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Chapter 40: private letters.
[Oct. 1 to Nov. 10, 1862. ]

Oct. 1, Sharpsburg, 7.30 P. M.

. . . Received this morning a mysterious despatch from which I inferred that the President was on his way hither. Went to Harper's Ferry and found him with half a dozen Western officers. He remains at Harper's Ferry to-night. . . .

Oct. 2 A. M.

. . . I found the President at Gen. Sumner's headquarters at Harper's Ferry; none of the cabinet were with him, merely some Western officers, such as McClernand and others. His ostensible purpose is to see the troops and the battle-field; I incline to think that the real purpose of his visit is to push me into a premature advance into Virginia. I may be mistaken, but think not. The real truth is that my army is not fit to advance. The old regiments are reduced to mere skeletons, and are completely tired out. They need rest and filling up. The new regiments are not fit for the field. The remains of Pope's army are pretty well broken up and ought not to be made to fight for some little time yet. Cavalry and artillery horses are broken down. So it goes. These people don't know what an army requires, and therefore act stupidly. . . .

Oct. 3.

. . . I was riding with the President all yesterday afternoon, and expect to do the same to-day. He seems in quite a good-humor; is accompanied only by Western people.

Oct. 4.

. . . The President is still here and goes to Frederick this morning. I will probably accompany him as far as the battle-field of South Mountain, so that my day will be pretty well used up.


Oct. 5.

. . . The President left us about eleven yesterday morning. I went with him as far as over the battle-field of South Mountain, and on my way thither was quite surprised to meet Mr. Aspinwall en route to my camp. . . . The President was very kind personally; told me he was convinced I was the best general in the country, etc., etc. He was very affable, and I really think he does feel very kindly towards me personally. I showed him the battle-fields, and am sure he departed with a more vivid idea of the great difficulty of the task we had accomplished. Mr. Aspinwall is decidedly of the opinion that it is my duty to submit to the President's proclamation and quietly continue doing my duty as a soldier. I presume he is right, and am at least sure that he is honest in his opinion. I shall surely give his views full consideration. He is of the opinion that the nation cannot stand the burdens of the war much longer, and that a speedy solution is necessary. In this he is no doubt correct, and I hope sincerely that another successful battle may conclude my part of the work.

Oct.--, 1862, Pleasant Valley--I received to-day a very handsome series of resolutions from the councils of Philadelphia, thanking me for the last campaign. The councils pitch into the government for not thanking me, most beautifully. The phrase about my having “organized victory” is a cut at Stanton, who last winter issued an order scouting the idea of “organizing victory,” and rested on the sword of Gideon and Donnybrook Fair. I believe I will try to acknowledge them now, so I can send you the resolutions to-morrow. Pray keep them for May, with the thanks of Congress, etc. I have also some resolutions of the councils of Baltimore, which I have not yet replied to, and which I will send you in a day or two.

Oct. 25.

. . . I hope my bridge at Berlin is finished, and if so I can cross some troops to-day, and shall be all ready to march the moment the cavalry is ready, which will be shortly. I don't think Lee will fight us nearer than Richmond. I expect no fight in this vicinity. . . . My report is at last finished, and will, I presume, be copied to-day. . . . I see that there is much impatience throughout the country for a move. I am just as anxious as any one, but am crippled by want of horses. . . . I [656] sent Bishop McIlvaine over to Harper's Ferry in my ambulance. He is accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Clements.

Oct. 26.

. . . I move a respectable number of troops across the Potomac to-day, the beginning of the general movement, which will, however, require several days to accomplish, for the cavalry is still terribly off. Yesterday a telegram received from the President asking what my “cavalry had done since the battle of Antietam to fatigue anything.” It was one of those little flings that I can't get used to when they are not merited.

Pleasant Valley, Oct.--

Since about three this morning it has been blowing a perfect gale; several tents blown over, etc. The bishop preached a very good extempore sermon on faith; a very impressive one it was, too. Service was in the little brick church that you remember just beyond the camp in the direction of Brownsville. They are working very hard to tie my tent fast with ropes; hope they will succeed. I strongly suspect our chances for breakfast are decidedly slim. Your father and I have been waiting for a very long time, and affairs don't seem to make progress. I confess that I am becoming hungry and cross-very hungry and rather cross. . . . You had better send me two uniform frock-coats. I begin to present a terribly poverty-stricken appearance. Ah! Andrew says that breakfast will soon be ready — that “the wittles is very slow cooking this here windy morning.” I hope his estimate of time will not be out of the way much.

