Note: Charlie’s describing McClellan’s Grand Review in this letter, from a rather opportune vantage point. I hadn’t seen a description of the aqueduct bridge over the Potomac before this. I recall quite a number of troops using it for the move toward Manassas, so I was surprised to see it described as so small. I had two questions from this one that I’m hoping readers can answer. “Munson’s hill” was my best guess from his handwriting, I’m not sure where it’s located. Any ideas? What was “Frank Leslie’s” it sounds like some sort of news periodical, perhaps local to Connecticut where Bates is from?
Headquarters, 4th Regt Co “E”
Camp Nov. 21st, 1861
It is a long time since I have wrote to you, but the reason is I have had nothing to write about. We have the normal amount of rainy days and windy days, but yesterday there was something came off worth writing about. General McClellan reviewed over 70,000 troops. Our company was on the escort of the General so I had a good chance to see them as they passed by. The column started to pass in review before the General at half past twelve, marching two companies abreast, and it was five o’clock when the last went by. They all looked like “Regulars”, everybody was in their place, and what was stranger for Volunteers are generally not very military. Everyone kept time with the music ands looked to the “front” when they passed the reviewing staff. It was the largest column which ever passed in review either in this country or in Europe, and the best (underlined).
I caught an awful cold looking at them, but I would take two more if I could see another such a sight. Our company had the “distinguished honor” of escorting the General back to his Quarters after the review but I had rather not have the honor again. The review was beyond Munson’s (?) hill within three miles of the secesh (sic) pickets, and after it was over the General had to be about an hour telegraphing to different places before he started for home, but when he did start it wasn’t slow riding. We crossed the Potomac river on the Aqueduct bridge. It is fifty feet wide and there is only room for one man to pass at a time.
I saw somebody taking sketches of the staff and troops on the field so you will probably have a chance to see our company pictured out in Frank Leslie’s or Harper’s Weekly. Our position at the time he was taking the sketch was just behind the General, about twenty five yards from him.
I sent my likeness last week, I suppose you have got it. It looks exactly like me everybody says. Give my spects (sic) to all and tell them. I am going to sleep for a couple of hours. Goodbye.
Your Affect. Son,
Brian Downey said:
Cool letter. Munson (or Munson’s) Hill is very near me at the east end of Falls Church, Virginia. It’s crossed by the Leesburg Pike (now VA Route 7) just west of a spot called Bailey’s Crossroads, which is still known by that name today.”sonofthesouth” has posted a nice scan of an October 1861 Harper’s description.The periodical is Frank Leslie’s Weekly, an illustrated newspaper/magazine of the period.
Brian,Thank you very much, that clears things up nicely. I’ll try to get a look at Munson Hill this weekend and try to get a picture.