Sunday, January 6, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Monday, Jan. 6, 1862

“No prospect of…danger”

From Camp Wickliffe in Kentucky, where the 41st Ohio and several thousand other Midwestern volunteer soldiers sit, yearning for action, 1st. Lt. Emerson Opdycke (pictured here) writes “My dear wife,” Lucy, in Warren, Ohio.

Bad news: he will not be granted a hoped-for furlough because of the “exigencies of the service.” Pish-tosh, according to Opdycke, a self-confident man who never minces words: “I see no prospect of immediate danger and I am exceedingly disappointed…I do not believe there will be [a forward movement within 10 days], so I am bound to nurse my ‘disappoint.’” (In fact, there will be no forward movement by stolid Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio for five weeks.)

Opdycke tells Lucy that sickness, “principally measles,” is sweeping the camp, especially Opdycke’s 41st Ohio. One of his men had died from measles on Christmas eve. The death deeply saddened Opdycke because the captain of a company is “something of a father to his men.”

It is not yet dawn and Opdycke is writing the letter by candlelight. He tells Lucy he is well supplied, with eggs, plentiful at 15 cents a dozen, and “plenty of good fresh beef. ” For a New Year’s celebration, he was able to purchase a can of peaches and some cheese.

“Eggs are frying" for Opdycke’s breakfast and "as soon as this [letter] is folded and directed, they will be ready for a splendid appetite.”

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: President Abraham Lincoln is becoming frustrated with Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s stalling. Lincoln wants him to advance on East Tennessee in support of the Union loyalists there. Buell, however, prefers to advance on Nashville, which neither Lincoln nor General-in-Chief George B. McClellan think is a good idea. Buell’s attempt to justify himself to Lincoln draws the President’s rebuke by wire today: “Your dispatch of yesterday…disappoints and distresses me.” But Lincoln, who at this early stage of the war, is trying to make do with the generals he has, does not order Buell forward, only expresses “the grounds of my anxiety.”

Buell is not Lincoln’s only problem general. Frustration over McClellan’s failure to act is rising as well. Ohio Sen. Benjamin F. Wade, a Radical Republican who is chairman of the (Joint Congressional) Committee on the Conduct of the War, demands Lincoln remove McClellan from command. Preferring to give McClellan more time, Lincoln rejects Wade’s demand.

But the clock is ticking for the careers of both reluctant generals.

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.

Your suggestions, comments, and questions about this blog are always welcome. Address the author:

For more information about the author and his newest book, please go to

No comments: