Can there be a Christian Soldier?—General Howard's Birth—His Military Education—His Life Before the Rebellion—Resigns in Order to get into the Field—Made Brigadier for Good Conduct at Bull Run—Commands the Eleventh Corps and Joins the Army at Chattanooga—His Services in the Army of the Potomac—Extreme Calmness on the Field of Battle—Services with Sherman—Sherman's high Opinion of him—Col. Bowman's Admiration of Howard's Christian Observances—Patriotic Services while Invalided at Home—Reproves the Swearing Teamster—Placed over the Freedmen's Bureau—The Central Historic Fact of the War—The Rise of Societies to Help the Freedmen—The Work of the Freedmen's Bureau—Disadvantages Encountered by it, and by General Howard—Results of the Bureau thus far—Col. Bowman's Description of Gen. Howard's Duties—Gen. Sherman's Letter to Gen. Howard on Assuming the Post—Estimate of Gen. Howard's Abilities.

The spirit of Christ is all love; it seeks only to enhance the highest good of existence, and to give to every being its utmost of happiness. The spirit of war is all wrath. It seeks to destroy by violence, and as fast as possible, whatever and whoever may oppose it. These two principles would seem so diametrically opposed to each other, that no man could be at once a Christian and a soldier, any more than he could ride at once on two horses going in opposite directions, or turn his back on himself, and at once go forward and backward. Indeed, the cases where the two professions have been united are rare, and may probably depend upon some uncommon conjunction of gifts. But there certainly have been such. Colonel Gardiner was one. General Havelock was another; and General Howard, who has been surnamed the Havelock of America, is another.

Oliver Otis Howard was born in Leeds, Maine, Nov. 8th, 1830. His father was a thrifty and independent farmer. The boy lived at home until he was ten, when his father dying, an uncle, Hon. John Otis, of Hallowell, took charge of him. He now attended school, went through Bowdoin College, and then entered the West Point Academy, graduating there in 1854, fourth in general standing of his class. Beginning, as usual, as brevet second lieutenant, he was assigned to the ordnance department; and in 1856 was chief ordnance officer in Florida, during a campaign against the Indians there. He worked steadily on in his profession, and at the beginning of the war was assistant professor of mathematics at West Point, and being desirous to accept the command of a volunteer regiment from his own State, asked leave from the War Department to do so, and was refused. On this he resigned his commission, and the Governor of Maine, in the end of May, 1861, appointed him colonel of the Third Maine Volunteers, which was the first three years' regiment from that State.

At Bull Run, he commanded a brigade, being senior colonel on the field, and for good conduct there, was in the following September commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers. In December he was placed in General Sumner's command; and he remained in the Army of the Potomac until the latter part of September, 1863, when, having risen to the command of the Eleventh Army Corps, that and Slocum's corps, both under Hooker, were sent to reinforce the army at Chattanooga.

During this time General Howard was present in all the chief battles of the Army of the Potomac. At Fair Oaks, on the Peninsula, he was twice wounded in the right arm, and had to have his arm amputated; but he got back in season for the next battle—that of the second Bull Run. At Antietam, at Fredericksburg, at Chancellorsville, he was present and fought his command to the uttermost. At Gettysburg, Howard's troops held the key of the position, the cemetery; and a soldier who was in the field with him in that tremendous fight, in speaking of his extreme calmness and coolness under fire, said, "General Howard stood there as if nothing at all was the matter. He never takes stimulants, either. Most of the officers do, but he never does. He was so calm because he was a Christian." Colonel Bowman, in speaking of this same trait in General Howard, testifies to the same point; observing that he is "careless of exposing his person in battle, to an extent that would be attributable to rashness or fatalism if it were not known to spring from religion."

During his campaigns with Sherman he was a most trustworthy and serviceable commander; singularly cool and fearless in battle, and most prompt and thorough in the performance of whatever duty was imposed upon him. After accompanying Sherman in his march for the relief of Burnside, General Howard served in the Atlanta campaign in command of the Fourth Army Corps; after the death of General McPherson, he succeeded him in the important command of the Army of the Tennessee; and in Sherman's Great March, he was placed in command of the right wing, one of the two into which Sherman's force was divided, and in this position served until the end of the war.

