July 4 — When the first rays of the rising sun gilded the Massanutten I had already commenced my last day’s tramp. About four o’clock this afternoon I stood on top of the Massanutten Mountain, and once more fondly looked with enraptured gaze over the land of my native home, the grand old Valley of the Shenandoah, with its pleasant fields, winding, tree-fringed streams and verdant hills. Man and nature have both been busy in obliterating the ugly scars of war since the last sound of battle has died away.
The broad landscape, dotted with a thousand harvest fields and diversified with fields of growing corn, is fast shaking off the ashes of war and spreading its summer treasures in the golden sunshine, and ere long General Sheridan’s “waste and howling wilderness” will again blossom as the rose. Summer with lavish hand has already spread a verdant robe on the fields and hillsides where charging squadrons devastated nature’s finest handiwork on the ornate and adorning garb and where camp-fires blazing on emerald hearths stained and flecked the living carpet.
If I have written anything that may ruffle the placid temperament of my Northern brethren who stood in the forefront of their country’s ranks and bravely bared their breasts to Southern bullets, I wish them always to remember that the sentiments expressed are but the honest thoughts of a humble private who stood in the ranks and fought for home and native land. There and then these reflections and impressions were woven into a variegated tapestry, while the gloomy war cloud shrouded my native skies and dipped low over the land that gave me birth while now and then the fire of battle flashed fiercely across the forming woof. No, no, I never bowed at the shrine of a Southern fire-eater nor learned at the feet of a political Gamaliel who thought he knew it all; neither did I worship at the footstool of an out-and-out disunionist, nor welcome the last arguments of kings and potentates; nor did I applaud or wink at the expressed sentiments of traitors that boldly proclaimed the Constitution of the United States a “League with Hades.”
I arrived at home this evening, and unslung the very same blanket that I started with to the war, on the 19th of July, 1861. Fifteen days more and I would have been in service just four years, and in all that time I never saw the inside of a hospital.
Now that our common country has been drenched with human blood, may the costly sacrifice so nurture our Liberty-tree that it will bloom brighter and bear sweeter fruit than it ever did before, and may it exhale and diffuse the incense of brotherly love, unity, and harmony, unalloyed by the poisonous breath of sectional hatred, which never fails to breed an arrogant and selfish spirit of I am better and holier than thou.