Friday, May 12, 2017

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

Camp Fifteen Miles North Of Washington, In
Maryland, September 8, 1862.

Dear Uncle: — I write you about a difficulty I had yesterday .with Major-General Reno, not because it gives me any trouble or anxiety but fearing that false and partial accounts of it may get into the Eastern papers and give you trouble.

As we were camping last night, the general rode into my regiment in a towering passion, using most abusive language to my men for taking a little straw to put on the hard, rough, ploughed ground they were to lie on. I defended the men and in respectful language gave him my opinion of the matter. He gradually softened down and the affair seemed to end pretty well. But the men cheered me, and this he seems to lay up against me. He couples this with a remark I made that, “I trusted our generals would exhibit the same energy in dealing with our foes that they did in the treatment of their friends,” and has talked of putting me in irons, as is said. General Cox, Colonel Scammon, and all the Ohio colonels and troops sustain me fully and justify the cheering, saying the men have the same right to cheer their colonel that they have to cheer General McClellan. I think it will stop where it is, except in the newspapers. Whatever is reported, you may feel safe about the outcome. They are doing some hasty things at Washington, but I have no doubt in any event that Governor Chase and the President will see justice done at the end to all our Ohio men.

We are supposed to be here in readiness to operate against the enemy invading Maryland. At present we are in General Reno's Corps, General Cox's Division, Colonel Scammon's Brigade, of General Burnside's Army. On the march, the Ohio troops have shown the best discipline and the most endurance of any body. New England furnishes the next best. Some of the Yankee troops are capital, all are good. The Middle States (New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) are many of them abominable.

I have seen Colonel Ewing, who called on General Reno. He says General Reno was “cut to the quick” by the remark I have quoted, and is exceedingly “bitter” about it. Well, it's all in a lifetime. General Cox means to get us transferred if possible to General Sigel's Corps, on the ground that General Reno has given such offense to the Ohio troops that they will serve under him with reluctance.

Things have a bad look just now, but I still think they will mend before any crushing calamity comes. They will, if proper system and energy is adopted.

R. B. Hayes.

P. S. — You may send this to Platt to set him right if he hears any lies about it. — [R.]

S. Birchard.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 348-9

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