Saturday, August 30, 2014

'I know we’re losing a lot of men. It all seems so useless'

A drawing of my dad done at Fort Riley, Kans., on Dec. 12, 1942.
Since I’ve taken a new job, I’ve posted little on this blog in recent weeks. The one post I did share – “Somewhere in New Guinea” – centered on a poem my father co-authored while serving in the Pacific during World War II. Because readership was high on this post, you can expect more in this vein in coming weeks.

Shortly before my father died in 2007, he gave me many of his wartime letters. Recently I found a dozen or so more letters written by him, my mother and other relatives between 1943 and the early 1950s. All the writers are dead, but I will provide some context for readers. The letters tell an interesting story – heart-wrenching at times – and while the story is personal to me, others may appreciate it, too.

My father, Charlie Pride of Bridgeport, Conn., was a few days short of 25 years old when he joined the army on Jan. 14, 1942. He had planned to enlist since the bombing of Pearl Harbor six weeks earlier. The day he joined happened to be the 21st birthday of his wife, Bernadine, the daughter of Evert and Frieda Nordstrom, who had recently built a large house in Fairfield.

My grandfather, Evert F. Nordstrom (right), sold refrigeration  equipment. 
Dad was a high school dropout who, as the letters disclose, considered himself and his family inferior to the Nordstroms. Evert Nordstrom, known as Nordy, was a successful salesman, an expert in refrigeration, a community leader and a church choir director. He had written a book about refrigeration technology. His wife Frieda was the church organist, a graduate of the New England Conservatory. Their two sons (my uncles) were on the way to careers as college professors, although the war interrupted their journeys.

My dad trained at Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Riley, Kans, qualifying for Officer Candidate School and making lieutenant before he left. He was a good rider and thought of the cavalry in the original sense as soldiers on horseback, but by the time he joined the First Cavalry, it was an armor outfit.

Mom managed to spend some time with him at Fort Riley, but she lived with her parents during the war, as did her Aunt Lenny. She wrote to my dad nearly every day they were apart. He did not keep all her letters, but he kept some.

We begin our look at their story with two letters she wrote to him on Sept. 17-18, 1943, a Friday and a Saturday. At the time he was across the country as a member of Troop F, 104th Salem, Ore.
                                                         Friday Sept. 17, 1943
                                                         3 weeks from today [a reference to her due date]

Dear Charlie –

I can’t be using my good stationery on you so I bought this at the 5&10 – Poor neglected little boy. You don’t care as long as I write, do you? – I don’t know why I shouldn’t use good stationery – you’re better than everybody else – Boy, I won’t be able to touch you.

We had a blackout tonight – It lasted about a half hour – Very exciting – Helmer was here for supper so also got caught here – We had just finished doing the dishes so we can’t complain –

Of course dear little Bernadine ate bananas tonight and has a tummy ache – I thought when you were pregnant your whole system changes and you can do things you never could before. I still can’t eat bananas – I’ll learn tho – not to eat them.

I didn’t know you skipped the night of the alert cause I got a letter today anyway. I didn’t understand half of what you wrote about the alert – It must have been quite an experience tho – something different – It’s too bad some of the boys got hurt – I just read your letter to Dad so now I know what you’re talking about – I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what a “ford” was – He did – Why don’t you tell me these things –

Gee, from the sound of it Capt. and Charlie are hitting it off fine – I hope you continue to do so and also hope he’s nothing like Putt Putt – In personal matters I mean – I know – none of my business –

Why didn’t you let your men drive? You’re going to get yourself in real trouble one of these days and then you won’t act so smart – I have to bawl you out once in a while – I can’t be so sweet to you all of the time –

It’s blowing out right now – I guess it’s pretty cold out – The wind blowing reminds me of Kansas – I’ll still take Kansas even though we didn’t like it there –

Mother bought a dress today and I bought a pair of shoes – Remember the ones Jean had without toes and heels and I said I liked them –

I called Ethel today – She’s fine – Poor Kay, she feels lousy – She’s changed doctors so maybe he can help her – She said he seemed to take a personal interest in her instead of this matter of fact stuff – I sure hope he can help her – She mentioned how Normie had a toy gun and one day tried to balance a penny on the gun and she asked where he saw that and he said – Remember the soldiers at Auntie Ethel’s who did that – Boy, I don’t even remember your doing that. In fact I’ve never seen you do it –

Pappy, can you buy me some bonds this month? It’s the 3rd war loan you know and it’s money saved – Next month I’ll buy one for the baby –

