Thursday, July 21, 2016

Major Wilder Dwight: March 21, 1862

camp Near Winchester, Virginia, March 21, 1862.

If you had looked upon our camp at sunrise reveillé, this morning, you would have seen a dreary, wintry picture. The mules gathered closely about their wagons in the scourging snow-storm with sullen endurance, their tails drawn tightly down, and standing in a vicious attitude of expectant kicking. The horses crossly laying back their ears with half-closed eyes and hanging necks. The soldiers standing up to their roll-call in the attitude of the traveller in the spelling-book, against whom the wind is striving to gain the victory of the fable. The ground whiter than the morning's early light, but only serving to darken the tents into a cheerless and gloomy hue. The air itself thick with snow and sleet. The camp-fires just beginning to smoke, and men hopelessly endeavoring to allure a blaze from black coals and dripping wood. The camp-kettles and mess-pans crusted with ice, suggestive of anything else than a warm breakfast. Would you not expect every mind of the thousand men, remembering also their two thousand wet feet, to be in harmony with the scene? Yet, I know not how it is, from some inherent perverseness perhaps, I was in excellent spirits.

The order has now come to march. Our destination is Centreville, en route, perchance, for the enemy. At any rate, I have grown philosophical again.

I buried hope yesterday, had a glorious wake, and resolved to sink every other wish in the absorbing one of the progress of the war without or with the Massachusetts Second, as it may happen.

We cross the Shenandoah at Snicker's Gap. The march is one of about sixty miles, and will occupy at least four days.

General Banks, who has just returned from Washington, seems in good spirits. He gives, however, a depressing account of the Congressional and political folly which continues to assail McClellan. If McClellan were all they charge him to be, their lips should be sealed.

Every good man will now seek to strengthen the hand and animate the purpose of the General under whose guidance the decisive campaign begins

The weather is breaking away, and promises no very severe penance for our march, though it is not fun that is before us next week. No news yet of Howard, I suppose. It is clear that he has been in one of the hottest battles of the war. You will not hear from me again till Centreville probably.

SOURCE: Elizabeth Amelia Dwight, Editor, Life and Letters of Wilder Dwight: Lieut.-Col. Second Mass. Inf. Vols., p. 214-5

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