Slowness and Want of Detail (December 1, 1863)

"Scene at Germanna Ford--6th Corps returning from Mine Run" by Alfred Waud (Library of Congress).

“Scene at Germanna Ford–6th Corps returning from Mine Run” by Alfred Waud. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

And so ends Meade’s Mine Run campaign. Theodore Lyman details the Army of the Potomac’s return to camp.

As I put my head out of my tent this morning, I beheld the heavy guns going to the rear, and I thought, well, we shall follow to-night. And so we did. The 1st Corps marched, in the afternoon, to Germanna Ford and halted, to hold the crossing. At dark the 5th marched, by the turnpike, followed by the 6th; and the 3d, followed by the 2d, took the plank road to Culpeper Ford. There was a piercing cold wind, the roads were frozen, and ice was on the pools; but the night was beautiful, with a lovely moon, that rose over the pine trees, and really seemed to me to be laughing derisively at our poor doughboys, tramping slowly along the road. Just at sunset I rode to the front and took a last look at the Rebels. Through my glass they looked almost near enough to speak to, as they stood, in groups of a dozen, and twenty, on the parapet of their breastworks. Some were on the glacis, seeking, I suppose, for firewood for their camps, whose smoke rose in a thin line, as far as the eye could reach, on either side. The Headquarters waited for some time at Robertson’s Tavern, till the 5th Corps had passed, and then followed on. The road was horribly rough, full of great holes and big stones. We crawled, at a snail’s pace, till we got clear of the troops, and then the General slammed ahead at a rate that threatened the legs of all our horses; and which gave two or three officers most awful falls on the frozen ground. At 2 oclock this morning {December 2) we crossed the Rapid Ann, and were glad to roll ourselves in our blankets in the same camp we had the night of the 26th. And so ends what I think I shall call the Great Seven-days’ Flank. If you ask what were the causes of failure, they lie in a nutshell — Slowness and want of Detail. We have fought for two years and a half, but it takes no wiseacre to see that we yet have much to learn. Were it not for the remarkable intelligence of the men, we could not do even as well as we do. . . .

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 58-9. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

Advertisements

“Tough and Unterrified” (November 13, 1863)

There are no letters from Meade for a while, but on November 13 Theodore Lyman weighs in with his observations on the Army of the Potomac after the victory at Rappahannock Station. He also runs into an old friend, whose experiences demonstrate how tough life could be for a Union man in Virginia.

John Minor Botts (Library of Congress).

John Minor Botts (Library of Congress).

Here we continue to dwell in our pine wood, in grave content, consuming herds of cattle and car-loads of bread with much regularity. Yesterday, who should turn up but John Minor Botts, the tough and unterrified. [We met Botts here.] The Rebs treated him pretty badly this time, because he invited General Meade to dine; burnt his fences, shot his cattle and took all his corn and provisions, and finally arrested him and took him as far as Culpeper, but there concluded he was a hot potato and set him free. He was inclined to pitch into us, for not following sharper after the Rebs on Sunday morning, that is, the day after we forced the river. He said the first of their waggons did not pass his house till two at night and the rear of the column not till ten next morning; that the roads were choked with footmen, guns, cavalry and ambulances, all hurrying for the Rapid Ann. In good sooth I suppose that a shade more mercury in the feet of some of our officers might do no harm; but, on the other hand, it is to be noticed that we had excellent reason to expect, and believe, that they would not run, but only retire to the ridges near Brandy Station and there offer battle. In this case, the premature hurrying forward of a portion of the troops might well have ruined the day. All of which reminds me of Colonel Locke’s remark: “If we were omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, we might, with care, get a very pretty fight out of the Rebs!” As it was, what we did do was done as scientifically as any army in the world could have done it, and with a minimum loss of life. I do assure you that Rappahannock station was a position where thousands of men might have been destroyed, with no gain whatsoever, if managed by unskilful officers; and even Kelly’s Ford was not without serious difficulties. I don’t recollect whether I told you that the enemy had made preparations for nice winter quarters, and were hutting themselves and had made some capital corduroy roads against the mud season. In one hut was found a half-finished letter, from an officer to his wife, in which he said that the Yanks had gone into winter quarters, and that they were doing the same, so that he expected a nice quiet time for some months. Poor man! The Yanks made themselves very comfortable that same evening in his new cabin. Our future movements, or standing still, lie between the General and the weather. Meantime we have to pause a little, for there isn’t a thing to eat in this broad land, and every pound of meat and quart of oats for tens of thousands of men and animals must come by a broken railroad from Alexandria. . . . The Palatinate, during the wars of Louis XIV, could scarcely have looked so desolate as this country. The houses that have not been actually burnt usually look almost worse than those that have: so dreary are they with their windows without sashes, and their open doors, and their walls half stripped of boards. Hundreds of acres of stumps show where once good timber stood, and the arable fields are covered with weeds and blackberry vines, or with the desolate marks of old camps — the burnt spots, where the fires were, the trenches cut round the tents, and the poles, and old bones and tin pots that invariably lie about. . . .

