It is sometimes said to me that writing and speaking upon the events of war may have a deleterious influence upon youth. I can conceive of two reasons of such a warning - one, that a soldier by his enthusiasm may, even unconsciously, infuse into his writing and speech the war spirit, and thus incite strong desires in younger minds for similar excitements and deeds; and secondly, a soldier deeply affected as he must have been in our great struggle for national existence, may not take sufficient pains in his accounts of historic incidents to allay any spirit of animosity or dissension what may still exist.
But with regard to the first, I think there is need of a faithful portraiture of what we may call the after-battle, a panorama which shows with fidelity the fields covered with dead men and horses; and the wounded, numerous and helpless, stretched on the ground in masses, each waiting his turn; the rough hospitals with hay and straw for bedding, saturated with blood and wet with the rain; horses torn into fragments; every species of property ruthlessly demolished or destroyed - these, which we cannot well exaggerate, and such as these, cry out against the horrors, the hateful ravages, and the countless because of war. They show plainly to our children that war, with its embodied woes and furies, must be avoided, except as the last appeal for existence, or for the rights which are more valuable than life itself.
When I dwell on the scenes on July 4th and 5th at Gettysburg, the pictures exhibiting Meade's men and Lee's though now shadowy from time, are still full of terrible groupings and revolting lineaments.
There is a lively energy, an emulous activity, an exhilarating buoyancy of spirit in all the preparations for an expected battle, and these feelings are intensified into an increased ardor during the conflict; but it is another thing to see our comrades there upon the ground with their darkened faces and swollen forms; another thing to watch the countenances of friends and companions but lately in the bloom of health, now disfigured, torn, and writhing in death; and not less affecting to a sensitive heart to behold the multitude of strangers prone and weak, pierced with wounds, or showing broken limbs and every sign of suppressed suffering, waiting for hours and hours for a relief which is long coming - the relief of the surgeon's knife or of death.
As to the second reason, any feeling of personal resentment towards the late Confederates I would not counsel or cherish. Our countrymen - large numbers of them - combined and fought us hard for a cause. They failed and we succeeded; so that, in an honest desire for reconcilement, I would be the more careful, even in the use of terms, to convey no hatred or reproach for the past. Such are my real convictions, and certainly the intention in all my efforts is not to anger and separate, but to pacify and unite.