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We have had an Austrian officer, awfully arrayed, making a visit to see the telegraphs and the signal corps. He looked so natural with his sprig little bob-tail coat and his orange sash, and presented a funny contrast to our officers, who with their great boots and weather-beaten slouched hats looked as[if they could swallow him and not know it. Captain Boleslaski (such was his name) was selected probably for two reasons, in this military mission: 1st, because he could speak no word of English; and 2d, because he was very deaf. Notwithstanding which little drawbacks, he ran about very briskly, from morn to eve, and really saw a great deal. I roared French in his ear, till I nearly had the bronchitis, but succeeded in imparting to him such information as I had. He addressed me as " Mon Colonel" and looked upon me as the hero of a hundred campaigns ; though he did rather stick me, when he asked me whether our pontoons were constructed on the system of Peterhoff or of Smolenski ! He was much pleased with the attention he got, and was extremely surprised when he beheld the soldiers all running to buy newspapers.
Yesterday came General Buford, commander of the second Cavalry Division, and held a pow-wow. He is one of the best of the officers of that arm and is a singular-looking party. Figurez-vous a compactly built man of middle height, with a tawny moustache and a little, triangular gray eye, whose expression is determined, not to say sinister. His ancient corduroys are tucked into a pair of ordinary cowhide boots, and his blue blouse is ornamented with holes; from one pocket thereof peeps a huge pipe, while the other isfat with a tobacco pouch. Notwithstanding this get-up he is a very soldierly looking man. He is of a good-natured disposition, but not to be trifled with. Caught a notorious spy last winter and hung him to the next tree, with this inscription: "This man to hang three days: he who cuts him down before shall hang the remaining time."
September 24, 1863
Yesterday we were favored with the presence of Sir Henry Holland, the Queen's physician, who is one of the liveliest old birds for one of seventy-five that ever was seen. He travels two months every year, and has already been four or five times in these United States. Dr. Letterman, the Medical Director, put him in an ambulance, and Colonel Townsend and myself completed the party. What pains wounded people may suffer in ambulances, I know not; but I do know that, when driven at a trot, over open fields and through little ditches, the jolting is not to be expressed in words. But the royal medical person maintained his equanimity wonderfully and continued to smile, as if he were having a nice drive over a turnpike. First he was halted on a rising spot, when he could see four batteries of horse artillery, which did defile before him, to his great admiration. Then we bumped him six miles farther, to the Headquarters of the 12th Corps, close to the river. Here he hobnobbed with General Slocum, and then got on a horse and rode about the camps. After which he was taken to a safe spot, whence he could behold the Rebels and their earthworks. He returned quite fresh and de parted in a most amiable mood.
There seems to me no particular prospect of a battle. I thought this morning, that we should have a great fight within a couple of days; but movements, which I dare say you will read of in the papers before this letter reaches you, have just knocked it. Entre nous, I believe in my heart that at this moment there is no reason why the whole of Lee's army should not be either cut to pieces, or in precipitate flight on Richmond. In saying this to you, I accuse nobody and betray no secrets, but merely state my opinion. Your bricks and mortar may be of the best; but, if there are three or four chief architects, none of whom can agree where to lay the first brick, the house will rise slowly.
- Theodore Lyman
- Meades Headquarters 1863 - 1865, Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox