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Full text of "Letters from a surgeon of the Civil War;"

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COPYRIGHT DEPOSIT. 



i LIBRARY OF CONGRESS. | 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 
OF THE CIVIL WAR 




John' G. Pkrkv, Maihii, 1S()4- 



LETTERS 

FROM A SURGEON OF THE 
CIVIL WAR 

COMPILED BY 

MARTHA DERBY PERRY 

Author of **God^s Light as it Came to Me " 



ILLUSTRATED FROM PHOTOGRAPHS 



BOSTON 

LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 

1906 



UBKARY of CONGRESS 
Two CoDies Received 

JUN 9 lyoe 

'j Copyrijrnt Entry 
, -OLaSS Cl> KAc. No. 
^COPY A. 






Copyright, 1906, 
By Little, Brown, and Company. 

All rights reserved 



Published June, 1906 



THZ UlnySBSITT FBB88, CAMBBIDaE, C. B. A. 



3Iy Husband and I dedicate these pages 
to our Nieces and Nephews, who though 
unborn in our early days, are now to us 
as if they had always been. 



INTRODUCTION 

IN a much weather-beaten trunk, which 
since the Civil War has travelled from 
one attic to another, have been carefully 
preserved a pair of shoulder-straps, a silver 
trefoil (the badge of the Second Corps of 
the Army of the Potomac), a green military 
sash, a well-worn workbag in which is still 
a big darning-needle with its half-used 
thread, numerous photographs of officers 
and localities, and a mass of letters. 

From the end of the war until the pres- 
ent time these letters have remained un- 
opened, and as the contents are mixed with 
much which is personal, it seems best to 
separate the war news from the rest and 
preserve it in a connected form which may 
prove of interest to the general reader, 
vii 



INTRODUCTION 

Although there are gaps in the order of the 
correspondence, it is sufficiently connected 
to tell its own story. 

John G. Perry of Boston, Mass., entered 
Harvard College in 1858, bearing with him 
a very youthful attachment ; and in the 
undoubting judgment of youth, he and I, 
but boy and girl, in hght-hearted gayety 
strolled one evening in the moonlight to 
consider the unsupportable length of time 
before Hving our lives together. First the 
present college term ; then the INIedical 
School and hospital service after, for even 
in childhood John was called "the little 
doctor." How indefinite it all seemed, — 
how far, far away the future ! So we wan- 
dered on, regardless of all possible interfer- 
ence in our joy of life, and finally decided 
with but little, or I may say no hesitation, 
that the college life, then but a few months 
advanced, must be abandoned and the Sci- 
entific School, offering shorter terms and 
viii 



INTRODUCTION 

collateral studies, adopted — for even then 
the medical course must follow. This was 
insurmountable ; and thus it was that the 
plan of action agreed upon by both was 
taken and earnestly continued until the 
spring of 1862, when the Government issued 
a call for volunteer contract assistant sur- 
geons to serve in the military hospitals, to 
thus avoid detaching the commissioned 
assistant surgeons, who were needed on the 
fields of battle, from their respective regi- 
ments. The medical student in general 
belonged to the class best adapted to this 
service, and as it exactly fitted the needs of 
this particular one, he made application and 
was accepted. 

Armed with authority from the Surgeon 
General of the State of Massachusetts 
(Dale), he started for the rendezvous. For- 
tress Monroe, where he was to report to 
Surgeon General Cuyler of that depart- 
ment. 

ix 



INTRODUCTION 

Arriving there early one morning in com- 
pany with many others, he was assigned to 
duty at the Chesapeake Hospital, formerly 
a seminary for young ladies, now the Indian 
School. Thus began his army experiences. 

He had received permission to fit himself 
for his final examinations at the Boston 
Medical School by means of experience in 
army hospitals rather than through the 
usual routine of study, and much that is 
recorded in the following extracts was the 
result of this especial experience and study. 

Acknowledgment is due the Military 
Order of the Loyal Legion of Massachu- 
setts for permission to copy photographs 
in their collection. 

MARTHA DERBY PERRY. 



CONTENTS 

Chapter Page 
I. In the Chesapeake Hospital, Fortress 

Monroe 1 

II. First Experience as a Commissioned 

Officer 21 

III. An Accident and its Conclusion . . 47 

IV. The New York Riot 57 

V. Return to the Army 74 

VI. The Murder of Captain McKay . . 80 

VII. Camp near Culpeper 99 

VIII. The Battle of Bristoe Station . . 104 

IX. Marching and Counter-marching . 119 

X. The Other Side of Germannia Ford 132 

XI. Camp at Stevensburg, Va 147 

XII. The Commencement of Grant's Cam- 
paign 163 

XIII. Captain Kelliher's Wounds ... 178 

XIV. Operating and Marching .... 184 

xi 



CONTENTS 

Chapter Page 

XV. The Death of Lieutenant G of 

the Sharpshooters 190 

XVI. A Delightful Episode 195 

XVII. Field Hospital near Petersburg . . 207 

XVIII. Camp near Petersburg 217 



xn 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Portrait of John G. Perry, March, 1864- . Frontispiece 

View of Fredericksburg from above the 

Town of Falmouth Facing page 32 

The Post Office « « 76 

Winter Quarters of the Twentieth Mas- 
sachusetts " " 126 

Sketch of the Hut of an Officer of the 

Twentieth Massachusetts . . . . " "150 

The Country through which the Battle 
of the Wilderness was Fought — A 
Pontoon Bridge " "174 

An Ambulance removing the Wounded " " 208 

Major-General Bartlett " "218 



LETTERS 

FROM A SURGEON OF THE 
CIVIL WAR 

CHAPTER I 

IN THE CHESAPEAKE HOSPITAL, FOETRESS 
MONROE 

May 18th, 1862. 

1AM sitting on the bed of a wounded 
Confederate, and using paper which 
he kindly offered me. As Sunday is 
generally the battle day, a medical grad- 
uate and I — he, by the way, as green as 
the foliage — had hurried through from 
Boston, hoping to reach here and be fairly 
at work by that time, but we found we 
were to be faced by many difficulties. 

On our arrival I reported to the brigade 
surgeon, who promptly said there was 
neither room for me nor need of my ser- 
vices; still, he would do his best to find 
1 1 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

me work, and so politely bowed me to the 
door. This was a surprise, but, nothing 
daunted, I wandered aimlessly about, con- 
scious, however, that in my pocket were 
official credentials which entitled me to the 
position of a government contract assistant 
surgeon; but there seemed so much red tape 
to unfold I could hardly find the right end 

to begin on. 

Seeing the door of a cottage ajar, I 
entered, and found myself in the presence 
of a surgeon who was hard at work at the 
operating table, with a number of assist- 
ants in attendance. I watched them, the 
surgeon now and then eying me, as if to 
say, " What the devil are you doing here? " 
until in the first spare moment he asked my 
business. I gave him my name, told him 
what I had come for, and of the rebuff I 
had just received. At that he laughed, 
saying, "Never mind, you are just the 
man needed; we are overloaded with work 
and help is absolutely necessary; you shall 
2 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

share my quarters, and I will see that you 
are all right." 

At mess that evening this good friend. 
Dr. Gushing, placed my seat beside his, 
and noticing that I felt a little anxious as 
to my possible reception by the brigade 
surgeon in charge, who had just entered, 
touched my knee, whispering, "If you 
don't notice him, he won't you ; you 're all 
right; " and so here I was at once installed 
for the time as Dr. Cushing's assistant. 

This hospital is situated a short distance 
from the fort and on the Hampton Road. 
From where I am writing I see many ships 
of war riding at anchor in the stream, and 
also the very spot where the battle between 
the " Merrimac " and the " Monitor " took 
place. The building holds about seven hun- 
dred patients, and is no full; beside it is 
a cottage, and also somj twenty tents, all 
occupied by sick and wounded Confeder- 
ates. Dr. Gushing and I have entire charge 
of these men, who seem in good spirits, and 
3 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

are finer looking fellows than our own men 
liere. I hear that the surgeon who served 
before me, while dressing a soldier's wound, 
laid the knife for a moment on the bed. 
The man seized it and made a lunge at the 
doctor, but instead of killing him, as he had 
intended, only ran it into his arm; where- 
upon the doctor instantly shot him. I sus- 
pect that the surgeon may have been rough 
in this instance, possibly intentionally so; 
I am careful, however, not to leave my in- 
struments within reach of these prisoners, 
although they seem friendly and I do not 
fear them. 

May 28th, 1862. 

On one of the beds there lies, fast asleep, 
a Confederate surgeon, — a thoroughbred 
South Carolinian, who never, before the 
war, passed his State lines. He was cap- 
tured with a number of others in the last 
engagement before Richmond, and as most 
of these men were wounded, he was de- 
tailed to care for them. Dressed entirely 

4 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

in Alabama homespun, — which is the 
ughest snuff -colored stuff imaginable, — 
a broad-brimmed planter's hat covering his 
head, and stained with mud and blood from 
head to foot, the appearance of this officer 
when he first arrived was strange enough; 
but his face was bright and intelligent. 

His greeting was unexpected: "I am 
delighted to meet men from JVIassachusetts, 
for I know I shall find in them intelligence 
and hospitality "; and he certainly did find 
the latter, for we furnished him through- 
out with clothes. He enjoys reading the 
Boston newspapers, and we have many 
pleasant chats together, for I find he is 
anxious to discover for himself the true 
state of affairs at the North, and whether 
the Yankee hordes are such bloodjhounds 
as he has been taught to consider them. 
We seem to be making each other's ac- 
quaintance by simple good fellowship, and 
this, after all, is the only true way. 

About sundown last night I was walk- 
5 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

I 

ing on the beach quietly smoking my pipe, 
when I saw something which proved to be 
the body of a man floating on the water 
just at the edge of the shore. I pulled it 
up on the beach, covered it with seaweed, 
and then reported the incident. Meanwhile 
I returned to watch, walking up and down 
in the moonlight, or standing by the mound 
of seaweed, thinking of the poor nameless 
thing beneath, — thinking in ways that a 
month since were unknown to me. Since 
coming here death has faced me at every 
turn and in every conceivable form; yet 
my own future, my happiness, and my ac- 
tivity seem assured to me. Did that poor 
fellow look forward as confidently, I won- 
dered? Possibly, and yet I cannot think 
he felt quite as safe as I. Then, was I 
homesick? Only the moon and the stars 
and the night could testify. . . . 

The arrival of the provost marshal 
forced me back again to the existing 
facts. He recognized the body as that of 
6 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

one of the unfortunates who was drowned 

when the " Cumberland " was sunk by the 

" Merrimae." 

June 15th, 1862. 

This afternoon I collected aU my con- 
valescents in the kitchen of the cottage, 
placed them about a blazing fire, — for it 
was chilly and raining hard outside, — and 
started the singing of Methodist hymns. 
The music caught like an epidemic, and 
soon from every side came doctors, nurses, 
patients, negroes, until we had a rousing 
chorus. All of them sang with their whole 
souls, each one asking for his favorite 
hymn, and the concert ended with " Old 
Hundred." How I did enjoy it! 

June 20th, 1862. 

I hear from outside sources that I am 
working under contract and receiving full 
pay. It is not so. Congress has voted to 
pay all volunteer surgeons and assistant 
surgeons, but as I have neither yet taken 
.7 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

my degree nor any examination for it, I 
am not included in that list. I hold the 
position of assistant surgeon, but not the 
pay. 

June 23rd, 1862. 

I have just returned from Norfolk, 
where I passed a day and night, and must 
tell you a little of my experience. 

I reached there after about an hour's 
delightful sail, and by invitation went on 
board the " Minnesota," which lies just off 
the city, where I met many old friends and 
was hospitably entertained. In the after- 
noon I walked through some of the prin- 
cipal streets wdth several officers of the 
ship. Hundreds of negroes of every age 
and size watched us as we approached 
the wharf, grinning and showing their 
white teeth, and calling out: "By Golly! 
what big Yanks ! Now you '11 see de rebs 
run!" It was the hour when the houses 
were thrown open to the cool evening 
breeze, and as we looked through the grass- 
8 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

grown streets people were sitting on every 
piazza and doorstep. When they saw us 
coming there was much shifting of chairs 
and rearranging of skirts; some ran into 
the house and closed the door in our faces, 
then flew to the window to peep through 
the blinds, while others remained and turned 
their backs upon us. The children of one 
family were placed in a row and told to 
sing " Dixie " as we passed, which they 
did vociferously. I did not blame them; 
under similar circumstances, between aU 
members of the human family there is a 
strong likeness. The same thing might 
occur anywhere. 

Throughout the city guards were sta- 
tioned at intervals like policemen; and I 
saw but one woman who was not in deep 
mourning. 

There was a British frigate in the stream, 
lying beside the " INIinnesota," and on Sat- 
urday night the English officers gave an 
entertainment on board to the Southern 
9 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

ladies, on which occasion the tables were 
dressed with Confederate flags. This is 
the way John Bull figures as a " neutral " 
in our affairs. 

July 1st, 1862. 

A new contingent to-day of sick and 
wounded; in fact, the men arrived in such 
numbers that we laid them on the grass 
and dressed their wounds there. I was 
obliged to perform an operation on one 
man and cut off two of his fingers. He 
sat up perfectly straight and did not wince 
a particle. I called him a " man," for he 
truly deserved the title, though he, poor 
fellow, was a mere boy of eighteen years. 

Dr. Gushing, whom I assisted, has gone 
home, and I have entire charge of the cot- 
tage. The surgeon-general says he shall 
place the worst cases here, as it is the 
healthiest place there is. Think of the 
experience I shall gain! 



10 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

July 3rd, 1862. 

A thousand wounded men arrived at 
the fort to-night, and to-morrow we shall 
probably have five hundred more. The 
work is endless. 

Last night the heat was intense, and it 
seemed to me that a puff of pure air, free 
from the atmosphere of hospital wards, 
would be worth a kingdom; so, finding a 
few spare moments, I drew a mattress out 
on the cottage piazza, upon which I threw 
myself. The situation of our hospital is 
quite at the edge of the bluff over the 
water, so that we have the beautiful bay 
almost beneath us. The sun was just set- 
ting; sky and water were aglow with color, 
and while smoking my pipe I saw passing 
below a large force of transports loaded 
with soldiers whom I knew were com- 
manded by General Burnside. I knew also 
that the President and General Scott were 
aboard. Bands were playing, flags flying, 
11 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

and all seemed gay and brilliant. On they 
sailed, with the sunlight upon them, on 
into the purple and the gray. "Ah!" I 
thought, solaced by my pipe, " behind me 
in the stifling wards is the night of that 
which has passed." 

In one of my rooms lies a young fellow 
who was a prisoner on board the " Teaser," 
a Confederate gunboat, when she was cap- 
tured on the James River. He said our 
gunboat came round the bend of the river 
without being seen, and threw a shell which 
passed directly through their vessel. The 
Confederates jumped overboard and swam 
for the shore, but, as he was afraid another 
shell would be thrown and blow her up, he 
lowered the flag, and in this way, most 
fortunately, made his escape. He tells me 
that our men found on board the " Teaser " 
a chart of the river, showing a passage 
through the obstructions which had been 
considered impassable by the Federal fleet. 
One of my Confederate patients died 
12 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

to-day. He called me to his bed early this 
morning and said that he knew of his con- 
dition and was fully prepared to go, but 
there was one thing he wanted to do before 
the end, and that was to beg me to take 
his money and buy something which I could 
always keep in remembrance of him. He 
talked a great while about it, nor could I 
persuade him that he ought to divide the 
whole sum among the nurses who had been 
so kind to him. At one o'clock he died; 
you will realize the simple pathos in the last 
act of this poor fellow's history, when I tell 
you that his whole fortune amounted to less 
than fifty cents. 

I have a plantation full of negroes under 
my charge across the river. Twenty are 
down with measles and twenty more with 
fever and ague. They are so confoundedly 
black that at first I found it difficult to 
discriminate the measles, but now I can 
see even the dirt. They always have very 
nice berry pies for me, and you may smile, 
13 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

but I really believe these berry pies will 
make a new man of me. 

July 21st, 1862. 

Four hundred released prisoners arrived 
to-day under flag of truce, and I assure 
you it was a most distressing sight. All 
of them were captured during the seven 
days' fight and had been prisoners but three 
weeks; yet the}'' were starved, ragged, and 
filthy beyond description. Some had on 
only shirts; others drawers v/ithout shirts; 
and one wore simply a rough blanket over 
his naked body, yet all were either wounded 
or ill. Their wounds had been dressed only 
by what each could do for the other, and 
by making use of the water given them to 
drink. These men were released because 
the Confederates could not feed them. 
They never complain, talking with reluc- 
tance of their suffering while in j)rison, 
and always end by saying, " It was the 
best the enemy could do for us." My re- 
14 



OF THE CWIL WAR 

spect for human nature grows every day 
that I am here. I see its httleness, but its 
greatness makes far the deeper impression. 
The fortitude with which these men bear 
their hard lot is wonderful, but they are 
not the only heroes; I am constantly 
brought in contact with such courage in 
so many of the men, and such magnanim- 
ity, that I am fairly awed. 

July 23rd, 1862. 

I have many curious cases under my 
care. Some of the patients have been 
prisoners in Richmond, but although al- 
most starved and their wounds dressed 
only by having water poured over them, 
they are all doing finely. One of them 
had a ball enter the very apex, or tip end, 
of his nose, and pass through his head, but 
he has not had a bad symptom and is now 
nearly well. Another man was struck by 
a ball in the forehead, whence it passed 
directly round his head under the skin, 
15 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

down and around his neck, making its exit 
close to the jugular vein and carotid artery. 
Two others were shot through the lungs, 
and yet all these fellows are doing finely. 
I account for it from the very fact of their 
enforced low diet. 

