Tuesday, December 25, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Thursday, Dec. 26, 1861

Too Many Cooks

From Gallipolis, Ohio, where he has paused while traveling with the army paymaster for western Virginia, Capt. Tom Taylor of the 47th Ohio writes his wife, “Netta,” in Georgetown, Ohio. Yesterday, he tells her, he enjoyed “roast possum and turkey” for Christmas supper. Not so pleasant was the report he passes on to Netta of how bushwhackers in western Virginia murdered two Union couriers. He tells his wife—who had dreaded his going to war—how the bushwhackers had been urged to kill the Union men by a woman who wanted to “dance in their blood.” Why Taylor thought his wife would find this interesting instead of frightening is not known. (Pictured: a bushwhacker or guerrilla fighter drawn by Thomas Nast.)

At Camp Union in Fayetteville, western Virginia, Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes writes in his diary about Colonel Scammon’s plans. Scammon, commander of the 23rd Ohio, has come up with the idea of sending an expedition nearly 70 miles over muddy roads to surprise and capture an enemy camp of 600 sick men guarded by about a hundred Confederate soldiers. Already thinking like a tactician, the unblooded Hayes has his doubts about Scammon: “He does not seem willing to look the difficulties in the face, and to prepare to meet them.” Another problem: despite the prevailing Unionist sentiment in western Virginia, there are still plenty of Confederate sympathizers lurking in the hills and valleys, so n“surprising” the enemy will be quite a trick indeed.

From Cairo, Illinois, Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, (commander of the District of Southeast Missouri, now called the Department of Cairo) writes Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell in Louisville, Kentucky (commander of the Department of the Ohio), describing the boundaries of his own command and asking for a clarification of Buell’s.

Grant commands the military in southern Illinois, southeastern Missouri, and Kentucky west of the Cumberland River, while Buell is responsible for the territory east of the Cumberland. The division of the Western Theater into multiple commands will cause problems until a single commander is put in charge of it all--a clear case of "too many cooks spoiling the broth." Remedying this will not happen any time soon.

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