Monday, December 10, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 1861

Hazen’s Humanity”

Col. William B. Hazen (right), commander of the 41st Ohio, is widely regarded as a tough, demanding commander, one who practically ran his regiment ragged while it was in basic training and who continues to require his officers to attend class in military tactics, during which they are graded.

And yet Hazen is really a hard-nosed pragmatist, doing nothing without a reason, whether anybody else likes it or not. Having seen fighting in the Indian wars, Hazen understands the importance of good training and wants his men to be ready for battle. (Eventually, the men of the 41st will come to understand the value of their training.) And, when Hazen sees how sick many of his men are in their new camp, Camp Wickliffe, about 30 miles from Louisville, he breaks the rules of the camp by sending the sickest men home.

As he will tell it after the war:

Our experience at Camp Wickliffe was perhaps the most dispiriting of the war. All the diseases to which new troops are most subject here afflicted us. Diarrhea, fevers, measles, and pneumonia attacked a large part of the regiment, and the fatality [rate] was very great.

“Whenever possible I sent the sick at once to their homes, and in so doing while violating the orders of the camp, I saved many lives; and now, when I go home, some one almost invariably relates how his life was saved by removal from Camp Wickliffe in the night, when no knew it.

By the end of the war, two out of every three deaths of both Union and Confederate soldiers will be from illness, not from combat. But thanks to Hazen’s hard-headed approach to managing soldiers, some lives will have been saved.

IN NEWS ELSEWHERE: On very shaky grounds indeed, the Confederate Congress today “admits” Kentucky and Missouri to the Confederacy, bringing the supposed number of Confederate states to 13—hence, the 13 stars on the Confederate flag. In fact, the Confederacy has no more than furtive, skeleton “government” in Kentucky and Missouri, which sometimes cling to bits of territory in their respective states and sometimes are forced into exile. In reality, neither Kentucky nor Missouri can ever be said to have really left the Union and, at its peak, the CSA will effectively include only 11 states.

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