Monday, December 31, 2007

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 1, 1862

“I…so signally failed”

It is New Year’s Day. From western Virginia, Capt. Tom Taylor of the 47th Ohio sends his wife, Netta, a picture of himself as a “New Year’s gift.” Also in western Virginia, Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes of the 23rd Ohio is his usual cheery self, noting the weather was windy and threatening “as if a storm were brewing, but no rain or snow. I set it down as a pleasant day.” In Kentucky, Col. William B. Hazen prepares to take command of a brigade—6 regiments—as well as his own regiment, the 41st Ohio. Elsewhere, it is business as usual for Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at his headquarters in Cairo, Illinois. He wrestles with problems with army bread, writes an order regarding transport of sick soldiers to and from a hospital, and wonders how to handle with “delicacy” a change of staff in his quartermaster’s department.

And at Benton Barracks, St. Louis, Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman is suffering the miseries of the damned as he thinks back to the emotional flame-out in Kentucky which caused him to relinquish command.

I am here in a subordinate place whilst others occupy posts I ought to. I cannot claim them for having so signally failed in Kentucky and here I could not demand a higher place….The idea of having brought disgrace on all associated with me is so horrible to contemplate that I cannot really endure it.

Cump writes this to wife, Ellen (pictured above), in Lancaster, Ohio, to whom he now clings desperately as his emotional anchor…but he does not mention exactly what he means that he “cannot really endure it.” Three days later he tells his brother:

I am so sensible now of my disgrace from having exaggerated the force of our enemy in Kentucky that I do think I should have committed suicide were it not for my children.

How can Cump and his military career be saved?

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3½ years from now!—will be the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, April 12 was the day Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

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