July 25th, 1862. 
Released prisoners say that a pestilence 
is feared in Richmond, where almost every 
house is turned into a hospital. If a man 
dies of fever his body is rolled in tar and 
smoked before burial. Corpses are buried 
without coffins and scarcely covered with 
earth. No names mark the grave, but 
simply the number which that one grave con- 
tains: "Sixty-five Confederates," "Twenty 
Federals," or " Yankees," etc. 

August 1st, 1862. 

I have been up to the army, — the Army 

of the Potomac, — and returned last night 

on the hospital boat with released prisoners. 

The trip was very interesting, though full 

16 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

of hard work. On our way we shelled the 
woods wherever we thought batteries might 
be planted. At one point we saw a sus- 
picious horse and wagon, and off went a 
ten-inch sheU screaming like a wild devil 
over the tops of the trees, while every one 
on the boat eagerly watched the effect. 
Suddenly there was a boom, and away flew 
the horse, stripped of all encumbrance by 
the trees and bushes, for all the world as 
if after the shell. 

On my arrival at headquarters, at Har- 
rison's Landing, after seeing all I could 
of camps and such matters, I stumbled into 
a hospital tent and there remained, sleep- 
ing that night under an ambulance, with 
my blanket for a pillow. The next morn- 
ing orders came to start the released pris- 
oners for Chesapeake Hospital and leave 
the worst cases there. I went on board 
the transport and, finding the men in a 
most pitiable condition, offered my ser- 
vices, which were immediately accepted. 
2 17 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

Some were almost naked; others without 
a rag on them. Poor fellows! Their 
wounds had not been dressed at all, and 
many were so weak from starvation they 
could barely walk. We were fifteen hours 
on board that boat without a morsel of 
food, and I could have almost eaten my 
tobacco. Yet not a word of complaint had 
been breathed by one of those brave men; 
the fact that they were released seemed 
sufficient compensation for all their suf- 
fering". We were finally transferred from 
the hospital boat to a tugboat which was 
loaded with bread. 

August 4th, 1862. 

Something is going on near the army, 
for gunboats have been moving up and 
down the river all day, and the big Union 
gun at the fort is booming throughout the 
surrounding country every half hour, mak- 
ing the very earth quake. The sound stirs 
in me an intense enthusiasm which I have 
instantly to stifle and suppress, for it is 
18 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

impossible to do more than I am now 
doing without my medical degree, which 
I must have before continuing the work 
much longer. The brigade surgeon says 
I must stay here, but the necessities of 
my future career force me back to my 
studies; although this surgical practice 
is of great value, yet I reach in it only 
two branches of the profession, and there 
are many others of vital importance. My 
cottage is full, in fact the whole hospital 
is crowded, and I am tired out, having 
no relief whatever from steady, close 
confinement. 

I see by the papers that the North is 
in a ferment since the draft; that recruit- 
ing goes on everywhere, the streets being 
filled with detachments of troops parad- 
ing and enticing men to enlist; and that 
merchants offer to keep open the positions 
of clerks who do enlist, and in some cases 
to continue their salaries while they are 
absent. 

19 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

Note: My husband became at this time 
so exhausted from overwork that he was 
obHged to leave suddenly for home. After 
a severe illness he studied for and success- 
fully passed his final examinations at the 
Boston Medical School. We were then 
married, on March 18th, 1863, and on the 
same day he received his commission as 
assistant surgeon of the Twentieth Mass- 
achusetts Volunteers. On the 11th of 
April, 1863, he returned to the army. 



20 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 



CHAPTER II 

FIRST EXPERIENCE AS A COMMISSIONED 
OFFICER 

Washington, April 13th, 1863. 

OF all the disagreeable soldier-loaf- 
ing places I was ever in, this is 
the worst. The city is rambling, 
the streets are dusty, unclean, filled with 
army officers of every grade and with 
privates. Were it not for the necessity of 
procuring passes, I would be at this mo- 
ment with my regiment. Vague rumors 
concerning army movements have been 
flying through the city, and I am anxious 
to be on duty. There is no surgeon with 
the Twentieth now, so I expect to have full 
charge. 

Falmouth, April 15th, 1863. 

I have felt dazed and benumbed since 
my arrival here, probably from the effort 
21 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

I made before leaving home to suppress 
all gathering emotions. On the Sound 
boat I gave way, and I confess to behav- 
ing as I did when a child for the first time 
away from home. I cried as I did then, — 
all night long. I thought Harry Abbott 
in the berth above me was fast asleep, when 
suddenly he rolled over and looked down 
upon me. I felt for the moment thor- 
oughly ashamed of myself, but he said 
nothing and settled back into his place, 
and then I heard him crying also. We 
had talked things over a bit, and I knew 
the poor fellow felt that he had seen his 
home for the last time, and that he had 
passed safely through so many battles he 
could hardly escape unscathed again. 
However, I am quite cheerful now, and 
manage when in camp with the other 
officers to wear even a smile; but I think 
if they could see me after I turn in at 
night the change of expression would 
astonish them. 

22 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

I am now quite settled in my camp 
quarters, feeling at times very like a raw 
recruit, but usually more like a veteran. 
We are pleasantly situated on the banks 
of a river overlooking the enemy's camp 
on the opposite shore, about two hundred 
j^ards away. The Confederates keep them- 
selves pretty dark, only allowing us to see 
their pickets. 

I am surgeon-in-charge nominally, as 
the regiment has not its full quota of 
men, but only acting surgeon in reality. 
Dr. Hayward, the former surgeon, is now 
surgeon-in-chief of the brigade, and has 
nothing more to do with the Twentieth, 
except that he hves and messes with us. 

Last night I rode with some others to 
General Couch's headquarters, and was 
introduced to the great men there. Yes, 
it was a pleasant thing to do, and the 
afterglow of enjo}Tnent was even more 
pleasant. 



S3 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

April 23rd, 1863. 

I have been off on picket duty and had 
my first experience at the outposts. It 
stormed most lustily the whole time. For- 
tunately, I had to remain but thirty-six 
hours, which is just half of the time of 
the men on guard. I set out from here 
on horseback, with pistol in holster, knap- 
sack on my back; one man in front bear- 
ing my hospital knapsack filled with 
medicines, instruments, bandages, etc., and 
my servant — a fine, trusty little German 
who had served in many a war — carrying 
my rations and blankets. On my arrival 
at the post I reported to the commandant, 
and, this little formality over, looked for 
a suitable place to quarter myself. 

The picket was stationed in what had 
been a dense forest before our troops ar- 
rived, although now the pioneer's axe had 
made a clearing for us. . . . Pickets are 
the outposts of the army. They are thrown 
24 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

out at certain distances to watch the en- 
emy's movements, to prevent, if possible, 
any hostile activity, and to give warning 
of danger. In an army of this size picket 
duty requires about five thousand men, who 
are generally placed within a short distance 
of the pickets of the opposing force, and 
are divided into parties of nine, each com- 
manded by an officer. Behind these are 
placed groups of men in reserve, who re- 
lieve the others at intervals, and in case 
of attack assist in keeping the enemy at 
bay. Every picket has a surgeon, who 
remains in the rear with the reserve. He 
is selected from the regiments by the 
surgeon-in-chief of the division. A sen- 
tinel's duty is arduous, especially to a raw 
recruit ; he must be persistently on the alert, 
in spite, often, of almost overwhelming 
drowsiness from the weary monotony of 
his duty and the stillness of his surround- 
ings. A soldier who had never been under 
fire once described to me his absolute terror 
25 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

at first finding himself one dark night on 
picket duty. He said the well-worn phrase 
" my hair stood on end " never had con- 
veyed to him much meaning, but on this 
night he knew it to be absolutely true. It 
seemed to him that an enemy lurked be- 
hind every bush, and when a shot did cut 
the air he distinctly felt his cap rise with 
his bristling hair. 

To return to my story. With the aid 
of my servant I built a little covering of 
logs and pine boughs, and then, after an 
enjoyable breakfast of coffee, hardtack, 
and cold salt pork, lighted my pipe and 
strolled down to the outposts to take a 
view of Johnny Reb. 

The Rappahannock separates the oppos- 
ing armies, the picket of each being within 
a stone's throw of the other, even at the 
widest part of the river. The water rushes 
by over immense rocks, which sometimes 
rise above the surface; the banks are 
thickly wooded, and in their midst rise 
26 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

rude huts and earthworks. I sat a long 
time watching the Confederates, wonder- 
ing as to the outcome of the struggle, 
trying to place myself in their attitude 
and to look at things from their stand- 
point. These reflections were often in- 
terrupted by shouts from the enemy's 
pickets across the river to ours, which al- 
ways drew a curt reply from a Yankee 
sentinel. 

Rain soon drove me back to my hut, 
and then it poured in earnest, streaming 
through every crack and crevice. In half 
an hour there was an inch of water cover- 
ing the floor. Wrapped in my blanket, I 
fell into a deep sleep, and awoke about 
four in the afternoon to find that the rain 
had ceased. Later, however, the storm re- 
turned with redoubled strength and made 
the woods near by roar with its fury. In 
an interval of calm I built a fire to cook 
my supper, thinking it would be the only 
opportunity, but before it was ready down 
27 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

came the rain again and put an end to 
it all. 

Again I lay in my blanket, but at mid- 
night the commanding officer awoke me to 
beg a shelter from the storm. No sooner 
had we settled ourselves to sleep than we 
were aroused by a messenger from head- 
quarters, ordering us to lie on our arms, 
as an attack was expected. 

I awoke at daybreak benumbed with 

cold. At noon the drum beat, my horse 

was brought me, and I returned to the old 

quarters again, after my first experience 

as picket surgeon. 

April 26th, 1863. 

This is the second Sunday I have been 
with the army, and the third away from 
home. It is a beautiful day, without a 
cloud in the sky, and I have had a de- 
lightful five hours' ride with the Doctor 
and Major Macy. We rode the entire 
way by the river, enjoying intensely the 
lovely scenery, and went as far as the 
28 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

extreme right of our picket, halting on 
the brow of a hill overhanging the river, 
and from which we looked directly into the 
camp of the enemy and down upon their 
outposts. Last night a number of us rode 
over to General Sedgwick's headquarters 
to see some of his staff, and had a jolly 
time. The General ordered out the band 
and gave us a parade of his corps. 

April 29th, 1863. 

The last twelve hours have been very 
exciting. All the army has moved except- 
ing our division, which is left to protect 
the town and deceive the enemy. The 
regiment is picketing along the river for 
four or five miles, and we expect marching 
orders about dark. Our division crossed 
the river just below Fredericksburg with 
little opposition. We can hear the firing 
now quite distinctly, and each one wonders 
what part he is to take in the ball. 

Last night the brigade band serenaded 
29 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

us, and our room was so filled with gen- 
erals and subordinate officers that some of 
us sat on the floor. ... In all this stir and 
excitement I listened to the conversation 
about me, saying little ; so much of me was 
far away, wishing, as I always do wish at 
such times, that I were not alone. But 
there is a strange romance in it all. 

April 30th, 1863. 

Still here in Falmouth. We are in the 
centre of the Union line and are expected 
to hold this place and prevent the Confed- 
erates from cutting off* supplies or dividing 
our forces. They have taken to their rifle- 
pits, undoubtedly anticipating an attack, 
and are so near that I can see their faces 
with the poorest opera-glass. The moon 
shines gloriously to-night, and when we 
march it will be right into the enemy's 
country; but the loafing about, waiting 
for orders to start, the suspense and delay, 
are almost unendurable. 
30 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

Falmouth, May 1st, 1863. 

The Government has lately kept back the 
mail, so that this afternoon, when letters 
came in a heap, I gave such a shout of joy 
that it startled Dr. Hayward and Macy 
out of a sound sleej); they thought me 
mad. How I have enjoyed my letters, 
and how I drank in every word! I think 
that when two people are separated, if the 
one absent is occupied, the lot of the one 
left at home is the harder; but if the one 
absent is not occupied, I think his lot must 
be the harder. 

The sun has set, the moon is resplen- 
dent, and if orders should come to-night 
the march would be enjoyable. Every- 
thing is packed and my horse saddled, but 
the waiting is very trying. To-day we 
have heard firing on all sides, and two 
hundred prisoners captured by our forces 
have just passed. There was a little ex- 
citement this afternoon, when a private 
31 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

who was crazy drunk rushed into our 
quarters, insulted us, and attempted to 
strike Harry Abbott, who happened to be 
standing near. After a hard struggle we 
conquered him. He will be severely pun- 
ished for such folly. 

Falmouth, May 5th, 1863. 

Yesterday the regiment was in the city 
of Fredericksburg; to-day it is back in its 
old quarters at Falmouth, and I am in the 
same house and room. We have had two 
days of pretty hard fighting; the first day 
winning everything, the second losing all 
we had gained. 

On Saturday night we broke camp and 
marched to the Lacy house, where we 
expected to cross the river by pontoon- 
bridge. No bridge having been built, I 
managed to sleep very well in a gutter, 
forming a half circle, with my head on 
one side and feet on the other. In the 
morning we crossed the bridge that had 
32 




CJh 



H 5 



O as 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

been finally put together during the night, 
and easily marched into Fredericksburg, 
which was not only deserted by the Con- 
federate army, but by most of the able- 
bodied inhabitants as well. 

This attack on the city and its heights 
was a " blind " to hold the enemy in check 
while General Hooker should cross the river 
above, and this is the way it was done. We 
formed on the edge of the stream, hidden 
from view of the opposing forces, and to 
the west of the city, and in line of battle 
climbed the bank and faced a broad open 
plain which extended back several hundred 
yards towards Mayre's Heights, where were 
the earthworks and rifle-pits of the Con- 
federates. All of us looked for a sweep- 
ing fire the instant we should appear on 
the plain, but as none came, a faint hope 
arose in my inexperienced mind that the 
heights were deserted; for this coming 
battle was my first, and ideas concerning 
it were very vague. Of one fact I was 
3 33 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

sure, that until something did take place, 
I wished to ride in front of the line with 
Colonel Macy. While crossing the plain 
we noticed an officer behind the first breast- 
work, mounted on a gray horse such as 
Colonel Hall rode, the commanding officer 
of the brigade. Macy said he was Colonel 
Hall. As we drew near, a flame of fire 
suddenly burst forth, and a solid shot 
whizzed over our heads. 

" Dismount," cried Macy, " and let your 
horse go! " 

We threw ourselves flat on the ground, 
as did also the men in line, and so re- 
mained until the firing ceased. Then came 
the order "Charge!" and the line swept 
by me, I recognizing for the first time that 
my place was at the rear and not at the 
front. The Confederates made but little 
resistance, abandoning their entrenchments 
and retreating before our line until the 
order "Halt!" was given to our men. 
Later we returned to the Confederate 
34 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

earthworks, beyond which we had chased 
the enemy for over a mile. 

The Twentieth Massachusetts was then 
detailed to occupy the city of Fredericks- 
burg as a provost guard. Meantime I 
searched for my mare, " Bessie," and 
found her securely tethered with Macy's 
horse on the bank of the river, in charge 
of an orderly. Mounting, I rode into the 
city, and there saw the necessity of a pro- 
vost guard, for the houses had been pil- 
laged, and our men were masquerading 
through the streets in women's attire, — 
nightcaps and gowns, silk dresses, etc. 

I selected a nice brick house for my 
hospital. On entering the parlor of this 
deserted mansion I was startled to see a 
Union officer, in rank a major, stretched 
upon the floor, and quite dead. How came 
he here before the arrival of his compan- 
ions, and, if a spy, why that dress? I 
searched the body for a name, or for any 
sign that might give a clue to his fate, but 
35 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

in vain; everything was shrouded then, as 
now, in impenetrable mystery. 

That night the enemy were strongly re- 
inforced, and the next morning our men 
had the mortification of being driven back 
from the earthworks into the city, and 
losing that which they had so splendidly 
gained the day before. More than this, 
our force was now so small that we could 
do nothing but fall back upon Falmouth 
without striking a blow. Yesterday, there- 
fore, we simply held ourselves in readiness 
to receive an attack, but none came. The 
enemy kept up a sort of duel with our 
skirmishers all day long, which wearied the 
men almost to death. Occasionally a shell 
dropped into the city, and sharpshooters 
had the range of many of the streets, 
making it extremely dangerous to move 
about. 

I had to run the gauntlet many times, 
and on one of my expeditions heard a 
woman's piercing screams from a house 
36 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

by the way. I rushed in, and found an 
elderly woman of immense size in a vio- 
lent fit of hysterics. She was seated in a 
rocking-chair, swaying back and forth, evi- 
dently beside herself with terror, scream- 
ing, moaning, and crying. While I did 
what I could in the hurry of the moment 
to reassure the poor thing, a shell came 
whizzing through the air above, exploding 
as it fell into the square in front of us. 
Over went the old woman backwards, turn- 
ing a complete somersault, chair and all. 
For a moment there was a convulsion of 
arms and legs, and then such shrieks that 
it seemed to me the din outside was noth- 
ing to that within. I gathered her together 
as quickly as I could, — it was difficult to 
find any particular part to hold on to, — 
and when she had wit and breath enough 
to answer, asked for the other inmates of 
the house; vague and muffled sounds told 
me they were near, and when she pointed 
with her finger downwards, sure enough, 
37 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

I found them in the cellar huddled to- 
gether, both whites and negroes. It 
seemed that the old woman was too large 
to manage the cellar stairs, and they, sup- 
posing from all the uproar that she was 
killed, were every moment expecting a like 
fate for themselves. However, they soon 
ventured up, and I hurried back to my 
hospital. 

