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

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rienzi, Saturday, Sept. 6. Went through the usual routine of drill and camp life. Received my first mail since my arrival, consisting of two letters and a [Milwaukee] Sentinel. Changed mess. The 2nd Missouri Infantry left. Wagons moving, fires burning all night.

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Headquarters 5th Army Corps,
Camp at Hall’s Hill, Sept. 6, 1862.

Dear Father, — The report is that Generals Porter and Franklin are relieved of the command of their respective corps, until charges are tried which are preferred against them by General Pope. Pope will probably try to blame Porter, and lay the blame of the whole matter on him, on the ground of disobedience of orders. General Porter disobeyed no orders, and if these stories are true, in regard to his being relieved of command, why I have no fear of the result of any court-martial. It will only turn out to the disadvantage of Pope. You cannot conceive of the intense feeling against Pope, McDowell and Stanton.

Meanwhile the enemy are advancing into Maryland, and there will soon be a bloody struggle there, I suppose.

They annoy us very little in front, and are waiting, I suppose, for the force in Maryland to operate.

I am in perfectly good health, and find that out-door life agrees with me.

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September 6 — To-day we remained in camp at Leesburg until we had our guns repaired; then we moved to the Potomac, where we arrived a little before sunset; but it was impossible for us to ford the river immediately after our arrival in consequence of the vast number of wagons and artillery there waiting for an opportunity to ford.

The road between Leesburg and the river was so dusty to-day as to make it impossible to discern a man three rods distant.

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Beech Grove,
September 6th, Saturday.

Another perch for Noah’s duck! Where will I be in a week or two from this? I shall make a mark, twenty pages from here, and see where I shall be when I reach it. Here, most probably; but oh, if I could then be at home! General Carter, who spent the evening with us day before yesterday, remarked that the first thing he heard as he reached town was that all the gentlemen and ladies of Clinton were hunting for country lodgings for us. It was pretty much the case. The General was as kind as ever, bless his gray head! and made us promise to go back to Linwood with him when he passes back next week. This is the way we keep the promise — coming out here.

Early yesterday morning we received a note from Eliza Haynes, one of our indefatigable agents, saying her grandmother, Mrs. McCay, had consented to receive us, and would come for us in the evening. Immediately my packing task was begun. But imagine my disappointment, just as I had finished one trunk, to hear mother announce her determination to let us go alone, while she remained with Lilly! Prayers, entreaties, tears, arguments, all failed; and we were forced to submit. So with a heart fuller than I can express, I repacked the trunk with Miriam’s and my clothing, and got ready to depart. In the evening the carriage drove up to the door with Eliza and her grandmother, and with a hasty and rather choky good-bye to Lilly and mother, we were hurried in, and in another moment were off.

I fancied the house would be north of Clinton, so of course the horses took the road south. Then I decided on a white cottage to the left of the mad, and about two miles out, found that it was to the right, not painted, and no cottage at all, but a nondescript building, besides. “’T was ever thus from childhood’s hour!” When did I ever fancy anything exactly as it was? But the appearance does not affect the house, which is really very comfortable, though apparently unfinished. The same objection might be made to it that I made to Mrs. Moore’s, for there is not a shutter on the place. But fine shade trees take their place, and here I do not feel the want of them so much, as our room is in the back of the house, to the west, where the rising sun cannot salute my nose as it did at Mrs. Moore’s. As to what effect the setting sun has, I must wait for the evening to decide, though I always enjoy that. At Greenwell, we used to walk a mile away from home to see the sun set in an open field.

I find Mrs. McCay an excellent, plain old lady, with neither airs nor pretentions, and very kindhearted. Here she lives alone, with the exception of an orphan girl called Jane, whose position, half-menial, half-equal, it would be hard to define. Poor girl! the name of orphan alone was enough to make me sorry for her. She must be “Friday’s child”! she is so “ready and willing.” Eliza, who it seems stays a great deal with her grandmother, is one of the brightest little girls I have seen for a long while. She sings and plays on the piano with a style and assurance that I can only mutely covet. Why cannot I have the confidence I see all others possess? She took me to the gin-house last evening, though I could not see much, as it was almost sunset when we arrived. An early tea, and singing, and music after, completed our evening, and then we were shown to our room.

Mrs. McCay has only room for us two, so it is fortunate that mother would not come. She says she wants us to spend a few days with her, to see if we like it, or if we will be willing to be separated from mother. In the mean time, we can look around for lodgings in a larger and more comfortable place where we can be together. She tells such stories about the house Lilly lives in, of its age, and unhealthiness, that I am frightened about mother. She says she will die if she stays there this month. Miriam and Eliza have gone to town to see them, and are then going to Mrs. George’s to see if she can accommodate us.