Gee, I’m getting scared – 3 more weeks – I’m getting fidgety – I’m not really scared – I guess just anxious – I feel the same way as I do when I go to the dentist’s office –

Del is in the “Seabees” stationed at Williamsburg, Virginia – I wish he’d given me that negative – now I’ll probably never see it –

The news is pretty good but gee they must be doing some awful fighting and I know we’re losing a lot of men – It all seems so useless –

Good night, pappy – I love you very much – Take care.
Lots of hugs and kisses
Always from me –

                                                                                          September 18, 1943
Hi ya honey child –

They are playing “Put Your Arms around Me” – Mmmm – How about it?

I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m going to write about – I didn’t do anything exciting today – My days are usually so full of excitement – It gives me a lot to write about – Maybe you’re interested that I just washed my hair & took a shower I’ve been trying to do it all day but it was a necessity so I finally drove myself to it around 7:30 –

Mother plays in church tomorrow for communion – Here’s where I lose 10 lbs – It would be funny if I lost the 24½ pounds – Huh – that would be some excitement – I wouldn’t go only I haven’t taken communion for over a year and besides I can help Mother –

I received a gift today from Peggy Ann Calderwood – It is a very cute sweater and bootie set – Martha also enclosed a picture of the baby – I think she’s adorable – I’m sending it to you so that you can see it but don’t forget to send it back to me – I’ll shoot you if you don’t – I mean it – I keep looking at her trying to figure out who she looks like – She’s so darn cute – I like that pout –

Dad had a fire in the fireplace – It’s pretty cold out – He just said we’d have to go to bed pretty soon cause we’re just about out of wood – Gee, they have to pay about $16 a cord here – and we paid $4.50 – Course it wasn’t logs but it would serve the purpose –

[The dog] is down here – He’s been here all day so we finally put him out seeing Helmer was home – Helmer went away and left him so we left him out anyway and I was pressing my dress down the cellar and he just cried and cried to get in so I finally let him in – I couldn’t stand that anymore – He looks so forlorn and lost – Still is about eaten up tho – Poor dog –

I was talking to Jean today and Bob [my dad's older brother; Jean was his wife] was sleeping when I called so it woke him up so I told her to tell him you said you wanted to hear from him – She gave him a big line so he said sure he’d write – That was just to shut us up – The results remain to be seen –

Gee, the time sure seems to be going fast – I’ve been home now 2½ months – It seems like always but also seems like it went awfully fast – These next couple of weeks will be the longest I guess –

I didn’t get any mail today I probably won’t Monday either – I don’t usually but maybe I’ll get today’s letter today –

I sure hope you took care of your income tax – You never mentioned it – No one knows what’s going on out there anyway – but if you didn’t file, the gov’t sure will.

I can’t think of anything else except that it’s getting pretty cold at night and I could use a bed warmer – especially when I get up about 69 times and the bed is cold each time – I’d probably get pushed away anyway – seeing you’re not crazy about me when I’m cold –

Good night honey child
Again you’re finishing supper
and I’m going to bed – Do
you still have retreat? What
time do you eat now?
Lots of hugs and kisses
always from –

I feel swell

Next: Childbirth, 1943-style

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Somewhere in New Guinea"

Dad's grandson Misha loved to hear about World War II. Here they are together in 1992. 
The letter is dated military-style, 20 July 1944. My father, Lt. Charles M. Pride, has just arrived in New Guinea to fight the Japanese. He has left behind my mother, Bernadine, and their 10-month-old daughter, Elizabeth Jeanette, already known as Bonnie.

Dad is writing to his in-laws in Connecticut, Evert and Frieda Nordstrom, to thank them for taking care of Mom and Bonnie. That his girls are in “such loving and capable hands [takes] a load off my mind, and makes things easier for me.”

He writes that he and the other officers, while censoring mail, have composed “a little poem which describes this place.” It is called “Somewhere in New Guinea,” although Dad says he wanted to call it “A G.I.’s Lament.”

Here it is:

Somewhere in New Guinea,
Where the sun us like a curse,
And each day is followed
By another, slightly worse,
Where the black dust is thicker
Than the dirty shifting sand,
And the white man dreams
Of a greener fairer land.

Somewhere in New Guinea,
Where the mail is always late,
Where a Christmas card in April
Is considered up to date,
Where we never have a payday
And some never have a cent,
But we never miss the money
’Cause we’d never get it spent.

Somewhere in New Guinea,
Where the nights are made for love,
Where the moon is like a searchlight
To the Southern Cross above,
Which sparkles like a necklace
All through the tropic night,
’Tis a shameful waste of beauty
’Cause there’s not a girl in sight.

Somewhere in New Guinea,
Where the women are never seen,
Where the sky is ever cloudy
And the grass is ever green,
Where the natives do night howling
And rob a man of precious sleep,
Where there isn’t any whiskey,
And beer, sometime next week.

Somewhere in New Guinea,
Where the snakes and lizards play,
Where 100,000 mosquitoes
Replace the one you slay,
Oh, take me back to Bridgeport,
Let me hear that old church bell
For this god-forsaken outpost
Is a substitute for hell.

Dad went on to write: “I am on my way to join one of the best outfits in these parts, so that compensates for things a little.”

His p.s. reads: “I think you have the sweetest daughter in the world and I’m madly in love with her.”

Mom (Bern) and Bonnie, Christmas 1944. Dad remained in the Pacific till shortly after V-J Day. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Popular posts

Thanks for continuing to read this blog during a stretch when I am too busy to post. If you are a pack-rat like me moving out of a house you’ve lived in for 36-plus years, you’ll understand my problem. How long the hiatus will last, I can’t say. I continue to find fodder for posts on the Civil War and other topics but just don’t have the time to write and illustrate them.

Here are the top 25 posts, which now range in hits from 1,056 to 217. Numbers in parentheses are last month’s rankings.

8. A Gettysburg journal (part 3) (8)

22. My friend Chester (returns to list)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dear diary

Many Civil War historians begin their journeys the way I did, thinking that getting their hands on soldiers’ diaries is the key to learning what the war was really like. With few exceptions in my experience, this proves to be a false notion. Most Civil War diarists wrote sparsely and sporadically. Some, especially those who had grown up on farms, simply recorded the weather. Others made regular entries consisting of observations like “On guard duty” or “Drill and dress parade.”

Rev. Elias Nason
The real grist of human history about the Civil War is to be found in soldiers’ letters home. These tend to be candid, personal and expansive. Before Grant’s Overland Campaign in the spring of 1864, Union soldiers often rested after battle. They wanted their relatives and friends at home to know precisely what they had gone through, and their letters often show this in detail.

There are exceptions – diaries written during the war that add real flavor to the daily life of military service or record the thoughts. reflections and impressions of their keepers. For this blog I have condensed two such diaries into multi-part series that are among the most frequently read posts on In case you’ve missed them, here are brief introductions to them with links.

The first is a home-front diary, written by the Rev. Elias Nason of Exeter, a highly political southern New Hampshire private-school town of 3,000 at the time of the war.  This diary is interesting in its own right, but it has anothe distinction: It was published during the war. Nason, who turned 50 years old in 1861, had each year’s work bound and issued shortly after he finished it. The first volume was titled Brief Record of Events on Exeter, N.H., during the Year 1861 Together with the Names of the Soldiers of this Town in the War.

Nason introduced the diary by writing that the year would always be remembered for the “most stupendous and wickedest rebellion the world has ever known; and as every correct history of the country must devise its sources in a measure from the current events of the individual towns which make up its sovereignty," he offered “this little brochure” – his first volume – “as a New Year’s Offering to our patriotic and worthy citizens.”

Here are links to the posts from Nason’s diary: 1861, 1862 and 1863.


The diary of Capt. Robert Emory Park of the 12th Alabama Infantry is different from Nason’s but equally rich. What I have condensed in three parts is the portion of the diary covering Park’s time in captivity after his capture at the third battle of Winchester on Sept. 19, 1864. I added a fourth post giving his account of the 1863 invasion of Pennsylvania and the battle of of Gettysburg.

Only 17 when the war broke out, Park remained a Confederate diehard till the war’s end. In his diary he was candid and expansive about his views of slavery, the American flag, the nation’s history, the 1864 election, Sherman’s March, the taking of Richmond, Lee’s surrender, the Lincoln assassination and the capture of Jefferson Davis. He also records his uneasiness at having to take the oath of allegiance to the United States required of prisoners for a ticket home.

The three posts on Park’s diary are here, here and here. His Gettysburg experience is chronicled here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A swerve, and a new adventure

My life has taken another swerve, which accounts for the slowdown in posting on this blog. Earlier this month I was hired as administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes with a Sept. 1 start date.