This morning, knowing by the Confed- 
erate yells that the enemy had been still 
more strongly reinforced, an attack upon 
us seemed certain. ... I have never, since 
I was born, heard so fearful a noise as a 
rebel yell. It is nothing like a hurrah, but 
rather a regular wildcat screech. Each 
shell that burst over the heads of our men 
was followed by one of these yells, and 
the sound was appalling. 

Falmouth, May 6th, 1863. 
Sad and discouraging news comes to us 
this morning. General Hooker, who was 
S8 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

behind Fredericksburg, expecting to fight 
the great battle there, has been flanked and 
driven back to the river, which he is now 
recrossing. The Confederates are push- 
ing him hard, and he will find it difficult 
to save his whole army. I can distinctly 
hear the bursting of the enemy's shells as 
they pour upon him. . . . One of General 
Sedgwick's aides has just come in, and 
says General Hooker is doing his utmost 
to save his forces from utter rout and 
demoralization. 

May 7th, 1863. 

We have marching orders, and must 
again cross the river and attack the same 
fortifications before Fredericksburg which 
were taken so gallantly last Sunday. Gen- 
eral Hooker has been obliged to fall back 
upon this side of the river, and is now 
quartered with his troops just where they 
were before he moved. Below Fredericks- 
burg General Sedgwick crossed the river, 
drove the enemy from their heights, and 
39 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

marched his troops in behind their army, — 
a most spirited manoeuvre. The Twentieth 
formed a part of General Couch's corps, 
which attacked the enemy's centre, striking 
through Fredericksburg, and fighting the 
Confederates in their own rifle-pits and 
fortifications. The Federal forces charged, 
were driven back twice, rallied the third 
time, and carried the day, finally chasing 
the enemy three miles. General Hooker 
sent word to hold the city till he could reach 
it, but he being defeated and driven back, 
the Union troops were forced to retreat 
and yield all they had won. . . . The latest 
news is that General Hooker is to cross 
the river once again; his troops are dis- 
heartened, but they will fight well, if only 
to wipe out the mortification they now 
feel. The old Twentieth was complimented 
in a special order for its behavior and 
bravery in the last fight. I feel as proud 
as if I had fought, won, and deserved to 
share its honor. 

40 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

The reports in the Northern papers of 
our army affairs are not rehable. They 
dupe and encourage the pubhc by false 
statements. The only paper allowed within 
the lines of the army is the " Washington 
Clironicle," a government organ. 

May 14th, 1863. 

There is no sign of movement; the days 
pass, but nothing is done. The whole army 
cries for " Little Mac," who, if he returned 
to-day, would be greeted wdth the heartiest 
cheers that ever filled the air. This is the 
opinion of every man in the regiment, and 
they have all served under him. 

The heat is intense now, and my hair is 
cut so short that my head looks as if it 
were trying to grow through. 

May 23rd, 1863. 
This morning, when riding, I came to 
a ditch filled with water. My horse was 
walking quite slowly, but, as he is a great 
41 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

jumper, he suddenly concluded to jump 
that ditch. Unluckily his feet slipped in 
the mud and he went in headforemost. The 
stream was deep, and such a wetting as I 
got! My boots were so full of water that 
I felt several inches taller, and I swallowed 
mud enough to fill the ditch. My horse 
tried to scramble out on his knees, but 
fortunately was not hurt. 

June 6th, 1863. 

Yesterday morning the Confederates 
disappeared from the heights of Fred- 
ericksburg, after having spent the night 
in burning their camps. In the afternoon, 
about three o'clock, we could see and hear 
tremendous firing on the left, where Gen- 
eral Sedgwick crossed the river before the 
last battle. I ordered my horse and rode 
down there, as it was only a mile, and 
found we had several batteries of field- 
pieces sweeping the broad plain on the 
other side of the river. When I arrived, 
42 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

General Sedgwick was building a bridge, 
which was soon ready for his troops to 
cross. Skirmishers were thrown out to 
advance towards the heights, as before. I 
stood just over the batteries, and when 
our skirmishers took the enemy's rifle-pits, 
which were all along the shore, I could 
see the Confederates retreating until they 
reached an abrupt chasm where the pits 
ended. Into this they plunged, rushing 
up its further side to reach the next line 
of pits. On the rise where I was stand- 
ing was planted a battery of very large 
guns; while the Confederates were run- 
ning through the chasm our men brought 
one of these guns to bear upon them, 
throwing a shell directly in their midst. 
The effect was horrible, and I turned 
away, unable to endure the sight. 

On my return to camp I found we were 
to march at sunrise. The men were sing- 
ing and cheering, and the officers were in 
fine spirits. Late that evening, when we 
43 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

were quite ready, — knapsacks filled and 
blankets rolled, — the order was revoked. 
JNIen's faces dropped, and all swore silently 
or otherwise. The whole thing may have 
been a demonstration on our part to dis- 
cover the whereabouts of the Confederates, 
but it was awfully exasperating. They 
have been threatening our right, frighten- 
ing the people in Washington out of their 
wits, so that possibly this apparent move- 
ment of ours was intended to divert them 
and draw them back. I hear that in Alex- 
andria rifle-pits and trenches are dug in 
the streets of the city, and every night the 
planks on the long bridge which runs into 
Washington are taken up. 

Again I hear firing on the left, but do 
not dare to leave to see the fight for fear 
that orders to march may come while I 
am away. I rather suspect the brigade 
will be left here to guard the railroad, but 
I trust not, for if there is to be a fight 
we all want to share it. Our men feel 
44 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

great pride in going into battle, for they 
always fight well and usually are compli- 
mented by their general. 

Falmouth, June 7th, 1863. 

While I was writing my last letter 
orders arrived to prepare to march, and 
so w^e have been preparing ever since; but 
the word " start " does not come. Night 
before last the orders were that we should 
have the wagons packed and ready to move 
at four o'clock the next morning, which 
meant turning the sick men out of the hos- 
pitals and setting everybody to work, but 
at three o'clock a. m. a second order coun- 
termanded the first. Then everything 
which had been taken down had to be 
put up again. Last night was a repeti- 
tion of the one before. 

General Sedgwick has gained a crossing 
below us on the left, and has thrown one 
division across the river, but they do noth- 
ing but tease the enemy. The latter have 
45 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

a large force of men and guns and can at 
any moment drive General Sedgwick into 
the water. Why General Hooker ordered 
him there is a wonder to everybody, and 
why the Confederates do not open fire 
upon him is a still greater cause for amaze- 
ment. Last night they did try the range 
of their heavy guns, and in less than five 
minutes obliged him. to strike all his tents 
and order the men into rifle-pits. 

June 15th, 1863. 
At last ! To-morrow we move, — for 
what point I know not. Our brigade is 
to cover the rear, which is a post of 
honor, and, of course, we appreciate the 
compliment. 



46 



OF. THE CIVIL WAR 



CHAPTER III 

AN ACCIDENT AND ITS CONCLUSION 

ON the 15th of June, at daylight, 
when the march began, the heat 
was frightful, and so many men 
dropped from the ranks that I was inces- 
santly engaged with the dead and dying, 
and consequently fell farther and farther 
to the rear. To prevent the enemy's cav- 
alry from following the Union army, its 
wake was covered with trees felled by the 
rear-guard. Guerillas infested the woods 
on all sides, and, realizing the danger of 
being separated from the rest of the com- 
mand, I mounted my horse to catch up 
with the regiment. At first I tried to 
jump the debris, but finding this impos- 
sible, dismounted, so as to lead my horse 
over the obstructions, which cut telegraph 
47 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

wires rendered extremely dangerous. I 
placed my foot upon one of these wires, 
that the horse might more easily step over 
it, instead of which she jumped, caught 
her foot in the wire, slipped it from under 
my boot, the wire striking her in the belly. 
To free herself she kicked and struck me 
in the leg. The excited animal was off in 
a moment, I falling amid the brush. See- 
ing the sole of my boot facing me, I knew 
what had happened, — a multiple fracture. 
Faintness soon crept over me, but I man- 
aged to drag myself to the side of the road 
before losing consciousness. From this 
condition I was aroused by seeing Colonel 
Macy's face bending over me, and hearing 
him say, " Old fellow, your horse made 
straight for the Twentieth, and knowing 
something was wrong, I hunted you up." 

Being well aware of the great risk the 

Colonel had braved for me, I told my story 

in a few words, begging him to hurry back 

to the regiment and send an ambulance im- 

48 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

mediately. I very quickly found myself 
lying on the floor of one, rattling over 
every sort of obstruction, the mules 
forced to their utmost speed to avoid cap- 
ture. The sufl"ering was intense, but we 
finally reached the rear of the army and 
moved along with the rest until night com- 
pelled a halt. 

When the mules were unharnessed and 
tied to the wheels, they amused themselves 
by gnawing my big military boot, which I 
had slit to give room to the swelling leg; 
so, what with pain and nerve exhaustion, 
I felt myself in a sorry plight. As the 
army continued its retreat, my only food 
was hardtack, and often a piece of soft 
bread picked up from the roadside. The 
next day after my accident a wounded offi- 
cer was placed beside me in the ambulance, 
who died during the following night, and 
to add to my torments, the body of this 
poor man incessantly rolled over and 
against me, rendering my condition abso- 
4 49 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

lutely unendurable. I finally managed to 
send a message by an orderly to General 
Hancock, telling him of the state of 
things, and asking for a pass to Washing- 
ton. This the General immediately sent, 
with the information that as soon as the 
division struck the railroad I would receive 
transportation. 

The next helpful news was that a 
freight car bound for Alexandria had 
been found; that it was partially loaded 
with shelled corn, and if I felt that it 
would be possible to lie upon that, I could 
be carried along. In comparison with the 
floor of the ambulance and its attending 
vicissitudes, the exchange seemed to my 
mind simply heavenly. Later I was laid 
upon the corn, the door of the car slid 
back sufl^ciently for ventilation, and in the 
fresh ease and comfort I sank into instan- 
taneous sleep, so deep and profound that 
my first waking consciousness was that of 
absolute stillness, and the gradual realiza- 
50 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

tion of neither sound nor motion. When 
thoroughly awake, I peered out through 
the narrow opening of the door, saw that 
it was dayHght, that the car had been side- 
tracked, and I, apparently, forgotten. 

Presently I thought I heard a footstep, 
though a very light one, and with all the 
strength I could muster I shouted, then 
raised my head to watch the effect. 

Amid the cars I saw, bobbing up and 
down here and there, the top of a green 
parasol. Again I called, and immediately 
the parasol was at the door of the car, and 
under it the astonished face of a little old 
woman. Where she came from, or what 
her business there, I cared not, for here 
was help, I was sure of that. Was this 
Alexandria, and would she send to the Man- 
sion House Hospital for an ambulance? 
Yes, this was Alexandria, and she would 
gladly do the errand herself; and so quick 
was the response that I soon found myself 
on a stretcher in a large vacant ward. 
51 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

My poor leg was still tied up in the 
army boot, which, when removed, revealed 
a black and angry-looking limb. In the 
one word, " gangrene," the surgeon pro- 
nounced its fate, but I said "No!" — 
that its appearance and condition were 
due to dust, heat, and inflammation. 
Nevertheless the surgeon answered, " It 
is gangrene and the leg must be am- 
putated ! " 

" It shall not be amputated/' I replied; 
whereupon the surgeon told me that he was 
the only one who had authority there, and 
so left me. 

I was determined to save that leg, and 
to avoid any serious conflict, felt that I 
must, as it were, escape from the hospital. 
I called one of the nurses to me, told the 
circumstances, and asked her to find two 
trusty men, whom I would pay liberally, 
to carry me on my stretcher to a steam- 
boat bound for Washington. This she 
agreed to do; and that very evening I 
52 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

was carefully lifted through a window and 
placed on the deck of a boat which was to 
sail in the morning. I was unmolested by 
captain or crew, my shoulder straps ap- 
parently being sufficient guarantee for my 
rights as a passenger. On arriving in 
Washington, I hired men to carry me to 
the Army Square Hospital, where my pass 
or permit was asked for; but I had none, 
General Hancock's pass having been left 
with the driver of the ambulance. I was 
then told that without a permit I was 
entitled neither to accommodation nor 
rations. 

" Well," was my answer, " if this is the 
case, I can but write my own permit and 
find my own rations, but enter I must " ; 
and turning to my bearers, I ordered them 
to carry me in, forthwith being laid in the 
nearest ward, which was filled with pri- 
vates. However, I was safe, and still in 
possession of my leg, so what did it 
matter? 

53 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

Exhausted from pain, fatigue, and 
hunger, the longing for at least a smoke 
grew so intense that it seemed to bring the 
opportunity. A kindly somebody brought 
me a cigar, but just at that moment the 
nurse who had refused to take me in ap- 
peared upon the scene. " Doctor, Doctor," 
she cried, "it is against the rules to smoke 
here; you must not do it! " but I quietly 
puffed away at my cigar, saying, " I will 
take this responsibility also." She looked 
severely at me, hesitated as to the manage- 
ment of this big, broken-legged man, then 
with a settled countenance, and the part- 
ing shot that she should " report me," hur- 
ried away. 

At length the door opened again to 
admit the head surgeon, who entered, 
followed by the irate nurse. He was a 
bright, genial-looking man, who instantly 
made me feel that all would be well. 
" What is all this about? " he said, turning 
to me; and I, patting the stretcher by my 
54 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

side, answered, " Sit here, Doctor, a mo- 
ment, and listen." 

After hearing the various experiences 
through which I had passed, including my 
entrance into the hospital without official 
permit, the refusal of rations, and, more 
than all, of a smoke, the surgeon laugh- 
ingly said, " Smoke all you wish. Doctor; 
make yourself as comfortable as possible 
here, and as you wish to be sent home to 
New York, I will see that you reach there 
at the earliest moment." 

A few days later, by the aid of the 
Sanitary Commission and Mr. E. F. Bow- 
ditch, my lifelong friend and later brother- 
in-law, who in response to a telegram from 
me secured a berth in a hospital car, I was 
transferred to it upon a stretcher. The 
jolting of the car was naturally pain- 
ful to an unset limb, yet did its good work 
by breaking the adhesions which of neces- 
sity had formed. On our safe arrival in 
]^ew York City no ambulance could be 
55 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

found, so that finally my stretcher was 
placed in a covered wagon, in which I 
reached home. My wife and I were 
strangers in the city, and one physician 
after another was called to set my poor 
long-suffering leg, but each left with the 
same response, " I am not a surgeon- 
doctor; call this one and that." At last, 
in sheer desperation, I asked my wife's 
brother to find splints, plaster, and band- 
ages, and we, together, set my leg with 
good and permanent results. 



56 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 



CHAPTER IV 

THE NEW YORK RIOT 
(Described by Mrs. Perry) 

AFTER this experience my husband 
^^\^ was laid up at home for several 
weeks, waiting with keen impatience 
for the time when he could return to his 
regiment. This quiet period of inaction 
was, however, broken by the New York 
Riot, which took place in the month of 
July, 1863. The disturbance was due to 
the draft made necessary by the dearth of 
volunteers, and also to the fear among the 
Irish that the negroes at the South would 
come North and crowd them out of their 
work. While it lasted the foreign, and 
especially the Irish, element of the city had 
complete control. For more than a week 
lawlessness reigned supreme, and though 
57 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

our experience was far less severe than that 
of many others, those who were not born 
when these events took place may be in- 
terested to read quotations from a letter 
written by me to relatives in Boston. 

New York, July 20th, 1863. 

Strange to say, although we knew of the 
intense excitement in the city and heard 
that many of our neighbors had been up 
every night, too terrified to rest, we had 
no idea of personal danger. 

On the first day of the riot, in the early 
morning, I heard loud and continued cheers 
at the head of the street, and supposed it 
must be news of some great victory. In 
considerable excitement I hurried down- 
stairs to hear particulars, but soon found 
that the shouts came from the rioters who 
were on their way to work. About noon 
that same day we became aware of a con- 
fused roar; as it increased, I flew to the 
window, and saw rushing up Lexington 
58 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

Avenue, within a few paces of our house, 
a great mob of men, women, and children; 
the men, in red working shirts, looking 
fairly fiendish as they brandished clubs, 
threw stones, and fired pistols. Many of 
the women had babies in their arms, and 
all of them were completely lawless as they 
swept on. 

I drew the cot upon which John was 
lying, his injured leg in a plaster cast, up 
to the window, and threw his military coat 
over his shoulders, utterly unconscious of 
the fact that if the shoulder straps had 
been noticed by the rioters they would have 
shot him, so blind was their fury against 
the army. The mass of humanity soon 
passed, setting fire to several houses quite 
near us, for no other reason, we heard after- 
ward, than that a policeman, whom they 
suddenly saw and chased, ran inside one of 
the gates, hoping to find refuge. The poor 
man was almost beaten to death, and the 
house, with those adjoining, burned. 
59 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

At all points fires burst forth, and that 
night the city was illuminated by them. I 
counted from the roof of our house five 
fires just about us, but our own danger in 
all this tumult, strangely enough, never 
crossed our minds. 

