Front Royal, VA
June 6th 1862
I had to stop yesterday when the mail left.
To attempt to describe all the points of interest on our march would be an endless job. A general description of the face of the country will have to suffice.
At Manassas Junction the land lays level and continues so for about six or eight miles where it becomes undulating and the first range of the Blue Ridge shows in the distance. For three or four miles before entering Thoroughfare Gap the railroad curves around the foot of hills it would be hard to cut through. The Gap is very narrow there being scarcely room between the mountains for a wagon to pass by the railroad track. It widens rapidly on the western side and there is quite a settlement there. After passing this place we enter upon a fine rolling country which is bordered on the west by another and a higher ridge of mountains. These as well as those further west are cultivated to their extreme summit. Wheat fields are seen so high up that the clouds continually hang upon them.
Any number of small villages line the railroad but all the stores are closed and but few inhabitants are to be seen. The last ridge we pass is that in which Manassas Gap is situated and so sudden do we discover its beauties that we are almost bewildered by them. After passing through a cut so deep that the rocks seem to almost meet over head we step out to get a view of one of the prettiest mountain scenes I ever saw. The surface assumes its rolling character again this side of the Blue Ridge and gradually descends to the river where it is again nearly level but still partaking of an undulating nature. We have a large number of field pieces mounted on this bank of the river which will cover the retreat of the small force we have beyond, should they be driven in and prevent any force of the enemy from crossing.
If we fail to capture the most of the rebel force in the valley you may lay it to the quarrelling among the Generals. They all want to command this move and more than one mistake has occurred here from this cause. Gen Shields has the advance and leaves directions how he wants his reserves brought up to be within supporting distance. McDowell changes these directions and has a quarrel with Gen Ord.
When McDowell first joined us, he rode by while our brigade was at a rest, many of the boys made a break for the roadside to see who was coming when it was shouted all down the line "Come back, its only McDowell" and he must have heard it at least a hundred times. The next day (the 2d) while we were waiting in the field here Gen Shields rode by his arm in a sling and a pleasant smile on his face. As he rode by Brigade after Brigade filled the air with the heartiest cheers. It was the most hearty reception I ever heard. He was then on his way to cut off Jackson who had gone with a small force toward Shansburg. Within fifteen minutes after Shields has passed and before the cheers had died away in the distance Gen McDowell and staff rode by and another rush was made for the fence when the same shout was heard again that had greeted him before "Come back, its only McDowell". Not a cheer was raised and the over-bearing general rode by in silence which must have cut him after witnessing the ovation tendered Gen Shields an officer under his command.
Three soldiers were drowned in the river today. They were crossing in a boat which capsized.