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This is a series of memoirs of those graduates and former undergraduates of Harvard University who fell in battle during the recent war, or who died in consequence of services rendered in the contest. Former members of the Professional Schools of the University are not included. There are ninety-five of these memoirs, more than three quarters of which were prepared by Harvard graduates, and more than one quarter by graduates who have themselves served in the army. The work is, therefore, in a very thorough sense, a Harvard Memorial. Every memoir is here first published in its present form ; and every memoir, with one exception, is the most elaborate yet printed upon the subject which it treats. Each was written, so far as practicable, by the person who seemed best adapted to that particular task, through personal intimacy or kinship; and if the results sometimes seem inadequate, they are like those unavoidable failures of a military campaign, which have often cost more labor than its successes.
The work not being a history, but a collection of biographies, historic interest has been kept subordinate to the exhibition of personal character. “The best thing we have from history," said Goethe, “is the enthusiasm which it excites”; and any light here thrown on military movements is only an indirect result, the main object being simply the delineation of the men. It was felt that if they could be truly pictured, and if vague superlatives could be rigidly excluded, then there would be no monotony in the book, since no two of these lives were in
reality alike; and it would contain nothing superfluous, because the humblest of these lives was still given for our country at last.
"If there is any one inference to be fairly drawn from these memoirs, as a whole, it is this: that there is no class of men in this republic from whom the response of patriotism comes more promptly and surely than from its most highly educated class. All those delusions which pass current in Europe, dating back to De Tocqueville, in regard to some supposed torpor or alienation prevailing among cultivated Americans, should be swept away forever by this one book. The lives here narrated undoubtedly represent on the whole those classes, favored in worldly fortune, which would elsewhere form an aristocracy, — with only an admixture, such as all aristocracies now show, of what are called self-made men. It is surprising to notice how large is the proportion of Puritan and Revolutionary descent. Yet these young men threw themselves promptly and heartily into the war ; and that not in recklessness or bravado, — not merely won by the dazzle of a uniform, or allured by the charm of personal power, or controlled even by “that last infirmity,” ambition, - but evidently governed, above all things else, by solid conviction and the absolute law of conscience. To have established incontestably this one point, is worth the costly sacrifice which completed the demonstration.
And if there is another inference that may justly be deduced from these pages, it is this: that our system of
collegiate education must be on the whole healthy and sound, when it sends forth a race of young men who are prepared, at the most sudden summons, to transfer their energies to a new and alien sphere, and to prove the worth of their training in wholly unexpected applications. So readily have the Harvard graduates done this, and with such noble and unquestioned success, that I do not see how any one can read these memoirs without being left with fresh confidence in our institutions, in the American people, and indeed in human nature itself. Either there was a most rare and exceptional combination in the lives which Harvard University gave to the nation, or else — if they fairly represent their race and their time — then the work and the traditions of our fathers are safe in the hands of their descendants. The best monument that we can build to these our heroes, is to show that they have renewed our faith, and made nobler the years that are to come.
THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON.
CONTENTS OF VOL. I.