Four Years with the Army of the Potomac

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Four Years with the Army of the Potomac


Army of the Potomac during the Civil War


The Regis de Trobriand was a Brevet Major General with the United States Volunteers. He started the war with the 55th New York Volunteer Regiment (Gardes de Lafayette). He visited General Wadsworth on Upton's Hill after the Union Army moved to occupy the area following the Confederate Army withdrawal.


The Regis de Trobriand



Boston Ticknor and Company - 1889




Public Domain

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Formation of the Potomac Army - pg. 103

A Strong division of twelve thousand men had in fact
moved in advance, in consequence of a retrograde
movement of the enemy, who had the evening before
evacuated his advanced positions at Upton Hill and
Munson Hill. It did not take us long to reach the
principal column. It followed a narrow and hilly road,
sometimes sunk between high slopes, sometimes crossing
swampy places on an embankment. The artillery
wagons at times encumbered the road, stopped by some
obstacle or by some accident. The men marched on
the sides of the roads, hurrying to close up the intervals
in the ranks.

A squadron of cavalry halted in a field marked the
place where General Keyes had established his headquarters
in a covered cart, from which he sent his orders
and watched the movements of his troops. Every
one was in good spirits ; no one remained behind.
When I reached Upton Hill, the brigade of General
Wadsworth had already taken possession. General
Wadsworth did not belong to the regular army. He
had not served before, except on the staff of General
McDowell, during the three months' campaign, so unhappily
terminated by the disaster of Bull Run. He
had a very large property in the State of New York,
where his family was highly respected. When, at the
commencement of the war, communication with Washington
was interrupted, he had hired a vessel, and loaded
it with provisions at his own expense, and went with it
himself, to better assure its arrival at Annapolis. This
generous devotion to the cause of the Union recommended
him to the favor of the government, for which,
besides thus using his fortune, he was destined at a
later day to lay down his life.
I found General Wadsworth under the roof of the
pillaged farmhouse. He was at that time fifty-four years old, but the ardor of his patriotism served instead
of youthful vigor, and his moral energy supported without
weakness the contrast between the rude camp life
and the luxurious existence which had, up to that time,
been his portion. A few broken stools were all there
was left of the furniture. Some doors taken off their
hinges served for tables ; some boards picked up in the
garden answered for benches. The Confederates, who
occupied the house the evening before, had written
their names with charcoal upon the defaced walls of all
the rooms. They had added, as soldiers usually do,
rough sketches, among which the most frequent was
the hanging of ^Ir. Lincoln. The legend was easily
altered to make the representation that of the hanging
of Mr. Jefferson Davis, which our soldiers did not fail
to do.
The house was surmounted by a cupola, the view
from which was of the most varied character. In the
gardens the stacks of arms were surrounded by soldiers
lying on the ground or digging in the vegetable garden ;
regiments were successively taking their positions in
line ; a dozen cannon were in battery, the cannoneers in
their places overlooking the valley, the officers examining
with their field glasses, the horizon covered with
forests, the caissons in the rear, the teams on the inner
slopes of the hill. In front the Leesburg road, upon
which galloped here and there some staff officers followed
by their orderlies, and the isolated hillock of
INIunson Hill, from the top of which already floated the
federal flag. When we arrived there, our men began
their installation behind a circular line of intrenchments
left unfinished by the enemy, by burning the half-rotten
straw upon which the first occupants had slept.
From this hill the rebels had been able to contemplate
at their ease the dome of the Capitol, the object of their desire in the land of Canaan which it was given
thera to have a sight of, but which they never entered.
At Bailey's Crossroads were massed several regiments,
among which was the " Garibaldi Guard," having
in it as many nationalities as companies ; a regiment
poorly commanded by a Hungarian colonel, whose suspicious
career was destined to end in the penitentiary
of Sing Sing. The French company wished to be trans
ferred to the Fifty-fifth. The captain commanding it
came himself to see me about it ; but it was too late.
The War Department, fearing to open the door to new
abuses, denied all requests of this kind, whether presented
by individuals or by bodies of men. This was
the fate of a petition signed by twenty Anderson
Zouaves, and presented by the Count de Paris to General
From Bailey's Crossroads to the Seminar^', a large
building for educational purposes, built upon the highest
point of the hills which surround Alexandria, nearly
all the countr)' traversed by the road w-as covered by
abatis. A few fortified points were \-isible at long distances
apart in front of the strongest works, of which
I have already spoken- But the pickets, with their reseni'es,
lined the road the whole distance. On this side
the movement was limited to connecting the ad\-ance
positions with the right, by way of Munson Hill.
The camps which we visited on our return were generally
well kept and in good order. We found there
the German division of General Blenker, all covered
with leaves, surrounded by little gardens with k^s,
where the remembrances of VaUrland Vt^v^ abundantly
watered with lager beer.
The general had served in Europe. He had sen,-ed in
Greece, in the Bavarian Legion, and later, in 1849, ^^
commanded a body of revolutionary troops in Germany. He received us under a great tent, which had e^•idently
been designed for hospital service. It was
double, of a bluish stuff, pleasant to the eye, and having
a wall tent in front as a vestibule. There was the
aid on dut\\ near whom was collected a numerous staff,
composed of foreign officers, nearly all Germans.
The demonstrative courtesy of General Blenker contrasted
singularly with the reserved manners of the
American officers of his rank. I saw him then for
the first time, and it would have seemed that I
was one of his most intimate friends. It was continually,
"My dear colonel,—my good comrade,

what a pleasure to see you here^" etc. His band, which
was excellent, regaled us with some choice selections
from the Italian ripertaire. Some real champagne was
served to usy upon a table loaded with fruit and delicious
cake ; we witnessed afterwards the parade of a regiment
of fine appearance, and apparently well instructed ; after
which we took our leave, with many compliments and

The career of Blenker ^<± not correspond with the
brilliancy of its commencement. He was not with
the Armv of the Potomac on the Peninsula, was relieved
from Ms ccMomand for acting according to his own will,
in contempt q£ military discipline prejudicial to the
government, in porticMis of Mrginia, where it was desired
to conciliate the pec^e: He died in the humble
poi^tioct from which^ the war had raised him, r^retting
a forttme lost by allowing himself to be dazzled by its
briTIgncy,—hurried, perhaps, to the tomb by the worst
of griefs, acoMding to the po^ : " II ricordarsi del
tempo felice^ nrfia misena.*^
In fine that portion o£ the Army of the Potomac had
at that tirae ^se advantage ov^er us <^ having beoi
under fire. A few skirmishes, of little importance but


Regis de Trobriand.png


Date Added
March 18, 2021
Item Type
, , ,
The Regis de Trobriand , “Four Years with the Army of the Potomac,” Mapping the Civil War in Arlington, accessed November 29, 2021,