LT: August 26, 1864 Theodore Lyman

   

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Editor’s Note: Theodore Lyman was General George G. Meade’s aide-de-camp from the fall of 1863 through Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.  An intelligent and outspoken individual, Lyman’s letters to his wife provide great insight into the happenings at Meade’s headquarters.  These letters, taken from the now public domain book Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865; Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox and written by Lyman to his wife, appear here at the Siege of Petersburg Online exactly 150 years to the day after they are written.  Since this site is concerned solely with the Siege of Petersburg, the letters start on June 12, 1864 and end on April 3, 1865.  See the bottom of this and every other letter for a list of all the letters which have appeared to date.

August 26, 1864

It may be laid down as a general principle, that it is a bad thing, in a musket or a man, to go off at half-cock. In some respects I may be said so to have done in my letter last night. Our information this morning shows that, after dark, while we marched off the ground one way, the enemy marched off the other, leaving their dead unburied and some wounded. Accounts of the field show their loss to have been fearful, much greater than ours, which was not serious either in killed, wounded or prisoners. Thus, all the strategic results lie with us, and we hold the Weldon road. But I would not have you believe I was disposed to turn about and crow. No! I do not so much mind the loss of the guns — a mere matter of prestige — but I do mind the fact that the 2d Corps men did not all fight as they should have fought; had they done so, the Rebels (who I suppose were about as three to two) could never have budged them. As Major Mitchell observed: “The Rebels licked us, but a dozen more such lickings and there will be nothing left of the Rebel army!” My gracious, what a donkey am I to be solemnly sending a telegraph, when I have not been in a single fight. I felt like a donkey at the time, but I thought you would be fussing and imagining, because there had been fighting in various directions. But I will not be so silly in future. And there is your mother, bless her heart! thanking God I am safe out of it, when I have not been in it! Really, I feel it almost my duty to go on the picket line and get shot at by a grey-back, for the sake of doing something! Yes, ma’am, thirty-one is quite an old man, but I am “so as to be about,” can ride a horse and hold up my head; and, as the late T remarked, when he proposed, “I am good for ten years,” which turned out to be true (to the regret of Mrs. T.), for he lived twenty-five years after and begat sons and daughters. You must thank Madre(1) from me for the present of “Forbes’s Naked-eyed Medusa.” Tell her, also, that, having neglected my natural history for three years, [much] of which has been devoted to becoming semi-idiotic from having nothing to do but listen to cannon and mortars and rifles, and associate with young gentlemen still further advanced in semi-idiocy, I have not a clear idea of what a Medusa is; but am impressed with the notion that it is something flabby that lives in the sea.1

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(1) His mother-in-law.

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[SOPO Editor’s Note: Lyman was shortly given a lengthy leave of absence made longer due to an illness.  He rejoined the army near the end of September 1864.  As a result, you’ll see a full month pass before Lyman resumes his near daily musings.]

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