Propitious Weather and a Splendid Spectacle – The Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac

May 23, 1865 (Tuesday)

Below are photos of today’s Grand Review culled from the Library of Congress. They are accompanied by selections of print from the New York Times.

Spectators at the Capitol building.
Spectators at the Capitol building.

The Army of the Potomac has passed in review. The first day’s pageant is over, and to the correspondent falls the duty of depicting a scene almost devoid of incident, save in its grand aspiration. Every circumstance has combined to make it a complete success. The weather has been magnificent; the air, delightfully tempered by the rains of the past week, is cool and fragrant, and dust is for the time subdued.

Washington has been filled as it never was filled before; the hotel-keepers assert that the pressure upon their resources never was so great, and thousands of people have been nightly turned away to seek a place of rest where best they might.

General Humphreys and staff.
General Humphreys and staff.

At four o’clock this morning reveille was sounded in the camps of all the organizations composing this vast army, and by six o’clock breakfast had been eaten, baggage packed and loaded on the wagons, and the troops were ready for duty. The assembly call was sounded in the Ninth Corps at six o’clock precisely, and half an hour afterward the First Division of that corps, Maj.-Gen. WILCOX commanding, formed on a street east of the Capitol, and moved down till the head of the column rested on Third-street east.

The main stand on the left of the avenue and immediately in front of the President’s house, was that devoted to President JOHNSON, Gen. GRANT, who is reviewing officer, the members of the Cabinet, prominent military and naval officers, heads of departments, the Diplomatic Corps, and the ladies. This platform was neatly roofed and provided with seats for several hundred people. Much of its rough exterior was tastefully concealed by a profuse drapery of national and State colors, while in the folds at intervals flashed out the names of Shiloh, Donelson, Stone River, Vicksburgh, &c.

The Cavalry!
The Cavalry!

Both to the right and left of this stand were long-raised platforms, with seats for a thousand or more, provided by private munificence, for sick and wounded soldiers, but to which many officers and some civilians were admitted by ticket.

Just here is the most exciting little incident of the day. CUSTER leads his famous division around the corner of Fifteenth-street when some fair hand throws out a beautiful wreath; the General catches it upon his arm, but the movement so frightens the magnificent stallion which the General rides, that he becomes unmanagable and dashes up the avenue at a frightful speed; but CUSTER is too good a horseman to be so easily unseated; minus hat and sabre, holding on to the wreath with one hand, he brings his steed down with the other, and curbing him severely, brings him back to his good behavior and in his place at the head of the division, and horse and rider, with superb spirit, have afforded the spectators the finest equestrian exhibition of the day.

The artillery!
The artillery!

CUSTER and his steed gone, now come the troopers, each man in this division being decorated with a scarf or tie, known as the Custer Tie, red in color, and made of any material, from the finest silk or merino to the coarsest flannel, thrown back over the shoulders, giving the entire body a peculiar and interesting appearance.

The cavalry corps, with their artillery brigade, have occupied one hour and fifteen minutes in passing this point. The infantry forces proper of the army, the Ninth Corps, Maj.-Gen. PARKE, began moving by the reviewing officer at 11:15 A.M. Enthusiastic friends have showered bouquets and wreaths of laurel upon officers, men and horses. Gens. PARKE and WILSON are bedecked with these sweet gifts, even to the trappings of their saddles. The Ninth Army Corps! Where has it not been?

The infantry!
The infantry!

Oh those flags, slowly but appreciatively, the audience begin to mark and applaud the tattered banners, some stained and worn, others torn to threads, barely clinging to the staff, and others still carefully gathered around the staff, the threads all too priceless less to lose a single one. How many volumes those banners speak; how much more eloquent than any words are they?

Soldiers during the review.
Soldiers during the review.

The Fifth Corps, numbering about 23,000 men, moved across the Long Bridge at 3 o’clock this morning, and forward on Tenth-street south, with its right resting on Maryland-avenue. It also filed to the right and marched along Maryland-avenue, passing around the capitol in the rear of the Nineteenth Corps, followed by Gen. WAINWRIGHT’s artillery brigade. During the interval between the passage of the corps, the spectators on either side rushed to the front of the stand, where were the President, GRANT, SHERMAN and others, and indulged in an informal review of these gentlemen, who bore their inquisitive glances gracefully, and after repeated calls they severally arose and bowed their acknowledgments.

Detail of a much larger shot of infantry.
Detail of a much larger shot of infantry.

The Fifth Corps began passing the reviewing officer at 12:35 P.M., and finished at 3:45 P.M., passing the entire column in one hour and ten minutes.

After a few moments intervened, during which the spectators again reviewed GRANT, SHERMAN and the President at close range, the trefoil of the Second Army Corps advanced out of Fifteenth-street, the fiery, accomplished HUMPHREYS at their head, in his best mood. This corps had moved from its camp early in the morning, and formed on Fourteenth-street, south, with its right resting on Maryland-avenue. It filed to the right and followed the Fifth Corps around the Capitol. The artillery brigade of Lieut.-Col. J.C. HAZARD, accompanied this corps, taking its place in line behind the First Division, leaving the Third Division to act as rear-guards of the army.

Officer looked much like Jefferson C. Davis, perhaps.
Officer looked much like Jefferson C. Davis, perhaps.

The whole army, numbering in the aggregate over eighty thousand men, thus passed a given point in just five hours and a half, marching by company front of twenty miles. This is a very remarkable feat.

During the entire march along Pennsylvania-avenue no unpleasant incident occurred to mar the general harmony. The street was kept entirely clear of pedestrians not belonging to the army, and by this careful management no opportunity for accident or disorderly proceedings occurred. All the liquor establishments were closed by order yesterday, and will remain so until Thursday morning.

The day has been memorable and enjoyable beyond expectation or precedent.

Spectators near the review stand.
Spectators near the review stand.

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