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Camp Life on the Potomac


The above engraving, “Scenes in and about the Army of the Potomac” by Alfred R. Waud, appeared in Harper’s Weekly on July 26, 1862. The editors included this description:

On page 469, we reproduce a sketch by our artist, Mr. Waud, representing

SCENES OF CAMP LIFE

before the late movement from the Chickahominy to the James River. Mr. Waud writes:
“No. 1 represents the Railroad from West Point to Richmond, at or about the locality where it leaves our lines, some six miles from the city. It is a single track road, but it is an immense convenience to the army in transporting the large supplies necessary for such an enormous body of men. The scenery, without being at all striking, is very picturesque along the road, the wild camps of our soldiers adding a great deal of interest to it. Once or twice a rebel locomotive has made its appearance on the track, skedaddling very quick when our guns opened on it.
“No. 2 is the Trestle-work over the Chickahominy Swamp, about seven hundred yards in breadth at this point.
“No. 3 is a sketch of Sick and Wounded Soldiers on their way to the White House, refreshing themselves at a pure spring of water by the side of the railroad while waiting for the cars.
“No. 4 gives a good idea of the pleasures of bridge-building in the swap, where the atmosphere is very close, and it is necessary for some of the builders to stand up to their middle in water, while others cut and carry the logs to construct the bridge with.
“No. 5. Along some parts of the line quite a good feeling exists among the pickets. By mutual consent they do not fire, and the rebels leave their arms and join our men in a cup of coffee, exchanging Richmond papers for the New York papers, and making themselves generally agreeable. Picket-firing is not considered a humane business in modern warfare; yet it is open to doubt whether the existence of a good understanding may not have its evils on the other hand: neither can it be considered expedient that the rebels should have recent copies of Northern papers.[“]

The description of building a bridge in the Chickahominy Swamp reminds me of this post from last month. Click and you’ll find a photograph of the work and a letter from a father to Edmund Ruffin, the purpose of which was to remove his son from such back-breaking, disease-inducing labor.

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