Camp On Flat Top Mountain,
May 20, (Tuesday), 1862.
Dearest: — Here we are “back again” — fifty or sixty miles in rear of the advanced position we had taken. The short of it is, since the Rebel disasters in eastern Virginia they have thrown by the railroad a heavy force into this region, forcing us back day by day, until we have gained a strong position which they are not likely, I think, to approach. I do not think there is any blame on the part of our leaders. We were strong enough to go ahead until recent events changed the plans of the enemy, and made it impossible [for us] to reinforce sufficiently. I was much vexed at first, but I suspect it is all right. We have had a great deal of severe fighting — fragmentary — in small detachments, but very severe. We have had narrow escapes. My whole command was nearly caught once; the Twenty-eighth barely escaped. General Cox and staff got off by the merest chance. Colonel Scammon's brigade was in close quarters, etc., etc. And yet by good luck, we have had no serious disaster. We have lost tents and some small quartermaster stores, but nothing important. In the fighting we have had the best of it usually. The total loss of General Cox's command is perhaps two hundred to three hundred, including killed, wounded, prisoners, and missing. The enemy has suffered far more. In my fight at Giles, the enemy had thirty-one killed and many wounded; our total casualties and missing, about fifteen. We shall remain here until reinforced or new events make it possible to move.
I see the Thirty-third, not the Twenty-third, gets the credit of taking Giles. Such is fame. No Thirty-third in this country. [The papers also said] Major Cowley not Comly, and so on. Well, all right. General Fremont complimented me for “energy and courage” and the Twenty-third for “gallantry” to this division. So it is all right.
Jim is here in our brigade (the Twelfth Regiment) looking very well. Dr. Joe well. Adjutant Avery is to take this to Raleigh only twenty miles off. We are connected by telegraph with you too, so we are near again for a season.
Show this to Steve [Stephenson].
SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 274-5