The following account is just too good not to pass on. While on leave from the regiment (Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry), Captain Samuel Fiske, in command of Company G, stopped in Washington to attend to several matters of varying degrees of importance. Late in March, the following report appeared in the Springfield, Mass. Republican newspaper under Fiske’s pen-name, Dunn Browne:
One thing was to hunt up in the dead-letter office a package of important papers, directed to me in the mail, that had somehow gone astray. Nothing easier than that, certainly not, if there had been anybody in the proper office to attend to my case. But I called at the noble post office building; after some inquiries, found the office of the polite Dr. __, who attends to that branch of the business; was ushered into a fine apartment, elegantly furnished; and sat down by a cozy fire to wait for the officer, who happened to be out for the moment. It was right in the middle of the official day, but there I sat and waited five minutes, ten minutes, wondering whether the head of the dead-letter office was a dead-head or no.
After about fifteen minutes of impatient waiting, for my business pressed me (foolish fellow! I might just as well have waited there by that pleasant fire all the day), I rummaged around in the adjoining rooms, and asked various clerks for information of the good doctor. “Oh, he will be in in a few minutes.” “Well, but isn’t there anyone else who can attend to my business?” No, there was no one else. I must wait a few minutes. Twenty minutes, twenty-five minutes passed, but no Dr. __ came; and I left to fulfill an appointment in another part of the city.
Well, it was a small matter that a man should be out of his office for twenty-five minutes. Yes, and it was a small matter that I was attending to anyway. It was only some documents for half a dozen dead soldiers killed at Gettysburg, which, if I could obtain, I might draw the back pay due to the widows and mothers and orphans. I doubt very much if I could have gotten the pay in one day, if I had found the papers, judging from the rest of my experience. Here was one case of failure because a clerk wasn’t there when I wanted him. Most of my failures were because a clerk was there.
It certainly is a source of never-ending amazement and chagrin to me to see how little things ever change in Washington, DC.