Given the responsibilities of this job, chances I can continue blogging about the Civil War seem slight. But I hope you’ll bear with me a bit longer and maybe check out some of the posts you've missed during the last 20 months. There are now more than 250 posts in all.

Perhaps a new blog will emerge with the new job, or maybe I will find a way to keep delving into Civil War subjects.

Meanwhile, here are the top 10 posts in hit count from the last two months – and below the top 25 all-time.

              To Richmond at last (part one)

Readership has continued at a good clip, for which I thank you. The top 25 posts now range in hits from 1,030 to 208. One post – Why couldn’t Franklin Pierce keep his mouth shut? – zoomed up in the rankings during the last month, moving all the way to fourth place.

              History’s touch (20)

23 (tie). A Gettysburg photo album (new to list)

           A Gettysburg Journal, part 4 (23t)

           Together again: They rode with Cross at Gettysburg (new to list)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The story behind M*A*S*H

On a cold, crisp winter’s day nine years ago, Eric Moskowitz and I went to a nursing home in Bennington, Vt., to meet W.C. Heinz, the writer. We both admired Heinz’s boxing writing and World War II reporting. We hoped to pick up some tips at the feet of a master.

Moskowitz, now an ace reporter for the Boston Globe, recorded the interview and transcribed it. We were both disappointed that Heinz had dementia and often lost his way answering questions, but I am glad Eric preserved what he did say that day. One of his best stories was about the writing of M*A*S*H, a minor work in a life of gems but the one that made Heinz rich.

The Nevada after being hit at Pearl Harbor.
I pulled the transcript out recently because of the hubbub surrounding the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Heinz was off Normandy that day on the Nevada, which had been repaired after nearly sinking at Pearl Harbor.
He told us how World War II correspondents sent their stories home from ships or from the field. At sea, they placed stories in synthetic waterproof bags with lead weights in them. When a courier came alongside, they tossed the bags in the water, where the courier fetched them with a hook. Should the bags escape the hook, one purpose of the weights was to sink the newspaper copy, keeping it from the enemy. Heinz did not recall losing a story using this method.

Transmitting from a moving army on land had no such perils, other than the obvious one that the best correspondents were those who worked nearest the front. “Eisenhower had a great idea,” Heinz said. “They moved the transmitter right up with the press – one in every army.” The military used encryption to transmit the stories so that the Germans could neither interrupt nor intercept them.

Heinz dedicated his first book to George Hicks, a well-known radio broadcaster who was on the USS Ancon, the communications command ship during the landings on Omaha Beach. On that day Hicks’s “report went out first and was heard all over the world,” Heinz said. After the two of them became buddies, Hicks told Heinz, “Your stuff is so good, you know, you’ll be a very successful writer.”

Time proved Hicks right. The proof is in two anthologies: What A Time It Was: The Best of W.C. Heinz on Sports and When We Were Young, Heinz’s best stories from World War II.

Yet even Hicks could never have predicted the source of his friend Willie’s greatest success. Heinz wrote two books about doctors and ghosted an autobiography of Vince Lombardi, the Green Bay Packers’ football coach. He found Lombardi obtuse. When Moskowitz asked him what Lombardi was like, Heinz said: “Lombardi was easy to work with for one day. After the first day, he said, ‘How long is this going to take?’ ”

The book, Run to Daylight, sold well, but Heinz was still working up to his breakthrough.
J. Maxwell Chamberlain, a cardiac surgeon, had helped him write his first novel, The Surgeon, Chamberlain introduced him to Richard  Hornberger, a doctor from Maine who had written a novel about his experiences at army field hospitals in Korea.

Heinz with his typewriter.
Heinz showed the manuscript to his wife Betty, who was from Montpelier and had a strong sense of propriety. When she laughed at certain passages, Heinz decided to take on the project. He wrote Hornberger, and soon they were working together.

Heinz described Hornberger as  a “shy man.  . . . He said, ‘I want to get this goddamn book published.’ ” He told Heinz he didn’t care about the money – Heinz could have it all. Heinz wouldn’t hear of it and offered Hornberger the better portion of a 60-40 split.

Heinz drafted three chapters and showed them to an editor at William E. Morrow, who offered an advance of less than $5,000 – “not very much but you take it,” Heinz said.  It took about a year to finish the manuscript. The two men worked under the joint pseudonym Robert Hooker. Hornberger’s “characters were all what I call ‘stick people’ – you know, they had no dimensions to them. He wanted to be a writer, but he wasn’t, really.” Heinz turned the characters into “living human beings.” He also did what he could to provide Hornberger’s episodic story with structure.

M*A*S*H came out in 1968. The film appeared in 1970, its screenplay written by Ring Lardner Jr., and won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.The television series ran from 1972 to 1983.

M*A*S*H: Bill Heinz's goldmine
For Heinz the popularity of book, film and TV show meant royalties, royalties, royalties. “The money started to grow very rapidly,” he said. He described the weekly checks as “ridiculous . . . enormous . . . It was a hell of a lot.”

Heinz’s career as a sports writer had ended by then. He was in Miami in 1964 to cover Cassius Clay’s challenge of Sonny Liston for his heavyweight boxing title. When he heard after the fight that a serious infection had hospitalized his daughter Barbara, he rushed to her side. But the infection killed her at age 16.

Bill and Betty Heinz moved to Dorset, Vt., with their younger daughter, Gayl. In time the Heinzes used the M*A*S*H windfall to establish the Heinz Family Trust to support the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. It is now known as the Barbara Bailey Heinz and Gayl Bailey Heinz Fund.

I asked Heinz, who died in 2008 at the age of 93, whether he didn’t find it ironic that after all the stirring reporting and writing he had done from battlefields and sporting arenas , it was a rewrite job that had made him rich.

“I suppose so, but it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “Heh heh heh. Oh no, I don’t want to go around saying, ‘Hey, I wrote this or that.’ But I do get trapped all the time into the M*A*S*H thing.” Whenever he gave a talk about his career, people asked, “Where did M*A*S*H come from?”

Friday, June 27, 2014

Occupying Richmond (part three)

This drawing from the April 22, 1865, cover of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper is fanciful. Capt. George A. Bruce
of the 13th New Hampshire Volunteers requisitioned the carriage Lincoln rode in. In his account, excerpted here,
he wrote that it was not an open barouche and that the streets were empty when Lincoln rode through Richmond.   
Capt. George A. Bruce of the 13th New Hampshire rode across the bridge from Rockett’s Landing into Richmond proper beside his division commander, Brig. Gen. Charles Devens. “The feeling of gratitude in the breasts of the freedmen” overwhelmed them. Former slaves gave them “such a welcome as king or conqueror never knew.” Devens’s eyes filled with tears and his voice quavered as he said to Bruce: “This is a great sight for us to behold – the deliverance of a race.”

Postwar photo of George A. Bruce
When the column reached Main Street, all bands were called to the front, and the men paraded to “Yankee Doodle” and “Rally round the Flag.” The refrain “Down with the traitor and up with the stars” stirred every Union heart. Heading toward Capitol Square they marched to “Battle Cry of Freedom.”

On Capitol Street, Devens’s brigade moved back to the front and stacked arms. “Sweeter music never reached the human ear than the rattling of those Union muskets on the pavements of Richmond as they dropped upon the ground,” Bruce wrote.

For all the thrill of triumph, the troops had marched right into a calamity. Residents fled their burning homes and carried whatever they could to the square. Black and white men, women and children of all ages crowded together with their sofas, carpets and beds, their toys and mirrors, pots and pans strewn around them. The sick lay on makeshift beds.

The fire seemed to strengthen the wind, and on the wind rode cinders from one rooftop to the next. It was “blowing like a hurricane,” Bruce wrote. The heat and smoke made it hard to breathe. Above the fury on the Capitol lawn stood George Washington on horseback. The city had dedicated the majestic sculpture by Thomas Crawford three years before Virginia seceded from the Union. As Bruce watched, firebrands – burning chunks of wood – thumped against it.

Anarchy ruled the city. No one organized an effort to put out the fire. Mobs fought for food wherever they could find it. Shoulder to shoulder with white people, freed slaves joined in, eager to test their liberty. Their doors flung open, convicts walked out of jail and prison. Looters first raided the standing buildings nearest the fire and moved away as the flames approached.

Brig. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel, commander of Bruce’s division, set up inside the Capitol. Brig. Gen. George F. Shepley, who had been the first colonel of the 12th Maine Volunteers, was appointed military governor. Devens took command of the troops in the city.

Edward H. Ripley (1862 photo)
But the man given the task of restoring order in Richmond was a 25-year-old brevet brigadier general from Vermont named Edward H. Ripley. “No one better fitted for such an important and delicate task could have been found,” wrote Bruce. He described Ripley as “a scholar, a gentleman in the true sense of the word, and a soldier of much experience and proved courage. Tall, possessed of a fine figure and an open and attractive countenance, with an eye that beamed with kindness and inspired confidence, he possessed a maturity of judgment beyond his years.”