Pleasant Valley, Oct. 27.

I commenced the crossing yesterday. I returned a few moments ago from a trip to the — s to say good-by to the bishop and to present your album. The visit was so characteristic that I can't omit telling you of it. I found the family at dinner in the kitchen. They wanted me to take some dinner in the dining-room, but I insisted upon sitting down with them in the kitchen, which delighted them beyond measure. The old lady went nearly frantic-“to think of Gen. McClellan sitting down to dinner in the kitchen just like any common man,” etc., etc. I got a little more than I bargained for in the shape of “the guard” coming in before I got through; but I kept on. The guard was rather more put out than I was, as he [657] was a regular; but he could not get out of the scrape without a scene, so he went through with it. The album created a terrific scene of delight. More “O mys” were expended on it than I have heard for a couple of years or so. The old lady went almost out of her senses. I put the photographs in it for them, and wrote her name, with your regards, on one of the blank leaves. All sorts of inquiries were made about you, the baby, and mamma, and when I left Mrs.--wished me to kiss the baby for her and “give gold love” to you. The old lady said that “she'd been a mind to send to me for some beef,” so I told Bates just now to get a good large piece and take it up to them. They would not take any pay from the bishop, because Col. Hammond had sent more money to pay his bill than they thought right, so they squared accounts and cleared their consciences by refusing any pay from the bishop. Some artist of an illustrated paper had been there taking a sketch of the house, and left them a very good copy, which delighted them much. I gave them that copy of the President and myself which you sent them, so that I think they are now a very happy family. All of them sent very kind messages to you, which you can consider delivered.

Oct., Berlin.

We are now near Berlin, and have a much better camp than the last one. My tent is at the bottom of a wooded ravine, and is perfectly sheltered from the wind. I am as comfortable as can be in a tent, and have a grass carpet instead of the dust and dirt which made the floor of my last tent.

Oct. 30, Berlin.

. . . I have just been put in an excellent humor (?) by seeing that, instead of sending the drafted men to fill the old regiments (as had been promised me), they are forming them into new regiments. Also that, in face of the great want of cavalry with this army, they are sending the new cavalry regiments from Pennsylvania to Louisville instead of hither! Blind and foolish they have ever been in Washington, and so, I fear, they will continue to the end.

Berlin, Oct.

.--. . . It will not do for me to visit Washington now. The tone of the telegrams I receive from the authorities is such as to show that they will take advantage of anything [658] possible to do me all the harm they can, and if I went down I should at once be accused of purposely delaying the movement. Moreover, the condition of things is such that I ought not to leave just now. The army is in the midst of the preliminary movements for the main march, and I must be at hand in this critical moment of the operation. . . . If you could know the mean character of the despatches I receive you would boil over with anger. When it is possible to misunderstand, and when it is not possible; whenever there is a chance of a wretched innuendo, then it comes. But the good of the country requires me to submit to all this.

Berlin, Oct. 31.

. . . I don't expect to move headquarters from here for a couple of days; but in the meanwhile the troops are constantly crossing and the army getting into position for the advance.

Oct. 31.

If you can get to a comparatively permanent place you had better write to Dr. V-to send the sash and sabre by express to you, for I should hate to lose the ugly, rusty old thing — that is, if you would value it any; and perhaps our little child might value it after you and I are dead and gone. Miss---and two Misses---were at camp to-day. Of course there was a general row among the youngsters, and I came in for my share of the trouble in the shape of a visitation for an hour or so. . . . I had a long visit from Mr. Bancroft, the historian, to-day.

Oct. 31 (after midnight).

. . . From the despatches just received I think I will move headquarters over the river to-morrow. The advance is getting a little too far away from me, and I wish to have everything well under my own hands, as I am responsible.

Nov 2, Berlin.

. . . We are about starting to Wheatland, some eight or nine miles on the other side of the river. . . . Pleasonton had considerable skirmishing yesterday with Stuart's cavalry. They exceed ours vastly in numbers. There may be some infantry skirmishing to-day, but nothing serious.

Nov. 4.

. . . Slept under a tree last night, sharing what I [659] had in the may of a bed with Gen. Reynolds. . . . There is some prospect of a fight to-day, but cannot tell exactly until I catch the extreme advance a couple of miles further on.

