Tuesday, February 26, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Saturday, Feb. 22, 1862

Letters home

Capt. Emerson Opdycke [pictured] of the 41st Ohio has a headache. Until yesterday, Opdycke’s regiments and others in Hazen’s Brigade were in steamboats “going up and down the [Cumberland] river,” killing time while awaiting orders. They had arrived too late to participate in the battle of Fort Donelson. Finally coming to rest at Paducah, Opdycke rushes off the boat and into a photographer’s studio.

The captain’s wife, Lucy, has been pestering him for a picture, so a peevish Opdycke spends a frustrating morning at the studio trying to get a good one taken. The best he can get “is so outrageous, I shall have a notion to pitch it into the Ohio [River]; I would do so, only I know I shall never have any peace until you have a picture of some kind.”

Because of all the fussing in the studio, Opdycke returns to his boat with a headache that “came near to sending me to bed.” By evening, he feels better about the picture, so he turns to fretting about something else. “I am sick of doing nothing, while others are doing so much. Our arms are winning glorious triumphs, which are but the beginning of the end of the rebellion,” he concludes, fearing he will lose out on the action.

Others are writing as well. Near Fort Donelson, Pvt. Andrew Altman of the 68th Ohio uses his knapsack as a writing desk (“It is a poor place for to wright”). He tells a younger brother, Isaac, “You must not cut up” in school and asks him to “tell all the scholars at school that I think of them every day and hope they may do well.”

In Cincinnati, Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes is enjoying a final day or two of furlough at home. He writes his mother that the “recent victories [meaning Grant’s triumphs at Forts Henry and Donelson] convince everyone that the Rebellion can be conquered. Most people anticipate a speedy end of the war.”

This evening. Grant himself writes his wife, Julia, to tell he has just learned he is being promoted to major general. “There is but little doubt but that Fort Donelson was the hardest fought battle on the continent. I was extremely lucky to be the commanding officer.

“I have no doubt but you have read of Fort Donelson until you have grown tired of the name so I shall write you no more of the subject. Hope to make a new subject soon.”

And he would.

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: Ohioan@bloodtearsandglory.com

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

No comments: