Chapter 27: private letters.
[ June 26 to Aug. 23, 1862.]
June 26, 2 P. M., Trent's.. . Yesterday I wished to advance our picket-line, and met with a good deal of opposition. We succeeded fully, however, and gained the point with but little loss. The enemy fought pretty hard, but our men did better. I was out there all day taking a personal direction of affairs, and remained until about 5.30 P. M., when I returned to camp, and met on my way the news that Stonewall Jackson was on his way to attack my right and rear. I rode over to Porter's soon after I reached camp, and returned about 2.30 A. M. At three I started off again and went to the front, where an attack was expected by some. Finding all quiet, I rode all along the lines and returned here. You may imagine that I am rather tired out. I think that Jackson will attempt to attack our rear. . . . Have just received the positive information that Jackson is en route to take us in rear. You probably will not hear for some days; but do not be at all worried. . . .
Gen. McClellan's headquarters, June 26, 1862Telegram, in cipher, care of Mr. Eckert, who will regard it as private and strictly confidential, and forward it privately to my wife.--dear Nell: I may not be able to telegraph or write to you for some days. There will be a great stampede, but do not be alarmed. There will be severe fighting in a day or two, but you may be sure that your husband will not disgrace you, and I am confident that God will smile upon my efforts and give our arms success. You will hear that we are pursued, annihilated, etc. Do not believe it, but trust that success will crown our efforts. I tell you this, darling, only to guard against the agony you would feel if you trusted the newspaper reports. . . . Telegram--June 27, 1.15 P. M.--Heavy firing in all directions.  So far we have repulsed them everywhere. I expect wire to be cut any moment. All well and very busy. Cannot write to-day. Telegram--McClellan's Headquarters, June 27.--Have had a terrible fight against vastly superior numbers. Have generally held our own, and we may thank God that the Army of the Potomac has not lost its honor. It is impossible as yet to tell what the result is. I am well, but tired out; no sleep for two nights, and none to-night. God bless you! Telegram--McClellan's Headquarters, June 28.--We are all well to-night. I fear your uncle has been seriously hurt in the terrible tight of yesterday. They have outnumbered us everywhere, but we have not lost our honor. This army has acted magnificently. I thank my friends in Washington for our repulse.
June 29, 3 P. M., in the field.I send you only a line to say that I still think God is with us. We have fought a terrible battle against overwhelming numbers. We held our own, and history will show that I have done all that man can do. . . .
June 30, 7 P. M., Turkey bridge.Well, but worn out; no sleep for many days. We have been fighting for many days, and are still at it. . . . We have fought every day for five days. . . .
July 1, Haxall's plantation.. . . The whole army is here; worn out and war-worn, after a week of daily battles. I have still very great confidence in them, and they in me. The dear fellows cheer me as of old as they march to certain death, and I feel prouder of them than ever.
July 2, . . . Berkley, James river.. . . I have only energy enough left to scrawl you a few lines to say that I have the whole army here, with all its material and guns. We are all worn out and haggard. . . . My men need repose, and I hope will be allowed to enjoy it to-morrow. . . . Your poor uncle was killed at the battle of Gaines's Mills on Friday last. We are well, but very tired. . . .
July 2, 11 P. M.I will now take a few moments from the rest which I really need, and write at least a few words. . . . We have had a terrible time. On Wednesday the serious work commenced. I commenced driving the enemy on our left, and, by hard fighting, gained my point. Before that affair was over I received news that Jackson was probably about to attack my right. I galloped back to camp, took a fresh horse, and went over to Porter's camp, where I remained all night making the best arrangements I could, and returned about daybreak to look out for the left. On Thursday afternoon Jackson began his attack on McCall, who was supported by Porter. Jackson being repulsed, I went over there in the afternoon and remained until two or three A. M. I was satisfied that Jackson would have force enough next morning to turn Porter's right, so I removed all the wagons, heavy guns, etc., during the night, and caused Porter to fall back to a point nearer the force on the other side of the Chickahominy. This was most handsomely effected, all our material being saved. The next day Porter was attacked in his new position by the whole force of Jackson, Longstreet, Ewell, Hill, and Whiting. I sent what supports I could, but was at the same time attacked on my own front, and could only spare seven brigades. With these we held our own at all points after most desperate fighting. It was on this day that your poor uncle [Col. Rossell] was killed, gallantly leading his regiment. He was struck in the breast, and died in a few hours. Clitz fell that day also. John Reynolds was taken prisoner. I was forced that night to withdraw Porter's force to my side of the Chickahominy, and therefrom to make a very dangerous and difficult movement to reach the James river. I must say goodnight now, for I am very tired, and may require all my energies to-morrow.
July 4, Berkley .. . . You will understand before this reaches you the glorious yet fearful events which have prevented me from writing. We have fine weather to-day, which is drying the ground rapidly. I was quite stampeded yesterday just before your father left. A report came to me that the enemy were advancing in overwhelming numbers, and that none of my orders for placing the troops in position and reorganizing them had been carried out. I at once rode through the  camps, clear in front of them, to let them see that there was no danger. They began to cheer as usual, and called out that they were all right and would fall to the last man “for Little Mac” ! I saw where the trouble was, halted all the commands, looked at the ground, and made up my mind what the true position was. Started Smith at a double-quick to seize the key-point, followed by a battery of horse-artillery at a gallop. They went up most beautifully, opened on the enemy, drove him off after eighteen rounds, and finally held the place. I pushed Slocum's division up in support, hurried off Heintzelman's corps to take its position on Franklin's left, supported by Keyes still further to the left, and came back to camp a little before dark with a light heart for the first time in many days. I am ready for an attack now, give me twenty-four hours even, and I will defy all secession. The movement has been a magnificent one; I have saved all our material, have fought every day for a week, and marched every night. You can't tell how nervous I became; everything seemed like the opening of artillery, and I had no rest, no peace, except when in front with my men. The duties of my position are such as often to make it necessary for me to remain in the rear. It is an awful thing. I have re-established the playing of bands, beating the calls, etc., by way of keeping the men in good spirits, and have ordered the national salute to be fired to-day at noon from the camp of each corps. I have some more official letters to write, so I must close this, and must soon start to ride around the lines. July--, Monday, 7.30 A. M.--I have had a good, refreshing night's sleep. . . . We are to have another very hot day; it is already apparent. I am writing in my shirt-sleeves and with tent-walls raised, etc. . . . Our army has not been repulsed; we fought every day against greatly superior numbers, and were obliged to retire at night to new positions that we could hold against fresh troops. The army behaved magnificently; nothing could have been finer than its conduct. . . .
