Ohio History Journal

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OFFICER. By T. Harry Williams.

(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965.

xviii??324??vip; illustrations, maps, and

index. $5.95.)

I have a subjective judgment on this

book and I may as well make it now as

later: the first two chapters I liked very

much, the other fourteen I found tedious.

In Chapter I, "The Golden Years," Wil-

liams deals in a general way with the

background of Rutherford B. Hayes and

offers some very shrewd insights on his

Civil War career. Chapter II, "The Good

Colonels," describes how a Civil War regi-

ment fought, discusses the duties of a

regimental commander, and gives an en-

lightening analysis of the role of volunteer

officers. The remaining fourteen chapters

give a chronological account of Hayes's

army career. There are few, if any, living

military historians who write with greater

clarity and dexterity than T. Harry

Williams. But not even his very consider-

able gifts are sufficient to impart interest

to a series of inherently dull episodes.

Nevertheless, the West Virginia cam-

paigns did occur and it is well to have

an account of them by a reputable his-

torian. Everyone interested in the Civil

War has reason to be grateful for

Williams' industry and fortitude in un-

raveling the story.

Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio, and

was educated at Kenyon College and Har-

vard Law School. He practiced law in

Cincinnati and became interested in poli-

tics. Like Lincoln, he was first a Whig

and then a Republican. On the eve of the

Civil War he is described as "moderately

successful, widely respected, and reason-

ably certain of a stable future." On June

7, 1861, he volunteered his services and

spent four years, almost to the day, in

the army. Entering the Twenty-Third

Ohio as a major, Hayes was promoted to

lieutenant colonel on October 24, 1861,

and in November he took command. Late

in the war Hayes commanded a brigade

and even a division, but his sense of identi-

fication was always with the Twenty-

Third. He was promoted to brigadier

general near the end of the war and even

to major general of volunteers, but the

last promotion came a year after he had

resigned his commission. He never com-

manded as a general. Williams concludes:

"History ranks him slightly above the

average among the Presidents, and by

coincidence this should be his rating as

a soldier--above the ordinary but not

among the great."

Hayes himself was frank to say that

he would rather be a good colonel than

a poor general. The Twenty-Third Regi-

ment, in which he took such pride, was

probably average--possibly considerably

better than average--as a fighting unit.

Among its commanding and ranking offi-

cers were some of the most prominent men

of Ohio and the nation, including, besides

Hayes, William S. Rosecrans, Eliakim P.

Scammon, James M. Comly, Stanley

Matthews, and William McKinley. The