Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Lucy Webb Hayes: September 10, 1862

Camp Northwest Of Brookville, Maryland,
September 10, 1862.

Dearest: — We are now about twenty-five or thirty miles northwest of Washington, about thirty miles from Baltimore, in Maryland. The army is gradually moving up to operate against the Rebels who have crossed the Potomac. We march about eight to twelve miles a day — General Cox's Division always near the front, if not in front. We are now in front. Captured a Rebel patrol last night. We subordinates know less of the actual state of things than the readers of the Commercial at home. Order is coming out of chaos. The great army moves on three roads five or eight miles apart. Sometimes we move in the night and at all other hours, moving each subdivision about six or eight hours at a time in each twenty-four hours. Some large body is moving on each road all the time. In this way the main body is kept somewhere in the same region. General Burnside is our commander. I have not yet seen him. He was cheered heartily, I am told, yesterday when he met his troops below here. His Yankee regiments are much the best troops we have seen East. “The Grand Army of the Potomac” suffers by comparison with General Cox's or General Burnside's men. It is not fair, however, to judge them by what we now see. They are returning [from] a severe and unfortunate service which of necessity has broken them down.

We march through a well-cultivated, beautiful region — poor soil but finely improved. I never saw the Twenty-third so happy as yesterday. More witty things were said as we passed ladies, children, and negroes (for the most part friendly) than I have heard in a year before. The question was always asked, “What troops are those,” or “Where are you from?” The answers were “Twenty-third Utah,” “Twenty-third Bushwhackers,” “Twenty-third Mississippi,” “Drafted men,” “Raw Recruits,” “Paroled prisoners,” “Militia going home,” “Home Guards,” “Peace Men,” “Uncle Abe's children,” “The Lost Tribes,” and others “too numerous, etc.” Nearly all the bands are mustered out of service; ours therefore is a novelty We marched a few miles yesterday on a road where troops have not before marched. It was funny to see the children. I saw our boys running after the music in many a group of clean, bright-looking, excited little fellows.

What a time of it they have in Cincinnati? I got a dispatch from Mr. Clements yesterday saying I was discharged ten days ago by the War Department to take command of the Seventy-ninth, but I get no official notice of it, and at present can't get leave to go and see to it. If the place is not filled by somebody else I shall join the new regiment before the end of the month, I suspect. I have no particular preference or wish about it, but having said that I will join if leave is given, I shall do so unless in the meanwhile some change in affairs takes place to justify a different course.

I can hardly think the enemy will carry his whole or main force into Maryland and risk all upon a battle here. If not he will probably withdraw on the approach of our army. If he does, I can then get leave of absence.

Kisses and love to all the boys. Love to Grandma and the dear friends you are among. I feel very grateful for their kindness to you and the boys. I think of you now almost as constantly as you do of me.

I have very little care or responsibility. The men behave well, and are always ready. I got into an angry altercation with Major-General Reno who was in a passion and abusive to some of my men; the men cheered me as he rode off, which made a little difficulty, but I am told he is ashamed of it, and it led to no trouble.

Good-bye, darling. “I love you so much.”

Affectionately, yours ever,
Mrs. Hayes.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 350-1

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