Journal of Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman.


27th.—One year ago to-day I received notice to be ready to march with three days rations, at a moment’s notice; and three days less than a year ago we settled down near this place to bag the army of rebels at Manassas and to close the war. We then stayed settled till they left us. We followed to take them wherever found; overtook them at Young’s Mills, on the Peninsula. After a while we followed them to Yorktown. Again sat down and dug holes to bag ’em. They went away, and we followed to take them at Richmond, but they getting out of patience at our tardiness, stopped, and we blundered on them at Williamsburg, where they saved us the trouble and mortification of digging, dying and waiting, by coming out and attacking us. Having blundered into this fight, we followed on to Richmond. For weeks and weeks we digged and died again, giving the enemy time to collect his forces from all parts of the country, when he came out, and instead of being quietly bagged, drove such of us as were living from our pits, and now here we are back again with our National Capitol in sight on one side, and the guns of the pursuing rebels in hearing on the other. Last night he burned one of our bridges between here and Manassas, and this morning it is said and believed he captured, within our hearing, a brigade sent out to aid Gen. Pope, whilst here sit we idle all the day. Have the people yet begun to question the infallibility of Gen. McClellan? If ever there was an abused army on the face of the earth, this is one, and it will yet pass into a by-word that McClellan holds the army, whilst his Generals abuse it or use it for their own ambitious or mercenary purposes.

It now looks as if we need not leave this ground to fight, but that the enemy will advance and give fight on this very spot. Even now, whilst I write this sentence, five of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry, of a company left at Manassas, ride into camp. They say they were surprised this morning, (the old story,) and that these five are all that escaped. Pope they say is surrounded by Jackson. I admire this man Jackson. He has snap in him, and deserves to succeed. Admiration of him, and of his energy, are unmistakable all through our lines. Our men are discouraged, disheartened, and constantly express the wish that they had such a General to lead them to honorable battle.

Late at Night.—Oh! could I have been proved a croaker, an alarmist, an anything rather than witness what I have seen to-day. Another Bull Run. My writing has been arrested by the noise of teams on the road. What a sight! The road for miles crowded with straggling cavalrymen, infantry, and hundreds of contrabands with their packs and babies, all fleeing from the fight begun last night at Manassas. Miles of teams, batteries of artillery, retreating here in sight of our Capitol, before an enemy whose Capitol we were to have danced in a year ago! Have I misjudged our leaders in my frequent bewailings? Have I croaked without reason? Would to God I had, instead of having to witness the scenes of this day. I am impatient for the advance of the enemy, and hope he will be at us by the next rising of the sun. After the late disgraceful scenes, my mortification prompts me to wish that we may settle this matter now and here. What has this Army of the Potomac done? What attempted? But hold! A rumor is just here that Gen. McClellan has stopped the running of the ferry boats between Washington and Alexandria, and that he has ordered all the water conveyances now in the river to lay alongside of the docks at Alexandria. What does it mean? Is it only a camp rumor? I hope so, for if true it can mean nothing short of a preparation to embark the retreating masses. I will not believe this, for it would imply that we mean to yield our defences here—our strong forts—without any attempt at defence. I will not credit it, for give the enemy possession of Arlington Heights, and Washington cannot hold out a day. Eight months ago we boasted an army 700,000 strong. Where are they, and what doing? We are driven back here. Buell is in danger at the South. Forts Henry and Donelson surrounded for want of troops to defend them. Morgan unsupported in Kentucky. At this rate what will be worth that political advancement for which our Generals plan and sacrifice each other? What place will the nation have worthy a man’s ambition? If it be through tribulation that a nation is perfected, what a perfect nation we soon shall be. I have for a long time wished to resign, but I cannot now; my regiment is in danger, and I must see it through. Then for home.

Journal of Surgeon Alfred L Castleman.

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