On November 20, in Northern Virginia, between Munson's Hill and Bailey's Crossroads, McClellan conducted the most impressive military review of his career. By all contemporary accounts, the weather had dramatically changed to cold, wintry conditions.
Private Robert Knox Sneden of E Company, 40th New York Volunteers (Mozart Regiment), described in his diary leaving his camp in Alexandria, Virginia, at 5 a.m. that morning to participate in a Grand Review. Playing bands and waving flags accompanied the soldiers. Their pride was evident in the polished brass of their buttons and the gleam on their guns. Sneden described their arrival at Bailey's "Cross Roads" in vivid terms:
It was a fine, though cold and windy day. Patches of snow were on the ground when we arrived there about 10 a.m., which made it muddy in places. Many regiments had overcoats on the men. Ours had not as the colonel wanted to show off the fine uniforms. The brigades were drawn up in columns while general McClellan and staff with President Lincoln rode up and down the lines while the bands played and a battery fired salutes. . . .
The heavy and light artillery with cannon polished up like gold, and the ugly looking black Parrott guns [rifled cannon] were drawn up in a long line, while the cavalry were massed in squadrons. Then about 2 p.m. all marched past in review. . . . About half of the men had to stand in the cold wind for hours. Nearly everyone was thoroughly chilled. Many soon filled up the camp hospitals. . . .
The President with his bodyguard . . . was cheered from end to end of the long lines of troops. . . . The review lasted until 5 p.m. and all were not off the ground until darkness had set in. As the men had brought no rations and had been up and marching since five in the morning, all were hungry, thirsty, and cold. They got to camp much quicker than on going out to the review. They were all much elated and no one ever can forget the splendid military sight [it] afforded. All the cooks in camp were at work for half of the night when we returned at 7 p.m. in a drizzling rain.
For Evelyn L. Haught's complete essay as a PDF file, please see The Grand Review of November 20, 1861, A New Union Army Parades at Bailey's Crossroads, VA.