Letters From The Second Regiment.
Centreville, July 20, 1861
Dear Sirs: – I do not wonder that Robinson Crusoe got so mixed up with respect to time. We are almost as bad off already. The only way to find our whereabouts is to find the latest paper and then reckon up the day of the week and month. Our neat and picturesque collection of tents are ilk Turkish cities, where there are neither names to the streets, numbers to the houses, rules of trade, nor fixed time for anything. The only thing that we are held responsible for is to wait patiently for orders, and when they come, obey them cheerfully and promptly; both of these we are becoming quite experienced in. Yesterday our men turned to and provided themselves with shelter from the sun. Many and willing hands make quick work. Rails from the fences, and trees from the forest, furnished the materials. In a few moments (for it seemed hardly more than that,) long rows of rail-framed and bough-covered houses sprung into view as if by magic. The fires scattered among these extended extempore dwellings made during the last evening a splendid picture. Think of the scores of thousands of armed bands seen in the same condition from the adjacent hill-top, and you can form some idea of the magnificence of the whole scene.
We are still at the side of Centreville where we arrived day before yesterday, and from which our enemies have also fled away, leaving not only their fortifications but some of their guns and other property behind them. This time they have not fled far. Their lines and batteries can easily be seen from the hills near us, as well as our own vast army scattered over the plain. We are now face to face with the enemy, and unless they run again, I suppose that the great battle must be on the morrow, and news of its results will come to you on the wings of lightning. We hope that you will be careful about accepting the reports. Divine Providence permitting, some of us will give to you the earliest reliable accounts. We are pained to night to learn of rumors that are said to have reached and pained you – rumors of battle and wounds and slaughter. What friend it is who invents these I know not, but all know that as yet we have had no battle, and that there are no killed, no wounded nor seriously sick among us. I have spent much time yesterday and to day among the officers and men, and have been impressed with the obvious good health and find spirits of all. Depend upon it, such men, led by such officers, will not quail in the time of battle, nor turn back in their path from the face of the foe. We are favored with officers of rare intelligence and cultivation. Few, if any armies have ever been gathered having so much of these elements in them. From the brave and experienced Colonel chosen, we have the most perfect confidence, and if they do not lead us to victory then you may be certain it is because the God of Battles has otherwise decreed.
Gen. McDowell and many others were present at our dress parades both last evening and this, and expressed themselves much pleased with the appearance of the troops and impressed with the attendant religious services in both regiments.
We were under orders to march this morning, but for unexplained cause the movement was delayed. Again the order came to march at 6 P. M., with two days rations – near that hour, this order, too, was revoked. it is now nearly ten and we are under orders to march at two in the morning. This, I think, will be executed and tomorrow will be the decisive day. Deserters and prisoners are frequently passing through our lines, indicating weakness on the part of our foe, but I lay down with the anticipation of a dire conflict on the morrow. May the God of Mercy, in whom I find confidence and peace in trusting, preside over the strife and guide it to a speedy and just issue.
The whole regiments in which you feel so deep an interest, have never seemed to me so well prepared for the contest. It is wonderful to behold the cheerfulness and to listen to the songs and hymns with which the groves and hills are resounding as I write. I must end my letter, and will lie down with the prayer that the God of the spirit of all flesh will inspire every one of them with a disposition to commit his life and leave all his interests both for time and eternity to the keeping of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have never so felt the blessedness of trust in Him for myself, no so desired it as the greatest of all blessings for others. May God bless you all and have both you and us in His most gracious keeping.
Providence Evening Press 7/25/1861