I can rarely resist a book, especially a book about history. Recently I found an interesting little volume — The Civil War: Voices of Hope, Sacrifice, and Courage, edited by Gordon Leidner. It lists over 220 quotes from soldiers and civilians on both sides, as well as texts and excerpts from some of the war’s most memorable speeches.
Here are some quotes that I thought were especially descriptive, particularly in these divisive political times.
“I appear this evening as a thief and robber. I stole this head, these limbs, this body from my master and ran off with them.” — former slave Frederick Douglass
“If the slaves of the South were mine, I would surrender them all without a struggle to avert the war.” — Confederate General Robert E. Lee
“Secession asserts the principle that the minority have the right to force the majority. There can be no government where such a principle is recognized.” — Southern Judge Garnett Andrews
“South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” — Southern Judge James L. Petigru, upon hearing that South Carolina had seceded
“A law was made by the Confederate States Congress about this time allowing every person who owned twenty Negroes to go home. It gave us the blues; we wanted twenty Negroes. Negro property suddenly became very valuable, and there was raised the howl of ‘rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.’ ” — Confederate soldier Sam Watkins
“General Grant habitually wears an expression as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall and was about to do it.” — Union Colonel Theodore Lyman III
“Grief and anxiety kill nearly as many women as men die on the battlefield.” — Southern diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut
“Lord! What a scramble there’ll be for arms and legs, when we old boys come out of our graves, on Judgment Day: wonder if we shall get our own again? If we do, my leg will have to tramp from Fredericksburg, my arm from here, I suppose, and meet my body, wherever it may be.” — Union sergeant to nurse Louisa May Alcott
“It is well that war is so terrible — we should grow too fond of it.” — Confederate General Robert E. Lee
“My dear father, this is my last letter to you. I’ve been struck by a piece of shell, and my right shoulder is horribly mangled. I know that death is inevitable. I will die far from home, but I have friends here who are kind to me. May we meet again in heaven.” — Confederate soldier J.R. Montgomery
“I want no one punished. Treat them liberally all around. We want those people to return to their allegiance to the Union and submit to the laws.” — President Lincoln, message to General Grant shortly before Lee surrendered
“America has no North, no South, no East, no West. The sun rises over the hills and sets over the mountains, the compass just points up and down, and we can laugh now at the absurd notion of there being a North and a South. We are one and undivided.” — Confederate soldier Sam Watkins