A Review (April 13, 1864)

The home of John Minor Botts, site of the II Corps review that Theodore Lyman writes about (Library of Congress).

The home of John Minor Botts, site of the II Corps review that Theodore Lyman writes about (Library of Congress).

Theodore Lyman writes home on April 13, 1864, and describes his first impressions of Winfield Scott Hancock and Philip Sheridan. We have encountered John Minor Botts before. David Birney now commands a division in Hancock’s II Corps. The brigade commanders are Hobart Ward and Alexander Hays.

Philip Sheridan was the army’s new head of cavalry. He and Meade will develop a rancorous relationship. “Little Phil” had commanded cavalry for a grand total of only about three months during his military career, but he had served under Grant in the West and the new general in chief liked his aggressive nature. “He was brusque, demanding, profane, and unforgiving,” wrote biographer Roy Morris Jr. “He was also hardworking, patriotic, uncomplaining, and brave.” He was a hard fighter on the battlefield and was equally aggressive at furthering his own reputation.

Philip Sheridan (Library of Congress).

Philip Sheridan (Library of Congress).

We went to a review of Birney’s Division near J. M. Bott’s house. The two brigades are under H. Ward and Alex. Hays. About 5000 men were actually on the ground. Here saw General Hancock for the first time. He is a tall, soldierly man, with light-brown hair and a military heavy jaw; and has the massive features and the heavy folds round the eye that often mark a man of ability. Then the officers were asked to take a little whiskey chez Botts. Talked there with his niece, a dwarfish little woman of middle age, who seems a great invalid. She was all of a tremor, poor woman, by the mere display of troops, being but nervous and associating them with the fighting she had seen round the very house. Then there was a refreshment at Birney’s Headquarters, where met Captain Briscoe (said to be the son of an Irish nobleman, etc., etc.); also Major Mitchell on General Hancock’s Staff. The Russ was delighted with the politeness and pleased with the troops. Introduced to General Sheridan, the new Chief of Cavalry — a small, broad-shouldered, squat man, with black hair and a square head. He is of Irish parents, but looks very like a Piedmontese. General Wilson, who is probably to have a division, is a slight person of a light complexion and with rather a pinched face. Sheridan makes everywhere a favorable impression.

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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