all night in front of Fredericksburg. We attacked in the afternoon,
just at dusk, and the stone wall was aflame from one end to the
other, too much smoke, couldn’t see, the attack failed, couldn’t
withdraw, lay there all night in the dark, in the cold among the
wounded and dying. Piled-up bodies in front of you to catch the
bullets, using the dead for a shield; remember the sound? Of bullets
in dead bodies? . . .
Remember the flap of a torn curtain in a blasted window, fragment-whispering
in that awful breeze: never, forever, never, forever.
In this passage from July 1,
Chapter 4, Chamberlain remembers the Battle
of Fredericksburg. The passage shows Chamberlain’s impressions of
his early combat. Unlike many others fighting, Chamberlain was a
citizen rather than a career soldier. These early battles and the horror
of piling up the corpses of his comrades to block bullets have made
a strong impression on his mind. But Chamberlain is an intellectual
who teaches in a college, so he remembers the horrors imaginatively,
possibly exaggerating their gravity in his mind. Chamberlain’s struggle
to deal with the horrors of war illustrates the difficulties that
citizens-turned-soldiers had to face when they entered the war.