Camp Number 5, Princeton, May 2, 1862. 4:30 P. M.
Sir: — Company B and a company of cavalry scouted the road towards Wytheville several miles today. They report the enemy all gone to Rocky Gap. None, bushwhackers, or others, anywhere in the direction near here. Numbers of militia who were in service here yesterday are reported escaped to their homes and willing to take the oath of allegiance and surrender their arms. A cavalry company scouted the road towards Giles. They report the Forty-fifth retreated in great haste to Giles, saying they found Princeton just occupied by two thousand cavalry and eight thousand infantry. Their panic on falling in with Colonel Paxton's cavalry was even more complete than was supposed. They left knapsacks, blankets, and baggage. They had marched over twenty miles yesterday to get here and were worn-out.
There was a mistake as to the enemy firing on our couriers. No bushwhackers have been seen between here and Flat Top since we passed. Three parties have passed the entire distance since baggage trains. Negro servants of officers straggling along alone, etc., etc., and nobody disturbed by the enemy. The courier rode past a picket post of one of my scouting parties refusing to halt, and was therefore fired on.
Captain Gilmore is here with his company. Lieutenant Cooper and property left at Shady Spring is here. Forage is turning up in small quantities in a place but amounts to an important item in the aggregate. Fifteen head of cattle have been gathered up. There are sheep and hogs of some value.
Only twelve men reported excused from duty out of seven hundred Twenty-third men who came up. Company C I left behind to look after their wounded. They will come up tomorrow. Russell G. French will perhaps be crippled for life, possibly die. Can't he be put in the position of a soldier enlisted, or something, to get his family the pension land, etc., etc.? What can be done? He was a scout in our uniform on duty at the time of receiving his wound.
If the present indications can be relied on, this region will soon return to its allegiance. If nothing new of interest transpires, will not one dispatch each day be sufficient hereafter, with the understanding that on any important event occurring a messenger will be sent?
R. B. Hayes,
Lieutenant-colonel 23D Regiment O. V. I.
SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 244-5