As you walk about the country, you often see fragments of shell scattered around; for all this country has been fought over, back and forth, either in skirmishes or battles; and here and there, you come on a little ridge of earth, marked by a bit of board, on which is scrawled the name of the soldier, who lies where he fell, in this desert region. Our people are very different from the Europeans in their care for the dead, and mark each grave with its name; even in the heat of battle.

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 46-8. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

Feeling Defensive (October 30, 1863)

Meade and his staff pose for a photo  in Culpeper in September 1863 ((Library of Congress).

Meade and his staff pose for a photo in Culpeper in September 1863. That’s Theodore Lyman second from right; Andrew Humphreys is to Meade’s right  ((Library of Congress).

Meade strikes a defensive tone when he writes to his wife on October 30. While he may not consider his move back to Centreville a retreat, many others obviously saw it that way. However, by campaign’s end the Armies of the Potomac and Northern Virginia had regained their former positions. Meade knew, however, that his masters back in Washington wanted to see some offensive action before the end of the campaigning season. Ambrose Burnside had felt the same pressure in the fall of 1862. The result was the debacle at Fredericksburg. How would Meade react?

You seem to be very much puzzled about my retreat, as you misname it. It was not a retreat, but a withdrawal of the army—manoeuvring to get into a proper position to offer battle, and made to prevent Lee from compelling me to fight at a disadvantage. Had I been able to ascertain his movements, I would have given him battle the day Warren was attacked; but I was misled by information which induced me to believe he was farther ahead. As it afterwards turned out, I was ahead of him; which was the object I was trying to attain before fighting. It was greatly to my interest to fight, and I was most anxious to do so, but I would not do so with all the advantages on his side, and the certainty that if the battle went against me I could not extricate the army from its perilous position. I don’t suppose I shall ever get credit for my motives, except with the army. The soldiers realize the necessity of not letting the enemy have the game in their hands entirely; hence they cheerfully submitted to all the hardships, such as night and forced marches, that I was compelled to impose on them.

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. 154-5. Available via Google Books.

Busy (September 19, 1863)

John Minor Botts and family pose for a photograph on the porch of their house in Culpeper. Meade and his staff were frequent visitors here (Library of Congress).

John Minor Botts and family pose for a photograph on the porch of their house in Culpeper. Meade and his staff were frequent visitors here (Library of Congress).

Meade mentions John Minor Botts in his letter of September 19, 1863. Theodore Lyman talks about Botts in his journal entry from the same day. Lyman said Botts was “a fat man, with a mild blue eye, and his clothing seemed to show the world had gone hard with him.” In fact, the world had gone somewhat hard with Botts, who was an island of Unionism on a sea of secession. A Virginia native, Botts was a Whig politician and former U.S. Congressman and had been briefly jailed by the Confederate authorities because of his staunch pro-Union position.

In his memoir, The Great Rebellion: Its Secret History, Rise, Progress, and Disastrous Failure (1866, and available via Google Books), Botts describes how he bought his house in Culpeper and the tribulations he suffered there. “I purchased in the fall of 1862, and moved to the county on the 8th of January, 1863; but I had hardly gotten comfortably warm in the house before General J. E. B. Stuart came in with his whole cavalry force, took possession of every part of my premises (of 2200 acres), except my house, yard, and garden, turned his horses loose to graze in every field, to the exclusion of my own stock, which was left at the mercy of his highly-incensed command, without any effort or desire on his part to restrain them. They killed my hogs, drove off portions of my cattle with their own whenever they moved, and stole from me $50,000 worth of horses, at Confederate prices, and in Confederate money. Daily and hourly I was subjected to all sorts of vexatious annoyances. I had neither peace nor rest, day nor night, from the time this cavalry force came upon me until the arrival of the Federal army under General Meade in the month of September, except during the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, from both of which they came immediately back to take care of me.

