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It is hardly possible that too many books should be written in illustration of the objects and spirit of the present war. Among them all, may there not be room also for one like this?
The object has been simply to gather up some fragments of this great history that otherwise might be lost. Most persons will agree that the incidents recorded in these pages are worth preserving; and yet from their nature, as not falling distinctly within the province of biography or history, and from their being scattered in so many different quarters, they are liable, after having been read at the moment, to pass out of sight and be forgotten.
I have put these materials together in this manner because I thought it might be a grateful service to the friends of our brave soldiers, as well as an act of justice to the soldiers themselves, and because I felt a
hearty interest in the work. Facts like those here spread before us are adapted to give us our strongest impression of the intelligence, the earnestness, the Christian principle and heroism of so large a class of men, who have come forward to support the Government in this great emergency, and to give us also our strongest conviction that a cause which such men support cannot and will not fail. The least we can do for those who thus lay themselves on the altar of sacrifice for us is, to show ourselves grateful to them, and to cherish the memory of what they have done and suffered. History, in due time, will render to many of them its fitting tribute of commemoration; but not to all. Such imperfect memorials as these form the only record that will ever be made of names not a few, and of deeds of suffering and valor never surpassed, which we and those after us should not "willingly let die."
Nothing has been inserted here that I have not reason to suppose to be strictly true. It will be seen that the names of persons, the names of places and dates, have been freely given; and when they are not given, it will be seen that the statements themselves bear with them the marks of their truthfulness. The interest of the facts lies in their sober reality. Ac-counts that might be thought by some very interest
ing, and entitled to a place here, have been excluded, if they were drawn up in such a manner as to seem to be written for effect.
I have endeavored to give to the selections as much variety as the scope of the book allowed. The events related take place under circumstances more or less different, and serve in each instance to illustrate, to some extent, a new class of ideas or a new phase of character. This fact will account for the absence of some narratives which the reader may have seen elsewhere and may be disappointed not to find here. It was impossible, of course, where the noteworthy incidents are so many, to insert them all; and it was unnecessary to mention those which are so similar to others that to insert them would be to repeat very nearly the same things.
The author's task has been chiefly that of selection and arrangement, but not without some additional labor. I have inserted explanatory remarks here and there, sometimes in the text, and sometimes at the bottom of the page. I have made some of the articles fuller, where the means of information enabled me to do so, and have abridged other articles, as it seemed, in the one case or the other, to agree best with the object of the present publication. It was
necessary to give some uniformity to the style of the book. I have felt at liberty to make occasional changes in the language, such as the writers themselves, with an opportunity for revision, might be supposed to make; yet taking care always never to interfere with the facts, or the spirit and tone of the original articles. With this exception, the articles verbally, as well as in respect of the subject-matter, have been left in the state in which their authors wrote them in the presence of the scenes and events which they describe; and which, in consequence of being thus written, will be found to be distinguished often by touches of pathos and a vigor of expression which no skill of rhetoric could heighten or improve.
NEWTON CENTRE, March 18th, 1864.
H. B. H.