June 24, 1862
[From a letter in the N. Y. Tribune.]
Washington, D. C., June 19, 1862.
On Friday evening last a party of members of Congress and their friends embarked on board of one of the Government steamers for an excursion to the recent scenes of interest in the campaign of the Peninsula. Among the notables thus engaged were Wade, Rice, Representatives Diven, Franchot, Smith and Van Valkenburg of New York; Perry of new Jersey; Sloan of Wisconsin; Campbell and Davis of Pennsylvania, and Goodwin of Maine.—There were also Gov. Pierpoint of Virginia, with Mr. Lamb, a member of his Council; Col. John Goddard, and several other gentlemen from Maine, Capt. Ira Goodnow, the popular doorkeeper of the House and certain other gentlemen from the District.
Stopping only at Yorktown, they there found Gen. Van Alen in hourly apprehension of the inroad from the rebel guerrillas who had cut the railroad from Pamunkey, and were believed to be threatening the public peace at Yorktown. The gallantry and patriotism of these extempore navigators was instantly on the alert, and their offer of the two guns with which the steamer was armed was promptly accepted by the General, as well as the personal services of the brave men themselves. This danger believed to have been thus timely averted, they proceeded to White House, and thence by railroad to the scenes of the recent battle before Richmond. Here the party scattered in various directions for the day, to meet and return to White House.
The incidents of the excursion now became more individualized, and as they generally appear to consider them, of more interest. Almost every shade of opinion as to the manner of conducting the war appears to be represented in the political character of those composing the party, . . . Gov. Peirpoint, on behalf of the loyal people of Virginia, most emphatically indorsed the views of Senator Wade, and demanded that every house, horse, mule, cow or chicken, or anything else that was capable of or did afford aid and comfort to one rebel should be appropriated, and immediately, to the aid and comfort of our Union soldiers.
. . . The heavy labors and duties imposed upon our soldiers also excited the indignation of our party. Gov. Peirpoint was particularly severe on this mode of conducting the war. Noting the fact that the rebels performed all the fatigue duty of the camps by the labor of negroes, and kept the soldiers fresh for duty in the field, he says our own soldiers are harassed in a hostile and miasmatic climate, by alternate labors as soldiers and pickets and skirmishers, and then throwing aside the rifle, take up the spade and do the work of common laborers in throwing up entrenchments and constructing redoubts and fortifications. This he thought unjust as impolitic. The Peninsula and its adjoining precincts were full of negroes, most of them already accustomed to such labors. He would take these contrabands, no matter who claimed them, and march them to the front to be mustered into the service for that kind of labor. Officers in the rebel army hold property within the control of our armies on which are hundreds and thousands of these negroes, and the Government should at once appropriate them. It is not improper to add that these sentiments were pretty generally concurred in.
. . . As the party at the Navy Yard were returning, Gov. Peirpoint, whose presence was beginning to become known, and to attract interest, was made the object of something like an official appeal. Some days since a Rebel Secesh and Union man got into a somewhat animated discussion, which finally resulted in the Union giving the Rebel a most godly pounding, as he was in duty bound to do. But having, through a mistaken clemency, spared his life, the ungrateful Rebel prosecuted him for an assault, but the magistrate before whom the hearing was had, being sound according to the Constitution and the laws, decided, most righteously, “served him right.” The second time discomfited Rebel next appealed to Gen. Viele, Governor of the District, who set aside the decision and remanded the case to the hearing of another magistrate who has not taken the oath of allegiance, nor according to the story of these Union men who represented the case to Gov. Peirpoint, does he intend to do so. Gov. Peirpoint promises to use his influence, personal and official, as far as practicable in the premises, to do justice, and the other parties, after consultation on the matter, left with the intention of putting in force some very summary process upon the person of the said Rebel official. . . .
Leaving Norfolk, a short visit was paid to General Dix at Fortress Monroe, in whose politeness the whole party are indebted for kind attentions. Taking leave of the veteran General at the boat, the faces of all were once more turned towards home, where, after a most delightful trip up the Potomac, all safety arrived, . . .
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: June 1862