General Sherman quickly liked his trusty and helpful subordinate, and has repeatedly paid high compliments to his soldierly and moral excellence. At the end of the Chattanooga campaign, for instance, in reporting to Gen. Grant, he said, "In General Howard throughout I found a polished and Christian gentleman, exhibiting the highest and most chivalrous traits of the soldier." Colonel Bowman speaks of General Howard's practice of Christian observances in the army with a curious sort of admiration which sufficiently shows how uncommon it was, at least among officers of high grade. He says:

"General Howard, it is well known, has been pious and exemplary from his boyhood, was ever faithful and devoted in the discharge of his religious duties, and this even while a student at West Point. He carried his religious principles with him into the army, and was guided and governed by them in all his relations with his officers and men. No matter who was permitted to share his mess or partake of his repast, whether the lowest subaltern of his command or General Sherman himself, no one thought to partake, if General Howard were present, without first the invocation of the Divine blessing, himself usually leading, like the father of a family. General Sherman seems greatly to have admired the Christian character of General Howard, * * * and not only as a Christian but as a soldier, preferring him and promoting him to the command of one of his armies." President Lincoln also valued him very highly, and was his immovable friend.

General Howard's unconditional devotion to duty was very strongly shown in the use he made of his time while disabled from military duty just after the loss of his arm. One of his companions in the service has described how—

"Weak and fainting from hemorrhage and the severe shock his system had sustained, the next day he started for his home in Maine. He remained there only two months, during which time he was not idle. Visiting various localities in his native State, he made patriotic appeals to the people to come forward and sustain the government. Pale, emaciated, and with one sleeve tenantless, he stood up before them, the embodiment of all that is good and true and noble in manhood. He talked to them as only one truly loyal can talk—as one largely endowed with that patriotism which is a heritage of New England blood. Modesty, sincerity, and earnestness characterized his addresses, and his fervent appeals drew hundreds of recruits around the national standard."

Howard's reply to the swearing teamster was a good instance of kind but decided reproof, of just the sort that will do good if any will. The story is this:

"On one occasion, a wagon-master, whose teams were floundering through the bottomless mud of a Georgia swamp, became exasperated at the unavoidable delay, and indulged in such a torrent of profanity as can only be heard in the army or men of his class. General Howard quietly approached, unperceived by the offender, and was an unwilling listener to the blasphemous words. The wagon-master, on turning around, saw his general in close proximity, and made haste to apologize for his profane outburst, by saying, 'Excuse me, General, I did not know you were here.' The General, looking a reprimand, replied, 'I would prefer that you abstain from swearing from a higher and better motive than because of my presence.'"

In May, 1865, General Howard was placed at the head of the Freedmen's Bureau; a position for which he was probably the very best man in the United States, one whose extremely noble and benevolent purpose was wholly in harmony with the loftiest traits of his own character, and whose peculiar difficulties were such as he was exactly the man to encounter, by nature, education and official position.

By imagining one's self to have passed forward in history for a century or two centuries, and to be taking such a backward perspective view of the southern rebellion as such an advance would give, any mind of historic qualities will perceive more clearly than in any other way the falling off and disappearance of the minor circumstances of the great struggle, and the few great features that remain—the central facts, the real meanings of the war. Of all these, that which will remain most important is, the escape from their modern Egypt of the nation of the slaves. Lives and deeds of individual men will grow obscure. The gigantic battles, the terrific novelties, the vast campaigning combinations of the successive chapters of the war will lose their present strong colors. Even the fact that part of the white population of the United States sought in vain to sever their political union with the rest, will lose its present foremost place in the story; for it will have assumed the character of an abortive delusion; a temporary struggle, whose pretended reasons were sophistical and false, whose real ones were kept out of sight as much as possible, and which ended in the speedy re-establishment of the power attacked. But the emancipation of the slaves is an eternal epoch; it marks the point where the race of one vast continent, after centuries of exile into another continent and of the most degrading subjection to another race, is all at once let out into civilization; brought forth from the pens of beasts, to take a place among the sons of men. Yet more; they are admitted to take a place among the sons of God; for American slavery, as if with the devil's own cunning and cruel power, did really not only exclude the slave from becoming a citizen, but it actually excluded him from the power of becoming a Christian. The emancipation of the slaves was even more than the organization of a new nation; for it was the birth into humanity of a new race.

