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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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[loose newspaper clipping]
     IN CAMP WITH THE ARMY OF THE
		 POTOMAC.
  Enjoying the hospitality of the Colonel s
tent, I had been sleeping luxuriously upon a
hospital stretcher, my head supported on a
valise by way of pillow, when the trumpeters,
devoting themselves with might and main to
the reveille, utterly routed Morpheus.  Look-
ing from the open entrance, the soldiers are
seen rushing from their tents and finishing
dressing, as they receive the hot coffee, which
in well regulated commands is given them to
keep off the ill effects of the chill morning air,
at this season never wholly free from malaria.
Roll call follows, and the band assembles on
the parade.  Details from each company form
upon the ground for guard mounting, and after
going through sundry evolutions, are told off
to relieve those who have been on guard the 
preceding twenty-four hours.  The music is
pleasantly prolonged, (I tremble when I think
of an idiotic proposal to discharge the bands
on the score of economy), and feeling no obli-
gation to rise, I continue to enjoy my stretcher,
and look at things recumbently.  And
first this tent commands my admiration, it is
spacious; and in the centre is a trophy formed
of three gorgeous regimental flags, sundry
sabres, sashes, caps, opera-glasses, pistols, and
red bunting, over all two rifles crossed, two
others being also dependant at each end of the
ridge pole.  There are two tables garnished
with books on military tactics, account books, 
reports, passes, &c.; any quantity of camp 
stools, with and without backs, washstand of
primitive construction, the colonel s sleeping
arrangement, from which he is already absent,
though visible outside the tent giving instruc-
tions to an orderly while he rasps the water
from his face with an awfully rough towel.
Some boxes, a trunk, and a stand for saddles,
cloaks, &c., complete the furniture, which is
raised some six inches from the earth on a neat
floor of boards.
  The rush of orderlies into the adjurant s tent
 which is  next door  to deliver the com-
pany reports, the rapid movements of the men,
now engaged in battalion drill, and, above all,
the sudden appearance of the sun imparting a
dreadfully dissipated glow to the faces of the 
musicians, and the nose of the sentry outside
the tent overcomes me with a sense of the
enormity of bed laziness.  So having dressed
and performed a pleasant toilet under the pine
trees at the back of the tent, I am ready for
breakfast, which is forthwith served in advance
of the usual time, on one of the tables in the
tent; beefsteak and potatoes, bread, poached
eggs, pancakes and coffee, forming the bill
of fare.  Cigars follow, the colonel dives into 
business, reads reports, signs passes, gives or-
ders, and dictates to his secretary.
  More interesting are the proceedings outside.
Two large armed working parties are on the
march, fifteen hundred to one fort, and five
hundred to another, to work on entrench-
ments, which, all things considered, they do
with commendable cheerfulness.  Another body
of twenty men from each regiment, under
command of an engineer officer, is departing in
still another direction to work upon the neigh-
boring roads.  Besides these heavy details, be-
tween sixty and severnty men, are sent to the
quarters of the general of the division, to be
placed on guard for the protection of those
houses not deserted by their inhabitants.  De-
serted dwellings, unless known to belong to
Unionists (although that is not always a pro-
tection), are soon dismantled to aid in adorn-
ing and making more comfortable the tents in
adjacent camps.
  The prisoners, namely, those soldiers under 
punishment for offences against discipline and
order are cleaning the camp, sweeping, shov-
eling, and removing in barrows the surface
refuse, digging drains &c, and at this sort of
work they are employed from seven o clock till
noon, and from half-past one till six o clock.
  The men having had breakfast, clean arms
and accoutrements, and drill again for two or
three hours.  I stroll about the camp, which is
pleasantly situated, and in good order.  The
main streets are on a level plateau alongside a
railroad, up and down which a locomotive is
constantly puffing with cars in tow, for convey-
ance of stores and men.  It is the same train
that carried the Ohio men into the ambuscade 
at Vienna.
  Most of the tents have additions in the shape
of bough houses, which are pleasanter and
more healthy resting places while the sun
shines, than hot canvass can afford.
  The horses, wagons, kitchens, quartermas-
ter s stores, hospital, sutler, &c., all have ap-
pointed places.
  From the body of the camp the regimental
field and staff officers  quarters are separated 
by a little brook, crossed at intervals by rustic
bridges, that give a scenic character to the
spot.  The brook is full of felled trees, and the
precipitous bank at the back of the tents, some
eighty or one hundred feet above another and
a larger stream, is covered with a confusion of
timber which had been cut down to clear the
view.  In the meadows beyond infantry, cav-
alry and artillery are drilling by word and by
the bugle, all day.
