March 9, 1863
---Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes writes to an uncle with details about the extended visit by his wife and boys to his regiment’s camp in the mountains of western Virginia. The future president also offers his succinct opinion of the new draft laws, of wasteful strategies, and of the best way to win the war:
Camp Reynolds, March 9, 1863.
Dear Uncle: — Yours of last Sunday came to hand yesterday. Wife and boys still here — very happy. They fish and row skiff and ride horseback. They can all row. Webb and Birch rowed a large load of soldiers across the river and back — a large roaring river, almost like the Ohio in a fair fresh. They will go home in a week or two probably. We shall remain here two or three weeks and then probably go to Charleston.
The new conscript act strikes me as the best thing yet, if it is only used. I would only call enough men to recruit up weakened regiments, and compel the return of the shirks and deserters. Make our commanders give more time to drill and discipline; make the armies regulars — effectives; stand on the defensive except when we can attack in superior numbers; send no more regiments or gunboats to be gobbled up one at a time. Mass our forces and we shall surely conquer.
R. B. Hayes.
---Kate Cumming, a nurse at the Confederate Army hospital in Chattanooga, writes in her journal about the care of patients, especially in regard to the doctrine of “fresh air” for regaining health—and of the ministrations of the patients’ wives:
March 9.—Yesterday was a very warm day. Just before sunset we had one of the most terrific hail-storms I have ever seen; some of the hail-stones were the size of a hen’s egg. It broke nearly all of our windows on the west side of the house. It only lasted a few minutes. Had it been of much longer duration, I think the house would have fallen, as the rain poured through the windows in torrents, and would have swept all with it. . . . They get plenty of fresh air now; Dr. Hunter is a great believer in that any way. He says that when men have been living in the field as ours have, without even a tent to cover them at night, when brought into a close room, especially when wounded, they get worse right away. I have seen the truth of this exemplified.
When we first came here, there was a very sick man, whose wife was nursing him; he was in a small room, which the wife would not permit a breath of fresh air to enter, thinking it would kill him, as he had a very bad cough; we all thought he would die. One day Dr. Hunter ordered him to be put into a large ward, where there were about twenty patients; but it was well ventilated. The wife was in a terrible state, and said the moving would kill her husband, and asked me to beg Dr. Hunter to have him moved back. I did so, but he would not grant my request; he said fresh air was the only thing that would save the man, and he did not care to have his murder on his conscience. I found him inexorable, and thought him very hard-hearted. From that time the man commenced to improve, and in a week or two received a furlough, and went home with his wife.
The doctors do not like the wives of the men to come and nurse them; they say they invariably kill them with kindness. . . .