Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Sardis Birchard, August 12, 1862

Camp Green Meadows, August 12, 1862.

Dear Uncle: — I write merely to say that I have concluded to accept [the] colonelcy of the Seventy-ninth if it is filled without drafting. I love this regiment, but must leave it. I was pretty evenly balanced on the question. I have decided it rightly. It will take me to Cincinnati, I conjecture, in about three or four weeks. I shall no doubt be kept closely at work, but will manage some way to see you, if but for a night. Possibly you can come down.

I am sad over McCook's death. From the first he always told me — I suppose he said the same thing to many — that he would certainly not survive the war. He expected confidently to be killed. I suppose all men have notions one way or the other of that sort.

Quite a batch of the new colonels are persons with whom I am on agreeable terms. Anderson, Haynes, Lee Stem, Moore, Longworth, Tafel, and a bunch of others. But they will be a funny lot for a while. I suspect I shall enjoy the thing. I can now appreciate the difference between an old seasoned regiment and the same people raw. Nothing is nicer than a good old regiment. The machine runs itself — all the colonel has to do is to look on and see it go. But at first it's always in a snarl, and a thousand unreasonable men make such a big snarl. I have no doubt I shall see times when I would like to see around me the quiet, neat, hardy youngsters who are with me now.

Well, good-bye. I feel like shedding tears when I think of leaving these men, but I at once get into a quiet laugh when I think of what I am going to — a thousand-headed monster!

R. B. Hayes.

P. S. — I forgot to say anything about the war. My command is scattered from fourteen to twenty miles from any succor, and if attacked it's doubtful if any would reach in time. We must fight or go under, perhaps both. Well, on the 6th, the enemy three times our whole and six times our detachment at the ferry, with rifle, cannon, etc., etc., attacked. We had a busy day but by stratagem and good luck we got off with slight damage. They thought we were the strongest and after firing two hours retreated. Next day but one, we destroyed their salt works twenty-five miles from here. Last night I was up all night riding and manoeuvring to keep them off; but it makes a man feel well to have something to do.

S. Birchard.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 326-7

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