VII. another winter[some parts of the following letter make curious reading now. They are, however, interesting, not merely as an individual opinion at that time, but as reflecting the contemporary sentiments of a large body of intelligent men.]
Headquarters Army of Potomac November 10, 1864They have been singularly niggardly to us about election returns; but we have reliable intelligence to-night that Lincoln is re-elected, the coarse, honest, good-natured, tolerably able man! It is very well as it is; for the certainty of pushing this war to its righteous end must now swallow up all other considerations. I am still more content that there has been a powerful opposition to him, even from respectable men, an opposition strong enough to carry several states. This will caution him, or better, his party, to proceed cautiously and to make no fanatical experiments, such as we too often have seen, but to proceed firmly, and according to rule and law. Lincoln has some men of ability about him — pre-eminent, Mr. Seward, whom the ultras have thrown over, but whom I think the strong man of the cabinet. Mr. Fessenden is said to be a very superior person, and his face is certainly a bright one, very. There is another important advantage in keeping on as we are: the machine is in running order and it is always a drawback to change midst a season of public trial. And again we have done with Lincoln what the Rebels have successfully done with their generals, let him learn from his own misfortunes  and mistakes; not a bad school for a sensible man. So you see, I am inclined to make the best of what I deem is the best, albeit not very good. . . . Have you read an article from Fraser, in Littell's, called “Concord Transcendentalists.” It is a singular production, rather entertaining some of it, and interspersed with the weakest, sweetened warm milk and water. The place where it says that Theodore Parker hid two slaves in his study, and nightly sat writing at the door of it, with several pistols and the gun that had belonged to his grandfather, would be a funny passage at any time, but, written so gravely in these war days, it is quite irresistible! If you see any number, in future, containing the tale of Tony Butler,1 you might send it to me, though it is no great matter. I have read a number or two, the last chapter being in this very number where the Transcends flourish. Which reminds me of what a West Point professor said, according to the solemn Duane. He was hearing a recitation in philosophy, and would fain illustrate how the body might slowly change, yet the individual remain the same. “Now,” said he, “if I have a knife and lose a blade and get it replaced, it is still the same knife.” “Well,” said a stupid-looking cadet, “and suppose you lose the other blades, one after another, and get them replaced, is it the same knife?” “Certainly,” replied the Professor. “And suppose the handle should get rather ricketty and you replaced that?” “Yes, it would be the same knife.” “Well, now,” cried the stupid one, suddenly brightening up amazingly, “suppose you took the old handle, and found the old blades, and put 'em all together, what would you call that, hey?” Poor Major Duane! he can't do much but talk and  tell stories, for he is quite miserably yet and is not fit for duty, though he is improving. . . . Last night, with a mild south wind, we had a singular example of the stopping of sound. Our batteries near the plank road, some three miles off, may usually be heard with perfect distinctness; not only the guns, but the explosion of the shells; and the replies of the Rebels also. At night we can see the shells going over, by the burning fuse, that looks like a flying spark. The deception is very singular in the dark, for, though the shell may be passing at the rate of 1200 feet a second, in the distance the fuse seems to go slowly and in a stately curve. This is because 1200 feet looks very small, three miles away, and the eye gets an idea of rapidity by the space travelled over in a given time. Well, last night, they opened a somewhat brisk discharge of mortar shells from both sides; but though we could see them go through the sky and burst below, not the faintest sound reached the ear! At other times these same guns will sound quite close to us. I could cite many such contrasts. I rode forth with good Duke Humphrey, to see the dress-parade in the 9th Corps. That and the 5th, not being in the immediate presence of the enemy, have a good chance for drill. The 9th Corps, in particular, have gone into the evolutions to an alarming extent, an exercise which, like Wistar's balsam of wild cherry, can't do harm and may do good. Around General Parke's Headquarters there is a chronic beating of drums and fifing of fifes and playing of bands. We sat some time and watched the drilling; it was quite fun to see them double-quicking here, and marching there, and turning up in unexpected positions. At last the gallant Colonel McLaughlen, after many intricate manoeuvres, charged and took a sutler's tent, and the brigade  was then marched to its quarters. As we returned, there was a nig brigade, having its dress parade in fine style. They looked extremely well and marched in good style. The band was a great feature. There was a man with the bass drum (the same I believe that so amused De Chanal) who felt a ruat-coelum-fiat-big-drum sentiment in his deepest heart! No man ever felt more that the success of great things lay in the whacking of that sheepskin with vigor and precision! Te-de-bung, de-de-bung, bung, bung! could be heard, far and near. . . . The nigs are getting quite brisk at their evolutions. If their intellects don't work, the officers occasionally refresh them by applying the flats of their swords to their skins. There was a Swede here, who had passed General Casey's board for a negro commission. He was greatly enraged by a remark of the distinguished Casey, who asked him what Gustavus Adolphus did, meaning what great improvements he introduced in the art of war. To which the furriner replied: “He was commander-in-chief of the Swedish army.” “Oh, pooh!” said Casey, “that's nothing!” Which the Swede interpreted to mean that Gustavus was small potatoes, or that the Swedish army was so. Really, most foreign officers among us are but scapegraces from abroad. The other day the Belgian Minister Sanford sent a letter asking for promotion for private Guatineau, whose pa had rendered us great service by writing in the French press. The matter being referred to his commander, the reply was: “This man deserted to the enemy from the picket line.”
November 11, 1864The McClellan procession might have spared their tapers, as he has gone up, poor Mac, a victim to his friends! His has been a career manque, and a hard time he has had,  and low he has fallen. The men who stood, as green soldiers, with him in front of Yorktown, where are they? Many thousands lie in the barren land of the Peninsula and the valley of Virginia; thousands more in the highlands of Maryland and Pennsylvania and in the valley of the Shenandoah. Many are mustered out — their time expired — or sick, or crippled. The small remnant are sifted, like fine gold, through this army, non-commissioned officers, or even full officers. What an experience it is for an infantry soldier! To have carried a musket, blanket, and haversack to the Peninsula, and to the gates of Richmond, then back again to the second Bull Run; up to Antietam in Maryland; down again to Fredericksburg; after the enemy again to the Rappahannock; and at last, the great campaign, like all others concentrated in six months, from the Rapid Ann to Petersburg! All this alone on foot, in three long years, at all seasons and all hours, in every kind of weather, carrying always a heavy load, and expecting to fight at any moment; seeing so many men shot in each fight — the great regiment dwindling to a battalion — the battalion to a company — the company to a platoon. Then the new men coming down; they shot off also. Till at last the infantry-man, who left Boston thinking he was going straight to Richmond, via Washington, sits down before Petersburg and patiently makes his daily pot of coffee, a callous old soldier, who has seen too many horrors to mind either good or bad. It is a limited view of a great war, but, for that very reason, full of detail and interest. Of course we might have known that this pack of political “commissioners” could not get down here without a shindy of some sort. The point they brought up was fraudulent votes. A long-haired personage, fat and vulgar-looking,  one of that class that invariably have objectionable finger-nails, came puffing over to General Meade's tent, with all the air of a boy who had discovered a mare's nest. He introduced himself as a Mr. Somebody from Philadelphia, and proceeded to gasp out that a gentleman had been told by an officer, that he had heard from somebody else that a Democratic Commissioner had been distributing votes, professedly Republican, but with names misspelled so as to be worthless. “I don't see any proof,” said the laconic Meade. “Give me proof, and I'll arrest him.” And off puffed Mr. Somebody to get proof, evidently thinking the Commanding General must be a Copperhead not to jump at the chance of arresting a Democrat. The result was that a Staff officer was sent, and investigation held, and telegraphs dispatched here and there, while the Somebody puffed about, like a porpoise in shallow water! Finally, four or five people were arrested to answer charges. This seemed to please Stanton mightily, who telegraphed to put 'em in close arrest; and, next morning, lo! a lieutenant-colonel sent, with a guard of infantry, by a special boat from Washington, to conduct these malefactors to the capital — very much like personages, convicted of high treason, being conveyed to the Tower. Were I a lieutenant-colonel, I should feel cheap to be ordered to convey a parcel of scrubby politicians under arrest! But that is the work that Washington soldiers may expect to spend their lives in. General Meade, I fancy, looked with high contempt on the two factions. “That somebody only does it,” he said, “to appear efficient and get an office. As to X----, he said he thought it a trying thing for a gentleman to be under close arrest; and I wanted to tell him it wasn't so disgraceful as to have been drunk every night, which was his case!” That's the last I have heard  of the culprits, who, with their accusers, have all cleared out, like a flock of crows, and we are once again left to our well-loved ragamuffins, in dirty blouses and spotted sky-blue trousers. The day was further marked by an émeute in the culinary department. I would have you to know that we have had a nigger boy, to wait on table, an extraordinary youth, of muscular proportions and of an aspect between a drill sergeant, an undertaker and a clergyman — solemn, military and mildly religious. It would, however, appear, that beneath this serious and very black exterior worked a turbulent soul. The diminutive Monsieur Mercier, our chef, had repeatedly informed me that “le petit” (the unbleached brother is about a head taller than Mercier) was extremely indolent and had a marked antipathy to washing dishes — an observation which interested me little, as my observation went to show that the washing of dishes by camp-followers tended rather to dirty than to cleanse the platter, and that the manifest destiny of the plate military was to grow dirtier and dirtier, till it at last got broken. However, Anderson was reproved for not washing his crockery, and replied with rude words. On being reproved again, he proposed to smite Mercier, remarking, he “would as soon knock down a white man as a nigger.” At this juncture the majestic Biddle interfered and endeavored to awe the crowd; but the crowd would not be awed, so Biddle put Anderson at the pleasant occupation of walking post with a log on his shoulder. Upon being liberated from this penalty, he charged upon Mercier, giving him the dire alternative of “Pay me mer wages, or I'll smash yer crockery!” This being disorderly, I allowed him to cool his passions till next morning in the guardhouse, when he was paid off.