July 8.. . . The day is insufferably hot, intense, so much so that I have suspended all work on the part of the men. I have written a strong, frank letter to the President, which I  send by your father. If he acts upon it the country will be saved. I will send you a copy to-morrow, as well as of the other important letters which I wish you to keep as my record. They will show, with the others you have, that I was true to my country, that I understood the state of affairs long ago, and that had.my advice been followed we should not have been in our present difficulties. . . . I have done the best I could. God has disposed of events as to Him seemed best. I submit to His decrees with perfect cheerfulness, and as sure as He rules I believe that all will yet be for the best. . . .
Midnight.Everything is quiet now; none awake save the sentinels. I am alone with you and the Almighty, whose good and powerful hand has saved me and my army. The terrible moments I have undergone of late I regard as a part of the cross I have to bear, and, with God's help, will endure to the end when my task is finished. I place myself. in His hands, and with a sincere heart say His will be done. Oh! how ardently I pray for rest. Rest with you. I care not where, only that I may be alone with you. We are to have service at headquarters to-morrow morning, and I will endeavor to have it every Sunday hereafter.
July 9, 9.30 P. M., Berkley.I telegraphed you briefly this 1  afternoon that I thought Secesh had retired. This opinion seems to be fully confirmed, at least to the extent of his having fallen back a certain distance. He is not within six or seven miles of us even with his cavalry, and considerably further with his infantry. I am not sorry, on the whole, that he has gone, for the reason that it will enable my men to rest tranquilly — just what they need. I do not expect to receive many reinforcements for some time. Even Burnside's men are halted at Fortress Monroe by order of the President. His excellency was here yesterday and left this morning. He found the army anything but demoralized or dispirited; in excellent spirits. I do not know to what extent he has profited by his visit ; not much, I fear. I will enclose with this a copy of a letter I handed him, which I would be glad to have you preserve carefully as a very important record. . . . My camp is now immediately on the banks of the James river, in the woods. . . .
7 A. M. (10th).. . . Rose a little before six. . . . I do not know what paltry trick the administration will play next. . . . I have honestly done the best I could. I shall leave it to others to decide whether that was the best that could have been done, and, if they find any one who can do better, am perfectly willing to step aside and give way. I would not for worlds go through that horrid work again, when, with my heart full of care, I had to meet everybody with a cheerful smile and look as light-hearted as though nothing were at stake. . . .
Telegram — Berkley, July 10, 1862.We are all very well and in good spirits. Secesh has gone off and left us for the present. Clitz is certainly in Richmond, recovering from his wounds. If properly supported I will yet take Richmond. Am not in the least discouraged; am in better health than for many months. Your father returned to Washington two days ago.
July 12.I am sure that God will bring us together again in this world; but, whether so or not, we will try so to live that me may be reunited in that world where we can be happy for ever and never again be parted. . . . In this weary world I have seen but little happiness save what I have enjoyed with you. How very happy our first year of married life was, when  we were together! So the baby has more teeth! I suppose when I come back I shall find her handling a knife and fork. When will she begin to say a word or two? I hope she will not begin to do much before I come home. I want to have the fun and satisfaction of matching her progress in life and the development of her accomplishments. . . . I enclose with this a letter from Stanton and my reply, which I want you to preserve very carefully with my other “archives,” as it may be important. . . .
July 13, Sunday, 7.45 A. M.I have ordered all labor suspended to-day to give the men a chance to think of all they have gone through. We are to have service to-day by the chaplain of Gregg's regiment Penn. cavalry. Next Sunday I think I will invite Mr. Neal to preach for us, provided there is any attendance to-day. I enclose this in an envelope with some letters I send you; one from Bishop McIlvaine, which will gratify you, I know; another from some poor fellow in Indiana who has named his child after me. If you choose to send out some little present to it, well and good.
1.30 P. M.. . . Had service this morning by the chaplain of Gregg's regiment, the Rev. Mr. Egan, an Episcopal clergyman of Philadelphia. . . . There never was such an army; but there have been plenty of better generals. When I spoke about being repulsed I meant our failure to take Richmond. In no battle were we repulsed. We always at least held our own on the field, if we did not beat them. . . . I still hope to get to Richmond this summer, unless the government commits some extraordinarily idiotic act; but I have no faith in the administration, and shall cut loose from public life the very moment my country can dispense with my services. Don't be alarmed about the climate. It is not at all bad yet, and we are resting splendidly. The men look better every day. So you want to know how I feel about Stanton, and what I think of him now? I will tell you with the most perfect frankness. I think . . . I may do the man injustice. God grant that I may be wrong! For I hate to think that humanity can sink so low. But my opinion is just as I have told you. He has deceived me once: he never will again. Are you satisfied now, lady mine? I ever will hereafter trust your judgment  about men. Your woman's tact and your pure heart make you a better judge than my dull apprehension. I remember what you thought of Stanton when you first saw him. I thought you were wrong. I now know you were right. Enough of the creature! Since I reached here I have received about 8,500 or 9,000 fresh troops. My losses in the battles will not be over 12,000. Burnside has 8,000 (about) at Fortress Monroe, where he was detained by order of the President. He has been in Washington and will probably be here himself to-night, when I will know the views of the President. The probability is that I will attack again very soon — as soon as some losses are supplied. I also wish first to get off all the sick and wounded.
