Towards the Front (November 28, 1863)

Theodore Lyman celebrates an anniversary while the Army of the Potomac slogs forward on the Mine Run Campaign. This is Lyman’s letter from November 28. Meade, with other things on his mind, remains silent today.

I thought that our wedding day would be celebrated by a great battle, but so it was not fated. Let us see, a year ago, we were in Paris; and this year, behold me no longer ornamenting the Boulevards but booted and spurred, and covered with an india-rubber coat, standing in the mud, midst a soft, driving rain, among the dreary hills of Old Virginny. It was early in the morning, and we were on the crest, near Robertson’s Tavern. On either side, the infantry, in line of battle, was advancing, and a close chain of skirmishers was just going into the woods; while close in the rear followed the batteries, laboriously moving over the soft ground. The enemy had fallen back during the night, and we were following. When the troops had got well under way, the General took shelter in the old tavern, to wait for the development. He had not to wait long, before a brisk skirmish fire, followed by the light batteries, announced that we had come on them. Immediately we mounted and rode rapidly towards the front, slop, slop, slop, through the red mud, and amid ambulances and artillery and columns, all struggling forward. We had come on them sure enough, and on their line of works into the bargain, whereof we had notice beforehand, by spies. A halt was therefore ordered and the different corps ordered into position. This was a tremendous job, in the narrow wood-roads, deep with mud; and occupied fully the whole day. If you consider that the men must often move by fours, then a division of 4000 men, closed up, would occupy in marching some 1000 yards, and, by adding the space for pack horses, and the usual gaps and intervals, it would be nearer a mile; so you see how an army would string out, even with no artillery. You must remember also that these long columns cannot move over two miles in an hour; often not so much. . . .

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 54-5. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

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