Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Lucy Webb Hayes, June 12, 1862

Camp On Flat Top, Virginia, June 12, 1862.

Dearest: — I began a letter to you yesterday intending to finish it after the mail came in; I can't find it. No loss. I recollect I told you to [give] Mrs. Sergeant McKinley ten dollars on account of the sergeant, which please to do. I probably also said that up on this mountain the weather is colder than Nova Zembla, and that since the enemy left us we have been in a state of preparation to go ahead — which means do-nothingness, so far as soldiers are concerned. I have now an expedition out under Major Comly, not important enough for a regimental commander, so I am here in inglorious idleness.

A day's life runs about thus: — At 5 A. M., one or the other of our two Giles County contrabands, Calvin or Samuel, comes in hesitatingly and in a modest tone suggests, “Gentlemen, it is ’most breakfast time.” About ten minutes later, finding no results from his first summons, he repeats, perhaps with some slight variation. This is kept up until we get up to breakfast, that is to say, sometimes cold biscuits, cooked at the hospital, sometimes army bread, tea and coffee, sugar, sometimes milk, fried pork, sometimes beef, and any “pison” or fraudulent truck in the way of sauce or pickles or preserves (!) (good peaches sometimes), which the sutler may chance to have. After breakfast there is a little to be done; then a visit of half an hour to brigade headquarters, Colonel Scammon's; then a visit to division ditto, General Cox's, where we gossip over the news, foreign and domestic (all outside of our camps being foreign, the residue domestic), then home again, and novel reading is the chief thing till dinner. I have read "Ivanhoe," "Bride of Lammermoor," and [one] of Dickens' and one of Fielding's the last ten days.

P. M., generally ride with Avery from five to ten miles; and as my high-spirited horse has no other exercise, and as Carrington (Company C boy) is a good forager and feeds him tip-top, the way we go it is locomotive-like in speed. After this, more novel reading until the telegraphic news and mails, both of which come about the same hour, 5:30 P. M. Then gossip on the news and reading newspapers until bedtime — early bedtime, 9 P. M. We have music, company drills, — no room for battalion drills in these mountains, — and target practice with other little diversions and excitements, and so “wags the world away.”

We get Cincinnati papers in from four to six days. My Commercial is running again. Keep it going. Write as often as you can. I think of you often and with so much happiness; then I run over the boys in my mind — Birt, Webb, Ruddy. The other little fellow I hardly feel acquainted with yet, but the other three fill a large place in my heart.

Keep up good heart. It is all coming out right. There will be checks and disappointments, no doubt, but the work goes forwards. We are much better off than I thought a year ago we should be. — A year ago! Then we were swearing the men in at Camp Chase. Well, we think better of each other than we did then, and are very jolly and friendly.

“I love you s'much.” Love to all.


Since writing this we have heard of Fremont's battle the other side of the Alleghanies in the Valley of Virginia. It will probably set us a-going again southward. — R.

Mrs. Hayes.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 288-90

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