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Frank's Campaign; Or, The Farm and the Camp

Frank's Campaign; Or, The Farm and the Camp

Author:Jr. Horatio Alger


The Town Hall in Rossville stands on a moderate elevation overlooking the principal street. It is generally open only when a meeting has been called by the Selectmen to transact town business, or occasionally in...
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  The Town Hall in Rossville stands on a moderate elevation overlookingthe principal street. It is generally open only when a meeting has beencalled by the Selectmen to transact town business, or occasionally inthe evening when a lecture on temperance or a political address is to bedelivered. Rossville is not large enough to sustain a course of lyceumlectures, and the townspeople are obliged to depend for intellectualnutriment upon such chance occasions as these. The majority of theinhabitants being engaged in agricultural pursuits, the population issomewhat scattered, and the houses, with the exception of a few groupedaround the stores, stand at respectable distances, each encamped on afarm of its own.

  One Wednesday afternoon, toward the close of September, 1862, a group ofmen and boys might have been seen standing on the steps and in theentry of the Town House. Why they had met will best appear from a largeplacard, which had been posted up on barns and fences and inside thevillage store and postoffice.

  It ran as follows:


  The citizens of Rossville are invited to meet at the Town Hall, onWednesday, September 24, at 3 P. M. to decide what measures shall betaken toward raising the town's quota of twenty-five men, under therecent call of the President of the United States. All patrioticcitizens, who are in favor of sustaining the free institutionstransmitted to us by our fathers, are urgently invited to be present.

  The Hon. Solomon Stoddard is expected to address the meeting.

  Come one, come all.

  At the appointed hour one hundred and fifty men had assembled in thehall. They stood in groups, discussing the recent call and the generalmanagement of the war with that spirit of independent criticism whichso eminently characterizes the little democracies which make up our NewEngland States.

  “The whole thing has been mismanaged from the first,” remarked asapient-looking man with a gaunt, cadaverous face, addressing twolisteners. “The Administration is corrupt; our generals are eitherincompetent or purposely inefficient. We haven't got an officer that canhold a candle to General Lee. Abraham Lincoln has called for six hundredthousand men. What'll he do with 'em when he gets 'em? Just nothing atall. They'll melt away like snow, and then he'll call for more men.Give me a third of six hundred thousand, and I'll walk into Richmond inless'n thirty days.”

  A quiet smile played over the face of one of the listeners. Witha slight shade of irony in his voice he said, “If such are yourconvictions, Mr. Holman, I think it a great pity that you are not in theservice. We need those who have clear views of what is required in thepresent emergency. Don't you intend to volunteer?”

  “I!” exclaimed the other with lofty scorn. “No, sir; I wash my hands ofthe whole matter. I ain't clear about the justice of warring upon ourerring brethren at all. I have no doubt they would be inclined to acceptovertures of peace if accompanied with suitable concessions. Still, ifwar must be waged, I believe I could manage matters infinitely betterthan Lincoln and his cabinet have done.”

  “Wouldn't it be well to give them the benefit of your ideas on thesubject?” suggested the other quietly.

  “Ahem!” said Mr. Holman, a little suspiciously.

  “What do you mean, Mr. Frost?”

  “Only this, that if, like you, I had a definite scheme, which I thoughtlikely to terminate the war, I should feel it my duty to communicate itto the proper authorities, that they might take it into consideration.”

  “It wouldn't do any good,” returned Holman, still a little suspiciousthat he was quietly laughed at. “They're too set in their own ways to bechanged.”

  At this moment there was a sharp rap on the table, and a voice washeard, saying, “The meeting will please come to order.”

  The buzz of voices died away; and all eyes were turned toward thespeaker's stand.

  “It will be necessary to select a chairman to preside over yourdeliberations,” was next heard. “Will any one nominate?”

  “I nominate Doctor Plunkett,” came from a man in the corner.

  The motion was seconded, and a show of hands resulted in favor of thenominee.

  A gentlemanly-looking man with a pleasant face advanced to the speaker'sstand, and with a bow made a few remarks to this effect:

  “Fellow citizens: This is new business to me, as you are doubtlessaware. My professional engagements have not often allowed me to takepart in the meetings which from time to time you have held in this hall.On the present occasion, however, I felt it to be my duty, and the dutyof every loyal citizen, to show by his presence how heartily he approvesthe object which has called us together. The same consideration willnot suffer me to decline the unexpected responsibility which you havedevolved upon me. Before proceeding farther, I would suggest that aclerk will be needed to complete the organization.”

  A young man was nominated and elected without opposition.

  Doctor Plunkett again addressed the meeting: “It is hardly necessary,”he said, “to remind you of the object which has brought us together. Ourforces in the field need replenishing. The Rebellion has assumed moreformidable proportions than we anticipated. It is quite clear that wecannot put it down with one hand. We shall need both. Impressed withthis conviction, President Lincoln has made an extraordinary levy uponthe country. He feels that it is desirable to put down the Rebellionas speedily as possible, and not suffer it to drag through a seriesof years. But he cannot work single-handed. The loyal States must givetheir hearty cooperation. Our State, though inferior in extent andpopulation to some others, has not fallen behind in loyal devotion.Nor, I believe, will Rossville be found wanting in this emergency.Twenty-five men have been called for. How shall we get them? This is thequestion which we are called upon to consider. I had hoped the HonorableSolomon Stoddard would be here to address you; but I regret to learnthat a temporary illness will prevent his doing so. I trust that thosepresent will not be backward in expressing their opinions.”

