Thursday, October 18, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Saturday, Oct. 19, 1861

In camp near Gauley Bridge in the Kanawha region of western Virginia, Maj. Rutherford B. Hayes of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry receives a letter from wife Lucy fretting about sick soldiers, the army’s lack of blankets, and the abilities of President Abraham Lincoln. The imperturbable Hayes, who is loving every minute of soldier life, hastens to assure Lucy the sick are being taken care of, the soldiers are well supplied (“I am satisfied our army is better fed, better clad, and better sheltered than any other army in the world”), and even if “Lincoln is not all that we could wish…he is honest, patriotic, cool-headed and safe.”

To his uncle Silas Birchard, in Fremont, Ohio, Hayes writes that he is coming to think a West Point education is less important that he had at first. “Good sense and energy are the qualities required…,” Hayes has decided. The comment hints at the condescension some West Pointers and volunteers fresh from civilian life have for each other.

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