1862 August 31 Salt Sulphur Springs

                      Head Qtrs  Dept SWVa
                         Salt Sulphur Springs
                        August 31st 1862

My Dear Captain
                     It seems ages since the
pleasure of a cosy, quiet chat with you
has been offered me and yet the fault
is not solely mine, nor want of inclination
the cause Ever since here we’ve been, the
General has been on a tour of reconnoissance
to & for the different positions and commands
or had us actively employed on other duty
and by no means in our legitimate sphere–
Hope told a flattering tale, of this Dept
with its rapid advances, its several mountain
passes, that admitted of easy and extensive
fortifications, stubborn resistance and difficult
capture if assailed.  Had I was  [?] into the
believing this, just the field, a youth unknown
to fortune & fame unknown should seek in order to lead
a forlorn hope and thereby achieve mention.
But wonders never cease and we find ourself
with a conquered and demoralized army in the

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face of a foe, vastly superior in force, spirit
& equipment. Hence we have quietly seated
ourselves upon that part of the body, most adapted
by nature, to such a consumation and been
like Macawber waiting for something to
turn up–Like that worthy Gent we were gratified
about a week passed–news came that Enemy’s
whole force had ‘skedaddled” to the rear
going beyond Kanawha it is supposed
to reinforce Buell or Pope–unless we
follow Othello’s occupation is gone.
                                            Being soon
disgusted and tired out doing little or nothing we
gave utterance to mutterings loud & deep requested
the Genls permission to ask for a transfer.  He
wouldn’t hear of our leaving him, for said he “are
on the eve of an advance and must have my Engr
officers with me then”–that upon reaching Kanawha
Valley he expected to swell his force by 3 or 4
new Regt of which he wished Robinson & self
to each command one as colonel–When a Comdg
Genl throws such a barrier in the way what
power have we within ourselves to oerleap it
to quiet our troubled spirits he sends Robinson

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off to Richmond and our humble servant on a
Board of Examination of those country gallants
recently dignified with the title of commdg officers–
Bah! am thoroughly disgusted with the elective systems
wherever tis applied–Would decline the election to
a Colonelcy, if these ignoramuses, who can neither
spell, read, or write had the power to elevate me into
state with the sole exception of Lt Col Derricks (W. Point)
Batt (engr Corps C.S.A. Brother to our Derrrick)
Battalion we found all the officers, deficient in
every requisite of a soldier and gentleman-In
most cases on parade with their shirt-tales out below.
                    The official acts of this Engr. Dept. have
been very limited and confined to fortifying one
Pass the “Narrows” by constructing two small
casements Bullet Proof Batteries and some such
“little works up stairs” under the supervision of Lt
Elmore–apropos of Elmore I have now nothing
for him to do and place him “a votre service,”  He is
quite reliable & efficient–Hart is off on special
duty for the Genl inspecting & looking into the
supposed abuses of the Nitre Bureau–Have attempted
reconnoissances, but the Cavalry of this command are

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such paltroons that they run & desert a fellow at
sight of a Yank or Union man  when most do
congregate in these parts, not wishing to be captured
have given up the idea and quietly accepted fate
John Robinson is very much angered
mortified and chagrined at the defeat of
his plans for an expedition to the Balt & Ohio
R R & fears he may appear in a false light
before the Dept.   He was certainly made a
victim of misplaced confidence by the
Genl. Comdg whose assurances he  bel[ieve]d–Genl
Jenkins–Comdg Cavalry & others from Kanawha, all
politicians have wormed themselves into the
Genls affections until they now hold the balance
of power–Fearing that we might be ordered to
join genl Lee’s army, -they got up a cavalry esc[a]p[a]de
to the enemy’s rear, stealing Robinson plans,
hurried off before his arrival, half cocked and
without an implement to execute them with  Yet forcing
the Genl to advance his whole force Kanawha
-wise in support. This pernicious & infernal
clique, imagine if “Kanawha” is saved the
Confederacy is also–that the centre of this social

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system is there found and with its Salt Works, the nation will
be saved.  Hence next week we move bag &
baggage “westward ho!”
                                       When I last wrote was on the
eve of leaving to place a command (Wharton’s) in
position to shell the enemy out of theirs
at Packs Ferry.  Well we shelled away for a
hour or more with mountain [?] & [?] piece
kicking up a lot of dust and a great rumpus
without death to any thing except a squad
of 5 men at the enemy’s piece and the pack horse, yes
the historian of the Expdn with his graphic &
prolific pen makes a fine story of it, putting down
the enemy’s loss at 30 &c and total destruction of
their supplies and camp- but with Falstaff can
exclaim “how the world is given to lying”-
I wish you could run up a spend some
time with us, twould be of benefit to you
Just think of really cold nights requiring
a blanket & so over one to keep up warmth
and days charmingly cool, with plenty of
creature comforts in the way of eatables to

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Rumor comes to us from Richmond, that Miss
Helen is engaged to and intends marrying
Walter Harrison–is it true?
                           Write me soon
Would like much to have your views on the
recent Battles and state of the Country
Excuse Bad paper & pen with love to self
& Regards to family–
                         Believe me as ever
                             Your admirer friend & wellwisher
                                            R.L. Poor

Capt A. L. Rives
   Chier Eng Bureau

Alfred Landon Rives, 1830-1903, Chief of Engineers to Robert E. Lee

MSS 38-348

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