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1 In all the important battles of Sheridan's campaign Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, afterwards nineteenth President of the United States, had borne an honorable part. Entering the service early in 1861, as major of the 23rd Ohio Volunteers, he was ordered at once to West Virginia, and remained there till 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 was immediately commended for conspicuous gallantry, and in December of the same year received the colonelcy of his regiment, which had returned to West Virginia. He served under Crook, 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. Afterwards, still in Crook's command, he joined Hunter's army in the march against Lynchburg, was present at the operations in front of that place, and covered the retreat in the difficult and dangerous passage of the Alleghanies.He was next ordered to the mouth of the Shenandoah Valley, and 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 manoeuvre that decided the fate of the day. Here he displayed higher qualities than personal gallantry. 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 further 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 re-formed 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 confusion. At Fisher's Hill he 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. A month later, at Cedar Creek he was again engaged. His command was in reserve, and therefore did not share in the disaster of the main line at daybreak; but when the broken regiments at the front were swept hurriedly to the rear, Hayes's division flew to arms, and changing front, advanced in the direction from which the enemy was coming. Successful resistance, however, was impossible. He had not fifteen hundred effective men, and two divisions of the rebels were pouring through the woods to close around him in flank and rear. There was no alternative but retreat or capture. He withdrew, nevertheless, with steadiness, and maintained his organization unbroken throughout the battle, leading his men back from hill-top to hill-top in face of the enemy. While riding at full speed, his horse was shot under him; he was flung violently out of the saddle, and his foot and ankle were badly wrenched by the fall. Stunned and bruised, he lay for a moment, exposed to a storm of bullets, but soon recovering, sprang to his feet, and limped to his command. ‘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; he was brevetted Major-General for ‘gallant and distinguished services during the campaign of 1864, in West Virginia, and particularly in the battles of Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek.’ He bad 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 four times wounded, and had four horses shot under him. That he was of the stuff of which soldiers should be made was shown when he was nominated for Congress in 1864. His political friends then wrote for him to return to Ohio and make the canvass. But Hayes replied: ‘Any officer fit for duty who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer for a seat in Congress, ought to be scalped.’
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