A fine, warm day. I rode with Avery and an escort of twelve dragoons under Captain Harrison (a Union doctor of Monroe County), to look for a new camping ground, ten or twelve miles from here, at or near Jumping Branch, on the pike leading from Raleigh to Packs Ferry. The village last winter was the rendezvous of the enemy who were threatening Raleigh and was burnt, except two or three houses, by Major Comly to get rid of the nest. We dined with an intelligent Union farmer, a Mr. Upton, whose house was spared. A good spring for the men's use and a tolerable stream for the animals and washing. But no camping ground which we would take in exchange for Flat Top as long as water can be got here.
While at Mr. Upton's, we heard from an artilleryman that after we left camp news was received at headquarters that McClellan had entered Richmond yesterday! Prior advices led us strongly to hope, almost to believe, it was true. We all said we believed it. How suddenly McClellan loomed up into a great general — a future (not distant future) President! We thought of a speedy end of the war and a return home; of the loved ones' happiness at home! I could toast McClellan, “slow but sure,” “better late than never,” and the like.
On reaching camp our hopes were cruelly dashed. The only dispatches received, meagre, ambiguous, and obscure, indicate disaster rather than victory! That after six days’ hard fighting McClellan has lost fifteen to twenty thousand [men] and is twenty or thirty miles further distant from Richmond than when the battle began! No disaster is told other than this; but if it is true that he has been beaten back to a point thirty-five or forty miles from Richmond, we are where I feared we were on the third. But these dispatches are so deceptive as to complicated and extensive movements that I must hear further before I give up to such gloomy anticipations. But I am anxious!
SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 296-7