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LT: November 14, 1864 Theodore Lyman

November 14, 1864

If doctors and quartermasters had not quarreled, I should not have come unto sorrow; thus, a hospital was placed nigh to a place on the railroad where the quartermasters would fain have a platform.  “Move your tents,” said the quartermasters.  “We won’t,” said the doctors.  “You shall,” retorted the quartermasters.  “We shan’t,” reiterated the M.D.’s.  The strife waxed hot.  Inspectors were called: they inspected much and shook their heads; that being a negative conclusion, the Major-General Commanding the Army of the Potomac [Meade] was appealed to, and he rode out to enter a fiat.  In riding out he took me, and I took a chill.  So confusion to all doctors and quartermasters!  But the former shall be forced to cure me and the latter to make me comfortable in mine house.  There came over, for a visit, the Colonel [Charles S.] Russell, of the funny turn, who commands now a brigade of negro troops.  He has always something funny to relate of their manners and customs.  It would appear that his nigs were once relieved by troops of the 2d Corps, and, as both parties had just been paid off, the ivory and the ebony sat down to play poker, wherein the ebony was rapidly getting the better of their opponents.  The enemy meanwhile began to fire shells over the woods, but the players were too interested to leave off.  At last one cute Yankee, who, despite his cuteness, had been entirely cleaned out, wandered off and found an empty shell, which he carefully filled with damp gunpowder, adding a paper fuse.  Approaching the group that seemed to have most money on board, he lighted the innocent combustible, screamed “Look out!” and threw it into the midst of them, following up himself, to secure the greenbacks left by the fugitives.  Russell said when the recruits first come down they get into all sorts of snarls.  As, for example, two of them found what they call “one er dese ere mortisses,” by which they would say mortar shell.  “Hullo, dar’s er mortiss: s’pose dat ar’ll ‘splode?”  “’Splode! ‘corse it’ll ‘splode.”  “Bet yer it wun’t!”  The next thing the Colonel knew was a tremendous report, and two or three bits of iron flying through his tent.  He rushed forth and collared a handful of the darks, and demanded immediate explanation.  Whereunto one replied, with the utmost simplicity: “Didn’t mean nuphin, Kernul; all fault er dat ar stupid nigger—said er mortiss wouldn’t ‘splode!”  This day was further remarkable by the erection of a stately flagstaff, which seemed to imply that General Williams thought we should stay some time; but I think it will doubtless make us move at once; just as building log huts has a similar effect.1,2




  1. SOPO 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.
  2. Agassiz, George R. Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865; Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox. Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1922, pp. 269-270
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