A Hard March (April 4, 1865)

Theodore Lyman continues his narrative of the last days of the war—or, at least, the war against the Army of Northern Virginia.

We had camped last night round about Sutherland’s Station, as I told you. The fields there were covered with waggons that had parked ready to follow the army. Here too was the scene of Miles’s fight of the 2d, and the Rebel breastworks, with scattered ammunition and dead artillery horses, still marked the spot. Grant had camped there, too, and had confirmed the rumor that Richmond was in our hands; also had stated that Sheridan, in his pursuit towards Amelia Court House, reported much abandoned property by the way, and the capture of prisoners and guns. Everybody was in great spirits, especially the 6th Corps, which cheered Meade vociferously, wherever he showed himself. It would take too much time to tell all the queer remarks that were made; but I was amused at two boys in Petersburg, one of whom was telling the officers, rather officially, that he was not a Rebel at all. “Oh!” said the other sturdily, “you’ve changed your tune since yesterday, and I can lick you, whatever you are!”

This morning the whole army was fairly marching in pursuit. … It was a hard march, for two poor roads are not half enough for a great army and its waggon trains, and yet we took nothing on wheels but the absolute essentials for three or four days. We were up at four o’clock, to be ready for an early start; all the roads were well blocked with waggons toiling slowly towards the front. Riding ahead, we came upon General Wright, halted near a place called Mt. Pleasant Church. The bands were playing and the troops were cheering for the fall of Richmond, which, as the jocose Barnard (Captain on Wheaton’s Staff) said, “Would knock gold, so that it wouldn’t be worth more than seventy-five cents on the dollar!” Suddenly we heard renewed cheers, while the band played “Hail to the Chief.” We looked up the road, and, seeing a body of cavalry, supposed the Lieutenant-General was coming. But lo! as they drew nearer, we recognized the features of Colonel Mike Walsh (erst a sergeant of cavalry), who, with an admirable Irish impudence, was acknowledging the shouts of the crowd that mistook him for Grant!

We continued our ride. This country, from Gravelly Run up, is no longer the flat sand of Petersburg, but like Culpeper, undulating, with quartz and sandstone, and a red soil. About five we halted at Mrs. Jones’s, a little east of Deep Creek, and prepared to go supperless to bed on the floor or on the grass, for our waggons were hopelessly in the rear. General Humphreys was across the Run, whither General Meade went, and came back with him at dusk. The General was very sick; he had been poorly since Friday night, and now was seized with a chill, followed by a violent fever, which excited him greatly, though it did not impair the clearness of his head. Good Humphreys got us something to eat and so we all took to our hoped-for rest.

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 341-5. 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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