November 12, 1864We have the usual play of rumor about cabinets — everybody seems inclined to heave out Stanton: some to heave him up to the Supreme Court--some to heave him down to unknown depths of nothingness. Many would fain fancy Ben Butler in the chair of War, where he would be certain to make things spin either for good or for bad. How he will get on, across the James, I know not. He lost a strong man in Ord, wounded; and in Birney, dead, also: Birney was one who had many enemies, but, in my belief, we had few officers who could command 10,000 men as well as he. He was a pale, Puritanical figure, with a demeanor of unmovable coldness; only he would smile politely when you spoke to him. He was spare in person, with a thin face, light-blue eye, and sandy hair. As a General he took very good care of his Staff and saw they got due promotion. He was a man, too, who looked out for his own interests sharply and knew the mainsprings of military advancement. His unpopularity among some persons arose partly from his promotion, which, however, he deserved; and partly from his cold covert manner. I always felt safe when he had the division; it was always well put in and safely handled. The longer I am in the army, the more I see that great bodies of men take their whole tone from a few leaders, or even from one. I climbed on a horse and took a ride to visit Captain Sleeper, whose camp I easily recognized by its neat appearance. He always has things in a trig state about him. His own domicile was a small log cabin, with a neat brick chimney, very smooth-looking, but made in truth of only odd bits of brick, picked up at random and carefully fitted by a skilful Yank. The chimney-piece was of black walnut, made indeed from the leaf of an old table, discovered in the  neighborhood. As to his tongs, a private, of prospective views, picked them up sometime last summer, and had carried them, ever since, in waggon! For arras he had artillery horse-blankets. The Sleeper is now more content, having his battery full, new sergeants appointed, and a prospect of officers. His only grief is that with three years service and many battles he is only a captain. You see Massachusetts has not her batteries in a regiment and can't have field officers. So Sleeper's only hope is a brevet.
November 13, 1864We had a Lieutenant-Colonel C----, a Britisher, up for a visit; he is commander of the forces in that tropical climate of New Brunswick. In aspect Colonel C----was not striking; he had done injustice to what good looks he had by a singularly shapeless suit of city clothing, which I judge must have been purchased ready made from a village tailor in New Brunswick. He had a sort of soft cloth hat, an overcoat of a grey-rhubarb tint and trousers which once might have had a pure color, but seemed to have become doubtful by hanging in the sun outside a shop. I don't think the gallant Lieutenant-Colonel was much interested in matters military. Perhaps he had read out, perhaps he had no natural taste that way, or perhaps he felt cold and uncomfortable. At any rate he looked bored, and his only military remark did not indicate deep reflection. “This,” said I, “is what we call a corduroy road.” “Oh! ah! Indeed; yes, well, it's very well now, you know, but what will you do when it comes wet weather?” I was too much overcome at this putting the cart before the horse, to inform him that the corduroy was built for no other purpose than for wet weather. After this I confined myself to considerations of the state of health of the Hon. Mr. Yorke (he who  came back with us from Liverpool). He is under the command of the Colonel, it would appear, and afforded an innocent topic of conversation. Since then two other English officers have been entrusted to the fatherly care of Rosencrantz, and diligently shown round. When they got near the end, they said: “Now we are much pleased to find you are a foreigner, because we can frankly ask you, what you consider the general feeling towards the English in this country.” To which Rosie (who don't like to miss a chance) replied: “Vell, I can tell you that, so far as I have observed, some Americans do just care nothing about you, and many others do say, that, when this war is over, they will immediately kick you very soon out from Canada!” When the horrified Bulls asked: “Aw, Aw, Aw; but why, why?” Rosie replied in the following highly explanatory style: “Be-cause they say you have made for the Rebs very many bullets.” General Gibbon dined with us and was largely impressed by our having oysters on the shell, which he pitched into with the fervor of a Baltimorean long separated from his favorites. Gibbon is by birth a Pennsylvanian, but lived, since boyhood, in North Carolina. When the Rebellion broke out, two of his brothers went into the Rebel service, but he remained loyal. One of his sisters was in the South but could not escape, and it was only the other day that they allowed her to come on board the flag-of-truce boat and come down the river to our lines, where her brother met her and took her North. He had sent word to his younger brother to meet him on the same occasion, but the young gentleman sent word, “It would not be agreeable” ; which shows they are pretty bitter, some of them. Gibbon has an Inspector named Summerhayes, who is of the 20th Massachusetts, and who has got so used to being  shot at, that he seems not to be able to do without it, and so gallops along the picket line to rouse the foe to pop at him. Which reminds me of what Grant said (either by accident or on purpose). He had come out, with a great crowd of civilians, to ride round the lines. Someone proposed to go out and visit the pickets. “No,” said Grant, innocently, “no; if I take a crowd of civilians, the enemy may fire and some of the soldiers might get hurt!”
