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Chapter 31: private letters.
[Aug. 24 to Sept. 2, 1862.]

Aug. 24, Sunday, 9.30 A. M., Acquia creek.

We reached here during the night. Sent a despatch about six to Halleck, informing him that I had arrived here and awaited orders; also sent one to Burnside. . . . I have no reply as yet to my despatches, and am not at all impatient. I learn that all my troops are ordered to Alexandria for embarkation, so I presume they will be merged in Pope's army. If this is the case I will (if I find it proper) try for a leave of absence. . . . I learn nothing whatever of the state of affairs, not even whether Pope is still falling back or whether there has been any fighting. So I suppose it is all right. I fancy that Pope is in retreat, though this is only a guess of mine, without anything to base it on. I don't see how I can remain in the service if placed under Pope; it would be too great a disgrace, and I can hardly think that Halleck would permit it to be offered me. . . . I expect Porter and Burnside here in a few minutes, and then will know something of the state of affairs, I hope. This is a wretched place, utterly unfit for the landing and supplying of a large body of troops. They have at last found it out, though H. insisted upon it that there were ample facilities here for all purposes. . . .

12.15 P. M.

I have seen Burnside and Porter, and gained some information from them. I have not one word yet from Washington, and am quietly waiting here for something to turn up. I presume they are discussing me now, to see whether they can get along without me. . . . They will suffer a terrible defeat if the present state of affairs continues. I know that with God's help I can save them. . . .

Aug. 25, 1 P. M.

. . . Was at Falmouth pretty much all night . . . .


Aug. 27, A. M., Alexandria.

We arrived here last night. Rose early; reported to Washington that I had arrived, and am waiting for something to turn up. It seems that some 500 of the enemy's cavalry made a dash last night and burned the Bull Run railroad bridge. I fear this will cause much inconvenience, as the troops in front are mainly dependent on the railroad for supplies. My troops are getting pretty well into position: Porter between Fredericksburg and the Rappahannock Station; Heintzelman at Rappahannock Station; Franklin near this place; Sumner landing at Acquia creek. I have heard nothing new to-day, and don't know what is going on in front; am terribly ignorant of the state of affairs, and therefore somewhat anxious to know. . . . I find all going on well enough here. Davis has just returned from selecting a camp for headquarters; he has picked out a place between the Seminary (our old camp) and the river, about one-half or three-quarters of a mile from the Seminary. I shall go into my tent this time and not trouble a house. With the exception of the two or three days I passed at Williamsburg on our upward march, and one night at Fort Monroe, I have not slept in a house since I left you. I know nothing definite yet in regard to my fate . . . .


Have been again interrupted by telegrams requiring replies. Halleck is in a disagreeable situation: can get no information from the front, either as to our own troops or the enemy. I shall do all I can to help him loyally and will trouble him as little as possible, but render all the assistance in my power without regard to myself or my own position. . . . Our affairs here are much tangled up, and I opine that in a day or two your old husband will be called upon to unravel them. In the meantime I shall be very patient, do to the best of my ability whatever I am called upon to do, and wait my time. I hope to have my part of the work pretty well straightened out to-day. In that case I shall move up to Washington this evening. . . . Have just heard that it is probable that a general engagement will be fought to-day or to-morrow near Warrenton . . . .

Aug. 28, 9.30 A. M., steamer “Ariel.”

I am just about starting back for Alexandria. I came up here (Washington) last night; reached Halleck's house about midnight, and remained talking with him until three. . . . I have a great deal of hard work [530] before me now, but will do my best to perform it. I find Halleck well disposed; he has had much to contend against. I shall keep as clear as possible of the President and cabinet; endeavor to do what must be done with Halleck alone; so I shall get on better. Pope is in a bad way; his communication with Washington cut off, and I have not yet the force at hand to relieve him. He has nearly all the troops of my army that have arrived. I hope to hear better news when I reach Alexandria.

Aug. 29, 3 P. M.

. . . I was awake all last night, and have not had one moment until now to write to you. I have a terrible task on my hands now-perfect imbecility to correct. No means to act with, no authority, yet determined, if possible, to save the country and the capital. I find the soldiers all clinging to me; yet I am not permitted to go to the post of danger! Two of my corps will either save Pope or be sacrificed for the country. I do not know whether I shall be permitted to save the capital or not. I have just telegraphed very plainly to the President and Halleck what I think ought to be done. I expect merely a contemptuous silence. . . . I am heart-sick with the folly and ignorance I see around me. God grant that I may never pass through such a scene again! . . .