11.30 P. M.Have just been at work dictating my report of the recent operations; got as far as bringing Porter back across the Chickahominy. . . . Please reply to Mr.--and say that I thank him and feel deeply grateful for his trust and kind feeling, and that I am glad to say that there is no reason for despondency on account of my present position. I flatter myself that this army is a greater thorn in the side of the rebellion than ever, and I most certainly (with God's blessing) intend to take Richmond with it. . . . I trust that we have passed through our darkest time, and that God will smile upon us and give us victory. . . .
July 15, 7.30 A. M.. . . I was amused at a couple of telegrams yesterday urging me to the offensive — as if I were unwilling to take it myself! It is so easy for people to give advice — it costs nothing! But it is a little more difficult for poor me to create men and means, and to wipe out by mere wishes the forces of the enemy. I confess that I sometimes become provoked. . . . I had quite an adventure in a small way last night that was rather ludicrous. I yesterday sent a flag of truce after some wounded men, Sweitzer going on the boat. Well, it appears that he and the doctor on board, between them, allowed a young English nobleman to come down with them, and Raymond was discreet enough to bring him up to headquarters, and was apparently quite proud of his prize; wished me to see him. Upon inquiry I found that he came from Richmond, had no papers or passports, save a pass from the secesh Secretary of  War, and acknowledged that he had surreptitiously slipped into Richmond a couple of weeks ago. This was a pretty kettle of fish. I did not like to hang the young rascal for a spy, for fear of getting up a row with England. I determined he should not go through; so I this morning sent him back to Secessia, and told him to try it again at his peril The young man was exceedingly disgusted, and has, I presume, by this time come to the conclusion that the fact of being an Englishman is not everywhere a sufficient passport.
July 17 A. M.Gens. Dix and Burnside are both here. . . . Burnside is very well, and, if the President permits, will bring me large (respectably) reinforcements. . . . Am quite well to-day; a little disgusted at the stupidity of the people in Washington. You need not be at all alarmed as to my being deceived by them. I know that they are ready to sacrifice me at any moment. I shall not be at all surprised to have some other general made commander of the whole army, or even to be superseded here. 7 P. M.--. . . You ask me when I expect to reach Richmond and whether I shall act on the offensive this summer. I am at the mercy of the government. After the first 9,000 or 10,000 men sent to me they have withheld all further reinforcements. Burnside is halted at Fortress Monroe. With his own troops and those of Hunter he can bring me some 20,000 troops; but I have no idea of the intentions of the government. If I am reinforced to that extent I will try it again with the least possible delay. I am not at all in favor of baking on the banks of this river, but am anxious to bring matters to an issue. . . . You need not be at all alarmed lest any of these people flatter me into the belief that they are my friends. It's mighty little flattery or comfort I get out of any of them in these days, I assure you. . . . So you like my letter to the President? I feel that I did my duty in writing it, though I apprehend it will do no good whatever; but it clears my conscience to have spoken plainly at such a time. You do not feel one bit more bitterly towards those people than I do. I do not say much about it, but I fear they have done all that cowardice and folly can do to ruin our poor country, and the blind people seem not to see it. It makes my blood boil when I think of it. I cannot resign so long as the fate of  the Army of the Potomac is entrusted to my care. I owe a great duty to this noble set of men, and that is the only feeling that retains me. I fear that my day of usefulness to the country is past — at least under this administration. I hope and trust that God will watch over, guide, and protect me. I accept most resignedly all He has brought upon me. Perhaps I have really brought it on myself; for while striving conscientiously to do my best, it may well be that I have made great mistakes that my vanity does not permit me to perceive. When I see so much self-blindness around me I cannot arrogate to myself greater clearness of vision and self-examination. I did have a terrible time during that week, for I stood alone, without any one to help me. I felt that on me rested everything, and I felt how weak a thing poor, mortal, erring man is! I felt it sincerely, and shall never, I trust, forget the lesson; it will last me to my dying day. . . I am very well now, perfectly well, and ready for any amount of fatigue that can be imagined.
July 18, 7.45 A. M.. . . We are to have another very hot day, I fancy; no air stirring, and the atmosphere close and murky. I don't at all wish to spend the summer on the banks of this river; we will fry or bake! If our dear government will show some faint indication of brains or courage we can finish the work in a short time. . . . I am so sorry that poor Prince is going blind. It is a great pity. I flattered myself that when I became a poor blind soldier, a second Belisarius, Prince would probably lead me about.
9 P. M.I am inclined now to think that the President will make Halleck commander of the army, and that the first pretext will be seized to supersede me in command of this army. Their game seems to be to withhold reinforcements, and then to relieve me for not advancing, well knowing that I have not the means to do so. If they supersede me in the command of the Army of the Potomac I will resign my commission at once. If they appoint Halleck commanding general I will remain in command of this army as long as they will allow me to, provided the army is in danger and likely to play an active part. I cannot remain as a subordinate in the Army I once commanded any longer than the interests of my own Army of the Potomac require. I owe no gratitude to any but my own soldiers here; none to the government  or to the country. I have done my best for the country; I expect nothing in return; they are my debtors, not I theirs. . . . If things come to pass as I anticipate I shall leave the service with a sad heart for my country, but a light one for myself. But one thing keeps me at my work-love for my country and my army. Surely no general had ever better cause to love his men than I have to love mine.
