Wednesday, January 23, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Tuesday, Jan. 21, 1862

Dreaming of Home

Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes , now in winter quarters in western Virginia, is not a professional soldier, but he savors life as a volunteer officer in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. On occasion he happily records how he hasn’t shaved in six or seven months and how he sometimes sleeps in his uniform (complete with boots and spurs). He revels in sunny weather and seems to greet each day with gusto. All in all, military service is a grand adventure for Hayes, who sometimes sounds like a Boy Scout on his first hike. But something is not quite right.

That something is the anxiety his beloved wife, Lucy, home in Cincinnati, is suffering over his safety. Like most wives, sweethearts, and mothers, Lucy Webb hated seeing her husband leave for the war and she continues to be frightened over what might happen to him. Moreover, she has been left to manage a household on a shoestring, raise the children—including a newborn—by herself, and cope with loneliness. And all the while her husband is enthusing about life in the army.

As much as he may try to avoid confronting Lucy’s anxieties, Hayes cannot. Today, he tells his diary about a disturbing dream he had last night (and which might have something to do with a snack of canned peaches he consumed before bedtime). In his dream, Lucy came to stand by bedside, “not very affectionate in manner. I tried to [awaken] and succeeded in telling her how much I loved her. She was kind but not ‘pronounced.’”

Hayes also dreamed that Lucy was holding their little son, Joe, while seeming hurt that he had not noticed the boy before. Finally, Hayes wrote, “I also dreamed during the night of being at home.”

It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out that Hayes is feeling guilty about Lucy’s unhappiness. He feels reproved, albeit in a dream. Within a few days he will write Lucy that he has applied for leave to visit her at home.

ELSEWHERE IN THE WAR: It is the “day after” for Union forces, east and west. In Ulysses S. Grant’s District of Cairo, a force is returning from a successful “demonstration” and reconnaissance against the Confederate base at Columbus, Kentucky. In southeastern Kentucky, Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas’s Union division is poring over the spoil of wars left by fleeing Confederates after their defeat at the battle of Logan’s Cross Roads (a.k.a. Mill Springs). In the Eastern Theater, a Union force under Brig. Gen. Ambrose Burnside has arrived off Cape Hatteras by ship and is threatening invasion of the North Carolina coast. is in position threatening invasion of the North Carolina coast. And, near Charleston, South Carolina, Union sailors are celebrating the successful blockading of the port’s shipping channel.

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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