The next day was a fearful one. Men, 
both colored and white, were murdered 
within two blocks of us, some being hung 
to the nearest lamp-post, and others shot. 
An army officer was walking in the street 
near our house, when a rioter was seen to 
kneel on the sidewalk, take aim, fire, and 
kill him, then coolly start on his way un- 
molested. I saw the Third Avenue street 
car rails torn up by the mob. Throughout 
the day there were frequent conflicts be- 
tween the military and the rioters, in which 
the latter were often victorious, being par- 
tially organized, and well armed with vari- 
ous weapons taken from the stores they had 
plundered. 

I passed the hours of that dreadful night 
60 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

listening to the bedlam about us; to the 
drunken yells and coarse laughter of 
rioters wandering aimlessly through the 
streets, and to the shouts of a mob plun- 
dering houses a block away, from which, 
as we heard later, the owners barely es- 
caped with their lives. I must confess that 
as I lay in the darkness amid the uproar, 
there was some feeling of shelter, yes, and 
even rest, in having the sheet well drawn 
over my head, and this with no sense of 
heat or suffocation, although the mercury 
stood very high. 

The next morning's news was that the 
rioters were murdering the colored people 
wherever found, and that there was no 
limit to the atrocities committed against 
them. Hurrying to the kitchen, I found 
our colored servants ghastly with terror, 
and cautioned them to keep closely within 
doors. One of them told me that she 
had ventured out early that morning to 
clean the front door, and that the passing 
61 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

Irish, both men and women, had sworn 
at her so violently, saying that she and 
her like had caused all the trouble, that 
she finally rushed into the house for 
shelter. 

Now that I began to realize our danger, 
I tried with all my power to keep John 
in ignorance of it, for in his absolutely 
disabled condition the situation was most 
distressing. The heat was intense; and 
during the morning I sat in his room be- 
hind closed window-shutters, continually 
on the alert to catch every outside noise, 
while watching the hot street below in the 
glare of sunlight. On the steps of an op- 
posite house I recognized a policeman, 
whose usual beat was through our street, 
sitting in his shirt sleeves without any sign 
of uniform, looking rough and disorderly, 
and talking to the strolling bands of 
rioters. I wondered whether he was doing 
detective service, or whether he had joined 
the lawless mob. Men and women passed 
62 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

with all sorts of valuables taken from 
plundered houses. 

Later in the day a crowd of boys ar- 
rived with stout sticks, threw stones at 
our house, called for the " niggers," and 
then rushed on. This added to my alarm, 
I having heard that a rush of street arabs 
always preceded an attack by the mob. 
Parties of Irishmen passed and pointed to 
our house, and a boy ran by shouting, 
*' We '11 have fun up here to-night." 

]VIy heart felt overloaded as I looked at 
John in his helpless condition. What were 
we to do? Even if he were able to be 
moved, there was no way of accomplish- 
ing it. No amount of money could hire 
a conveyance; neither cars nor omnibuses 
were running; there was absolutely noth- 
ing to do but wait for events to guide us. 
During these anxious hours the realization 
of the meaning of personal safety grew 
upon me. I saw, in looking over my past, 
that I had accepted this great blessing all 
63 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

my life without a moment's conscious 
gratitude. If our lives were now spared 
should I ever again be so unmindful? 

When one of my brothers returned to 
lunch and reported the increasing strength 
of the mob, I told him of all I had seen 
and heard during the morning, and we 
considered the question of barricading the 
street doors and windows, but soon decided 
that it was useless. He then went to the 
police station to ask for information and 
help, but before leaving placed a ladder 
against the wall of our back yard, so that 
in case of attack the servants might, by 
this means, escape to the adjoining prem- 
ises, and from there to the next street. At 
the police station my brother was told 
that, through one of their detectives who 
had been working in our street all the 
morning, they had learned that their sta- 
tion and also our house, with the one op- 
posite, were to be attacked and burned 
that night, all being in close proximity. 
64: 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

The police had been already plundered of 
most of their firearms, and needed all their 
force to defend themselves. They could 
do literally nothing for us, but recom- 
mended barricading the front entrances 
to the house as well as we could. 

The afternoon wore on, and, feeling 
somewhat restless from the helpless inac- 
tivity at such a time, I wandered into the 
different rooms of the house, looked at 
our valuables, locked some in trunks, 
tucked a few trinkets and a roll of bills into 
my gown, and then returned to the win- 
dow-seat, feeling a little weighted with 
value, but better satisfied. 

The city became frightfully still, and 
this silence was broken only by occasional 
screams and sharp reports of musketry. 

By this time John knew pretty clearly 
the condition of things. He had heard 
the shouts in the street, and in spite of 
my efforts surmised the rest. The still- 
ness grew so intense that the very atmos- 
5 65 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

phere seemed a part of it, for not a breath 
of air stirred. As our landlord lived in 
the same block with us, it occurred to my 
brothers that in case of an attack we might 
escape over the roofs and pass down the 
skylight of his house, knowing that the 
very urgency of the situation would en- 
able us to carry John with us somehow; 
but this privilege was refused, as the man 
said it might endanger his family. 

My brothers were calling at every house 
in the ward to induce the occupants to meet 
at the police station, armed with whatever 
weapon each could find, in order to or- 
ganize and patrol the streets through the 
night. Meantime, our servants were in- 
structed to remain downstairs, and not to 
run until the house was actually attacked, 
then to rush for the ladder in the back 
yard; and I was to cover their retreat by 
hiding the ladder. 

These plans and directions seemed to me 
at the time perfectly reasonable and pos- 
66 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

sible, but afterwards, when all was safe and 
quiet, I had many a laugh over the way I 
was to tear about that house while the mob 
was bursting in the front door, — my hus- 
band up in the third story, and I, after 
pushing the negroes over the fence, scam- 
pering about to hide the ladder in some 
unknown place. 

At ten o'clock that evening we were left 
alone in absolute darkness, as the police 
sent word that light would increase our 
danger. John lay quietly on his cot, while 
I again sat by the window to catch the 
slightest sound, and in the stillness heard a 
voice in the adjoining house say, " There 's 
always a calm before a storm," which, 
under the circumstances, was not encour- 
aging; I have never forgotten the impres- 
sion it made on me. 

But soon our hearts were gladdened by 

the sound of the patrol passing our house 

at regular intervals, and although we were 

in the third story from the street, the still- 

67 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

ness was so intense that we could distinctly 
hear their conversation. Suddenly rapid 
pistol shots broke the spell; then came a 
great rush up the avenue in the darkness, 
John's voice saying very calmly, " Here 
they come." The absolute quiet within us 
both at the time from its very intensity 
overpowered all surface emotion. How- 
ever, the noise proved to be a false alarm, 
and again came the silence. 

Time after time we had these shocks; 
now the mob seemed almost upon us; then 
at a distance. What did it mean? Finally 
the tumult seemed to culminate a block 
away, and gradually we felt that, for the 
time at least, our lives were safe. As soon 
as the strain was over I realized how tense 
had been my calm, and, as we sat together 
in the darkness, I must confess to enjoying 
a comfortable little weep and being much 
strengthened by it. Such is — myself ! 

During the night my brothers returned, 
and told us that just as the officers at the 
68 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

police station had agreed to combine with 
the citizens and patrol that vicinity, a man 
rushed in crying that the mob was murder- 
ing some one in our street. The whole 
force formed and charged up the avenue, 
but met only scattered bands of rioters, 
and these slunk away as the files of or- 
ganized men appeared, stretching in solid 
lines from sidewalk to sidewalk, as the 
rioters supposed, fully armed. We heard 
afterward that this steadfast army, looking 
so formidable, while so feeble in reality, 
was all that saved us; that our house and 
the one opposite, as well as the police 
station, were distinctly marked by the mob 
for that night's work. 

The ensuing day was still an anxious one, 
but as it passed and nothing happened, we 
began to feel at ease again. By this time 
the city was full of troops, and finally the 
riot was quelled by firing canister into the 
mob. As we heard the heavy reports and 
responding yells, it seemed to me that I 
69 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

knew something of the horrors of war. 
To-morrow the authorities continue the 
draft, and I trust they will enforce it in 
spite of every obstacle. 

Before closing this letter, I must tell you 
of some amusing things which happened 
when the citizens met at the police station, 
as related by my brothers on their return, 
and which even then gave us all a hearty 
laugh. 

They told us that the meeting was a 
large one, and was called to order at seven 
o'clock. A vigilance committee was im- 
mediately formed for mutual protection, 
and a chairman and secretary selected. 
Resolutions were drawn up, various plans 
were proposed, and among others that of 
telegraphing to Albany for muskets, — a 
proposition which a man of some sense 
suggested was worse than useless, as the 
mob might be upon them at any moment, 
reminding them also that the citizens there 
collected probably knew little of firearms, 
70 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

so that any guns would be easily seized by 
the mob and turned against themselves. It 
was then decided that the citizens could best 
aid the police by patrolling the streets and 
reporting at the Station whenever rioters 
were seen. 

A motion was finally made, that in order 
to know on whom to depend, a list of the 
names and residences of those present 
should be taken. This was done with great 
formality and the loss of much valuable 
time, each man signing his name, when 
quite a bombshell was thrown into their 
midst by the suggestion that spies might 
be among them. At this the whole as- 
sembly seemed to separate one from the 
other, every man eying his neighbor with 
sharp suspicion. The secretary, who had 
been most zealous in calling the meeting, 
yet whose nervousness was evidently on the 
increase, suggested in a scarcely audible 
voice that if the list of names just signed 
should fall into the hands of the mob, the 
71 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

fate of each member would undoubtedly 
be sealed. Might it not be wiser, after all, 
to tear it up? 

Great confusion followed these remarks ; 
some laughed; others scoffed; but a ter- 
rified exclamation from the poor secretary 
silenced all. White and shaking, he pointed 
to the windows, which every one then saw 
were filled with eager, listening faces. The 
secretary hesitated no longer, but rushed 
for the list, tore it in pieces, slammed 
down the windows, locked the door, and 
even turned out the lights, before the as- 
tonished citizens knew what was happen- 
ing. Then, when a mad rush for the door 
was imminent, as the mob outside was 
preferable to the suffocation and darkness 
within, a great commotion was heard, — 
pounding of fists on the door, and shouts to 
the police that the mob was on its way 
there, and murdering a man in the next 
street. The confusion and excitement were 
indescribable; even the secretary forgot 
72 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

himself. Each man seized the club which 
had been provided, and soon the whole 
force was marching up the avenue. 

Note. ]My husband's leave of absence 
was for ninety days; at the end of that 
period, being eager to return to his regi- 
ment, he left for Washington on crutches. 
As nothing of importance occurred from 
the time of the riot until his departure, in 
September, I once more let his letters speak 
for themselves. 



73 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 



CHAPTER Y 

RETURN TO THE ARMY 

Washington, September 23rd, 1863. 

HERE I am, scribbling again. 
As I entered this morning the 
office of the surgeon-general to 
report for active service, I felt some anxi- 
ety lest in my disabled condition I might 
be detailed to the invalid corps, and in 
consequence obliged to linger near Wash- 
ington; so I hid my crutches under the 
stairs outside his door, and managed with 
great difficulty to walk across the room 
without them. 

The surgeon, after examining my leg 
very critically, as if doubtful of its com- 
plete recovery, said, " Are you sure. Doc- 
tor, you are equal to active service? " 
74 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

" Yes," I answered, " I feel quite sure," 
and he allowed me to pass. I hope now to 
rejoin my old comrades to-morrow after- 
noon or evening. 

CuLPEPER, September 26th, 1863. 

I left Washington yesterday at ten 
o'clock A. M., and, on reaching Culpeper 
at five, heard that the regiment was nine 
miles out in the advance. How it was to 
be reached I was not informed. Having 
eaten nothing since breakfast, I wandered 
about the town in quest of food, and finally 
struck the quarters of the Sanitary Com- 
mission, where I was provided with a hearty 
meal of hardtack and bitter tea. 

While eating this frugal repast. Dr. 
Dougherty, the medical director of our 
corps, passed by, and told me the Twentieth 
was under orders to march, and that the 
only way I could join it would be in an 
ambulance, which would pass in half an 
hour on its way to the third division of our 
75 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

corps, and quartered but a short distance 
from our own division. I was glad enough 
of this opportunity, and rode in the ambu- 
lance till it reached its own camp; passed 
the rest of the night lying in it, and at 
daybreak started on foot for the regiment, 
which, by the way, was not easy to do with 
my stiff leg. But, after all, this was the 
quickest way to limber it. 

I arrived at noon, and the warm, hearty 
greeting given me from old friends and 
comrades did much to raise my drooping 
spirits. 

If one is obliged to go soldiering, this 
camp life is delightful. The weather is 
charming, our situation beautiful, and I 
feel happier here than anywhere else away 
from home. . . . Home! Oh, how that 
word still haunts me! Yet I am calmer 
now and take the situation more reason- 
ably; but an awful sinking at the heart 
still sweeps over me, and I can easily un- 
derstand how soldiers die of homesickness. 
76 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

I have a very disagreeable duty to per- 
form this morning, — that of tattooing a 
man's breast for desertion. He is to have 
his head shaved and be drummed out of 
camp to-morrow. It would be better to 
shoot the man than to permanently dis- 
grace him, but he does not seem to mind 
it much, and probably is so demoralized 
that he is past feeling shame. 

October 1st, 1863. 

We had a drunken row in camp last 
night, owing to some villain's having sold 
whiskey to the men, and it was one o'clock 
before the noisy ones were secured and all 
became quiet. These conscripts, or rather 
substitutes, behave disgracefully, deserting 
at every possible chance, even to the enemy. 
Notwithstanding that two who belonged to 
our regiment were shot, thirty- four de- 
serted immediately after. One fellow, 
having failed to escape in the direction 
of his home, attempted to go over to the 
77 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

enemy, but was prevented. He then shot 
his finger off, with the hope of being sent 
to the hospital, where the opportunities for 
desertion are greater, but the result is that 
he will serve with one finger less. 

Last night the moon was brilliant, camp- 
fires blazed in every direction, and with our 
blankets spread around a huge mass of 
burning embers and our pipes lighted, we 
lay listening to music from the bands; I, 
for one, dreaming of matters and things 
far enough away from where I was. 

This morning I have been trying my 
leg a little on horseback, and luckily man- 
aged very well. 

Camp at Rapidan Creek, October, 1863. 

I have spread my blanket under a tree 
so that I might write in the shade. The 
heat is intense during the day, but the 
nights are f reezingly cold, and in the early 
morning my nose is as blue as steel, and 
each hair stands perpendicularly. The sit- 
78 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

uation of the camp is so low that a thick 
heavy mist overhangs it all night. My 
overcoat and one blanket are lost; no one 
can account for them, though they were 
left on my horse, strapped to the saddle. 
The only covering I have at night is a 
single blanket, with a rubber one under me, 
which keeps me dry but is as cold as stone. 
Music is a tremendous help. Our own 
band is not here, but the two other brigades 
have theirs, and as the camps adjoin we 
enjoy the benefit of both. One band gen- 
erally plays two hours after breakfast, and 
the other from sunset until half -past nine. 



79 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 



CHAPTER VI 

THE MURDER OF CAPTAIN IklcKAY 

ON the 5th of October, 1863, a hor- 
rible murder occurred in the camp 
of the Twentieth JNIassachusetts, 
and as the facts concerning it extended 
through many weeks, it seems well to col- 
lect and give them as a whole. 

Our corj)s was encamped in a thick wood 
within a few miles of Culpeper, and its 
presence could be detected only by the 
clouds of smoke from camp-fires curling 
above the trees. Close to our rear was a 
regiment notorious for its drunken brawls 
and lawlessness. It was composed prin- 
cipally of conscripts, substitutes, and New 
York rioters, among them many jail-birds, 
and force and arms were often necessary 
80 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

to quell the incessant rows and disturbances 
among these rough characters. 

On the evening of October 5th, taps had 
sounded in the Twentieth Massachusetts, 
lights were out, every man was in his tent, 
and the silence of the night was broken only 
by the wind which swept fitfully through 
the pines. Only the officer of the day and 
I were in camp, the others being on a visit 
to another regiment, and the soft little 
glimmer of light which shone forth in the 
prevailing darkness came from the tent out- 
side of which Captain McKay and I were 
seated. . . . The Captain had enlisted as 
a private when the regiment was first or- 
ganized, and by his intelligence, bravery, 
and good fellowship had reached his 
present rank. Company F, which he 
commanded, was made up of the worst 
elements in the regiment, which was other- 
wise unusual for military deportment and 
manly bearing. 

We sat talking of the incessant delays 
6 81 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

in hostilities, when a shout interrupted us, 
followed, by yells and drunken laughter. 

" The fellows in our rear," I said, after 
a moment's pause; but the Captain's face 
was anxious. 

" No," he answered, " those are my men; 
they are drunk and quarrelsome ; something 
tells me there is trouble brewing to-night; 
ever since I punished the ringleaders in 
those rows they have been sullen and out 
of temper. In the drill this afternoon I 
did not like their mood," and asking me 
to stand ready in case of need, he left and 
sauntered towards the company's tent. 

I heard the Captain order his men to 
their quarters, but in so calm a voice that 
it seemed to me he dealt too gently with 
the brutes; and on the instant there was a 
shot and then a moan. I reached the spot 
in time to see the Captain leap into the air 
and fall, and to hear him cry, " Doctor, I 
am murdered! " 

By the flickering light of the same little 
82 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

candle by which we had just sat, we bore 
him into the tent; but he was dead when 
we reached it. Dead! A Httle enough 
word, but with such weight of meaning! 

