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WE crossed the Potomac on the 24th at Williamsport and went into bivouac on the Maryland side, from which place I sent my Lady-Love a long letter and some flowers gathered on the way. We then went on to Hagerstown, where we met A. P. Hill's Corps, which had crossed the river farther down. From Hagerstown I sent to the same and only Lady-Love another letter, which was not only freighted with all the adoration and devotion of her Soldier's heart, but contained messages from the staff and promises to take care of him and bring him safely back to her.
We made no delay at Hagerstown, but passing through in the rear of Hill's Corps moved on up Cumberland Valley and bivouacked at Greencastle, where the most homesick letter of all yet written was sent to well, guess whom this time. Why, to the same Lady-Love, the sweetest, loveliest flower that ever blossomed to bless and make fairer a beautiful world for it is beautiful, betokening in its loveliness nothing of this deadly strife between men who should be brethren of a great and common cause, as they are the heritage of a great and common country.
The officers and men are all in excellent condition, bright and cheerful, singing songs and telling stories, full of hope and courage, inspired with absolute faith and confidence in our success. There is no straggling, no disorder, no dissatisfaction, no plundering, and there are no desertions. Think of it, my darling an army of sixty thousand men marching through the enemy's country without the least opposition! The object of this great movement is, of course, unknown to us. Its purpose and our destination are known at present only to the Commanding General and his Chief Lieutenants. The men generally believe that the intention is to entirely surround the Army of the Potomac and place Washington and Baltimore within our grasp. They think that Marse Robert is merely threatening the northern cities, with the view of suddenly turning down the Susquehanna, cutting off all railroad connections, destroying all bridges, throwing his army north of Baltimore and cutting off Washington, and that Beauregard is to follow on directly from Richmond via Manassas to Washington, in rear of Hooker, who of course will be in pursuit of Marse Robert.
We reached here this morning, June ayth, the anniversary of the battle of Gaines's Mill, where your Soldier was wounded. We marched straight through the town of Chambersburg, which was more deserted than Gold smith's village. The stores and houses were all closed, with here and there groups of uncheerful Boers of Deutschland descent, earnestly talking, more sylvan shadows than smiles wreathing their faces. I had given orders that the bands were not to play; but as we were marching through the northeastern part of the city, some young ladies came out onto the veranda of one of the prettiest homes in the town and asked:
"Would you mind shooting off the bands a bit?"
So the command was given and the band played "Home Sweet Home," "Annie Laurie "Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still," "Nellie Gray" and "Hazel Dell." The young ladies asked the next band that passed if they wouldn't play "Dixie"; but the band instead struck up "The Old Oaken Bucket," "The Swanee River," "The Old Arm Chair," "The Lone Rock by the Sea" and "Auld Lang Syne."
"Thought you was rebels. Where d you come from anyhow? Can't play Dixie none of you," they called out. We marched straight on through the city and are camped four miles beyond the town on the York River road.
To-morrow, if you ll promise not to divulge it to a human soul, I ll tell you a great secret. No, my darling, I can't wait till to-morrow. I ll tell you right now. So listen and cross your heart that you won't tell. I love you love you love you, and oh, little one, I want to see you so! That is the secret.
Lovingly and forever,
- Heart of a Soldier the as revealed in the Intimate Letters of Gnl George E. Pickett CSA, 1908