November 14, 1864If doctors and quartermasters had not quarrelled, I should not have come unto sorrow; thus, a hospital was placed nigh to a place on the railroad where the quartermasters would fain have a platform. “Move your tents,” said the quartermasters. “We won't,” said the doctors. “You shall,” retorted the quartermasters. “We shan't,” reiterated the M. D's. The strife waxed hot. Inspectors were called: they inspected much and shook their heads; that being a negative conclusion, the Major-General Commanding the Army of the Potomac was appealed to, and he rode out to enter a fiat. In riding out he took me, and I took a chill. So confusion to all doctors and quartermasters! But the former shall be forced to cure me and the latter to make me comfortable in mine house. There came over, for a visit, the Colonel Russell, of the funny turn, who commands now a brigade of negro troops. He has always something funny to relate of their manners and customs. It would appear that his nigs were once relieved by troops of the 2d Corps, and, as both parties had just been paid off, the ivory and the ebony sat down to play poker, wherein the ebony was rapidly getting the better of their opponents. The enemy meanwhile began to fire shells over the woods, but the players were too interested to leave  off. At last one cute Yankee, who, despite his cuteness, had been entirely cleaned out, wandered off and found an empty shell, which he carefully filled with damp gunpowder, adding a paper fuse. Approaching the group that seemed to have most money on the board, he lighted the innocent combustible, screamed “Look out!” and threw it into the midst of them, following up himself, to secure the greenbacks left by the fugitives. Russell said when the recruits first come down they get into all sorts of snarls. As, for example, two of them found what they call “one er dese ere mortisses,” by which they would say mortar shell. “Hullo, dar's er mortiss: s'pose dat ar'll ‘splode?” “‘Splode! ‘corse it'll ‘splode.” “No, it wun't; how's gwine to ‘splode, when's been shot out uv er cannon?” “Bet yer five dollars'll ‘splode.” “Bet yer it wun't!” The next thing the Colonel knew was a tremendous report, and two or three bits of iron flying through his tent. He rushed forth and collared a handful of the darks, and demanded immediate explanation. Whereunto one replied, with the utmost simplicity: “Didn't mean nuphin, Kernul; all fault er dat ar stupid nigger — said er mortiss wouldn't ‘splode!” This day was further remarkable by the erection of a stately flagstaff, which seemed to imply that General Williams thought we should stay some time; but I think it will doubtless make us move at once; just as building log huts has a similar effect.
November 16, 1864They have made Sheridan a Major-General in the Regular Army. I think he deserves it for that remarkable battle of Cedar Creek. Those of Opequon and of Fisher's Hill were joyous occasions; but he ought to have won those, because his forces were probably at least as two to one, and  his cavalry immeasurably superior; but this last battle was the thing that brought out his high merit. The language of the order is. not to be commended, as it makes Sheridan a cat's-paw to give McClellan an insulting hit. It is hard on Meade, and I think he feels it; during a long campaign, in many respects unprecedented in military history for its difficulties and its grandeur, he has handled an army, which has at times considerably exceeded 100,000 men; and that too under circumstances very trying to a man who has had a chief command; that is to say, obliged to take the orders and tactics of a superior, but made responsible for all the trying and difficult performance, which indeed is more than one half the game of war. I undertake to say that his handling of his troops, when a mistake would be the destruction of the entire plan, has been a wonder: without exaggeration, a wonder. His movements and those of Lee are only to be compared to two exquisite swordsmen, each perfectly instructed, and never erring a hair in attack or in defence. Of course, it is idle to tell such facts to people at large; they don't understand, or care, or believe anything about it. It is true, the army has played what seems its destined role, to kill and to be killed without decisive actions, until both sides pause from mere exhaustion; but do people reflect what a tremendous effect all this has on the Rebels? that by wearing ourselves, we have worn them down, until they are turning every teamster into the ranks and (of all things) are talking of arming the negroes. Suppose there had been no army capable of clinging thus for months in a death-grapple, and still clinging and meaning to cling; what would have become of Sherman and his great work?2 The record of General Meade is a remarkably clear one. He  has risen from a brigadier of volunteers to all the higher commands, by hard fighting and an experience that dates from the first days of McClellan. He has done better with the Army of the Potomac than McClellan, Pope, Burnside, or Hooker; and — I will add boldly and without disparagement to the Lieutenant-General--better than Grant! and you would agree with me did you know what power and what men Grant has had to command. Meade's great virtue is, that he knows when to fight, and when not to fight. Taking up an army on the march, he fought and won the greatest battle of this war — Gettysburg--100,000 men against 110,000--a battle that saved Baltimore, Washington, and Philadelphia, and nobody knows what besides. He wouldn't fight (assault) Lee at Williamsport, and immediately he was “timid, timid, timid!” Now look here: we assaulted at Spotsylvania, at Cool Arbor, at Petersburg, and were repulsed with perfect slaughter; after all that, if Lee had assaulted us in position what would, what would have become of him? Why, we would have used him up so, that he wouldn't have known himself. Just turn this about and apply it to Gettysburg and reflect how “the people” are frequently semi-idiotic! He followed Lee to the Rappahannock and got orders to stop. In September he was to move and attack Lee on the Rapid Ann; the day before this move they took 20,000 men from him and sent West: it couldn't be done to Grant. Then Lee marched on Centreville; Meade beat him and got there first; Lee wouldn't fight and retreated (he also knows when not to fight). It was in just such a move that Pope was smashed all to pieces and driven into Washington. Then Meade forced the Rappahannock, and drove Lee in haste over the Rapid Ann. The Mine Run expedition  followed; we did not go fast enough — that was unfortunate; but it would have been more unfortunate to have left 10,000 men on the slopes there. If Meade had lacked the great moral courage to say “retreat,” after having been called “timid” by the papers, and having been hounded on by Halleck and Stanton to “do something,” he would not only have got a disastrous defeat, but would have destroyed the plan of re-enlistments by which we obtained the very backbone of our army for this campaign. His “timidity” lies in this, that he will not try to build a house without enough of tools and timber. Lately, they have turned round, 180 degrees, and now call him “butcher” ; but that does just as well — blow hot, blow cold. This is a fair statement. I don't say he is Napoleon, Caesar and Alexander in one; only that he can handle 100,000 men and do it easy — a rare gift! Also, as Sherman and Sheridan, commanding the two other great armies, have been made regular Major-Generals, he too, who is doing his part, and has fought more than both of them put together, ought to have equal rank.3 General Grant, as far as I can hear, thinks everything of General Meade, and it is said will have him promoted like the others. I believe it will turn out that Sherman is our first military genius, while Sheridan is most remarkable as a “field fighter,” when the battle is actually engaged. Bless my soul! quelle lecture on my commanding General! Never mind, variety is the spice of life.
November 18, 1864Warm it is this morning — too much so; I would prefer it frosty, but remember the farmer whom Jupiter allowed to regulate the weather for his own farm, and who made  very poor crops in consequence. As Albert4 came last night, I honorably discharged the ebony John this morning, giving him a character, an antique pair of trousers and a dollar or two extra wages, whereat John showed his ivory, but still remarked, standing on one leg: “Er ud like Er pass.” “What do you want a pass for?” asked I, in that fatherly voice that should always be used to a very black nig. “Go a Washington.” “If you go to Washington they'll draft you, if you don't look out.” “Oh,” said John, with the grave air of a man of mundane experience, “dem fellers what ain't travelled none, dey gets picked up: but I's travelled a right smart lot!” Whereupon the traveller departed. It should be stated that his travels consist in having run away from his master, near Madison Court House, and in having since followed the army on the back of a spare horse. We were favored with a batch of two J. Bulls (lately they have taken to hunting about here, in couples and singly). These were a certain legation person, Kirkpatrick, and an extraordinary creature named H----, who is said to have been once in the British army and to be now in Oxford — rather a turning about. He had a sort of womanish voice and a manner of sweet sap; his principal observations were: “Ao, inde — ed” ; “Ao, thank you” ; and “Ao, I wish you a good morning.” He had an unaccountable mania for getting shot through the head, and insisted on going to Fort Hell, and staring through embrasures; from which I judge he was more idiotic than he seemed. He was also, it would appear, very fond of fresh air, while his companion (who also disagreed with him on the shooting-through-the-head matter) rather liked a door shut. They were put in a log cabin to sleep, and H----  secretly opened the door at night; whereupon it came to rain and blow, and the Bulls awaked in the morning to behold their shoes and stockings sailing about the room! Really, General Hunt, to whom these creatures are usually billetted, ought to get board free from his many former guests for the rest of his life. In the evening we had a charge on the enemy under a new form, or rather a very old one, for it was after the fashion of Samson's foxes. A number of beef cattle, in a pen near Yellow Tavern, were seized, in the night, with one of those panics for which oxen are noted, and to which the name “stampede” was originally applied. They burst out of the enclosure and a body of them, forty strong, went, at full gallop, up the Halifax road, towards Petersburg! What our pickets did does not appear; one thing they did not do — stop the fugitive beef. On they went in wild career through the dark, with no little clatter, we may be sure. The Rebel videttes discharged their pieces and fled; the picket sentries opened fire; the reserves advanced in support, and fired too; heedless of killed and wounded, the oxen went slap through the whole of them; and, the last that was heard from that drove was the distant crash of a volley of musketry from the enemy's breastworks! When the gray morn lifted, the first sight that greeted our disgusted pickets was a squad of grey-backs comfortably cutting savory steaks from a fat beef, the quarry of their bow and their spear! The evening brought us warm rain; also, as toads fall in a shower, one military Englishman, and one civilian Blue-nose. The Briton was a Major Smyth, of the Royal Artillery--a really modest, gentlemanly man, with a red face, hooked nose, and that sure mark of greatness, a bald head. The Blue-nose was modest also (the only one I ever saw) and was of the class of  well-to-do, honorable Common-Councilmen; his name was Lunn, suggestive of “Sally Lunns.”