July 20 A. M.. . . Went on the hospital-steamer to see Clitz yesterday. He is doing very well. . . . I saw all the officers and men on board, and tried to cheer them up. The visit seemed to do them a great deal of good, and it would have done you good to see how the poor, suffering fellows brightened up when they saw me. . . . I wonder whether the baby will know me. I fear that she will be afraid of me and won't come to me. Would not that be mortifying? I hope the dear little thing will take to me kindly. I should feel terribly if she should refuse to have anything to do with me. Bless her sweet little ladyship! She must be a great comfort to you; and we will be happier than any kings and queens on earth, if we three are permitted to be together again, and that before May changes much. I want so much to see her again while she is a baby, before she begins to talk and walk and be human. . . .
P. M.Which despatch of mine to Stanton do you allude to? The telegraphic one in which I told him that if I saved the Army I owed no thanks to any one in Washington, and that he had done his best to sacrifice my army? It was pretty frank and quite true. Of course they will never forgive me for that. I knew it when I wrote it; but as I thought it possible that it might be the last I ever wrote, it seemed better to have it exactly true. The President, of course, has not replied to my letter, and never will. His reply may be, however, to avail himself of the first opportunity to cut my head off. I see it reported in this evening's papers that Halleck is to be the new general-in-chief. Now let them take the next step and relieve me, and I shall once more be a free man. . . .
Later.. . . I believe it is now certain that Halleck is commander-in-chief. I have information this evening from Washington, from private sources, which seems to render it quite certain. You will have to cease directing your letters to me as commanding United States army, and let the address be, “Commanding the Army of the Potomac” --quite as proud a title as the other, at all events. I shall have to remove the three stars from my  shoulders and put up with two. Eh bien! it is all for the best, I doubt not. I hope Halleck will have a more pleasant time in his new position than I did when I held it. This, of course, fixes the future for us. I cannot remain permanently in the army after this slight. I must, of course, stick to this army so long as I am necessary to it. . . . I have tried to do my best, honestly and faithfully, for my country. That I have to a certain extent failed I do not believe to be my fault, though my self-conceit probably blinds me to many errors that others see. But one useful lesson I have learned — to despise earthly honors and popular favor as vanities. I am content. I have not disgraced my name, nor will my child be ashamed of her father. Thank God for that! I shall try to get something to do which will make you comfortable; and it will be most pleasant and in the best taste for me that we should lead hereafter a rather quiet and retired life. It will not do to parade the tattered remnants of my departed honors to the gaze of the world. Let us try to live for each other and our child, and to prepare for the great change that sooner or later must overtake us all. I have had enough of earthly honors and place. I believe I can give up all and retire to privacy once more, a better man than when me gave up our dear little home with wild ideas of serving the country. I feel that I have paid all that I owe her. I am sick and weary of all this business. I am tired of serving fools God help my country! He alone can save it. It is grating to have to serve under the orders of a man whom I know by experience to be my inferior. But so let it be. God's will be done! All will turn out for the best. My trust is in God, and I cheerfully submit to His will. . . .
July 22, 7.30 A. M.. . . While I think of it, be very careful what you telegraph, and tell your father the same thing. I have the proof that the secretary reads all my private telegrams. If he has read my private letters to you also his ears must have tingled somewhat. I am about doing a thing to-day which will, I suppose, cause the abolitionists and my other friends to drive the last nail in my official coffin. You know that our sick and wounded in Richmond are suffering terribly for want of proper food, medicines, and hospital supplies. I have ordered a boatload of all such things — lemons, tea, sugar, brandy, underclothing,  lint, bandages, chloroform, quinine, ice, etc., etc.--to be sent up to Gen. Lee to-day, to be used at his discretion for the sick and wounded of both armies. I know he would not, and could not, receive them for our men alone, therefore I can only do it in the way I propose, and trust to his honor to apply them properly-half and half. I presume I will be accused now of double-dyed treason — giving aid and comfort to the enemy, etc. What do you think of it? Am I right or wrong? . . . I see that the Pope bubble is likely to be suddenly collapsed. Stonewall Jackson is after him, and the young man who wanted to teach me the art of war will in less than a week either be in full retreat or badly whipped. He will begin to learn the value of “entrenchments, lines of communication and of retreat, bases of supply,” etc.
July 22.It is a lovely afternoon, bright and sunny, a pleasant breeze blowing, and everything charming to the eye. The old river looks beautiful to-day, as bright as when John Smith, Esq., and my dusky ancestress, Madam Pocahontas Rolfe, nee Powhatan, paddled her canoe and children somewhere in this vicinity. If it were not for the accompaniments and present surroundings it would delight me beyond measure to have you here to see the scenery and some of the fine old residences which stud its banks. The men of two or three generations ago must have lived in great state and comfort here. I suspect they had a pretty good time, interrupted only by the chills and fever, bad luck in gambling and horse-racing, and the trouble of providing for their woolly-headed dependants.
July 23.. . . There is now no doubt about Halleck being made commander-in-chief. The other change will, I feel sure, follow in a very few days, perhaps a week. . . . Popularity, Nell, is a humbug. What good has been done to me or to the country by my “popularity” in the North? It has not prevented my enemies from withholding all support from me; it did not hinder them from almost ruining my army; it brings me not a man; it will not be worth a breath of air to prevent Halleck being put in my place.
July 24.. . . Your father arrived this evening. . . . Took a long ride in the sun to-day. . . Our men look better  than ever; like real veterans now-tough, brown, and fearless. . . I hear nothing yet from Washington, and must confess that I am as indifferent as possible to what they do. If they reinforce me I am ready to fight harder than ever, and will give Secesh a sharp rub for his capital. If they make it necessary for me to resign I am quite ready to do so. . . . I presume I shall learn something to-morrow about the destination of Burnside. I can then enable you to guess how matters will go. I am yet in complete ignorance, being no longer taken into the confidence of the “powers that be.” . . . You ask me whether my self-respect will permit me to remain longer in the service after Halleck's appointment? It will permit me to remain only so long as the welfare of the Army of the Potomac demands — no longer. Don't mind these things; I bide my time. Whatever God sends me, be it defeat and loss of rank, or be it success and honor, I will cheerfully submit to, May God help me in this!
