Thursday, November 3, 2016

Major Wilder Dwight: August 15, 1862

Camp Near Culpeper, Virginia, August 15, 1862.

I have fallen into camp life and its spirit quite easily. It is the virtue of duty in the field that it is persistent, inexorable, exacting. It is the virtue of the military life that it is busy and ardent. Both these considerations urge themselves on me as I sit down to write in cheerful temper, while there are so many reasons for heaviness and sorrow.

Our crippled regiment turns out to its duties and parades as if nothing had happened to it, while its thinned ranks and vacant posts tell the story of its trial and losses, — of its glory too.

Yesterday morning I spent with Colonel Andrews in visiting our wounded, and doing my possible for them. It is hard to see some of the very best of our men disabled; but their pluck and cheeriness are delightful. The regiment behaved wonderfully, but the position into which they were ordered was a hopeless one.

After dinner General Gordon and I rode out to the field of battle, and I examined it thoroughly. I shall write out and send you a full account of the position and the action. The scene was full of interest. I went to the spot where Cary fell and lay till he died on the following day. I found, too, where our other officers fell. The evening was spent with Professor Rogers, Mr. Dean, Mr. Shaw, and others, who have come out to get tidings of our officers.

This morning we have had a grand review (the first occasion of my putting on my sword as Lieutenant-Colonel) of Banks's corps. As we passed out to the field our bands played a dirge, and we paid a marching salute to Colonel Donelly, who had just died of his wounds, and was lying in a house in the town. Then to the field. The loss of the corps is about two thousand five hundred. Their work was done in a few hours, and all you can say is, the enemy went back, but their loss can hardly have equalled ours.

This afternoon I am on duty again, so that I have no time for writing you as I could wish. I hope something can be done to recruit us up to an approach to our former numbers. Nothing can ever make good our losses. Cary and Goodwin and Grafton were all too sick to march, and went up to the battle-field in ambulances, rushing forth when their regiment was ordered forward.

All these and many other memories I could write if I had time. Love to all at home. I am well, and most happy to be back here.

SOURCE: Elizabeth Amelia Dwight, Editor, Life and Letters of Wilder Dwight: Lieut.-Col. Second Mass. Inf. Vols., p. 277-8

No comments: