Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Sardis Birchard, April 22, 1862

Camp South Of Raleigh, Virginia, April 22, 1862.

Dear Uncle: — The ugly chap on the enclosed bill is Governor Letcher of Virginia. He is entitled to our lasting gratitude. He is doing more for us in this State than any two brigadiers I can think of. He has in all the counties, not occupied by our troops, little squads of volunteers busily engaged in hunting up and “squadding in,” as they call it, all persons capable of military duty. Thousands who wish to escape this draft are now hiding in the mountains or seeking refuge in our lines. Meantime the rascals are plundering and burning in all directions, making friends for the Union wherever they go. The defeat of the enemy in eastern Virginia sends this cobhouse tumbling very fast.

We left Raleigh last week and have been struggling against storms and freshets ever since. Today it has snowed, rained, sleeted, and turned off bright but gusty a dozen times. Camp muddy, tents wet, but all glad to be started.

I have for the present an independent command of the Twenty-third Regiment, a section of McMullen's Battery, and a small body of horse. We are the advance of Fremont's column. We are directed to move by “easy marches” forward south. The design being, I suppose, to overtake us in force by the time we meet any considerable body of the enemy. We meet and hear of small bodies of enemy now constantly, but as yet nothing capable of serious resistance.

I see that Buckland's Seventy-second was in the great battle at Pittsburg. Glad they are not reported as sharing the disgrace which seems to attach to some of the other new regiments. There was shocking neglect there, I should guess. Generals, not the regiments, ought to be disgraced. A sudden surprise by a great army with cavalry and artillery can't be had without gross negligence. The regiments surprised ought not [to] be held up to scorn if they are stricken with a panic in such a case. A few thousand men can slip up unperceived sometimes, but for an army of fifty or sixty thousand men to do it — pshaw! it's absurd. What happened to Buckland's regiment? Send your newspapers of Fremont giving letters from the regiment.

I see that your friend McPherson* is one of the distinguished. Good.

Colonel Scammon is back with the brigade, Thirtieth, Thirty-fourth, and a regiment of cavalry.

R. B. Hayes.

* James B. McPherson, a native of Sandusky County. He was at that time chief engineer on General Grant's staff. A brilliant and able officer who rose to the position of corps commander. He was killed in battle at Atlanta, July 22, 1864, — the officer highest in rank and command killed during the war. His grave is at Clyde, Ohio, marked by an imposing monument. One of the entrances to Spiegel Grove bears his name.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 233

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