Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

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.

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Headquarters 5th Army Corps,
Camp at Hall’s Hill, Va., Sept. 4, 1862.

Dear Father, — We have at length, after fighting over a year, reached Washington, and are as badly off as we were a. year ago. Here we are encamped in the identical spot we were last March when we started off on our way to Richmond. And now what is this owing to? Simply to the interference of the Abolitionists and politicians with McClellan. They bothered him, and interfered with him until they compelled him to retreat from his near position to Richmond, and finally made him come up here, when he offered to take Richmond with 25,000 more men. He, however, pushed his troops on to Pope’s assistance with all the rapidity he could. Pope marched us and countermarched us, and wore us out by his marches, then let the enemy get between us and Washington and capture three new and complete batteries from off the cars at Manassas, in addition to any number of things which they wanted. They also cut off our supplies. Pope then goes hunting in the wrong direction for the enemy, and finally finds him at Bull Run. Here he pushes our corps from a strong position into the woods, where we are butchered and fall back, protected alone by our artillery. The left is turned, and were it not for the assistance of Sykes’s division of Regulars in Porter’s corps, the whole army would have been cut to pieces. We are compelled to leave the field with a loss of some thousands, and retire to Centreville. Pope waits here while all the generals tell him that the enemy will surround him. He wanted to get all McClellan’s troops and be in complete command of them. He gets them and retreats for Washington, being nearly cut off on his way. When near Chain Bridge McClellan comes out to meet the weary discouraged soldiers. Such cheers I never heard before, and were never heard in Pope’s army. Way off in the distance as he passed the different corps we could hear them cheer him. Every one felt happy and jolly. We felt there was some chance for Washington. The President and Halleck, after taking away his army and leaving him two thousand men and a battery, and after he had sent in his resignation, were compelled to go and see him and ask him to take command, as he was the only man who could then save the country. Two days before, when he heard his own troops engaged in battle and he wished to go out and see them, as a spectator, leave was refused him. Pope deceived the President and General Halleck by his lying dispatches. I only hope that they did not find it out too late.

I am perfectly well. . . .

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September 4 — This morning we started on a scout. We went nearly to Falls Church, within about eight miles of Washington. We struck a small body of Yanks about two miles from Falls Church. We drove them back to Falls Church, where they had a considerable force, some of which were infantry. They made a bold and obstinate stand there and stood our fire much better than they usually do. We fired on them some six or eight times, when they threw out a flanking party and we had to retire with our little force, as our scouting party was small and not prepared to fight infantry.

There was a regiment of Yankee infantry packed in a narrow troughy road that was lined on both sides with large locust trees. The place was about a mile and a half from our position, and I could not discern them with the naked eye through the foliage of the trees. Some officer in our cavalry called my attention to the spot and said that there was a Yankee regiment standing in the road under the locust trees. I still could not see them until he handed me his field-glass, and told me where to look. As soon as I got the glass to bear on the place I saw about a regiment of infantry standing in close order and facing from us, ready to march. I gave them a shell, and they marched off right away, and double-quick at that.

My gun again kicked loose from its mounting today, and I had to take it off the field for repairs. We passed Vienna to-day, a station on the Loudoun branch of the Alexandria Railroad. We got back to camp at ten o’clock to-night.

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September 4th.

I hear to-day that the Brunots have returned to Baton Rouge, determined to await the grand finale there. They, and two other families, alone remain. With these exceptions, and a few Dutch and Irish who cannot leave, the town is perfectly deserted by all except the Confederate soldiers. I wish I was with them! If all chance of finding lodgings here is lost, and mother remains with Lilly, as she sometimes seems more than half inclined, and Miriam goes to Linwood, as she frequently threatens, I believe I will take a notion, too, and go to Mrs. Brunt! I would rather be there, in all the uncertainty, expecting to be shelled or burnt out every hour, than here. Ouf! what a country! Next time I go shopping, I mean to ask some clerk, out of curiosity, what they do sell in Clinton. The following is a list of a few of the articles that shopkeepers actually laugh at you if you ask for: Glasses, flour, soap, starch, coffee, candles, matches, shoes, combs, guitar-strings, bird-seed,—in short, everything that I have heretofore considered as necessary to existence. If any one had told me I could have lived off of cornbread, a few months ago, I would have been incredulous; now I believe it, and return an inward grace for the blessing at every mouthful. I have not tasted a piece of wheatbread since I left home, and shall hardly taste it again until the war is over.

I do not like this small burg. It is very straggling and pretty, but I would rather not inhabit it. We are as well known here as though we carried our cards on our faces, and it is peculiarly disagreeable to me to overhear myself spoken about, by people I don’t know, as “There goes Miss Morgan,” as that young man, for instance, remarked this morning to a crowd, just as I passed. It is not polite, to say the least.

Will Carter was here this morning and told me he saw Theodore Pinckney in the streets. I suppose he is on his way home, and think he will be a little disappointed in not finding us at Linwood as he expects, and still more so to hear he passed through the very town where we were staying, without knowing it.

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September 4, Thursday. City full of rumors and but little truth in any of them.

Wilkes laid before me his plan for organizing the Potomac Flotilla. It is systematic and exhibits capacity.

