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I. First months

Theodore Lyman reached Boston early in June 1863, hoping to obtain a Staff appointment. His first weeks were spent in settling his little family in Brookline, adjusting his private affairs, and sorting the collections of his beloved Ophiurans that had accumulated during his absence in Louis Agassiz's newly built museum.

Many of Lyman's friends thought that his desire to join the army was quixotic and unnecessary. Meanwhile Lee's advanced guard had crossed the upper Potomac, and Hooker had moved on Centreville from Falmouth. “There will be stirring times ahead,” writes Lyman in his journal. “Every one takes the matter with great calmness; we are too dead!” Soon came Gettysburg; and shortly afterward Mrs. Lyman's cousin, Robert Shaw, fell at the head of his negro regiment in the assault of Fort Wagner. Again Lyman writes: “Bob was a shining example of great development of character under pressing circumstances. In peace times he would have lived and died a quiet, manly, happy-tempered fellow; but the peril forced his true spirit into action, and now his name stands as that of one who gave up a life spotless of low ambition, of cowardice, of immorality; a life torn from all that is attractive and agreeable and devoted to the cause of Eternal Right.”

An entry in his journal says of a shooting-trip of his on some old haunts among the marshes of Cape Cod: “As I walked about this beautiful old place, with the clear air [2] and the fine breeze, the idea of going to war struck me with a ten-fold disagreeable contrast. N-----B-----was quite eloquent on the topic and strongly urged against it. But what's the use? A man must march when it is his plain duty; and all the more if he has had, in this world, more than his slice of cake!”

On August 10th Lyman wrote the following letter to General Meade, in command of the Army of the Potomac:--

As your time is valuable I will write in few words. I arrived here from Europe, with my family, some few weeks since; all well. In your letter to me, dated, Camp opposite Fredericksburg, December 22, 1862, you were kind enough to say: “I shall be delighted to have you on my staff” ; and you go on to suggest that I should come as “Volunteer aide” with a commission from the Governor of the state, and getting no pay; only forage for my horses. I clearly understand that this is no promise, only an expression of good will. Therefore I ask you frankly if you are now able and willing to take me as a Volunteer Aide? I am assured that Governor Andrew would, for his part, give me a commission. My military accomplishments are most scanty. I can ride, shoot and fence tolerably, speak French fluently and German a little, have seen many thousands of troops of most nations of Central Europe, and have read two or three elementary books. After all, I fear my sole recommendation is my wish to do something for the Cause. I will take anything you have to offer. If you have nothing, perhaps one of your generals would take me on his staff.

[To this General Meade promptly replied from the Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac.] [3]

Your note of the 10th inst. is received. I continue in the same disposition as when I wrote you on the 22d of last December. If you are anxious to see service or think your duty requires you to do so, I shall be very glad to avail myself of your services, and the best position for you is the one I indicated — that of Volunteer Aide. This will leave you free and independent; and enable you, whenever you have seen the elephant, or have satisfied the demands of duty, to return to your family without embarrassment. If the Governor will confer on you the commission of Lieutenant-Colonel, it will give you the right to wear the uniform and bear the title, and I can arrange here for the position you will occupy. You will require two good horses, a competent man to take care of them, and the smallest outfit that you can well get along with, as our transportation is limited. You can take your own time in joining, as you come in an independent position. Now I beg you will let Mrs. Lyman understand that this is all your doings; and that she must not hold me responsible for anything beyond not throwing obstacles in your way, which, in view of your very agreeable company, she could hardly expect me to do.

[Armed with this letter Lyman was soon in the possession of his commission as Lieutenant-Colonel in the Massachusetts Militia, and received a special order giving him a furlough for a year, and detailing him to serve on the staff of General Meade. “God give me,” he writes, “proper qualities to discharge my duties.”

A few hurried days busy in buying horses and equipment, and he was ready to start. His journal closes with these words before leaving for the front: “A most splendid day. Mimi went with me a pleasant walk in the woods, [4] and we picked flowers. It will be hard to part — harder than we think for! How many a brave man has never come back! The retribution of Sin descends with compound force on the generations that come after. To-morrow I leave for the army. May I do my full duty; without that there can be nothing worthy.”

He left New York for Washington the next night, “getting a sleeping-car at Philadelphia.” In Washington he saw “the streets full of soldiers, many slouchy, some dirty; but nearly all tough and strong looking,” and he characteristically remarks of the Capitol, “The interior is an incongruous mixture of fine marbles, common plaster and tobacco juice.”

The following day found him about three miles from Warrington Junction, at the]

Headquarters, Army of the Potomac September 3, 1863
Behold me, installed in solemn state! having thus far lost no limb. Betimes, at seven this morning, I was duly at the Alexandria ferryboat with horses, Silas and Albert. Having shown my pass, I assured the worthy corporal on guard that there was no liquor in the saddle-box, and was allowed to go on board, and twenty minutes took us to Alexandria, a town in no wise remarkable except for an antique pavement, much resembling that of Pompeii and of the Via Appia at Rome, in respect to deep holes and ruts. Here I was driven to the “Depot,” which consisted in one wooden counting-room, closely beset on all sides by puffing engines and innumerable freight cars. Having, at great risk, got into the shanty, I of course found a Marble-header at the head of all affairs, viz., Colonel Devereux. He received me with tenderness, my horses were put in the [5] best car and I was placed in a state chair until the train was ready, when the conductor solemnly took me and placed me first in the only passenger car. Shoulder-straps is shoulder-straps down here, and folks is obleeged to stand round. The conductor (the dirtiest mortal I ever saw, but extremely energetic and capable) said we should have no trouble with guerillas, as they had a very nice colonel in command near there, who had taken the wise precaution to seize the father and brother of the chief guerilla and then to send a civil message to him stating that, if any trains were fired into, it would be his (the Colonel's) painful duty to tie said relations on the track and run an engine over them! This had an excellent effect. I have only time to-night to say that we got down all safe. . . . You may rest easy on my account for the present. There is about as much appearance of an enemy near at hand, as there would be on Boston Common. The nearest of them (except a few guerillas) are many miles from here.

September 5, 1863
Our train consisted in a large number of freight cars, all marked “U. S. Military railroads,” and of one passenger car containing its precious freight of officers, not to speak of the female doctor who knocked Zacksnifska out of all sight and knowledge. She was going down to get the son of an old lady, who (the said son) had had a sunstroke, and this female doctor had great confidence she could cure him. She was attired in a small straw hat with a cockade in front, a pair of blue pantaloons and a long frock coat, or sack. Over all she had a linen “duster” ; and this, coupled with the fact that she had rips in her boots, gave her a trig appearance. She was liberal in her advice to all comers [6] and especially exhorted two newspaper boys to immediately wash their faces, in which remark she was clearly correct.1 . . .

. . . At Warrenton Junction there was luckily an ambulance from headquarters; and as its owner was only a diminutive captain, I had no hesitation in asking him to carry me up, with my traps. . . . So off we set, on a road which went sometimes over stumps and sometimes through “runs” two or three feet deep. We passed any quantity of pickets and negroes and dragoons in twos and threes; till at last, looking off to the left (or rather right), I beheld what seemed a preparation for a gigantic picnic: a great number of side-tents, pitched along regular lines, or streets, and over them all a continuous bower of pine boughs. These were “Headquarters.” I put my best foot forward and advanced to the tent of the Commander-in-Chief, in front of which waved a big flag on a high staff. In my advance I was waylaid by a lieutenant, the officer of the day, who with much politeness said General Meade was out for a ride, but would I not walk into a tent and take some whiskey; which I accepted, all but the whiskey. He turned out to be a Swede, one Rosencrantz, and I rejoiced his soul by speaking of Stockholm. Presently there arrived the General himself, who cried out, “Hulloo, Lyman! How are you?” just as he used to. He was as kind as possible, and presently informed me I was to mess with him. As the Chief-of-Staff is the only other man who is allowed to do this, you may concede that my lines have fallen in pleasant places! The said Chief-of-Staff is General Humphreys, a very eminent engineer. He is an extremely neat man, and is continually washing himself and putting on paper dickeys. He has a great deal of knowledge, [7] beyond his profession, and is an extremely gentlemanly man. As to the Assistant Adjutant-General, S. Barstow, he was most hospitable, and looked out for getting me a tent, etc. He really has a laborious and difficult position, the duties of which he seems to discharge with the offhand way of an old workman.

Now I will pull up. As to my riding forth yesterday and to-day, in martial array, beside the General, and with dragoons clattering behind, shall not the glories thereof be told in a future letter? Meanwhile, if you want to feel as if nobody ever was or could be killed, just come here! This is the effect, strange as it may seem. For your assurance I will state, that we yesterday rode seven miles directly towards the enemy, before we got to a spot whence their pickets may sometimes be seen! . . .

[A few words will recall the position of the Army of the Potomac at that time. Halleck was virtually in command of the Union armies. In June, Lee turned the right wing of the Union Army, crossed the Potomac, and entered Pennsylvania. Hooker, then in command of the Army of the Potomac, followed on Lee's right flank, covered Washington, and crossed the Potomac. On June 27, Lincoln relieved Hooker and appointed Meade, who was then in command of the Fifth Corps. Four days later, Meade got in touch with the Confederate Army, and placed his forces in such a position, on the heights of Gettysburg, that Lee was forced to attack him. After three days stubborn fighting, which culminated in the repulse of the magnificent Confederate charge under Pickett, Lee was forced to retreat. Meade followed him, but Lee succeeded in recrossing the Potomac before the former considered himself in position to attack him. Meade also crossed the [8] river into Virginia. Lyman joined the army in the midst of the manoeuvres that ensued. It was a campaign of skirmishes and combats, but with no general battle before both armies went into winter quarters in December.]

September 6th, 1863
I promised to tell you how I invited General Meade to go with me and see General Sykes. If I didn't know anything, I looked like a Commander-in-Chief, for I had the best horse and the best accoutrements, and as for clothes, General Meade was nowhere; besides which, he had no sword, while I had. The cavalry escort reminded me exactly of the Guides that go with the little Prince along the rue de Rivoli. No two of them had caps alike, none had their jackets buttoned; all were covered with half an inch of dust, and all eschewed straps to their pantaloons. Nevertheless, had the Rebs appeared, I should have preferred these informal cavaliers to the Guides. Each man had a sabre with a rusty scabbard, and a revolver hung at his belt. They all ride well, and would be handsome horsemen, if “got up.”

General Humphreys, with his usual bland smile, appeared on a small gray, which was of a contrary and rearing disposition; but the General remarked, with the air of an injured man, that he had had three valuable horses killed under him in battle, and now he should only get cheap ones. General Meade, whose saddle-flap was ornamented with a bullet-hole within an inch of his leg, was mounted on a small bay. And so we jingled off; sometimes in the road, sometimes in the open fields, sometimes in the woods and sometimes through creeks and mudholes. The Chief rides in a most aggravating way, neither at a walk nor a gallop, but at a sort of amble, which bumps [9] you and makes you very uncomfortable. . . . In due season we got to the 5th Corps Headquarters, near the Rappahannock, which is a very narrow affair at this point, and not over four feet deep on the shallowest fords. General Sykes looks a little like the photograph of General Lyon and has a very thick head of hair, which stands up like Traddles's. He is a mild, steady man, and very polite, like all the officers I have seen down here. Indeed, a more courteous set of men it would be hard to find. I have yet to meet a single gruffy one. They are of all sorts, some well educated, others highly Bowery, but all entirely civil. . . .

