View Full Version : Ricketts goes to Washington

FC Barlow
07-07-2004, 10:29 AM
In reading through Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman's wartime diary, one of the best diaries from the Union side since it is chock full of great insights into everyday life as a staff officer for Army of the Potomac commander George G. Meade, I found a great excerpt from July 6, 1864, exactly 140 years ago this week. In it, Lyman, in his usual insightful candor, describes the events that led to the Monocacy Campaign.

July 6, 1864
In front of Petersburg

"...Last night, after I had got to bed, I heard the officer of the day go with a dispatch into the General's [Meade] tent and wake him up. Presently the General said, "Very well, tell General Wright to send a good division. I suppose it will be Ricketts's." And he turned over and went to asleep again. Not so Ricketts, who was speedily waked up and marched to City Point, thence to take steamers for Washington, or rather for Baltimore. We do not appreciate now, how much time, and labor, and disappointment, and reorganization, and turning out bad officers, have to be done, before an army can be got in such condition that a division of several thousand men may be suddently waked up at midnight and, within an hour or so, be on the march, each man with his arms and ammunition ready, and his rations in his haversack. Now, nobody thinks of it. General Meade says, "Send Ricketts," and turns over and goes to sleep. General Ricketts says "Wake the staff and saddle the horses." By the time this is done, he has written some little slips of paper, and away gallop the officers to the brigade commanders, who wake the regimental, who wake the company, who wake the non-commissioned, who wake the privates. And each particular private, uttering his particular oath, rises with a groan, rolls up his shelter tent, if he has one, straps on his blanket, if he has not long since thrown it away, and is ready for the word, "Fall in!" When General Ricketts is informed that all are ready, he says, "Very well, let the column move" - or something of that sort. There is great shouting of "By the right flank, forward!" and off goes Ricketts, at the head of his troops, bound for City Point...I remember thinking to myself, as I went to sleep - "division -- why don't they send a corps a make a sure thing?" Behold my military forethought!"

Theodore Lyman served as a volunteer aide de camp (no pay and no chance for promotion) for General Meade starting in September 1863 through the end of the war. Portions of his wartime diary were published in 1922, in Meade's Headquarters: 1863-1865, Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from The Wilderness to Appomattox. They were edited by George R. Agassiz and can still be found in used bookstores. The complete collection of Lyman's letters and diaries have yet to be published.