Thursday, January 24, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 1862

Bushwhackers and Prisoners

During winter’s lull in western Virginia, military activity has settled down to capturing guerrilla fighters, called bushwhackers, and trying to hold them. Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes of the 23rd Ohio tells his diary today how a “great bushwhacker” being held prisoner complained last night to his guards of a bellyache, then sprang up, seized two muskets, and escaped. Not true, his fellow prisoners helpfully say later: when the guards were asleep, they claim, the bushwhacker “merely slipped out, taking two muskets with him.”

But more prisoners come into camp, three arriving last night. One is a “Captain McVey,” a guerrilla leader who had tried to capture a citizen who was a Union loyalist. Catching wind of the plan, the Union man hid behind a log until McVey approached his house, then rose up to order the guerrilla leader to lay down his arms. Then the triumphant citizen marched the chagrined McVey at gunpoint to Hayes’ Camp Union in Fayetteville.

Another prisoner arriving that night was a boy, age about 16. “He carried dispatches when the (Rebel) militia was out…but seems intelligent and well-disposed,” Hayes writes in his diary. Taking pity on the boy, who had been thrust into a crowded guardhouse, Hayes “took him to my own quarters….He talked in his sleep incoherently.”

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: Federal gunboats slip down the Tennessee River, send a few shells into Fort Henry, and depart. It is a testing of Confederate defenses, and a foreshadowing of things to come.

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:

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