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LT: July 6, 1864 Theodore Lyman

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.

July 6, 1864

We have no rain here — never expect any; air hazy with a faint dust, finer than twice volted flour, which settles on everything — but that won’t kill anybody. So Ewell is (or was — don’t know his whereabouts at this precise moment) at Harper’s Ferry. We knew he was poking up there somewhere. As to the A. of P., it is sitting here, trying to get some fresh cabbages, not very successfully, so far — the last issue, I am told, furnished one small one to every fifteen men. Old Uncle Lee is “in posish,” as General Williams would say, and seems to remark: “Here I am; I have sent off Ewell; now why don’t you come on?” I suppose you think I speak flippantly of what the French call the “situation”; but one gets so desperate that it is no use to be serious. Last night, after I had got to bed, I heard the officer of the day go with a despatch into the General’s tent and wake him up. Presently the General said: “Very well, tell General Wright to send a good division. I suppose it will be Ricketts’s.” And he turned over and went asleep again. Not so Ricketts, who was speedily waked up and told to march to City Point, thence to take steamers for Washington, or rather for Baltimore. We do not appreciate now, how much time, and labor, and disappointment, and reorganization, and turning out bad officers, have to be done, before an army can be got in such condition that a division of several thousand men may be suddenly waked at midnight and, within an hour or so, be on the march, each man with his arms and ammunition ready, and his rations in his haversack. Now, nobody thinks of it. General Meade says, “Send Ricketts”; and turns over and goes to sleep. General Ricketts says, “Wake the Staff and saddle the horses.” By the time this is done, he has written some little slips of paper, and away gallop the officers to the brigade commanders, who wake the regimental, who wake the company, who wake the non-commissioned, who wake the privates. And each particular private, uttering his particular oath, rises with a groan, rolls up his shelter-tent, if he has one, straps on his blanket, if he has not long since thrown it away, and is ready for the word “Fall in!” When General Ricketts is informed that all are ready, he says: “Very well, let the column move” — or something of that sort. There is a great shouting of “By the right flank, forward!” and off goes Ricketts, at the head of his troops, bound for City Point; and also bound, I much regret to say, for the Monocacy,(1) where I fancy his poor men stood up and did all the fighting. From what I hear, I judge we had there about 10,000, of whom a good part were next to worthless. The Rebs had, I think, some 12,000, all good troops. This General Wallace is said by officers here to be no general at all, though brave; and General Tyler is the man whom General Humphreys had tried for cowardice, or some misbehavior in the presence of the enemy; and who has, in consequence, an undying hate for the Chief-of-Staff. I remember thinking to myself, as I went to sleep — “division — why don’t they send a corps and make a sure thing?” Behold my military forethought!1


(1) Monocacy Bridge — the scene of Early’s defeat of Lew Wallace, which terrified Washington, and caused much consternation in the North.




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