! what unparallelled wretchedness! with what torture would it fill the soul! But this cannot be; the structure of the human mind is such as not to admit of it. And it is for this reason, that we will turn away a moment from the contemplation of the scene in its totality, in its mere general features, for the purpose of seeing it in its parts, its fragments, its particular instances.
There was a certain Captain Cooke in the British army at the battle of New Orleans, who has recently given to the public some interesting incidents, which took place under his own eye in that memorable engagement. And it is incidents, the facts in which individuals are concerned, the insulated details of a battle, and not the whole, assimilated and contemplated in one broad mass, which is to give us the precisely true conception of the miseries, which are endured on such occasions. On the morning of the eighth of January the officer above referred to saw three companies of soldiers, about two hundred and forty in number, advancing on the high road to New Orleans, for the purpose of attacking what was called the crescent battery. Among other persons he baw lieutenant Duncan Campbell, with whom he seems to have been particularly acquainted, and asked him where he was going. The lieutenant replied, that he did not know. Then, said Captain Cooke, “you have got into what I eall a good thing; the far famed American battery is in front at a short range; and on the left this spet is flanked at eight hundred yards by their batteries on the opposite side of the river.” At this piece of information the lieutenant laughed heartily. Captain Cooke advised him to take off his blue pelisse coat, in or
der to be like the rest of the men; but he promptly refused, uttering at the same time some expressions of defiance against the Americans; and having embraced the captain, went onward. He was a young officer of twenty years of age, of a fine personal appearance, and had fought in many bloody encounters in France and Spain. But what was the fate, which war had reserved for one so young, so interesting in appearance, and towards whom undoubtedly the affections of many friends in a distant land were fondly directed ! Near the close of the battle, Lieutenant Duncan Campbell, says the writer, “ was seen to our left running about in circles, first staggering one way, then another, and at length he fell on the sod helplessly upon his face, and again tumbled, and when he was picked up, he was found to be blind from the effects of grape shot, that had torn open his forehead, given him a slight wound in the leg, and had also ripped the scabbard from his side, and knocked the cap from his head. While being borne insensible to the rear, he still clenched the hilt of his sword with a convulsive grasp, the blade thereof being broken off close at the hilt with grape shot, and in a state of delirium and suffering he lived for a few days.” Here is an incident which may be called a common one; he died much as any other soldier on the field of battle may be supposed to die; but this is the cause of the difference in our feelings; we single him out from the rest of the multitude; we do not mingle and confound and lose sight of his suffering in the vague and indefinite idea of suffering in the mass; and while we are too often unmoved, in consequence of our inability to combine a particular and a general view, by the general statement of thousands having suffered, we at once exclaim, when our eye is fixed on a single case like the one before us, what a shocking death is this! What barbarity there is in war! What insanity in men,