Army of the Potomac.
[our own correspondent.]
Richmond, Jan. 3, 1862.
Auphora capita Latini; Charente rote our emcee exit
Some days ago I published information regarding the winter quarters of our army, based upon the statement of a gentleman whom I supposed correctly informed upon all points connected with the disposition of troops, but I have since learned from better authority that my publication was premature, and furthermore, that it was substantially incorrect.
Ten thousand rumors upon the subject are floating on the current of public talk; but they are merely exaggerated reports upon a matter no one beyond our Generals
can even predicates an opinion.
In my college days I recollect to have read, I think in Terrence, the saying, ‘"Insita lomixibus libide sleadi de industria rumores
"’--men have in them a natural propensity for spreading rumors.
The truth of the phrase was never more apparent than at present.
Men take very diminutive facts, blow them up into unusual dimensions, then set them afloat,--as school-boys inflates bladders, and use them for footballs.
It takes good sound sense to tell truth from falsehood, and sometimes sharp cross questioning to bring out true evidence in the c se. If a person happens to be misled, even in a single instance no matter about the circumstances, woe be unto him!
He has committed the unpardonable offence of circulating what he betted to be true, but which proved to be untrue.
Run your bodkin into him Madame Public; and you, old fogies, civil or military, spit your venom at him, or guillotine him on the spot!
Like the victim of ‘"all Foots day"’ or the unfortunate during ‘"Carnival week,"’ no one has any charity for the man who gets misted into error.
Nineteenths of the world will rather encourage the fault than otherwise, and if possible put in a few private ricks to Assist him on the highway to the d — l.
I have written all these moral reflections over the fact that I was misled, after leaving Centreville
, into the statement that our army had gone into winter quarters.
Speaking collectively, exactly the riverside is true.
A portion of the troops have been assigned more favorable positions, but only a small portion are now engaged in the ‘"hutting"’ process.
Although the present prospect is quiet enough, no one can say what the winter will bring forth — whether it will be quietly spent in camp, or whether a more active policy will be inaugurated.
At present winter exists only in name, but we have precedents upon which to found an opinion that there may be had weather before spring Good, comfortable quarters must be provided for our volunteers during the chilly storms of winter.
No matter what course may be pursued in the conduct of the war — act on the defensive or offensive — the health and comfort of the men demand that proper shelter should be given them.
If General Johnston
has decided to assume the aggressive, there is no reason in the world why the men should not be allowed the privilege of making log huts to live in until he is ready to lead them into the field.
If he has decided to act upon the passive policy that has been inaugurated since the battle of Manassas
, it is culpable to keep the men in weak, flimsy tents, sleeping upon — the wet, damp ground, while the icy wind whistles the ‘"dead march"’ around their ears.
Abuse a man, imperil his health and life, treat a volunteer like a senseless machine, and then ask him to enlist immediately when twelve months hard service has expired?
A sense of duty may drive him to the defence of his country, but he will eater the army with the reluctance of a quarry slave scourged to his cell, rather than with the enthusiasm that is the life of an army.
It is by showing every man that he is loved, respected and cared for; by pointing out and guiding him in the path of duty, and not by shaking the rod of military law in terrorun
over his head, that a volunteer organization can be made effective.
Discipline must be preserved, and martial law executed, and I am well aware of the fact; yet, justices can be tempered according to the circumstances of guilt.
There is truth in the old Latin maxim, ‘"Legis constructio non jacit injuriam.
Some writer, in speaking of rank and file heroes, says truly, ‘"War is far from being an unmitigated calamity, to be compensated for only by the benignant results it in a means of reaching in a crisis where all other instrumentality fails.
On the contrary, war, at the very time of its prevention, brings out the good and noble as well as the baser qualities of human nature."’This is true to a greater extent than we are apt to perceive.
We lose sight of many manifestations of virtue by confining our gaze too exclusively to the principal actors on the stage, while we forget the mass; forgetting they are, after all, acting as individuals, and that the private soldier is exhibiting his personal character as truly as the General
How often is it we see the character of the former morally greater than the latter, and in precisely the same traits.
We notice the commander in his tent at the midnight hour meeting the responsibilities of his position with unwearied fidelity, and we look upon him with admiration.
