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Hullabaloo


Saturday, December 31, 2011

 
"A sample of the hopes, fears and reflections on that last night of American history’s most momentous year"

by digby

Here's a nice piece from the New York Times, recalling where the nation was exactly 150 years ago today:

Camp Wood, near Munfordville, Ky., Dec. 31, 1861

Near a half-ruined railroad bridge along the Green River, a fresh Union Army recruit stood on lonely sentry duty as the year 1861 passed into history. Pvt. Lyman Widney, a 19-year-old farmer’s son, wrote in his diary:

December 31, 1861.

Being detailed on guard duty today, it was my lot to stand solitary and alone at my post when the old year died. Watching its dying hours from ten to twelve, my mind reverted to the watch meetings of previous years. All was so quiet in the camp before me and in the deep shadows of the towering hills behind me that life and animation seemed to be ebbing away with the old year, leaving me alone with my gun to guard the camp of the dead; and as the lengthened moments of the eleventh hour gave place to the twelfth and last, I was almost tempted to commit a breach of discipline and discharge my musket to warn my comrades that the old year was about to slip away unobserved and a new year of untried, undiscoverable dangers, victories and peace, or defeats and death, was spreading its wings of light or darkness, who could tell, to envelop us all.


The young soldier’s reverie was interrupted at midnight by distant cheers and a burst of music from the regimental band. The year ahead was indeed to bring undiscoverable dangers for his comrades in the 34th Illinois Infantry, many of whom would lie dead or injured on the field at Shiloh before the leaves of springtime had fully bloomed.

On that first New Year’s Eve of the Civil War, Private Widney was not alone in pondering what the past 12 months had meant and wondering what the next 12 might bring. Neither he nor most other Americans could have guessed that the final moments of 1862 would see thousands of African-Americans standing vigil in churches and meeting halls, awaiting midnight and a new birth of freedom.

For now, emancipation still lay in the unseen future. But herewith is a sample of the hopes, fears and reflections on that last night of American history’s most momentous year, as expressed in newspaper editorials both Northern and Southern.


Read on for those. (And ponder the eloquence of this 19 year old farmer's son of 150 years ago.)


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