The astute Sykes talked some time with the Chief, and then we rode to the Headquarters of General Newton, who commands the 1st Corps, hard by. This chieftain had a very gorgeous tent, erected for the express accommodation of Mrs. Newton, who, however, was soon driven forth by the general order excluding all ladies from the lines; and the tent was all that remained to remind one of her presence. General Newton also has a thick head of hair, and is a tall and finely built man and “light complected.” He was in great glee over a tete-de-pont he had erected, and hoped to decoy some unfortunate Rebels to within range of it. He produced a huge variety of liquids which I had to refuse. The drinks I have refused will be a burden on my conscience in time to come. They come from all sides and in great variety, even champagne! . . .

Headquarters, Army of Potomac September 9, 1863
In my last I forwarded a landscape with Headquarters of the 3d Corps in the verdant background. In this, I will describe the Review, at which, as the Gauls say, “I assisted.” . . . Everybody got himself up in all available [10] splendor. Those that had scarfs put them on, and those that had none, tried to make up in the shine of their boots and newness of their coats. General Meade burst forth in the glory of a new saddle-cloth, which the expressman had, in the nick of time, brought fresh from Washington. As for myself, did I not put on the Brimmer scarf, and white gloves, and patent-leather boots; whereby, shining like a lily of the field, was I not promoted to ride immediately behind the Chief, thereby happily avoiding the dust? Heure militaire, we all mounted, the escort presented arms, and the cavalcade jogged off, en route for the parade ground, six miles distant. The road lay through pine woods, and barren fields, and all sorts of places like most roads hereabouts, and the cloud of dust we raised must have been extremely pleasant to the escort in the rear! At length we got in sight of a big U. S. flag, and, immediately after, beheld a long slope of clear ground, quite black with the lines of infantry, while long artillery trains were moving across the fields to get into position. It looked very handsome and warlike, and the muskets, which had received an extra burnish, were flashing away at a great rate. The procession rode up to the house and dismounted midst great cries of “Orderly!” to come and hold their horses. Then advanced convenient Contrabands and dusted us down; which improved our aspect not a little. After which the Corps Commander, General French, came forth, with proper greetings. He looks precisely like one of those plethoric French colonels, who are so stout, and who look so red in the face, that one would suppose some one had tied a cord tightly round their necks. Mounted on a large and fine horse, his whole aspect was martial, not to say fierce. In a few minutes we again got on, and moved towards the field; whereupon there arose a great and distant [11] shouting of “Bat-tal-ion! Shoulder! Her-r-rms!” and the long lines suddenly became very straight and stiff, and up went the muskets to a shoulder. We rode down the front and up the rear of each line (of which there were three, each of a division with the artillery on the left flank) amid a tremendous rolling of drums and presenting of arms and dropping flags; the bands playing “Hail to the Chief.” Miss Sturgis's mare behaved very nicely and galloped along with her neck arched, minding nothing except the flags, and those not much. Even the cannon did not disturb her behaviour. . . .

After the artillery had in like manner been reviewed, the General took a station by a little flag, and then all three divisions marched past, followed by the artillery. It was a somewhat sad sight to look at these veterans, with their travel-stained uniforms and their battered canteens; many of the regiments had no more than 200 men, and their flags were so tattered that you could barely read such names as Fair Oaks, and Williamsburg, where so many of the missing 800 now lie. The men looked spare and brown and in good health; and also as if they would then and there fight French Zouaves or anybody else you chose to bring on. . . . Some divisions at Gettysburg marched thirty-six miles in one day; and then fought for two days after that, with scarcely anything to eat or to drink. Among the troops were the 11th and 16th Massachusetts regiments and the 10th battery, and certainly none of the soldiers looked better. . . . The artillery looked even more serviceable than the infantry; and, independent of the large number of guns, was well horsed and well manned. As a rule I am much pleased with the aspect of our officers, high and low. They are cleanly and have a firm, quiet bearing. You can often pick out those who have been [12] through the thick of it, by their subdued and steady look. The dress of the soldiers is highly practical, more so even than the French. The knapsack is baggy and of a poor pattern, however. It is curious how everything has, by sheer hard service and necessity, been brought down to the lowest point of weight and complication. A dragoon tucks his trousers inside his boots, buckles on a belt, from which hang a sabre and revolver, gets on a horse with a McClellan saddle and curb bridle, and there he is, ready to ride fifty miles in one day and fight on top of it. . . . After the Review the generals were entertained in a bower, with champagne and other delicacies, while we of the Staff meekly had big sandwiches and buckets of punch. I tried a sandwich, but found it rather salt eating, and so confined myself to iced water, wherein I got ahead of wine-bibbers who arrived at home very cross and hot. The General, who is very moderate in his conviviality, soon broke up the meeting, and, amidst a most terrible clicking of spurs and rattling of sabres, we all mounted, and so home by a short cut which one of General French's aides was kind enough to show us, and which entailed a considerable amount of rough riding; so that, with Mause Headrigg, I had occasion to remark, “By the help of the Lord I have luppen a ditch!”

Headquarters, Army of Potomac September 11, 1863
The last two days have been most unusually quiet. I read a little in military books, write a few letters, look over the newspapers a little, talk to the Staff officers, and go to bed early. The conversation of the officers is extremely entertaining, as most of them have been in a good many battles. They say that General Meade is an extremely cool man. At Gettysburg he was in a little wooden house, [13] when the hot fire began. The shells flew very thick and close, and his Staff, who were outside, got under the lee of the house and sat down on the grass. As they sat there, out came General Meade, who, seeing them under such a slender protection against cannon-balls, began to laugh, and said: “That now reminds me of a feller at the Battle of Buena Vista, who, having got behind a wagon, during a severe cannonade, was there found by General Taylor. ‘Wall Gin'ral,’ said he, looking rather sheepish, ‘this ain't much protection, but it kinder feels as it was.’ ” As a point to the Chief's anecdote, a spherical case came through the house at that instant, exploded in their circle and wounded Colonel Dickinson. . . .

I walked over and saw the Provost prisoners, the other evening. If you want to see degraded human nature, there was the chance. There was a bough covering, about forty feet square, guarded by sentries, and under it were grouped some fifty of the most miserable and depraved human beings I ever saw — deserters, stray Rebel soldiers, “bushwhackers” and camp-followers. They sleep on the bare ground with such covering as they may have, and get a ration of pork and biscuit every day. This is only a sort of temporary guardhouse, where they are put as they come in. War is a hard thing. This country, just here, was once all fenced in and planted; now there isn't a rail left and the land is either covered with dried weeds or is turned into a dusty plain by the innumerable trains of horses, mules and waggons.

[That evening there was a report that Lee was falling back. The cavalry were gathered for a reconnaissance in force. And Lyman was detailed to Pleasonton's Staff, to give him his first experience of actual fighting.]


Headquarters Army of Potomac Between the Rappahannock and Rapidan September 17, 1863
Having again got “home,” I find leisure and paper to write you a rather longer letter than you have got of late. Perhaps you would like to hear about our little cavalry performance. Of course there was not hard fighting, and a hundred or so will cover all the killed and wounded; nevertheless, as the whole was new to me and as the operations covered a good deal of country, they were interesting and instructive both. The whole Cavalry Corps (a good many thousand men) had been massed the day before, and had orders to cross the Rappahannock early next morning. I was to ride down in time to join General Pleasonton. The distance to the river is some eight miles, so I was up at 4.30--rain pitchforks! dark as a box — thunder and lightning — everything but “enter three witches.” However, in my india-rubber coat and much-insulted large boots, much of the water could be kept out, and, by the time we were saddled and had had some tea, behold it stopped raining and away I went, quite thankful, and with a tail of six orderlies and a corporal. The ground was very wet, and we went slipping and sliding, in the red mud, till we drew near the river, when, behold, the whole country alive with train-waggons, columns of infantry, batteries, and ambulances; the latter with the stretchers fastened outside disagreeably suggestive of casualties. The rear of the cavalry had just crossed, when I got there; and General Pleasonton was on the opposite bank, where I presently joined him, crossing by the railroad bridge. He had with him a good many aides, besides orderlies and escort. Just at this point we held the southern, as well as the northern, bank and the pickets were some two miles out. [15] The country is rolling, but not quite hilly; there are very large open fields (now filled mostly with weeds) and again, considerable woods. In these last our cavalry were hidden, so that you would have said there were not 300 of them all together. This I found, presently, was a great point, to conceal men, behind woods and ridges, as much as possible.

We all now rode to our extreme picket line and took a view; and there, sure enough, was Mr. Reb with his picket line, about one third of a mile off. We could see a chain of mounted videttes, and, behind these, on a little knoll, a picket reserve, with their horses tied to trees. We waited some time to give a chance to General Gregg who had crossed on our right, and General Kilpatrick on our left, to get into the proper positions. Then General Pleasonton ordered an advance, and, in a few moments, quite as if by magic, the open country was alive with horsemen; first came columns of skirmishers who immediately deployed and went forward, at a brisk trot, or canter, making a connected line, as far as the eye could reach, right and left. Then followed the supports, in close order, and with and behind them came the field batteries, all trooping along as fast as they could scramble. It was now between eight and nine and the sun was bright, so that the whole spectacle was, to a greenhorn like me, one of the most picturesque possible. Not the least remarkable feature was the coolness of Mr. Reb under these trying circumstances. Their videttes stared a few moments, apparently without much curiosity, then turned tail and moved off, first at a walk, then at a trot, and finally disappeared over the ridge at a gallop. We rode on about a mile, keeping a little behind the skirmishers; General Buford and his Staff being just ahead and to the left. To the left we could hear cannon, General Kilpatrick having got into a skirmish there. [16] Presently I saw a puff of smoke, on a ridge in front of us, and then hm-m-why-z-z-z, bang! went the shell, right by General Buford's Staff, taking the leg off a poor orderly. Much pleased with their good shot, they proceeded to give our Staff a taste; and missiles of various kinds (but all disagreeable) began to skip and buzz round us. It was to me extraordinary to see the precision with which they fired. All the shot flew near us, and, while I had gone forward to the crest of the ridge to get a better view, a shell exploded directly in the midst of the Staff, wounding an orderly and very neatly shaving a patch of hair off the horse of Captain Hutchins. However, two could play at that game, and Captain Graham soon made the obnoxious guns limber up and depart to the next ridge, where they would again open and stay as long as they could. By the time we had got a few miles further, the enemy had brought forward all his cavalry and began firing with rifles, to which our men replied with their carbines.