“General Meade moved into Culpepper on the 12th of September, 1863, and General Stuart moved back at double-quick across the Rapidan.”

Meade saw a fair amount of Botts until the army moved out on the Overland Campaign in May 1864. On one occasion Lyman said this about the Virginian: “Botts is a ready witted, clear headed man, and entertaining to hear.”

The Beckham Meade mentions is Robert F. Beckham, who had served under him on the survey of Lake Superior just before the war. Beckham threw in his lot with the Confederacy and commanded a battery of J.E.B. Stuart’s horse artillery. The Pendleton he mentions is probably Nathanael Greene Pendleton of Ohio, formerly a Whig Congressman. Meade’s wife’s father, John Sergeant, had also been a Whig politician. Pendleton’s son was Ohio Congressman George H. Pendleton, an anti-war Democrat who ran as George McClellan’s vice presidential candidate in the election of 1864.

The Botts family in Culpeper. Theodore Lyman described the Botts daughters as "pleasing, somewhat countryfied young ladies" (Library of Congress).

The Botts family in Culpeper. Theodore Lyman described the Botts daughters as “pleasing, somewhat countryfied young ladies” (Library of Congress).

At present I am very busy. I made the advance I did under the belief that Lee had sent away a large portion of his army, and would perhaps, if threatened, retire to Richmond. I find, however, he evinces no disposition to do so, but is, on the contrary, posted in a very strong position behind the Rapidan, where he can hold me in check, and render it very difficult to pierce his line or turn his position. Under these circumstances I have referred the question to Washington.

John Minor Botts (Library of Congress).

John Minor Botts (Library of Congress).

To-day John Minor Botts, who lives in this vicinity, came to see me and told me Beckham had been at his house a few days ago (before we advanced), and spoke in the most enthusiastic terms of me; so that Beckham is not changed. A Mr. Pendleton also, who was in Congress and knew your father, called, and spoke of Mr. Joseph R. Ingersoll, who had been at his house. Both these gentlemen are Union men.

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. 150. Available via Google Books.

September 16, 1863

Meade and his staff pose forphotos at the Wallach House in Culpeper, where the Army of the Potomac established its headquarters (Library of Congress).

Meade and his staff pose for a photo at the Wallach House in Culpeper, where the Army of the Potomac established its headquarters (Library of Congress).

Meade continues to fume over the newspaper article that said he had endorsed Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin in his speech when he received his presentation sword from the Pennsylvania Reserves. (See the entry for August 31.) He establishes headquarters at Culpeper Court House.

The enclosed correspondence will explain itself. The day I received Mr. Young’s letter, there was visiting at my camp the Hon. John Covode, of Pennsylvania, and Colonel Puleston, a friend of Governor Curtin. Both these gentlemen were present at the presentation and heard my remarks; both are ardent Republicans, yet they admitted they did not hear me make any reference to election day; on the contrary, admired the skill with which I praised Curtin without alluding to his political position. I do not know what Mr. Young will say or do, but it is his fault, or rather that of his reporter, and not mine, if he has been placed in a false position.

The enemy seem disposed to keep quiet the other side of the Rapidan, and to let me hold the country between that river and the Rappahannock, which I took from them on Sunday, including Culpeper Court House. I have now got as far as Pope was last year when he fought the battle of Cedar Mountain. I trust I will have better luck than he had. I am now waiting to know what they in Washington want done. Lee has certainly sent away a third of his army, but he has enough left to bother me in advancing, and though I have no doubt I can make him fall back, yet my force is insufficient to take advantage of his retiring, as I could not follow him to the fortifications of Richmond with the small army I have.

