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Major-General Rutherford B. Hayes, U.S.V.
Brevet Major-General Rutherford B. Hayes, U.S.V.
Brevet Major-General Rutherford B. Hayes, ex-President of the United
States, was born in Delaware, Ohio, October 4, 1822. At the outbreak of
the Rebellion, he was elected captain of the military company formed from
the celebrated Cincinnati Literary Club. In June, 1861, he was appointed
major of the Twenty-third Ohio Infantry, and was ordered to West Virginia
in July following, remaining there until the summer of 1862, when his
command was transferred to the Potomac, and participated in the battle of
South Mountain. In this action Hayes was severely wounded in the arm. He
served in West Virginia in 1863, against John Morgan in Ohio, and in the
movement against the Tennessee Railroad in the spring of 1864, and led a
brigade with marked success in the battle of Cloyd's Mountain.
He took part in several engagements between Early and Sheridan's troops
prior to the battle of Winchester. In that important encounter he had the
right of Crook's command, and it was therefore his troops which, in
conjunction with the cavalry, executed the turning maneuver that decided
the fate of the day.
At one point in the advance his command came upon a deep slough, fifty
yards wide and stretching across the whole front of his brigade. Beyond
was a rebel battery. If the brigade endeavored to move around the
obstruction it would be exposed to a severe enfilading fire; while, if
discomfited, the line of advance would be broken in a vital part. Hayes,
with the instinct of a soldier, at once gave the word " Forward!" and
spurred his horse into the swamp. Horse and rider plunged at first nearly
out of sight, but Hayes struggled on till the beast sank hopelessly into
the mire. Then dismounting, he waded to the farther bank, climbed to the
top, and beckoned with his cap to the men to follow. In the attempt to
obey many were shot or drowned, but a sufficient number crossed the ditch
to form a nucleus for the brigade; and, Hayes still leading, they climbed
the bank and charged the battery. The enemy fled in great disorder, and
Hayes reformed his men and resumed the advance. The passage of the slough
was at the crisis of the fight, and the rebels broke on every side in
At Fisher's Hill Hayes led a division in the turning movement assigned to
Crook's command. Clambering up the steep sides of North Mountain, which
was covered with an almost impenetrable entanglement of trees and
underbrush, the division gained, unperceived, a position in rear of the
enemy's line, and then charged with so much fury that the rebels hardly
attempted to resist, but fled in utter rout and dismay. Hayes was at the
head of his column throughout this brilliant charge.
||At Cedar Creek he was again
engaged. While riding at full speed, his horse was shot under him,
but, soon recovering, he sprang to his feet and limped to his
"For gallant and meritorious service in the battles of Winchester,
Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek," Colonel Hayes was promoted to the
rank of brigadier-general of volunteers, and brevetted major-general
for "gallant and distinguished service during the campaign of 1864
in West Virginia, and particularly in the battles of Fisher's Hill
and Cedar Creek." He had commanded a brigade for more than two
years, and at the time of these promotions was in command of the
Kanawha division. In the course of his service in the army he was
five times wounded, and had four horses shot under him.
General Hayes was in 1864, while in the field, elected to Congress, and
in 1866 was re-elected. He was elected governor of Ohio in 1867, and
re-elected in 1869 and in 1875. He filled the office of President of the
United States from March 4, 1877, to 1881, and is now living in private
life at his home in Ohio.
General Grant, in his Memoirs (Vol. II.), says of General Hayes
"On more than one occasion in these engagements General R. B. Hayes, who
succeeded me as President of the United States, bore a very honorable
part. His conduct on the field was marked by conspicuous gallantry as well
as the display of qualities of a higher order than that of mere personal
daring. This might well have been expected of one who could write at the
time he is said to have done so, 'Any officer fit for duty who at this
crisis would abandon his post to electioneer for a seat in Congress ought
to be scalped.' Having entered the army as a major of volunteers at the
beginning of the war, General Hayes attained by meritorious service the
rank of brevet major-general before its close."
Source: Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who
served in the Civil War, published by L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893, 419
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