That same admiration is equally due to some solitary sentinel on the outpost, who, at that same midnight hour, is sleeplessly vigilant, feeling, perhaps, that the safety of his comrades depends upon his wakefulness.
We see the leader at the head of his column dashing gallantly into the fight, and we honor him for his bravery.
Should we not also honor the private beside him, who, with steady step and firm determination, follows him into the fight?
When we take a careful view of the whole force of our army, we are struck with the sublimity of the active sense of duty which actuates every man. The official reports tell us of the bravery and skill of General officers
Letters read with tearful eyes in far off Southern homes, give the modest narrative of merit, as great in moral purity and in elevated motive, as if its author were not a private in the ranks.
The newspapers recount the adventures of the leaders, and send them out for the admiration of the world, or preserve them for the pen of history.
Many a poor sister reads the simple story of her soldier-brother, or, in her chamber, pores over the letter of her lover with moistened eyes and emotions half of pleasure and half of grief.
If the unwritten history of this war could only be told — if the many instances of individual virtue and patriotic heroism could be written, what an insight would it give us to the human heart!
In the army of the Confederate States
at the present moment, there is enrolled an amount of intelligence, conscientious conviction, earnestness of deliberate will consecrated to a holy cause, never, perhaps equalled in the history of eighteen centuries. The best blood, and the truest, most manly hearts of our Southern land, are enlisted in the defence of its honor.
When we think of the chivalric noble men composing the rank and file of our army, how closely do we scan the character of the General
upon whom the responsibility of their treatment rests.
God forgive the commander who neglects and misuses such men while in the field!
And now I must draw my correspondence from the ‘"Army of the Potomac
"’ to a close.
During the past six months that I have remained within its lines my pen has been seldom idle.
I have gathered many a sheaf of useful knowledge and experience, and only regret that I have scattered tares in the public highway.
When first ‘"Bohemian"’ sat down to a quiet chat with his kind readers, he promised more than his poor abilities allowed him to accomplish.
Why was it that the fair castle he planned turned out as tumble down an old building as ever shock a shutter!
To use the well-known met her of Horace, which heads this letter, a large jar was begun to be made, why as the wheel goes round does it turn out a paltry pitches With many thanks for the congratulations and presents sent me by kind friends, and with many excuses for my remissness in duty, I hasten to say good bye. And year hope, not long, for I ask the same dear readers to accompany me in further ‘"Bohemian walks and talks"’ in other ways.
I presume I have looked my last upon the broad fields of Manassas plains, dotted with the white tents of our soldiers, and have done with the busy scenes of war on the line of the Potomac
Well, they will still cling to memory, and fancy can repaint them as, "In the new role
of student I work up the unwritten notes gathered during the campaign.
Like hundreds of others, I, too, can have dreams.
Pardon my introducing one here.
The student's dream.
My dreams are all of battle scene,
And through the silent night,
There breaks upon my slumbering cars
The stilling sound of charging cheers
The tumult of the fight.
The sir is full of waving swords--
Around my couch of sleep.
I see the polished helmets flash;
I hear the round shield's ringing crash.
And the war cry's made deep.
Sounds of the night I they wake me not;
Yet off in dreams I rise, Ard
, girded with a monarch's power,
I lead those heroes of an hour
Against a foe that flies.
I wear a crown of glory then.
And priceless diamonds gleam
On hilt and cross of that keen steel
My griping fingers thrill to feel
In the right hand of my dream.
Wildly and him the visions fade--
I mourn with waking day
To leave the throbs and thrill of strife,
To wake in dull and deedless life,
To join a world at play.
My spirit loathes its midday dream,
And curses hot are poured,
To don a tattered crown or weeds.
A schoolboy's forge of plaited reeds,
A jester's wooden sword:
There are many facts connected with the management and mismanagement of the army which I have yet to write, but for the present they must remain in my note-book.
Perhaps it would be better.
if they were left there altogether, but there are circumstances which remove the stamp of secrecy from many things yet untold, that as a public chronicler of daily events, I ought to give the people, but which have been withheld for prudential reasons.
Kind friends, good-bye! Bohemian.