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

Post image for Journal of Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman.

Journal of Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman.

July 18, 2012

Journal of Surgeon Alfred L Castleman.

18th.—I regret exceedingly to feel that there may be too much truth in the following extract of a letter received today: I would not libel my fellow officers, but I have no hesitation in declaring that, notwithstanding I have spent fifty years of a life of excitement in this little world, I have witnessed more drunkenness amongst officers of the army within one year, than I have seen in the same class of men in all my fifty years of civil life. The letter says: “After you left me I was lonely, rarely having any of the officers call at my tent. I spent my time, when not engaged in official duties, in reading and in writing. This was rather agreeable, notwithstanding I could hear in all the tents around me the social hiliarity of officers visiting each other. It seemed pleasant to me, and I sometimes almost envied them. One morning there could be seen in my tent three boxes. On the end of one, in large print: “Prime Bourbon;” on another, “1 Doz. each Old Q and Cogniac;” the third, ” Fine Sherry.” On top of the boxes sat three bottles, each marked correspondingly with the box from which it was taken; and by side of the bottles, glasses, and a bucket of ice water. It soon began to be found out that I had .the shadiest, airyest tent, and that I was one of the most jovial fellows on the ground. Privates, who had previously frequented my tent for instruction and advice, disappeared, cocked hats and shoulder straps crowded about me; I had a good cook, and occasionally my friends dined with me. * * * * * Can you imagine how, after my long seclusion, I enjoyed this change of socialty? Let me tell you: I have become most supremely disgusted with myself, my liquors, my comrades, and almost feel that the world, or at least the military portion of it, is a failure. Thank God my liquors are gone; my friends and I now know each other, and those who loved me for my good liquors will love me no more forever. A few with whom I was thus brought into contact, are fine fellows, and our intimacy will continue.”

The enemy are attempting to blockade the river below us, and thus cut off our supplies. Should they succeed, we must capitulate, or fight our way to Fortress Monroe, a distance of seventy or eighty miles, without provisions.

In the year that we have been in the field our fine army has been frittered away, without having accomplished anything. I fear General McClellan is a failure. I would not be an alarmist, but I fear that without a change of leaders our cause must be abandoned. The ring of General Pope’s proclamation is right, just right, I cannot take one exception. But the expediency of its coming from General Pope is questionable. I have not too much confidence in the disinterestedness of our Potomac officers, and this proclamation may be applied by some of them personally, and make trouble. Nevertheless, the tone of it is right. I hope he will be able to come up to “the sounding tenor of the munifesto.”

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