Camp Green Meadows, August 10, 1862.
Dearest Lute: — All your names are sweet. “Lu” is good; I always think of the girls at Platt’s saying “Aunt Lu.” “Lute” and “Luty” is Joe; and “Lucy darling,” that's me. All pretty and lovable.
Your letter of the 2nd came last night. A great comfort it was. Several things last night were weighing on me, and I needed a dear word from you. I had got a reluctant permission to send a party to attempt to destroy the salts-works at the Mercer salt well twenty-five miles from here, over a rough mountain country full of enemies, and uncertain who might be at the well. I started the party at 6 P. M. to make a night march of it to get there and do the work and get fairly off before daylight. Captains Drake and Zimmerman were in command with twenty of Gilmore's gallant cavalry and one hundred and thirty of our best men. I had got all the facts I could before they left, but after they were gone three hours, a scout I had given up came in with information that the works were strongly guarded. I slept none during that night. Then too, the sad news that McCook was murdered was in the evening dispatches, casting a deep shadow over all. It needed your letter to carry me through the night.
I was out at early dawn, walking the camp, fearing to hear the gallop of a horse. Time went on slowly enough, but it was a case where no news was good news. If they had run into trouble the word would have returned as fast as horseflesh could bring it. By breakfast time I began to feel pretty safe; at eight I visited the hospital and talked cheerfully to the sick, feeling pretty cheerful really. About half past nine Captain Drake rode in. The fifty miles had been travelled, and the Secesh salt well for all this saltless region was burned out root and branch. Three horses were badly wounded; many [men] had their clothes cut, but not a man was hurt. They reached the well at 2 A. M., found it in full blast, steam on, etc., etc., received one feeble volley of rifle balls and the thing was done. So much good your letter did.
Yes, I get all your letters about one week after you mail them. I got a letter from Mother of same date at same time. This happens almost always.
As to the Seventy-ninth, I agree with you. The greatest inducements are to visit you and to get out of these mountains before another winter. I may, and probably will, find worse places, but I am getting tired of this. Another thing, a sense of duty. I do not know that it clearly inclines either way. In such case we usually manage to persuade ourselves that it points the way we wish. But it strikes me that the Twenty-third is as near right as I can make it. It can't get much more out of me, while possibly my experience might be more useful in a new regiment than anywhere else. Do you see where I am coming out?
As I am writing a messenger from headquarters comes with a significant order headed “secret.” I am ordered to place all things in readiness to move on thirty minutes' notice — to have baggage, etc., etc., in such condition that it can be done on that notice any time after tomorrow at 3 P. M. This means what? I suspect a move to the east by way of Lewisburg and White Sulphur Springs. It may be a move to eastern Virginia. It may be towards Giles and the railroad again.
Well, I have galloped to the ferry five miles and back. I am likely to be settled some way soon, but at any rate, in the Seventy-ninth or Twenty-third, I have got the best wife of any of them. This war has added to my confidence in you, my love for you, and my happiness that I have so dear a wife. The character you have shown in bearing what was so severe a trial, the unselfish and noble feeling you constantly exhibit, has endeared you to me more than ever before.
Joining the army when I did is now to be thought fortunate. Think of my waiting till forced by the fear of a draft to volunteer!
Good-bye, darling. Love and kisses to the dear boys, the little blue-eyed favorite, and all.
Affectionately ever, your
I enclose a literary specimen.*
* The “specimen” was a scrap of paper reading: “Mr. Kernel hase I Want a Pass to go to see Wilson Lilly he has Sent for me he is Just at the Point of death
SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 323-5