Friday, March 24, 2017

Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Sardis Birchard, August 8, 1862

Camp Green Meadows, Mercer County, Virginia,
August 8, 1862.

Dear Uncle: — . . . . I have not yet decided as to the Seventy-ninth Regiment. I would much prefer the colonelcy of this [regiment, the Twenty-third], of course. At the same time there are some things which influence me strongly in favor of the change. I shall not be surprised if the anxiety to have the colonel present to aid in recruiting will be such that I shall feel it my duty to decline. You know I can't get leave of absence until my commission is issued, and the commission does not issue until the regiment is full. By this rule, officers in the field are excluded. I shall leave the matter to take care of itself for the present.

We have had a good excitement the last day or two. A large force, about two thousand, with heavy artillery and cavalry, have been attacking the positions occupied by the Twenty-third. They cannonaded Major Comly at the ferry four and one-half miles from here, and a post I have at the ford three and one-half miles from here, on Wednesday. Tents were torn and many narrow escapes made, but strangely enough nobody on our side was hurt. With our long-range muskets, the enemy soon found they were likely to get the worst of it.

The same evening our guard-tent was struck by lightning. Eight men were knocked senseless, cartridge boxes, belted to the men, were exploded, and other frightful things, but all are getting well.

The drafting pleases me. It looks as if [the] Government was in earnest. All things promise well. I look for the enemy to worry us for the next two months, but after that our new forces will put us in condition to begin the crushing process. I think another winter will finish them. Of course there will be guerrilla and miscellaneous warfare, but the power of the Rebels will, I believe, go under if [the] Government puts forth the power which now seems likely to be gathered.

I am as anxious as you possibly can be to set up in Spiegel Grove, and to begin things. It is a pity you are in poor health, but all these things we need not grieve over. Don't you feel glad that I was in the first regiment originally raised for the three years service in Ohio, instead of waiting till this time, when a man volunteers to escape a draft? A man would feel mean about it all his days.

I wish you were well enough to come out here. You would enjoy it to the top of town. Many funny things occur in these alarms from the enemy. Three shells burst in our assistant surgeon's tent. He was out but one of them killed a couple of live rattlesnakes he had as pets! One fellow, an old pursy fifer, a great coward, came puffing up to my tent from the river and began to talk extravagantly of the number and ferocity of the enemy. Said I to him, “And, do they shoot their cannon pretty rapidly?” “Oh, yes,” said he, “very rapidly indeed — they had fired twice before I left the camp”!

It is very hot these days but our men are still healthy. We have over eight hundred men, and only about ten in hospital here

R. B. Hayes.

P. S. — Wasn't you pleased with the Morgan raid into Kentucky? I was in hopes they would send a shell or two into Cincinnati. It was a grand thing for us.

S. Birchard.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 319-21

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