OUR GENERALS ON THE JAMES.
A correspondent, writing from James River, gives the following sketch of a late scene on board a gunboat in that river:—
Nine o’clock found [Army of the James commander] General [BENJAMIN] BUTLER, a portion of his staff, and your correspondent in the saddle en route for the Grey Mud [sic, Grey Hound?]1 and a trip up James River. Stopping at City Point, [Union army group commander] Lieutenant-General [ULYSSES S.] GRANT, [Grant’s Chief Engineer] General [JOHN G.] BARNARD and an army of silver leaf2 were received on board. The Generals immediately grouped themselves around several maps and charts produced by General BUTLER, and the conversation became animated.
There sat the imperturbable GRANT, looking about ten years older than when I saw him in Washington prior to his campaign, quietly smoking his cigar, suggesting some idea occasionally, asking a [?] question now and then, studying the maps carefully and listening to the conversation and proposals of those around him, as becomes a thinking man.
But underneath all the imperturbability which has been accorded to him, and claimed as a great point in General GRANT’s character, I thought I could discern in the expression of his eyes, “the [?] the soul,” an inward consciousness of the [?] of the struggle in which we are engaged, [?] feeling of the great responsibility resting upon him, and the other, dignified determination to rise [?], to all circumstances.
General BUTLER, brimful of hope, sanguine of success, and overflowing with expedients to worse annoy the enemy, explained with remarkable [clear?]ness the different pontoons along the river, producing this plan and that plan, and other plans, all [?] to the damage of the foe, never hesitating to [?] [any?] and all objections by the counter suggested a thoroughly practical mind, showing at once a comprehensible grasp of the whole situation, an attention to detail, a counter mind for all the possible contingencies of the great game, and, above all, a [?] determination to overcome any and all obstacles. With a man of his caliber “all things are possible.”
[Butler’s Chief Engineer] General [GODFREY] WEITZEL sat smoking his pipe with the phlegmatic coolness of a German, keenly alive, as ever, to the conversation, answering all questions with a plainness, directness, and economy of [worth?] especially desirable in a military man, suggesting occasionally an expedient when none of the others had thought of, or a contingency which they had not mentioned, fixing a time for the performance of certain movements, and manoeuvres with the orchestrating, indisputable air of one who “knows whereof he [?]ms.”
One does not nor cannot see the latest energy the thorough earnestness of the man until he becomes aroused by the force of circumstances, and then it finds vent, not in hasty movements of the body, not in violent vocal demonstrations, but more in the calm determination of the voice, the brightening of the eyes, from which beam forth the whole soul of a man thoroughly and heartily engaged in a work at which he feels himself a master.3
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- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Grey Hound was Butler’s “headquarters boat.” He used it to move up and down the James River. It is almost certainly the Grey Hound being referred to in this article, although the article itself reads Grey Mud. She would eventually explode and burn with Butler and Admiral Porter aboard in November 1864! ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Lieutenant Colonels wore silver leaves as their insignia in the Union Army. The correspondent was making a joke about the gaggle of men belonging to the staffs of the Generals. ↩
- “Our Generals on the James.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA). June 28, 1864, p. 2 col. 5 ↩