Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Washington Pugilist: On Hayes

How tough was President Hayes? Via a link I received in the comments, I found a site called the Washington Pugilist. It has an article titled On Hayes.

The site notes:

A civilized lawyer who lived a healthy, comfortable life before the war, Hayes grew stronger and fitter as a soldier. "Ruddy" was one of four Civil War veterans to become president, and while all were generals, Hayes was the only one to be injured; fantastically, and repeatedly, as it were. Five times he was injured, and had four horses killed from underneath him, one of which threw him violently to the ground causing a severe concussion--his second most serious injury of the war. He was believed dead more than once, so convincingly so that his death was reported in the press. One thread which weaves through each tale of narrow escape is that his ability to keep moving despite devastating injuries helped him avoid capture and kept him alive. This evasiveness and cunning would serve him well in a fight.

The most serious injury occurred at the Battle of South Mountain in 1862, when a musketball struck below his left elbow, splintering a bone and tearing a blood vessel. During the time of the Civil War, a man was unlikely to survive such a devastating injury. Not only did Hayes survive, but he kept his arm. His healing was described by medical historian Rudolph Marx as taking an "unusually short time even by modern standards," who likewise hypothesized that he "must have possessed rare powers of recuperation and an extraordinary resistance to the common type of wound infections." This, of course, does not prove that Hayes had superhero-like healing abilities, rendering him completely immune to all human illness and able to stop bullets with his head. But it certainly raises the burden of proof for those who suggest he didn't.

Of course, his ability to survive the bitter and highly disputed election of 1876 also proves his durability and toughness. This Washington Pugilist site looks like it is worth watching.

2 comments:

schiller1979 said...

The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, OH has a wonderful museum, including his restored home.

They deal reaonsably forthrightly with the dispute about the 1876 election.

One somewhat trivial point that I discussed with the tour guide: they did not tend to serve alcohol in the White House. But, contrary to popular belief, the guide said that that was not imposed on Hayes by his teetotaler wife "Lemonade Lucy". Hayes himself adopted that policy, so as to set a good example for the country (remember, Grant was his predecessor). According to the tour guide, one exception was a White House dinner for Russian diplomats; apparently, dinner without alcohol would have been unthinkable for them.

Apparently, back home in Ohio, wine was served at dinners at the Hayes mansion.

The Washington Pugilist said...

Great fact about the Russians, Schiller. Figures, right? They probably also temporarily lifted the White House ban on wrestling bears when the Russians visited.

There was no one reason for Hayes prohibition in the white house, and he was certainly in part motivated by politics. Like you say, he felt the need to set a good example after Grant and Andrews, who was drunk when he was inaugurated (ok, he was sick and dosed on heavy meds, but still, it looked bad). In addition he would not have wanted to offend D.C.s republican teetolers. However, it was also certainly motivated by his personally being a prohibitionist, which he became only after meeting Lucy, a religious prohibitionist.

The cause and effect is loose, but it is seems highly likely that had he married a drunk instead of a mennonite, it would have been a non-dry white house.