September 4th. 1862.
We have been three days in camp, and have fully recovered from the fatigues of our long journey. Drill is the order of the day, as it is the necessity of the hour. Officers and men have yet to learn the rudiments of military maneuvering. There is not a company officer who can put his men through company drill without making one—or more—ludicrous blunders. Yesterday our First Lieutenant was drilling a squad of men. He was giving all his attention to “time,” and did not notice a fence had planted itself directly across our path. Suddenly he shouted: “Who—who—who! Come this way, you fellows in front—don’t you see you are running into that fence?”
On Monday morning one of the men had been cleaning his gun, and, wishing to know if it would burn a cap, laid it down for the purpose of getting one. When he returned, instead of picking up his own gun, he took a loaded one that belonged to a guard. As a result of his stupidity, the ball passed through two tents, entered a young man’s heel and passed through his foot lengthwise, rendering him a cripple for life. Rumors were in circulation all day Tuesday of Rebel movements. At dusk twenty rounds of ammunition were distributed. We were then sent to our quarters to await orders. A spirit of unrest pervaded the camp. Men gathered in groups and whispered their conviction of a night attack.
At nine o’clock a picket fired an alarm. The bugle sounded “To arms.” Orderlies ran up and down the line of tents shouting. “Fall in! Fall in with your arms; the Rebels are upon us!”
For a moment there was some confusion, but in less than five minutes we were in line, eager to meet the foe. But no enemy appeared. It was a ruse gotten up by the officers as an emergency drill, and, as such, it was a decided success. There were some ludicrous incidents, but, as a rule, the men buckled on their arms with promptness and appeared as cool as on dress parade.
Yesterday morning, as we were forming for company drill, a courier rode into camp with dispatches from headquarters. Five companies from our regiment were ordered to repair at once to Fort Gaines, eight miles distant, on the Virginia side of the Potomac. We started off briskly, but before we had gone a mile the order was countermanded, and we returned to camp.
The news this morning is not encouraging. General Pope has been defeated and driven back upon the fortifications around Washington, and the Rebels are trying to force their way across the Potomac. We are under marching orders. Rumor says we are to join Burnside’s forces at Frederic City.