Page images
PDF
EPUB

certain old vessels in the port; for such was the dire necessity at last, that they were left for some days without nutriment of any kind! They ate their shoes, they devoured the leather of their pouches, and, scowling darkly at each other, their sinister glances betrayed the horrid fear of their being driven to prey upon one another. Their French guards were at length removed, under the apprehension that they might be made a sacrifice to ravening hunger; and so great did their desperation finally become, that they endeavored to scuttle their floating prisons in order to sink them, preferring to perish thus rather than endure any longer the tortures of famine.

Pestilence, as usual, came in the rear of such calamities; and contagious fevers swept off multitudes whom the strength of the survivors was unable to inter. Death in every form awaited the crowds whom common suffering had blended together in the hospitals; and the multitude of unburied corpses which encumbered the streets, threatened the city with depopulation almost as certainly as the grim hand of famine under which they were melting away. When the evacuation took place, the extent of the suffering which the besieged had undergone, appeared painfully conspicuous. . On entering the town,' says Thiebault, "all the figures we met, bore the appearance of profound grief, or sombre despair ; the streets resounded with the most heart-rending cries; on all sides death was reaping its harvest of victims, and the rival furies of famine and pestilence were multiplying their devastations.

In a word, both the army and the inhabitants seemed fast approaching their dissolution.'

We will give only one specimen more in the closing scenes of the siege of Magdeburg, in 1836. The resistance was long and obstinate ; but at length two gates were forced open by the besiegers, and Tilly, marching a part of his infantry into the town, immediately occupied the principal streets, and with pointed cannon drove the citizens into their dwellings, there to await their destiny. Nor were they held long in suspense; a word from Tilly decided the fate of Magdeburg. Even a more humane general would have attempted in vain to restrain such soldiers ; but Tilly never once made the attempt. The silence of their general left the soldiers masters of the citizens; and they broke without restraint into the houses to gratify every brutal appetite. The prayers of innocence excited some compassion in the hearts of the Germans, but none in the rude breasts of Pappenheim's Walloons. Scarcely had the massacre commenced, when the other gates wete thrown open, and the cavalry, with the fearful hordes of Croats, poured in upon the devoted town.

Now began a scene of massacre and outrage which history has no language, poetry no pencil to portray. Neither the innocence of childhood, nor the helplessness of old age, neither youth nor sex, neither rank nor beauty, could disarm the fury of the conquerors. Wives were dishonored in the very arms of their hus bands, daughters at the feet of their parents, and the defenceless sex exposed to the double loss of virtue and life. No condition, however obscure, or however sacred, could afford protection against the cruelty or rapacity of the enemy. Fifty-three women were found in a single church with their heads cut off! The Croats amused themselves with throwing children into the flames, and Pappenheim's Wailoons with stabbing infants at their mothers' breasts! Some officers of the League, horror-struck at scenes so dreadful, ventured to remind Tilly, that he had it in his power to stop the carnage.

“ Return in an hour," was his answer, “and I will see what is to be done; the soldier must have some recompense for his dangers and toils !”

No orders came from the general to check these horrors, which continued without abatement till the smoke and flames at last stopped the course of the plunderers. To increase the confusion, and break the resistance of the inhabitants, the invaders had, in the commencement of the assault, fired the town in several places; and a tempest now arose, and spread the flames with frightful rapidity, till the blaze became universal, and forced the victors to pause awhile in their work of rapine and carnage. The confusion was deepened by the clouds of smoke, the clash of swords, the heaps of dead bodies strewing the ground, the crash of falling ruins, and the streams of blood which ran along the streets. The atmosphere glowed; and the intolerable heat finally compelled even the murderers to take refuge in their camp. In less than twelve hours, this strong, populous and flourishing city, one of the finest in all Germany, was a heap of ashes, with the exception of only two churches, and a few houses.