November 19, 1864The rain continued, being cold, by way of variety, and from the northeast; whereby it happened that we got no mail. Be-cause what? as small Co says. Well, because the captain of that gallant ship went and ran her aground somewhere on a shoal which they told me the name of — whereat I was no wiser. The result to us was disastrous; when I say to us, I mean our mess; for the chef, Mercier, (no relation of French minister) was on board with many good eatables for us, but in the confusion, the knavish soldiery, who were on board as passengers, did break the boxes and did eat much and destroy and waste more. “Aussi,” said little Mercier, “they broke many bottles; but,” he continued, with the air of a good man, whom a higher power had protected, “that made no difference, for they belonged to other people!” In the night we were favored with quite a disturbance. The officer of the guard, who had possibly been storing his mind from some mediaeval book on the ordering of warders in a walled town, suddenly conceived an idea that it was proper for the sentries to call the hours. So we were waked from the prima quies by loud nasal and otherwise discordant cries of: “Post number eight! Half-past 12! All's well!” etc., etc. The factionaries evidently considered it a good joke, and, as they had to keep awake, determined no one else should sleep; and so roared often and loud. Some of the officers, hastily roused, fancied the camp was on fire; others conceived the sentinels were inebriated; others that Mosby was in the camp; and others again, like myself, didn't think anything about it, but growled and dropped off again to sleep. “What was that howling?” said the testy General, at  breakfast. “Yes, what did the confounded fools mean?” added the pacific Humphreys. But the most indignant personage was Rosencrantz. “I do svear!” he exclaimed, “this whole night have I not a single vink slept. It is not enough that those sentry fellows should tell us vat time it is, but they must also be screaming to me a long speech besides! Vat do I care vat time it is; and if all is vell, vy can they not keep it to themselves, and not be howling it in my ears and vaking me up? This is the most fool tings I have seen!” You may be sure that was the first and last of the warders.
November 2, 1864As it was fine, after three days rain, General Humphreys bestirred himself to give rational entertainment to the two Englanders; and so General Meade ordered a couple of brigades of cavalry turned out and a horse-battery. We first rode along the rear line and went into a fort there. It made quite a cortege, for, besides the Generals and their officers and orderlies, there followed Mr. Lunn in a four-horse spring waggon, with General Hunt to bear him company; for Lunn had received the horseback proposition with mild horror. So he followed in a waggon, much as Mr. Pickwick was wheeled after the shooting party, when he finally turned up in the pound. In the fort was a company of soldiers that you might know beforehand were Germans, so dirty and especially so grimy — they have a great facility for looking grimy do the Germans. It was funny to see the different chaps among them: one, evidently a ci-devant Prussian soldier, was seized with rigidity in all his muscles on beholding a live brace of Generals. There was another who was an unmistakable student; he had a moustache, a poetically fierce air, a cap with the  brim turned up, and a pair of spectacles. There he stood, a most out-of-place individual, with our uniform on, watching anxiously the progress of a pot, boiling on a fire. The cavalry looked what I have learned to consider as very well; that is, the men looked healthy, the horses in good flesh, and the arms and equipments in proper repair. To a European they must have been fearful; very likely so to Major Smyth, though he was silently polite — no polish, horses rough and woolly, and of all sizes and colors; men not sized at all, with all kinds of beards and every known species of hat; but as I know that men do not fight with their hats and beards, I was satisfied to see evidences of good discipline. Thereafter we called on General Gregg, where I had a treat in form of some Newton pippins, of which excellent apple there was a barrel on hand.
November 24, 1864This was Thanksgiving, which is sloppy and snowy and haily with us, as a general thing, but here was sunny and pleasant. All day the waggons were distributing turkeys to the patriots, of whom I believe all got some, sooner or later. Flint, having seen that his squadron had their poultry, called a sergeant and asked him how much it made to each man. “Well,” said the sergeant, “it makes about a quarter of a turkey, a piece of pie, and four apples.” “Oh!” said Flint, “quite a meal.” “Yes,” said the sergeant dubiously, “yes, a small meal; I could eat half a turkey myself!” The turkeys were ready cooked and were a great treat to our ragamuffins. I took a ride in some woody spots within the lines, and it was pleasant, in the warm hollows, to hear the wee birds twittering and warbling, visitors from a northern climate, that have left you some weeks ago. Then there was a pileated woodpecker  (not known with us), a great fowl, as big as a crow; black, with white feathers in his wings, an ivory beak and a gay scarlet cockade. He thought himself of great account, and pompously hopped up and round the trunks of trees, making a loud, chattering noise, which quite drowned the wee birds, like a roaring man in a choir. The pompous old thing was very much scared when I approached, and flew away, but soon began his noise on a distant tree.
