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Frank Ludlow Post by :aceswild Category :Essays Author :Lydia H. Sigourney Date :November 2011 Read :1005

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Frank Ludlow

"It is time Frank and Edward were at home," said Mrs. Ludlow. So she stirred and replenished the fire, for it was a cold winter's evening.

"Mother, you gave them liberty to stay and play after school," said little Eliza.

"Yes, my daughter, but the time is expired. I wish my children to come home at the appointed time, as well as to obey me in all other things. The stars are already shining, and they are not allowed to stay out so late."

"Dear mother, I think I hear their voices now." Little Eliza climbed into a chair, and drawing aside the window-curtain, said joyfully, "O yes, they are just coming into the piazza."

Mrs. Ludlow told her to go to the kitchen, and see that the bread was toasted nice and warm, for their bowls of milk which had been some time ready.

Frank and Edward Ludlow were fine boys, of eleven and nine years old. They returned in high spirits, from their sport on the frozen pond. They hung up their skates in the proper place, and then hastened to kiss their mother.

"We have stayed longer at play than we ought, my dear mother," said Edward.

"You are nearly an hour beyond the time," said Mrs. Ludlow.

"Edward reminded me twice," said Frank, "that we ought to go home. But O, it was such excellent skating, that I could not help going round the pond a few times more. We left all the boys there when we came away. The next time, we will try to be as true as the town-clock. And it is not Edward's fault now, mother."

"My sons, I always expect you to leave your sports, at the time that I appoint. I know that you do not intend to disobey, or to give me anxiety. But you must take pains to be punctual. When you become men, it will be of great importance that you observe your engagements. Unless you perform what is expected of you, at the proper time, people will cease to have confidence in you."

The boys promised to be punctual and obedient, and their mother assured them, that they were not often forgetful of these important duties.

Eliza came in with the bread nicely toasted, for their supper.

"What a good little one, to be thinking of her brothers, when they are away. Come, sweet sister, sit between us."

Eliza felt very happy, when her brothers each gave her a kiss, and she looked up in their faces, with a sweet smile.

The evening meal was a pleasant one. The mother and her children talked cheerfully together. Each had some little agreeable circumstance to relate, and they felt how happy it is for a family to live in love.

After supper, books and maps were laid on the table, and Mrs. Ludlow said,

"Come boys, you go to school every day, and your sister does not. It is but fair that you should teach her something. First examine her in the lessons she has learned with me, and then you may add some gift of knowledge from your own store."

So Frank overlooked her geography, and asked her a few questions on the map; and Edward explained to her a little arithmetic, and told a story from the history of England, with which she was much pleased. Soon she grew sleepy, and kissing her brothers, wished them an affectionate good-night. Her mother went with her, to see her laid comfortably in bed, and to hear her repeat her evening hymns, and thank her Father in heaven, for his care of her through the day.

When Mrs. Ludlow returned to the parlour, she found her sons busily employed in studying their lessons for the following day. She sat down beside them with her work, and when they now and then looked up from their books, they saw that their diligence was rewarded by her approving eye.

When they had completed their studies, they replaced the books which they had used, in the bookcase, and drew their chairs nearer to the fire. The kind mother joined them, with a basket of fruit, and while they partook of it, they had the following conversation.

Mrs. Ludlow. "I should like to hear, my dear boys, more of what you have learned to-day."

Frank. "I have been much pleased with a book that I borrowed of one of the boys. Indeed, I have hardly thought of any thing else. I must confess that I put it inside of my geography, and read it while the master thought I was studying."

Mrs. Ludlow. "I am truly sorry, Frank, that you should be willing to deceive. What are called boy's tricks, too often lead to falsehood, and end in disgrace. On this occasion you cheated yourself also. You lost the knowledge which you might have gained, for the sake of what, I suppose, was only some book of amusement."

Frank. "Mother, it was the life of Charles the XII. of Sweden. You know that he was the bravest soldier of his times. He beat the king of Denmark, when he was only eighteen years old. Then he defeated the Russians, at the battle of Narva, though they had 80,000 soldiers, and he had not a quarter of that number."

Mrs. Ludlow. "How did he die?"