Scarcely had the fames abate), when the soldiers returned to satiate anew their rage for plunder amid the ruins and ashes of the town. Multitudes were suffocated by the smoke; but many found rich booty in the cellars where the citizens had concealed their most valuable effects. At length Tilly himself appeared in the town after the streets had been cleared of ashes and corpses. Horrible and revolting to humanity was the scene that presented itself! the few survivors crawling from under the dead; little children wandering about, with heart-rending cries, in quest of their parents now no more; and infants still sucking the dead bodies of their mothers! More than five thousand bodies were thrown into the Elbe just to clear the streets ; a far greater number had been consumed by the flames ; the entire amount of the slaughter was estimated at thirty thousand; and in gratitude to the God of peace for such horrid success in the butchery of his children, for this triumph of Christian over Christian in blood, and fire, and rapine, and brutal Just, a solemn mass was performed, and Te Deum sung amid the discharge of artillery !!

We have no room for any more specimens ; but, if you will just think of the siege of Ismail with its 70,000 victims, of Ostend with its 120,000, of Mexico with its 150,000, of Carthage with its 700,000, of Jerusalem with more than a million, of Troy with nearly two millions, you may form some faint conception of the atrocities and woes with which this single department of warfare has covered the earth.

Such, then, is war-even among nominal Christians in the seven teenth and nineteenth centuries! Nor are these terrible evils merely accidental, undesigned, such as warriors would fain prevent if they could. No; they are the very results at which war aims; over which it exults in wild out-bursts of joy; for which even Christian ministers return solemn thanks to a God of purity and love; in commemoration of which history writes her eulogies, and poetry chants her peans, and sculpture chisels her marble and her granite.

Such is the very nature of war, a tissue of guilt and suffering. Then tell us, lovers of your country, does patriotism want such a compound of cruelty and crime, such an engine of blood, rapine and lust, for the accomplishment of its just and generous purposes? Say, friends of universal man, does humanity prompt or sanction the atrocities and horrors of such a custom ? Speak, disciples of the Prince of Peace, and tell us, does your religion lend its countenance to such a mass of abominations and woes? Can it cherish in its pure and loving bosom, such a reptilc of lust, such a scorpion of revenge, such a blood-leech of the world, a fiend so fierce for carnage and devastation ?

Then rally, one and all, for the extinction of a custom so foul and baleful." Come up to the work in earnest, and vow upon the altar of God and humanity, never to cease from your efforts so long as a single foot-print of the monster remains on the face of the earth. Pray against it; talk against it; preach against it ; write against it; circulate tracts and books against it; give your money to sustain the operations now in progress for its abolition ; hold it

up in all its pollution and blood before the mass of every community ; infuse into your children, your pupils, your congregation, into all within the reach of your influence, a deep, undying abhorrence of it, and thus help to form such a public sentiment as shall ere long banish war, with all its crimes and woes, from Christendom forever. We appeal especially to the gentler sex.

And will not women, cultivated, Christian women, join us, with all their hearts, in such a work of peace and love? Sisters of humanity, you were made to weep for the woes of human-kind; and will you not strive with us to avert from ourselves, as well as from others, evils like those we have so faintly sketched in these pages ? You see what your own sex have suffered from war; and in the name of the wives it has widowed, of the mothers it has made childless, of the daughters it has doomed to orphanage and want, of the sisters it has bereft of brothers beloved, of the plighted ones whose fondest hopes it has crushed in an hour, of all the thousands and millions it has subjected to indignities worse than death itself, we beseech, we conjure you to lend your aid in putting an end forever to this foul and terrible scourge.

AMERICAN PEACE SOCIETY, BOSTON, MASS.

A GLIMPSE OF WAR.

BY WM. E. CHANNING, D. D.*

I HAVE chosen for our consideration the subject of WAR; & subject which has strong and peculiar claims on Christian minis. ters. Their past neglect of it is their reproach; and it is time that this reproach were wiped away, and our influence combined in illustrating and enforcing the slighted and almost forgotten precepts of Christianity on the subject

of war. I wish to awaken in your breasts a firm and holy purpose to toil and suffer in the great work of abolishing this worst vestige of barbarism, this grossest outrage on the principles of Christianity. The day, I trust, is coming, when Christians will look back with gratitude and affection on those men who, in ages of conflict and bloodshed, enlisted under the banner of philanthropy and peace, cherished generous hopes of human improvement, withstood the violence of corrupt opinion, held forth amidst general darkness the pure and mild light of Christianity, and thus ushered in a new and peaceful era in the history of mankind.

