Thursday, October 4, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Monday, Oct. 7, 1861

Maj. Rutherford B. Hayes of the 23rd Ohio writes his wife, Lucy Hayes, in Cincinnati. “Don’t worry about the war,” he tells Lucy, no doubt in vain. “We are doing our part, and if all does not go well, it is not our fault. I still think we are sure to get through it safely. The South may not be conquered, but we shall secure to the nation the best part of it.” But death can find the Civil War soldier more quickly off the battlefield than on. Hayes admits the regiment has “sixty [sick men] to send to Ohio. This is the severest thing of the campaign. Poor fellows! We do as well as we can with them; but road-wagons in rain and mud are poor places.” By now, the 23rd Ohio needs to recruit replacements, as Hayes expects the regiment will be 100 to 150 men short when the current campaign is ended. By the end of the war, twice as many soldiers will have died from sickness as from wounds.

Elsewhere, two Federal gunboats exchange fire with Confederate shore batteries on the Mississippi, near Columbus, Kentucky. Secretary of War Simon Cameron heads west on an inspection trip that will eventually take him to a fateful meeting with Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in Kentucky. In Washington, Lincoln wonders whether the problematical Maj. Gen. John Charles Fremont should retain command of the Western Department.

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