Quite a Sensation in the Army (March 4, 1865)

A view of a portion of the Union defenses in front of Petersburg. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

A view of a portion of the Union defenses in front of Petersburg. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

The affair of the “Mine” continues to reverberate, as both George Meade and Theodore Lyman comment on an account of the action, also known as the Battle of the Crater, that appeared in the Washington Chronicle. Meade also mentions that the 114th Pennsylvania (a.k.a. the “red legs” are no longer serving as the headquarters guard.

To-day’s Chronicle has part of the opinion of the court of inquiry, which I suppose will be published in the Philadelphia papers. It has made quite a sensation in the army, as it censures Burnside, Willcox, Ferrero and a Colonel Bliss. But few persons understand the allusion in the last sentence.

Senator Harris told me that, after I was confirmed, he received a letter from Burnside, saying he was glad of it, and that I deserved it. I told Senator Harris I had no personal feeling against Burnside, and no desire to injure him.

Deserters still continue to come in, there being seventy-five yesterday, forty with arms. There are, however, no indications of an immediate evacuation either of Petersburg or Richmond, and the great fight may yet be fought out in this vicinity. There is nothing new in the camp, except you may tell George the Third Infantry has reported, and is doing guard duty at headquarters in place of the “red legs.”

Lyman takes a ride along the front.

Yesterday the rain gave over partly, and so, in the afternoon, Rosie and I mounted and rode forth to see the new line to the left. The mare knew me and greeted me, in her characteristic way, by trying to kick and bite me. I felt quite funny and odd at being once more on horseback, but had a fine time, for the mare was in great spirits and danced and hopped in a festive manner. Rosie was very proud to show me all the last battle-ground, and to explain the new roads; for he has a high opinion of his ability to find roads, at which, indeed, he is very capable. So we jogged along, sometimes in danger of sticking in the mud, and again, finding a sandy ridge where we could canter a little. This last addition, which goes to Hatcher’s Run, makes our line of tremendous extent; perhaps a continuous parapet of eighteen miles! The Rebs are obliged to draw out proportionately, which is a hard task for them. As we rode along the corduroy we met sixteen deserters from the enemy, coming in under guard, of whom about a dozen had their muskets, a sight I never saw before! They bring them in, all loaded, and we pay them so much for each weapon. The new line is a very handsome one, with a tremendous sweep of artillery and small arms. To eke out this short letter I enclose the report of the Court of Enquiry on the “Mine.” You see it gives fits to Burnside, Ledlie, Ferrero, and Willcox, while the last paragraph, though very obscure, is intended, I fancy, as a small snub on General Meade.

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), p. 266. 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. 309-10. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

paperback scanThe paperback edition of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg is now available! You can purchase it through Stackpole Books, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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