Instantly the sergeant, then aroused, or- 
dered the men of the Captain's company 
into line ; the officers were sent for, and, on 
their quick return, the roll was called, and 
every gun examined. Every man was pres- 
ent, and each had his gun, but many of 
them were so drunk they could barely stand. 
Those who were sufficiently sober knew that 
they stood not only in the presence of a 
crime, but of their murdered captain, whose 
body was now stretched upon the ground 
before them. Neither moon nor stars shone 
upon them; no other light than the uncer- 
tain glimmer of a camp-fire and tent candle, 
which only added to the ghastly pallor of 
the men. 

During the inspection I stood by the 
body, facing the lines, intently watching 
every movement, alert to every sound. 
83 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

Soon there was a murmur of astonishment, 
and we saw in the ranks before us an 
Itahan boy, — a raw recruit, half-witted, 
or at least so dull that his officers had been 
able to do but little with him. There he 
stood with a smoking musket. His hands 
hung limply by his side, his eyes without 
light or expression in them were fastened 
upon his weapon. The spent cap was on 
the nipple; the smoke still issued from the 
muzzle and the lock was blackened by the 
discharge. 

We looked from the gun to the boy; he 
the murderer, — he, with neither years nor 
wit? 

" Tell your story," said the Major, look- 
ing steadfastly into the boy's eyes, to hold, 
if possible, the fellow's scattered wits. 

This roused him, and throwing himself 
upon his knees, with tears streaming over 
his cheeks and a voice thin and stifled, he 
gave, by a few words here and there, by 
expression and gesture, a clear enough ac- 
84 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

count of all he laiew, making us understand 
that he had neither tent nor blanket; had 
been cold and sleepy, and so, leaning his 
musket against a tree near the fire, his 
cartridge and cap-box beside it, dropped 
to sleep at its foot. The shot roused him; 
he saw some one carried off, and when he 
heard the sergeant call the roll he made 
a grab for his musket, but not finding it, 
supposed it had fallen, and while groping 
for it in the darkness he tripped over it 
as it lay concealed in the bushes; then he 
caught it up, suspecting nothing, and 
rushed to his place in the ranks. 

There was silence now; all the officers 
had judged the lad, and in our own minds 
felt him guiltless of the crime, but in the 
absence of any other clew he must be dealt 
with. 

He was taken to the body, and before 

all those assembled was made to kneel, kiss 

the Bible, and with his left hand over the 

dead man's heart, the other raised, to swear 

85 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

before God that he was innocent of the 
deed. This he did with the weariness of 
a bewildered child, and, in spite of circum- 
stantial evidence, the conviction of his in- 
nocence was so universal that the lad was 
allowed to wander to the warmth of the 
still smouldering fire, where exhaustion and 
sleep soon wrapped him in oblivion. 

Attention was again riveted upon the 
ranks. Was the murderer facing us from 
among those men in line, or was he creep- 
ing stealthily away through the darkness? 

The officers gathered about the body of 
the murdered captain, and after a brief 
consultation it was decided to dismiss the 
men and wait until the morning for further 
action. The body was removed to a large 
tent, where the sergeant and I watched over 
it for the remainder of the night. The 
wind moaned and whistled, things creaked 
and flapped in the blasts, and in this weary 
vigil even the monotonous tramp, tramp of 
a sentinel outside the tent took its place in 
86 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

the tragedy. The night wore on, and in 
the bleak and cheerless dawn all the officers 
of the regiment gathered about the dead 
Captain to hold a council. After long de- 
liberation it was decided that the men of 
Company F should march into the tent one 
by one, kneel, kiss the Bible, and, with one 
hand on the heart of the murdered man, 
each should swear before God that he was 
innocent of all implication in the crime. 

In the solemn silence of this Court of 
Officers, under the concentrated attention 
of all present, when not the flicker of an 
eyelid could escape observation, each man 
faced the ordeal without flinching, with no 
sign of guilt; and many bore themselves 
with the dignity of honest freedom, though 
in the presence of conditions before which 
even an innocent heart might quail. The 
experiment was a failure, and hours passed 
in which all available means to discover the 
assassin were fruitlessly tried. Even the 
lawless men of the Captain's company were 
87 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

shocked into good behavior, and in their 
bearing expressed respect and love for 
their dead commander. Indeed, the Cap- 
tain's death has cast a deep gloom over the 
entire regiment. The old Twentieth, which 
has so long borne the name of " Gallant," 
now bears the burden of this stigma. We 
constantly questioned ourselves and others 
as to all possibilities in respect to the mur- 
derer; we wondered if he were lurking in 
the riotous regiment which was quartered 
in our rear; but what cause had we for 
such suspicions? Possibly one of the Cap- 
tain's men owed him a grudge for pun- 
ishment received, and had bartered the 
revengeful act with one of those neigh- 
boring ruffians. A reward might settle 
the question, and for this purpose a sum 
of money was immediately collected and 
offered to any one who should give infor- 
mation in regard to the murder, with the 
added promise of a furlough home. As 
for me, — I wish I could give the rest of 
88 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

my pay while in the service to have the 
murderer caught and shot. I cannot re- 
cover from the shock. 

Just at this moment orders to march 
arrived, which instantaneously changed the 
scene. Tension and strain yielded to bustle 
and activity. 

The sergeant and I carefully watched 
the placing of the Captain's body in an 
ambulance bound for Alexandria, where 
the remains would be embalmed before the 
journey home. 

My horse had been disabled by a shoul- 
der wound, which I now examined with 
some anxiety, lest the animal might be- 
come useless during the move of the army ; 
but he seemed in a satisfactory condition, 
and with his good services I felt sure of 
holding my place in the ranks in spite of 
my lame leg. 

As we were about to start we saw a 
stranger in officer's uniform approaching 
us, who asked where he could find the 
89 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

officer in command of the regiment. The 
Major, who happened to be near, heard the 
question, and said, " What is your busi- 
ness with me? " 

" I hail from the same place as the Cap- 
tain who was killed last night," answered 
the man. " I Ve served my time and am 
on my way home, and, if you like, will 
take charge of the body and see that it 
arrives safely." 

The Major became interested. It seemed 
a most fortunate arrangement, especially in 
a time of so much hurry and confusion, 
and after a brief conference with the other 
officers of the regiment, it was decided 
that the opportunity was too good a one 
to lose, and that they had better accept 
an offer of such disinterested services. A 
sufficient sum of money was raised to 
cover all expenses, as well as to recom- 
pense the man for his trouble, and the 
ambulance, with its solitary burden, was 
delivered into his hands to begin the long 
90 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

and tedious journey towards the New 
England town. 

The army was quickly on the move, and 
for a time all went well with me, but be- 
fore many hours had passed my horse 
became lame, soon proving utterly unable 
to carry me. In this plight I dismounted, 
not a little dismayed, yet so determined to 
persevere that I held to the saddle, and by 
aid of the horse walked painfully on. In 
spite of every effort to keep my place, I 
slowly but surely receded to the rear, and 
there met the ambulance which bore the 
body of the dead captain; changing my 
hold from the horse to the tailboard of this 
ambulance, I pulled myself along. 

The onward push of men and artillery, 
the deafening medley of noises, the dense 
clouds of blinding, suffocating dust, and 
my own suffering for a time completely 
absorbed me, but my thoughts finally cen- 
tred upon the ambulance with its burden. 
Walking by the side of the vehicle was the 
91 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

Captain's friend, who, seeing that he was 
recognized, joined me. He told me that 
he had served his time, was sick and tired 
of the hfe, and glad enough to go home. 
The man's voice was sullen, and his head 
hung forward and down. 

A noise in the ambulance turned my 
attention to a water-cask, which I saw had 
broken loose, and was rolling over the 
body. 

" Fasten that cask, will you," I said to 
the man at my side, "or it will injure the 
Captain's body." 

" D the Captain! " came like a flash 

from the lips of the man; but with an in- 
stantaneous glance at me he mumbled: 
" Oh, what did you say. Doc? Oh, the 
water-cask ! Yes, I '11 fix it " ; and he 
jumped inside of the wagon and fastened 
the keg in its place. 

This oath, flung out in hate and scorn 
from the lifelong friend and neighbor 
of the Captain, was startling to say the 
92 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

least. I turned and looked the man well 
over. The more I looked, the more I 
shrank from something despicable in his 
gait and aspect; a sneak, and a cowardly 
bully, I '11 be bound, I thought. I would 
not trust him out of sight, and, although 
the man continued his desultory talk, my 
heedless answers finally silenced him. 

As soon as possible the circumstance was 
reported to the officer in charge, but al- 
though it was certainly considered suspi- 
cious, there did not seem sufficient evidence 
to act upon, and before long I watched 
from a growing distance the ambulance, 
with its single guard shambling by the 
side, wending its separate way. I wish to 
God, I thought, that the man was back 
and well secured. 

Weeks passed without trace of the mur- 
derer, although the search was constant and 
persistent. Warm letters of sympathy were 
sent from the camp to the girl at the North 
who was waiting now for the dead body 
93 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

of her lover, — letters which assured her 
of the safe transportation of the remains, 
guarded as they were by a lifelong friend 

of the Captain's, by name, who was 

on his way home and had offered his 
services. 

More weeks passed, when one day, while 
the officers were together at mess, an or- 
derly handed a letter to the Major in com- 
mand of the regiment. 

"By Jove! " said the latter, glancing at 
the postmark, " this letter is from the Cap- 
tain's poor girl," and tearing it open, he 
read the contents aloud. They stated that 
neither the body of Captain McKay nor the 
man who left the camp with it in charge 
had arrived; nor would they ever do so, 
for she was absolutely certain that that 
man was the assassin. Some time ago she 
had refused his offer of marriage and, 
when he heard of her engagement to the 
Captain, he swore he would kill him, if it 
were necessary to enlist for the purpose. 
94 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

Subsequently he had enlisted in a New 
York regiment, from which she also knew 
he was dishonorably discharged at the date 
of the murder. 

Consternation settled upon every face at 
the conclusion of the reading. So! It 
seemed that the murderer had calmly and 
freely walked off with the body of his 
victim ! What fools he had made of us all ! 
And the grotesqueness of the trick the 
creature had played upon us grew, and 
with it grew the determination to track 
that man on whatever road he might be, 
and to serve him his due. 

Wider interest in the matter was raised; 
more funds subscribed and detectives sent 
in all directions. The contents of the letter 
soon spread among the men of the regi- 
ment, and those concerned in the drunken 
brawl on the night of the murder finally 
confessed that the man who travelled from 
camp with the dead captain was the same 
who gave them whiskey the night he was 
95 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

shot; that this man did his best to incite 
them to the murder, and, when he failed in 
this, grabbed the boy's gun, crouched in the 
bushes, and fired the fatal shot himself. 

In course of time news arrived of the 
capture of the murderer in a Western regi- 
ment, and that he was then on his way 
back to our quarters under strict guard. 
The satisfaction of officers and men was 
immense, and not one would have tossed 
a penny to save the wretch's life. We had 
all the necessary proof, and every witness 
of the deed was present. 

When the man arrived, a court-martial 
was immediately convened. He was tried, 
convicted, and sentenced to be hanged; 
but before the execution could take place 
the necessary papers must be supervised in 
Wasliington, and during this delay the 
prisoner was strictly guarded night and 
day. 

Time crept slowly on, until eventually 
an official document postmarked " Wash- 
96 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

ington " arrived, was handed to the officer 
in command, who, in the presence of his 
staff, opened it with the composure of as- 
sured success ; for had they not possession 
of the man, and sufficient proof to hang 
twenty hke him? . 

" Read! read! " we cried, but the Major, 
staring at the page, seemed barely able to 
see the words, then, with a round oath, he 
flung the paper upon the table. 

" That man," he said, " the murderer of 
our captain, is free, — scot free — as free 
as a North American Indian ! A legal flaw 
has been discovered in the paper sent to 
Washington which renders it absolutely in- 
valid. There is no redress, and nothing can 
be done." 

Amazement and consternation over- 
powered us. Was there no loophole of 
escape by which we could hold the pris- 
oner and in time enforce the punishment? 

No! the order to liberate the prisoner 
must be immediate. This was given, and 
7 97 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

erelong we saw the murderer leave the 
camp, heard him jeer his would-be execu- 
tioners, and, with his thumb upon his nose, 
we saw him wave his fingers in derision 
and vanish into mystery. 



98 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 



CHAPTER VII 

CAMP NEAR CULPEPER 

October 9th, 1863. 

WE expect to move from here any 
hour. Stewart's cavalry annoys 
us greatly, and I fear some fine 
day, before we know it, a few hundred of 
us will be gobbled up. Once we heard 
horses' hoofs thundering through the 
woods, the yells of their riders, and 
the cry from our men, " The cavalry, the 
cavalry! " followed by a sharp order to 
form a hollow square. . . . Just then there 
seemed no use for me, and afterward I 
remembered a moment's wish to make a 
hollow square of myself, then being 
amused at the thought that having but one 
front, the rest of me would be ridden 
L0F(89 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

down. . . . But it was all a false alarm, 
for though the enemy was close upon us, 
something turned them just in time to 
miss our whereabouts. 

This army is so demoralized by substi- 
tutes and conscripts that it seems to me 
it is in a critical condition. We have 
drunken rows and disturbances in the 
camps about us almost every night, nor 
are we exempt ourselves, although since 
that terrible murder the majority of the 
men have behaved splendidly and are per- 
fectly obedient. Every day we have as- 
surances of their love and attachment to 
their dead captain. 

It is now eleven o'clock a. m., and at 
two p. M. a man in the division is to be 
shot. The execution is to take place by 
the side of our camp. All the regiments 
in the division are to be present, and I 
expect to be detailed as one of the sur- 
geons to examine the body after it falls. 
I feel too sad to write. I can bear to 
100 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

see hundreds shot in battle, but every- 
thing in me recoils from seeing a man 
shot in cold blood; and if these horrible 
scenes do not stop, my whole nature will 
change. 

The Twentieth was under arms last night, 
ready, if necessary, to quell a drunken row 

in the New York. The night was so 

cold that I could not sleep a wink, but sat 
shivering beside the fire. My hand shakes 
so now with the cold, I can barely write; 
yet, rough as this life is, I never was 
better. 

Yesterday the entire corps was ordered 
to pitch tents, and at four p. m. reached 
this place about a mile from Culpeper, 
on the line of the railroad, where w^e are 
to rest from duties which have been very 
arduous since last June. At the old camp 
we had hard picket duty; here we have 
none. There we had only hardtack and 
pork to eat; here we have many luxuries. 
This morning, for the first time since I 
101 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

joined the regiment, we had for breakfast 
butter and potatoes. 

While on the march we halted near an 
old ice-house, the roofless cellar only re- 
maining, its bottom filled with old straw. 
In this cellar a ladder leaned against one 
side, and, as most of these abandoned ice- 
houses are homes for snakes, a fellow in 
the ranks offered to bet that no one would 
dare go down that ladder and trample the 
straw. 

Quiet reigned for a moment while each 
man thought the matter over, when a little 
ignorant recruit, about nineteen years old, 
accepted the bet and gallantly started down 
the ladder. Just as his face reached the 
level of the beam which had supported the 
roof, he saw lying under it a moccasin 
snake, its head only a few inches from his 
face. His eyes became fixed, his teeth 
chattered, and his whole body was so rigid 
that the men got frightened and hauled 
him up by the coat collar. It was some 
102 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

time before he was restored to conscious- 
ness, and, although unmercifully chaffed 
by the men, his legs were so weak that 
for the rest of the march they had to 
support him. 



103 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE BATTLE OF BRISTOE STATION 

Brandy Station, October 12th, 1863. 

WE are on the march, and while the 
men are resting I will scratch a 
line or two. We struck tents on 
Saturday, marched some three miles to the 
west of the town of Culpeper, and were 
formed in line of battle in the woods, where 
we remained through a terrible storm with- 
out shelter or fires, in momentary expecta- 
tion of an attack. 

At three o'clock in the morning we were 
ordered to move on. The night was of the 
blackest, the streams were swollen by the 
rains, and, in the dense growth of trees and 
underbrush the column broke, men became 
bewildered and demoralized, lost their way, 
stumbled over rocks and roots, plunged into 
104 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

ditches and then scrambled out as best they 
could, soaked with mud and water. Bon- 
fires were lighted to extricate us from our 
dilemma, but instead set the woods on fire. 
Sparks flew in all directions, and soon 
tongues of fire were everywhere. The 
frightful heat, the dense smoke, and the 
mad rush of men to free themselves at 
any cost, made " Hell." No other word 
can describe the scene. By daybreak, how- 
ever, we worked our way through and 
joined the main column. So much lost 
time had to be made up that we could 
w^ait neither for rest nor breakfast, and 
the cold was bitter. 

At nine o'clock in the morning we halted 
for ten minutes to eat a httle hardtack, 
and then pushed on until four o'clock p.m., 
when we reached this place, and again 
halted for rest and food, after a march of 
thirteen hours. Knapsacks were opened, 
and pork, hard bread, and coffee dealt out 
in abundance. 

105 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

I ate until I was satisfied, then filled my 
pipe and lay down to supreme enjoyment; 
and I believe no one, unless under like cir- 
cumstances, could have the slightest idea 
of the extent of such enjoyment, or of 
the calm which stole over me after such a 
night. I almost instantly fell asleep, pipe 
in mouth, and waked only at midnight, — 
and then from cold, — built a fire, warmed 
myself, and slept again. Nevertheless, be- 
fore the sun is up I have washed and 
breakfasted. In a few minutes we shall 
probably have orders to move. 

