Friday, August 5, 2016

Major Wilder Dwight: March 31, 1862

Camp Near Strasboro, Virginia, March 31, 1862.

I was glad to hear, from your letter of the 23d, that you have been doing something, and leading others to do, for the wounded and suffering from Pea Ridge. You will never appreciate, except feebly and by conjecture, the relief and soothing of which you may be the happy cause. If, on Monday evening last, you had gone with me into the courthouse at Winchester, and seen the wounded and dying lying upon the bare floor, “heads and points,” as the surgeon expressed it, the victims at once of hunger and cold and wounds, you would know what could be done with the heart to do and the things to do with.

Of those people who make a luxury of good works, and are, so to speak, epicures in benevolence, I know not how they could get so much for their money as by coming upon one of these recent battle-fields.

I rejoice in Howard's safety more than I can bring myself to do in my own. While you are thinking of the bodily security of your sons, there is one of them who is jaded and depressed by the inglorious military drudgery to which “the best regiment in the service” is hopelessly condemned.

I have just returned from twenty-four hours’ picket duty in a cold rain-storm. The enemy's line of pickets is about a mile from our own. Ashby brought up his cannon, and threw a few shells at our outposts. They whistled through the air and fell near us, but were only bravado and insolence. When we go on he will run faster than we can follow. Meantime, the large movements and the decisive actions of the Potomac campaign are probably taking place, and we are stupidly trailing after an evanescent and puny, but resolute, foe. Bah! One of our companies is in Centreville, I suppose; one at Snicker's Ferry; the rest here, drying themselves in the sun after twenty-four hours' hard, wet, useless work, unrecognized and unknown. Whenever the division wants a commissary, or an acting assistant-adjutant, or what not, he is detailed from us. We have not a single full brigadier in the whole corps d’armée. Five brigades all commanded by colonels, — unorganized and undisciplined, except a few regiments.

Do you wonder that I get down in the mouth? It will soon be a year that we have been in service, with nothing to show for it but the effects of the hardest possible work.

You see I am in no mood for letter-writing. I write because there is a mail going. I shall not write again till I feel better. You need not feel concerned at not hearing from me. I almost feel as if I would not take up a pen again till I could speak of something else than the inglorious details of our present life. Love to all at home.

SOURCE: Elizabeth Amelia Dwight, Editor, Life and Letters of Wilder Dwight: Lieut.-Col. Second Mass. Inf. Vols., p. 223-4

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