previous next

[192] took thirty-six hours to get to White House from Cumberland, a distance of only five miles.1


Nothing could be more picturesque than this military march along the banks of a fine stream through a magnificent country arrayed in all the wealth of spring vegetation. The winding course of the Pamunkey, through a valley in which meadows of the brightest green alternated with wooded hills, offered a perpetual scene of enchantment to our eyes. Flowers bloomed everywhere, especially on the river-banks, which abounded in magnolias, Virginia jessamines, azaleas, and blue lupines. Humming-birds, snakes, and strange birds of every hue sported in the branches and about the trunks of the trees. Occasionally we passed a stately habitation which recalled the old mansions of rural France, with its large windows in the roof,--around it a handsome garden, and behind it the slave-cabins.

As the army was descried in the distance, the inhabitants would hang out a white flag. One of the provost-marshal's horsemen would dismount at the door, and, reassured by his presence, the ladies, in their long muslin dresses, surrounded by a troop of little negresses with frizzled hair and bare legs, would come out upon the veranda and watch the passage of the troops; They were often accompanied by old men with strongly-marked faces, long white locks, and broad-brimmed hats,--never by young men. All the men capable of bearing arms had been carried off, willy-nilly, by the Government, to join in the general defence.

So from point to point we moved along the river. The gunboats went first and explored the country before us; then came the topographical officers, moving through the woods with an escort of cavalry, reconnoitring the country, and sketching by the eye and the compass provisional maps, which were photographed at Headquarters for the use of the generals. The next day, with the help of these maps, the army would get into motion, mingled in masses with its immense team of wagons. About one-fourth of each regiment was occupied in escorting the materiel of the corps, piled up — provisions, ammunition, tents, and furniture — on wagons, at the rate of ten to a battalion. But for the absence of women, we might have been taken for an armed emigration rather than for soldiers on the march.

On May 16, we reached White House, a fine building, once the property of Washington, and now of his descendants, the Lee family. The head of this family, General Lee, was one of the chief officers of the Confederate Army; one of his nephews was in the Federal ranks. General McClellan, always careful to insist upon respect for private property, stationed sentinels around the residence of the hostile general, forbade any one to enter it, and would not enter it himself. He planted his tent in a neighboring meadow. This respect for Southern property has been made a reproach to the general in Congress: the opinion of the army did not take this direction; it endorsed the delicate feeling of its leader. This feeling was pushed so far that when a general's servants found one day, in an abandoned house, a basket of champagne, the general sent it back again conspicuously the next by an aide-de-camp. We may smile at this puritanical austerity, to which we are not accustomed in Europe. For my own part, I admit that I always admired it.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Tunstall (Virginia, United States) (2)
France (France) (1)
Europe (1)
Cumberland, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Washington (1)
George B. McClellan (1)
Robert E. Lee (1)
De Joinville (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 16th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: