Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Major Wilder Dwight: April 4, 1862

Camp Near Edinburg, Virginia, April 4, 1862.

We make life musical these hot sunny days with the screeching whir of shells or the sharp buzz and sping of rifle-balls. But the enemy keep at a respectful distance, for the most part, and our own shameful mismanagement about supplies, or some large wisdom affecting other forces, keeps us quiet. Our tents came up yesterday, and we are now in camp again. This morning Colonel Andrews and I have been out “prospecting” round, as they say in this country.

The Rebel pickets are in plain sight, just beyond the river, but there is no evidence of any force there, and when we conclude to go on, on we shall go without difficulty. Our advance to this point was made by our regiment in fine style. The men skirmished over a distance of fifteen miles, and did their work well. Neither the musketry nor the artillery delayed or embarrassed our progress, which was as rapid as an ordinary day's march. The impetus and stimulant of pursuit spurred on the march, over a difficult and broken country. At the “Narrow Pass,” where the Shenandoah and a creek crossing the pike a little below almost come together, but are kept asunder by a piece of rock, over which the road passes with just the width of a carriage path, was the sharpest conflict. It was mainly an “artillery duel,” as the phrase is. Our skirmishers had learned, however, before this, that, to their deployed line, the shell, though assailing the ear with terror, were sound and fury signifying nothing. Their effect was aimed at the reserves or our artillery, and it really had an unpleasant sound as it whizzed or spanged near us. It is high time that being “under fire” should be among our “has beens. I am quite satisfied that the order and discipline of the regiment will tell there as it has everywhere else, and our recent experience is a proof of it. I suppose you must have read General Shields's private letter about the battle at Winchester. A more barefaced series of Irish romances I never read. The man actually has the effrontery to connect his fortunate blunders into a chain of shrewd stratagems, and with after-event wisdom to glorify himself. The idea of a man in bed, with a broken arm, four miles from the field, not knowing of the enemy's force or positions till four, P. M., directing and guiding a battle that commenced at once and closed in two hours!! Pshaw! It is like Sir Lucius O'Trigger or Mickey Free.

“An attack having many of the elements of a surprise, says General Banks in his order, praising the courage and constancy of the soldiers.

“Och, sure,” says our Irish general, turning with a shrewd wink to the public; “but it was a sthratagim o' me own. It's the clivir bye that I am, be dad! Troth, but I decaved 'em. And I, too, with only twelve thousand men to me back, and only a brigadier. It's I should be major-general at laste, then ye would see. Gineral Banks, indade! Och, he's a foine man intirely, and thrates me well. But it's I that inwents the sthratagims!”

Possibly there will be truth in history hereafter; there is none in the present record.

I advise you to subscribe for or buy regularly the Congregationalist newspaper. It contains our Chaplain's letters, which I consider very clever and entertaining.

Is it not about father's birthday? At any rate, I may wish him a happy return next year, and may I be there to see.

SOURCE: Elizabeth Amelia Dwight, Editor, Life and Letters of Wilder Dwight: Lieut.-Col. Second Mass. Inf. Vols., p. 225-7

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