We now entered a wooded tract, interspersed with mud-holes and springy ground, and here the enemy made quite a hard stand, for the town of Culpeper lay a couple of miles beyond and they wished to gain time to get off their stores by the railroad. The advanced regiments were therefore dismounted and sent into the woods, while the artillery tried to find some place whence the guns could be used. It was at this place that I first heard the yells, for which the Rebels are noted. They were the other side of a high bank, covered with bushes, and they yelled to keep their spirits up as long as possible. But they were soon driven through the woods and then we came on an open country, in full view of Culpeper. This was a very interesting sight. The hills are, hereabout, quite large, and on the one opposite us stood Culpeper, very prettily situated, [17] the railroad running through the lower part of the town. Just in the outskirts the Rebels had planted two batteries, as a last check, and behind were drawn up their supports of cavalry. Our cavalry were coming out of the woods, on all sides, moving on the town in form of a semi-circle, while the guns were pelting those of the enemy with might and main. Suddenly we were aware of a railroad train slowly leaving the depot, and immediately several guns were turned on it; but it went off, despite the shells that burst over it. Then there suddenly appeared a body of our cavalry, quite on the left of the town, who made a rush, at full speed, on three cannon there stationed, and took the whole of them with their caissons. This was a really handsome charge and was led by General Custer, who had his horse shot under him. This officer is one of the funniest-looking beings you ever saw, and looks like a circus rider gone mad! He wears a huzzar jacket and tight trousers, of faded black velvet trimmed with tarnished gold lace. His head is decked with a little, gray felt hat; high boots and gilt spurs complete the costume, which is enhanced by the General's coiffure, consisting in short, dry, flaxen ringlets! His aspect, though highly amusing, is also pleasing, as he has a very merry blue eye, and a devil-may-care style. His first greeting to General Pleasonton, as he rode up, was: “How are you, fifteen-days'-leave-of-absence? They have spoiled my boots but they didn't gain much there, for I stole 'em from a Reb.” And certainly, there was one boot torn by a piece of shell and the leg hurt also, so the warlike ringlets got not only fifteen, but twelve [additional] days' leave of absence, and have retreated to their native Michigan!

The Rebels now retreated in all haste, and we rode at once in, and found a good many supplies at the depot with [18] a number of rifles and saddles. As we rode up, the building was beset with grinning dragoons, each munching, with great content, a large apple, whereof they found several barrels which had been intended for the comfort of Mr. Stuart's dashing knights. I was surprised at the good conduct of the gypsy-looking men. They insulted no one, broke nothing, and only took a few green peaches, which, I fancy, amply revenged themselves. Culpeper is a really decent place, with a brick hotel, and a number of good houses, in front of which were little gardens. I send you a rosebud, which I picked as we rode through the town; there were plenty of them, looking rather out of place there, in the midst of muddy batteries and splattered cavalrymen! A queer thing happened in the taking of the three guns. An officer was made prisoner with them, and, as he was marched to the rear, Lieutenant Counselman of our side cried out, “Hullo, Uncle Harry!” “Hullo!” replied the captain uncle. “Is that you? How are you?” And there these two had been unwittingly shelling each other all the morning!

After resting the horses we pushed on to the south, towards what is called Pong Mountain, for you must know that this region is more hilly, and Pong Mountain is about comparable to the Blue Hills (not quite so high, perhaps). . . . We drove the enemy five miles beyond Culpeper, making fifteen miles, in all, and there a halt was ordered and pickets thrown out. Our Headquarters were a wretched house, of two rooms, inhabited by two old women. We gave them one room and took the other ourselves. And now I loomed out! The Staff had, in the way of creature comforts, nothing but sabres and revolvers. It was dark and raining guns, and the Chief-of-Staff had the stomachache! I took from my saddle-bags a candle and lighted the [19] same, prepared tea from my canteen, and produced a loaf of bread and a Bologna sausage, to the astonishment of the old campaigners, who enquired, “Whether I had a pontoon bridge about me?” Then I rolled myself in my coat and took a good night's sleep on the floor.

The next morning we started for Raccoon Ford, on the Rapidan, five miles distant. The enemy were mostly across and only opposed us with a few skirmishers. As we got in sight of it, the prospect was not cheering. The opposite bank, partly wooded and partly covered with cultivation, rose in steep, high hills, which completely commanded our side of the river. It was a fine sight to see the column splashing along the wood road, lying between fine oak trees; but the fine sight was presently interrupted by a shell, which exploded about 100 yards ahead of me and right among the horses' legs, without touching me! The General rode into the open field to reconnoitre the position, and I with him, because he wanted my glass; but Mr. Secesh has a sharp eye for gold cords round hats, and, in a minute, wh-n-n-g, flup! wh-z-z-z! a solid shot struck just in front of us, and bounced over our heads. The General ordered us to disperse about the field, so as not to make a mark; but, as I rode off, they sent a shell so near me that a facetious officer called out: “I guess they think you're somebody pretty distinguished, Kun'l.” However, there may be a good deal of cannon shooting, without many hits; in proof of which I will say that we had a brisk fire of artillery from 10.30 to 2.30, together with a sharp spattering of rifles and carbines, and that our loss was five killed and fifteen wounded! Shells do not sound so badly as I expected; nor did I feel as I expected on the occasion. There is a certain sense of discipline and necessity that bears you up; and the only shell I “ducked” was the first one. [20]

After some difficulty we got some guns in position and drove off those opposed. Then General Kilpatrick's division went to a better ford below, and tried to get over there; but the Rebels opened on him with fourteen cannon and silenced his guns after a hard fire. So we concluded the fords were not practicable for cavalry, which I think might have been apparent from the outset. Whereupon both parties stopped and stared at each other; and we heroes of the Staff went to a house (much better than that of last night) and partook of mutton which, during the day, we had valiantly made the prey of our bow and our spear. On our right General Gregg had driven the enemy beyond Cedar Mountain and nearly to the river, but was there brought up by a heavy force of artillery in position. All day Tuesday we lay doing nothing. I rode over with the General to Cedar Mountain, passing close to the battle-field, and ascended, thus getting a fine view of the Rapidan valley, which is very beautiful and would, in the hands of good farmers, yield a thousandfold. . . . We have taken on our reconnaissance in force about 150 prisoners, three guns, and five caissons. Yesterday the entire army crossed the Rappahannock, and I got orders to return to Headquarters, which I did.

Headquarters Army of Potomac September 22, 1863
We have had an Austrian officer, awfully arrayed, making a visit to see the telegraphs and the signal corps. He looked so natural with his sprig little bob-tail coat and his orange sash, and presented a funny contrast to our officers, who with their great boots and weather-beaten slouched hats looked as if they could swallow him and not know it. Captain Boleslaski (such was his name) was selected probably for two reasons, in this military mission: 1st, because [21] he could speak no word of English; and 2d, because he was very deaf. Notwithstanding which little drawbacks, he ran about very briskly, from morn to eve, and really saw a great deal. I roared French in his ear, till I nearly had the bronchitis, but succeeded in imparting to him such information as I had. He addressed me as “Mon Colonel” and looked upon me as the hero of a hundred campaigns; though he did rather stick me, when he asked me whether our pontoons were constructed on the system of Peterhoff or of Smolenski! He was much pleased with the attention he got, and was extremely surprised when he beheld the soldiers all running to buy newspapers.

Yesterday came General Buford, commander of the second Cavalry Division, and held a pow-wow. He is one of the best of the officers of that arm and is a singular-looking party. Figurez-vous a compactly built man of middle height, with a tawny moustache and a little, triangular gray eye, whose expression is determined, not to say sinister. His ancient corduroys are tucked into a pair of ordinary cowhide boots, and his blue blouse is ornamented with holes; from one pocket thereof peeps a huge pipe, while the other is fat with a tobacco pouch. Notwithstanding this get — up he is a very soldierly looking man. He is of a good-natured disposition, but not to be trifled with. Caught a notorious spy last winter and hung him to the next tree, with this inscription: “This man to hang three days: he who cuts him down before shall hang the remaining time.”

September 24, 1863
Yesterday we were favored with the presence of Sir Henry Holland, the Queen's physician, who is one of the liveliest old birds for one of seventy-five that ever was seen. He travels two months every year, and has already [22] been four or five times in these United States. Dr. Letterman, the Medical Director, put him in an ambulance, and Colonel Townsend and myself completed the party. What pains wounded people may suffer in ambulances, I know not; but I do know that, when driven at a trot, over open fields and through little ditches, the jolting is not to be expressed in words. But the royal medical person maintained his equanimity wonderfully and continued to smile, as if he were having a nice drive over a turnpike. First he was halted on a rising spot, when he could see four batteries of horse artillery, which did defile before him, to his great admiration. Then we bumped him six miles farther, to the Headquarters of the 12th Corps, close to the river. Here he hobnobbed with General Slocum, and then got on a horse and rode about the camps. After which he was taken to a safe spot, whence he could behold the Rebels and their earthworks. He returned quite fresh and departed in a most amiable mood.

There seems to me no particular prospect of a battle. I thought this morning, that we should have a great fight within a couple of days; but movements, which I dare say you will read of in the papers before this letter reaches you, have just knocked it. Entre nous, I believe in my heart that at this moment there is no reason why the whole of Lee's army should not be either cut to pieces, or in precipitate flight on Richmond. In saying this to you, I accuse nobody and betray no secrets, but merely state my opinion. Your bricks and mortar may be of the best; but, if there are three or four chief architects, none of whom can agree where to lay the first brick, the house will rise slowly.


Headquarters, Army of the Potomac September 29, 1863
I see such flocks of generals now, that I do not always take the pains to describe them. On Sunday there arrived General Benham, one of the dirtiest and most ramshackle parties I ever saw. Behind him walked his Adjutant-General, a great contrast, in all respects, being a trig, broad-shouldered officer, with a fierce moustache and imperial and a big clanking sabre. I gazed at this Adjutant-General and he at me, and gradually, through the military fierceness, there peeped forth the formerly pacific expression of Channing Clapp!2 There never was such a change, Achilles and all other warlike persons; and is much improved withal. That same evening enter another general (distinguished foreigner this time), El General Jose Cortez, chevalier of some sort of red ribbon and possessor of a bad hat. He was accompanied by two eminent Señors, Mexicans and patriotic exiles. We were out riding when they came; but, after our return, and in the midst of dinner, there comes an orderly with a big official envelope, proving to be a recommendation from Mr. Seward. “Oh,” says the General, “another lot, hey? Well, I suppose they will be along to-morrow” ; and went on quietly eating dinner. Afterwards I went into the office of General Williams (or “Seth” as they call him here) and there beheld, sitting in a corner, three forlorn figures. Nobody seemed to know who they were, but the opinion prevailed that they were a deputation of sutlers, who were expected about that time! But I, hearing certain tones of melancholy Spanish, did presently infer that they were the parties mentioned in the big, official envelope, and so it proved! They were speedily entered into the General's presence and, after a [24] few compliments, anxiously asked when the next train left for Washington; for it appears that they had supposed Culpeper was a pleasant jaunt of about fifteen minutes from the Capitol, and was furnished with elegant hotels and other conveniences; consequently they had brought no sac de nuit, and had had nothing to eat since early morning, it being then dark! Their surprise was considerable, after a weary ride of some hours, to be dumped in a third-rate village, deserted by its inhabitants and swarming with dusty infantry. John made ready with speed, and, after a meal and a bottle of champagne, it was surprising to see how their barometers rose, especially that of small Señor, No. 2, who launched forth in a flood of eulogium on the state of civil liberty in the United States. Our next care was to provide them sleeping-accommodations; no easy matter in the presence of the fact that each has barely enough for himself down here. But I succeeded in getting two stretchers from the hospital (such as are used to bring in the wounded from the field) and a cot from Major Biddle; three pillows (two india-rubber and one feather) were then discovered, and these, with blankets, one tin basin, one bucket, and one towel, made them entirely happy. Really, how they looked so fresh next morning was quite a marvel. Then, after a good breakfast, we put them all on horseback (to the great uneasiness of the two Señors) and followed by a great crowd of a Staff (who never can be made to ride, except in the higglety-pigglety style in which “Napoleon et ses Marechaux” are always represented in the common engravings), we jogged off, raising clouds of red dust, to take a look at some soldiers. . . . El General was highly pleased and kept taking off his bad hat and waving it about. Also he expressed an intense [25] desire that we should send 50,000 men and immediately wipe out the French in Mexico.

