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LT: July 24, 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 24, 1864

The appearance of the sky is what the sailors term “greasy,” though whether that betokens rain or not I don’t venture to guess. Mayhap we will have a storm, which indeed would serve to lay the dust, which already begins to return, in force. This drought has been in one respect beneficial: it has kept the soldiers from using surface water and forced them to dig wells, whence healthy water may be got. One well near this was productive of scientific results, as they got from it a quantity of shells which I shall send to Agassiz. All this country is underlain more or less by “marl beds,” which are old sea-bottoms full of a good many different shells. The good Colonel de Chanal took a ride with me. He is so funny, with his sentimental French ways. He, with a true French appreciation of wood, looks with honest horror on the felling of a tree. As we rode along, there was a teamster, cutting down an oak for some trivial purpose. “Ah,” cried De Chanal, “Ah! encore un chene; encore un beau chene!” If you tell him twenty men have been killed in the trenches, he is not interested; but actually he notices each tree that falls. “Ah,” he says, “when I think what labor I have been at, on the little place I have at home, to plant, only for my grandchildren, such trees as you cut down without reason!” As he has always lived in the South of France, where greenery is scarce, he is not offended by the bareness of the soil; but when riding through a dreary pine wood, will suddenly break out: “Oh, que c’est beau, que c’est beau!”1




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