July 25.. . . Started out early in the morning to review Porter's corps, and spent several hours at it in the hot sun. Then I went to visit the wounded from Richmond. Then I heard that Halleck was here, and was obliged to return to see “my master.” I think Halleck will support me and give me the means to take Richmond. . . . I am not to be relieved from the command of this army — at least that does not seem to be the present intention. . . .
July 26, 9 P. M.. . . From nine this morning until 6.30 this evening I have been among the sick and wounded. More than a thousand came from Richmond last night and were in the steamer. I saw every one of the poor fellows; talked to them all; heard their sorrows; tried to cheer them up, and feel that I have done my duty towards them. If you could have seen how the poor, maimed, brave fellows, some at the point of death, brightened up when they saw me and caught my hand, it would have repaid you for much of our common grief and anxiety. It has been the most harrowing day I ever passed, yet a proud one for me, too. I realized how these men love and respect me, and I trust that many a poor fellow will sleep more soundly and feel more happily to-night for my visit to them. It makes them feel that they are not forgotten or neglected when  their general comes to see them and console them. My men love me very much. What a terrible responsibility this imposes upon me! I pray that God will give me strength to bear it and the wisdom to do what is best. It is an awful load that is imposed upon me by the trust and affection of these poor fellows. . . .
July 27.. . . I can't tell you how glad I am that I went to see all those poor wounded men yesterday. Another batch will come to-night, and I will, if possible, go to see all of them to-morrow morning. I regard it as a duty I owe the poor fellows-rather a hard one to perform, but still one that cannot be neglected. . . . You ask me whether I advised the President to appoint Halleck. The letter of which I sent you a copy is all that ever passed on the subject, either directly or indirectly; not another word than is there written. We never conversed on the subject; I was never informed of his views or intentions, and even now have not been officially informed of the appointment. I only know it through the newspapers. In all these things the President and those around him have acted so as to make the matter as offensive as possible. . . . Fitz Porter has stuck through it all most nobly, He is all that I thought him, and more. Nothing has depressed him; he is always cheerful, active, and ready.
July 28, 9.15 A. M.. . . Some 500 wounded came down last night, and this morning I am going out to the boats to see them. I have collected an armful of papers to give the poor fellows. . . .
9.30 P. M.. . . Am very tired, for I saw and talked to every one of the wounded men to-day, being occupied all day at it. Between the closeness of the cabins and being on my feet so long I am quite weary. . . . I enclose with this some “Lines” a poor wounded fellow handed me yesterday and begged me to accept; they were written while he was lying wounded and under fire. I don't know that the poetry possesses any peculiar merit, but the incident is interesting. My friend was of the Hibernian persuasion. Queer fellows those Irish are. There is a vein of humor in everything they do, even when suffering from wounds and sickness. I sometimes can hardly keep from laughing  when talking with some poor fellow who is desperately wounded so strangely and peculiarly do they describe things. . . . I think I will go to the general hospital to-day and see how those poor fellows are getting on. . . . I am still “on my back” awaiting a decision from Washington. Burnside is still kept from me. I am getting no reinforcements, and presume that Burnside will be ordered to Washington the first thing I know. Then I shall be in a pretty predicament — too strong to remain here and too weak to advance. . . . P. M.--. . . . I hear nothing as yet from Washington, and begin to believe that they intend and hope that I and my army may melt away under the hot sun. . . . Secesh is very quiet of late-scarcely even a cavalry skirmish. He is almost too quiet for good, and must be after some mischief. May be me will have a visit from Merrimac No. 2. What a row it would create among the transports! I am in hopes that I will receive orders of some kind from Washington this evening. I am getting dreadfully tired of doing nothing. I begin to feel the want of a little quiet excitement. I could rest at home away from my men, but the idea of remaining quietly in camp, with an army about me and an active enemy at some mischief or other, is a very different thing.
10.30 P. M.. . . Nothing to-night from Washington, so that I am yet completely in the dark as to the intentions of our benign government. July 29.--What do you think I have been doing for the last half-hour? Guess, guess!! I have been sewing on buttons and patching my woollen shirts. I have waited in vain for Charles to do anything of the kind, or to have it done, and have been nearly scratched to pieces by the numberless pins that were necessary to keep myself together. So I dove into the pocket of my carpet-bag, and, to my intense delight, found a needle and a spool of sewing-silk. Off came my shirt, and at it I went con amore. I was so delighted with the result of that operation that I pulled out of my trunk a clean one that I had been casting sheep's eyes at but found too ragged to wear. That I fixed up, and I am now as grand as any king, with two shirts to my name that I can wear. My friend Charles has no idea of the advantages of mending clothes, and, as he has a very short memory, it  is not of much use to tell him. So you see “how the mighty are fallen” --the general of a hundred thousand men sewing on buttons and mending his own clothes. It carried me back to the unhappy days of my miserable bachelorhood. Thank Heaven that that epoch of my existence is past and gone! . . By the way, did I tell you of that gorgeous smoking-cap that was sent to me the other day? I must take the first opportunity to send it home; it is entirely too magnificent for camp, and I fear too much so for me under any circumstances. Should I take a fancy to go to a fancy-ball as the Doge of Venice or the King of Persia, it might make a first-rate head-dress, but would hardly do for anything short of that. We might make a look at it a standing reward for the baby whenever she is particularly good. I have no doubt it would make her open her eyes.
