Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 20, 1863: The diary of Arthur J. Fremantle

Richmond, Virginia during the American Civil War.

British Lieutenant Colonel Arthur J. Fremantle's journey across the Confederacy is nearing its end. On this day 150 years ago Fremantle set out to join General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia as it made its way north into Maryland and Pennsylvania.
20th June (Saturday).—Armed with letters of introduction from the Secretary-at-War for Generals Lee and Longstreet, I left Richmond at 6 a.m., to join the Virginian army. I was accompanied by a sergeant of the Signal Corps, sent by my kind friend Major Norris, for the purpose of assisting me in getting on. We took the train as far as Culpepper, and arrived there at 5.30 p.m., after having changed cars at Gordonsville, near which place I observed an enormous pile of excellent rifles rotting in the open air. These had been captured at Chancellorsville; but the Confederates have already such a superabundant stock of rifles that apparently they can afford to let them spoil. The weather was quite cool after the rain of last night. The country through which we passed had been in the enemy's hands last year, and was evacuated by them after the battles before Richmond; but at that time it was not their custom to burn, destroy, and devastate—everything looked green and beautiful, and did not in the least give one the idea of a hot country.

In his late daring raid, the Federal General Stoneman crossed this railroad, and destroyed a small portion of it, burned a few buildings, and penetrated to within three miles of Richmond; but he and his men were in such a hurry that they had not time to do much serious harm.

Culpepper was, until five days ago, the headquarters of Generals Lee and Longstreet; but since Ewell's recapture of Winchester, the whole army had advanced with rapidity, and it was my object to catch it up as quickly as possible. On arriving at Culpepper, my sergeant handed me over to another myrmidon of Major Norris, with orders from that officer to supply me with a horse, and take me himself to join Mr Lawley, who had passed through for the same purpose as myself three days before.

Sergeant Norris, my new chaperon, is cousin to Major Norris, and is a capital fellow. Before the war he was a gentleman of good means in Maryland, and was accustomed to a life of luxury; he now lives the life of a private soldier with perfect contentment, and is utterly indifferent to civilisation and comfort. Although he was unwell when I arrived, and it was pouring with rain, he proposed that we should start at once—6 p.m. I agreed, and we did so. Our horses had both sore backs, were both unfed, except on grass, and mine was deficient of a shoe. They nevertheless travelled well, and we reached a hamlet called Woodville, fifteen miles distant, at 9.30. We had great difficulty in procuring shelter; but at length we overcame the inhospitality of a native, who gave us a feed of corn for our horses, and a blanket on the floor for ourselves.

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