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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

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A lot of the men wanted peace at any reasonable price. Anything, so they would get back to 'Arriet or Sadie or Maria.

I should say offhand that there was not one man in a hundred who was fighting consciously for any great recognized principle. And yet, with all their grousing and criticism, and all their overwhelming desire to have it over with, every one of them was loyal and brave and a hard fighter.

A good deal has been written about the brilliancy of the Canadians and the other Colonials. Too much credit cannot be given these men. In an attack there are no troops with more dash than the Canadians, but when it comes to taking punishment and hanging on a hopeless situation, there are no troops in the wide world who can equal, much less surpass, the English. Personally I think that comparisons should be avoided. All the Allies are doing their full duty with all that is in them.

During most of the war talk, it was my habit to keep discreetly quiet. We were not in the war yet, and any remarks from me usually drew some hot shot about Mr. Wilson's "blankety-blinked bloomin' notes."

There was another American, a chap named Sanford from Virginia, in B company, and he and I used to furnish a large amount of entertainment in these war talks. Sanford was a F.F.V. and didn't care who knew it. Also he thought General Lee was the greatest military genius ever known. One night he and I got started and had it hot and heavy as to the merits of the Civil War. This for some reason tickled the Tommies half to death, and after that they would egg us on to a discussion.

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One of them would slyly say, "Darby, 'oo th' blinkin' 'ell was this blighter, General Grant?"

Or, "Hi sye, Sandy, Hi 'eard Darby syin' 'ow this General Lee was a bleedin' swab."

Then Sanford and I would pass the wink and go at it tooth and nail. It was ridiculous, arguing the toss on a long-gone-by small-time scrap like the Civil War with the greatest show in history going on all around us. Anyway the Tommies loved it and would fairly howl with delight when we got to going good.

It is strange, but with so many Americans in the British service, I ran up against very few. I remember one night when we were making a night march from one village to another, we stopped for the customary ten-minutes-in-the-hour rest. Over yonder in a field there was a camp of some kind,--probably field artillery. There was dim light of a fire and the low murmur of voices. And then a fellow began to sing in a nice tenor:

    Bury me not on the lone prairie
    Where the wild coyotes howl o'er me.
    Bury me down in the little churchyard
    In a grave just six by three.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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