This view of the case is naturally even now not accepted by large numbers of persons. It was a matter of course that still larger numbers should fail to understand it in the day of it. President Lincoln himself apparently felt more hope than expectation upon the subject; and all know how long he delayed, how unendurably slow he seemed to far-sighted lovers of humanity, before he issued his great proclamation. But there are a few men, who possess at once a powerful instinct of benevolence and an intuitive comprehension of the present and the future—qualities which naturally go together, because they are alike pure, lofty, dependent upon peculiarly noble organizations. As soon as the progress of the war rendered any considerable number of freedmen accessible for any permanently useful purpose, societies began at once to be organized in the North to help the freedman towards his rightful standing of an intelligent Christian citizenship. The first of them were organized in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, in consequence of the information given by General Sherman, Commodore Dupont, and the able Treasury Agent, Mr. E. L. Pierce, of the situation of the freedmen on the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina. Several societies or "commissions" were established, all of which—except some ecclesiastical ones—are now operating in conjunction as "The American Freedmen's Union Commission." The "Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands," commonly called the Freedmen's Bureau, was created by an act of Congress passed in March, 1865, and in form received the freedmen into the express protection and care of the Government; and its creation was to a considerable extent if not altogether the result of the efforts of the energetic men who had established the various private commissions. It is possible that the Bureau might have been earlier established, had the right man been found to take charge of it. When General Howard was thought of, at the conclusion of the war, it was felt that he was in every respect most suitable. His lofty views of duty; his habits of orderly obedience and orderly command; the facilities of his high military position for dealing with the body of assistants it was contemplated to secure from the army; and above all, his calm, steady, kindly ways, and his rare characteristic and complete sympathy with the missionary object of securing a real Christian citizenship for the unfortunate colored race, were just the qualities that must have been put together if a man was to have been constructed on purpose for the place.

General Howard has been most earnestly at work in this position ever since, amid great difficulties and obstructions, but with unfailing faith and industry; and although it is easy to see how far more of his great task would have been at this day accomplished had the white people of the South, and the Government itself helped the Bureau earnestly and in good faith, yet very great good has already been done.

Doubtless the freed people have in many things been faulty. It would be strange indeed if a whole race could in the twinkling of an eye, put off the bad habits burned and ingrained into the very texture of their bodies and minds, by a heavy tyranny of two centuries and a half. Generations of freedom must pass before the evils can wholly disappear that generations of slavery have systematically and powerfully cultivated. But already, to a very great degree (to use the words of a recent comprehensive summary of the history of the Bureau,) "labor has been reorganized, justice has been secured, systems of education * * * have been established, the transition period from slavery to liberty has been safely passed, and the freed people have emerged from their state of bondage into that of the liberty of American citizenship."

The operations of the Bureau and of the Commission which works in union with it, as a sort of unofficial counterpart—a draught-horse hitched on outside the thills—have sought four objects for the freedmen, in the following order: 1. To provide for their temporal wants; for if they had no food for to-day, and no clothes nor roofs to shelter them, they would be out of the world before they could learn their letters, earn a dollar, or learn to obey the law; 2. To promote justice; 3. To reorganize labor; 4. To provide education.