The Union men worked as a team. Soldiers gathered all the fire engines they could find and fought the fire. They organized a police force and posted sentinels on every street. By noon, printers from the ranks were producing circulars announcing the temporary rules to meet the crisis. Only soldiers needed to protect the public and property were allowed inside city limits.

By nightfall the fires were dying out. Because the streetlights were not lit, the stars shone bright. Capt. Bruce walked alone for hours through the streets “of that proud but conquered capital, past the luxurious abodes of wealth then knowing the first pangs of hunger, past doors where had proudly entered, and as proudly departed, great military heroes, the tread of whose armies had made the continent to tremble and filled the world with their fame, past homes but yesterday tenanted by the rulers of an empire, now fleeing to escape the threatened punishment of their acts.” He walked “through narrow lanes and filthy alleys where dwelt the sons of toil upon whose humble roofs the calamities of the war had fallen with a double stroke, consigning fathers and sons, with all the savagery of an unpitying fate, to their untimely graves.”

The next day, April 4, at about 3 p.m., Bruce was resting on the steps of the governor’s mansion. The wife and daughter of Gov. William “Extra Billy” Smith were upstairs with a female friend who had been trapped in Richmond by the advance of the Union army. Shouting in the streets drew nearer and nearer. Smith’s daughter came to the window and asked Bruce what was going on. He went to find out.

On the other side of the house he saw President Lincoln in the road with his son Tad, sailors guarding them on all sides. “The uproar was caused by thousands of freedmen who thronged about and followed their emancipator,” wrote Bruce.

When he told Miss Smith what he had seen, she disappeared from the window without a word. A note from Devens at Jefferson Davis’s house asked him to bring a carriage and come meet Lincoln, who was holding an informal reception. Afterward Lincoln, Tad, Devens and Admiral David Porter entered the carriage and rode off with 25 officers galloping along. The streets were empty in town, but a quarter mile out carriages and hacks had gathered to see the casket of Confederate Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill placed in a hearse. Hill had been killed at Petersburg.

The Crawford statue of George Washington. in Richmond's Capitol Square 
Lincoln’s carriage also stopped in Capitol Square to see Crawford’s statue. The sculptor has Washington facing west and pointing a baton in that direction. Lincoln gazed at the statue and said, “Washington is looking at me and pointing to Jeff Davis.” On the way to Porter’s ship he stopped again to look upon the ruins of Richmond.

From Bruce’s perspective, Richmond changed utterly the moment it ceased to be the capital of the Confederacy. Men in rebel uniforms no longer walked the streets. Union soldiers jailed the 2,000 soldiers who did not retreat with their army in Libby Prison and Castle Thunder. Visitors “poured into Richmond to see something of war now that it was ended.” Bruce calculated there were enough members of the U.S. Congress to hold a session in the former Confederate capitol.

Vice President Andrew Johnson: big talk, no action
Bruce was assigned to record the proceedings of criminal trials. A commission was trying a man for murder in the Senate chamber one day when Vice President Andrew Johnson and former senator Preston King of New York walked in. The court recessed to greet them.

Johnson sat beside Bruce and began to rail against the men who had started the rebellion. What he most feared, he said, was the tender heart of President Lincoln. “If I was president, I would order Davis, Lee, Longstreet and all the most prominent leaders before a military commission, and, when convicted of treason, they should be hung,” he said, pounding the desk with his fist.  

“Nine days later he was president of the United States,” Bruce observed, “and not one of them was even tried.”

News of Lee’s surrender reached Richmond on April 10. Bruce applauded the restraint of northern leaders – Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Sen. Charles Sumner, Lincoln – in limiting the celebration, lest they offend former Confederates, now fellow citizens again. “The spirit of Lincoln, ‘With malice towards none, with charity for all,’ has gradually won over all feelings of enmity and distrust, and become national,” Bruce wrote.

Two months passed before the day Bruce had been longing for. “Never can I forget that pleasant morning in June when, in obedience to orders from the War Department, in company with three New Hampshire regiments, I embarked on board a steamer at Richmond for our homeward-bound voyage to Boston. . . . We sailed down Virginia’s imperial river to the ocean, and saw for the last time her blue hills fade away in the distance. I began to experience that strange sensation of awe and uncertainty that comes over one as he stands on that mysterious borderland between one sharply contrasted mode of life and another.”