Nov. 4, 11.30 P. M., near Middleburg.

. . . We are in the full tide of success, so far as it is or can be successful to advance without a battle. . . . To-morrow night I hope to strike the railroad and telegraph again; no telegraph within twenty-five miles of this. . . .

Nov. 5, 9 P. M., camp near Rectortown.

. . . After a considerable amount of marching and skirmishing we have worked our way thus far down into rebeldom. We have had delightful weather for marching and a beautiful country to travel through. . . . We left Berlin on Sunday morning, the headquarters stopping at Wheatland; but I heard firing and rode to the front, going all the way to Snicker's Gap (to the top of the mountain) and spending the night at Snickersville. Next morning I rode to meet the train, but heard some more firing, and rode again towards the front, and spent the night near Bloomfield, camp being some miles back. At Snickersville I got a bed in a house to sleep in; at Bloomfield I slept under a tree in the moods; so that last night I was very glad, after another long ride, to get to my tent again . . . . Pleasonton has been doing very well again; has had some skirmishing pretty much every day; to-day he came across Jeb Stuart and thrashed him badly. Jeb outnumbered him two to one, but was well whipped; there were some very pretty charges made. . . .

Nov. 6, 1 P. M., camp near Rectortown.

. . . The army still advances, but the machine is so huge and complicated that it is slow in its motions.

Nov. 7, 2 P. M.

. . . Sumner returned last night. Howard returned this morning. I go to Warrenton to-morrow. Reynolds is there now, Burnside at Waterloo, Bayard in front. Pleasonton and Averill are trying to catch Jeb Stuart again near Flint Hills. Couch is here, and moves to-morrow towards Warrenton. Porter and Franklin are at White Plains. Porter moves to-morrow to New Baltimore, thence next day to Warrenton. [660] Franklin moves day after to-morrow to New Baltimore. Sigel will remain at Thoroughfare Gap and the vicinity. The Manassas Gap road is in such bad order that we cannot depend upon it thus far up for supplies. Gainesville will be the depot until the Orange and Alexandria Railroad is open to Warrenton. We will have great difficulty in getting supplies by the Orange and Alexandria Railroad; its capacity has been overrated. Lee is at Gordonsville. G. W. Smith was yesterday driven out of Warrenton. . . .

11.30 P. M.

Another interruption — this time more important, It was in the shape of Burnside, accompanied by Gen. Buckingham, the secretary's adjutant-general. They brought with them the order relieving me from the command of the Army of the Potomac, and assigning Burnside to the command. No cause is given. I am ordered to turn over the command immediately and repair to Trenton, N. J., and on my arrival there to report by telegraph for further orders. . . . Of course I was much surprised; but as I read the order in the presence of Gen. Buckingham I am sure that not the slightest expression of feeling was visible on my face, which he watched closely. . . . They have made a great mistake. Alas for my poor country! I know in my inmost heart she never had a truer servant. I have informally turned over the command to Burnside, but shall go to-morrow to Warrenton with him, and perhaps remain a day or two there in order to give him all the information in my power. . . . Do not be at all worried — I am not. I have done the best I could for my country; to the last I have done my duty as I understand it. That I must have made many mistakes I cannot deny. I do not see any great blunders; but no one can judge of himself. Our consolation must be that we have tried to do what was right; if we have failed it was not our fault.

8 A. M.

. . . I am about starting for Warrenton. . . .

Warrenton, Sunday, A. M. .

. . . I expect to start to-morrow morning, and may get to Washington in time to take the afternoon train. . . . I shall not stop in Washington longer than for the next train, and will not go to see anybody. I shall go on just as quietly as I can and make as little fuss as possible . . . The officers and men feel terribly about the change. . . . I learn to-day that the men are very sullen and have lost their good [661] spirits entirely. It made me feel very badly yesterday when I rode among them and saw how bright and cheerful they looked and how glad they were to see me. Poor fellows! they did not know the change that had occurred. . , .

Warrenton, Nov. 10, 2 P. M.

. . . I am very well and taking leave of the men. I did not know before how much they loved me nor how dear they were to me. Gray-haired men came to me with tears streaming down their cheeks. I never before had to exercise so much self-control. The scenes of to-day repay me for all that I have endured.

The end.

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