November 27, 1864I think I will occupy the remainder of this letter with an account of our picnic yesterday to Butlerdom. The day was further remarkable for the departure of my dear General Humphreys to take command of the 2d Army Corps. For Hancock has got a leave of absence, and will doubtless be put to recruiting fresh troops, while it is hoped that the President will permanently assign Humphreys to this Corps. He is in high glee at going, and will be in despair if a big fight is not got up for his special benefit. He was a great favorite and was escorted by some fifteen mounted officers of the Staff to his new quarters, at which compliment I think he was gratified. I regretted not to be with him, but had to go with the General, who started by the mail train, at 8 A. M., to be early at Grant's Headquarters, whence they were to start. We took our horses on a freight car. In the train we found Generals Warren and Crawford, who were invited to be of the party. Arrived at City Point, we discovered that the Lieutenant-General was still in bed, whereat Meade did laugh, but the three stars soon appeared and went to breakfast. After which meal, our horses were put on the boat and we put ourselves on, and off we started. The party was a big one. There were Generals Grant, Meade, Warren, Crawford and Ingalls, and  several Staff officers. There were then the bourgeois: to wit, a great many “Turkeys” (gentlemen who had come down to distribute those Thanksgiving fowls); two men who wanted to sell a steamer; one Senator, viz., Nesmith of Oregon, and one political blackguard named H----, whose special business was to praise a certain Greek fire, of which more anon. This fellow's name is usually prefixed by “Pet.” He has wild hair and beard and a face showing a certain ability; his distinguishing mark, I am told, is the absence of any sort of morality or principle. With him was his son, a small and old boy, of whom they said that, if papa could not get the best at a game of poker, son would come in and assist. Senator Nesmith is a child of the people, and was prepared for his congressional duties by a residence of twenty-five years among the Indians. When he first got to Washington, he had never before seen a railroad, a telegraph, or a gas-light. “Senator Fessenden asked me what I thought of things. ‘Well,’ says I, ‘when I first came along I was full of the dignity of the position to which I had been elected; but now all I want to know is, who in thunder ever sent you fellers here!’ ” He has plenty of brains, this same, but is a very coarse man. The “Turkeys” were of various sorts: several of them were Club men, e.g., Mr. Benson, a gentleman who seemed a middle-aged beau, with much politeness and no particular brains. He kept bowing and smiling and backing into persons, and offering his chair to everyone, from orderlies up to General Grant. He requested to know whether in my opinion he could be properly considered as having been “under fire; because,” said he, “I stood on the Avery house and could see the shells explode in the air, you know!” All this motley crowd started at once for Deep  Bottom; nor should I omit to say that we had also on board a Secesh bishop — Leigh of Georgia--who was going by flag of truce to Richmond. He had remained in Atlanta, and Sherman had told him if he wished to get back, he must go via Richmond. From him they got a good deal of entertaining conversation. His opinion of Sherman was very high and complimentary. “The old book tells us,” he said, “that the race may not be to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, and we feel that Providence will not desert our righteous cause.” “Yes,” said General Meade, “but then we feel that Providence will not desert our cause; now how are you going to settle that question?” Whereat they both laughed. The bishop was a scholastic, quiet-looking man, and no great fire-eater, I fancy. The boat made fast at Aiken's landing, halfway between Deep Bottom and Dutch Gap. A Staff officer was there to receive us and conduct us, two miles, to General Butler's Headquarters. Some rode and some were in ambulances. The James Army people always take pretty good care of themselves, and here I found log houses, with board roofs, and high chimneys, for the accommodation of the gentlemen of the Staff. You might know it was Butler's Headquarters by the fact that, instead of the common ensign, he had a captured Reb battle-flag stuck up! This chieftain asked in the general officers and we were left to the care of the Staff, who were not behindhand in their civility. . . . Presently Butler climbed on his horse and led the way to see Fort Harrison, which was captured in the movements at the end of September. It was well worth seeing, for on our side of the river we have no hills: it is pretty much one plain with gullies. But here was a regular hill, of some size, dominating the whole country about. How they took  the place, I hardly see, for the land is open for a mile in front of it, and the Rebs had artillery in position and a regular infantry running quite to the river. . . .
November 28, 1864Let me see, I had got to Fort Harrison, had I not? Really I got so sleepy last night over the second sheet that I should not be surprised if it contains numerous absurdities. From the Fort you have an excellent view of the Rebs in their line opposite, their main fort being only 800 yards distant. I was surprised they did not fire upon us, as there was a great crowd and evidently several generals among us. But I believe they never shoot. The pickets, on either side, are within close musket-range but have no appearance of hostility. There was one very innocent “Turkey,” who said to me: “Who are those men just over there?” When I told him they were Rebs, he exclaimed: “God bless me!” and popped down behind the parapet. . . . Thence we all went to view the great canal. You will notice on the map, that the river at Dutch Gap makes a wide loop and comes back to nearly the same spot, and the canal is going through there. This cuts off five or six miles of river and avoids that much of navigation exposed to fire; and it may have strategic advantages if we can get iron-clads through and silence the Rebel batteries on the other bank. The canny Butler sent an aide to see if they were shelling the canal, who reported they were not; so we dismounted a little way off and walked to the place. It was very worth seeing. Fancy a narrow ridge of land, only 135 yards wide, separating the river, which flows on either side; a high ridge, making a bluff fifty feet high where it overhangs the water. Through this a great chasm has been cut, only leaving a narrow wall on the side next the enemy,  which wall is to be blown out with several thousand pounds of gunpowder. We stood on the brink and looked down, some seventy feet, at the men and the carts and the horses at work on the bottom. Where we stood, and indeed all over the ridge, was strewed thickly with pieces of shell, while here and there lay a whole one, which had failed to explode. Had the Rebs known that a Lieutenant-General and two Major-Generals were there, they would hardly have left us so quiet. . . . Though we got off very nicely (I thought as I stood there: “Now that line is the shortest one to our horses, and you must walk it with dignity — not too fast when they begin to shell” ), there was a fat “Turkey” who came after us and was treated to a huge projectile, which burst over his head; he ran and picked up a piece and cried out: “Oh! it's warm. Oh!! it smells of sulphur. Oh!!! let us go now.” He was delighted with this and all other adventures, and was quite elated when his horse tumbled in a ditch and muddied him greatly. After dark we were treated to an exhibition of a “Greek fire.” They burst a shell in a bunch of bush and immediately the whole was in a roaring blaze. “They've got the fuses to work well now,” said Grant calmly. “They tried the shells on three houses, the other side of the river, and burnt them all without difficulty.” Good thing for the owners! Then they spirted the stuff through a little hose and set the stream on fire. It was a beautiful sight and like the hell of the poets, with an unquenchable fire and columns of black smoke rolling up. Owing to these pyrotechnics, we only got home at midnight. In my next I will tell more of the genius of Butler. General Meade, you will be glad to learn, has been informed officially, that he will be appointed a Major-General in the Regular Army, to rank General Sheridan!
November 29, 1864.I did not have room to tell you of the ingenious inventions of General Butler for the destruction of the enemy. He never is happy unless he has half a dozen contrivances on hand. One man has brought a fire-engine, wherewith he proposes to squirt on earthworks and wash them all down! An idea that Benjamin considered highly practicable. Then, with his Greek fire, he proposed to hold a redoubt with only five men and a small garden engine. “Certainly,” said General Meade; “only your engine fires thirty feet, and a minie rifle 3000 yards, and I am afraid your five men might be killed, before they had a chance to burn up their adversaries!” Also he is going to get a gun that shoots seven miles and, taking direction by compass, burn the city of Richmond with shells of Greek fire. If that don't do, he has an auger that bores a tunnel five feet in diameter, and he is going to bore to Richmond, and suddenly pop up in somebody's basement, while the family are at breakfast! So you see he is ingenious. It is really summer warm to-day; there are swarms of flies, and I saw a bumble-bee and a grasshopper.
November 30, 1864Did you hear how the Hon. Nesmith, whom I have mentioned, discovered the real cause of the defeat at the first Bull Run? He was in Washington at the time, and the military wiseacres, as soon as they got over the scare, were prolific in disquisitions on the topic. One evening Nesmith found a lot of them very verbose over a lot of maps and books. They talked wisely of flank movements and changes of front, and how we should have won a great victory if we had only done so and so; when he remarked solemnly: “Gentlemen, I have studied this matter and I  have discovered the real reason of our defeat.” They were all ears to hear. “Well,” said Nesmith with immense gravity, “well, it was them darned Rebels!” . . . Last night the 2d Corps picket line was relieved by the 9th--a delicate job in face of the enemy, who are pretty close up; but it all was done in entire quiet, to the relief of General Humphreys, who feels the new honor of the 2d Corps. That worthy officer stopped on his way to his new Headquarters and honored me by taking a piece of your plum cake. He was much tried by the noisy ways of Hancock's late Headquarters. “They whistle of mornings,” said the fidgety little General, “and that Shaw, confound the fellow, amuses himself with imitating all the bugle-calls! Then the negroes turn out at four in the morning and chop wood, so that I am regularly waked up. But I shall stop it, I can tell you.” And I have no doubt he will, as he is wont to have his own way or know the reason why. I rode out with him to his new Headquarters and followed the line afterwards, and was much amused to see them drilling some of the worthless German recruits, in a polyglot style: “Steady there! Mehr heraus--more to the front. Shoulder arms! Eins, zwei! One, two!” etc.
