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

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The Cruel Side of War – Katherine Prescott Wormeley.

June 28, 2012

The Cruel Side of War - Katherine Prescott Wormeley

“Wilson Small,” Off Fortress Monroe,
Saturday, June 28.

Dear A., — You will see my letter to mother, which gives an account of the removal of the depot at White House. We left last evening at the last moment, and rendezvoused for the night off West Point. Captain Sawtelle sent us off early from there with despatches for Fortress Monroe. This gave us the special fun of being the first to come leisurely into the panic then raging at Yorktown. The “Small” was instantly surrounded by terror-stricken boats; the people of the big “St. Mark” leaned over their bulwarks to question us. Nothing could be more delightful than to be as calm and monosyllabic as we were, — partly from choice, and partly under orders from Colonel Ingalls. They knew nothing, except the fact that the enemy had possession of White House. It seems that General Van Alen, commanding at Yorktown, had telegraphed to Colonel Ingalls after we left White House, and received from our successors a polite request to “go to —”

We find no news here at the Fortress. We hoped to meet some from the James River; but, on the contrary, it is we who have brought all the news as yet. Our eyes are strained towards the James, and every time a black hull shows in that direction we are feverish with anxiety and hope. The universal feeling here is that this movement of McClellan’s is a grand stroke to wring a triumph out of adverse circumstances. I feel it is so. “What profit lies in barren faith?” was the thought I fell asleep with and dreamed of all night.

Meantime we are here in Hampton Roads, breathing life in the salt air. May I never see the pretty poisonous Pamunky again! Keep my room ready for me; I may be home any day. Oh, to sleep in a bed once more! It seems too great a rest ever to be reached. I am writing on the upper deck at 3 A. M., looking out upon the dawn, which slowly shows me, one by one, the places we have read of, — the Rip-Raps, Sewall’s Point, Craney Island, and the ruins of the old church at Hampton.[1]

[1] How well I remember the night when this letter was written, and the feelings which were not expressed in it! Our minds had been strained to the utmost, and the disappointment and uncertainty striking sharply upon them were more than we could bear. I remember well what a dreadful day we passed off Fortress Monroe. At night I could not sleep, but went out and sat on the deck and wrote by the light of my lantern, and wondered if my mind were leaving me, and whether it would right itself again.

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