July 30, 10.15 P. M.Another day elapsed and nothing from Washington. I have positive information to-day that the command of this army was pressed upon Burnside, and that he peremptorily refused it. I learn that Meigs is very anxious for it; much good may it do him! I still think, from all that comes to me, that the chances are at least that I will be superseded. . . . We are relieved to-day by a little excitement. The gunboats reported that six rebel gunboats (including Mr. Merrimac No. 2) were on the way down. So we were for some hours considerably brightened up by the prospect of seeing a shindy; but it turned out to be a false report. . . . I see, among other lies, that the papers say that the enemy drove off five hundred of our beef cattle the other day — a lie out of whole cloth. . . . I am sorry to say that I learn that too much faith must not be rested in Halleck. I hope it is not so, but will be very careful how far I trust him, or any other man in these days. He has done me no good yet.
July 31. . . This morning I visited the general hospital not far from here, and went through it all, finding the patients comfortable and all improving in health. They are nearly all in hospital-tents and are well provided for; in truth, they are about as well off as they could be away from home, and many of them  doubtless better off than they would be there. I find the men more contented than the officers. I confess that the men enlist my sympathies much more warmly than the officers. They are so patient and devoted. They have generally entered the service, too, from higher and more unselfish motives. Poor fellows! I can never willingly break the link that unites me to them, and shall always be very proud of them and of their love for me, even if it is not decreed by Providence that I am to lead them to Richmond. After the long time that has elapsed without my hearing anything from Washington I can hardly hope to learn anything by to-day's mail; but I assure you that we are all becoming very impatient at the long delay here, so unnecessary, as it seems to us. I commenced turning over a new leaf to-day; that is, neither writing nor telegraphing to Washington, and have about determined to draw back into my shell until the oracle deigns to speak. I have said all I well can; I have told them about all I think and know; have pointed out to them what I regard as the general effects of the course I fear they are likely to adopt. Words can no further go. By saying more, and repeating what has been already said, I should only render myself ridiculous and a bore. So I will be silent, and if they send me the order I dread (that of withdrawing this army) I will make one last, desperate appeal, and then let matters take their course, confident that I have honestly endeavored to do the best I could, although I may not have done as well as others could. There is a great consolation in feeling that one has tried to do right and not been actuated by selfish motives. Of the last I know that I am free, and would say so were I now on my death-bed. . . . Don't feel at all discouraged. If I have to begin the world anew and work as hard as ever, it is doubtless all for the best. When I return to civil life I shall have the consolation of knowing that I am working for you and the baby. I don't know what rest is, and probably never shall; but as long as God gives me health and strength, and my mind remains clear, it is better that I should work. I am not so fond of it but that I should like to rest; but if that cannot be, I will do my best and try to do my duty ever. . . . I told you the result of the interview with Halleck; thus far practically nothing. Not a word have I heard from Washington since his return there. I shall not write or telegraph another word until I hear from them, unless something  of great importance occurs. I shall stand on what is left of my dignity now!
1 A. M.. . . As I was just about comfortably asleep, about three-quarters of an hour ago, I was awakened by a tremendous shelling. The rascals opened on us with field-guns from the other side of the river, and kept up a tremendous fire. It is now pretty much over, but still going on; no shells have burst nearer than three hundred or four hundred yards from my camp. It took me about five minutes to awaken Marcy; he did not hear a single shot. . . . Still some firing-now heavy again; gunboats at work — they were very slow in getting ready. A queer thing this, writing a letter to my wife, at this time of night, to the music of shells! I fear they must have done some harm. Now they are quiet again; there goes a whopper from the gunboats! Queer times these!
1.30 A. M.Pretty quiet now; only an occasional shot, apparently from the gunboats — there goes one! Now another! Marcy and I have just been discussing (another) people in Washington, and conclude that they are “a mighty trifling set.” Indeed, it is evry criminal to leave me thus without one word of information as to their plans and purposes. If any lives have been lost to-night the guilt (another shot) is on their shoulders, for I told them that I desired to occupy with Burnside's troops the very point whence this firing has come to-night (another shot); but I begin to believe that they wish this army to be destroyed. . . .
2.45. .Tired of waiting for Hammerstein's return with the news of the damage done. . . . Well, he has just returned. It was so dark that no one could tell what the damage was; one man at Fitz Porter's headquarters had his leg shot off; no vessels set on fire; the camps all quiet.
Aug. 1, midnight.. . Everything quiet since I went to bed last night; not a shot fired. We had ten men killed, twelve wounded, half a dozen horses killed; vessels not hurt a bit. One shell did fall in my camp. Fitz Porter caught the most of the storm, but had only one man killed. This afternoon I sent a party across the river to where most of the firing came from, to cut down some timber that obstructs the view and burn some houses that the enemy had been using as observatories and to screen their pickets; it was all done successfully without  opposition. It turned out, as I supposed, that the guns used were field-guns, with which they ran away as soon as they found the gunboats and our own guns were getting troublesome. . . . I had a very friendly letter from Halleck this morning. . . .
Aug. 2.. . . Circumstances have made it unavoidable for me to send out two important expeditions and a large working party, although it is Sunday. One of the expeditions goes to Malvern, the other on the south side of the James river. . . . I had quite an interesting visit on the other side to-day. The place we burned up yesterday was a very handsome one. It was a rather hard case to be obliged to do it, but it could not be avoided. . . . I had (as usual) not a single word from Washington to-day from any one, nor anything from Burnside. If the latter is really under orders for the Rappahannock there is something very strange in his failure to communicate with me, not even giving me the slightest hint of it; therefore I am disposed to discredit Com. Wilkes's report, and to think that he must be mistaken in regard to it. . . . If he is ordered to the Rappahannock I believe that this army will be withdrawn from here. . . . When you contrast the policy I urge in my letter to the President with that of Congress and of Mr. Pope, you can readily agree with me that there can be little natural confidence between the government and myself. We are the antipodes of each other; and it is more than probable that they will take the earliest opportunity to relieve me from command and get me out of sight. I shall endeavor to pursue the plain path of duty. As I have often told you, my mind is prepared to endure anything that a man of honor can. But I shall consult my own sense of right and my own judgment, not deferring to that of others when my own convictions are strong. There are some things to which I cannot submit and to which nothing can induce me to yield. . . .
