On the 14th of August—McClellan’s attempt to reach Richmond via the Chickahominy swamps having proved a disastrous failure—the transfer of the army to Washington began.
Lieutenant Robert Wilson of J. H.’s regiment wrote home at the time a letter which might easily have come from any regiment in the Army of the Potomac. “Six days’ march,” he says, “to Newport News, choking with dust, parched with thirst, melting by day and freezing by night, poorly fed and with nothing but the sky to cover us. You can judge of our exhausted condition when I tell you that six miles before we reached the camp at Newport News the 16th Regiment, N. Y. Vols., numbered only 184 men in the ranks, though men straggled in, so that there were 400 in the morning, and the 16th is no straggling regiment. Next day embarked on transports and arrived at Alexandria, sorrowful and humiliated when looking back over a year and finding ourselves on the same ground as then. The debris of the Grand Army had come back to its starting place with its ranks decimated, its men disspirited, its morale failing, while the thousands who sleep their last sleep on the Peninsula demand the cause of their sacrifice.”