I wanted to have a splendid dream last night, but failed. It was pleasant, though, to dream of welcoming George and Gibbes back. Jimmy I could not see; and George was in deep mourning. I dreamed of fainting when I saw him (a novel sensation, since I never experienced it awake), but I speedily came to, and insisted on his “pulling Henry Walsh’s red hair for his insolence,” which he promised to do instantly. How absurd! Dreams! dreams! That pathetic “Miss Sarah, do you ever dream?” comes vividly back to me sometimes. Dream? Don’t I! not the dreams that he meant; but royal, purple dreams, that De Quincey could not purchase with his opium; dreams that I would not forego for all the inducements that could be offered. I go to sleep, and pay a visit to heaven or fairyland. I have white wings, and with another, float in rosy clouds, and look down on the moving world; or I have the power to raise myself in the air without wings, and silently float wherever I will, loving all things and feeling that God loves me. I have heard Paul preach to the people, while I stood on a fearful rock above. I have been to strange lands and great, cities; I have talked with people I have never beheld. Charlotte Brontë has spent a week with me — in my dreams — and together we have talked of her sad life. Shakespeare and I have discussed his works, seated tête-â-tête over a small table. He pointed out the character of each of his heroines, explaining what I could not understand when awake; and closed the lecture with “You have the tenderest heart I have ever read, or sung of” — which compliment, considering it as original with him, rather than myself, waked me up with surprise.

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September 6, Saturday. We have information that the Rebels have crossed the Potomac in considerable force, with a view of invading Maryland and pushing on into Pennsylvania. The War Department is bewildered, knows but little, does nothing, proposes nothing.

Our army is passing north. This evening some twenty or thirty thousand passed my house within three hours. There was design in having them come up from Pennsylvania Avenue to H Street, and pass by McClellan’s house, which is at the corner of H and 15th. They cheered the General lustily, instead of passing by the White House and honoring the President.

Have unpleasant information concerning privateers, which are getting abroad by connivance of the British authorities. Am trying to get Wilkes off as speedily as possible. Wrote out his orders and instructions this evening to cruise with a squadron in the Bahamas and West Indies for certain vessels of no recognized nationality that were preparing to prey on our commerce. Will get them copied and in his hands on Monday. As an additional hint, told him to-day I wished he could get off on Monday.

McClellan and his partisans have ascendency in the army, but he has lost ground in the confidence of the country, chiefly from delays, or what the President aptly terms the “slows.”

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6th.—We cooked our rations yesterday, as ordered, but are being still to-day. I this afternoon rode down to Alexandria, (2 1-2 miles,) remained a short time, and when I returned at 4 o’clock P. M., found the army in line, ready to march. About dark, we started, no one seeming to know whither we were going, but at 10 o’clock at night, found ourselves on the south end of Long Bridge, opposite Washington. Having crossed the river, we marched with the pomp and boldness of a victorious army up to the house of the Commander-in-Chief, (General McClellan) and inflicted many long, loud cheers; and what an infliction it must have been! Just one year before, he had in a speech to the soldiers, promised them that if “you will stand by me, I’ll stand by you, and there shall be no more Bull Run defeats.” And here we are, on a skedaddle of a most shameful “Bull Run defeat,” celebrating the anniversary of the bomastic, yet puerile speech. We are eight miles farther from Richmond than when the promise was made, and worse still, Generals Lee and Jackson have pushed us aside at the Bull Run defeat, gone past us into Maryland, and threaten Baltimore and Harrisburg. Yet, amidst all my mortification, I have been unable to restrain a laugh at the ridiculousness of our position, as we pass through Washington. For weeks, we have, by night, been stealing away from the enemy in such trepidation that the breaking of a trampled stick would startle us, lest the noise might discover our position to the pursuers. Whilst crossing Long Bridge to-night, General Hancock ordered all the music to the front, and as we marched through the streets to the tune of “Hail to the Chief who in Triumph Advances,” I could not for the life of me, restrain a laugh at the thought of some poor old dung-hill cock, whipped till feathers were all plucked and ruffled, running away from his victorious antagonist, then perched on his own ground, and peeping from behind a bush to see that no little chanticleer was in hearing, would raise himself up and perpetrate his biggest “cock-a-doodle-doo.”

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“Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances.”

