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.

December 14, 2012

Journal of Surgeon Alfred L Castleman.

14th.—Sunday is again ushered in with a fight. At 7 this morning our batteries opened with a few guns, but the firing is not active. Our long line of battle extends across the vast plain, and is now (8 A. M.) rapidly advancing, apparently to renew the combat in earnest. The enemy is posted in a wood, on a chain of high hills, each one of which is a Gibraltar. Our Generals seem determined to take the position at whatever cost. God send them success, but I have misgivings. With an army of as good fighting men as are in the world opposed to us, with numbers greater than our own, and in much stronger position, my misgivings are not culpable.

9½.—All has been quiet for an hour—probably the lull before a storm. I have just left, lying in one room, Generals Bayard, Campbell and Vinton—the two first mortally, the last severely wounded. Gen. Gibbons is, I hear, in another part of the house, and I am told must lose an arm.

1 P. M.—The battle is not renewed. What does it mean? A telegram is said to have been just received, stating that our gunboats have taken Fort Darling, and are at Richmond. This may, if true, account for our not renewing the attack. In that event the capture or dispersing of Lee’s army here will be only a question of time, and a short time at that, for if Richmond is taken they are cut off from their supplies, and must give way. But suppose it is not true, what then? And why stand we here all the day idle? My construction of the whole matter is simply this: that yesterday’s experience taught us the impracticability of dislodging the enemy by direct force, or that there is a want of co-operation amongst our officers, and that they are in council, devising some strategic plan, to either advance or get back.

5 o’clock.—A rumor is afloat, seeming authentic, (a General has just told me that it is positively so,) that Gen. Sigel has crossed the river with his corps some miles above, and will to-night be in position in rear of the enemy. If true, we shall have lively times to-morrow.

The estimated loss of our left wing in yesterday’s fight is 3,500 in killed and wounded. From the center I have not heard. The loss on the right is said to have been somewhere from twelve hundred to three thousand. I am inclined to believe that the largest figure is much nearest the truth.

The day has closed without a renewal of the fight, and now everything looks as if the morrow was to be the day of days in the attempt to take the Heights. There is only one thing which leads me to doubt it, and that is the publicity which is given to the statements to that effect. In my letter of the 10th inst. I stated my disbelief of the statement that we should cross the river next morning at 2 o’clock, because of the publicity given to the decision of the council of war which decided that we should. We did not cross. I now doubt the statement that we are to renew the fight in the morning, only because everybody knows it. Even Major-Generals have been here and said that our wounded Generals must be taken from the hospital, “because they will be too much exposed in the fight to take place to-morrow.” When an army is to make an important move its Generals do not publish it the day before. Yet our troops are buoyant in the expectation of driving the enemy to-morrow. They love Gen. Burnside, and their confidence in him is already more uniform than it ever was in McClellan, and it is of a different kind—no party feeling mingled with it. It is a confidence in him as a man and a General. Much stir and activity of some kind is discoverable in the enemy’s camp to-night, and a report has just come in that they are retreating. I do not believe it. The record of the hospital for the last two days is just made up. Two hundred and four operated on, amputated, and dressed in the two wards of this hospital yesterday after 12 o’clock, and all laid away comfortably before 10 at night—a pretty good half day’s work. Seventy have been operated on and dressed to-day.

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