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Commentary: Unraveling Oliver Wendell Holmes' 'The Soldier's Faith'

POSTED: May 27, 2012 12:30 a.m.

On Dec. 27, 1895, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., then in his 15th year as an associate justice on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, encountered Edward Atkinson, a wealthy Boston entrepreneur who had become a pamphlet writer arguing for free trade and against “imperialism.” Atkinson was born 14 years before Holmes, and the difference in their ages affected their roles in the Civil War. Holmes and other seniors at Harvard College had enlisted in the Union army after the attack on Fort Sumter in the spring of 1861, whereas Atkinson, a more fervent opponent of slavery than Holmes, was too ...

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