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LT: August 4, 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.

August 4, 1864

This was quite a festal day for us. The General, accompanied by the Frenchies, Rosencrantz, Bache, Biddle and myself, paid a grand visit to Butler. Butler was in high feather. He is as proud of all his “fixin’s” as a farmer over a prime potato patch. We first got on the Greyhound, an elegant steamer (Butler believes in making himself comfortable), and proceeded down the Appomattox, past City Point, and then bore up the James, passing Bermuda Hundred, with its flotilla of schooners and steamers. . . . We had got a good bit above Bermuda Hundred and were paddling along bravely when we came in sight of two gunboats; that is, common steamers with some heavy guns on board. There are many in the river and they go up and down to keep it clear. As we drew near, I saw the men were at quarters and the guns run out. We passed between the first boat and the high wooded bank, when I beheld the gunboat captain dancing up and down on the paddle-box and roaring to us: “The left bank is lined with sh-a-a-rpshooters!” It would have edified you to have seen the swift dignity with which General Meade and his gallant Staff stepped from the open, upper deck to the shady seclusion of the cabin! Our skipper jingled “Stop her,” with his engine-room bell, and stop she did. Here was a chance for war-god Butler. “Hey? What? Sharpshooters? Pshaw! Fiddledeedee! Stop her! Who said stop her? Mr. DeRay, tell the Captain to go on, instantly!” And Butler danced out on the open deck and stood, like George II at Dettingen, in “an attitude of fence.”  I, who looked for a brisk volley of musketry, fully expected to see him get a bullet in his extensive stomach. Meanwhile the Captain went on, and, as soon as we were clear, the naval party in the rear (or “astern,” we ought to say) let go one big gun, with a tremendous whang! and sent a projectile about the size of a flour barrel on shore, severely wounding a great many bushes and trees. The other gunboat went ahead of us and kept up a little marine combat, all on her own hook. Whether there really were sharpshooters, I know not: I only think, if there were, it would be difficult to say which party was the more scared. . . .

Finally we went on shore where our horses were waiting, for this is not over three and a half miles from the Appomattox, though it is fifteen or sixteen miles round by the river. From the top of the cliff we had a splendid view of the cultivated country towards Richmond. And so, after inspecting more of Benjamin’s apple-pie batteries, we went home.1




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