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The Papers of the Blue and Gray Education Society, Number 17

A Scholarly Monograph By Helen Hannon

May 16, 2005

The Death of a Soldier

“He is gone and leaves us only a memory of a genius departed” –John Murray Forbes

“The worst and only complaint I have ever had was that he would not tell me of himself. He had the impersonality of genius.” –Harvard Memorial Biographies

“I do not think there was a quality I could have added to Lowell. He was the perfection of a man and a soldier. I could have been better spared” –General Philip Sheridan

The Colonel is hit! This unwelcome utterance opened the last act of Colonel Charles Russell Lowell’s short life. In the midst of the chaos which is combat, Lowell had been mortally wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19th, 1864–he would die early the next day. The young Colonel was brilliant and dynamic, but he could also be demanding and exasperating often using people as “pincushions for his sharp words.” Physically, he had “a closely knit, wiry frame and a light delicate figure, and his intense vitality and exhaustless energy achieved what seemed impossible to others.” There wasn’t “an ounce of superfluous weight, and every fibre of it on the stretch, as with a self-moving activity.”3 Until this day he had led a charmed life. Thirteen horses had been shot under him and yet he had never suffered a serious wound. So like many others who died too soon, his death was a tragic end. Yet, in his life, he set a high standard which would ultimately influence many lives and generations.

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