Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Diary and Letters of Rutherford B. Hayes.

Diary and Letters of Rutherford B. Hayes.

September 1, 2012

Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes

Upton’s Hill, Near Washington,

September 1, 1862.

Dearest: — Very severe battles were fought day before yesterday and the day before that a few miles west of here. The roar could be heard in our camp the greater part of each day. We are six or eight miles west of Washington over the Potomac in Virginia between Forts Ramsay and Buffalo — strong works which we, I conjecture, are to hold in case of disaster in front. The result of the battles, although not decisive, I think was favorable. The enemy’s advance was checked, and as our strength grows with every hour, the delay gained is our gain.

You have no doubt heard of the battles, and perhaps feel anxious about us. One thing be assured of, after such affairs no news of us is good news. The reason of this is, if we are well we shall not be allowed to leave, nor send communications; if injured or worse, officers are taken instantly to Washington or Alexandria and tidings sent. I write this to relieve, if possible, or as much as possible, your anxiety on hearing of battles. At present I see no prospect of our being engaged, but I look for battles almost daily until the enemy is driven back or gives up his present purpose of carrying the war into our territory. I feel hopeful about the result.

Your letter of the 13th August, directed to me Raleigh, etc., I got last night. We shall now get one another’s letters in three or four days. I was made happy by your sensible and excellent talk about your feelings. A sense of duty or a deep religious feeling is all that can reconcile one to the condition we are placed in. That you are happy notwithstanding this trial, adds to my appreciation and love and to my happiness. Dearest, you are a treasure to me. I think of you more than you suppose and shall do so more here than in western Virginia. Here I have far less care and responsibility. I am now responsible for very little. The danger may be somewhat greater, though that I think doubtful.

By the by, we hear that Raleigh and our camps in west Virginia were occupied by the enemy soon after we left. No difference. There is one comfort here. If we suffer, it is in the place where the decisive acts are going on. In west Virginia, success or failure was a mere circumstance hardly affecting the general cause. .

Well, love to all. Dearest be cheerful and content. It will all be well.



P. S. — I was near forgetting to say that I think I shall not be permitted to join the Seventy-ninth. That matter I suppose is settled. The prospect of Colonel Scammon being brigadier is good.

September 1. Evening. — About five o’clock this P. M. heavy firing began in the old place — said to be near Centreville or at Bull Run. A fierce rain-storm with thunder set in soon after, and for the last ten hours there has been a roaring rivalry between the artillery of earth and heaven. It is now dark, but an occasional gun can still be heard. The air trembles when the great guns roar. The place of the firing indicates that our forces still hold the same ground or nearly the same as before. It is queer. We really know but little more of the fights of two or three days ago than you do; in the way of accurate knowledge, perhaps less, for the telegraph may give you official bulletins. We have seen some, a great many, of our wounded; some five or six hundred of the enemy taken prisoners, and a few of our men paroled. Some think we got the best of it, some otherwise. As yet I call it a tie.

I am very glad to be here. The scenes around us are interesting, the events happening are most important. You can hardly imagine the relief I feel on getting away from the petty warfare of western Virginia. Four forts or field works are in sight, and many camps. The spire of Fairfax Seminary (now a hospital), the flags on distant hills whose works are not distinguishable, the white dome of the capitol, visible from the higher elevations, many fine residences in sight — all make this seem a realization of “the pride and pomp of glorious war.” The roar of heavy artillery, the moving of army waggons, carriages, and ambulances with the wounded, marching troops, and couriers hastening to and fro, fill up the scene. Don’t think I am led to forget the sad side of it, or the good cause at the foundation. I am thinking now of the contrast between what is here and what I have looked on for fifteen months past.

Dearest, what are you doing tonight? Thinking of me as you put to sleep the pretty little favorite? Yes, that is it. And my thought in the midst of all this is of you and the dear ones.

I just got an order that I must be “especially vigilant tonight to guard against surprise, or confusion in case of alarm.” 1 don’t know what it indicates, but that I have done so often in the mountains that it is no great trouble. So I go to warn the captains. — Good night, darling.

Ever yours most lovingly,


September 2, A. M. — A stormy night but no surprise. A bright cold morning, good for the poor fellows who are wounded.

Mrs. Hayes.

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