At the time Mr. Covode was here, he was accompanied by a Judge Carter, of Ohio, recently appointed Chief Judge of the new court created in the District of Columbia by the last Congress. These gentlemen spent the night with me, and I had a long talk on national affairs, and I saw what I was before pretty well convinced of, that there was not only little prospect of any adjustment of our civil war, but apparently no idea of how it was to be carried on. The draft is confessedly a failure. Instead of three hundred thousand men, it will not produce over twenty-five thousand, and they mostly worthless. There is no volunteering, and this time next year the whole of this army of veterans goes out of service, and no visible source of resupply. And yet no one seems to realize this state of affairs, but talks of going to war with England, France, and the rest of the world, as if our power was illimitable. Well, Heaven will doubtless in good time bring all things right.

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. 149. Available via Google Books.

Cavalry Operations (September 13, 1863)

Alfred Pleasonton headed the cavalry corps for the Army of the Potomac (Library of Congress).

Alfred Pleasonton led the cavalry corps for the Army of the Potomac (Library of Congress).

On September 13 Meade wrote home about sending cavalry head Alfred Pleasonton on an expedition to determine if Robert E. Lee’s army was on the move. He attached Theodore Lyman to Pleasonton’s staff so Lyman could get some experience in the field. Lyman wrote about his adventures on September 17 but I thought I would include that letter here. It demonstrates Lyman’s great value as an observer. He provides a wonderful perspective of a cavalry operation and a particularly vivid portrait of George Armstrong Custer.

A few days ago some scouts I had sent across the river returned and reported that Lee’s army was moving back to Richmond. They asserted positively that that portion near Fredericksburg had actually gone. I did not and do not much rely on their story, though I could not doubt but that a portion of his force had been sent away for some purpose either to re-inforce Beauregard at Charleston or Bragg in the South West.

It was necessary, however, that I should make some effort to ascertain what was going on, so to-day I sent Pleasanton, with all the cavalry, supported by Warren’s Corps (Second), to see what they could find out. Pleasanton crossed the river early, and immediately was engaged with the enemy’s cavalry, and has been fighting them all day. The result is that we have driven them from Culpeper Court House, and three miles beyond, have captured three guns and over fifty prisoners, and Warren is now in Culpeper, some nine miles in front of the Rappahannock. Still the great question as to whether Lee is withdrawing is unsettled, though Pleasanton sends word that all the information that he is able to pick up goes to support the rumor that he is falling back. Should it prove true, I suppose some movement on my part will be necessary; but what, I can’t say, as with my limited force I don’t see how I can advance much farther, and there is no probability of their permitting me to go to the James River, as it uncovers Washington.

Here’s Lyman’s take:

Having again got “home,” I find leisure and paper to write you a rather longer letter than you have got of late. Perhaps you would like to hear about our little cavalry performance. Of course there was not hard fighting, and a hundred or so will cover all the killed and wounded; nevertheless, as the whole was new to me and as the operations covered a good deal of country, they were interesting and instructive both. The whole Cavalry Corps (a good many thousand men) had been massed the day before, and had orders to cross the Rappahannock early next morning. I was to ride down in time to join General Pleasonton. The distance to the river is some eight miles, so I was up at 4.30 — rain pitchforks! dark as a box — thunder and lightning — everything but “enter three witches.” However, in my india-rubber coat and much-insulted large boots, much of the water could be kept out, and, by the time we were saddled and had had some tea, behold it stopped raining and away I went, quite thankful, and with a tail of six orderlies and a corporal. The ground was very wet, and we went slipping and sliding, in the red mud, till we drew near the river, when, behold, the whole country alive with train-waggons, columns of infantry, batteries, and ambulances; the latter with the stretchers fastened outside disagreeably suggestive of casualties. The rear of the cavalry had just crossed, when I got there; and General Pleasonton was on the opposite bank, where I presently joined him, crossing by the railroad bridge. He had with him a good many aides, besides orderlies and escort. Just at this point we held the southern, as well as the northern, bank and the pickets were some two miles out. The country is rolling, but not quite hilly; there are very large open fields (now filled mostly with weeds) and again, considerable woods. In these last our cavalry were hidden, so that you would have said there were not 300 of them all together. This I found, presently, was a great point, to conceal men, behind woods and ridges, as much as possible. We all now rode to our extreme picket line and took a view; and there, sure enough, was Mr. Reb with his picket line, about one third of a mile off. We could see a chain of mounted videttes, and, behind these, on a little knoll, a picket reserve, with their horses tied to trees. We waited some time to give a chance to General Gregg who had crossed on our right, and General Kilpatrick on our left, to get into the proper positions. Then General Pleasonton ordered an advance, and, in a few moments, quite as if by magic, the open country was alive with horsemen; first came columns of skirmishers who immediately deployed and went forward, at a brisk trot, or canter, making a connected line, as far as the eye could reach, right and left. Then followed the supports, in close order, and with and behind them came the field batteries, all trooping along as fast as they could scramble. It was now between eight and nine and the sun was bright, so that the whole spectacle was, to a greenhorn like me, one of the most picturesque possible. Not the least remarkable feature was the coolness of Mr. Reb under these trying circumstances. Their videttes stared a few moments, apparently without much curiosity, then turned tail and moved off, first at a walk, then at a trot, and finally disappeared over the ridge at a gallop. We rode on about a mile, keeping a little behind the skirmishers; General Buford and his Staff being just ahead and to the left. To the left we could hear cannon, General Kilpatrick having got into a skirmish there. Presently I saw a puff of smoke, on a ridge in front of us, and then hm-m-why-z-z-z, bang! went the shell, right by General Buford’s Staff, taking the leg off a poor orderly. Much pleased with their good shot, they proceeded to give our Staff a taste; and missiles of various kinds (but all disagreeable) began to skip and buzz round us. It was to me extraordinary to see the precision with which they fired. All the shot flew near us, and, while I had gone forward to the crest of the ridge to get a better view, a shell exploded directly in the midst of the Staff, wounding an orderly and very neatly shaving a patch of hair off the horse of Captain Hutchins. However, two could play at that game, and Captain Graham soon made the obnoxious guns limber up and depart to the next ridge, where they would again open and stay as long as they could. By the time we had got a few miles further, the enemy had brought forward all his cavalry and began firing with rifles, to which our men replied with their carbines.

