MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps
APRIL 1861--NOVEMBER 1863
Letters of Generals R. B. Hayes and George Crook as to the discipline and conduct of the Kanawha Division in the campaign of September, 1862. The death of President Hayes has removed any objections to the publication of his letter._
FREMONT, OHIO, 8th September, 1882.
MY DEAR GENERAL,--Your note of the 4th instant came during a brief absence from home. I appreciate your kindness and your friendly suggestions. After sleeping on it, I am not inclined to depart from my custom in dealing with attacks upon me.... Besides, to give a correct relation of the Reno altercation would be to disparage an officer who died in battle a few days after the affair, and who cannot now give his side of the controversy.
One of the brigades of the division was commanded by General Crook and another by General Scammon, both regular army officers conspicuous for attention to strictness of discipline. General Scammon was at the time still colonel of the Twenty-third. The regiment on that march repeatedly reported, as I was glad to do, not a single absentee on the first roll-call immediately after the halt.
The altercation, in its general facts, was as you recall it. But the occasion of it was this. The regiment halted to bivouac in a stubble-field. The men got bundles of straw, or possibly of wheat unthreshed, from a stack in the field to lie upon. General Reno saw it. I was temporarily absent. The general, as you say, "in a rough way" accosted the men, and as I returned, I heard his language and retorted in behalf of my men, not in my own case at all, for he had said nothing to me. Hence the row between us. I was told, while I was lying wounded, [Footnote: During the battle of South Mountain.--J. D. C.] that General Reno was greatly pleased by our vigorous attack, and that he paid us a high compliment, expressing gratification that our difficulty had gone no further than it did.
Now excuse my suggestion. Let officers tell the story whose names are not called in question in the note referred to--say General Scammon, General Crook, and yourself. I am grateful for your attention to this misrepresentation, and hope you will not differ widely from me as to the correctness of the course I take. Sincerely, (Signed) R. B. HAYES.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF ARIZONA, WHIPPLE BARRACKS, PRESCOTT, A. T., November 27, 1882.
MY DEAR GENERAL,--Referring to your letter of the 3d instant asking replies to certain queries with reference to the conduct of the Kanawha Division during the Antietam campaign, I can only reply generally. The twenty years which have elapsed make my memory indistinct, and I can now recall only prominent features or particular incidents in which I was especially interested. I remember distinctly, however, that the Kanawha Division compared favorably in discipline and general good conduct with the best troops of the army. In my own brigade there was no straggling, or, if any, so little that it did not come to my notice. I am quite sure there was no pillaging in my brigade. My men probably took fence rails for their bivouac fires, and straw and hay for their beds, but to the best of my belief there was nothing done that could be called pillaging.
I heard, at the time, something with reference to a controversy between Generals Reno and Hayes, but if ever I knew what it was about, I have forgotten it. In this matter it seems as if the statement of General Hayes should be conclusive.
I am very glad that you have interested yourself in refuting the numberless charges which the writers of personal histories have found it convenient to lay against the Kanawha Division, and which in almost every instance are base slanders. The _personnel_ of the division should in itself be a sufficient refutation. The regiments were mainly of '61 men from country districts who enlisted from motives of patriotism, and as a rule were never disgraced by conduct which many of the regiments enlisted in the large cities of the East were notorious for throughout the army.
The Kanawha Division did not belong to the Army of the Potomac, and it was therefore an easy matter to shift responsibility from its own organization by throwing it on the shoulders of the troops serving with it. The subsequent reputation of this division is in itself a sufficient answer, and I challenge history to show an organization which was more distinguished for all soldierly qualities than the one you had the honor to command during the campaign, until the death of Reno gave you the Ninth Corps.
You are at liberty to use this letter in any way you deem best, and I am only sorry that I can do no more to assist you.
Very Sincerely, Your friend, GEORGE CROOK, Brig. Gen'l.
To General J. D. Cox.