December 1, 1864At daylight General Gregg made a start, with nearly his whole cavalry division, for Stony Creek station. For you must know that, since we have held the Weldon road, the enemy have been obliged to waggon much of their supplies from Stony Creek station, by cross roads to the Boydton plank and thus to Petersburg. Lately we have had reports that they were building a cross railroad from Stony Creek to the southside road. Gregg's object therefore was to go to the station, which is over twenty miles by the road from  our lines, find out if this railroad were really in progress or not, and do as much damage as possible. Instead of going straight down he, by advice of General Meade, bore a little to the east and then suddenly swung round, when he got a little below the station. The consequence was he came on them where they didn't look for him. There were two redoubts, with regular ditch, etc., intended to keep off raiders; there was a thirty-pounder Parrott and a twelve-pounder field-piece mounted in them, and a few infantry as garrison. Their cavalry took to their heels, prudently. The infantry got in the redoubts and fired away with their cannon; but it got taken in a novel fashion. A regiment of cavalry charged to within 100 yards, then tumbled off their horses and made a rush at the parapet, and ran right over the occupants. This gave them possession of the station, and then there followed a scene of general smashing, which, according to witnesses, was highly amusing. The men, feeling like mischievous boys, went at everything tooth and nail. They took several hundred bales of hay and piled them against a stack of short forage, which contained between 3000 and 5000 bags. Then they set the whole on fire, and helped the blaze with a lot of new tents. Next they tied down the safety-valve of a locomotive, built a big fire under the boiler, and blew her up by this scientific process. After distributing the contents of a number of Rebel Thanksgiving boxes on the principle of spolia forti, they ended by a display of fire-works consisting of a shed full of ammunition, which was fired and allowed to go off at its convenience. Then they retreated, in great glee, taking with them 170 prisoners, who were not in such great glee. One was a scamp named Major Fitzhugh, who, when Captain Lazelle, of our cavalry, was made prisoner, put a pistol to his head and made him  give him his boots. Captain Freikle told me he had a mind to make the scoundrel march the twenty miles barefooted, but couldn't bring his mind to anything so mean. I would have made him do it.
December 3, 1864At the end of each month, General Meade sends up his pay-rolls, that is, a large printed sheet which each officer fills up, stating what the Government owes him, and saying that he hasn't cheated Uncle Sam, and don't owe him anything and is all right generally. The pay department keeps this as a receipt and returns your money for the past month. Lieutenant-Colonel Woodruff gets the General's pay. One part he sends to Mrs. Meade and the rest he sends to the General, who, the moment that he gets it, sends violently for Mercier and John and everyone else to whom he is indebted, and pays them all, in hot haste, as if his last day were come. He is a thorough old soldier about money and regards greenbacks in a weak and helpless sort of way. “Once,” said he, “Mrs. Meade said it was my plain duty to go to market, as other gentlemen did: it would be so satisfactory and saving. I went the next morning. We had a famous dinner — oysters, terrapin, and lots of good things — the children were delighted; but, when I came to look, I found I had spent the week's allowance in one day! I wasn't allowed to go any more to market.” You would have laughed to see yesterday the crowd of contrabands that came in with Gregg. Usually, wherever they can, they cut and run, not showing that devotion to their masters described by the Southrons. It is sometimes rather remarkable the way they run off. Now in this lot (mostly women) there was all the way from a newly born baby to an old woman who, they told me, was over ninety,  and who, from her looks, might very likely have been a hundred and fifty. The young women had their mistresses' things on, if I know myself. There was one Christian Commission kuss who went whining about and saying: “Oh! You are free, free! Oh! Thank God for it!” “Look here, my friend,” said I, “if you want to show your Christian feeling, go and tell your commission to get these people something to eat; they have had nothing since yesterday.” The pious party took this with an ill grace, but was fain to walk off “to see our agent,” who, I hope, made some good soup for them.
December 5, 1864The weather continues very fine and really warm of days, though the nights are provocative of blankets — weather, law! that isn't very interesting, is it? My head has indeed been singularly empty for letter-writing; when a man talks about weather to his own wife he must be pretty hard up. I heard a characteristic anecdote of Hancock which made me laugh, as I knew his ways. It appears that he had issued stringent orders against plundering, despite which the troops had fallen on a large flock of sheep and were making short work of them. Away went Hancock, followed by the inevitable Morgan, Mitchell, and Parker. Very soon all these three were sent spinning off at tangents, after distant delinquents, and the General went frothing along alone. Presently he catches sight of four men pursuing a poor sheep, bayonet in hand, and off he goes, full tilt, to arrest them; but, before he can get in, poor ba-ba is down and still. “You blank blank all-sorts-of-bad-things,” roars Hancock, “how dare you? How dare you kill that sheep?” “Please, General, we didn't kill it,” cried the terrified soldiers. “What! Didn't kill it!  You liars! You infernal, desperate liars! I saw you kill it, with my own eyes; and there it lies dead!” --when--the sheep hopped up and ran away.
December 6, 1864There arrived Captain Alden, with 253 brevets, of all grades, for the Army of the Potomac. Do you know what a brevet is, and the force thereof? A brevet commission gives the dignity, but not always the pay or the authority, of the rank it confers. If, for example, a colonel is breveted general, he may wear the stars and may rank as general on courts-martial, but, unless he be specially assigned by the President, he has only the command of a colonel, just as before. A colonel brevetted general in the regular army draws the pay of a general when assigned to duty by the President; but a brevet in the volunteers can under no circumstances bring additional pay. Brevets, like other appointments by the President, must be confirmed by the Senate before they become permanent. At any rate, however, they last from the time of appointment to the time of their rejection by the Senate. The object of brevets is to pay compliments to meritorious officers without overburdening the army with officers of high rank. As aforesaid, there came a grist of these papers in all grades, from 1st lieutenant up to major-general. All the Headquarters' Staff, with few exceptions, were brevetted one grade, in consequence of which I should not wonder if the Senate rejected the whole bundle! Barstow is Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel; Biddle, ditto; Duane has two brevets, which brings him to a full Colonel, and will give him a colonel's pay, if he can be assigned, as they are in the regular army. We are all very melancholy over General Williams, who, though one of the most deserving officers  in the whole army, could not be brevetted because that would make him rank the Adjutant-General of the whole army, Brigadier-General Thomas. They were not so careful to except Barnard, whom they formerly made a Major-General though his chief, Delafield, was only a Brigadier. It is to be considered, however, that Major-General Barnard had found leisure from his military duties to publish a criticism on the Peninsular Campaign, or, in other words, a campaign document against McClellan, which is a circumstance that alters cases. I should say, that the statement that General Meade was only a Brevet Major-General in the regular service was a mistake naturally arising from the confusion with the other letters of appointment. . . . General Grant was at the Headquarters for about an hour. He brought with him Captain de Marivault, a French naval officer and a very gentlemanly man. I took him as far as Fort Wadsworth, and showed him it and the neighboring line. He has had great chances of seeing this war, as he was at New Orleans, and, later, Admiral Dahlgren allowed him to go into Charleston, where he even went about in the city. Oh! I forgot to mention, in particular, that Rosencrantz is brevetted a Major, at which he is much pleased. There followed much merriment in the camp over shoulder-straps, those who had been promoted giving theirs to the next grade below. Majors' straps were scarcest and were in great demand. The General was in high spirits (as he might well be, with a letter of appointment in his pocket) and stood in front of his tent, joking with his aides, a very rare performance with him. “Now here's Lyman,” 5 said he, looking like Mephistopheles in  good humor, “he has no brevet, but I am going to write to the Governor of Massachusetts to make him a Field Marshal.” Whereat he rubbed the side of his long nose, as he always does when he laughs.