George Armstrong Custer and Alfred Pleasonton, photographed in Warrenton, VA, in October 1863 (Library of Congress).

George Armstrong Custer and Alfred Pleasonton, photographed in Warrenton, VA, in October 1863 (Library of Congress).

We now entered a wooded tract, interspersed with mudholes and springy ground, and here the enemy made quite a hard stand, for the town of Culpeper lay a couple of miles beyond and they wished to gain time to get off their stores by the railroad. The advanced regiments were therefore dismounted and sent into the woods, while the artillery tried to find some place whence the guns could be used. It was at this place that I first heard the yells, for which the Rebels are noted. They were the other side of a high bank, covered with bushes, and they yelled to keep their spirits up as long as possible. But they were soon driven through the woods and then we came on an open country, in full view of Culpeper. This was a very interesting sight. The hills are, hereabout, quite large, and on the one opposite us stood Culpeper, very prettily situated, the railroad running through the lower part of the town. Just in the outskirts the Rebels had planted two batteries, as a last check, and behind were drawn up their supports of cavalry. Our cavalry were coming out of the woods, on all sides, moving on the town in form of a semi-circle, while the guns were pelting those of the enemy with might and main. Suddenly we were aware of a railroad train slowly leaving the depot, and immediately several guns were turned on it; but it went off, despite the shells that burst over it. Then there suddenly appeared a body of our cavalry, quite on the left of the town, who made a rush, at full speed, on three cannon there stationed, and took the whole of them with their caissons. This was a really handsome charge and was led by General Custer, who had his horse shot under him. This officer is one of the funniest looking beings you ever saw, and looks like a circus rider gone mad! He wears a huzzar jacket and tight trousers, of faded black velvet trimmed with tarnished gold lace. His head is decked with a little, gray felt hat; high boots and gilt spurs complete the costume, which is enhanced by the General’s coiffure, consisting in short, dry, flaxen ringlets! His aspect, though highly amusing, is also pleasing, as he has a very merry blue eye, and a devil-may-care style. His first greeting to General Pleasonton, as he rode up, was: “How are you, fifteen-days’-leave-of-absence? They have spoiled my boots but they didn’t gain much there, for I stole ‘em from a Reb.” And certainly, there was one boot torn by a piece of shell and the leg hurt also, so the warlike ringlets got not only fifteen, but twelve [additional] days’ leave of absence, and have retreated to their native Michigan!

George Armstrong Custer (Library of Congress).

George Armstrong Custer (Library of Congress).