“Why doesn't Meade attack Lee?” Ah, I have already thrown out a hint on the methods of military plans in these regions. But, despite the delays, I should have witnessed a great battle before this; if, if, if, at the very moment the order had not come to fill up the gap that the poltroonery of two of Rosecrans' Corps has made in the western armies. I do believe that we should have beaten them (that's no matter now), for my Chief, though he expressly declares that he is not Napoleon, is a thorough soldier, and a mighty clear-headed man; and one who does not move unless he knows where and how many his men are; where and how many his enemy's men are; and what sort of country he has to go through. I never saw a man in my life who was so characterized by straightforward truthfulness as he is. He will pitch into himself in a moment, if he thinks he has done wrong; and woe to those, no matter who they are, who do not do right! “Sir, it was your duty and you haven't done it; now go back and do it at once,” he will suddenly remark to some astonished general, who thinks himself no small beer. Still I do wish he would order the Provost-Marshal to have a few more of the deceased horses buried. The weather here is perfect — could not be finer.

Headquarters, Army of Potomac October 1, 1863
Yesterday we had a sword presentation (nothing else to do now, you know). It would appear that General Warren is a native of Cold Spring, near West Point; whereupon it did occur to the natives of his mother town to buy a sword for him in token of their, etc., etc., etc. The weapon was [26] duly entrusted to the safe keeping of a certain Dr. Young, and of another certain Mr. Spaulding, both of whom arrived, a day or two since, with the precious casket. Early in the morning came an orderly with a notice, saying that the Staff officers were respectfully invited to, etc., etc., etc. We persuaded the Quartermaster to give us a car (which turned out to be a grain car with a few chairs), and, by this means, we were enabled to go from Culpeper in about twenty minutes, the General leading the crowd. General Warren was lodged in Spartan simplicity, in a third-rate farmhouse. His dress was even more Spartan than his lodgment. Did I ever describe him to you? Fancy a small, slender man, with a sun-burnt face, two piercing black eyes, and withal bearing a most ludicrous resemblance to cousin Mary Pratt! He was dressed in a double-breasted blouse, buttoned awry, a pair of soldier's pantaloons, rather too short, and a very old little straw hat, of the kind called “chip.” Such is the personnel of one of the very best generals in the Army of the Potomac! He is a most kind man, and always taking care of hysterical old Secesh ladies and giving them coffee and sugar. As to Secesh males, in the army, he is a standing terror to them. This valiant warrior, who don't care a button for missiles, was extremely nervous at the idea of the sword presentation, and went trotting about the house consulting with Dr. Young. There soon arrived sundry other generals, each with a longer or shorter tail. General French, the pattern of the Gallic colonel; General Griffin, whose face is after the manner of his name; and quite a bushel-basketfull of brigadiers. Then the band arrived; and, by that time, there was a house filled with shoulder-straps of all sorts (I certainly knocked the crowd by having a pair of cotton gloves). Thereupon we formed a semi-circle round the [27] porch, where was deposited, on an old pine table, the elegant rosewood case. General Warren stood up, looking much as if about to be married, and Dr. Young, standing opposite with a paper in his hand, so resembled a clergyman, that I fully expected him to say, “Warren, will you have this sword to be your lawful, wedded wife?” But instead, he only read how the citizens of Cold Spring, desirous of showing their appreciation of the patriotism, etc., had procured this sword, etc., in token of, etc., etc. To which the General, looking, if possible, still more as if in the agonies of the altar, replied from a scrap of notepaper, the writing whereof he could not easily read. The whole took about five minutes, at the end of which he drew a breath of great relief, and remarked, “The execution is over; now won't you come in and eat something?” The spread consisted of roast beef, baked ham, bread, assorted pickles, laid out on a table with newspapers for a cloth. The generals fed first and were accommodated partly with chairs and partly with a pine bench, borrowed from a neighboring deserted schoolhouse. While some ate, the rest were regaled with a horse-bucketfull of whiskey punch, whereof two or three of the younger lieutenants got too much, for which I warrant they paid dear; for the “Commissary” whiskey is shocking and the water, down near the river, still worse. All this took place in full view of the hills, across the river, on and behind which were camped the Rebels; and I could not help laughing to think what a scattering there would be if they should pitch over a 20-pound Parrott shell, in the midst of the address! But they are very pleasant now, and the pickets walk up and down and talk across the river. And so we got in our grain car and all came home. . . .


Headquarters Army of Potomac October 4, 1863
We have sad cases come here sometimes. Yesterday there was a poor farmer, that filled me with admiration. He had travelled a thousand miles from his place in Indiana to get the body of his only son, killed in our cavalry skirmish of the 13th September. “I am most wore out,” said he, “runnina round; but the ambulance has gone over to that piece of woods, after him. And that old hoss, that was his; the one he was sitting on, when he was shot; she ain't worth more than fifty dollars, but I wouldn't take a thousand for her, and I am going to take her home to Indiana.” So you see that bullets fired here may hit poor folks away in the West. To-day is a Sunday, which is marked by General “Seth” shutting up shop and obstinately refusing to talk with sundry officers who deem it a good leisure day to go over and consult on their private interests. “Sir!” says “Seth” (who cuts off his words and lisps them, and swallows them, and has the true Yankee accent into the bargain), “Sir! The Pres'dent of these ‘Nited States has issued a procl'mation, saying nothing should be done Sundays; and Gen'l Merklellan did the same, and so did Gen'l Hooker; and you wanter talk business, you've got er come week days.” “The father of the Army” is also much exercised with people who want leaves of absence. “Now here's a feller,” he cries ( “feller” means officer), “here's a feller that wants to go because he wants to git married; and here's another who wants to go because he has just been married; and here's a feller asks for three days to go to Washington and buy a pair of spectacles!” Notwithstanding his trials, he gets quite stout on it, and preserves the same unruffled countenance.


Headquarters Army of Potomac October 11, 1863
As all is packed, I take to pencil correspondence. Uncle Lee has concluded that we have stared long enough at each other, and so is performing some fancy antics, though whether he means to fight, or retreat after a feint, or merely take a walk, I know not. He is now paddling along, in the general direction of Warrenton, between us and the Blue Ridge; and so has entirely left his station on the other bank of the river. . . . Last night I, being of a foxy disposition, turned in at an early hour, so that I was fresh and fine at four this morning, when we were routed out, and assisted to coffee and bread and cold ham. It was a Murillo-esque (!) sight to behold the officers, in big coats and bigger sabres, standing with the bright light of the camp-fire on their faces. The cavalry cloaks, slouched hats, and great boots, though, as Co3 says, “drunk” --looking, are much more suited to a painter than the trig uniforms of the Europeans. So here we are, with horses saddled, waiting to see what is what. You understand that Mr. Reb is not very near us, in fact further off than before, but he is moving, and so we, too, are “en garde.” Our army, I say with emphasis, ought to be able to whip the gentlemen.

Down comes General Meade; I clap the pencil in my pocket, and in two minutes we are off, escort, orderlies, Staff and all, winding our way midst miles of baggage and ammunition waggons and slow columns of moving infantry. Ha, ha, ha! They don't look much like the “Cadets,” these old sojers on the march. There is their well-stuffed knapsack, surmounted by a rolled gray blanket, the worse for wear; from their belt is slung a big cartridge-box, with [30] forty rounds, and at their side hangs a haversack (satchel you would call it) quite bursting with three days rations. Hullo! what has that man, dangling at the end of his musket? A coffee-pot! an immense tin coffee-pot! and there is another with a small frying-pan — more precious to them than gold. And there goes a squad of cavalry, the riders almost obscured by the bags of oats and the blankets and coats piled on pommel and crupper; their carbine hangs on one side and their sabre clatters from the other. And then behold a train of artillery (the best-looking arm of the service), each gun drawn by six or eight horses, and the caissons covered with bags of forage. And so the face of the country is covered, when an army is on the march, the waggons keeping the road, the infantry winding through the open land. It is singular, in regard to the latter, that, however dirty or slovenly the men may be, their muskets always shine like silver; they know it is an important member. Well, you perceive I have leisure to get a pen-full of ink, to continue the letter, begun this morning. In fact we have done our day's march and our movable houses are all up at a new “Headquarters.” We hear nothing much of the Insurges, but are all ready to pitch into them if we find them in a soft spot. . . .

[At this time Meade's main line was from Rapidan Station, where the railroad from Alexandria to Charlottesville crosses the river, to Raccoon Ford, some seven miles down the Rapidan. During the following days there was a series of minor engagements, Lee endeavoring to turn Meade's right flank, and get between him and Washington. But Meade, outmarching Lee, kept between him and Washington, finally bringing the Headquarters to Centreville about twenty-four miles west of Alexandria. [31]

Meanwhile, it appears to have been extremely difficult to locate the enemy. “It is quite extraordinary,” writes Lyman, “what little information is to be had. The idea of the enemy, 50,000 or 60,000 strong, marching about, and we not knowing whether they are going one way or another, seems incredible; but then it is to be observed that, 1st, the woods and hills greatly conceal distant moves; and, 2d, by an outlying cavalry, a move may be either covered or simulated.” ]

Headquarters Army of Potomac October 12, 1863
You will probably have all sorts of rumors of defeats, or victories, or something. The facts are very simple: as our great object is Uncle Lee's army (one might properly say our only object), we have to watch and follow his movements, so as, 1st, to catch him if possible in a good corner; or, 2d, to prevent his catching us in a bad corner; also 3d, to cover Washington and Maryland, which, for us, is more important than for him to come to Richmond. Thus we have to watch him and shift as he shifts, like two fencers. One may say, pitch into him! But do you think he is so soft as to give us any decent chance, if he knows it? Not he! Meanwhile Meade knows what hangs on this army, and how easy it is to talk about raising 3,000,000 men and how hard it is to raise 30,000. He said yesterday: “If Bob Lee will go into those fields there and fight me, man for man, I will do it this afternoon.” But “Bob” doesn't see it. Sharp chaps those Rebs. . . . I do hope that no great battle will be fought unless we can really deal a staggering blow to the enemy. The great fault of the Potomac campaign has been the fighting without any due prospect of profit. This will be found, I think, a good trait in our General, that he will hold his forces in hand for [32] a proper occasion. Meanwhile the papers say, “The fine autumn weather is slipping away.” Certainly; and shall we add, as a corollary, “Therefore let another Fredericksburg be fought!” Put some flesh on our skeleton regiments, and there is no difficulty; but if, instead of ten conscripts, only one is sent, que voulez vous!

