On June 29, 1864, Sergeant Walter Clark of the 26th Georgia summarized the personal cost of war among the men who pay the heaviest price, those on the front line. Writing with emotion and conviction, Clark described the pain felt by those both in the trenches and at home miles away in the midst of war. His letter should remind us that there are still roll calls occurring on battlefields far away today that have the same effect on those at home.
Few scenes in a soldier’s life are touched with a sadder interest than first roll call after battle. As orderly Sergeant of the Oglethorpe’s I had to call roll, perhaps a thousand times and yet I do not remember one that touched my heart more deeply than that which closed that summer day at Kennesaw. The voices of twenty-two of those who had so promptly answered to the call of duty a few hours before were hushed and silent when their names were called. Some with federal bayonets guarding them, while trampling them to prison dens, perhaps to a slow and lingering death. Some with mangled form and limb were suffering more than death, while some with cold faces turned toward stars, while answering roll call on the other shore.
Standing beside the breastworks on that summer evening, under the shadow of the grim and silent Kennesaw, with twilight deeping into night. There were shadows on all our hearts as well, shadows that stretched beyond us and fell on hearts and hearthstones far away, shadows that rest there still and never lifted.