Thursday, November 17, 2016

Major Wilder Dwight: September 7, 1862

Camp Beyond Rockville, Maryland, September 7, Sunday.

It is a hot, sunny, breezy afternoon. We are in line of battle with Sumner's corps, as we have been ever since yesterday noon. The air is full of rumors, but my opinion is firm that the Rebels will not cross in force into Maryland. If they do, and if our hearts have not really died within us, then we shall be fit to strike them. We want Soldiers, SOLDIERS, and a General In Command. Please notice the words, all of them; for the history of the past fifteen months is the sad record of that want. Nothing surprising happened in Virginia. The force brought against us was not larger than our own, was equally fatigued, and, still more, without food. But we allowed them, — impotently and with fatal blindness, allowed them to outgeneral us. We ignored what was passing under our eyes, denied the familiar maxims of military science, blustered up to the moment of defeat, and then fled back to our base.

“No line of retreat.” “No base of supply.” “No strong positions.” What is the issue of that policy? A starving army hunting lines of retreat upon the firm base, and up to, and within, the strong fortification of its capital. We stood on the banks of the Rappahannock a week, while the enemy steadily pushed his columns up the other bank, and through a well-known mountain pass upon our rear. O, it is heavy to see life and hope and peace and honor withering away daily under such influences! Nor do I see any evidence of tone or wisdom in power anywhere

It has come back to McClellan! I met him as I went into Washington the other day. His manner was gay, confident, elate. His staff were jubilant. Again he takes the reins, and what do you expect? I must hope, though I know not why.

SOURCE: Elizabeth Amelia Dwight, Editor, Life and Letters of Wilder Dwight: Lieut.-Col. Second Mass. Inf. Vols., p. 287-8

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