Frank. "He went to make war in Norway. It was a terribly severe winter, but he feared no hardship. The cold was so great, that his sentinels were often found frozen to death at their posts. He was besieging a town called Frederickshall. It was about the middle of December. He gave orders that they should continue to work on the trenches, though the feet of the soldiers were benumbed, and their hands froze to the tools. He got up very early one morning, to see if they were at their work. The stars shone clear and bright on the snow that covered every thing. Sometimes a firing was heard from the enemy. But he was too courageous to mind that. Suddenly, a cannon-shot struck him, and he fell. When they took him up, his forehead was beat in, but his right hand still strongly grasped the sword. Mother, was not that dying like a brave man?"

Mrs. Ludlow. "I should think there was more of rashness than bravery in thus exposing himself, for no better reason. Do you not feel that it was cruel to force his soldiers to such labours in that dreadful climate, and to make war when it was not necessary? The historians say that he undertook it, only to fill up an interval of time, until he could be prepared for his great campaign in Poland. So, to amuse his restless mind, he was willing to destroy his own soldiers, willing to see even his most faithful friends frozen every morning into statues. Edward, tell me what you remember."

Edward. "My lesson in the history of Rome, was the character of Antoninus Pius. He was one of the best of the Roman Emperors. While he was young, he paid great respect to the aged, and when he grew rich he gave liberally to the poor. He greatly disliked war. He said he had 'rather save the life of one subject, than destroy a thousand enemies.' Rome was prosperous and happy, under his government. He reigned 22 years, and died, with many friends surrounding his bed, at the age of 74."

Mrs. Ludlow. "Was he not beloved by the people whom he ruled? I have read that they all mourned at his death, as if they had lost a father. Was it not better to be thus lamented, than to be remembered only by the numbers he had slain, and the miseries he had caused?"

Frank. "But mother, the glory of Charles the XII. of Sweden, was certainly greater than that of a quiet old man, who, I dare say, was afraid to fight. Antoninus Pius was clever enough, but you cannot deny that Alexander, and Cæsar, and Bonaparte, had far greater talents. They will be called heroes and praised, as long as the world stands."

Mrs. Ludlow. "My dear children, those talents should be most admired, which produce the greatest good. That fame is the highest, which best agrees with our duty to God and man. Do not be dazzled by the false glory that surrounds the hero. Consider it your glory to live in peace, and to make others happy. Believe me, when you come to your death-beds, and oh, how soon will that be, for the longest life is short, it will give you more comfort to reflect that you have healed one broken heart, given one poor child the means of education, or sent to one heathen the book of salvation, than that you lifted your hand to destroy your fellow-creatures, and wrung forth the tears of widows and of orphans."

The hour of rest had come, and the mother opened the large family Bible, that they might together remember and thank Him, who had preserved them through the day. When Frank and Edward took leave of her for the night, they were grieved to see that there were tears in her eyes. They lingered by her side, hoping she would tell them if any thing had troubled her. But she only said, "My sons, my dear sons, before you sleep, pray to God for a heart to love peace."

After they had retired, Frank said to his brother,

"I cannot feel that it is wrong to be a soldier. Was not our father one? I shall never forget the fine stories he used to tell me about battles, when I was almost a baby. I remember that I used to climb up on his knee, and put my face close to his. Then I used to dream of prancing horses, and glittering swords, and sounding trumpets, and wake up and wish I was a soldier. Indeed, Edward, I wish so now. But I cannot tell dear mother what is in my heart, for it would grieve her."

"No, no, don't tell her so, dear Frank, and pray, never be a soldier. I have heard her say, that father's ill health, and most of his troubles, came from the life that he led in camps. He said on his death-bed, that if he could live his youth over again, he would be a meek follower of the Saviour, and not a man of blood."

"Edward, our father was engaged in the war of the Revolution, without which we should all have been slaves. Do you pretend to say that it was not a holy war?"

"I pretend to say nothing, brother, only what the Bible says, Render to no man evil for evil, but follow after the things that make for peace."

The boys had frequent conversations on the subject of war and peace. Their opinions still continued to differ. Their love for their mother, prevented their holding these discourses often in her presence; for they perceived that Frank's admiration of martial renown gave her increased pain. She devoted her life to the education and happiness of her children. She secured for them every opportunity in her power, for the acquisition of useful knowledge, and both by precept and example urged them to add to their "knowledge, temperance, and to temperance, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, charity."

This little family were models of kindness and affection among themselves. Each strove to make the others happy. Their fire-side was always cheerful, and the summer evening walks which the mother took with her children were sources both of delight and improvement.

Thus years passed away. The young saplings which they had cherished grew up to be trees, and the boys became men. The health of the kind and faithful mother became feeble. At length, she visibly declined. But she wore on her brow the same sweet smile which had cheered their childhood.

Eliza watched over her, night and day, with the tenderest care. She was not willing that any other hand should give the medicine, or smooth the pillow of the sufferer. She remembered the love that had nurtured her own childhood, and wished to perform every office that grateful affection could dictate.

Edward had completed his collegiate course, and was studying at a distant seminary, to prepare himself for the ministry. He had sustained a high character as a scholar, and had early chosen his place among the followers of the Redeemer. As often as was in his power, he visited his beloved parent, during her long sickness, and his letters full of fond regard, and pious confidence, continually cheered her.

Frank resided at home. He had chosen to pursue the business of agriculture, and superintended their small family estate. He had an affectionate heart, and his attentions to his declining mother, were unceasing. In her last moments he stood by her side. His spirit was deeply smitten, as he supported his weeping sister, at the bed of the dying. Pain had departed, and the meek Christian patiently awaited the coming of her Lord. She had given much council to her children, and sent tender messages to the absent one. She seemed to have done speaking. But while they were uncertain whether she yet breathed, she raised her eyes once more to her first-born, and said faintly, "My son, follow peace with all men."

These were her last words. They listened attentively, but her voice was heard no more.

Edward Ludlow was summoned to the funeral of his beloved mother. After she was committed to the dust, he remained a few days to mingle his sympathies with his brother and sister. He knew how to comfort them, out of the Scriptures, for therein was his hope, in all time of his tribulation.

Frank listened to all his admonitions, with a serious countenance, and a sorrowful heart. He loved his brother with great ardour, and to the mother for whom they mourned, he had always been dutiful. Yet she had felt painfully anxious for him to the last, because he had not made choice of religion for his guide, and secretly coveted the glory of the warrior.

After he became the head of the household, he continued to take the kindest care of his sister, who prudently managed all his affairs, until his marriage. The companion whom he chose was a most amiable young woman, whose society and friendship greatly cheered the heart of Eliza. There seemed to be not a shadow over the happiness of that small and loving family.

But in little more than a year after Frank's marriage, the second war between this country and Great Britain commenced. Eliza trembled as she saw him possessing himself of all its details, and neglecting his business to gather and relate every rumour of war. Still she relied on his affection for his wife, to retain him at home. She could not understand the depth and force of the passion that prompted him to be a soldier.

At length he rashly enlisted. It was a sad night for that affectionate family, when he informed them that he must leave them and join the army. His young wife felt it the more deeply, because she had but recently buried a new-born babe. He comforted her as well as he could. He assured her that his regiment would not probably be stationed at any great distance, that he would come home as often as possible, and that she should constantly receive letters from him. He told her that she could not imagine how restless and miserable he had been in his mind, ever since war was declared. He could not bear to have his country insulted, and take no part in her defence. Now, he said, he should again feel a quiet conscience, because he had done his duty, that the war would undoubtedly soon be terminated, and then he should return home, and they would all be happy together. He hinted at the promotion which courage might win, but such ambition had no part in his wife's gentler nature. He begged her not to distress him by her lamentations, but to let him go away with a strong heart, like a hero.

When his wife and sister found that there was no alternative, they endeavoured to comply with his request, and to part with him as calmly as possible. So Frank Ludlow went to be a soldier. He was twenty-five years old, a tall, handsome, and healthful young man. At the regimental trainings in his native town, he had often been told how well he looked in a military dress. This had flattered his vanity. He loved martial music, and thought he should never be tired of serving his country.

But a life in camps has many evils, of which those who dwell at home are entirely ignorant. Frank Ludlow scorned to complain of hardships, and bore fatigue and privation, as well as the best. He was undoubtedly a brave man, and never seemed in higher spirits, than when preparing for battle.

When a few months had past, the novelty of his situation wore off. There were many times in which he thought of his quiet home, and his dear wife and sister, until his heart was heavy in his bosom. He longed to see them, but leave of absence could not be obtained. He felt so unhappy, that he thought he could not endure it, and, always moved more by impulse than principle, absconded to visit them.

When he returned to the regiment, it was to be disgraced for disobedience. Thus humbled before his comrades, he felt indignant and disgusted. He knew it was according to the rules of war, but he hoped that he might have been excused.

Some time after, a letter from home informed him of the birth of an infant. His feelings as a father were strong, and he yearned to see it. He attempted to obtain a furlough, but in vain. He was determined to go, and so departed without leave. On the second day of his journey, when at no great distance from the house, he was taken, and brought back as a deserter.

The punishment that followed, made him loathe war, in all its forms. He had seen it at a distance, in its garb of glory, and worshipped the splendour that encircles the hero. But he had not taken into view the miseries of the private soldier, nor believed that the cup of glory was for others, and the dregs of bitterness for him. The patriotism of which he had boasted, vanished like a shadow, in the hour of trial; for ambition, and not principle, had induced him to become a soldier.

His state of mind rendered him an object of compassion. The strains of martial music, which he once admired, were discordant to his ear. His daily duties became irksome to him. He shunned conversation, and thought continually of his sweet, forsaken home, of the admonitions of his departed mother, and the disappointment of all his gilded hopes.

The regiment to which he was attached, was ordered to a distant part of the country. It was an additional affliction to be so widely separated from the objects of his love. In utter desperation he again deserted.

He was greatly fatigued, when he came in sight of his home. Its green trees, and the fair fields which he so oft had tilled, smiled as an Eden upon him. But he entered, as a lost spirit. His wife and sister wept with joy, as they embraced him, and put his infant son into his arms. Its smiles and caresses woke him to agony, for he knew he must soon take his leave of it, perhaps for ever.

He mentioned that his furlough would expire in a few days, and that he had some hopes when winter came of obtaining a substitute, and then they would be parted no more. He strove to appear cheerful, but his wife and sister saw that there was a weight upon his spirit, and a cloud on his brow, which they had never perceived before. He started at every sudden sound, for he feared that he should be sought for in his own house, and taken back to the army.

When he dared no longer remain, he tore himself away, but not, as his family supposed, to return to his duty. Disguising himself, he travelled rapidly in a different direction, resolving to conceal himself in the far west, or if necessary, to fly his country, rather than rejoin the army.

But in spite of every precaution, he was recognized by a party of soldiers, who carried him back to his regiment, having been three times a deserter. He was bound, and taken to the guard-house, where a court-martial convened, to try his offence.

It was now the summer of 1814. The morning sun shone forth brightly upon rock, and hill, and stream. But the quiet beauty of the rural landscape was vexed by the bustle and glare of a military encampment. Tent and barrack rose up among the verdure, and the shrill, spirit-stirring bugle echoed through the deep valley.

On the day of which we speak, the music seemed strangely subdued and solemn. Muffled drums, and wind instruments mournfully playing, announced the slow march of a procession. A pinioned prisoner came forth from his confinement. A coffin of rough boards was borne before him. By his side walked the chaplain, who had laboured to prepare his soul for its extremity, and went with him as a pitying and sustaining spirit, to the last verge of life.

The sentenced man wore a long white mantle, like a winding-sheet. On his head was a cap of the same colour, bordered with black. Behind him, several prisoners walked, two and two. They had been confined for various offences, and a part of their punishment was to stand by, and witness the fate of their comrade. A strong guard of soldiers, marched in order, with loaded muskets, and fixed bayonets.

Such was the sad spectacle on that cloudless morning: a man in full strength and beauty, clad in burial garments, and walking onward to his grave. The procession halted at a broad open field. A mound of earth freshly thrown up in its centre, marked the yawning and untimely grave. Beyond it, many hundred men, drawn up in the form of a hollow square, stood in solemn silence.

The voice of the officer of the day, now and then heard, giving brief orders, or marshalling the soldiers, was low, and varied by feeling. In the line, but not yet called forth, were eight men, drawn by lot as executioners. They stood motionless, revolting from their office, but not daring to disobey.

Between the coffin and the pit, he whose moments were numbered, was directed to stand. His noble forehead, and quivering lips were alike pale. Yet in his deportment there was a struggle for fortitude, like one who had resolved to meet death unmoved.

"May I speak to the soldiers?" he said. It was the voice of Frank Ludlow. Permission was given, and he spoke something of warning against desertion, and something, in deep bitterness, against the spirit of war. But his tones were so hurried and agitated, that their import could scarcely be gathered.

The eye of the commanding officer was fixed on the watch which he held in his hand. "The time has come," he said, "Kneel upon your coffin."