December 8, 1864There came down an elephant of a young Englishman, who, if there be brains in his skull, they are so well concealed that nobody has found them hereabout. To entertain him is like rolling a barrel of potatoes up a steep hill. Nevertheless, he is a Lieutenant of Engineers. I should think he might construct an earthwork in, say, a century. I fancy he has played out all his intellect in trying to spell and pronounce his own name which is the euphonious one of S-tt-rthw — t; you will find it gives you a cramp in your tongue to pronounce it. Query — would it not be for the best interests of the human race to drown all Englishmen? Gibbon's division of the 2d Corps got in a towering passion, because, having erected log huts just a little way outside the line of parapet, they were ordered to pull them all down and come inside, for of course these huts would give cover to an attacking enemy. This was what I call a stupid thing all round. Stupid in the infantry commanders to allow it; stupid in the inspectors not to see it; stupid in the artillerists and engineers not to stop it — in fact, stupid all round. Gibbon came over and pitched into Duane, who received the attack with stolidity; so Gibbon thought he would get good-natured. At evening I had the greatest sight at a lot of stragglers that ever I did. It is always customary, when possible, to sweep the path of a column and gather up all stragglers, but I never before had a chance to see the leavings of a large force, marching by a single road. When Warren got to the Nottaway, he  took up his pontoons behind him, so that the laggards, who were toddling leisurely behind, as well as those who really had no intention of catching up till their rations were out, were all caught on the north side. General Warren sent back about 100 cavalry to sweep the whole road and bring the. men back to the lines: and after dark, they arrived, looking, in the dusk, like a large brigade. Schuyler, the Provost-Marshal, put them in ranks, had them sorted and counted, and there proved to be 856! Their way was not made soft to them. They were marched three miles more, making twenty in all, and were then put out on picket in a right frosty night. This seems a large number, and it is more than it ought to be, a great deal; but, in reality it only made four and a half men out of every 100 in Warren's force. That they were able to go on is proved by the fact that they were able to come back, though some did limp merrily, and others were so stiff that, when once down, they could scarcely get up. A force of a few hundred cavalry was sent in the afternoon down the Vaughan road to reconnoitre, and see if they could see that any troops were moving against our rear, or against Warren. They got at dusk to Hatcher's Run, where the opposite bank was held by the enemy in a breastwork; and, after losing half a dozen men, our cavalry came back.
December 9, 1864Miles's division of the 2d Corps was sent to aid the cavalry in forcing Hatcher's Run. They marched out early and found several regiments holding the crossing; a severe skirmish followed; our poor men went into the icy water up to their armpits and drove off the Rebels, though not without some loss to us. I know the cavalry Lieutenant, whom I saw bringing in all those stragglers last night,  was killed there. Then Miles built a bridge and sent over the cavalry, which went as far as within sight of the Boydton plank, where they found the enemy in their works. They captured a Rebel mail-carrier and from him learned that A. P. Hill was yesterday at Dinwiddie. General Meade had to read all the letters, of course, and said there was one poor lover who promised to marry his sweetheart when the war was over, but “how could he support her now, on $12 a month?” We sent out another body of infantry and our own “red-legs” and the engineers, to support Miles, who we thought would be attacked. They all spent the night midst a wretched snow, sleet and rain, and raw wind.
December 10, 1864Miles, with the troops which had been sent to reinforce him, maintained a threatening attitude near Hatcher's Run till afternoon, when he was ordered to withdraw again to our lines. The enemy undertook to follow up a little, but the rear guard faced about and drove them away.--There was I seized with a fearful sleepy fit last night and went to bed; thus missing a letter home to you. However, I have not before missed one in a very long time; and, if I followed Duane's advice, I should miss much oftener. “Lyman,” says this ancient campaigner, “you are foolish to write so much. Now I write only once a week, so my letters are valued. You write every day, and probably Mrs. Lyman puts them in her pocket and pays no attention to them.” Ah! I was speaking of Miles, and had got him with all his forces, and put him inside the works, all right. We had to pay farewell respects to Riddle, for his resignation has been accepted and he goes to-morrow. For a long time he has been in miserable health and, in  warm weather, is seldom well enough for hard duty. He has been twice wounded, at Antietam and on the Peninsula, and was taken prisoner, but got away from Libby and arrived, after many hardships, within our lines. He is a very good officer and quite a superior person, whom we shall miss on our Staff. The kind-hearted Woolsey invited us all to take oysters in his honor (for you must know that there is a log house where one may have a “fancy roast,” “plain stew,” or “one fried,” just across the road). We gathered in the greatest force, for oysters attracted, even if Riddle didn't, and had a high festival. We had songs, whereof I sang several, with large applause. “You don't drink,” said Duane, “but it don't make any difference, because you look as if you had been drinking, and that's all that is necessary.” Before I finish this day I must go back to tell of the beginning and progress of the Weldon road expedition. Last Wednesday, General Warren, with his own Corps, Mott's division of the 2d Corps, and nearly the whole of Gregg's division of cavalry, started in the morning and marched down the Jerusalem plank road, striking across to the Nottoway River, at Freeman's Bridge, a distance of from fifteen to seventeen miles. There a pontoon bridge was thrown and the whole command got over before daybreak the next morning, the advance getting that night to Sussex Court House. Meantime the enemy, getting [wind] of the move, sent off A. P. Hill's Corps, that evening, twelve hours after Warren. Hill went to Dinwiddie Court House, but what became of him thereafter, I have not yet learned. Their place in the lines was taken, I presume, by some of Early's men, who were nearly all come down from the valley and are helping Lee now. On Thursday Warren continued his march and struck the Weldon road, a little  south of the Nottoway, in the afternoon, and immediately went to destroying the track and burning the river bridge. The work went on systematically: the line being halted on the road, the men stacked arms, and went at the track. Sleepers were torn up, and these, with fence-rails, made great bonfires, on which the rails were laid. Soon the iron would wax red-hot, when the weight of the ends would bend the rails. Some of the men, however, were so enthusiastic as to take rails and twist them round trees, which could be done while the ends were cool and the middle hot. As soon as a brigade had finished its work, it marched down to a new piece, passing the other men who were destroying; and so they kept on till midnight, when they had got to Jarrott's station and there halted. Next day, Friday, the column kept on, as before, the cavalry preceding them, who, when they arrived at Meherrin Bridge, found strong earthworks on the opposite side and some ten guns, which immediately opened on them. . . . This night was a very severe one, with its high wind and snow, sleet and rain; but it was rendered tolerable by the big fires that the soldiers lighted to heat rails with. General Warren did not deem proper to cross the Meherrin, as it would take a day to flank the Rebels' works, and he started with but six days provisions. Next day, Saturday to wit, he began his return march and the head of the column got as far as Sussex C. H. On this march the people of the country had the bad judgment to “bushwhack” our troops: that is, to kill any stragglers or small parties they could catch. This is against the rules of war. I will not say it is surprising, because the stragglers of an army always steal and plunder and exasperate the people. Colonel Sergeant told me he himself saw five of our men shot and stripped nearly naked. The troops were so enraged by such  cases, that they fired every house on their march, and, what made them worse, they found a great amount of apple-brandy in the country, a liquor that readily intoxicates. The superior officers destroyed a great deal of it, but the men got some and many were drunk. The people make this brandy on account of its great price. It sells for $1500 a barrel. Colonel Wainwright told me he found two tithing-bills in one house, one a year old, the other recent; in the old one wheat was valued at $10 a bushel, in the recent, at $40, showing that it has quadrupled in price within a year. It was on this day that a cavalry reconnaissance that pushed out on the Vaughan road reported heavy artillery firing in the direction of Jarrott's station. This made Grant so uneasy that he directed aid to be sent Warren. Accordingly Potter, with 9000 men, marched that night, and arrived next morning at five A. M. at the Nottoway, at Freeman's Bridge. A wretched march indeed! in slush and mud and a damp cold; but his men followed on very well and arrived with little straggling, which surprised me.