7.30 A. M., Aug. 3 (same letter).. . . One of my expeditions of last night failed: had to come back because the guides lost the way; will try it again to-night or to-morrow. The other one not yet heard from, but has, I hope, met with better luck than the first. . . . Everything quiet during the night; no firing and no stampede of any kind. . . .
Berkley, Aug. 4, 6.30 P. M.. . . I was off on the other side of the river all day yesterday, where I had a hot and fatiguing tramp on foot, besides getting a little damp in the rain. Our enterprises on that side of the river were quite successful. I found a splendid position to cover that bank, so as to enable us to cross the army if necessary, as well as to prevent any more midnight serenades like that of last week. I now hold the other shore with a sufficient number of troops to prevent a surprise. Averill went out with three squadrons, met and thrashed an entire regiment, drove them to and through their camp, which he captured and leisurely destroyed, thus rendering the 13th Va. Cavalry exceedingly uncomfortable last night, for all their tents, provisions, cooking utensils, and baggage were effectually burned up. He got some prisoners and sabred a respectable number, having only two wounded himself. The 5th Regular Cavalry and the 3d Penn. Cavalry did the work. . . .
11.30 P. M.I had a note from Burnside this evening. He has been ordered to the Rappahannock, and has, I presume, started. Not one word have I heard on that subject from Washington. Halleck has begun to show the cloven foot already. . . . I have a large expedition out to-night — a couple of divisions of infantry and some 2,000 cavalry — to try to catch the secesh who are at Malvern Hill. Shall not hear from them before to-morrow noon. Colburn has gone with them. . . .
7 A. M.Pretty sharp cannonading has been going on in my front this morning — Hooker's command at Malvern; they are still cracking away pretty sharply. Have not heard details, but will ride out in that direction. . .
Aug. 5, Malvern Hill, 1 P. M. (to Gen. Marcy).. . . Hooker has been entirely successful in driving off the enemy; took about one hundred prisoners, killed and wounded several. The mass escaped under cover of a thick fog. Hooker's dispositions were admirable, and nothing but the fog prevented complete success. We have lost three killed and eleven wounded, among the latter two officers. I shall retain the command here to-night. Keep all things ready to move out should we be attacked. I shall not return before dark, and may remain all night; will send in for my blankets and ambulance if I stay. I am now starting to look over the ground. I have sent a party to communicate with  Averill, directing him to take post to-night near Nelson's farm. Will send in again as soon as I return from my ride. Excuse the illegibility of this, as it is written on horseback, and the flies trouble Dan. The enemy in strong force at New Market. Better send a special despatch to Halleck and tell him that I hate to give up this position. Secesh is under cover, and, though he is in strong force, I can beat him if they will give me reinforcements. Send this to Nell if I do not get back in time for mail.
Aug. 7, 11 P. M.. . . I have been so situated for the last two days that I could not write to you. Spent night before last at Malvern, and had no means of writing. I came in from there yesterday, and was up nearly all night giving orders and securing reports in regard to the abandonment of the position. . . . Was not very well off at Malvern. My ambulance lost the road, came near being bagged by the enemy, and did not make its appearance until late next day, so I had nothing. I got some coffee and some bread from one of the companies, used my saddle-blanket and saddle for a bed, and got through the night without mishap.
Aug. 8, Berkley.I can't convey any idea of the heat to-day. It has been intense; not a breath of air stirring. . . . Received some reports from Pleasonton that the enemy are pressing him hard near Malvern Hill, and gave the necessary orders. . . . I am in strong hopes that the enemy will be foolish enough to drive Pleasonton in and attack me in this position. I have ordered P. to draw them on, if possible, and if they come in sight will try to keep my men concealed and do my best to induce them to attack me. Should they be so foolish as to do that I will surely beat them and follow them up to Richmond; but I fear they are too smart for that. I can hardly hope for so much good luck. If it is a possible thing to humbug them into an attack I will do it. I will issue to-morrow an order giving my comments on Mr. John Pope. I will strike square in the teeth of all his infamous orders, and give directly the reverse instructions to my army: forbid all pillaging and stealing, and take the highest Christian ground for the conduct of the war. Let the government gainsay it if they dare. I am willing to fall in such a cause. I will not  permit this army to degenerate into a mob of thieves, nor will I return these men of mine to their families as a set of wicked and demoralized robbers. I will never have that sin on my conscience. . . . I have received my orders from Halleck; I cannot tell you what they are, but if you will bear in mind what I have already written to you, you can readily guess them when I say that they are as bad as they can be, and that I regard them as almost fatal to our cause. I have remonstrated as warmly as I know how to do, but to no avail. My only hope is that I can induce the enemy to attack me. I shall, of course, obey the orders, unless the enemy give me a very good opening, which I should at once avail myself of. I have learned through private sources that they have not yet determined how to dispose of me personally. Their game is to force me to resign; mine will be to force them to place me on leave of absence, so that when they begin to reap the whirlwind that they have sown I may still be in position to do something to save my country. With all their faults, I do love my countrymen, and if I can save them I will yet do so. . . . I had another letter from Halleck to-night, I strongly suspect him.
Aug..--. . . Shortly after that a wind-storm set in with great violence; it knocked over my desk and broke it. The desk fell on the table and broke one leaf off; it broke my “monkey” (did you know I had a menagerie?),2 scattered my papers to the four corners of the-tent, and brought all the orderlies in with a terrific rush. Finally they righted and gathered everything together, so that I am now comfortable again, except damages and the flies. The gust has cooled the air, however, so we are gainers. No rain has fallen here, but the wind is from our dear old North, and is therefore doubly pleasant to me. The fact is, I don't like the South; it is entirely too hot to suit me, and I am sure I don't envy the possessors of it in the least. I wish you could see what a business I am doing, as I write, in the way of spearing flies; every time, nearly, that I dip the pen in the inkstand out comes a defunct fly. I am so glad you  visited that hospital. I thank you for it from the bottom of my heart. I know it did them infinite good, and I am sure that you will never meet one of the Army of the Potomac without a kind word and your brightest smile.
