An interesting article on Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “The Soldier’s Faith” speech – his thought process and the reactions it earned. Like all good speeches seems to have been reviewed far less reverently at the time it was given than now.
Holmes had a horrific war experience. He was wounded three times, one bullet lodging in his chest and another passing through his neck and out his throat. He had contracted dysentery, the consequences of which would affect him the rest of his life. He noted in “The Soldier’s Faith” that he had stumbled over dead bodies, encountered corpses piled up on themselves, and experienced the dreadful tedium of waiting, concealed, while enemy shots came closer and closer. “When you are in it,” he remembered, “war is horrible and dull.”
But by 1895 Holmes’ recollections of his wartime experience had been replaced by a different memory, and the collective memory of the Civil War had changed as well.