Thursday, December 27, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Friday, Dec. 27, 1861

Headaches in Camp

During the war’s winter hiatus, many soldiers complain there is nothing to do but “drill, eat, and sleep.” For the officers, however, it’s not that simple. Trying to keep order and maintain morale among thousands of energetic young men who are homesick, bored, and restless is a constant challenge.

At Camp John McLean near Cincinnati, the 75th Ohio has been slow to fill its ranks. Higher authority has decided to speed things up by merging another partially filled regiment—the 79th Ohio—into the 75th. The men of the 79th come from the vicinity of Athens and the coal-mining region of southeastern Ohio. Like many other Civil War regiments drawn from distinct regions, they have a strong sense of their own identity and oppose losing it to the 75th.

Sgt. Oscar D. Ladley of the 75th writes his family that the angry men taken from the 79th threatened to return home. “They seem dissatisfied since they came down here and threatened to leave last night whether or no, and if we attempted to stop them, they would ‘clean us out’ and then go,” Ladley writes his mother and sisters.

However, Col. Nathaniel C. McLean of the 75th, son of the Judge John McLean (for whom the camp is named) and a Harvard-trained lawyer, used his formidable powers of persuasion last night to talk the rebels around and, Ladley writes, “I think they are quieted down now.”

At Camp Union, Fayetteville, western Virginia, Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes has a different problem with some men of the 23rd Ohio. A disagreement arising from gambling arises. (Pictured above: “Gambling in Camp,” by Winslow Homer) Two men from Company C complain two other men misled them. Hayes shows the complainers no sympathy, saying they had allowed themselves to be misused as “stool-pigeons” (he means “decoys”), but he orders the other two men to contribute their ill-gotten gains to the Company C common fund. “It will be used to buy gloves and such other comforts as the Government does not furnish for all the company,” the Solomon-like Hayes pronounces.

IN NATIONAL NEWS: American pick up their newspapers to learn that Confederate envoys Mason and Slidell, forcibly removed from a British ship by the Union navy, are being freed. That defuses an escalating crisis between the Lincoln Administration and Great Britain—much to the disappointment of the Confederacy, which had been hoping the Union would be forced into a two-front war.

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