Headquarters Army of Potomac in the field, October 16, 1863
Contrary to expectation to-day has been a quiet one for us; and I have not left camp. The Rebels toward evening went feeling along our line about three miles from here with cavalry and artillery, and kept up a desultory cannonade, which, I believe, hurt nobody. Early this morning two batches of prisoners, some 600 in all, were marched past, on their way to Washington. They looked gaunt and weary, and had, for the most part, a dogged air. Many were mere boys and these were mostly hollow-cheeked and pale, as if the march were too much for them. Their clothes were poor, some of a dust-color, and others dirty brown, while here and there was a U. S. jacket or a pair of trousers, the trophies of some successful fight. Some were wittily disposed. One soldier of ours cried out: “Broad Run is a bad place for you, boys.” “Ya-as,” said a cheery man in gray, “but it's puty rare you get such a chance.” An hour before daylight came General Warren, exhausted with two nights' marching, and a day's fight, but springy and stout to the last. “We whipped the Rebs right out,” he said. “I ran my men, on the double-quick, into the railroad cut and then just swept them down with musketry.” I got up and gave him a little brandy that was left in my flask; he then lay down and was fast asleep in about a minute. To-day they brought here the five cannon he took; [33] they got the horses of only one piece, four miserable thin animals, that had once been large and good. I ought to say there are two very distinct classes among the prisoners. Yesterday they brought in a splendid-looking Virginian, a cavalry man. He was but poorly clad and was an uneducated person, but I never saw any one more at ease, while, at the same time, perfectly innocent and natural. “You fellers” was the way in which he designated General Meade and two other major-generals. When asked where Zeb Stuart was, he replied, with a high degree of vagueness: “Somewheres back here, along with the boys.” . . .

Headquarters Army of Potomac October 19, 1863
It seems to me I had got to Sunday morning, the 11th, when we began to march back. We started from Headquarters and passed through Brandy Station, forded the Rappahannock, close to the railroad, and took up our camp near the railroad and about two miles from the river. . . . This move, though in the wrong direction, was, without question, a good one, as it bothered the enemy and caused them to hesitate. . . . In the morning we got off about ten (for the General does not mount till he has heard that the army is properly under way) and rode along the north side of the railroad, past the camp I first came to (H. Q. near Warrenton Junction), and so to Catlett's Station, where we found the 1st Corps taking their noon rest; also their chief, General Newton, and General (Professor) Eustis, partaking from a big basket. A spy came in also, who gave such information as showed that the Rebels had made less rapid progress than we supposed. Going a mile or two on, we saw a spectacle such as few even of the old officers had ever beheld; namely, 500 waggons, [34] all parked on a great, open, prairie-like piece of ground, hundreds of acres in extent. I can compare it to nothing but the camp of Attila, where he retreated after the “Hun Schlacht,” which we saw at the Berlin Museum. They were here got together, to be sent off to the right, by Brentsville, to Fairfax Station, under escort of General Buford's division. How these huge trains are moved over roads not fit for a light buggy, is a mystery known only to General Rufus Ingalls, who treats them as if they were so many perambulators on a smooth sidewalk! We turned off to a house, two miles from Catlett's, and again pitched our movable houses, on a rocky bit of a field.

At daylight next morning, every corps was in motion, tramping diligently in the direction of the heights of Centreville, via Manassas Junction. We of the Staff had hardly dressed, when there was a great cracking of carbines in the woods, not a mile off, and we discovered that a Rebel regiment of horse had coolly camped there during the night, and were now engaged with our cavalry, who soon drove them away. Pretty soon the sound of cannon, in the direction of Auburn, announced that the Rebels, marching down from Warrenton, had attacked General Warren's rear. He, however, held them in check easily with one division, while the other two marched along, passing our Headquarters at 9.30 A. M. As they went on, I recognized the Massachusetts 20th, poor Paul Revere's regiment. And so we jogged, General Meade (who has many a little streak of gunpowder in his disposition) continually bursting out against his great bugbear, the waggons; and sending me, at full gallop, after General Sykes, who was a hundred miles, or so, ahead, to tell him that the rear of his ambulance train was quite unprotected. . . . The 15th was employed in feeling the intentions of the enemy and [35] resting the exhausted men. On the 16th came on a deluge of rain which spoiled our contemplated move next day. On the 18th, yesterday, we got some information of reliable character for the first time, viz: that they had torn up the railroad and were falling back on Warrenton. Before that there was every kind of report: that they were going up the Shenandoah Valley; marching on Washington, and falling back on Richmond; and they keep so covered by cavalry, that it is most difficult to probe them. Thus far in the move they have picked up about as many prisoners as we, say 700; but we have the five guns and two colors, they having none. To-day we all marched out at daylight, and are now hard after them, the General praying for a battle. Our cavalry has been heavily engaged this afternoon, and they may make a stand, or indeed, they may not. I think I was never so well and strong in my life. General Buford came in to-day, cold and tired and wet; “Oh!” said he to me, “do you know what I would do if I were a volunteer aide? I would just run home as fast as I could, and never come back again!” The General takes his hardships good-naturedly.

[The result of the manoeuvres brought the army toward Washington, which caused uneasiness and dissatisfaction at the Capitol. “At Centreville,” writes Lyman, “we had a set — to between Meade and Halleck. Meade had asked, by telegraph, for some advice, and stated that he was not sufficiently assured of the enemy's position to risk an advance; so conflicting were the reports. Halleck, apparently after dinner, replied in substance, ‘Lee is plainly bullying you. If you can't find him, I can't. If you go and fight him, you will probably find him!’ General Meade, much offended, prepared a reply in some such words as [36] these: ‘If you have any orders, I am ready to obey them; but I must insist on being spared the infliction of such truisms in guise of opinions as I have recently been favored with; If my course is not satisfactory, I ought to be and I desire to be relieved.’ He had written ‘bunsby opinions,’ and consulted me as to whether it would do; to which I replied that the joke was capital, but not in accordance with the etiquette of a commander-in-chief; so he substituted the other. Poor General Meade! Said he, ‘I used to think how nice it would be to be Commander-in-Chief; now, at this moment, I would sooner go, with a division, under the heaviest musketry fire, than hold my place!’ ” Lee, finding that he could not outflank Meade, fell back, and Halleck apologized.]

Headquarters Army Op Potomac October 23, 1863
And where do you think I was all yesterday? I will tell you. Early, the orderly, poked his head into the tent saying: “Colonel Lyman, the General will have breakfast at seven” (which was an hour earlier than he had said the night before). As soon as I sat down, says the General: “I am going to Washington; would you like to go?” . . . Major-General Humphreys said he too would go, and the General's son George completed the party. In much haste I ran, and crammed my best coat, pantaloons, shoes, sash, gauntlets, and brushes into my big saddle-bags, the which I entrusted to a mounted orderly. Thereupon we speedily got on horseback, and first rode to General Sedgwick (familiarly called “Uncle John” ), to whom General Meade handed over the command, in his absence at Washington, to consult about the late moves and those consequent on [37] them. Uncle John received the heavy honors in a smiling and broad-shouldered style, and wished us all a good journey, for he is a cheery soul. With little delay, we again mounted and rode twelve miles, briskly, to Gainesville,. whither the railroad comes. The Chief stepped into a little room, used as a telegraph-office, and, quicker than winking, he stood, arrayed only in his undergarments; then, before, almost, I could get my coat off, he had put on a pair of shoes, a new coat, and an elegant pair of trousers! “Now then, Lyman, are you ready? Where's Humphreys? Humphreys is always late! Come, come along, the train is going to start!” You should have seen the unfortunate Aide — his coat unbuttoned, his shoestrings loose; on one arm the saddle-bags, on the other, his sword, sash, etc., etc., and he hastening after the steam-engine Meade! However I completed my toilette in the car, which was all to ourselves; and flatter myself that my appearance was considerably peacock. We went rattling and bumping over a railroad that reminded me of the one from Civita Vecchia, to Manassas Junction, and thence to Washington, over a route I have already described to you when I came down. Only this time we came through Alexandria, and, instead of taking there a boat, kept on and went across the long bridge, going thus into the very city by the rail. There was a carriage from Willard's awaiting us; the guard-post near by turned out in our honor, and we drove in great state to General Halleck's office; where General Meade went in and held a solemn pow-wow; the two came forth presently and walked over to the White-House, where they held another pow-pow with the President. Captain George and I, meanwhile, studied the exterior architecture, and I observed a blind had been blown off [38] and broken and allowed to lie outside. In fact they have a nigger negligence, to a considerable extent, in this half-cooked capital.

October 24, 1863
We went to Willard's after the pow-pow and got a very good dinner; only poor General Meade was bored to death and driven out of all peace of mind, by dirty politicians who kept coming up and saying: “Ah, General Meade, I believe; perhaps you do not recollect meeting me in the year 1831, on a Mississippi steamboat? How do you do, sir? What move do you propose to execute next? Have you men enough, sir? What are the intentions of Lee, sir? How are the prospects of the rebellion, sir? Do you look upon it as essentially crushed, sir? Or do you think it may still rear its head against our noble Union, sir?” etc., etc. All of which the poor Chief (endeavoring to snatch a mouthful of chicken, the while) would answer with plaintive courtesy; while the obscure aides-de-camp were piling in all kinds of delicacies. . . . The papers say General Meade received imperative orders to give Lee battle; not a word of truth in it! You might as well give imperative orders to catch a sea-gull with a pinch of salt. Lee would perhaps have given us a chance; but the same storm that prevented our advance carried away the Rapidan bridge, and he could get nothing to eat. His forces were, I think, larger than supposed, especially in cavalry, which was very numerous.

Headquarters Army of Potomac October 26, 1863
Ah! we are a doleful set of papas here. Said General Meade: “I do wish the Administration would get mad with me, and relieve me; I am sure I keep telling them, if they don't feel satisfied with me, to relieve me; then I [39] could go home and see my family in Philadelphia.” I believe there never was a man so utterly without common ambition and, at the same time, so Spartan and conscientious in everything he does. He is always stirring up somebody. This morning it was the cavalry picket line, which extends for miles, and which he declared was ridiculously placed. But, by worrying, and flaring out unexpectedly on various officers, he does manage to have things pretty ship-shape; so that an officer of Lee's Staff, when here the other day, said: “Meade's move can't be beat.” Did I tell you that Lee passed through Warrenton and passed a night. He was received with bouquets and great joy. . . . The last three nights have been cool, almost cold, with some wind, so that they have been piling up the biggest kind of camp-fires. You would laugh to see me in bed! First, I spread an india-rubber blanket on the ground, on which is laid a cork mattress, which is a sort of pad, about an inch thick, which you can roll up small for packing. On this comes a big coat, and then I retire, in flannel shirt and drawers, and cover myself, head and all, with three blankets, laying my pate on a greatcoat folded, with a little india-rubber pillow on top; and so I sleep very well, though the surface is rather hard and lumpy. I have not much to tell you of yesterday, which was a quiet Sunday. Many officers went to hear the Rebs preach, but I don't believe in the varmint. They ingeniously prayed for “all established magistrates” ; though, had we not been there, they would have roared for the safety of Jeff Davis and Bob Lee! . . .

