Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Major Wilder Dwight: September 5, 1862

camp Near TennallytowN, Maryland, September 5, 1862.

I wrote you a hasty scrawl in my hurried visit to Washington, just to assure you of our safety at last. That was Wednesday. We went into camp near Fort Albany, and within a mile of the Long Bridge. Yesterday we got marching orders again; crossed the Potomac at Georgetown, and came out here on the Edwards's Ferry and Darnestown road, about eight miles, and are now in camp. . . . .

We suppose that we are to go up the river towards Edwards's Ferry. You would, perhaps, like to have a record of our life since we occupied the line of the Rappahannock till to-day. It has been so tense and corrosive that I am not yet in tone to write an account of it. Our week on the Rappahannock was a series of marches, countermarches, vigils, pickets, wet bivouacs, always within sound, often within reach, of the enemy's cannon, moving under the hissing importunity of flying shells and round shot. One morning at Beverly Ford we took a position from which our forces had been driven two previous days. Colonel Andrews and I breakfasted under a tree with shell and round shot moving merrily about us. We held the position. On Monday night we lay under arms within half a mile of the battle in which Kearney and Stevens fell, near Fairfax Court-House. The fight was a fierce one. During most of it a violent thunderstorm raged fearfully. I can only leave you to imagine the scene. We were all night under arms, wet through, and without fires. The worst night I ever spent. Tuesday night we came in last over the Warrenton Pike, — the very tail of the Grand Army, as we had been before.

Our risks and chances have been great, but we were not in either of the fights about Manassas or Bull Run. I am glad of it. Unsuccessful battles we have had enough of. I have been too busy to get news of Charley. We have been on the march for eighteen days. Colonel Taylor's account of the matter was encouraging. I met him by chance on Tuesday. Inquired at once for Charley. His answer was, “He is on his way to Richmond.” I was taken aback. Under all the circumstances, you may regard him as lucky.

I hope he will be paroled without being taken to Richmond.

Our recruits have had a hard time. It is an illustration of the folly of our whole system of organization and recruiting, that we should have dragged one hundred and fourteen unarmed recruits through all this business. But I will not begin about follies. The events of the past three weeks are incredible. Disaster, pitiable, humiliating, contemptible! Love to all at home. Now that we are in Maryland, I suppose the absurd order stopping the mails will be rescinded. I shall write again as soon as I can.

SOURCE: Elizabeth Amelia Dwight, Editor, Life and Letters of Wilder Dwight: Lieut.-Col. Second Mass. Inf. Vols., p. 285-7

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