9.30 P. M.

. . Late yesterday afternoon a violent gale arose and blew over my tent, soaking everything I had, including this note and myself. . . . I have been terribly busy since reaching here; not a moment have I had to myself. I found everything in the most terrible confusion-apparently inextricably so; but affairs are now better. The works on this side of the river are in condition for defence. . . . I see the evening paper states that I have been placed in command of all the troops in Virginia. This is not so. I have no command at present — that is to say, I have none of the Army of the Potomac with me, and have merely “turned in” on my own account to straighten out whatever I catch hold of. By to-morrow evening I hope to have the works, etc., in fair condition of defence. . . . Pope has been in a tight place, but from the news received this evening I think the danger is pretty much over. To-morrow will tell the story. I am terribly crippled by the want of cavalry. None of mine have arrived except three small squadrons. I hope for more to-night. There was a terrible scare in Washington last [531] night. A rumor got out that Lee was advancing rapidly on the Chain bridge with 150,000 men. And such a stampede! I did not get five minutes consecutive sleep all night, so thick were the telegrams. . . . I have seen neither the President nor the secretary since I arrived here; have been only once to Washington, and hope to see very little of the place. I abominate it terribly. . . . I have no faith in any one here, and expect to be turned loose the moment their alarm is over. I expect I got into a row with Halleck to-night. He sent me a telegram I did not like, and I told him so very plainly. He is not a refined person at all, and probably says rough things when he don't mean them . . . .

Aug. 30, 8 A. M.

. . . Was awakened last night by a few scattering shots that, no doubt, came from some of those very raw troops that are about here. Shall start soon after breakfast and ride to Upton's Hill, thence to the Chain bridge and along the line of forts. I want to see all on this side of the river to-day, if I can. No one in Washington appears to know the condition of matters, and I have a fancy for finding them out for myself. If I once get matters reasonably straight I shall not trouble myself much more. What I am doing now is rather a volunteer affair — not exactly my business; but you know that I have a way of attending to most other things than my own affairs. . . .

1.30 P. M., camp near Alexandria.

. . . I expected to start out on a long ride, but have thus far been detained by various matters which have kept me very busy. . . . There has been heavy firing going on all day long somewhere beyond Bull Run. I have sent up every man I have, pushed everything, and am left here on the flat of my back without any command whatever. It is dreadful to listen to this cannonading and not be able to take any part in it. But such is my fate. . . .

9.15 P. M.

. . I feel too blue and disgusted to write any more now, so I will smoke a cigar and try to get into a better humor. They have taken all my troops from me! I have even sent off my personal escort and camp-guard, and am here with a few orderlies and the aides. I have been listening to the sound of a great battle in the distance. My men engaged in it and I away! I never felt worse in my life.


Sunday (31st), 9.30 A. M.

. . . There was a severe battle yesterday, and almost exactly on the old Bull Run battle-ground. Pope sent in accounts during the day that he was getting on splendidly, driving the enemy all day, gaining a glorious victory, etc., etc. About three this morning Hammerstein returned from the field (where I had sent him to procure information), and told me that we were badly whipped, McDowell's and Sigel's corps broken, the corps of my own army that were present (Porter and Heintzelman) badly cut up but in perfect order. Banks was not engaged. Franklin had arrived and was in position at Centreville. Sumner must have got up by this time. Couch's division is about starting. It is probable that the enemy are too much fatigued to renew the attack this morning, perhaps not at all to-day; so that time may be given to our people to make such arrangements as will enable them to hold their own. I telegraphed last evening asking permission to be with my troops; received a reply about half an hour ago from Halleck that he would have to consult the President first! If they refuse to let me go out I think I shall feel obliged to insist upon a leave, or something of the kind, the moment the question of the existing battle is settled. I feel like a fool here, sucking my thumbs and doing nothing but what ought to be done by junior officers. I leave it all in the hands of the Almighty. I will try to do my best in the position that may be assigned to me, and be as patient as I can.


. . . I feel in that state of excitement and anxiety that I can hardly keep still for a moment. I learn from Hammerstein that the men in front are all anxious for me to be with them. It is too cruel!

12.30 P. M.

A short time since I saw the order defining commands. Mine is that part of the Army of the Potomac not sent to Pope. As all is sent there, I am left in command of nothing-a command I feel fully competent to exercise, and to which I can do full justice. I am going to write a quiet, moderate letter to Mr.--presently, explaining to him the exact state of the case, without comment, so that my friends in New York may know all. . . . Everything is too uncertain and unsafe around Washington at present for you to dream of going there. As a matter of self-respect, I cannot go there. . . . I do not regard Washington as safe against the rebels. If I can quietly slip over there I will [533] send your silver off. There is an order forbidding any one going there without permission from the War Department, and I do not care to ask them for so slight a favor as that . . . .

Sept. 1, Washington, 2 P. M.

I have only time to tell you that I have been placed in command of Washington and all the garrisons, etc., in the vicinity, to do the best I can with it. The decisive battle will be fought to-day near Fairfax Court-House. My headquarters are to be in town. If the squall passes over, and Washington is a safe place, you shall come on to see me, if I can't get off to see you. . . .

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