Return of the Sixth (December 13, 1864)

Horatio Wright took command of the VI Corps following the death of John Sedgwick (Library of Congress).

Horatio Wright took command of the VI Corps following the death of John Sedgwick (Library of Congress).

Theodore Lyman writes about the return of the VI Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright, to the Army of the Potomac. It had been fighting in the Shenandoah Valley under Philip Sheridan. Brig. Gen. Frank Wheaton commanded one of its divisions; earlier Lyman had noted that he was “excellent for a brigade, but probably hardly up to a division.” Another division commander, Truman Seymour, had been gobbled up by the rebels during John Gordon’s flank attack at the Wilderness and later exchanged. Samuel Crawford commanded the Pennsylvania Reserves, Meade’s old division, in the V Corps.

Samuel Crawford (Library of Congress).

Samuel Crawford (Library of Congress).

As the Rebels have known the fact for some time, and as the newspapers have hinted at it in unmistakable terms, I conceive there is no impropriety in my saying that we have now with us the 6th Corps once again. A week ago Sunday night the first division came from City Point on the cars, having come straight from the neighborhood of Winchester by car and boat. The next morning we were treated to the sight of the familiar red crosses, and soon General Wheaton rode up, to see the General and report. . . . Very loath were the Sixth Corps bucks to leave the valley (where they had plenty of sheep and chickens and victories, and no fighting except in the regular battles), and come to a place with which they only connected more or less fighting, day and night (rather more than less), much dust, heat, and drought, and no particular victories. However, they find things better now, and will doubtless get contented in time. What must have gratified them was that they relieved Crawford’s division of the 5th Corps, on the line, and took possession of their very nice log huts, which had been carefully constructed uniformly in all the brigades. Crawford’s people by no means saw the thing in the same light. They took down their canvas roofs and rolled them up with dudgeon, and marched off to take a temporary camp, previous to the Weldon road expedition. I rode along the breastworks as the red crosses marched into the deserted camps, and observed the aspect of grim satisfaction with which the new comers went about, looking into the abandoned huts. The luxurious Crawford had his nice log cabin taken down and carted to his new locality. “However,” said Wheaton, “I slept in Crawford’s kitchen, and that was good enough for me.” On Tuesday came the 3d division, also with a new commander, for brave General Ricketts lies at Washington, still suffering from his wound; and General Seymour, he who was taken the second day of the Wilderness, has the command. Seymour is a fiery and irrepressible sort of party, and enraged the inhabitants of Charlottesville beyond measure. When they told him they had had most extraordinary victories over Grant, he made them a speech, in which he said it didn’t make any sort of difference how many victories they had, it wouldn’t do them any sort of good; that in every battle we killed off a good many of them, and that we intended to keep piling up men indefinitely, until they knocked under, or were all shot! This enraged them much, and they invited him to air himself for sixteen miles on foot, after it. . . . It was only last Monday that the 2d division got here, under Getty, and with it came General Wright, commanding the corps. Good General Wright, though always pleasant, is, I think rather in low spirits. He has had poor luck, on numerous occasions, and it culminated at Cedar Creek, where he chanced to have command of the army when it was surprised. He had rallied it, when Sheridan arrived on the field; but of course Sheridan had the credit of the victory, and indeed he deserved it. All the officers say that Wright made prodigious exertions and rode along all parts of the line in the hottest fire.

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 298-300. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

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