Lyman Reports (October 26 and 28, 1863)

Theodore Lyman reports from the Army of the Potomac on October 26 and 28. In the first letter he comments on Meade’s notorious temper, which Lyman indicates served a useful purpose.

Ah! we are a doleful set of papas here. Said General Meade: “I do wish the Administration would get mad with me, and relieve me; I am sure I keep telling them, if they don’t feel satisfied with me, to relieve me; then I could go home and see my family in Philadelphia.” I believe there never was a man so utterly without common ambition and, at the same time, so Spartan and conscientious in everything he does. He is always stirring up somebody. This morning it was the cavalry picket line, which extends for miles, and which he declared was ridiculously placed. But, by worrying, and flaring out unexpectedly on various officers, he does manage to have things pretty ship-shape; so that an officer of Lee’s Staff, when here the other day, said: “Meade’s move can’t be beat.” Did I tell you that Lee passed through Warrenton and passed a night. He was received with bouquets and great joy. . . . The last three nights have been cool, almost cold, with some wind, so that they have been piling up the biggest kind of camp-fires. You would laugh to see me in bed! First, I spread an india-rubber blanket on the ground, on which is laid a cork mattress, which is a sort of pad, about an inch thick, which you can roll up small for packing. On this comes a big coat, and then I retire, in flannel shirt and drawers, and cover myself, head and all, with three blankets, laying my pate on a greatcoat folded, with a little india-rubber pillow on top; and so I sleep very well, though the surface is rather hard and lumpy. I have not much to tell you of yesterday, which was a quiet Sunday. Many officers went to hear the Rebs preach, but I don’t believe in the varmint. They ingeniously prayed for “all established magistrates”; though, had we not been there, they would have roared for the safety of Jeff Davis and Bob Lee! . . .

A view of Richmond's Libby Prison as it looked in August 1863 (Library of Congress).

A view of Richmond’s Libby Prison as it looked in August 1863 (Library of Congress).

And on October 28 Lyman wrote:

. . . The guerillas are extremely saucy of late, and, in a small way, annoying. Night before last they dashed at a waggon train and cut loose upwards of a hundred mules and horses, which they made off with, teamsters and all, leaving the waggons untouched. These men are regularly enlisted, but have no pay, getting, in lieu thereof, all the booty they can take, except horses, which they must sell to the Rebels at a fixed rate. They have taken several officers who, from carelessness, or losing their way, have gone alone beyond the lines. Prisoners are treated with consideration, but I fancy that, from all accounts, Libby Prison is pretty dirty and crowded. When some of our officers were taken through Warrenton, on the retreat of Lee, the inhabitants gave them supper; for the 6th Corps were long quartered there and treated the people kindly. When you are here you see how foolish and blind is the clamor raised by some people, to have all property destroyed by the army in the Rebel states, as the troops passed. There was, you know, a great talk about putting guards over houses of Rebels; but, 1st, it is very wrong to punish a people en masse, without regard to their degree of guilt and without properly measuring the punishment; and, 2d, nothing so utterly and speedily demoralizes an army as permission to plunder. It is our custom to put guards over the houses that are inhabited; but, despite that, the cavalry and advanced guard take a good slice of the live-stock; forage, and vegetables. .. .

Theodore Lyman’s letters are from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 38-40. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

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