Matinee Musicale (March 10, 1865)

Another view of the very photogenic Poplar Grove Church, with the headquarters of the 50th New York Engineers next to it. Some of the engineers are visible in the photo. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

Another view of the very photogenic Poplar Grove Church, with the headquarters of the 50th New York Engineers next to it. Some of the engineers are visible in the photo. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

Theodore Lyman returns to the Poplar Grove Church for another entertainment. War isn’t always hell, apparently. Perhaps someone can explain why the wife of Alexander Webb (Meade’s chief of staff) refers to her husband as Andrew.

What think you we did yesterday? We had a “Matinee Musicale,” at the Chapel of the 50th New York Engineers. Nothing but high-toned amusements, now-a-day, you will perceive. In truth I was very glad to go to it, as good music always gives me pleasure. The band was the noted one of the New Jersey brigade, and consisted of over thirty pieces. But the great feature was Captain Halsted, aide-de-camp to General Wright, in capacity of Max Maretzek, Carl Bergmann, Muzio, or any other musical director you please. It appears that the Captain is a fine musician, and that his ears are straight, though his eyes are not. There was a large assemblage of the fashion and nobility of the environs of Petersburg, though most of the first families of Virginia were unavoidably detained in the city. We had a batch of ladies, who, by the way, seem suddenly to have gone mad on visiting this army. No petticoat is allowed to stay within our lines, but they run up from City Point and return in the afternoon. Poor little Mrs. Webb accompanied the General to our monkish encampment and tried, in a winning way, to hint to General Meade that she ought to remain a day or two; but the Chief, though of a tender disposition towards the opposite sex, hath a god higher than a hooped skirt, to wit, orders, and his hooked nose became as a polite bit of flint unto any such propositions. And so, poor little Mrs. Webb, aforesaid, had to bid her Andrew adieu. The batch of ladies above mentioned were to me unknown! I was told, however, there was a daughter of Simon Cameron, a great speck in money, to whom Crawford was very devoted. Then there was Miss Something of Kentucky, who was a perfect flying battery, and melted the hearts of the swains in thim parts; particularly the heart of Lieutenant Wm. Worth, our companion-in-arms, to whom she gave a ring, before either was quite sure of the other’s name! In fact, I think her parents must have given her a three-week vacation and a porte-monnaie and said: “Go! Get a husband; or give place to Maria Jane, your next younger sister.” The gallant Humphreys gave us a review of Miles’s division, on top of the concert; whereat General Meade, followed by a bespattered crowd of generals, Staff officers and orderlies, galloped wildly down the line, to my great amusement, as the black mare could take care of herself, but some of the more heavy-legged went perilously floundering in mud-holes and soft sands.

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 317-18. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

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