The cap was drawn over the eyes of the miserable man. He murmured, with a stifled sob, "God, I thank thee, that my dear ones cannot see this." Then from the bottom of his soul, burst forth a cry,

"O mother! mother! had I but believed"--

Ere the sentence was finished, a sword glittered in the sunbeam. It was the death-signal. Eight soldiers advanced from the ranks. There was a sharp report of arms. A shriek of piercing anguish. One convulsive leap. And then a dead man lay between his coffin and his grave.

There was a shuddering silence. Afterwards, the whole line was directed to march by the lifeless body, that every one might for himself see the punishment of a deserter.

Suddenly, there was some confusion; and all eyes turned towards a horseman, approaching at breathless speed. Alighting, he attempted to raise the dead man, who had fallen with his face downward. Gazing earnestly upon the rigid features, he clasped the mangled and bleeding bosom to his own. Even the sternest veteran was moved, at the heart-rending cry of "Brother! O my brother!"

No one disturbed the bitter grief which the living poured forth in broken sentences over the dead.

"Gone to thine account! Gone to thine everlasting account! Is it indeed thy heart's blood, that trickles warmly upon me? My brother, would that I might have been with thee in thy dreary prison. Would that we might have breathed together one more prayer, that I might have seen thee look unto Jesus of Nazareth."

Rising up from the corpse, and turning to the commanding officer, he spoke through his tears, with a tremulous, yet sweet-toned voice.

"And what was the crime, for which my brother was condemned to this death? There beats no more loyal heart in the bosom of any of these men, who do the bidding of their country. His greatest fault, the source of all his misery, was the love of war. In the bright days of his boyhood, he said he would be content to die on the field of battle. See, you have taken away his life, in cold blood, among his own people, and no eye hath pitied him."

The commandant stated briefly and calmly, that desertion thrice repeated was death, that the trial of his brother had been impartial, and the sentence just. Something too, he added, about the necessity of enforcing military discipline, and the exceeding danger of remissness in a point like this.

"If he must die, why was it hidden from those whose life was bound up in his? Why were they left to learn from the idle voice of rumour, this death-blow to their happiness? If they might not have gained his pardon from an earthly tribunal, they would have been comforted by knowing that he sought that mercy from above, which hath no limit. Fearful power have ye, indeed, to kill the body, but why need you put the never-dying soul in jeopardy? There are those, to whom the moving of the lips that you have silenced, would have been most dear, though their only word had been to say farewell. There are those, to whom the glance of that eye, which you have sealed in blood, was like the clear shining of the sun after rain. The wife of his bosom would have thanked you, might she but have sat with him on the floor of his prison, and his infant son would have played with his fettered hands, and lighted up his dark soul with one more smile of innocence. The sister, to whom he has been as a father, would have soothed his despairing spirit, with the hymn which in infancy, she sang nightly with him, at their blessed mother's knee. Nor would his only brother thus have mourned, might he but have poured the consolations of the Gospel, once more upon that stricken wanderer, and treasured up one tear of penitence."

A burst of grief overpowered him. The officer with kindness assured him, that it was no fault of theirs, that the family of his brother was not apprized of his situation. That he strenuously desired no tidings might be conveyed to them, saying that the sight of their sorrow would be more dreadful to him than his doom. During the brief interval between his sentence and execution, he had the devoted services of a holy man, to prepare him for the final hour.

Edward Ludlow composed himself to listen to every word. The shock of surprise, with its tempest of tears, had past. As he stood with uncovered brow, the bright locks clustering around his noble forehead, it was seen how strongly he resembled his fallen brother, ere care and sorrow had clouded his manly beauty. For a moment, his eyes were raised upward, and his lips moved. Pious hearts felt that he was asking strength from above, to rule his emotions, and to attain that submission, which as a teacher of religion he enforced on others.

Turning meekly towards the commanding officer, he asked for the body of the dead, that it might be borne once more to the desolate home of his birth, and buried by the side of his father and his mother. The request was granted with sympathy.

He addressed himself to the services connected with the removal of the body, as one who bows himself down to bear the will of the Almighty. And as he raised the bleeding corpse of his beloved brother in his arms, he said, "O war! war! whose tender mercies are cruel, what enmity is so fearful to the soul, as friendship with thee."

(The end)
Lydia H. Sigourney's essay: Frank Ludlow

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