Thursday, March 16, 2017

Diary of Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes: Wednesday, August 6, 1862

Camp Green Meadows. — This has been a day of excitement and action. Before I was out of bed a courier came saying our pickets on New River above Bluestone were probably cut off; that firing had been heard near there, and none had come in to the picket station. I ordered Companies C and E to go down and look them up, supposing some small party of the enemy had attempted to cut them off. Before the companies could get away another courier came reporting that the enemy in force, three thousand to four thousand, had passed down New River on the other side. Of course this was to attack the ferry. I sent word to the ferry and to Flat Top, directed the men to put one day's rations in haversacks, forty rounds of ammunition in boxes, and fill canteens. Then word came that the forces were smaller than supposed and no cannon. I dispatched Flat Top, Colonel Scammon to that effect, and that reinforcements were not needed.

Soon after a courier from [the] ferry [reported] that the enemy in large force were firing cannon rifled at them. I sent this to Flat Top. Then called up Companies E, C, and K to go to reinforce the ferry. I sent the band to give them music and told the men: “Fighting battles is like courting the girls: those who make most pretension and are boldest usually win. So, go ahead, give good hearty yells as you approach the ferry, let the band play; but don't expose yourselves, keep together and keep under cover. It is a bushwhacking fight across the river. Don't expose yourself to show bravery; we know you are all brave,” etc., etc. The men went off in high spirits.

A courier came from Bluestone saying the enemy were at the ford with a cannon in some force. I sent Company I down there to watch them and hinder them if they attempted to cross. Under what he deemed obligatory written orders, Major Comly destroyed the large ferry-boat. Soon after, the enemy ceased firing and made a rapid retreat. They ran their horses past the ford at Bluestone. Whether they left because they heard our band and reinforcements coming or because they saw the major had done their work, is problematical.

My couriers reached Flat Top in from one hour ten to one hour thirty minutes: viz., at 7:10, 8:30, and 9 A. M. The colonel with [the] Thirtieth and artillery, cavalry (Thirty-fifth), starting at 12 M! Rather slow business. The artillery and Thirtieth halted at Jumping Branch, reaching there two and one-half miles back at 4 P. M. Slow aid. It beats Giles!

A singular and almost fatal accident occurred about 5:30 P. M. In the midst of a severe thunder-storm the guard-tent was struck by lightning. Eight men were knocked flat, cartridge boxes exploded, muskets were shattered, etc., etc. The eight were all badly hurt, but dashing cold water on them they revived. They were playing “seven-up.” They thought it was shell. One said as he came to “Where are they? Where are they?” Another spoke up repeating the question, “Where is Colonel Hayes? Where is the colonel?”

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 315-7

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