|The Union attack at Pocotaligo Bridge|
—Private George Grenville Benedict, of the 12th Vermont Infantry Regiment, writes a letter he intends to publish in the Burlington Free Press, his hometown newspaper, and makes observations about hospital conditions in the Army of the Potomac:
What do you think of a bath of thirty-six hours’ duration in Washington dirt? That is what we have been enjoying yesterday and to-day. It had been quite dusty for a day or two and you must remember that we are on a bare surface of clay, denuded of grass and easily ground into the finest, most adhesive and most disagreeable dust in the world—the dust of Washington. It had sifted pretty thoroughly over and into every thing in our tents, when yesterday morning the wind began to blow. It commenced before light with a furious gust, which woke our thousand sleepers, and many other thousands around us, to find the dust pouring in upon us through every opening and crevice. We sprang up and with blankets and over-coats closed the openings; but the dust was still there, kept in constant motion by the slatting of our canvas walls, and the only way was to lie down again and take it as it came. What a dirty crew crawled out of the tents that morning! It was of little use to brush or wash —which latter habit, by the way, has to be indulged with moderation in our camp, for we are short of water. . . . water is now a luxury if not a rarity, in the camp of the Twelfth. The wind kept up and the dust with it, and it is not fairly down yet. It is a peculiar life, when you must eat, breathe and drink earth, instead of food, air and water. You open your mouth, it is as if some one had put in a spoonful of pulverized clay. You put your hand to your hair, it feels like a dust brush. You touch your cheek, it is a clod. You place your finger in your ear, it is like running it into a hole in the ground. You draw from one of the dust holes in your clothes, the mud-stained rag which a few hours since was your clean handkerchief, and wipe a small pile of "sacred soil" from the corner of either eye. You look on the faces of your comrades, they are of the earth, earthy. The dust penetrates every fibre of every article of clothing; you feel dirty clear through. But it is of no use to attempt to describe it; it is unutterable—this plague of dust.
—George Templeton Strong, of New York City, writes in his journal, despairing of falling Republican fortunes without any decisive battlefield victories: