Physical and moral knowledge

“If a man wants to know what it is to have every bone in his body ache with fatigue, every muscle sore and exhausted, and his whole body ready to sink to the ground, let him diet on a common soldier’s fare till he has only the strength that imparts, and then let him shoulder his knapsack, haversack, gun and equipments, and make one of our forced marches, and I will warrant him to be satisfied that the duties of war are stern and severe, whether we march or face the enemy on the field of battle.  A fellow feels very much like grumbling at such times as that, and when we march on and on, expecting every minute to halt but still hurrying forward, when every spark of energy seems about to be extinguished, and the last remnant of strength gone, tired, hungry, sick and sore, who blames a soldier if he finds it hard work to suppress thoughts of a quiet home he has left behind him, with its comforts and endearments, and if he sometimes turns his thoughts to himself and wonders if he, as an individual, will ever be compensated for the sacrifice he is making.  What if the rebels are whipped, and what if they are not?  How does it matter to him?  One blunder of General Grant’s may make final victory forever impossible and all our lost toil go for nothing.  I tell you some of our hard marches put one’s patriotism severely to the test.  It finds out a fellow’s weak points if he has got any, and we don’t claim to be without them.” – Wilbur Fisk, Hard Marching Every Day (eds. E. and R. Rosenblatt)

2 thoughts on “Physical and moral knowledge”

  1. Sometimes when I wish I were strong as a man, with the rights of a man, the deep voice, the upper hand, the ability to open jars in a single twist, I remember that men have a heavy burden in times of war. And sometimes even in peace.

    1. The burdens of all are heavy. I’m given to understand that even the rich are human, bearing burdens that humans bear, though it’s hard to imagine them suffering the way a poor soldier or coal miner or hungry orphan child or ghetto resident dodging bullets surely does.

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