In his difficult and laborious position, General Howard has had to act without the help of any public funds, by using temporarily certain species of abandoned property, and by means of details of officers and men from the army, who have done their work in the Bureau as part of their military duty, and without other than their usual pay. The good accomplished has been rather by the use of influence, by forbearance, by the exercise of the minimum of absolute authority. But in spite of the good intentions of Congress, the help of the Government of the United States, which, so far as its action upon the Freedmen's Bureau is concerned, is exclusively the executive, has not in any complete sense been given either to the freedmen themselves, in their toilsome upward road, nor to those who have been striving to aid them in the ascent; but it has rather been felt as a cold, sullen and grudging sufferance, verging even into a pretty distinct manifestation of an enmity like that of the worse class of unfriendly southern whites, and showing more than one token of an intention to destroy the Bureau and leave the freedmen helpless as soon as possible.

General Howard has done all that could be done, against these obstacles. It is easy to see what constant exercise he must need, of the Christian virtues of forbearance, patience, kindness, and the overcoming of evil with good, as well as of the moral qualities of honor and justice, and the soldierly attainments of order, promptitude and industry. With some of these he must meet the angry tricks of white enemies; with some, the pitiful faults—which are misfortunes rather—faults of the freedmen themselves—idleness, falsehood, dishonesty, disorder, incapacity, fickleness; with others still, the inactive resistance of his superiors, and the cumbrous machinery of an organization which the nature of the case prevents from coming into good working shape.

In spite of all obstacles, the Missionary General and his Bureau and the Commission have done much. Up to the first day of 1867, fourteen hundred schools had been established, with sixteen hundred and fifty-eight teachers and over ninety thousand pupils; besides 782 Sabbath Schools with over 70,000 pupils; and the freedmen were then paying towards the support of these schools, out of their own scanty earnings, after the rate of more than eleven thousand dollars a month. Within one year, they had accumulated in their savings bank, $616,802.54. Many of them have bought and possess homesteads of their own. Their universal obedience to law would be remarkable in any community in the world, and under such treatment as they have experienced from their former masters since the war, would have been simply impossible for the body of freemen in the most law-abiding of the Northern States. And above all, they are with one accord most zealous, most diligent and most successful, in laboring to obtain the religious and intellectual culture which alone can fit them for their new position, as self-governing citizens of a free country.

The views of intelligent army officers, of the task which General Howard undertook in accepting this post and of his fitness for it, are not without interest. Col. Bowman thus describes the work:

"He was placed at the head of a species of Poor Law Board, with vague powers to define justice and execute loving kindness between four millions of emancipated slaves and all the rest of mankind. He was to be not exactly a military commander, nor yet a judge of a Court of Chancery; but a sort of combination of the religious missionary and school commissioner, with power to feed and instruct, and this for an empire half as large as Europe. But few officers of the army would have had the moral courage to accept such an appointment, and fewer still were as well fitted to fill it and discharge one-half its complicated and multifarious duties."

When General Howard, on accepting his new post, advised his old commander by letter, General Sherman, in a friendly reply, thus wrote:

"I hardly know whether to congratulate you or not, but of one thing you may rest assured, that you possess my entire confidence, and I cannot imagine that matters that may involve the future of four millions of souls could be put in more charitable and more conscientious hands. So far as man can do, I believe you will, but I fear you have Hercules' task. God has limited the power of man, and though, in the kindness of your heart, you would alleviate all the ills of humanity, it is not in your power; nor is it in your power to fulfill one-tenth part of the expectations of those who framed the bureau for the freedmen, refugees and abandoned estates. It is simply impracticable. Yet you can and will do all the good one man may, and that is all you are called on as a man and a Christian to do; and to that extent count on me as a friend and fellow-soldier for counsel and assistance." General Sherman more than once repeated to others similar testimonies of his faith in General Howard.

General Howard has not the vast intellect and brilliant genius of General Sherman, nor the massive strength and immense tenacious will of General Grant. But he has qualities which are even loftier; namely, those which are the sure basis for such respect and confidence as General Sherman's; which alone have enabled him to accomplish what he has in an enterprise wholly discouraging on any merely human principles. Grant and Sherman, in what they have done, had at their backs a people far more intelligent, resolute and wealthy, than those against whom they warred; but a man like Howard, whose soul opens upward and takes in the unselfish strength and love and faith of Almighty God, can do great things for humanity irrespective of money and majorities.

Wm A Buckingham

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