The enemy is supposed to be trying to 
cut us off from Washington, and, as 
nearly as I can understand the matter, the 
Confederates and the Yankees are seeing 
who can march the faster. If we are first 
there we shall probably avoid a battle, but 
if they are first on the ground, we must 
fight. 



106 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

Auburn, on the Banks of the BuLt 

Run River, October 22nd, 1863. 

Much has transpired since I last wrote. 

General Lee's intention was to cut our 
army in two and whip each part separately. 
We marched and countermarched, pre- 
l^ared for battle by day and made forced 
marches by night. Our corps being the 
rear-guard, of course we had the hardest 
work, and for a week slept only one night. 
While on the march I suffered so much 
with my leg that it was impossible to keep 
up with the regiment, although extremely 
dangerous to fall behind, as guerillas were 
everywhere; but, notwithstanding that we 
are faced with the painful results of danger 
under every form, the more we recognize 
its presence the less we fear it, and the 
greater is our reckless daring. 

There was no proper food for men or 
horses; what hardtack we had was so full 
of maggots that it had to be baked, which 
107, 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

hardened it still more. No pork, and no 
water, except what we got from the 
puddles by the roadside. Men became so 
exhausted that they fell asleep while 
marching, and I slept while sitting in my 
saddle. The nights were bitterly cold; the 
roads almost impassable from the furious 
rains. The enemy threatened us on all 
sides, especially with their cavalry, but we 
did not run foul of them until the 14th. 

Unknown to us, they had cut in and 
occupied the roads through which we were 
to march. When we reached a defile 
among the hills and were about to cross a 
broad stream, a sharp fire of musketry 
and artillery opened upon our brigade 
from General Hill's corps. For a mo- 
ment it staggered us, for we did not even 
know where the attack came from, so great 
was the confusion. The corps immediately 
halted, formed into line of battle, and 
waited for the enemy's assault, which pres- 
ently came with great force. The men 
108 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

stood firm as rocks and poured volley after 
volley into their ranks, but had a hard 
time of it, and General Warren's chief of 
staff. Colonel Morgan, saved the day by 
his great presence of mind. 

Colonel ^lorgan ordered our brigade 
forward as skirmishers to drive the Con- 
federates from the woods and take their 
batteries, but our advance was much im- 
peded by the stream which had first to be 
crossed directly under the enemy's fire. 
This stream was very deep and its banks 
steep and slippery. Men fell headlong 
into the water, horses rolled down the 
bank backwards, carrying their riders with 
them, and for a time utter chaos and con- 
fusion reigned. The new recruits crouched, 
and I even heard some of them scream 
with fear, while the older troops and offi- 
cers drove them on at the point of sword 
and bayonet. 

A line was finally formed on the oppo- 
site bank, a charge made, and the enemy 
109 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

driven back. The fight lasted about six 
hours. It was the enemy's cavalry only 
which took part in the engagement, or we 
should not have had such an easy victory. 
. . . We lay there, surrounded by the 
graves of the dead, and the stench from 
the battlefield was beyond expression. 

When we moved it was in a thick fog. 
Marching by the railroad track, we reached 
an open space, intersected here and there 
by low ridges, near Bristoe Station. I was 
riding with General Webb at the head of 
the column when, through the lifting mist, 
we dimly saw another column marching 
parallel with ours, and the prevailing color 
in the ranks being blue, we supposed it to 
be one of our own corps.^ Both columns 
stopped and stared in amazement at each 
other, but in a moment what had seemed 
a spectral host turned about face and 

1 At this period of the war blue Federal uniforms were 
frequently taken from the battlefields and worn by Confed- 
erate soldiers. 

110 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

fired a tremendous volley into us. This 
was sufficient proof that we faced an 

enemy. 

Our men were immediately filed in hne 
behind an embankment, but still by the side 
of the railroad. The Confederates formed 
a straight and strong line of battle and 
advanced upon us. We were separated 
from the main army, while the enemy was 
in force and in an advantageous position. 
Our men were largely conscripts, who had 
never seen an attacking hne before. They 
were ordered not to fire until the enemy 
was close upon them. How would they 
behave? 

On came the Confederates with such 
steady force and such perfect coolness that 

the raw recruits of the New York 

regiment could not stand the strain, and 
rushed headlong, pell-mell, for the rear. 
Colonel Mallon of that regiment, but who 
at the time commanded the brigade, was 
fortunately behind them, and, drawn 
111 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

sword in hand, succeeded in stopping the 
stampede. 

The enemy still advanced without waver- 
ing. Suddenly the order "Fire!" rang 
along our lines. Hundreds of the Con- 
federates dropped; others, bewildered, 
rushed back, some forward, while our fel- 
lows, with a wild cheer, fired volley after 
volley into them. Not a man seemed to 
be left standing, and they came into our 
lines as prisoners by fifties, wounded and 
bleeding. 

Another line, still stronger, still steadier, 
was formed by the enemy, but our batteries 
were now run out, and shell, solid shot, 
and canister were poured upon them with 
marked effect. They closed and closed, 
advancing in a solid mass. 

Our guns again were quiet, awaiting a 
nearer approach. 

Colonel Mallon was at that time with 
me in the rear, for, as the brigade had 
made a breastwork of the railroad embank- 
112 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

ment, he could not be in front; and we 
were lying side by side, flat on the ground, 
so as to be out of range of the enemy's 
guns, when the colonel, who was very fond 
of Major Abbott, said he must take a look 
round and see if he were safe. I begged 
him not to, saying that he would surely be 
shot, but he answered, " No, I cannot stand 
the suspense, and it will take but a mo- 
ment"; whereupon he rose, and was in- 
stantly shot through the abdomen. 

I dragged him to a little muddy stream, 
— the only place of safety, — where the 
poor fellow lay with the water almost run- 
ning down his throat. He lived until the 
fight was almost over, and finally expired 
in my arms. He was just married. 

The fight continued until dark, the 
enemy throwing out line after line up to 
that time. I w^as busy enough after the 
battle was over, and came within an ace 
of being taken prisoner, but Johnny Reb 
did not catch me that time. 
8 113 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

The prisoners told us that, notwithstand- 
ing this success of ours, we could not es- 
cape, as General Ewell had passed up on 
our left and was surrounding us; but in 
spite of this on we marched, all through 
that night, without a halt, worn out as we 
were. I cannot express the torture I en- 
dured in trying to keep my eyes open. I 
believe I rode for miles in a sound sleep. 

At dawn we joined the main army in 
the fortifications here at Auburn, border- 
ing the Bull Run River. The day's work 
had been a most signal victory, and our 
brigade had captured five guns and two 
colors. A company of sharpshooters at- 
tached to the regiment did splendid work. 
They killed the enemy's gunners and then 
bodily mounted the guns, from which 
points of vantage they picked off^ any one 
who approached them. A corporal com- 
manding them reported to General War- 
ren the capture of the guns, and asked 
assistance in taking them off. The gen- 
114 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

eral detailed a certain number of men 
from each regiment for that duty, and 
thereby claimed that the corps took the 
guns instead of giving credit where it was 
due, — to the sharpshooters. General 
Webb, however, who commanded our divi- 
sion, and who, by the way, behaved most 
gallantly, issued a special order compH- 
menting the sharpshooters for their ser- 
vices. 

At the beginning of the fight I owned 
two horses; one of which, old Bessie, being 
lame, I used for a pack horse, the other I 
rode. On the former were my blankets, 
overcoat, tobacco, wash-basin; in fact, 
everything except my valise, which, fortu- 
nately, was in the wagon-train. When the 
fight began I ordered my servant, who had 
charge of Bessie, to take her to a place 
of safety, but before going far a ball 
struck her in the leg. She broke away 
from the man and ran to the front, where 
she was shot again, this time in the neck. 
115 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

Our cook, Fraser, was at the rear during 
the fight, and seeing a loose horse running 
wildly about, tried to catch her, but only- 
succeeded in grabbing a haversack which 
was swinging from the saddle. He did 
not recognize the animal, but on opening 
the haversack saw a little book with my 
name on the title-page, and as soon as 
possible brought it to me. When I took 
the little book from Eraser's hands, saw 
it was safe, and found the written words 
still within its pages, I — well, I wished 
for an instant I was alone. That little 
book has weathered so much! When all 
else I had was soaked with rain the little 
volume was always dry. To-day I took it 
from my breastpocket before the fight and 
for safer keeping put it in the haversack, 
fearing in the great heat to have it so near 
my person, and also that with my case of 
instruments both together would weigh me 
down. 

Later I went to the rear, and, dismount- 
116 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

ing, gave my horse to one of General 
Webb's orderlies to hold while I attended 
to the wounded. When my duties were 
over I looked for my horse, but the man 
told me that a piece of shell must have 
struck her, for she reared and plunged so 
he was forced to let her go. On the march 
that night I was without either horse, coat 
or blanket, and trudged along as best I 
could, until finally the adjutant gave me 
his mount. This morning I have old Bessie 
again. When passing General Webb's 
headquarters I saw her standing, tied to 
a tree, and was told that she had been 
caught by an orderly. She is doing well, 
and will recover from her wounds. The 
other horse I have not yet heard from. 

We are all fagged and worn out, half 
starved, and poorly clad. Possibly we may 
remain quiet long enough to have some 
good hardtack, pork, and coffee, and, above 
all, fresh water. I can eat almost anything, 
but clean water is a necessity. We break- 
117 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

fasted yesterday on nothing but raw cab- 
bage, yet, although I have been sleeping in 
the mud in clothes sopping wet, I am per- 
fectly well. 

Have you seen in the papers that Gen- 
eral Meade complimented our corps? He 
said that it saved the whole army at the 
battle of Bristoe Station. 



118 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 



CHAPTER IX 

MARCHING AND COUNTER-MARCHING 

Camp near Warrenton, 

October 25th, 1863. 

WE do not stay long in one place, 
but go marching on. We have 
stopped here only temporarily; 
yesterday it rained so hard, and our sup- 
plies are so far gone, that we cannot move 
again for at least twenty-four hours, for 
the men have had literally almost nothing 
to eat. The supper last night for our own 
mess consisted of maggoty hard bread and 
brown sugar {alias sand). 

We are encamped on the slope of a hill, 
just under the Blue Ridge, surrounded by 
thick forests. The other regiments are 
encamped in the woods facing us, and the 
music of the bands, which play in every 
119 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

direction, just fills my soul. With what? 
Why, with the inexpressible. 

To-day I inspected the rations of the 
men, and have already condemned about 
a thousand pounds of hardtack. 

October 28th, 1863. 

We have had marching orders for forty- 
eight hours now, and been told we are going 
to the front to fight, but have not moved 
yet. Yesterday our orders were to pack up, 
and we have been packing up ever since, 
making ourselves very miserable and un- 
comfortable. 

Our food is disgusting, — poor hard 
bread and brown sugar. The teams of sup- 
plies are not allowed to come up to us, 
which seems unnecessary and unwarrant- 
able. Worst of all, we are even without 
tobacco. This morning I was sitting in the 
quartermaster's big wall tent watching the 
loading of a team with boxes of hardtack, 
when under one of the boxes before me, 
which a man was about tossing to his 
120 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

shoulder, I saw a copperhead snake, whicH 
instantly coiled and struck the fellow's leg 
just above the boot, and the man pitched 
headlong, as if from the blow of a hammer. 
With my penknife I immediately cut 
around the spot where the fang of the rep- 
tile had penetrated, which was plainly visi- 
ble, then cauterized the wound thoroughly. 
Neither of these processes caused suffering, 
as the blow seemed to have paralyzed the 
sensitive nerves. The man passed into a 
dead faint, and was carried on a stretcher 
to the hospital tent. I hope that but little 
poison entered his system, as the tooth first 
passed through his trousers, then through 
thick woollen stockings, — but his tempera- 
ture is now very high.* 

Rappahannock Station, 

November 9th, 1863. 

We have been marching during the last 
two days, so that I have been unable to 

1 The man finally recovered but came very near losing his 
Ufe. 

121 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

write. Now, while waiting for further 
orders, I will scratch a few lines to say that 
we have crossed the Rappahannock not- 
withstanding that the enemy was so 
strongly entrenched. General Sedgwick's 
corps was the only one which had any 
fighting to do, and it did not amount to 
much. 

We crossed at Kelly's Ford without 
opposition, as we captured the whole Con- 
federate force guarding it. Not a gun 
has yet been fired by our division. The 
rumor is that General Butler is marching 
up the peninsula to Richmond, and that 
we are keeping General Lee and his force 
here to prevent his attacking. I doubt 
very much if we have much fighting, — 
doubt if General Meade means anything 
more than to prevent General Lee from 
sending away any more troops. Shall 
always keep sealed letters in my pocket 
to send when opportunity offers, for we 
are now cut off from communications. 
122 



OF. THE CIVIL WAR 

Mountain Run, 
November 11th, 1863. 

On the 9th we had quite a little snow- 
storm, and yesterday, when on the march, 
the snow-covered " Blue Hills " towered 
above us, their icy cliffs illuminated by 
the sun's rays into every enchanting 
color. We have ice now every night, 
and last night it froze nearly two inches 
thick. 

I have been working hard to-day, pitch- 
ing my tent upon a log foundation. It 
will be warmer, and will allow me to sit 
up. To-morrow I shall build an under- 
ground fireplace, for the wind blows so 
hard here in the winter that it is impos- 
sible to keep warm by an outside fire, for 
while your front is warming your back is 
freezing, and if the fire is very near the 
tent, the smoke blows in and smothers you. 
]My eyes are now almost put out by the 
smoke; my hands are covered with pitch 
123 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

from handling pine logs; my feet are 
soaking wet ; and I am cross. 

We are encamped on soil so saturated 
with water that I sent a protest to General 
Warren to-day asking him if we could not 
move to a drier spot, but he answered that 
we should have to go several miles to find 
such, and that, of course, was impossible. 
We are evidently to remain here for the 
winter. 

I have had the whole regiment out to-day, 
cutting down trees to let the sun in, and 
digging trenches to drain the water oif , but 
as it is only necessary to dig a few inches 
to come upon more water, the task is rather 
a hopeless one. This winter I mean to 
build a gymnasium for the men to exer- 
cise in when it is too cold and stormy for 
drilling. The officers are interested in the 
plan, and already we fence, box, and exer- 
cise every day, and feel much better for it. 



124 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

November 13th, 1863. 

I have just returned from a ride of 
over twenty miles on horseback at break- 
neck speed through woods and over 
rough, rocky country. I had to go to 
General I^Ieade's headquarters on busmess, 
so started at reveille this morning, and it 
is now ten o'clock p. m. I enjoyed it im- 
mensely; was treated very hospitably, and 
had quite a long conversation with General 
Meade. 

On the way back I fell in with an officer 
on General Warren's staff*, and while rid- 
ing through the woods w^e suddenly came 
upon two men dressed in Confederate 
clothes. We stopped and inquired of them 
where they belonged. They gave evasive 
answers, and while we were talking one 
of them, having scanned us and seen no 
arms, attempted to escape. Fortunately, 
I had my revolver, and on presenting it 
cocked at his head, he halted and gave 
125 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

himself up. We took them both to head- 
quarters. 

I am interested in trying to improve 
the present plan for ventilating regimental 
hospitals in winter. I think, instead of 
having stoves, I will build fireplaces of 
sticks and clay, modelled after some I saw 
in a Confederate camp. 

November 15th, 1863. 

I wrote you, I think, of the wet, boggy 
ground we are encamped on. Last night 
it rained in torrents, and in five minutes 
the bottom of my tent held one or two 
inches of water. My couch is made of 
leaves packed between two logs, and by 
nine o'clock the water became so deep that 
it ran over the logs into the bed, and on 
waking I found myself perfectly drenched 
and everything I owned in the same con- 
dition. My valise had been left open, and 
its contents were almost ruined; letters, 
pictures, clothing, — all were soaked. How- 
126 




Of 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

ever, there was one little picture and one 
little book in a closed box by themselves, 
and their safety made the ruin of the 
rest seem as nothing. 

Mountain Run, 
November 20th, 1863. 

We expect to march to-morrow, where, 
I know not; but what I do know is that 
to-night rations are being issued to the 
men, and that we are looking for an or- 
derly to ride up any moment with orders 
to march at daylight. ... I don't much 
care for this packing at midnight and 
starting in the gray of dawn, — likely as 
not after neither sleep nor breakfast. 

This morning several of us went to see 
a review of the Sixth corps by invitation 
of General Sedgwick, commanding. It 
was a magnificent display. The Sixth is 
a very large corps, and probably contains 
18,000 men. Every officer was in full 
uniform, every man well brushed and pol- 
127 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

ished ; the bands played well, and the whole 
thing was superb. 

General Sedgwick held the review in 
honor of some British officers who are visit- 
ing the army, and after inspecting the 
troops, all the invited guests repaired to 
the general's headquarters, where a fine 
dinner was served. We enjoyed the oc- 
casion hugely. 

Mountain Run, 

November 21st, 1863. 

Here we are still, with rumors of move- 
ments in plenty, but with no start. This 
morning we had a general inspection of the 
men, camp, and hospital, by the inspector- 
general of the corps. On leaving, the gen- 
eral remarked that " the Twentieth was the 
finest regiment in the Potomac army for 
cleanliness, discipline, and fighting! " How 
is that for the old Twentieth ? 

We are perfectly deluged with rain, and 
my tent, raised on logs, has a deep pool of 
water around it. 

