Patriotism – the sustaining factor
Statue of a stoic soldier
Background post: Misery: The 5th Wisconsin’s Journey through York County
The soldier’s life is at times fraught with danger, although field combat is generally only a small percentage of the actual time allocation. Marching, drilling, camp fatigue duty, and other downtime represent a far greater amount of time than the actual fighting. Soldiers away from home often have considerable time on their hands, hours that often are spent brooding or contemplating their situation. For one Wisconsin Civil War soldier, his thoughts turned (as they often do for today’s soldiers) to his widely scattered loved ones.
Alfred Castleman, the regimental surgeon of the 5th Wisconsin Infantry, had only been a soldier for a few months. A few months after his miserable trip through York County, he was stationed in northern Virginia when he became heartsick. He entered into his diary on October 22, 1861.
“Went to Washington to see off a friend who has been spending a few weeks with me, as mess-mate. I felt sadly at the parting, and being lonely to-night, I cannot help thinking of home, of home! Where is it? One child in Connecticut, the other in Wisconsin, my wife in New York, and I in Virginia. This separation–disintegration of my family saddens me, and I wish it were otherwise.”
The idea of duty and honor was foremost in the minds of many Civil War soldiers. It was the single driving factor that kept many of them motivated despite the danger, boredom, and loneliness. Dr. Castleman continued, “But the maintenance of the government demands war, and war demands sacrifices, to which all patriots must yield.”