History as Literature | September 01, 1989

The Civil War began in a flurry of patriotism and powerful sentiments on both sides. Reporters in both Massachusetts and South Carolina were astonished at the level of emotion expressed in crowds. Young men rushed to sign up for the adventure of war. Among them was an eighteen-year-old from Charlestown, Massachusetts, named George Sargent. Rejected by a doctor for service in a Massachusetts regiment, apparently because he was too skinny, he went elsewhere and eventually signed up to be a bugler with the First New England Cavalry. Sargent would then serve two years, reenlist as a veteran, and stay through the end of the war.

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In the fall of 1861 I caught the disease called war fever, which was spreading very rapidly about that time, and if once fairly seated it is hard to be cured, no matter how much doctoring you have done. In November I applied at the recruiting office of the 24th Massachusetts Volunteers to make one of that regiment. I signed my name to the roll, then was told to make the surgeon a visit for inspection. I found him all ready to receive visitors, so I pulled off my dry goods and he made an examination.

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