HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
Tunstall's Station, May 21, 1862.
Major General AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE,
Commanding Department of North Carolina:
MY DEAR BURN.: You dispatch and kind letter received. I have instructed Seth to reply to the official letter and now acknowledge the kind private note. It always does me good, in the midst of my cares and perplexities, to see your wretched old scrawling. I have terrible troubles to contend with, but have met them with a good heart, like your good old self, and have thus far struggled through successfully. Our progress has been slow, but that is due to ignorance of the country (we have to feel our way everywhere; the maps are worthless), the narrowness, small number, and condition of the roads, which become impassable for trains after a day's rain, of which we have had a great deal.
I feel very proud of Yorktown; it and Manassas will be my brightest chaplets in history; for I know that I accomplished everything in both places by pure military skill. I am very proud and grateful to God that he allowed me to purchase such great success at so trifling a loss of life. We came near being badly beaten at Williamsburg. I arrived on the he field at 5 p. m. and found that all thought we were whipped and in for a disaster. You would have been glad to see, old fellow, how the men cheered and brightened up when they saw me. In five minutes after I reached the ground a possible defeat was changed into certain victory. The greatest moral courage I ever exercised was that night, when, in the face of urgent demands from almost all quarters for re-enforcements to hold our own, I quietly sent back the troops I had ordered up before I reached the field. I was sure that Johnston would leave during the night if he understood his business, or that I could be able to thrash him in the morning by a proper use of the force I had. it turned our that Jo. left! Hancock conducted himself magnificently; his charge was elegant!
I expect to fight a desperate battle in front of Richmond, and against superior numbers, somewhat intrenched. The Government have deliberately placed me in this position. If I win, the greater the glory. If I lose, they will be damned forever, both by God and men.
Well, I have bored you long enough, old fellow. I will merely add that my light troops have crossed the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge this morning, 10 miles from Richmond, and that the advanced guard, under Stoneman, has driven in everything upon New Bridge (on my right), 6 miles from Richmond. The crisis cannot long be deferred. I pray for God's blessing on our arms, and rely far more on his goodness than I do on my own poor intellect. I sometimes think now that I can almost realize that Mahomet was sincere. When i see the hand of God guarding one so weak as myself, I can almost think myself a chosen instrument to carry out his schemes. Would that a better man had been selected.*
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If I trash these rascals we will soon be in direct communication, and I shall then wish to give you a command from this army to add to the noble men you now have.
Good-by, and God bless you, Burn. With the sincere hope that we may soon shake hands, I am, as ever, your sincere friend,
*Some personal matter omitted.