Inside Petersburg (August 12, 1864)

Theodore Lyman writes about a curious incident of the war. War may be hell, but it does have its rules. Colonel Henry G. Thomas of Portland, Maine, commanded a brigade in Edward Ferrero’s IX Corps division. You can read his account of the situation Lyman describes here.

I did not yet mention that I had seen Colonel Thomas, who commands a negro brigade. A singular thing happened to him. He went out during the truce to superintend, and, when the truce was over, he undertook to return to the works, but took a wrong turn, passed inside the Rebel picket line, and was seized. He told them they had no right to take him, but they could not see it and marched him off. But he appealed to the commanding General who, after eighteen hours, ordered him set free. He was in and about Petersburg and told me the flower-patches were nicely cultivated in front of the houses, the canary birds were hung in cages before the doors, and everything looked as if the inhabitants meant to enjoy their property during their lives and hand it quietly down to their children. Little damage seemed to have been done by our shells, which I was glad to hear, for I hate this business of house-burning. Next time, I fancy the warlike Thomas will make no mistakes about turns.

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, p. 211. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

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