Fairfax Court House, March 13, 1862.
Dear Father, — . . . The President’s Proclamation is liked very much by all the officers I have seen.
I have got the box here, and daily tickle the palates of myself and brother officers with the different things you were kind enough to send me. I will see that the stockings go to the soldiers, etc.
Coming in from Hall’s Hill yesterday I was struck with the picturesque scene which I saw in the village. It was about half an hour from sundown, the air soft and balmy as could be, and resembling some of our delightful autumn or spring days. It was just the hour when the camps are busiest, and present their most lively appearance. First we came to a cavalry regiment with their horses fastened to a long rope stretched along parallel with the road, and eating their supper, neighing, biting and snapping at each other. On my right was an undulating space cleared of all trees and with some slight breastworks put up by the enemy. This large plain was covered with camps full of life and activity, soldiers marching to a review by McClellan, with bands playing and their colors flying, and a hum arising from those not yet in ranks. All this was delightful to me, but to one who is accustomed to it, it loses its beauty in a great degree. Following this road till I came to the turnpike, I turned to the right, and came on a scene which I thought must resemble some European city. Here were all these old-fashioned houses, with queer windows and porches, guards before many of the doors, and soldiers in many cases sitting in the porches talking with the women of the house. The street was full of soldiers in every imaginable attitude, and in performance of all sorts of duty. Here was the provost guard clearing the stragglers from the street, there a man with two oxen who would go in opposite directions and he in despair, for no sooner would he get them straight than some band of soldiers would on their march come across his path, to the infinite delight of the by-standers. Then again all the soldiers would be talking in groups, which seemed quite picturesque from the variety of uniforms. Sutlers’ wagons, ambulances, baggage trains and a large corral of cattle also appeared. I never was so well pleased with any such sight and would have given a great deal if I had been able to sketch it.
What I wrote you about McClellan the other day was this. A cabinet meeting was held, so I heard, and an angry discussion took place, most of them at first being in favor of turning McClellan out altogether and putting McDowell in his place (in the Army of the Potomac), but on second thoughts they determined to confine McClellan’s command to the Army of the Potomac. The President then told McClellan that he would be turned out if he did not advance, and hence this advance was made. This came from a source hostile to McClellan and I have good reason to think is exaggerated. The President I know ordered the advance, but I doubt if the whole of the story is correct. McClellan’s plan was, I think, to go to Richmond by water, a much more practicable, less expensive and quicker method of doing the business. It may be done so yet as there is no enemy to fight here, and to advance on Richmond with our large army will be an immense and tedious operation as all the bridges are destroyed and we shall have to wait for them to be rebuilt as we must depend on the railroad for all such things.
I heard a curious story from Stedman, the World correspondent, to-day. Last summer, just after Bull Run, he dined at Centreville with a Dr. Grimsley. In reply to the doctor’s question as to when he would be there again, he said in the course of a year. The doctor laughed at the idea and told him that it was nonsense, and it ended by their betting a supper on the result of the question. When Stedman entered the doctor’s house at Centreville, which he did Tuesday, he found a note addressed to him, saying that he would find a dinner ready for him and four servants to wait on him. The doctor said he had retired to the interior of the State. Sure enough, there was a dinner spread out for him, of turkey, sweet potatoes, etc., and four niggers to wait on him. They told him their master had cleared off and left directions for them to wait for Stedman and wait upon him. It ‘s strange what queer things turn up sometimes. I think we shall be here some days. . . .
 The special message urging “gradual emancipation ” of the slaves.