“Bless My Soul!” (October 11, 1864)

Maj. Gen. Charles Augustus Doyle (via Wikipedia).

Maj. Gen. Charles Hastings Doyle (via Wikipedia).

Both General Meade and Theodore Lyman mention Maj. Gen. Charles Hastings Doyle in their letters home on October 11. I’m not sure why both of them thought Doyle was Irish. He had been born in London, although no doubt of Irish ancestry. While stationed in Halifax, Doyle had been entangled by the Chesapeake affair, in which Confederate sympathizers had commandeered the American steamer Chesapeake and taken her to Halifax with the goal of turning the vessel into a rebel raider.

I have been occupied all day riding round the lines, showing them to Major General Doyle, of the British Army, Governor of Nova Scotia, who has done this army the honor to visit it. The general is a very clever, intelligent and educated Irish gentleman. He is a brother to the then young Doyle, who, some thirty years since, was in this country attached to the British Legation under Sir Charles Vaughn.

The general expressed himself very much amazed at the length of our lines and the amount of engineering work we had done, and said that in Europe they had no conception of the character of the war we are engaged in, the obstacles we have to encounter, and the completeness of our organization. De Chanal, indeed all our foreign visitors, say the same thing; and say it is impossible for us to realize the ignorance that exists in Europe of America and American affairs. General Doyle is the person who behaved so well recently at Halifax when the steamer Chesapeake was seized and carried in there, he giving up the vessel and crew to a United States vessel of war that was after her. Another visitor whom I had yesterday was a Mr. McGrath, a Commissioner from Pennsylvania, sent down to take the soldiers’ vote to-day. He seemed rather disgusted with the result of his mission; said very few of the soldiers had qualified themselves to vote and altogether appeared quite indifferent. He seemed to think the soldiers’ vote would be very insignificant. I have noticed this fact myself, that is the indifference to politics on the part of officers and men. They don’t seem to have much respect for either party, and are of the opinion that the safety and honor of the country are more dependent on what we do here than on the success of any political party. I don’t say this is a very healthy or proper state of feeling, but I say it exists, and is due, I believe, in a great measure, to a want of confidence in the integrity and patriotism of party leaders.

Theodore Lyman, too, wrote about Doyle’s visit, but in a much livelier fashion.

Did I tell you of the two spies, last night? There is a redoubt on our line which had no garrison except a sergeant and two or three men. Towards sunset appeared two officers, who attracted attention, the one by having three stars on his coat arranged somewhat like those of a Rebel colonel, the other by being much concealed by a high collar and a flap hat. They asked a number of questions about the work, which so increased the suspicion that word was sent to General Meade, who ordered a regiment at once to proceed to the spot, and the sergeant to be arrested for not seizing the persons. Who do you think they were? Why, Captain Craig and Rosencrantz, taking an evening stroll! Craig has no circulation and turns up his collar whenever the mercury falls below 70 degrees. Rosie has a Swedish coat with three stars indicating a captain; hence the alarm! This morning arrived a passing visitor, Major-General Doyle, commanding in Nova Scotia. He is a Pat and is favorable to us, for a wonder; gave up the Chesapeake to us, you know. He looks as funny as Punch; indeed just like Punch—a very red edition of him, with a stiff throttled aspect, caused by an apoplectic stock, five inches high. He was a jolly old buck and much amused by a lot of civilians, who also had come up from City Point. He called them T.G.’s, signifying “travelling gents,” and, whenever we came on a redoubt, with a good abattis, he would say to the T.G’s: “What do you think, hey? How would you like to attack that, hey?” Upon which the T.G’s, whose pantaloons were somewhat up their legs, would look dubious. As he beheld the wonders of the land, he would exclaim: “Oh, bless my soul! why, you know, we have no idea of this at home. Oh, bless my soul!” On the road we met a Rebel deserter, who chanced to be an Irishman, whereat the Doyle was highly delighted and asked him if he got much whiskey the other side. To which Pat replied with regret, that that strengthening beverage cost $30 a quart in Secessia. After trotting him all over creation and giving him a lunch, we put him on top of the Avery house, and let him look at Rebs through a telescope; but I am sure he saw nothing, though he exclaimed, “Bless my soul!” a great deal.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 233-4. Available via Google Books.

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 244-5. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

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