The Return of Lyman (March 30, 1864)

Theodore Lyman, George G. Meade’s observant aide, has been on leave in Boston, depriving us of his accounts of life in the Army of the Potomac for much of March 1864. He returns to find a transformed army, with several of its top generals transferred elsewhere.

The heavy artillery regiments he mentions will receive a baptism in blood soon enough.

General George Sykes (Library of Congress photo).

General George Sykes (Library of Congress photo).

I am pretty well, I thank you, and not so blue as when I came back the other time, perhaps because the generals are here and it is not so utterly triste. However, I am fain to say I draw invidious comparisons between it and home, mais that helps nothing. There have been marvellous changes within these three weeks. Generals Sykes, Newton, French, and Pleasonton are ordered off. I do feel sorry for Sykes, an excellent soldier, always sure to do his duty, and with this army for a long time. I fear they displaced him at Washington because they disliked his rough manners. General Pleasonton was always very civil to me and I am sorry therefore to see him go. I have not yet got it clearly in my head how the corps have been shifted about, but I suppose I shall in a few days. . . .

The latest joke is the heavy sell that has been practised on some regiments of “Heavy Artillery,” which had reenlisted and had been sent home to recruit. Now these gentry, having always been in fortifications, took it for granted they should there continue; consequently the patriotic rush of recruits (getting a big bounty) was most gratifying; one regiment swelled to 1900; another to 2200, etc., etc. Bon! Then they returned to the forts round Washington, with the slight difference that the cars kept on, till they got to Brandy Station; and now these mammoth legions are enjoying the best of air under shelter tents! A favorite salutation now is, “How are you, Heavy Artillery?” For Chief of Cavalry we are to have a General Sheridan, from the West. He is, I believe, on his way. If he is an able officer, he will find no difficulty in pushing along this arm, several degrees. . . .

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp 80-1. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

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