October 28, 1863
. . . The guerillas are extremely saucy of late, and, in a small way, annoying. Night before last they dashed at a waggon train and cut loose upwards of a hundred mules and [40] horses, which they made off with, teamsters and all, leaving the waggons untouched. These men are regularly enlisted, but have no pay, getting, in lieu thereof, all the booty they can take, except horses, which they must sell to the Rebels at a fixed rate. They have taken several officers who, from carelessness, or losing their way, have gone alone beyond the lines. Prisoners are treated with consideration, but I fancy that, from all accounts, Libby Prison is pretty dirty and crowded. When some of our officers were taken through Warrenton, on the retreat of Lee, the inhabitants gave them supper; for the 6th Corps were long quartered there and treated the people kindly. When you are here you see how foolish and blind is the clamor raised by some people, to have all property destroyed by the army in the Rebel states, as the troops passed. There was, you know, a great talk about putting guards over houses of Rebels; but, 1st, it is very wrong to punish a people en masse, without regard to their degree of guilt and without properly measuring the punishment; and, 2d, nothing so utterly and speedily demoralizes an army as permission to plunder. It is our custom to put guards over the houses that are inhabited; but, despite that, the cavalry and advanced guard take a good slice of the live-stock; forage, and vegetables. . . .

Headquarters Army of the Potomac November 1, 1863
Buford was here last night, and said he thought he could just “boolge” across the river and scare the Rebels to death; which would certainly be a highly desirable event, for we should have quite a chance of a visit home. As it is, no resignations are accepted and scarcely a soul is allowed to go home, even for a visit of two or three days. The life [41] here is miserably lazy; hardly an order to carry, and the horses all eating their heads off. The weather is fine, to be sure, and everybody, nearly, is well; but that is all the more reason for wishing something done. I do not even have the drudgery of drill and parade and inspection, that the infantrymen have. If one could only be at home, till one was wanted, and then be on the spot; but this is everywhere the way of war; lie still and lie still; then up and manoeuvre and march hard; then a big battle; and then a lot more lie still.

Headquarters Army of Potomac November 3, 1863
Did I mention that, since Centreville, some two weeks, I have had a tent-mate, a Swede, one of those regular Europeans, who have been forever in the army, and who know no more about campaigning than a young child. After staying five months in this country, he got, at last, a commission as 2d Lieutenant of cavalry; and came down to study our system of artillery. He appeared with a large stock of cigars and hair-brushes, but without bedding, of any sort whatsoever. I gave him, pro tem, a buffalo, rubber blanket, etc., and, with these, and a borrowed cot, he has gone on since, apparently thinking that a kind Providence will ever care for his wants. He hasn't got mustered in yet, and seems to suppose that the officers will come to Headquarters and remove all the trouble in his commission. Now he is going to Washington about it; or rather has said he was going, for the last three days. Au reste, he is a quiet, polite man, who, I think, will not do much to improve the Swedish artillery. He has obtained a nigger boy, whose name is Burgess, but whom he calls “Booyus,” remarking to me that it was a singular name, in which I fully agreed! . . .


Headquarters Army of Potomac (not far from Rappahannock river) November 7, 1863
. . . This morning, forward march! horse, foot, and artillery, all streaming towards Dixie; weather fresh and fine, nothing to mar but a high wind, and, in some places, clouds of dust. Everyone was hearty; there was General Hays, in bed with rheumatism, but he hopped up, and got on his horse, remarking that, “if there were any Rebs to catch, he was all well.” Our last Headquarters were on the Warrenton branch railroad, half a mile north of it and three miles from Warrenton Junction. This morning, about 8.30, when all the troops were reported under way, the General started and rode, first to Warrenton Junction, and then down the railroad, towards the Rappahannock. At a rising ground, where a smoke-stained chimney marked the ruins of “Bealton,” we halted. Hence we could see a considerable distance, in both directions, and here was canny Warren, waiting while his corps filed past, his little black eyes open to everything, from the grand movements of the entire army down to the inscription on my swordguard, which he immediately detected, and read with much gravity. The last I saw of him he climbed on his big white horse and remarked with a wink: “As soon as I get there, I shall bring on a general action, right off.” It was here that I had quite a surprise. Looking through my glass at General Webb's division, I detected two civilians, in English-looking clothes, riding with the Staff. As they approached, it seemed to me that the face of one was familiar; and as they rode up, behold, to be sure, the Hon. Mr. Yorke, who was our fellow passenger and played on the fiddle and admired the baby! He was in the Royal Artillery, you know, and had come down to see what he [43] could. And there he was, much covered with dust, but cheerful and pleasant to the last.

It was a fine sight to see the great, black columns of infantry, moving steadily along, their muskets glittering in the sun (for the day was quite perfect as to clearness), and then the batteries on the flank, and, in the rear, the train of ambulances preceded by their yellow flag. As the masses drew near, they resolved themselves, first into brigades, then into regiments, and then you could distinguish the individual soldiers, covered with dust and bending under their heavy packs, but trudging manfully along, with the patient air of old sojers. And so we kept on to these Headquarters; but we were only half way (at 1.30), when bang! bang! we heard the cannon, in the direction of Rappahannock station. It was General Sedgwick attacking the enemy's works on this side of the river. We had not got a mile, when whang! whang! in another direction, announced General French preparing to force Kelly's Ford. For, at these two points, among others, we proposed to cross and wake up our Uncle Lee. The gallant General did not wait to play long shots or throw pontoon bridges. An entire division took to the water, forded the river, in face of the enemy, and, charging up the opposite bank, took 300 prisoners. The Rebs threw forward a supporting division, but the crafty French had established guns on this side of the river, that suddenly opened on them and drove them back. All the afternoon Sedgwick has been engaged against the rifle-pits and a redoubt, that the enemy held on this side of the river. Quite late, we got a despatch that he had driven them from their rifle-pits, and we thought he had done pretty well for an afternoon. But, just at dusk, the distant roll of musketry indicated that he was assaulting; and a telegraph has just come, that he has [44] taken the redoubt with four cannon, and some prisoners; I do not yet know how many. So we go to sleep, encouraged and hopeful. Our losses I do not know, but they can hardly be much, as but a portion has been engaged. . . .

Headquarters Army of Potomac November 9, 1863
We have once more moved our Headquarters. . . . Reveille was beaten so early that, when I popped my sleepy head out of the tent, there were the stars, most magnificent, especially Venus who sat above the moon and looked like a fire-ball. The moon was but a little one, but her circle was completed by that kind of image you often see, only the figure of the Man-in-the-Moon was plainly reflected on this image, a thing I never noticed before. These were the astronomical observations of Lyman, as he stood in the sharp air, clad in a flannel shirt and drawers. A sense of coldness about the legs roused me to a sense of my position, and I speedily added more warm garments. Breakfast was ready by the time it was light; and, every mouthful of beef I stowed away, I expected to hear the cannon that would announce the opening of the great battle. The General was confident of a battle and remarked cheerfully that “he meant to pitch right into them.” The idea was that they would take a chosen position, near Brandy Station, and there await our attack, for which they would not have been obliged to wait long. The bulk of the army was therefore crossed at Kelly's Ford, so as to advance with undivided force; General Sedgwick, however, with nearly his whole corps, held the redoubt he had taken on the north side, and, at the proper moment, was ready to throw his bridges, cross the river and take them in the flank. An hour wore away, and there [45] was no sound of battle; so we all mounted, and rode to a small house on Mt. Holly. This is a low, steep hill, close to Kelly's Ford and commanding it. . . . Presently there appeared a couple of dragoons, with five fresh prisoners. . . . “How were you taken?” quoth the Provost-Marshal. “Well, we were on guard and we went to sleep, and, when we woke up, the first thing we seed was your skirmish line” (which was only a roundabout way of saying they were common stragglers). “Where is the rest of your army?” “All gone last night to the breastworks behind the Rapidan!” And this was the gist of the matter. We passed Ewell's Headquarters, a little while after, and there I learned that, when news of the capture of the redoubt was brought him, he exclaimed with some profanity, “Then it's time we were out of this!” and immediately issued orders to fall back, along the whole line, after dark. There we crossed on a pontoon bridge, and found the 5th Corps massed, on the other side. As the cavalcade trotted by, the men all ran to the road and cheered and yelled most vociferously for General Meade. Soon we came up with General Warren. He looked like a man of disappointed hopes, as he gazed round the country and said, “There's nobody here--nobody” And so we passed on, and beheld our English friends, with the Staff of General Webb. They had a very bewildered air, which seemed to say: “Oh, ah, where are these Rebel persons? pray could you tell me where they are?” Near Brandy Station we met good “Uncle John” Sedgwick, who said it was a cool day, as if there was nothing particular on hand, and he hadn't been doing anything for a week or two. It was now late on this Sunday afternoon and the troops were massing, to bivouac. There seemed really no end of them; though but part of the army was there; yet I never saw it look so big, [46] which is accounted for by the fact that the country is very open and rolling and we could see the whole of it quite swarming with blue coats. . . . We recrossed the Rappahannock at the railroad, and saw the fresh graves of the poor fellows who fell in the assault of the redoubt. The Rebel officers said it was the most gallant thing they had seen. Two regiments, the 6th Maine and 7th Wisconsin, just at sundown, as the light was fading, charged up a long, naked slope, in face of the fire of a brigade and of four cannon, and carried the works at the point of the bayonet. . . . I think it no small praise to General Meade to say that his plans were so well laid out that our loss in all is but about 400. No useless slaughter, you see, though there was plenty of room for a blunder, as you would have known had you seen the lines of breastworks the fellows had; but we took part of them and scared them out of the rest.

Headquarters Army of Potomac November 13, 1863
Here we continue to dwell in our pine wood, in grave content, consuming herds of cattle and car-loads of bread with much regularity. Yesterday, who should turn up but John Minor Botts,4 the tough and unterrified. The Rebs treated him pretty badly this time, because he invited General Meade to dine; burnt his fences, shot his cattle and took all his corn and provisions, and finally arrested him and took him as far as Culpeper, but there concluded he was a hot potato and set him free. He was inclined to pitch into us, for not following sharper after the Rebs on Sunday morning, that is, the day after we forced the river. He said the first of their waggons did not pass his house till two at night and the rear of the column not till ten [47] next morning; that the roads were choked with footmen, guns, cavalry and ambulances, all hurrying for the Rapid Ann. In good sooth I suppose that a shade more mercury in the feet of some of our officers might do no harm; but, on the other hand, it is to be noticed that we had excellent reason to expect, and believe, that they would not run, but only retire to the ridges near Brandy Station and there offer battle. In this case, the premature hurrying forward of a portion of the troops might well have ruined the day. All of which reminds me of Colonel Locke's remark: “If we were omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, we might, with care, get a very pretty fight out of the Rebs!” As it was, what we did do was done as scientifically as any army in the world could have done it, and with a minimum loss of life. I do assure you that Rappahannock station was a position where thousands of men might have been destroyed, with no gain whatsoever, if managed by unskilful officers; and even Kelly's Ford was not without serious difficulties. I don't recollect whether I told you that the enemy had made preparations for nice winter quarters, and were hutting themselves and had made some capital corduroy roads against the mud season. In one hut was found a half-finished letter, from an officer to his wife, in which he said that the Yanks had gone into winter quarters, and that they were doing the same, so that he expected a nice quiet time for some months. Poor man! The Yanks made themselves very comfortable that same evening in his new cabin. Our future movements, or standing still, lie between the General and the weather. Meantime we have to pause a little, for there isn't a thing to eat in this broad land, and every pound of meat and quart of oats for tens of thousands of men and animals must come by a broken railroad from Alexandria. . . [48] The Palatinate, during the wars of Louis XIV, could scarcely have looked so desolate as this country. The houses that have not been actually burnt usually look almost worse than those that have: so dreary are they with their windows without sashes, and their open doors, and their walls half stripped of boards. Hundreds of acres of stumps show where once good timber stood, and the arable fields are covered with weeds and blackberry vines, or with the desolate marks of old camps — the burnt spots, where the fires were, the trenches cut round the tents, and the poles, and old bones and tin pots that invariably lie about. . . .