128 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

The colonel has just taken supper with 
me on my little rustic table. Our supper 
consisted of coffee in one cup, brown sugar, 
and hard bread. The colonel used his right 
hand in drinking and I my left, so that 
our lips touched different sides of the cup. 
Our repast was delicious. First we soaked 
the hard bread in coffee, then toasted it 
over the coals, and when it was hot and 
brown we spread it with melted brown 
sugar. 

Next Thursday will be Thanksgiving 
Day. How I wish our men could have 
something extra to eat, poor fellows! 
They have had potatoes only about a 
dozen times since last June, and are be- 
coming badly run down. We have received 
from one of our officers now at the North 
a quantity of raisins, flour, pickles, etc., 
for their Thanksgiving dinner, and we also 
have permission to send to Washington for 
more supplies. We officers do not need 
these extras, as our pay enables us to buy 
9 129 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

pickles and such things to prevent scurvy, 

but the men have not the money for 

luxuries. 

November 25th, 1863. 

I did not expect to write again from 
this camp, but fate will have it so. 

Night before last orders came to march at 
daylight. No fires could be lighted, and 
preparations were to be made in the strict- 
est silence. A northeast storm was blow- 
ing, a drizzly rain falling, and everything 
was cold and cheerless. With the excep- 
tion of one hour, when I took a hurried 
nap, I was up throughout the night pre- 
paring the sick and disabled for the move, 
and at five o'clock a. m., without coffee or 
anything to eat except wet hard bread, we 
started off. Rumor said we were bound 
for the Rapidan and Richmond. 

It rained — oh, how it rained! We 

marched about half a mile through bog 

and mud, when we came upon a battery 

of the artillery stuck fast. To go on 

130 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

seemed to all of us an impossibility, and 
while we halted, waiting to extricate the 
cannon, orders came to return to old quar- 
ters and again encamp. A cheer rose from 
every throat, and most fortunate it was, I 
think, that we did return, for the rain con- 
tinued during the day and all of the fol- 
lowing night. When we reached the old 
camp I bailed out my little enclosure as 
one would bail out a leaky boat. 



131 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 



CHAPTER X 

THE OTHER SIDE OF GERMANNIA FORD 

December 3rd, 1863. 

WHEN I last wrote we were wishing 
ourselves home for Thanksgiv- 
ing, but as that was impossible, 
we resolved to do the best we could here, 
and so determined to have a plum pudding, 
at least. Two days were spent building 
an oven in which to bake it, and when 
everything was ready the night before the 
important day, I think it would have been 
impossible for any one under other circum- 
stances to realize our intense anticipation 
of the coming feast. 

Alas ! That same night at twelve o'clock 

we were ordered to march at daylight, and 

on the very morning of Thanksgiving Day 

flour and raisins were thrown away, and 

132 



OF THE CrVTL WAR 

we went trudging on with thousands of 
other poor devils. It is a strange provi- 
sion of nature that when one is very 
hungry the longing for a promised morsel 
assumes such proportions that it seems for 
a time to take possession of the whole of 
one's being. I am quite certain that on 
this march each man in the regiment was 
so completely absorbed in his disappoint- 
ment that for many miles it was to him 
the only source of discomfort. 

We crossed the Rapidan River unmo- 
lested by the enemy, but soon after came 
upon their fortified position. The Second 
corps was sent to the left some twenty 
miles to flank this position, and the second 
division of that corps was chosen to storm 
the fortifications if the enemy were found 
to be concentrated. The Confederates were 
in strong force, and on heights surrounded 
by earthworks and rifle-pits which covered 
every approach. The situation seemed im- 
pregnable ; the attempt to take it would de- 
133 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

mand such a sacrifice of life that the idea 
was abandoned, the whole plan given up, 
and at dark the retreat commenced and 
continued until each corps and division ar- 
rived at the old camping-ground from 
which it had started. 

The next morning we were again on the 
march, when, after we had gone about a 
mile and were on an open plain, the troops 
were massed, and a telegram from Gen- 
eral Grant was read, announcing his vic- 
tory over Bragg. This was a great 
encouragement to all, and after some 
hearty cheers we resumed our march with 
renewed heart and spirit. The morning 
was clear and cold, the roads frozen, and 
the men in splendid condition. 

About noon we reached the Germannia 
Ford on the Rapidan, where we waited 
some three or four hours while the cavalry 
reconnoitred and the engineers laid the 
pontoon-bridge. While crossing this pon- 
toon-bridge the brigade surgeon gave us 
134 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

all a good laugh. He rode his old red 
horse, whose ugly temj)er was known far 
and near. This horse was a lop-eared, long- 
shanked, cross-grained beast, always bent 
upon doing the unexpected. With ears 
laid back and head run out, ready to let 
fly fore and aft, he generally cleared his 
way by biting and kicking. In this case, 
as usual, he chose the most inconvenient 
spot for fooling, and in the middle of the 
bridge scattered men and horses to the 
right and left, seemingly determined to 
jump into the river. The doctor, somewhat 
ruffled by his antics, said, "Well, if you 
want a bath, take it!" and, suiting the 
action to the word, both horse and rider 
plunged into the stream. The men broke 
out into hearty cheers and roars of laugh- 
ter as they watched the horse swim gal- 
lantly, bearing his dripping rider to the 
shore, where he quietly climbed the bank, 
a subdued and docile animal. 

We camped that night on the heights on 
135 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

the further side of the river, and at three 
o'clock the next morning the advance was 
sounded. On we went at a double-quick 
for nearly two hours by a road which ran 
through a thick forest. About one o'clock 
we heard firing in front, and the column 
was halted and ordered to load. Again 
we pushed on " double-quick," while the 
firing in front increased; then artillery 
began to boom, and finally we reached an 
open plain, where skirmishers were thrown 
out, and the main column was formed in 
line of battle with reserves in the rear. 
The men advanced, drawn up in fighting 
array, under a heavy fire from the Con- 
federates, who were concealed in a thick 
wood in front. On reaching this wood, 
our skirmishers having driven the enemy's 
skirmishers back, we were halted behind a 
piece of rising ground to support a bat- 
tery which was placed so as to sweep the 
thicket in case the enemy appeared in 
front. Skirmishing continued through the 
136 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

remainder of the day, and in our regiment 
two men were wounded while lying under 
the hill. The weather was fearfully cold 
and raw, no fires could be lighted, and we 
lay on the ground shivering and freezing. 
At dark the Twentieth was sent out on 
picket duty to relieve the others who had 
been fighting all day. We passed a quiet 
night as to firing, both parties taking rest 
for the coming action. 

The next morning the order to advance 
was given, and we formed in line of battle, 
with the Twentieth thrown forward as skir- 
mishers. Away we went, sweeping through 
the woods in thick underbrush, over high 
rocks, through streams, but driving the 
Confederates back at every step. About 
ten o'clock the enemy's skirmishers were 
pushed to a hill, on the top of which was 
their main position, covered by earthworks 
and batteries, and for the rest of the day 
the skirmishers on both sides kept up a hot 
fire. Two of the sharpshooters in the Twen- 
137 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

tieth were wounded. Rain drenched us to 
the skin, and we had been without food 
all day. 

At dark the regiment was ordered to the 
rear, still in line of battle. Again no fires 
were allowed, so of course we were not 
warmed with hot coffee, and, after nib- 
bling a little hardtack, we rolled ourselves 
in our blankets and fell asleep, worn out 
with hunger, cold, and exhaustion. 

The next morning at three o'clock Gen- 
eral Warren took the Second corps, with 
one division from the Sixth, on a detour 
around the Confederate position, so as to 
reach its right flank. There he was to form 
a line of battle, and at eight o'clock open 
the attack by charging the enemy's works, 
after which the whole line, some seven or 
eight miles long, was to make a general 
assault. 

We struck off on a side road leading 
to Orange Courthouse. The morning was 
cold and rainy, the roads in a frightful 
138 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

condition, and a wearying time we had of 
it. I doubt if our ancestors at Valley 
Forge suffered more from cold than we 
did, I generally marched on foot so as to 
keep warm, and often found that I had 
been sound asleep while my legs were 
trudging along. Our horses became ex- 
hausted, having had neither grain nor hay 
since we began the march, and finally they 
gnawed each other's tails, or anything they 
could get hold of. Some of them ate the 
bark of the trees, and one horse in our 
pack devoured a whole grain bag with 
seeming relish. I fed my poor old Bessie 
on hardtack and salt pork. 

About ten o'clock the sun came out, and 
in order not to be seen by the enemy, we 
had to break our way through the woods 
and underbrush, which tore everything to 
pieces, — clothes, blankets, and panniers. 
After marching some seven miles, we again 
struck the road, and the moment we did 
this the Confederates, masked by the woods 
139 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

on the right, opened fire upon us. We 
were stunned by the unexpected attack, and 
perfect chaos reigned for a few minutes. 
Orderhes galloped up and down bearing 
orders, yet nobody knew what to do. 

General Warren sent word to General 
Webb to deploy the best regiment he had 
m his division as skirmishers, and the gen- 
eral at once replied, " I send the Twentieth 
Massachusetts." The result was that with- 
out firing a shot our regiment forced the 
Confederates back into their fortifications. 
General Webb said afterwards, " The 
Twentieth has again covered itself with 
glory"; and he actually apologized for 
sending it out on such a duty, but said the 
necessity of driving the enemy back into 
their works was absolute, and he knew the 
Twentieth would do it. 

A desultory fire from both sides con- 
tinued until night set in. Great bravery 
was displayed by our officers. Colonel 
Macy, with his one hand, rode about under 
140 



OF THE Cn^IL WAR 

fire as if the whole tiling were a game of 
" puss-in-the-corner," and httle Abbott 
rushed his men to the fight with immense 
spirit. The night passed quietly, but we 
felt that the great struggle must come on 
the following day. 

At midnight our division was moved still 
farther to the left, and placed in position 
for a charge the next morning. The Con- 
federate entrenchments could be seen by 
the light of the fires on the heights behind 
their fortifications, and the general effect 
by moonlight was that of a fortified citadel 
some two or three hundred feet above us, 
surrounded by bristling batteries. During 
the night five lines of battle were formed 
on our side. The first one was made up 
of poor, inexperienced regiments, and the 
second of old well-tried veterans, including 
the Nineteenth and Twentieth INIassachu- 
setts and the Seventh Michigan regiments. 
The hardest duty was given to the Twen- 
tieth, which was ordered to advance up 
141 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

the hill about three-quarters of a mile 
without cover, the regiment of raw re- 
cruits, who were pretty sure to be panic- 
stricken, in front, and both of them ex- 
posed for all this distance to the fire of 
the Confederate batteries, which would be 
throwing grape, canister, and solid shot 
into the ranks, not to mention the deadly 
work of two tiers of rifle-pits filled three 
deep with infantry. The other regiments 
on the line were protected by thick woods, 
and consequently not exposed to any great 
amount of fire until they quite reached the 
enemy's works. 

All the troops were in position about two 
o'clock, when the moon was brilliant, but 
the night one of the coldest I had known. 
We stood on boggy soil, the water freez- 
ing under our feet; and of course to lie 
down was impossible; besides, we were 
ignorant of what might occur at any 
moment. 

At about seven o'clock communication 
142 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

on the right was estabHshed with the main 
army; then came orders that a charge all 
along the line would be made at eight 
o'clock, and the signal for this charge 
would be the firing of a gun on the right 
of the line. Just before eight o'clock the 
commander of our division, General Webb, 
addressed the men as they stood in posi- 
tion, and some of his words I can never 
forget. He said: " I know that what you 
are called upon to do is desperate, and I 
also know that every man of you will fulfil 
his duty. I do not expect the first line to 
reach the works, but the second line must; 
and the third line is to enter and capture 
them. Boys, remember that I shall always 
be in your front." 

The men well knew the truth of these 
words, and some of them even had the 
heart to applaud; but the general had 
strictly ordered, "No noise!" and indeed 
the prevailing feeling was too intense for 
demonstration. The men then came to me 
143 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

in numbers, asking me to take charge of 
watches and personal effects, and to de- 
liver messages to friends at home, of which 
I made careful memoranda, and begging 
me to promise to send everything to their 
families if they were killed. 

Eight o'clock came. The men stood 
nerved for action; their faces stern, 
strained, every sense in suspense to catch 
the one sound of that signal-gun. But it 
did not come. Eight-fifteen passed — no 
signal ; eight-thirty — nine — ten ! The 
strain was awful! What was the matter? 
Why was not some explanation given? 
Then rumors reached us that the assault 
was to be abandoned, and by four o'clock 
that afternoon one man, exhausted by 
hunger and excitement, had the courage 
to lie down; at once others "followed, till 
finally they lay like rows of bricks, each 
trying to screen himself behind his fellow 
from the pitiless cold. At dusk fires were 
lighted in the woods at the rear, that the 
144 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

enemy might suppose we were bivouacking 
for the night, and men were detailed to 
feed these fires, while the rest were or- 
dered to retreat in column along the turn- 
pike, across the river, back whence we 
started. 

On either side of the turnpike the woods 
had been fired to prevent an attack on 
our flank. We marched through fire and 
smoke, our eyes blinded, throats parched, 
stomachs empty, and limbs half frozen. 
All night we marched, and not until long 
after sunrise did we reach safety beyond 
the river. There we received orders to 
return to our old camping-ground, but 
some humane soul, probably General 
Webb, asked for one hour's halt for rest 
and food. One hour's rest was granted, 
but no food was given out. 

At the end of that one hour I awoke, 

and beheld a sight never to be forgotten. 

Not a man, not a horse, was standing. So 

deep down and so profound was the sleep 

10 145 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

that the stillness was that of death. SucK 
was the exhaustion of all that every man 
who had a horse slept at his side with reins 
in hand. 

Before the troops were fully roused the 
provision wagons arrived, and the men were 
so famished that any regular distribution 
of rations was impossible. Fighting their 
way, they seized and rifled the wagons, de- 
vouring what they secured like so many 
wild animals. 

Again we marched, finally reaching our 
old camp, worn and footsore. 



146 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 



CHAPTER XI 

CAMP AT STEVENSBURG, VA. 

Stevensburg, 
December 6th, 1863. 

HERE we are, shuffled into a cold 
and cheerless camp, with neither 
protection from the wind nor wood 
to build fires with. Possibly these quarters 
may be permanent, though why we should 
be way down here in the front I do not 
understand. 

We left our last camp yesterday morn- 
ing, and are now four miles nearer the 
Rapidan than before. We were not al- 
lowed to pitch tents until dark, when it 
was too late to make ourselves warm for 
the night ; and about midnight an icy wind 
sprang up, forcing us all to run about, that 
we might not freeze. I am now lying be- 
147 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

hind the trunk of an old tree for shelter, 
with my fingers so stiff that I can barely 
hold my pen. 

I see by the Northern papers that this 
army is called " demoralized," " full of 
copperheads," and " fit only for observa- 
tion work." This is because we did not 
give battle the other day, when we found 
the Confederates in their entrenched posi- 
tion. I wish such newspaper grumblers 
could be sent down here and put into the 
front ranks, when I rather think tilings 
would be seen in a different light. 

December 7th, 1863. 

Last night about midnight news came 
that a mail had arrived which was too large 
to be distributed until morning. Tired, 
even exhausted, as I was, the thought of 
a near letter which I knew was in that bag 
for me prevented the possibility of sleep. 
I soon found Macy was under the same 
restlessness as I, and we quickly agreed to 
148 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

saddle our horses, ride to brigade head- 
quarters, get the mail, and distribute it 
ourselves. 

Off we went, found the mail, of many- 
days' accumulation, threw it across the 
saddle, and rode home in high glee. I had 
no question as to the contents of that mail- 
bag; I knew my letter was there, beside 
many others for me. On our return we 
took the bag into Macy's tent, where, ex- 
cepting for the very audible snores about 
us, there was silence. 

I sat on the floor, placed a candle be- 
tween my feet, and with a freshly lighted 
pipe went happily to work. A whole hour 
passed ; the last letter was in my hand, and 
not a single one for me. Macy had four. 
I felt wicked, then distressed, and then 
really sick with disappointment, and so, 
finally, turned in. This morning I dis- 
covered that the whole mail had not ar- 
rived last night; that the rest was on its 
way; and before noon the best letter I 
149 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

had ever received was in my hand. There 
were others, too. 

We complained so much of our situation 
here that yesterday the camp was moved 
to a hillside facing south, where we can 
at least escape the fearful northers which 
blow here so tempestuously through the 
winter. For the last six weeks I have not 
known the feeling of warmth, especially 
at night. The ground upon which I sleep 
is so cold that it seems as if two feather 
beds, at least, would be necessary between 
me and the earth to make me really com- 
fortable. But as things are, I have a bag 
made of one double army blanket, into 
which I let myself down, placing an India 
rubber blanket under me. Although the 
latter is the coldest thing in the world, it 
keeps the moisture out, and, in spite of 
everything, I am in splendid condition. 



150 



li^sTmrnm^^t 







OF THE CIVIL WAR 

December 10th, 1863. 

We hear that the Government offers 
thirty days' furlough to old regiments 
when two-thirds of their men re-enlist. 
The bounties are so large and the offer 
so liberal that the chances are good for 
keeping the regiments up to a proper 
standard. Officers can re-enlist or not, as 
they choose. In their case no difference 
is made, but if two-thirds of the men re- 
enlist the whole regiment goes home, offi- 
cers and all, to reorganize. 

December 14th, 1863. 

