- Jul 23, 2017
- Southwest Missouri
It is somewhat the habit to represent a body of troops, known to be brave and effective, as “eager for the fray," "burning to be led against the foe," or, less elegantly, .. spoiling for a fight."
Writers who indulge in the use of such phrases, know nothing of armies, or do not state what they know, or rather state what they do not know, unless indeed they know it to be false. The soldiers themselves laugh at these expressions when they see them, and none laugh heartier than those a score of times conspicuous for the cheerfulness with which they have gone into battle and their steadiness and pluck under withering fire.
They are not conscious of any particular .. eagerness for the fray," any amorous inclination toward bullets, any penchant for meeting shells half-way, any longing for a short sleep, and a shortened limb under the surgeon's hands, any especial haste to be mustered out in this, and to be mustered in in another world. The man who affects any of this fine frenzy is a coward.
Let it be understood that troops never all rush frantically to the front" for the love of the thing - at least not after they have been in one fight. After that, they are sure to know better. Hence it is that the first battle does not distinguish the brave from the cowardly. It is the second one, with the recollection of the carnage and narrow escapes of the first before him, which tries a soldier and tests his metal and his mettle.
One who was recklessly, unthinkingly brave on his first field, has learned to realize the peril on the second, and may run away; while another who ran the first time, now plucks up courage, having seen that it is quite as safe to go ahead, or having through pride, mastered his fears.
Letters of a War Correspondent