Something energetic must be done in regard to the suspected privateers which, with the connivance of British authorities, are being sent out to depredate on our commerce. We hear that our new steamer, the Adirondack, is wrecked. She had been sent to watch the Bahama Channel. Her loss, the discharge of the Oreto by the courts of Nassau, and the arrival of Steamer 290,[1] both piratical British wolves, demand attention, although we have no vessels to spare from the blockade. Must organize a flying squadron, as has been suggested, and put Wilkes in command. Both the President and Seward request he should go on this service.

When with the President this A.M., heard Pope read his statement of what had taken place in Virginia during the last few weeks, commencing at or before the battle of Cedar Mountain. It was not exactly a bulletin nor a report, but a manifesto, a narrative, tinged with wounded pride and a keen sense of injustice and wrong. The draft, he said, was rough. It certainly needs modifying before it goes out, or there will be war among the generals, who are now more ready to fight each other than the enemy. No one was present but the President, Pope, and myself. I remained by special request of both to hear the report read. Seward came in for a moment, but immediately left. He shuns these controversies and all subjects where he is liable to become personally involved. I have no doubt Stanton and Chase have seen the paper, and Seward, through Stanton, knows its character.

Pope and I left together and walked to the Departments. He declares all his misfortunes are owing to the persistent determination of McClellan, Franklin, and Porter, aided by Ricketts, Griffin, and some others who were predetermined he should not be successful. They preferred, he said, that the country should be ruined rather than he should triumph.


[1] The cruiser Alabama.

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4th.—”All quiet on the Potomac.”

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Thursday, 4th—Companies E and K went out on railroad guard at the deep cut, to relieve Companies C and H. We are guarding the road for a distance of seven miles. We have some very strict orders on guard; every man has to be on guard all the time, as the rebels may come out of the brush at any moment, and if we should be caught napping, some of us would surely be killed.

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Thursday, September 4. — A cheerful bright morning and a sound sleep dispels the gloom resting on my views of the future. During the night a courier came to my tent saying that two thousand of our wounded are in the hands of the enemy and are starving! The enemy is in bad condition for food.

Siege guns were put in the fort on our right (Ramsay) during the night; the preparations are advancing which will enable us to hold this post and “save Washington.”

10 A. M. — The rumor is that the enemy is directing his course up the Potomac, intending to cross into Maryland. We now hear cannon at a great distance, in a northern direction.

About 4:30 P. M. the enemy began to fire at our cavalry picket, about three miles out. Waggoners rolled in, horsemen ditto, in great haste. The regiments of General Cox’s Division were soon ready, not one-fourth or one-third absent, or hiding, or falling to the rear as seems to be the habit in this Potomac army, but all, all fell in at once; the Eleventh, Twelfth, Twenty-third, Twenty-eighth, Thirtieth, and Thirty-sixth Ohio can be counted on. After skedaddling the regiment of cavalry, who marched out so grandly a few hours before, the firing of the enemy ceased. A quiet night followed.

Cincinnati is now threatened by an army which defeated our raw troops at Richmond, Kentucky. Everywhere the enemy is crowding us. Everywhere they are to be met by our raw troops, the veterans being in the enemy’s country too distant to be helpful. A queer turning the tables on us! And yet if they fail of getting any permanent and substantial advantatge of us, I think the recoil will be fatal to them. I think in delaying this movement until our new levies are almost ready for the field, they have let the golden opportunity slip; that they will be able to annoy and harass but not to injure us; and that the reaction will push them further back than ever. We shall see! A rumor of a repulse of the enemy at Harpers Ferry by Wool. Hope it is true!

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To Mrs. Lyon.

Iuka Springs, Miss., General Hospital, Thursday, Sept. 4, 1862.—On Monday I learned that the regiment had to leave Tuscumbia the next morning, and fearing that I might not see them again, without asking leave of any doctor I jumped on the train and went there. General Rosecrans was on the train and said: ‘Why, Captain, where are you going?’ He thought it was rather venturesome of me to take the trip, but said he thought if I took plenty of quinine and whisky there would be no danger of my being worse, and he pressed his own flask upon me.

Tuscumbia is thirty miles east, and in Alabama. The boys seemed pleased to see me. I stayed with them that night and saw them off in the morning. I felt better in the morning for my trip. A few hours after the regiment left, a courier was dispatched recalling it; and it is now in Tuscumbia without doubt, although they had not yet arrived when I left. I found the boys all well and in fine spirits. I feel very well, the only trouble being weakness, and I am rapidly gaining strength. I weigh 138 pounds, having lost but 20 pounds during my sickness. I still live on beefsteak, tea, and mush and molasses. I have no fever, sweats, aches or pains of any kind, and the natural blackness is rapidly spreading over my countenance again.

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Thursday, 4th. Read some in “Othello.” Enjoyed some parts much. News came that Jackson had been taken with 20,000 men. Proved a lie. Tried to write a decently neat letter to Ella Clark, didn’t succeed very well. Didn’t finish in time for the evening mail. A good letter came from Fannie—a little behind time. Enjoyed it all. Read the latest Cleveland papers. News of the morning proved entirely false and we the ones whipped.

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