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

Post image for War Diary and Letters of Stephen Minot Weld.

War Diary and Letters of Stephen Minot Weld.

April 23, 2013

War diary and letters of Stephen Minot Weld

Headquarters Engineer Brigade,

Camp near Falmouth, April 23, 1863.

Dear Father, — It rained all last night, and for the third time we have had our move postponed. I hope the rain may not last long, as it will stop operations, which are now going on.

The plan of movement as far as I can see is as follows. The main body of the army will cross near where General Franklin crossed last December, about two miles below Fredericksburg. Here there are to be three bridges. One mile below this point there are to be two bridges. On these five bridges the main part of our army will cross, as I think. Then there are two bridges to be thrown across the river at Bank’s Ford or near there, to cause a diversion. This movement, together with that of our cavalry, who crossed the river at Rappahannock Station yesterday, will bring a large force of the enemy up the river. Then a division marched down the river yesterday to Port Royal, where some of them will cross to create a diversion there. Of course I am not sure that such is the plan, but so it seems to me. The weather, however, may interfere seriously with us, as it has several times already. It really seems as if everything went against us.

I get along very well with General Benham, and give him no possible chance to catch me napping, or disregarding orders. He is unfortunately very quick-tempered, and pitches into officers without giving them the slightest chance to tell their side. The consequence is that he is very unpopular and has created a great many enemies for himself. He is a man that I have no respect for at all. He loses his temper and becomes so violent that it is ludicrous to see him. The other day he called me out of my tent and showed me a paper that a colonel had just sent in to him. The colonel had, through mistake, and acting on the advice of one of the general’s staff, the inspector-general, sent in a paper which was not strictly correct. The general worked himself into a terrible rage, swore that it was a piece of damned impertinence, and finally tore the paper to pieces. I tried to explain to him that the colonel was acting in good faith and that he meant nothing impertinent. He would not hear a word, however, and on seeing him tear the paper, I could not help feeling disgusted, both at his folly and anger. If he wanted to convict the colonel of impertinence, it was foolish to tear the paper up. I turned right round and left him, saying, “Well, sir, I had nothing to do with the matter.” That day at dinner, when he had recovered his good temper, he said to me, “I am not quite such a d — d fool as you think I am. I saved those pieces and put them together again.” He said this laughing, and he evidently knew what I thought of him. He is a man of good ability, and it seems too bad that he should go through life making any number of enemies and doing so little good, all from his bad temper. Luckily I can get along with any one and so don’t mind him much.

I was ordered to bring up a pontoon train from Hope Landing the other day, some fifteen miles from here. I stuck to the train until I got it through, although I had a great deal of trouble and labor in doing so. I think that he was pleased at my doing so. However, I shall be careful and always do as I am ordered, and hope to escape all blame by so doing. I have had three chances to go on other staffs since I have been down here, but do not like to do so until I am absolutely compelled to leave General B. It does not look well for an officer to change much. The enemy are being heavily reinforced opposite us, and will doubtless make a strong resistance. A few days ago they were reported to have but 40,000 men opposite here.

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