  At twelve o clock the dinner call is blown
con amore, by a lanky bugler, who cracks fright-
fully on the three lost notes, in his anxiety to
finish and be off to his ration.  Shortly after, 
dinner is announced in the mes tent, a spa-
cious structure of the rustic order, with sides of
cedar branches and roof of canvass.  A gratify-
ing smell of soup floats about, and the dinner,
which reminds one of a pic-nic, is well served
and more decidedly appreciated.
  More drilling is done in the afternoon, and a
dress parade is also accomplished.  The work-
ing parties return, and if there is a necessity
for great haste, other parties go out to continue
the work through the night.  And here I will
express a regret at this necessacy employment
of so much of the time that is required to give
the men greater proficiency in drill.  Long
strings of horses are taken, raising clouds of
dust, to the creek, where they are watered;
one or two break loose, and a grand scamper
ensues after the runaways, giving an oppor-
tunity for harder riding than under ordinary
circumstances is allowed.  Standing near divi-
sion head-quarters, I watch the gradual ap-
proach of the wagon trains, rumbling noisily
along into camp with loads of commissariat
and quartermaster s stores and ammunition.
  The gradual arrival of groups of officers, 
and the presence of the band in front of the 
General s quarters, proclaim the approach of
the hour when the evening parade of officers
is held.  With an easy military air, free from
the stiffness of a line parade, they form in
front of his tent, occupying three sides of a
square; the infantry in front and to the right,
the artillery and cavalry on the left, before 
their horses.
  The band plays a selection from  Robert le
Diable,  the officers chat and introduce one
another; the rays of the setting sun slant 
glowingly upon the scene, and rosily tinge
the distant woods and hills, dotted with
tented towns, over which crowning the
heights, the red fortification rear their
cannon-crested bastions,a nd the smoke of a 
recent salute curls lazily about the flag-staff,
and floating off in orange and purple clouds.
The echoes die away; and now the General,
attended by his staff, comes forth from the
rustic Gothic arches of cedar that enclose the
space in front of his tent a sort of open ante-
room, giving an air of retirement to the inner
quarters.  Joining a group of field officers in
the centre of the parade ground, greetings are
exchanged, and conversation, very often of an
animated character, follows.  The exact topics
I cannot disclose for several reasons, the prin-
ciple being, that even in the character of a
newspaper correspondent, it is not possible to
pluck up assurance enough to approach so dis-
tinguished a party with the base intent of
eavesdropping.
  Military brevity at any rate rules the pro-
ceedings, which are soon over; adieux are
made, the countersign delivered in envelopes
by an aid, and as the band plays a lively march,
the parade is broken up, and the ground gra-
dually cleared of its late occupants.  Some
members of the Government who have been 
present, and officers of other divisions, accept-
ing the General s invitation to his tent, retire
there with him.  I linger till the band has
finished its last piece of music, and the moon
having come up, I proceed, by means of a
singly rickety log across a little creek, in the
direction of my friend s encampment.  The
way lies through a cavalry camp, you would
know it by the smell, even if the horses were
absent, of which you have abundant evidence
that they are not, there being a contant 
thumping and neighing, owing doubtless to
the fact of their having just returned from the
watering-place, and therefore not had time to
resume their normal condition of equine resig-
nation.  The not unwelcome supper-call in-
vites to the mess tent, now lighted by Chinese
lanterns of colored paper, and wax candles in
candlesticks or bottles, around which various
speciments of the entomology fo the country,
perform voluntary auto-da-fe.  Eating over,
those officers not on duty remain some time to
smoke, maybe to dispose of a bottle of light
wine, always provided the Provost Marshal has
not so strictly exercised the right of search on
the Long Bridge, as to have frustrated all at-
tempts to smuggle over that fluid.
Page
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Eighteen: page two hundred and fifty-eight
Description:Newspaper clipping written by Alfred Waud regarding a day at a camp of the Army of the Potomac.
Subject:Army of the Potomac (Union); Civil War; Food; Guard duty; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Military; Military camp life; Music; Waud, Alfred
Scan Date:2010-06-14

 

Volume
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Eighteen
Description:Includes Gunn's descriptions of the scene in New York at the commencement of the Civil War, his visits to military camps in and around New York City as a reporter for ""The New York Evening Post,"" boarding house life, the shooting of Sergeant Davenport by Captain Fitz James O'Brien for insubordination, and Frank Bellew's marital troubles.
Subject:Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Civil War; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Marriage; Military; Publishers and publishing; Women
Coverage (City/State):New York, New York
Note:Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.
Publisher:Missouri History Museum
Rights:Copyright 2010 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.