The Return of the Heroes (In Honor of Veterans)

When late I sang sad was my voice,

Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of hatred
and smoke of war;

In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood,

Or pass’d with slow step through the wounded and dying.




But now I sing not war,

Nor the measur’d march of soldiers, nor the tents of camps,

Nor the regiments hastily coming up deploying in line of battle;

No more the sad, unnatural shows of war.




Ask’d room those flush’d immortal ranks, the first forth-stepping

Ask room alas the ghastly ranks, the armies dread that follow’d.

(Pass, pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping sinewy legs,

With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and
your muskets;

How elate I stood and watch’d you, where starting off you

Pass—then rattle drums again,

For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army,

Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army,

O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhoea, with your

O my land’s maim’d darlings, with the plenteous bloody bandage
and the crutch,

Lo, your pallid army follows.)

Walt Whitman


In the spring when the kings go off to war . . .

July 1913. "Gettysburg reunion: Veterans of the G.A.R. and of the Confederacy, at the Encampment." Harris & Ewing glass negative.

July 1913. “Gettysburg reunion: Veterans of the G.A.R. and of the Confederacy, at the Encampment.” Harris & Ewing glass negative.

“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of man, even those who hang themselves.” Blaise Pascal, Pensees

Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche–They Work on the Railroad


“How hard they worked is an astonishment to us in the twenty-first century. Except for some of the cooks, and bakers, there was not a fat man among them. Their hands were tough enough for any job–one never sees gloves in the photographs–which included pickax handling, shoveling, wielding sledgehammers, picking up iron rails, and using other equipment that required hands like iron. Their waists were generally thin, but oh, those shoulders! Those arms! Those legs! They were men who could move things, whatever was required, in rain or snow or high winds or burning sun and scorching temperature, all day, every day. Nebraska can be hotter than hell, colder than the South Pole. They kept on working. They didn’t whine, they didn’t complain, they didn’t quit, they just kept on working.”

Stephen Ambrose writing about the Chinese, the Civil War veterans and all of the immigrants who worked for the rails building the Transcontinental Railroad in his book Nothing Like it in the World

Interesting tidbits:

The Chinese came because they wanted to make money and kept coming despite the prejudices they encountered only to prove themselves as excellent workers and humans.

Most workers were either still teenagers or very young adults.

Many still wore the remnants of their uniforms from fighting the war between the states.