The Rebels now retreated in all haste, and we rode at once in, and found a good many supplies at the depot with a number of rifles and saddles. As we rode up, the building was beset with grinning dragoons, each munching, with great content, a large apple, whereof they found several barrels which had been intended for the comfort of Mr. Stuart’s dashing knights. I was surprised at the good conduct of the gypsy-looking men. They insulted no one, broke nothing, and only took a few green peaches, which, I fancy, amply revenged themselves. Culpeper is a really decent place, with a brick hotel, and a number of good houses, in front of which were little gardens. I send you a rosebud, which I picked as we rode through the town; there were plenty of them, looking rather out of place there, in the midst of muddy batteries and splattered cavalrymen! A queer thing happened in the taking of the three guns. An officer was made prisoner with them, and, as he was marched to the rear, Lieutenant Counselman of our side cried out, “Hullo, Uncle Harry!” “Hullo!” replied the captain uncle. “Is that you? How are you?” And there these two had been unwittingly shelling each other all the morning!

After resting the horses we pushed on to the south, towards what is called Pong Mountain, for you must know that this region is more hilly, and Pong Mountain is about comparable to the Blue Hills (not quite so high, perhaps). . . . We drove the enemy five miles beyond Culpeper, making fifteen miles, in all, and there a halt was ordered and pickets thrown out. Our Headquarters were a wretched house, of two rooms, inhabited by two old women. We gave them one room and took the other ourselves. And now I loomed out! The Staff had, in the way of creature comforts, nothing but sabres and revolvers. It was dark and raining guns, and the Chief-of-Staff had the stomachache! I took from my saddle-bags a candle and lighted the same, prepared tea from my canteen, and produced a loaf of bread and a Bologna sausage, to the astonishment of the old campaigners, who enquired, “Whether I had a pontoon bridge about me?” Then I rolled myself in my coat and took a good night’s sleep on the floor.

The next morning we started for Raccoon Ford, on the Rapidan, five miles distant. The enemy were mostly across and only opposed us with a few skirmishers. As we got in sight of it, the prospect was not cheering. The opposite bank, partly wooded and partly covered with cultivation, rose in steep, high hills, which completely commanded our side of the river. It was a fine sight to see the column splashing along the wood road, lying between fine oak trees; but the fine sight was presently interrupted by a shell, which exploded about 100 yards ahead of me and right among the horses’ legs, without touching me! The General rode into the open field to reconnoitre the position, and I with him, because he wanted my glass; but Mr. Secesh has a sharp eye for gold cords round hats, and, in a minute, wh-n-n-g, fiwp! wh-z-z-z! a solid shot struck just in front of us, and bounced over our heads. The General ordered us to disperse about the field, so as not to make a mark; but, as I rode off, they sent a shell so near me that a facetious officer called out: “I guess they think you’re somebody pretty distinguished, Kun’l.” However, there may be a good deal of cannon shooting, without many hits; in proof of which I will say that we had a brisk fire of artillery from 10.30 to 2.30, together with a sharp spattering of rifles and carbines, and that our loss was five killed and fifteen wounded! Shells do not sound so badly as I expected; nor did I feel as I expected on the occasion. There is a certain sense of discipline and necessity that bears you up; and the only shell I “ducked” was the first one.

After some difficulty we got some guns in position and drove off those opposed. Then General Kilpatrick’s division went to a better ford below, and tried to get over there; but the Rebels opened on him with fourteen cannon and silenced his guns after a hard fire. So we concluded the fords were not practicable for cavalry, which I think might have been apparent from the outset. Whereupon both parties stopped and stared at each other; and we heroes of the Staff went to a house (much better than that of last night) and partook of mutton which, during the day, we had valiantly made the prey of our bow and our spear. On our right General Gregg had driven the enemy beyond Cedar Mountain and nearly to the river, but was there brought up by a heavy force of artillery in position. All day Tuesday we lay doing nothing. I rode over with the General to Cedar Mountain, passing close to the battlefield, and ascended, thus getting a fine view of the Rapidan valley, which is very beautiful and would, in the hands of good farmers, yield a thousandfold. . . . We have taken on our reconnaissance in force about 150 prisoners, three guns, and five caissons. Yesterday the entire army crossed the Rappahannock, and I got orders to return to Headquarters, which I did.

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. 148-9. 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. 14-20. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.