As you walk about the country, you often see fragments of shell scattered around; for all this country has been fought over, back and forth, either in skirmishes or battles; and here and there, you come on a little ridge of earth, marked by a bit of board, on which is scrawled the name of the soldier, who lies where he fell, in this desert region. Our people are very different from the Europeans in their care for the dead, and mark each grave with its name; even in the heat of battle.

Headquarters Army of Potomac November 15, 1863
Yesterday the General made a start at six A. M. for Washington, taking with him Major Biddle, Captain Meade, and Captain Mitchell, and suppose he will perhaps get back to-morrow. A little before one o'clock came a telegraph that four officers of the “Ghords” were coming in the train, and that we were to send an officer, with ten men, also four led horses, to bring them up. So Major Barstow asked if I would go, whereat, there being nothing to do, I said I would. It is about eight miles to Bealton, [49] the nearest place the railroad runs to, and, by making haste a little, we got there by two o'clock, and the train came a few minutes after. And there, sure enough, were four gents, much braided and striped, who were the parties in question: viz., Lieutenant-Colonel Earle, and Lord Castle Cuff (Grenadier Guards), Captain Peel and Captain Stephenson (Scotch Fusiliers). This was the best lot of Bulls I have seen for a long time. The nobile Lord is, I should say, about sixteen, and, with his cap off, is as perfect a specimen of a Pat as you ever saw; but he is manly, and not so green as many I have seen of double his age. Colonel Earle is extremely quiet and well mannered, and was down here in Burnside's time. Captain Stephenson is in the beefy style, and Captain Peel (son of Sir Robert) is of the black order; but both have free use of their legs and tongues, a remarkable phenomenon in a Bull. We put them on horses, where they were well at home, except they would persist in trying to rise to the trot in a McClellan saddle, which is next to impossible. We had to cross the river, close to the railroad, where I showed them the work they took last Saturday; at which they remarked: “Oh! Ah! A nasty place, a very nasty place!” Then we rode to Headquarters, just in time to avoid a heavy rain, which continued much of the night. To-day we have lain quiet; but this evening we took them over to see Captain Sleeper, 9th Massachusetts Battery. The Colonel was very inquisitive about artillery, whereupon the enthusiastic Sleeper had a newly contrived shell, which was loaded, suddenly brought into the tent! The great improvement in the shell seemed to be that it was bound to go off, somehow; so that there was a marked nervousness about him of the Guards, as the Captain poked and twisted the projectile, to illustrate its manifold virtues! . . .


Headquarters Army of Potomac November 19, 1863
The Britons still continue with us. Yesterday we took them, with a small escort, to Buford's Headquarters beyond Culpeper. By Brandy Station we came across a line of rifle-pits that the Rebs had thrown up, probably on the Saturday night of their retreat, so as to cover the trains falling back on the Rapid Ann. We found the cavalry Chief afflicted with rheumatism, which he bore with his usual philosophy. Hence we made haste, across the country, to General Warren's, where he had prepared some manoeuvres of infantry for us. This was one of the finest sights I have seen in the army. There were some 6000 or 7000 men on the plain, and we stood on a little hill to look. The evolutions ended by drawing up the force in two lines, one about 300 yards in rear of the other; and each perhaps a mile long. Then they advanced steadily a short distance, when the order was given to charge, and, as if they were one man, both lines broke into a run and came up the hill, shouting and yelling. I never saw so fine a military spectacle. The sun made the bayonets look like a straight hedge of bright silver, which moved rapidly toward you. But the great fun was when part of the line came to a stone wall, over which they hopped with such agility as to take Colonel Earle prisoner, while Captain Stephenson's horse, which was rather slow, received an encouraging prod from a bayonet. Which events put us in great good humor, and we rode merrily home.

Headquarters Army of Potomac November 25, 1863
I write a line, merely to say that the entire army is under marching orders, for daylight to-morrow; the men in high spirits. As to the officers, you would suppose they [51] were all going on a merrymaking, to hear them when the order was issued. Our object is to fight the enemy, which I pray we may do, and with success, but Dieu dispose.

Our stopper has been the weather, which to-night promises to be set fair, and the roads are passable, though not good. I wish some critics, who complain of our inactivity, could be compelled to take a soldier's load and march twenty miles through this mud. Their next article would, I think, clearly set forth the necessity of doing nothing till the driest of weather.

Headquarters Army of Potomac November 27, 1863
Here we are, camped south of the Rapid Ann, and I find a leisure moment to write you a letter, or rather to begin one. My last formal note, I believe, informed you we were to move “to-morrow” (26th). And, sure enough, yesterday we kept our Thanksgiving by marching, horse, foot, and artillery, as hard as we could paddle towards Germanna Ford.


The above rough map, with the other I sent when I wrote at Centreville, will sufficiently explain our moves. From [52] Rapid Ann Station to Morton's Ford, the Rebels have a strong line of entrenchments, but, beyond that, it is practicable to force a crossing, because the north bank commands the south. Our forces were encamped in a sort of semi-circle, of which one end rested on Kelly's Ford on the Rappahannock, and the other (at the north) on a tributary of the same river; the centre being about at Brandy Station. . . . The artillery officers had placed two masked batteries, ready to open on the south bank. On the other side of the river there were extensive breastworks, which, however, seemed not occupied. Nevertheless, we could not tell that the woods were not full of them. As the main resistance might be offered here, it was necessary that all the corps should force the passage at the same time, if possible. It so happened that General French was much delayed by heavy roads and other causes, so we had to wait till past twelve before throwing the pontoons. When this was done, there was no opposition whatsoever; but the engineers were stupid enough not to have enough boats, and this made more delay. However, about two P. M. the troops and artillery began to cross, one division having already forded. The solemn and punctual Sykes crossed below, at twelve. But the 3d and 6th, being very large, did not all get over till night, and their artillery, by reason of bad roads, had to come over by Germanna Bridge, and was not over till five the next morning. We (Headquarters) camped on the north bank of the river, near the reserve artillery. It was a magnificent night, but cold. The trains came in after dark, and we had quite a time in finding tents and bedding. Everything is comparative: when I got my tent pitched, my roll of bedding in position, and a little end of a candle lighted, I felt as comfortable as if I came home to a nicely furnished house, [53] with a good fire burning and the tea-table just set! I was up this morning a good deal before daylight. The moon shone very bright and the hoar frost glittered on the tents. . . . At an early hour the Staff crossed, passing on the steep bank crowds of ambulances and waggons, which of course made the General very mad. . . . Do you know the scrub oak woods above Hammond's Pond, a sort of growth that is hard for even a single man to force his way through for any great distance? That is the growth of most of this country, minus the stones, and plus a great many “runs” and clay holes, where, in bad weather, vehicles sink to their axles. Along this region there are only two or three roads that can be counted on. These are the turnpike, the plank road south of it, and the plank road that runs from Germanna Ford. There are many narrow roads, winding and little known, that in good weather may serve for the slow passage of columns (though they are mere farmers' or woodcutters' thoroughfares); but a day's rain will render them impassable for waggons and artillery. This whole region (which includes the field of Chancellorsville, a little to the east) is known as the “Wilderness.” Over much of it there is no chance to deploy troops, scarcely skirmishers, and no place for artillery. . . .

Somewhere about 10.30 we got to the turnpike and halted, say a mile before Robertson's Tavern; where the 2d Corps had arrived and found the enemy in front; about eleven they had heavy skirmishing and drove the enemy back, getting also a few prisoners. They then formed line of battle and waited news from French on the right, and Sykes on the left, coming on the plank road. The day was raw and we stood near the road, over some fires we had built, waiting for news of French, to form a junction and attack at once; for Warren alone formed a weak centre and [54] could not risk an engagement. Officer after officer was despatched to him, piloted by niggers who said they knew the country. The indefatigable Ludlow went in the opposite direction, and reported Sykes coming along all right. . . . At 12.30 we heard cannon on our extreme right, which seemed to announce French; still no authentic news, and the precious minutes fled rapidly. At last, late in the afternoon, came authentic despatches that General French's advance had had a heavy fight with the Rebels, in force, and had driven them from the field; but had thus been greatly delayed, and besides had found no roads, or bad roads, and could not effect a junction that evening. And so there was Sedgwick's Corps jammed up in the woods behind, and kept back also! So we pitched camp and waited for morning.

November 28
I thought that our wedding day would be celebrated by a great battle, but so it was not fated. Let us see, a year ago, we were in Paris; and this year, behold me no longer ornamenting the Boulevards but booted and spurred, and covered with an india-rubber coat, standing in the mud, midst a soft, driving rain, among the dreary hills of Old Virginny. It was early in the morning, and we were on the crest, near Robertson's Tavern. On either side, the infantry, in line of battle, was advancing, and a close chain of skirmishers was just going into the woods; while close in the rear followed the batteries, laboriously moving over the soft ground. The enemy had fallen back during the night, and we were following. When the troops had got well under way, the General took shelter in the old tavern, to wait for the development. He had not to wait long, before a brisk skirmish fire, followed by the light batteries, announced that we had come on them. Immediately we [55] mounted and rode rapidly towards the front, slop, slop, slop, through the red mud, and amid ambulances and artillery and columns, all struggling forward. We had come on them sure enough, and on their line of works into the bargain, whereof we had. notice beforehand, by spies. A halt was therefore ordered and the different corps ordered into position. This was a tremendous job, in the narrow wood-roads, deep with mud; and occupied fully the whole day. If you consider that the men must often move by fours, then a division of 4000 men, closed up, would occupy in marching some 1000 yards, and, by adding the space for pack horses, and the usual gaps and intervals, it would be nearer a mile; so you see how an army would string out, even with no artillery. You must remember also that these long columns cannot move over two miles in an hour; often not so much . . . .