December 11, 1864Weather as before — only a little more so. I suppose they have a good deal such in England. If so, don't want to live there. Pretty times for half the army, off and on, to be marching and reconnoitring and expeditionizing about the country, as if it were picnic season! And still stranger is it to be sitting quiet in my tent when so many people are running round loose. Our affairs are rather mixed up, you see. So are those of everybody. Sherman has disappeared in Georgia and nobody knows what awful strategy he contemplates. Not so Hood: he is poking about in a manner I don't at all like: jamming Thomas up  in Nashville, and now I fancy he is just marching round the city and into Kentucky. That won't do! Old Lee don't let us march round towns unless he chooses, or has at least a hard fight for it. However, I can't think Hood can do severe damage with so powerful an army as that of Thomas in his neighborhood. Well, we will hope for a big thing, of some sort, somewhere, for there are a number of irons, small and great, in the fire, and as much activity prevails as if we were not near the real winter. One thing I am sure of, that, what with expeditions little and big, threatenings and reconnaissances, the Rebels must be kept in quite an active state of simmer. Poor General Potter! He had a frightful night march and was doubtless buoyed up by the feeling that he had a separate command and could distinguish himself if there was a fight, and slam in on Hill's left flank, and win a great name for himself. What then was his disgust to see, about noon, the head of Warren's column trudging peaceably back, on the other side of the river! There were two decent-sized armies staring at each other, across the stream, each wondering what the other meant by being there; and both wondering why so many men were concentrated against nobody. General Potter philosophically shrugged his shoulders, gave the word to face about, and put his best leg forward for home, where he arrived a little after dark. It was a terrible night for a bivouac, with an intensely piercing cold wind and everything frozen up. Warren crossed the river and spent the night on this side of it.
December 12, 1864Clear and cold we have had it this day, blowy this morning but still in the evening. Last night it blew in a tremendous manner. My tent flapped in a way that reminded  one of being at sea, and my chimney, for the first time got mad and actually smoked. My only consolation was that the General's smoked a great deal worse. He made quite a bon-mot at breakfast, despite the smoke: “Grant says the Confederates, in their endeavors to get men, have robbed the cradle and the grave; if that is the case, I must say their ghosts and babies fight very well!” I did not fail to ride out and see the raiders come in. The head of the column arrived about noon, or an hour before. I was much amused by a battery, the first thing that I met; one of the drivers was deeply intent on getting his pair of horses over a bad bridge, but, midst all his anxiety and pains on this head, he did not fail to keep tight hold of a very old rush-bottomed chair, which he carefully held in one hand! How far he had brought it or what he meant to do with it, I know not, but his face wore an expression which said: “You may take my life but you can't have this very old rush-bottomed chair which I have been at much pains to steal.” Then came the infantry, with a good deal of weary straggling, and looking pretty cold, poor fellows; then another battery spattered with mud; then a drove of beef cattle, in the midst of which marched cows, calves, and steers that never more will graze on Rebel farms. Finally a posse of stragglers and ambulances and waggons, all putting the best speed on to get to a camping-place. I pitied the poor bucks who, for six days, had endured every fatigue and hardship.
December 13, 1864As the Rebels have known the fact for some time, and as the newspapers have hinted at it in unmistakable terms, I conceive there is no impropriety in my, saying that we have now with us the 6th Corps once again. A week ago  Sunday night the first division came from City Point on the cars, having come straight from the neighborhood of Winchester by car and boat. The next morning we were treated to the sight of the familiar red crosses, and soon General Wheaton rode up, to see the General and report. . . .Very loath were the Sixth Corps bucks to leave the valley (where they had plenty of sheep and chickens and victories, and no fighting except in the regular battles), and come to a place with which they only connected more or less fighting, day and night (rather more than less), much dust, heat, and drought, and no particular victories. However, they find things better now, and will doubtless get contented in time. What must have gratified them was that they relieved Crawford's division of the 5th Corps, on the line, and took possession of their very nice log huts, which had been carefully constructed uniformly in all the brigades. Crawford's people by no means saw the thing in the same light. They took down their canvas roofs and rolled them up with dudgeon, and marched off to take a temporary camp, previous to the Weldon road expedition, I rode along the breastworks as the red crosses marched into the deserted camps, and observed the aspect of grim satisfaction with which the new comers went about, looking into the abandoned huts. The luxurious Crawford had his nice log cabin taken down and carted to his new locality. “However,” said Wheaton, “I slept in Crawford's kitchen, and that was good enough for me.” On Tuesday came the 3d division, also with a new commander, for brave General Ricketts lies at Washington, still suffering from his wound; and General Seymour, he who was taken the second day of the Wilderness, has the command. Seymour is a fiery and irrepressible sort of party, and enraged the inhabitants of Charlottesville beyond measure. When  they told him they had had most extraordinary victories over Grant, he made them a speech, in which he said it didn't make any sort of difference how many victories they had, it wouldn't do them any sort of good; that in every battle we killed off a good many of them, and that we intended to keep piling up men indefinitely, until they knocked under, or were all shot! This enraged them much, and they invited him to air himself for sixteen miles on foot, after it. . . . It was only last Monday that the 2d division got here, under Getty, and with it came General Wright, commanding the corps. Good General Wright, though always pleasant, is, I think rather in low spirits. He has had poor luck, on numerous occasions, and it culminated at Cedar Creek, where he chanced to have command of the army when it was surprised. He had rallied it, when Sheridan arrived on the field; but of course Sheridan had the credit of the victory, and indeed he deserved it. All the officers say that Wright made prodigious exertions and rode along all parts of the line in the hottest fire.
December 14, 1864General Winthrop [in speaking of Warren's operations] said his brigade bivouacked in a cornfield; it blew, snowed and sleeted all night, and when reveille beat in the morning, you could only see what seemed a field full of dead bodies, each covered with a rubber blanket and encased with ice. Some of the men had to kick and struggle, they were so hard frozen down.. Yet, despite this, I have not learned that it has caused much sickness. How would you like to carry forty or fifty pounds all day, be wet through, have your feet soaked with mud and snow-water, and then go to sleep in a cornfield, with a drifting sleet coming down on you all night? This is what twenty-five thousand men  did, for more than one night, on that expedition. This is what our poor slovenly ragamuffins can do; and this it is to be a good soldier. The Rebels are still tougher, if anything. Being still in love with the new picket line, which has been established in our rear, I again went down what is called the Church road, until I struck the. infantry pickets, near a Colonel Wyatt's house. This once was a well-to-do establishment. The house is large and a huge cornfield testifies that he (or our cavalry) had gathered a good harvest that very year. There were the usual outbuildings of a well-to-do southern farmer: little log barns, negro huts, and odd things that might be large hencoops or small pigstyes. The Virginians have a great passion for putting up a great lot of diminutive structures as a kind of foil to the main building, which, on the contrary, they like to have as extensive as possible; just as the old painters added importance to a big saint by making a number of very small devotees, kneeling below him. A stout old gent, in a shocking bad beaver, who was walking about in the back yard was, I presume, the distinguished Colonel. Having stared at the house and been in turn stared at by a pretty little girl who threw up a window, to have a more clear view of the Yank, I went, still along the Church road, till I got to the Weldon road. A picket line is always one of the most picturesque sights in an army, when it runs through woods and fields. You know it consists of a string of “posts,” each of half a dozen men, or so, and, in front of these, a chain of sentries who are constantly on the alert. The squads of men make to themselves a gipsy bough-house in front of which they make a fire in cool weather. They must always have their belts on and be ready to fight at a moment's notice. In the woods, you follow along from one rustic shelter to another,  and see the sentries, out in front, each standing behind a good tree and keeping a sharp lookout for Rebel scouts, bushwhackers and cavalry. A short distance in the rear you from time to time come on a “reserve,” which is a large body, perhaps of fifty or a hundred, who are concealed and who are ready to come to the assistance of the posts, if they are attacked. Picket duty is, of all others, that which requires most individual intelligence in the soldiers. A picket line, judiciously posted, in woods or swamps, will oppose a formidable resistance, even to a line of battle. There was careful Mr. Corps, officer of the day, with his crimson scarf across his shoulder, inspecting his outposts and reserves; each one falling in as he came along and standing at a shoulder.