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Having crowed this big crow on the threshhold of General McClellan’s house, we passed on through Washington and Georgetown, and as no army was endangered by our delay, we have marched all night, stopping at daylight near Tennally Town, Maryland.

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Saturday, 6th—We were relieved this morning by Companies B and G and arrived in camp at 11 o’clock. All are glad to get back to tent for a good rest, after having been on duty for forty-eight hours.

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September 6. Saturday. — Left Upton’s Hill at 7:30 A. M. Marched through Georgetown and Washington to the outskirts of Washington towards Leesboro Road, a very dusty, hot, oppressive day; Twenty-third in the rear. Men kept well closed up through Washington but stopped at a grove, near where we stopped to camp, in large numbers. Lieutenant Christie reported that only three hundred of the Twenty-third marched into camp. This was substantially true, but conveyed an erroneous impression that we fell out and straggled badly. All corrected however soon.

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Saturday the 6th. Hugh White cooked for us. Sandy got out of the guardhouse. Hugh cooked first rate. Read and rested. In the evening received a letter from Melissa and a Herald from Uncle Albert announcing the marriage of Sister Minnie and giving an account of the Oberlin Commencement. He commended Will Hudson’s “The Heroic Age,” eloquent, earnest, and good. Read a little after “taps.” Two Independents.

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Headquarters 1st Division,

9th Army Corps, Meridian Hill, Washington, D. C.

Sept. 6th, 1862.

My dear Mother:

Now that our General is dead, a Colonel commands the old Division temporarily, and I continue to superintend the office, running the old machine along until different arrangements can be made, when I suppose I shall be set adrift with no pleasant prospects before me. I would resign, were I permitted to do so, and would gladly return to my medical studies this winter, tired as I am of the utter mismanagement which characterizes the conduct of our public affairs. Disheartened by the termination of a disastrous campaign — disasters which every one could and did easily foresee from the course pursued—we find, as a consolation, that our good honest old President has told a new story apropos of the occasion, and the land is ringing with the wisdom of the rail-splitting Solomon. Those who were anxious and burning to serve their country can only view with sullen disgust the vast resources of the land directed not to make our arms victorious, but to give political security to those in power. Men show themselves in a thousand ways incompetent, yet still they receive the support of the Government. Politicians, like Carl Schurz, receive high places in the army without a qualification to recommend them. Stern trusty old soldiers like Stevens are treated with cold neglect. The battle comes—there is no head on the field —the men are handed over to be butchered—to die on inglorious fields. Lying reports are written. Political Generals receive praises where they deserve execration. Old Abe makes a joke. The army finds that nothing has been learned. New preparations are made, with all the old errors retained. New battles are prepared for, to end in new disasters. Alas, my poor country! The army is sadly demoralized. Men feel that there is no honor to be gained by the sword. No military service is recognized unless coupled with political interest. The army is exhausted with suffering—its enthusiasm is dead. Should the enemy attack us here, however, we should be victorious. The men would never yield up their Capital. There is something more, though, than the draft needed to enable us to march a victorious host to the Gulf of Mexico. Well, I have been writing freely enough to entitle me to accommodations in Fort Lafayette, but I can hardly express the grief and indignation I feel at the past. God grant us better things in future.

I had said my own prospects are somewhat gloomy. When the changes are made in this command, and new hands shall take charge of it, I will have to return to the 79th Regiment — a fate at which I shudder. The Regiment has been in five large battles, and in ten or twelve smaller engagements. While adding on each occasion new luster to its own reputation, it has never taken part in a successful action. The proud body that started from the city over a thousand strong, are now a body of cripples. The handful (230) that remains are foreigners whose patriotism misfortunes have quenched. The morale is destroyed — discipline relaxed beyond hope of restoration. The General and all the true friends of the Regiment were of the opinion that it should be mustered out of the service. After performing hard duties in the field for fifteen months I find there is nothing left me but to sink into disgrace with a Regiment that is demoralized past hope of restoration. This for a reward. I am writing this from the old scene of the mutiny of last year. A strange year it has been. God has marvellously preserved my life through every danger. May he be merciful to my mother in the year to come. My old friend Matteson is dead. He was a Major in Yates’ Regiment of Sharpshooters which distinguished itself at Corinth. He died at Rosecrans’ Headquarters, of typhoid fever.

We are going to move from here to-morrow, but your safest direction will be Capt. W. T. Lusk, A. A. A. G., 1st Div. 9th Army Corps, Washington (or elsewhere). All the letters sent me since I left Fredericksburg have miscarried, and I am very anxious for news.

Affec’y-,

Will.

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