  Mr. Holman was already on his feet. His speech consisted of disconnectedremarks on the general conduct of the war, mingled with severedenunciation of the Administration.

  He had spoken for fifteen minutes in this strain, when the chairmaninterfered----

  “Your remarks are out of order, Mr. Holman. They are entirely irrelevantto the question.”

  Holman wiped his cadaverous features with a red silkpocket-handkerchief, and inquired, sarcastically, “Am I to understandthat freedom of speech is interdicted in this hall?”

  “Freedom of speech is in order,” said the chairman calmly, “providedthe speaker confines himself to the question under discussion. You havespoken fifteen minutes without once touching it.”

  “I suppose you want me to praise the Administration,” said Holman,evidently thinking that he had demolished the chairman. He looked aroundto observe what effect his shot had produced.

  “That would be equally out of order,” ruled the presiding officer. “Wehave not assembled to praise or to censure the Administration, but toconsider in what manner we shall go to work to raise our quota.”

  Holman sat down with the air of a martyr.

  Mr. Frost rose next. It is unnecessary to report his speech. It wasplain, practical, and to the point. He recommended that the townappropriate a certain sum as bounty money to volunteers. Other towns haddone so, and he thought with good reason. It would undoubtedly draw inrecruits more rapidly.

  A short, stout, red-faced man, wearing gold spectacles, rose hastily.

  “Mr. Chairman,” he commenced, “I oppose that suggestion. I think itcalculated to work serious mischief. Do our young men need to be hiredto fight for their country? I suppose that is what you call patriotism.For my part, I trust the town will have too much good sense to agree toany such proposition. The consequence of it would be to plunge us intodebt, and increase our taxes to a formidable amount.”

  It may be remarked that Squire Haynes, the speaker, was the wealthiestman in town, and, of course, would be considerably affected by increasedtaxation. Even now he never paid his annual tax-bill without an inwardgroan, feeling that it was so much deducted from the sum total of hisproperty.

  Mr. Frost remained standing while Squire Haynes was speaking, and at theclose continued his speech:

  “Squire Haynes objects that my proposition, if adopted, will makeour taxes heavier. I grant it: but how can we expect to carry on thisgigantic war without personal sacrifices? If they only come in the formof money, we may account ourselves fortunate. I take it for grantedthat there is not a man here present who does not approve the presentwar--who does not feel that we are waging it for good and sufficientreasons.”

  Here Mr. Holman moved uneasily in his seat, and seemed on the point ofinterrupting the speaker, but for some reason forbore.

  “Such being the case, we cannot but feel that the burden ought to fallupon the entire community, and not wholly upon any particular portion.The heaviest sacrifices must undoubtedly be made by those who leavetheir homes and peril life and limb on the battlefield. When I proposethat you should lighten that sacrifice so far as it lies in your power,by voting them a bounty, it is because I consider that money willcompensate them for the privations they must encounter and the perilsthey will incur. For that, they must look to the satisfaction that willarise from the feeling that they have responded to their country's call,and done something to save from ruin the institutions which our fatherstransmitted as a sacred trust to their descendants. Money cannot pay forloss of life or limb. But some of them leave families behind. It is notright that these families should suffer because the fathers have devotedthemselves to the sacred cause of liberty. When our soldiers go forth,enable them to feel that their wives and children shall not lack for thenecessaries of life. The least that those who are privileged to stay athome can do is to tax their purses for this end.”

  “Mr. Chairman,” said Squire Haynes sarcastically, “I infer that the lastspeaker is intending to enlist.”

  Mr. Frost's face flushed at this insinuation.

  “Squire Haynes chooses to impute to me interested motives. I need enterinto no defense before an audience to whom I am well known. I willonly inquire whether interested motives have nothing to do with hisopposition to voting bounties to our soldiers?”

  This was such a palpable hit that Squire Haynes winced under it, and hisred face turned redder as he saw the smiles of those about him.

  “Impudent puppy!” he muttered to himself; “he seems to forget that Ihave a mortgage of eight hundred dollars on his farm. When the timecomes to foreclose it, I will show him no mercy. I'll sell him out, rootand branch!”

  Mr. Frost could not read the thoughts that were passing through the mindof his creditor. They might have given him a feeling of uneasiness, butwould not in the least have influenced his action. He was a man loyal tohis own convictions of duty, and no apprehension of personal loss wouldhave prevented his speaking in accordance with what he felt to be right.

  The considerations which had been urged were so reasonable that thevoters present, with very little opposition, voted to pay one hundredand fifty dollars to each one who was willing to enlist as one of thetown's quota. A list was at once opened, and after the close of themeeting four young men came forward and put down their names, amid theapplause of the assembly.

  “I wanted to do it before,” said John Drake, one of the number, to Mr.Frost, “but I've got a wife and two little children dependent upon mefor support. I couldn't possibly support them out of my thirteen dollarsa month, even with the State aid. But your motion has decided me. Icould do better by staying at home, even with that; but that isn't thequestion. I want to help my country in this hour of her need; and nowthat my mind is at ease about my family, I shall cheerfully enter theservice.”

  “And I know of no one who will make a better soldier!” said Mr. Frostheartily.