Friday, May 5, 2017

Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Lucy Webb Hayes, September 4, 1862

Upton's Hill, Fairfax County, Virginia,
September 4, (P. M.), 1862.

Dearest: — I received your good letter of the 29th yesterday. Our situation now is this: Washington is surrounded for a distance of from seven to fifteen miles by defensive works, placed on all the commanding points. For the present the thing to be done is to keep the enemy out of the capital until our new army is prepared for the field and the old one is somewhat recruited. We (that is General Cox's Division, viz.: Eleventh, Twelfth, Twenty-third, Twenty-eighth, Thirtieth, and Thirtysixth regiments of infantry, Captains McMullen's and Simmond's Batteries, Gilmore's, West's, and Schaumbeck's Cavalry, all from western Virginia) are placed to guard important roads and points of which Upton's Hill and Munson's Hill, Forts Ramsay, Buffalo, and "Skedaddle," all in the same vicinity, are the chief. We are about seven miles from Washington, in sight of the capitol, and eight miles from Alexandria.

For a few days after the retreat of our forces from Centreville and Bull Run, these were points of peril. In case of an advance of the Rebels we would be first attacked. I slept in boots and spurs with my horse saddled. But now all the forts are manned and I do not expect to see the enemy approach in this direction. They could easily storm our positions with a strong force, but it would cost so many lives to storm all the works between here and Washington that they would be ruined to attempt it.

I therefore look for quiet camp life for some time to come, unless the enemy makes such advances to Washington from other directions as will make these works worthless, when we should probably go to Washington. This I do not anticipate. We shall drill, brush and burnish up, sleep and get fat.

Things have had a bad turn lately, but I don't give it up. Something far more damaging than anything which has yet happened must occur, or these attempts to carry the war into our territory must recoil heavily on the Rebels. Failing to hold their advanced conquests, they must go back vastly weakened and disheartened, while our following wave will be a growing and resistless one. It will be a few weeks yet before the evil time and the occurrence of sinister events will cease. But frosts and rains are coming and when they come will be our day. We can only hope to get off as easily as possible until that time.

The Kentucky disaster I fear injured many of your friends; but if not made permanent, it will do good.

Well, this is talk about public affairs. I sent my trunk today via Washington to Platt. If not intercepted (no unlikely event) I will mail one key to Mother and the other to you.

An old gentleman — too old to stand this "biz"— named Kugler, called to see me just now, saying that my commission in the Seventy-ninth was made out; that he was a captain in the Seventy-ninth and was trying to get the War Department to let me go. I said "nix" either way. At present I prefer to stay here, but no odds. While he was talking, the enemy began to fire on one of our cavalry pickets with shell. He said to me: “When do you start in such a case?” I told him, “When I got orders.” He seemed much astonished at the quiet reigning in camp, while the teamsters were tearing in like mad. He is a wealthy distiller at Milford who gave twenty-five hundred dollars to raise a company which he intends to turn over to a son or nephew. He seems determined to get permission for me to join the regiment and may possibly succeed.

A lovely sunset on a most animating scene. Troops are getting into shape and things look better. McClellan is indeed a great favorite with the army. He is no doubt the best man to take the defense of the capital in hand. He is the only man who can get good fighting out of the Potomac Army. McDowell is detested by them. Pope coldly regarded. McClellan is loved. Not thinking him a first-class commander, I yet in view of this feeling, think him the best man now available.
There, darling, is a long letter and yet not a word of love in it. But I do you love so much, dearest. You may emphasize every word of that sentence.

I hope they will whip Kirby Smith and his Rebel horde. But, at any rate, he will soon get to the end of that rope.

Mrs. Hayes.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 343-5

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