Bugs Attack the White House

July 20, 1862

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes his fiancée from his office – which was adjacent to that of President Lincoln:  “My usual trouble in this room is from what the world is sometimes pleased to call ’big bugs’ — oftener humbugs — but at this present writing (ten o’clock P.M. Sunday night) the thing is quite reversed and little bugs are the pest.  The gas lights over my desk are burning brightly and the windows of the room are open, and all bugdom outside seems to have organized a storming party to take the gas light, in numbers that seem to exceed the contending hosts at Richmond.  The air is swarming with them, they are on the ceiling, the walls and the furniture in countless numbers, they are buzzing about the room, and butting their heads against the window panes, they are on my clothes, in my hair, and on the sheet I am writing on.  There are all here, the plebeian masses as well as the great and distinguished members of the oldest and largest patrician families –  the Millers, the Roaches, the Whites, the Blacks yea even the wary and diplomatic foreigners from the Musquito Kingdom. “They hold a high carnival, rather a perfect Saturnalia.  Intoxicated, and maddened and blinded by the bright gas-light, they dance and rush and fly about in wild gyrations until they are drawn into the dazzling but fatal heat of the gas-flame when they fall to the floor burned and maimed and mangled to the death, to be swept out into the dust and rubbish by the servant in the morning.”  He added: “I would go along with a long moral, and discourse with profound wisdom about its being not altogether inapt miniature picture of the folly and madness and intoxication and fate too of many big bugs, whom even in this room I witnessed buzzing and gyrating around the central sun and light and source of power of the government….”

General George B. McClellan writes President Lincoln: “I have again heard from returned prisoners that [Stonewall] Jackson’s troops commenced leaving Richmond about one week ago by rail either towards Gordonsville or Fredericksburg, & that the movement continued for some three (3) days by night & day.  This comes through so many sources that I feel obliged to call your close attention to.

I also learn that large numbers of conscripts are constantly arriving in Richmond from the south.  My cavalry scouts are today amusing themselves with the enemy at Malvern Hill.

Jackson’s movement may be against Buell — the fact of his taking the Gordonsville route would in tat case be accounted for by the necessity of their keeping the Petersburg & Danville roads free for the transit of wounded, recruits and supplies.  In any event I beg to urge concentration of the masses of troops in front of Washington, & the sending of cavalry far to the front.  If I am to have Burnside’s tops I would be glad to avail myself of at least a portion of them to occupy a point on the south bank of James River.

Health of the command improving a little.  I should be glad to hear daily from Pope’s outposts — it is important that I should do so.

Published in: on July 20, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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