Sunday, November 18, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Tuesday, Nov. 19, 1861

“The Will to be Free”

Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes and his 23rd Ohio have moved to new quarters in Fayetteville, western Virginia, “a fine village deserted by its people, leaving us capital winter quarters.” Hayes is loving the military life but knows he must constantly reassure his worried wife, Lucy, back in Cincinnati, of how safe he is and how unthreatening warfare is turning out to be. “Not a man [is] sick of those who were well,” he writes. Fayetteville “is much the best place we have been in,” and under a flag of truce he even had a “good friendly chat” with some Rebel soldiers. The deeply affectionate Hayes closes his letter to “Dearest” with these words: “Love to the dear boys and Grandma and so much for your own dear self.” (Pictured above: Lucy and "Rud" Hayes at their wedding in 1852.)

In the Union West, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck—“Old Brains” in military circles-- takes command of the new Department of the Missouri, which encompasses Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, and Kentucky west of the Cumberland River. He takes the place of John Charles Fremont, a famous explorer (“The Pathfinder”) who turned out be a dud as the military commander of the old Western Department. Halleck will turn out to be only half a dud

President Jefferson Davis of the Confederate States of America gives an upbeat “state of the Confederacy” address to the Confederate Congress, not failing to include some of the secessionist rant that is so jarringly self-contradictory. “Liberty is always won where there exists the conquerable will to be free,” he tells the representatives of people dedicated to enslaving other people. No doubt he delivers this astonishing thought with a straight face.

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