Saturday, November 24, 2012

"But! We will whip them yet."

Charles Russell Train
"My dear Martha, we are in an awful condition the only comfort I have is that there can be nothing worse. Pope is an imbicile--- But we shall come out right yet. Don't tell our friends what I say. Lincoln is a fool, Stanton an ass---a corrupt scoundrel, and Smith and Blair haven't brains enough to drive an omnibus. Bates isn't fit for a nurse. Kiss the children. May the Lord have you in his holy keeping is the prayer of your devoted husband, Charles R. Train."

George H Gordon
And that is what Charles Russell Train wrote on September 4, 1862 from Williards Hotel in Washington DC. Earlier that day, Train had received a commission as Captain so that he could serve on the staff of his friend Brigadier-General George H Gordon (1st Div, XII Corps). The two men were friends from days past in Framingham MA. Gordon had served in the army until 1854 and then practiced law in Boston while Train practiced law in Framingham and was elected to the 36th & 37th Congresses.

Train had left Washington when Congress adjourned on July 17th but with the national crisis of Pope's defeat at Second Manassas, Train returned on September 2nd and met Gordon who also had just reached the city from the battlefield. Immediately, Train contacted Secretary of War Edwin Stanton about a commission in the army. The next day, while yet waiting for this commission, Train wrote "Pope's campaign has been a failure, and we are today worse off than we were at the commencement of the rebellion. Our army is now safe in the intrenchment front of the city, and the next you will hear of Stonewall Jackson will be across the Potomac. But! we will whip them yet." Considering the doom and gloom that hung over Washington at this time, he was one confident Congressman!

On September 4th Train received his commission and further explained his reasoning for wanting this commission to his wife--- "Gordan came in all worn out, and without a staff officer left. Of course, I at once volunteered to go on his staff and give him all the aid in my power. I did not wish to join him except in a military capacity, because if I should happen to be captured I could not be exchanged as a civilian...[I] leave for the field tomorrow morning. I shall be detained until Gordon's staff are able to rejoin him, perhaps a month. I am at liberty to leave at any time, as I volunteered, work without pay, and bear my own expenses." Can you imagine any member of Congress working for free today? Or bearing their own expenses?

The next few days Train accompanied Gordon to various points in Maryland. The men passed through Frederick on the 14th as the battle of South Mountain raged in the not too far distance. On the 15th the XII Corps crossed South Mountain on its way towards Sharpsburg. Train was deeply impacted by the previous day's carnage that he found on the mountain's slope. This was the first battlefield he had ever seen and he found "the dead lying in heaps. It [wa]s dreadful. Saw a man on the fence, another on his knees. The men fall in their tracks and don't change a muscle."

The XII Corps reached the Hoffman and Line Farms on the night on the 16th. After only a few hours of restless sleep in the rain, the battle of Antietam opened for the XII Corps just before daybreak on the 17th. Once Gordon's brigade moved into the fray, Train carried out his duties as Gordon's aide and ran orders here and there without hesitation. Later that evening Train wrote about what he had witnessed during the battle, "heavy cannonading at daybreak all along the line extending some nine miles. We went on to the fight as soon as we could eat,---Second Mass., 3rd Wisconsin, 27th Indiana, 13th New York, 107th New York. Oh God! Oh God! What sights and sounds. I went in rear of the left wing, Gordon making a most rash but magnificent charge. Wasn't killed, thank God! We were separated in the confusion and did not find ourselves for three hours. We cried when we met. At dark we had driven the enemy back the whole line and lay behind our battery."

On the 18th, Train helped with burying the Union dead. On the 19th, Train witnessed the two most macabre scenes he probably ever saw in his lifetime when he and Gordon crossed the former Confederate line and walked through the Cornfield and West Woods. They found the Confederate dead lying as if in formation, row by row. Later at the Bloody Lane, it was a dead regiment still holding the position they had when they were living. Train wrote "the stink was awful. I vomited an hour. They have not buried their dead. I vomited an hour and thought I should die."

Train left the battlefield later that day for Washington via Frederick. Lee had taken his "horde of disordered fugitives" back to Virginia and thus the only task remaining for Train was to send telegraphs for Gordon.

On September 24th, Gordon authored his Official Report. In it he included praises for several people, including his friend Charles Russell Train. Of Train, Gordon wrote "I owe especial thanks to the Hon. Charles R. Train, who volunteered his services on my staff at a time when fatiguing labor and most arduous service had deprived me of all my aides save one officer. This gentleman also has shown his willingness to lay down his life in his country's cause. The invasion of the loyal North called him from his Congressional duties and his home at a moment's notice. No fatigues, though excessive, no danger, though most perilous, deterred him from moving forward whenever he could render assistance in beating back the invading foe."

Puritan's Progress by Arthur C Train, 1931, pg 263-268.
Gordon OR Vol 19 pg 497.

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