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The Hidden Children

Chapter 22. Mes Adieux
For my acquaintances in and outside of the army, and for my friends and relatives, this
narrative has been written; and if in these pages I have seemed to present myself, my
thoughts, and behaviour as matters of undue importance, it is not done so purposely or
willingly, but because I knew no better method of making from my daily journal the story
of the times and of the events witnessed by me, and of which I was a small and modest
It is very true that no two people, even when standing shoulder to shoulder, ever see the
same episode in the same manner, or draw similar conclusions concerning any event so
witnessed. Yet, except from hearsay, how is an individual to describe his times except in
the light of personal experience and of the emotions of the moment so derived?
In active events, self looms large, even in the crisis of supreme self-sacrifice. In the
passive part, which even the most active among us play for the greater portion of our
lives, self is merged in the detached and impersonal interest which we take in what passes
before our eyes. Yet must we describe these things only as they are designed and
coloured by our proper eyes, and therefore, with no greater hope of accuracy than to
approximate to the general and composite truth.
Of any intentional injustice to our enemies, their country, and their red allies, I do not
hesitate to acquit myself; yet, because I have related the history of this campaign as seen
through the eyes of a soldier of the United States, so I would not deny that these same
and daily episodes, as seen by a British soldier, might wear forms and colours very
different, and yet be as near to the truth as any observations of my own.
Therefore, without diffidence or hesitation-- because I have explained myself-- and
prejudiced by an unalterable belief in the cause which I have had the honour and
happiness to serve, it is proper that I bring my narrative of these three months to a
With these same three months the days of my youth also ended. No stripling could pass
through those scenes and emerge still immature. The test was too terrible; the tragedy too
profound; the very setting of the tremendous scene-- all its monstrous and gigantic
accessories-- left an impression ineradicable upon the soul. Adolescence matured to
manhood in those days of iron; youthful ignorance became stern experience, sobering
with its enduring leaven the serious years to come.
I remember every separate event after the tragedy of Chenundana, where they found me
dazed with grief and privation, digging with my broken hunting knife a grave for my
dead companions.