Saturday, December 1, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Thursday, Dec. 5, 1861

“This Infernal Region”

Capt. Tom Taylor of the 47th Ohio, an ambitious young lawyer and sometime newspaper editor, is returning from leave at home in Georgetown, Ohio. Like many other Ohioans, Taylor dislikes western Virginia. He grumbles about “this infernal region” as he reluctantly sets out on foot for his regiment's winter quarters at Cross Lanes and Gauley Bridge.

Today, however, he is blocked because the “road is almost impassable for foot travelers being 18 inches to one foot in depth in mud.” For the night, he is forced to take shelter at the home of a man he knows and doesn’t like, his camp’s sutler. The countryside is ugly as well, with “great destruction and loss…apparent on every side.” Taylor is carrying a revolver he purchased for protection against Confederate guerillas.

It is a dangerous and difficult journey, but Taylor will reach his regiment, which is manning an outpost 2 ½ miles from Gauley Bridge. By letter, he assures wife Netta that “we…are well provided with defenses,” including ten field pieces. The men also “have Sibley tents and good stoves.”

But it will be a long, hard winter.

>>> The secretaries of war and the navy report nearly 683,000 men are enrolled in the Federal military forces…most of them volunteer “citizen-soldiers.” This is an astonishing increase in armed strength from the eve of war less than eight months ago, when the regular army, the nation's only effective military force, enrolled scarcely 16,000 men—not all of them on active duty.

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