Thursday, April 6, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 2

Sheridan restlessly urged the men across a small ravine opposite where he sat, his eyes wandering occasionally everywhere over the large open space which gradually rose to the vast comparatively level but slightly rolling battlefield in our front, as the men looked curiously at him so near I could touch him as we marched, little dreaming that three years after I should be honored for my work that day, which he saw, by being a member of his staff, or that he would be instrumental in saving my life when ill with malignant yellow fever and threatened with fatal black vomit in New Orleans, La. in 1867, by sending his cook, a faithful old colored woman, who was an expert nurse of yellow fever patients, to care for me. It was the nearest we had ever been to him, and as our regiment passed slowly by fours, the line being congested ahead, the men took a good look at him for he was already famous and every soldier's ideal hero; and as they did so they unconsciously slackened their sauntering pace a little which was what caused Sheridan to urge them on.

We were on the eve of the most brilliant spectacular battle of the war, at any rate that I had seen, and my ideal genius developed by the great Civil War — Sheridan was to lead us; and the valor of the renowned Sixth Corps, his pet of all the splendid corps of as grand and valiant an army as ever existed — the Army of the Potomac — was about being placed by him at the most important point in line of battle ready to do and die for him, the Vermont troops or “Green Mountain Boys,” as we were called through every city we passed, and especially our regiment being one of two to occupy the keystone position or place of honor on the famous historic Berryville and Winchester pike in the great assaulting line on a battlefield slightly rolling but level in places as a house floor when once fairly on it, to take another stitch out of rebellion, and to help immortalize our hero, and we did both. Aye! we shall glorify Sheridan continually as a military genius, even as he has honored us as his ideal soldiers and fighters heretofore, now and probably will evermore, the grand old Sixth Army Corps which fights everything everywhere, and rarely gives up fighting till called off, but, alas! which will soon only be a hallowed, glorified memory; and — still — I like to think of it in reflective moments as in a celebrated painting of a bivouacked army at night asleep watched over by an army of hovering angels in midair; that it as a hallowed spiritual body finally at peace in a heavenly paradise, will go marching on throughout the boundless everlasting realms of eternity ever to hover approvingly when occasion shall require over other mortal armies of dauntless valor and constancy such as it has been in the great Civil War—one of God's instruments for the betterment of humanity and civil liberty —the most admired, honored, trusted and beloved by military geniuses of its period.

Straight view of about 800 yards of the pike looking easterly
towards Opequan Creek from the  top of the divide about midway
to the enemy's line of battle in the ravine, from where Sheridan
formed line of battle. The narrow belt of timber has been cut
away behind which we formed. [Click on photo to enlarge.]

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 151-3

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