BioFile - Rutherford B. Hayes, Brig. Gen., U.S.V.
Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) came from a family with roots in New England dating from the late 1600s, who had later settled in Ohio. Although his father died shortly before his birth, Hayes was raised in comfortable circumstances, attended Kenyon College and Harvard Law School. When the Mexican War broke out in 1846 Hayes attempted to enlist, but he was rejected for service by reason of health. By the outbreak of the Civil War Hayes was a successful lawyer prominent in the Ohio Republican Party. He promptly helped raise the 23rd Ohio, in which he was commissioned a major on June 27, 1861.
Hayes took part in the Western Virginia Campaign in the summer of 1861. That September he was appointed judge advocate for the Ohio Department, but the following month was promoted to lieutenant colonel and deputy commander of the 23rd Ohio. Over the following ten months he saw considerable action with his regiment in many small operations in the disputed area., which subsequently became the state of West Virginia. During the Antietam Campaign in the late summer of 1862. Hayes was severely wounded in the left arm at the Battle of South Mountain (September 14). Refusing to leave the field, despite considerable loss of blood he played an important part in repulsing Confederate attacks. He was promoted to colonel and commander of the 23rd Ohio the following month.
Early the following year Hayes was given command of a brigade which was active against Confederate raiders and guerrillas in the Ohio Valley, and later command a brigade, and for a time a division, with some distinction during Sheridan's Valley Campaign. At the Battle of Cedar Creek (October19, 1864), he suffered a leg injury when his horse was killed beneath him, but continued in action, for which he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers to date from October 18, 1864.
Nominated for a seat in Congress in 1864, Hayes refused to campaign, remarking “I have other business just now. Any man who would leave the army at this time to electioneer for Congress ought to be scalped.” When he was elected anyway, he refused to take his seat, saying “I shall never come to Washington until I can come by way of Richmond.”
Hayes was given a brevet promotion to major general of volunteers on March 3, 1865. He resigned from the Army on June 8th. He had served in more than 50 engagements. Indeed, George Washington aside, Hayes had more front-line service than any other man who became president, and was wounded more often than any other president, five times, once quite seriously.
The ranks of the 23rd Ohio provided the nation with a number of notable soldiers and public servants. Its first commander was William S. Rosecrans, who later led the Army of the Cumberland with considerable distinction, while its first deputy commander was Eliakim P. Scammon, later a noted diplomat. Joining the regiment as enlisted men, and later rising to become officers were James M. Comfy, later a prominent ambassador, Stanley Matthews, later a justice of the United States Supreme Court, and William McKinley.
One of the most colorful characters to come out of the 23rd Ohio was Hayes’ orderly, Pvt. Billy Crump. One of the most skilled foragers in the war, Crump once returning from a 20-mile excursion having “recruited” 50 chickens, two turkeys, a goose, some two dozen eggs, and nearly 30 pounds of butter for the general’s mess, all of which were rather untidily draped about his horse.
Hayes was immensely proud of his military service, once remarking “I am more ratified by friendly references to my war record than by any other flattery.”