The news of the battle was confused at first, incoherent, sometimes contradictory, but one thing was certain: here was a clash that roared with a violence and terror such as the country had never known.
Rosecrans, McCook, and Crittenden, who in the bewildering mountain terrain had completely lost control of the men they were supposed to command, were now accused of everything from downright stupidity to traitorous complicity with the enemy.
After the hope and jubilation that Vicksburg and Gettysburg had inspired in July, Chickamauga was a dreadful reversal for the North to suffer; for Nancy it was a name threatening her with “hard news” until the day John’s letter came.
a warrant granting release from punishment for an offense
In December Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation of amnesty, in which he promised pardon and full rights to any individual Confederate who would swear to protect the Constitution and the Union of the states, to abide by the government’s pronouncements against slavery.
In the South the Confederate Congress cried out that if the Washington government called for restoration of the Union it was merely setting a cruel trap for the deluded; that it would be only a relationship between the conqueror and the conquered; that it would mean personal and public degradation and ruin.
one who disparages or belittles the worth of something
The author is not one of the President's detractors--this is suggested in the structure of the example sentence, where 1) the disparaging point is put in the perspective of the detractors within the novel and 2) the use of the phrase "high patriotism" mockingly echoes the more common phrase "high treason".
His proclamation of amnesty was little better than treason, the President’s detractors shouted, and many people began to consider it high patriotism to talk of the coming wholesale execution of rebels.
With this promotion another general fell to a lower place—General Halleck, who had never quite risen to his position, was finally relegated to the list of those whose names had soared for a while and then fallen into near-obscurity.
abusive or venomous language used to express blame or censure or bitter deep-seated ill will
Jethro had been barely conscious of the excitement, anger, and vicious invective that had accompanied the election of 1860; now he was fully conscious of emotions of even deeper violence in the talk of men in the community and in the papers that he read.
He gave his opponent no quarter, and the stubborn tenacity with which he held on in the face of Lee’s punishment was something the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac had never seen in their idolized General McClellan.
a person who pleads for a cause or propounds an idea
Today as I read General McClellan’s response to the Democratic Committee, so set to elect him as an advocate of their peace platform, I thought that I must write to you and point out a quality of courage in this man that I wouldn’t have believed to be there.
a deliberately offensive act or something producing the effect of deliberate disrespect
"Insult" and "affront" can be interchangeable synonyms; to use both here seems like unnecessary repetition, but it serves to 1) emphasize the general's position and 2) give more power to the speech with shades of meaning (e.g. an insult is often seen as verbal while an affront can be more physical).
The article quoted the general as saying that as far as he was concerned, the party’s platform meant that the North was not to offer peace on any terms short of the reestablishment of the Union, that to accept anything else would be an insult and an affront to the thousands of soldiers who had died in battle.
In Virginia more soldiers died each day in Grant’s army and in Lee’s because the South, even in its death throes, would not admit defeat, and the tragedy of these deaths was even greater when the hopes of homecoming and peace were just within realization.
In the same speech, Ross Milton says: “This is a land lying in destruction, physical and spiritual." In the example sentence, the use of the word "distorted" connects to the spiritual thirst for revenge that could make one go crazy. But the definition of "distort" as "twist and press out of shape" can also be applied to the earlier descriptions of old scars, twisted railroads, and burned cities--this could suggest that physical distortion leads to spiritual distortion.
But the hate that burns in old scars, and the thirst for revenge that has distorted men until they should be in straitjackets rather than in high office—these are the things that may make peace a sorry thing...
He has four years before him and the power of a mighty office; if he can control the bigots, if he can allow the defeated their dignity and a chance to rise out of their despair—if he can do this, then maybe peace will not be a mockery.”
The definition seems to suggest that the people are angry, but their clamor is actually in celebration of the news that the terms of peace had been signed. So happy are the people and so hopeful are they about the Union's reestablishment that they even let the criminals they had jailed join in the noisy celebration (which included a cannon booming and drunken singing).
They had lifted the trapdoor in the roof of the jail, allowing the half-dozen delinquent citizens of the county to climb outside so their voices might add to the clamor.
He had not embraced one of his brothers since the days of his very early childhood, but that morning he put his arms about Shadrach, and slowly the joy for the living assuaged a little the grief for the dead.