Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lieutant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Sardis Birchard, September 3, 1862

Eight Miles West Of Washington,
Upton’s Hill, September 3, 1862.

Dear Uncle: — The fighting at and near Bull Run battlefield is finished and our army has withdrawn to the fortifications near Washington, leaving General Cox's force here on the outposts. The general result I figure up as follows: We lose ten to fifteen cannon, five thousand to eight thousand killed, wounded, or prisoners, a large amount of army stores, railroad stock, etc., destroyed, and the position. The enemy lose a few cannon, about the same or a greater number killed and wounded, not so many prisoners by about half, and hold the position. It is not a decided thing either way. We had decidedly the advantage in the fighting of Thursday and Friday, 28th and 29th. At the close of the 29th Jackson was heavily reinforced, and worsted us on Saturday. Saturday evening our reinforcements reached General Pope and we were about equal in the subsequent skirmishing. I get some notions of the troops here, as I look on and listen, not very different from those I have had before.

The enemy here has a large force of gallant and efficient cavalry. Our cavalry is much inferior. The Rebel infantry is superior to ours gathered from the cities and manufacturing villages of the old States. The Western troops, are, I think, superior to either. The Rebels have as much good artillery as we have. We have largely more than they have, but the excess is of poor quality. In generalship and officers they are superior to us. The result is we must conquer in land warfare by superior numbers. On the water we have splendid artillery, and are masters. High water, deep rivers, heavy rains, are our friends.

General Sigel is a favorite with troops. General Banks and Schenck are praised by them. General McDowell is universally denounced. General Pope is coldly spoken of. General McClellan is undoubtedly a great favorite with men under him. Last night it was announced that he was again in command at this the critical region now. Everywhere the joy was great, and was spontaneously and uproariously expressed. It was a happy army again.

There is nothing of the defeated or disheartened among the men. They are vexed and angry — say they ought to have had a great victory, but not at all demoralized. I speak, of course, only of those I see, and I have seen some of the most unfortunate regiments. Everyone now recognizes the policy of standing on the defensive until the new levies are organized and ready. All that we can save is clear gain. Unless the enemy gets decided and damaging advantages during the next fortnight or so, it is believed we can push them back with heavy loss and with a fair prospect of crushing them. I see you are having another demonstration at Cincinnati and Louisville. I can't think it can end successfully. The great number of new troops must be able to hold them in check until they will be compelled to fall back. Once let the enemy now begin a retrograde movement with our great wave after them and I think they must go under.

We are here a good deal exposed. Anything that shall happen to me, you will know at once. I feel very contented with my personal situation. Your certain aid to my family relieves me from anxiety on their account. It is an immense relief to be here away from the petty but dangerous warfare of west Virginia.

Direct General Cox's Division, via Washington. I already get the Sentinel here of late date — the last published.

P. M. — Since writing the foregoing I received your letter of the 28th inst. [ult] Your letters will come to me with great certainty, I do not doubt, and quicker than when I was in west Virginia.

We see that a strong Rebel force occupies Lexington, Kentucky. All the river towns are threatened. This is our dark hour. We will [shall] weather it, I think. Generalship is our great need.

Glad you will write often. — I shall stay with the Twenty-third. — I saw Haynes and told him I supposed we were cut out by the orders. I care nothing about it. Haynes was looking thin.

R. B. Hayes.

Since writing I have been in a caucus of the major-generals. It is curious, but a large number of truthful men say Sigel is an accomplished military scholar, but such a coward that he is of no account on the battle-field! Funny! We don't know all about things and men from the newspapers.

S. Birchard.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 340-2

No comments: