In 1944, Kirk published his third academic article, a beautifully transcribed and edited Civil War journal.
While the soldier’s experiences in the civil conflict are fascinating, more so is Kirk’s summation, quoted below.
It’s worth remembering, Kirk had already spent two years as a conscript in the U.S. Army at the time this edited diary was published. It’s also worth noting—something that is rarely noted about Kirk—that he possessed a profound knowledge of military history and military strategy. Reading each was one of his most important avocations, and his wartime letters are filled with predictions and potential strategies.
The following quote is from Russell Kirk [this is the first time Kirk has not used “Russell Amos Kirk”], ed., “A Michigan Soldier’s Diary, 1863,” Michigan Historical Magazine 28 (1944): 245.
Throughout his little note-book which contains, altogether, perhaps three times as many words as appear in these extracts, there runs the constant vein of good humor, a part of the Stoic spirit, even though exasperation bursts out now and then. More than restlessness and recklessness, determination and resignation make a man a capable soldier; and it is very probable that our army could do with a larger quantity of the passive virtues of soldiering. Man’s spirit still determines the decision of wars, however much importance machines may have upon the field of battle; and a glimpse of a past generation which could are and endure should hearten us.