Thursday, February 28, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 1862

The colonel arrives

Col. William Babcock Hazen, acting commander of the 19th Brigade of Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio, rides into Nashville. Recently deserted by their Confederate defenders, many unhappy citizens remain in the city. It is Hazen‘s observation that “the people showed great bitterness.”

Riding a short distance in front of his brigade, Hazen has barely turned a corner when a well-dressed woman ahead of him “stamped vigorously upon the sidewalk and cheered for Jeff Davis.” Then Hazen’s brigade, marching smartly with arms glistening in the sun, follows him around the corner. The woman took one look at the oncoming thousands and “betook herself at double-quick to the nearest house.”

Hazen halts at the St. Cloud Hotel, where the host, a Mr. Carter, invited the colonel and his staff for drinks at his bar. Carter “tasted everything first…to assure us.” Out of curiosity, Hazen examines the hotel’s register, discovering his immediate predecessor was William Babcock of Illinois, “a cousin I had not seen since a child of three years, and never since.” Throughout the war, symbolic incidents like these will remind soldiers North and South again and again how closely they were related, whether by blood or in spirit—fellow Americans all.

Hazen and his men found something else in the hotel: “Fast asleep and very drunk, one Rebel soldier, the largest man I ever saw in uniform.” Hazen sent him away with a single guard, the pair looking like “a veritable giant guarded by a pygmy. We all wondered if he was a sample of the men we were about to encounter.”

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: In Richmond, the Confederate capital, the bitter words of politicians reflect the Confederacy’s anxiety over the losses in Tennessee. The people’s representatives are angry and demanding investigation into the performance of their generals and even President Jefferson Davis.

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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