Saturday, June 09, 2012
As had happened a few days previous the oppressive heat had lifted, replaced by cool and pleasant weather. It was the kind of day that placed everyone in a good mood and anxious to strut their stuff in front of foreign generals who had come to see for themselves George Brinton McClellan's Army of the Potomac. Fitz-John Porter's Fifth Corps, "consisting of regulars and volunteers, both artillery and infantry" fell under the watchful eyes of the distinguished Spanish General Don Joaquín Baldomero Fernández-Espartero y Alvarez de Toro, 1st Prince of Vergara, 1st Duke of la Victoria, 1st Duke of Morella, 1st Count of Luchana, 1st Viscount of Banderas, or General Prim for short, and his staff. Third Brigade commander Daniel Butterfield, who spoke fluent Spanish, translated for Prim, who was astonished these were not professional soldiers, so ramrod straight and able to maintain perfect unified step when passing in front of him as they did.
The Fifth Corps was equally impressed with Prim, who was on leave from commanding Spanish forces in Mexico. "His uniform was all covered with gold & silver laces on his breast...His cap I should think was made of silver lace altogether." Though born of ordinary parentage and of ordinary height, there was nothing ordinary about this man who had turned his back on the priesthood to join the Spanish army when just 13. Humble circumstances overcome he had emerged as one of his country's leading progressive reformers and conversely would die a very wealthy and powerful man.
George Brinton McClellan, who himself was not from humble circumstances, had for his part taken a lump of clay and by sheer force of will molded farmers, laborers, mechanics, carpenters, butchers, barbers, fisherman, and violin makers into disciplined soldiers. Mutual pride fairly beamed. "I wish you could have seen the troops to day. It would be a sight worth seeing to you folks at home." Gone were the flabby bellies and soft hands. "The Regts here all look like bronzed veterans as they realy are."