Aug 10, 8 A. M.. . . Halleck is turning out just like the rest of the herd. The affair is rapidly developing itself, and I see more clearly every day their settled purpose to force me to resign. I am trying to keep my temper. I have no idea that I will be with this army more than two or three weeks longer, and should not be surprised any day or hour to get my “walking-papers.”
4. P. M.. . . The absurdity of Halleck's course in ordering the army away from here is that it cannot possibly reach Washington in time to do any good, but will necessarily be too late. I am sorry to say that I am forced to the conclusion that H. is very dull and very incompetent. Alas, poor country! I hope to be ready to-morrow afternoon to move forward in the direction of Richmond. I will try to catch or thrash Longstreet, and then, if the chance offers, follow in to Richmond while they are lamming away at Pope. It is in some respects a desperate step, but it is the best I can do for the nation just now, and I would rather even be defeated than retreat without an effort to relieve Washington in the only way at all possible. If I fail, why well and good. I will fall back. If I win I shall have saved my country, and will then gracefully retire to private life. . . . I am getting the sick away quite rapidly now, but they are in large numbers, and it is at best a slow process. The heavy baggage is all being stored on board ship, so that in whatever direction we move we will be comparatively unencumbered. I shall send off all that I have, except a carpet-bag and pair of blankets, change my large tent for a “wall-tent,” and go about as light as any of them. I half apprehend that they will be too quick for me in Washington, and relieve me before I have the chance of making the dash. If so, well and good. I am satisfied that the dolts in Washington are bent on my destruction, if it is possible for them to accomplish it. . . .
Midnight.. . . I received a very harsh and unjust telegram from Halleck this morning, and a very friendly private letter from the same individual — blows hot and cold. I replied  to his telegram, closing by quietly remarking: “The present moment is probably not the proper one for me to refer to the unnecessarily harsh and unjust tone of your telegrams of late. It will, however, make no difference in my official action.” Under the circumstances I feel compelled to give up the idea of my intended attack upon Richmond, and must retrace my steps. Halleck writes that all the forces in Virginia, including Pope, Burnside, etc., are to be placed under my command; I doubt it. They are committing a fatal error in withdrawing me from here, and the future will show it. I think the result of their machination will be that Pope will be badly thrashed within ten days, and that they will be very glad to turn over the redemption of their affairs to me. . . . Aug. 11 .-I am free to chat with you for a few minutes, at least until the impetuous Hatter rushes in and asks “the general to be good enough to come to breakfast.” Our breakfasts are not very splendid or tempting just now; probably a little ham or beefsteak, coffee, bread and butter; never any ice for breakfast — that is, very seldom, if ever; and hot as blazes. In this climate one needs cool and light food, fruit, etc.; but we don't get much of that sort of thing. . . . Have been hard at work all day, and expect to keep at it until I get this army away from Fortress Monroe, unless my head is chopped off in the meantime — a circumstance I am in the daily expectation of occurring, and can't say that I much dread. . . . I presume Pope is having his hands quite full to-day; is probably being hard pressed by Jackson. I cannot help him in time, as I have not the means of transportation; but I foresee that the government will try to throw upon me the blame of their own delays and blunders. So be it. I have learned to endure, and shall continue to as long as the good of the country requires that I shall do so; but not one moment longer than that.
P. M.. . . You see that Halleck has done otherwise than to reinforce me; quite the reverse. Burnside is at Acquia. I strongly suspect that one reason for their not imparting their plans to me is that they have very few to impart; they are drifting, not steering the poor Ship of State, and I fear they will be wrecked ere long. . . . If they do read our letters in Washington  they must feel one ear tingle occasionally! . . . You need not dread any engagement at present. The “powers” won't let me go after the enemy, and I am quite sure they won't be kind enough to come after me. It is scarcely possible that we can have anything more than a mere affair of rear-guards. I don't think now that will occur; so make your mind quite easy . . . .
Cherrystone inlet, Aug. 14, 2 A. M.Left camp yesterday morning at seven o'clock in a gunboat to go to the telegraph-station at Jamestown island, so that I could talk with Halleck with less loss of time. On arriving there I found that the wires were not working through, and went straight on to Fortress Monroe, arriving there about 8.30 P. M. There I ascertained that the cable to this place was broken, so I took a steamer and came over here, arriving at eleven P. M. Halleck came to the Washington office about one and a half or two hours ago; I have sent him several telegrams, and his first reply is just arriving in cipher. I presume I am in for sitting up all night. The steamer is about two miles from here; came that distance in a row-boat. This is an abandoned secesh city, consisting of one house in the wilderness; so I am not likely to be disturbed. Porter, Ingalls, Colburn, and Key are with me. They are all sound asleep, so I have no one to distract my attention. I must confess, however, that as I went to bed very late last night, and have had no sleep since the morning, I am rather sleepy myself; but I can't just now indulge in the luxury.
3.30 A. M.. . . We have just got back to the steamer, and I am getting under way to return to Fort Monroe, where I go direct to camp in a fast boat. My communication with Halleck was unsatisfactory in the extreme. He did not even behave with common politeness; he is a bien mauvais sujet--he is not a gentleman. . . . I am writing by a dim light, and confess that I am very tired and very much disgusted. I fear that I am very mad, and think I have a perfect right to be so . . . Every day convinces me more and more that it is the intention of Halleck and the government to drive me off, and I begin to feel that I cannot preserve my self-respect and remain in the service much longer. I think the crisis will soon arrive . . .