Camp Near Beckley's, Easter Sunday, April 20, 1862.
Dearest: — We left Raleigh the day before yesterday and came here intending to continue our march at least as far south as Flat Top Mountain. But just as we had got our tents up the rain began to fall and by morning all movement was out of the question. It has rained ever since. The streets of the camp are trodden into mortar-beds, the weather is getting cold, and you would naturally think that a gloomier set of fellows could hardly be found. But we are jolly enough. A year ago we used to read of these things and sympathize with the suffering soldiers. But a year of use has changed all that. Like sailors in a storm, the soldiers seem stimulated to unnatural mirth by the gloomy circumstances. We are guessing as to when it will stop. We hope this is the last day of the storm, but there is no trusting to experience in the Virginia mountains. Every new storm has a new set of phenomena. The men sing a great deal, play fiddle, banjo, etc. At the stated calls, the fifer, buglers, and band exert themselves to play their liveliest airs, and so we manage to get on.
I (when alone) get out your two pictures and have a quiet talk with you. Joe is in the next tent with Major Comly and Dr. McCurdy singing sacred music. I am alone in a tall Sibley tent writing this on a book on my knee, my ink on my trunk. The mess-chest open is before me; next to it, saddle, etc., then India-rubber cloth and leggings, old hat, haversack, glass, and saddle-bags; by my side, trunk; behind me cot with overcoat and duds, and on the other side of the tent Avery's truck in similar disorder. We have a sheet-iron stove in the centre — no fire now. So you see us on a muddy sidehill. I can't find time to write often now. If we are resting I don't feel like writing; when going, of course I can't.
Send this to Mother Hayes. She is seventy years old this month, about these days. She will think I am forgetting her if I don't send her some “scrabble” (western Virginia for "scribbling") of mine. — Love to all at home.
SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 232-3