November 29
I rode to and along our front to see the enemy's position, which is a fearfully strong one. Within about a mile of our position, there runs a high, gradually sloping ridge, which trends in a northerly and southerly direction, and crosses the turnpike at right angles, where it is naked, though to the right and left it is wooded in some parts. Between this and a parallel high ground, occupied by us, is a shallow ravine, in which was a small stream, Mine Run. Along their ridge the Rebels have thrown up a heavy and continuous breastwork, supported by entrenched batteries; and, in some places at least, they probably have a second line. Any troops, advancing to the assault, would be exposed to a heavy artillery fire from the very outset, over the space of a mile, besides having to encounter the still worse musketry at the end. At daylight this morning, General [56] Warren, with his own corps and a division of the 6th, marched towards our extreme left, where, it was understood, the right of the enemy could be turned. His attack was to be a signal for attacking in other places on the line. However, despite that the rain had ceased, the bad roads delayed a good deal, and a false report of entrenchments delayed more; so that, when he got there, after driving in an outlying force, the day was too far advanced for an attack. Major Ludlow, however, came back with a fine account from General Warren of the prospects, and all things were made ready for an assault, next day. . . .

November 30
Almost before daylight our waggons were loaded and away, for the Headquarters are only a few hundred yards in the rear of our heavy guns and directly on the road, so that we expected a nice lot of shells, say at 8.10 A. M. A little before that the General mounted and rode towards General Newton's quarters, and, while near there, bang! went a cannon on the right; then boom! boom! from the 32-pounders, and then, bang, boom, bang, pretty generally. In all the woods the troops were massed for the attack, waiting orders. We rode back to Headquarters, and, a moment after, Captain Roebling from General Warren's Staff, galloped up. He is the most immovable of men, but had, at that moment, rather a troubled air. He handed a scrap of paper. General Meade opened it and his face changed. “My God!” he said, “General Warren has half my army at his disposition!” Roebling shrugged his shoulders. The note was to the effect that General Warren had made a careful examination of the enemy's works, had altered his opinion of last evening, and considered an assault hopeless!!! Orders were at once issued to cease firing. We [57] tried to take it all philosophically, but it was hard, very hard. Most of all to General Meade and General Humphreys, who really took it admirably, for both of them have excellent tempers of their own, which, on occasions, burst forth, like twelve-pounder spherical case. In a little while the General again rode away; this time to see General Warren, some four miles off. Two aides, besides myself, went with him. We rode along the rear of our batteries, which were still, from time to time, exchanging shots with those opposite; though not when I chanced to be passing, I am happy to say. General Warren had a sad face, as well he might. He drew aside, with the two other generals, and there they stood, in long consultation, over a fire which had been made for them, for the air was sharp. Then we started back again, stopping half-way at General French's, whom we found in a fuming passion, partly because two of his divisions had been, in some way, put under guidance of General Warren, and partly because he was all ready for the assault and had pushed his skirmish line to within 300 yards of the Rebel works,while the storming parties were in a great rage at not being led on. Alas! it was of no use; General Humphreys, with a heavy sigh, pronounced the opportunity (if it had ever existed) now past; and, when he cries no fight, you may be sure there is not much chance. At a meeting that evening, the other generals concurred. It was physically impossible to flank any more on either side, and the only thing that remained was:

The King of France with forty thousand men,
Marched up a hill; and then marched down again.

Wherever the fault lies, I shall always be astonished at the extraordinary moral courage of General Meade, which enabled him to order a retreat, when his knowledge, as an [58] engineer and a soldier, showed that an attack would be a blunder. The men and guns stood ready: he had only to snap his fingers, and that night would probably have seen ten thousand wretched, mangled creatures, lying on those long slopes, exposed to the bitter cold, and out of reach of all help! Then people would have said: “He was unsuccessful; but then he tried hard, and did not get out.”

December 1
As I put my head out of my tent this morning, I beheld the heavy guns going to the rear, and I thought, well, we shall follow to-night. And so we did. The 1st Corps marched, in the afternoon, to Germanna Ford and halted, to hold the crossing. At dark the 5th marched, by the turnpike, followed by the 6th; and the 3d, followed by the 2d, took the plank road to Culpeper Ford. There was a piercing cold wind, the roads were frozen, and ice was on the pools; but the night was beautiful, with a lovely moon, that rose over the pine trees, and really seemed to me to be laughing derisively at our poor doughboys, tramping slowly along the road. Just at sunset I rode to the front and took a last look at the Rebels. Through my glass they looked almost near enough to speak to, as they stood, in groups of a dozen, and twenty, on the parapet of their breastworks. Some were on the glacis, seeking, I suppose, for firewood for their camps, whose smoke rose in a thin line, as far as the eye could reach, on either side. The Headquarters waited for some time at Robertson's Tavern, till the 5th Corps had passed, and then followed on. The road was horribly rough, full of great holes and big stones. We crawled, at a snail's pace, till we got clear of the troops, and then the General slammed ahead at a rate that [59] threatened the legs of all our horses; and which gave two or three officers most awful falls on the frozen ground. At 2 oclock this morning (December 2) we crossed the Rapid Ann, and were glad to roll ourselves in our blankets in the same camp we had the night of the 26th. And so ends what I think I shall call the Great Seven-days' Flank. If you ask what were the causes of failure, they lie in a nutshell--Slowness and want of Detail. We have fought for two years and a half, but it takes no wiseacre to see that we yet have much to learn. Were it not for the remarkable intelligence of the men, we could not do even as well as we do. . . .

Headquarters Army of Potomac December 10, 1863
All the officers are inclined to be petulant and touchy, for they think that winter quarters are coming and are all stretching out for “leaves,” which they know only a part can get. Major Biddle becomes quite irate over the subject. “Now there is General Webb has a ten-day leave,” says B. petulantly; “every corps is to give one general a ten-day leave. I don't want any little ten-day leave; I want a decent leave; a sixty-day leave. I have been two years and a half in this army, and never had but seven days leave, except once when I was sick; and it isn't any fun to be sick. If we are going into winter quarters, one third of this army can do what is necessary, just as well as the whole; and they might as well be liberal to us. It is too bad! really too bad!” Such discoveries of patriotic services as the officers now make, to back up their applications, are miraculous. They have all been in service since the First Bull Run (the Genesis of the Potomac Army); they have all been wounded six times; they have [60] never been absent a single day; their wives are very sick; their mothers are not expected to live; and they can easily bring back fifty volunteers with them, to fill up their regiment! All of which General Williams receives with the blandest smile, as if he had never before heard of so strong a case, and promises to refer it to General Meade, which indeed he does. Meanwhile the rattling of axes is heard on all sides, and villages of little log huts, with canvas roofs, spring into existence in a single night. General Ingalls asked if the troops could have permission to build huts: to which the Major-General commanding replied, with charming non-committal. “Build huts; certainly; why not? They can move from huts as well as from tents, can't they?” I observe the papers continue to discuss the succession of the General. He himself thinks he will be relieved, but I doubt it. If for no other reason, because it is hard to find anyone for the post. General Sedgwick would, I think, refuse; General Warren is very young, and is, besides, under a cloud about his movement on our left. General Sickles, people would say, is too much of a Bowery boy. Generals French, Newton, and Sykes are out of the question. General Humphreys has no influence strong enough to put him up. Any subordinate general would have to be of great note to be lifted thus high; there is no such one. I think they would not try a western general, after Pope's experience. The only one I can think of is Hancock, for a long while laid up by his Gettysburg wound, and not yet in the field. He belongs in this army, is popular, and has an excellent name. The New York Herald insists on General Pleasonton, which is an original idea. I heard of an officer who asserted that he had seen the order putting him in command; a rather unlikely assertion.


Headquarters Army of Potomac December 12, 1863
I still think, and more strongly than ever, that no change will be made in our chief command; and those who have been to Washington think the same. I am more and more struck, on reflection, with General Meade's consistency and self-control in refusing to attack. His plan was a definite one; from fault of his inferiors it did not work fast enough to be a success; and he had firmness to say, the blow has simply failed and we shall only add disaster to failure by persisting. By this time the officers here know just about how well the Rebels fight, and what we have a reasonable expectation of taking, and what not. It should be remembered, also, as a fundamental fact, that this line is not approved as a line of operations, and never has been; but we are forced to work on it. Those who think that (according to the Hon. Kellogg) “it would be better to strew the road to Richmond with the dead bodies of our soldiers rather than that there should nothing be done!” may not be content; but those who believe it best to fight when you want to, and not when your enemy wants to, will say simply they are sorry nothing could be effected, but glad that there was no profitless slaughter of troops that cannot be replaced.

Headquarters Army of Potomac December 16, 1863
Yesterday we had one of the funniest exhibitions that the Army has been favored with in a long while. The peaceful dolce far niente of the forenoon was suddenly broken by a telegraph, announcing a Russian invasion — nothing less than a legion of Muscovite naval officers pouring down, to the number of twenty-four, in a special train, on our devoted heads! And they were to come in a couple [62] of hours! Would they pass the night? if so, where put them, in a camp where two or three guests make a crowd? Would they be fed? Even this was a problem, unless we ordered the Commissary to open a dozen boxes of the best stearine candles. However, General Meade at once orders the 6th Corps to parade, and gets hold of all the ambulances of the Staff, which are forthwith sent to the depot, after the serene Bears. And soon the vehicles returned, with flat caps hanging out of all the openings. Then the thing was to put them on horseback, as soon as possible, for it grew late in the day, already. You have heard of “Jack on horseback,” and this was a most striking instance. Each one sat on his McClellan saddle, as if doublereefing a topsail in a gale of wind. Their pantaloons got up, and their flat caps shook over their ears; and they kept nearly tumbling off on one side and hoisting themselves up again by means of the pommel. Meanwhile they were very merry and kept up a running fire of French, English and Russian. The extraordinary cavalcade having reached a hill, near the ground, there was found an ambulance, which had brought such as did not wish to ride, including the. Captain, Bootekoff, who was the head feller. He, however, was persuaded to mount my mare, while I remained in the carriage. Thereupon the other carriage company were fired with a desire also to mount. So a proper number of troopers were ordered to get down, and the Russians were boosted into their saddles, and the procession moved off; but suddenly--

A horseman darted from the crowd
Like lightning from a summer cloud.

It was a Muscovite, who had discovered that the pommel was a great thing to hold on to, and who had grasped the [63] same, to the neglect of the rein; whereupon the steed, missing his usual dragoon, started at a wild gallop! Off flew the flat cap and away went the horse and rider, with a Staff officer in full chase! Example is contagious, and, in two minutes, the country was dotted with Russians, on the wings of the wind, and vainly pursuing officers and orderlies. Some tumbled off, some were caught and brought back; and one chief engineer was discovered, after dark, in the woods, and in the unpleasant vicinity of the enemy's picket line. However, the most of them were at last got up and viewed the troops from their uncertain positions. After which they were filled up with large quantities of meat and drink and so sent in a happy frame of mind to Washington, The Captain was a very intelligent man; but most of the rest had no character or manliness in their faces, and two or three of them seemed to me almost full-blooded Jews. . . .

To-morrow5 I lose my tent-mate, the phlegmatic countryman of Gustav Adolf and Charles XII. He could not get permission to remain on General Hunt's Staff and so will have the satisfaction of joining his cavalry regiment, which is hutted somewhere in the mud, near Culpeper! In his place I shall probably have Rosencrantz, another Swede, and for some time at Headquarters as A. D.C. He is a courteous man, an old campaigner, and very amusing with his broken English.

1 Dr. Mary E. Walker (1832-1919).

2 A classmate at Harvard.

3 His sister.

4 A Northern sympathizer, who had a plantation in those parts.

5 This final paragraph is from a letter dated December 15.

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