In detailing the miseries and crimes of war, there is no temptation to recur to unreal or exaggerated horrors. No strength, no depth of coloring can approach the reality. It is lamentable, that we need a delineation of its calamities to rouse us to exertion. The mere idea of human beings employing every power and faculty in the work of mutual destruction, ought at once to strike a horror into our minds. But on this subject, our sensibilities are dreadfully sluggish and dead. Our ordinary sympathies seem to forsake us, when war is named. The sufferings and deaths of a single fellow being often excite a tender and active compassion; but we hear without emotion of thousands enduring every variety of wo in war. A single murder in peace thrills through our frames ; the countless murders of war are heard as an amusing tale. The execution of a criminal depresses the mind, and philanthropy is laboring to substitute milder punishments for death; but benevolence has hardly made an effort to snatch from sudden and untimely death, the innumerable victims immolated on the altar of war. This insensibility demands, that the miseries and crimes of war should be often placed before us with minuteness, with energy, with strong and indignant emotion.

The miseries of war may be easily conceived from its very nature. By war, we understand the resort of nations to the most dreaded methods of destruction and devastation. In war, the strength, skill, courage, energy, and resources of a whole people are concentrated for the infliction of pain and death. The bowels of the earth are explored, the most active elements combined, the resources of art and nature exhausted, to increase the power of man in destroying his fellow-creatures.

* From his Discourse in 1816 before the Convention of Congregational Ministers in Massachusetts.

P. T. NO. XXXVIII.

Would you learn what destruction man, when thus aided, can spread around him? Look at that extensive region, desolate and overspread with ruins ; its forests rent and leafless, as if blasted by lightning; its villages prostrated, as by an earthquake; its fields harren, as if swept by storms. Not long ago, the sweet influences of heaven descended on no happier or more fruitful region than this. But ravaging armies prowled over it; war frowned on it; and its fruitfulness and happiness are fled. Here were gathered thousands and ten thousands from distant provinces, not to embrace as brethren, but to renounce the tie of brotherhood; and thousands, in the vigor of life, when least prepared for death, were hewn down, and scattered like chaff before the whirlwind.

Repair, in thought, to a field of recent battle. Here are heaps of slain weltering in their own blood, their bodies mangled, their limbs shattered, and in many a form and countenance not a vestige left of their former selves. Here are multitudes trodden under foot, and the war-horse has left the trace of his hoof in many a crushed and mutilated frame. Here are severer sufferers; they live, but live without hope or consolation. Justice despatches the criminal with a single stroke; but the victims of war, falling by casual, undirected blows, often expire in lingering agony, their deep groans appealing in vain to compassion, their limbs writhing with pain on the earth, their lips parched with a burning thirst, their wounds open to the chilling air, the memory of tender rela_tions rushing on their minds, but not an accent of friendship or comfort reaching their ears.

Amid this scene of horrors, you see the bird and beast of prey drinking the blood of the dead, and with a merciful cruelty ending the struggles of the dying; and, still more melancholy! you see human plunderers bereft of all human syinpathy, turning a deaf ear on the wounded, and rifling the warm and almost palpitating remains of the slain.-If you extend your eye beyond the immediate field of battle, and follow the track of the pursuing and victorious army, you see the roads strewed with the dead; you see scattered flocks, and harvests trampled under foot, the smoking ruins of cottages, and the miserable inhabitants flying in want and despair! Ñor even yet are the horrors of a single battle exhausted. Some of the deepest pangs which it inflicts, are silent, retired, enduring, to be read in the countenance of the widow, in the unprotected orphan, in the aged parent, in affection cherishing the memory of the slain, and weeping that it could not minister to their last pangs.

I have asked you to traverse in thought a field of battle. There is another scene often presented in war, perhaps more terribleI refer to a besieged city. The most horrible pages in history are those which record the reduction of strongly fortified places. In a besieged city are collected all descriptions and ages of mankind,

« PreviousContinue »