The need of wood in this place is so 
great that to remain much longer seems 
impossible, and yet we are building log 
tents as if for winter quarters. It is a 
miserable situation in many ways, and the 
food we have, if for a permanency, is not 
suitable. I breakfasted this morning on 
hardtack and coffee; then at noon we 
151 



LETTERS FROINI A SURGEON 

dined on boiled beef, without the shghtest 
seasoning of either salt or pepper. Even 
the water we bathe in, and wash our teeth 
with, must be left standing for half an 
hour before using, that the dirt in it may 
settle; and this same water is all we have 
for our coffee. Every day the wind blows 
a gale, and to-day it seems as if the tents 
would be blown to rags. This morning I 
put my fire out, for fear my tent would 
be blown over and set on fire. 

Harry Abbott has gone home for a 
furlough; also Uncle Nathan, as we call 
Surgeon Hayward, and I confess the camp 
is desolate without them. However, Macy 
is here, and I am fond of him. 

December 20th, 1863. 
It is Sunday, and our camp wears an 
appearance, I suppose it might be said, 
appropriate to the day. Everywhere there 
is silence and monotony. The white can- 
vas tents look cold and cheerless in the 
152 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

winter atmosphere, and the only human 
being outside, beside myself, is the senti- 
nel, pacing up and down, up and down. 
There is one little suggestion of comfort 
and coziness, and that is the blue smoke 
curling up from the mud chimneys of the 
huts built all about, which look, but for 
this, like prairie dog mounds. However, 
in a few moments everything will change, 
for the drums will beat, and the men march 
to their Sunday inspection, heavily laden 
with knapsacks and muskets. 

I dread the long, weary weeks which 
must be passed before the spring cam- 
paign opens. I study all that I can, but 
the need of various books makes me rest- 
less. In Doctor Haj^ward's absence I have 
been acting as chief surgeon of the bri- 
gade, with the care of five regiments, so 
that is not being idle, at any rate. 



153 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

December 27th, 1863. 

It is raining and blowing fearfully, but 
I am snug and dry under my canvas shel- 
ter, where, in a little space ten feet square, 
is combined bedroom, sitting-room, and 
office; for I am still living in a tent, as 
I cannot find sufficient wood to build a 
hut. It is dull enough, with nothing to 
do and nothing new to hear. I spend 
hours alone in my tent, thinking of the 
future ; questioning and answering myself. 
This seems to me a desert that I am now 
passing through, which must be crossed 
before I can dream of home; before an 
earned contentment would satisfy me to 
settle down to practise my profession. 

January 1st, 1864. 

To-night is the coldest night we have had 

yet, and the wind blows so that the fire 

will not burn. Poor Bond has turned in 

with all his clothes and overcoat on. I 

154 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

have not undressed, excepting to bathe, 
since being in this camp; but I am as 
tough as iron. 

To-day Macy and I were invited by 
General Webb, commanding our division, 
and General Hancock, commanding our 
corps, to call upon them and drink to the 
success of the Army of the Potomac. 
General Hancock was wounded at Gettys- 
burg, and has just now sufficiently recov- 
ered to take command again. I had a 
delightful time, and dined with General 
Webb. 

Did you see the puff about the Twen- 
tieth in the Boston '* Advertiser? " It was 

excellent. 

January 15th, 1864. 

I am out on picket duty, as the surgeon 
detailed for the work is ill. General Han- 
cock has forbidden covers or fires at the 
outposts, and consequently half of the 
men from the picket line come back ill, as 
they are exposed to the inclemency of the 
155 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

weather for three days at a time. There 
is nothing in the world to do here, and at 
night we have to he on the snow and try- 
to sleep, frozen almost to death. The cold 
has been most unusual this winter. The 
hardest battles I have fought since joining 
the army have been with myself. Some 
time I hope to conquer — much? Yes, 
well-nigh everything! 

January 24th, 1864. 

Last Thursday, as the adjutant was ab- 
sent, I was asked to conduct dress parade 
in his place. Abbott tells me that I did 
not make a single mistake, — pretty good 
for this old boy! 

The building of a bathing-house has in- 
terested me, and by to-night every man in 
the regiment will have had a bath, which, 
I trust, will diminish the number on the 
sick-list. 

I endure the incarceration (for to me 
no other word will answer) of camp life 
156 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

with what fortitude I can, but this forti- 
tude is only due to the Httle iron crook — 
hope — which is always with me. 

The nights now are brilliant with moon- 
light and wonderfully beautiful. Last 
night I could not remain in my tent and 
lose all the beauty outside, so ordered my 
horse saddled and started off alone. For 
about an hour I enjoyed it hugely; but 
on my return, got into a bog which thor- 
oughly wet me, and from that moment my 
ardor was so dampened that I forgot there 
had ever been a moon. 

February 7th, 1864. 

Harry Abbott returned last night from 
his furlough, and Wendell Holmes, Jr., 
with him. It seemed strange enough to 
hear them talk of Boston affairs, balls, 
and such like. Wendell is very blue, and 
sits over the fire, shivering. It is an awful 
strain to jump from every comfort into 
this rough life. Last night we bundled 
157 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

him up in buffaloes, blankets, overcoats, 

and tents; yet he suffered and could not 

sleep. Air-tight houses and furnace heat 

unfits one for this sort of thing. It is, 

of course, much colder at the North than 

here, but it is the dampness of the cold 

in this locality which pierces to the very 

marrow. 

February 15th, 1864. 

One day's routine is much like another, 
varied only by storm or sunshine. Yester- 
day the monotony was relieved by a cav- 
alry review. There were six thousand 
horsemen, commanded by General Pleas- 
anton, who manoeuvred them on an open 
plain large enough to hold ten thousand 
more, and the sight was grand and im- 
posing, — a tremendous exhibition of force 
in reserve. 

You can have no idea of the bitter cold 
of the last few days. Even the pail of 
water for bathing, which I set in the fire- 
place, freezes! The ink in my pen freezes 
158 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

as I write. Last night, beside being in 
my bag with a single blanket over me, I 
had outside of that two overcoats, haver- 
sacks, boots, and every variety of thing, 
yet was too cold to sleep. One of our 
officers had three of his toes frozen during 
the night, while in bed. I am all puckered 
up by this weather, but find it healthy. 

On Picket, March 20th, 1864<. 
I am not fond of picket duty at any 
time, but under present conditions it is 
almost intolerable. I came out here yes- 
terday among a lot of ignorant, swearing, 
drinking officers, unknown to me, and all 
intensely disagreeable. They amuse them- 
selves by card playing, toadying their pri- 
vates, rough talk ; and I expect a row with 
them every moment. They allow their 
favorites among the privates to eat and 
drink with them, but I told the command- 
ing officer yesterday that I did not allow 
a private to come into my quarters in camp, 
159 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

and should not here, and if he wished to 
talk to one, it must be outside, and not 
while I was in the hut. The officer looked 
at me pretty sharply, as if he meant to be 
insulting, and I was prepared for it; but 
he merely said, " You officers of the Twen- 
tieth Mass. treat your privates different 
from what we do, but if you don't like this 
man here I '11 send him out," which he did. 
If he had not complied with my demand, 
I should have brought charges against him, 
and this he well knew. 

April 13th, 1864. 

General Gibbon reviewed our division 
to-day, and for a wonder the weather was 
pleasant. Abbott led the column behind 
the band; then the adjutant and I fol- 
lowed, and, be it whispered, my old Bess 
and her rider felt so gay, not to say self- 
conscious, that it was extremely difficult 
for the latter to salute the general with his 
sword, which, by the way, was borrowed. 
160 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

This morning I was awakened by feel- 
ing myself tightly held, seeing Hayward's 
face close to mine, and hearing him say 
in some agitation, " John, don't move for 
your Ufe till I say ' three,' then seize my 
hands and spring to your feet. One, two, 
three!" Up I sprang, and never made a 
cleaner jump, but just in time to see a 
moccasin snake dive under my coat, which 
I had used for a pillow. Armed with 
sticks, we dragged the coat away, but saw 
only the hole into which the snake had 
glided. I was glad afterwards we missed 
killing him, for he had lain coiled almost 
under the back of my neck, and, as it 
proved, waited patiently for me to move 
and let him enter his hole ; so I feel rather 
pleased that his patience was rewarded. 

More than one hundred German recruits 
have arrived to-day, and I have examined 
them. These fellows, who have just left 
their own country and now find themselves 
in a foreign army, where an unknown 
11 161 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

tongue is spoken, are already singing their 
camp songs, merry as crickets. 

The band of the first division, which is 
the best in the army, played this evening 
at the fort on the hill. The air was so 
filled with melody I could barely stand it. 
I used to listen comfortably to music, but 
now, although the enjoyment is far greater, 
I listen painfully. 



162 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 



CHAPTER XII 

THE COMMENCEMENT OF GEANt's 
CAMPAIGN 

GENERAL GRANT has appointed 
the day after to-morrow to review 
our corps. Yesterday he reviewed 
the Sixth corps, and all through the re- 
view sat on his horse and smoked a cigar. 
He never even uncovered his head when 
the colors were dipped in passing him. 

April 19th, 1864. 
On Friday our division was reviewed by 
General Hancock in the presence of Gen- 
erals Meade, Sedgwick, and half a dozen 
others. The regiment had again the post 
of honor, — the right of the column. It 
was complimented on every side, — and let 
me say that it is very rare for the com- 
163 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

manding general to compliment an indi- 
vidual regiment; but on that day all of 
them said they had never seen more splen- 
did marching, and also that they had no 
idea there was such a regiment in the ser- 
vice. After the review the generals went 
to General Gibbon's headquarters for a 
collation. General JVIeade then asked Gen- 
eral Gibbon to send for the Twentieth, as 
he wished to see it manceu\Te, after which 
the officers of the Twentieth were invited 
to the collation. The rumor is that after 
to-morrow no mails will be allowed to go 
North. 

April 20th, 1864. 
It is a cold, cloudy, cheerless day, and 
I confess my condition is like the weather. 
I am blue and homesick. Yes, this may 
seem extraordinary, but to me it is as 
common in this dull life as to see the 
stars in the sky. There is too little occu- 
pation; I am read out and wearied to 
death. 

164 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

To-day, beside my sick calls, I have done 
nothing but loaf with my hands in my 
pockets, from tent to tent, for it has been 
too cold to sit outside, and my chimney has 
smoked too much for a fire. IMost of the 
time my eyes stream with tears from the 
constant smoke I live in. Yesterday, for 
variety, and the hope of benefit, I shaved 
off my mustache, — but I allow it did take 
moral courage, — and then had a most 
laughable time calling upon our officers at 
their respective huts. Not one of them rec- 
ognized me until I si)oke, and then they 
roared with laughter. Not so with Abbott 
and Uncle Nathan, though. They were 
really put out with me, and saw no joke 
whatever, — said I looked like the devil, 
and I think Abbott would have liked to put 
me under guard, and for the simple reason 
that the loss of a mustache broke the mili- 
tary uniformity of the regiment! 



165 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

May 3rd, 1864. 

At last orders have come to move, and 
now commences the campaign of 1864) 
under Grant. How will it end? It has 
begun, at least, in secrecy, for no one 
seems to know what is to be done beyond 
marching, and that marching under Grant 
means moving towards the enemy. 

As is usual, after a winter's rest and 
idleness in camp, the men open a new 
campaign with an excess of spirit. We 
crossed the river without opposition, and 
late in the afternoon struck the Fredericks- 
burg Turnpike, which we followed in what 
seemed to be a westerly direction. Be- 
fore long we heard sharp musketry firing, 
toward which we made our way, and about 
dusk struck a road running south and at 
right angles to that which we were on. 
Here we halted, and were told to bivouac 
under arms against a rail fence, which 
stood between us and the thick woods 
166 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

where the firing was. The woods were so 
dense that we could not distinguish the 
artillery firing from the rest of the reports, 
but the sound continued until dark. 

Hot firing opened at daybreak, and it 
seemed so near that when orders came to 
" fall in line," the new German recruits 
simply would not obey. They were so 
terrified that they lay like logs, and no 
amount of rough handling, even with 
bayonets, had any effect upon them what- 
ever. The order to advance was given; 
still these fellows clung to the ground 
with faces buried in the grass, and, although 
some were shot by the officers, literally 
nothing moved them. 

" Go on," was the next order, and on 
we went, leaving the miserable wretches 
lying there, — a few may have fallen into 
line, but I doubt it. We pushed forward, 
and very quickly were walking over rows 
of dead bodies piled at times two and three 
deep, and they lay in lines, exactly as if 
167 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

mowed down, showing the havoc of yes- 
terday's fight. These hnes seemed to be 
equally distant one from the other, as if 
each body of men advanced a certain dis- 
tance, received a volley, then advanced 
again, and received another. I noticed a 
man near me in the ranks at this time 
singing a hymn with all his might and 
main. His head was thrown back, his 
mouth wide open, and he seemed com- 
pletely absorbed in the emotion called 
forth to the hymn, which made him ob- 
livious of all surroundings. I watched 
him curiously, and understood that it was 
an instinctive impulse on his part to try 
to hold his senses together and to steady 
himself under the well-nigh unendurable 
strain. As long as I saw the fellow, he 
kept his place without stumbling, and 
obeyed orders. 

The right of the Twentieth bore on the 
turnpike for about two miles, when we met 
the enemy and the fighting began. I 
168 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

stationed myself just behind the regiment 
in the woods on the side of the road, and 
opened my hospital paraphernalia; then 
sent the stretcher-bearers over the field. 
Soon I was deep in work. 

JNIeanwhile reserves were brought up, 
and among them I saw General Bartlett 
at the head of his brigade; but we had 
time only for a passing salute. Shortly 
after that an orderly came towards me, 
leading a horse, with an officer in the 
saddle, back from the front. The man 
was bent far over the horse's neck, bleed- 
ing profusely from a wound in the head, 
and white as death. To my dismay, I saw 
it was Frank Bartlett, and I called his 
name again and again, but did not suc- 
ceed in rousing him. Passing my finger 
into the wound before taking him from 
the saddle, I found the ball had not pene- 
trated the bone, but had simply severed 
an artery in the scalp; so, pressing the 
artery till the steward brought a ligature, 
169 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

I shouted, "No harm done, old boy; this 
is only a flesh wound ; you will be all right 
when I tie the artery and take a stitch or 
two "; and this good news seemed to bring 
him back to consciousness. I then laid him 
on the ground, and, after my work was 
finished, gave him a good horn of whiskey 
and very soon he rallied completely. 

" John," he said, " I thought I was done 
for. Well, old fellovv^, if I 'm all right, 
here goes!" and before I could stop him 
he had sprung into the saddle, waved his 
hand to me, and was off to the front again 
as fast as his horse could carry him. Such 
is the mental power of the two little words 
" death " and " Hfe." 

About the middle of the afternoon Gen- 
eral Hancock rode up and told me to stop 
work and send all my wounded to the rear, 
as our troops were to fall back. This was 
tough and hot work, but I gathered all I 
could find and fell back with the rest. 



170 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

May , 1864. 

Something happened to me in this re- 
treat to the crossroads which Hay ward says 
was a heat-stroke, for there was no expo- 
sure to the sun, as I was sheltered by the 
woods. I remember nothing from the time 
General Hancock ordered me back and 
the wounded were sent off, till I found 
myself lying under an apple-tree, with 
" Uncle Nathan " sponging my head with 
cold, water. My steward says that while on 
the retreat I talked incoherently, then ran 
and shouted, until he guided me to the Divi- 
sion Hospital, where I fell unconscious. 

When I came to my senses sufficiently 
to sit up, Hay ward told me that our little 
Abbott (at that time major, but acting 
colonel) had been shot through the abdo- 
men and was dying. Dying! It was too 
dreadful to bear! Harry Abbott was an 
ideal man; an ideal officer, reverenced by 
his friends and deeply respected by all 
171 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

who knew him. What will become of the 
Twentieth without him I cannot imagine; 
for he was its life, its discipline, and its 
success/ 

The Wilderness, May 7th, 1864*. 

I am safe and well, but our losses have 
been fearful. Poor Abbott is dead ; Macy 
has a slight wound in the leg, not danger- 
ous; Bond is shot in the jaw, but doing 
well; Walcott in the shoulder, and three 
others badly wounded. 

During the first day's fight I was with 
the regiment, but now I am detailed to the 
hospital with Dr. Hayward, three miles in 
the rear. I have been operating all day, 
and really learned more in the way of ex- 
perience than in all the time since joining 
the regiment. 

1 Major Abbott was shot through the body, and Hved for 
about eight hours after. He left all his money to the widows 
and orphans of the regiment. General Gibbon wrote to his 
father that he was considered the most valuable officer in the 
corps. 

1T2 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

May 8th, 1864. 
Exhaustion and confusion worse con- 
founded. Although perfectly well, I am 
tired and hot, having slept only a couple 
of hours out of the last forty. We are 
still in tlie Wilderness, fighting our way 
inch by inch. Tlie Twentieth has been in no 
important action since I last wrote; our 
loss was then so terrible that they have 
spared us a little. Curtis is now in com- 
mand, as Captain Paton was shot m the 
hand; but we cannot induce hmi to go to 

The Confederates fight determinedly, 
and their force facing us is almost equal 
to ours, but we drive them each day. We 
are both on a race for Richmond, and I 
wonder which will get the inside track. If 
we do, our' journey will be forty miles 
shorter than theirs. Feeling as I do now, 
the thought of a forty-mile march is 
quite repulsive. Grant seems determined 
173 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

to keep on fighting, and either win or 
lose. 

I now sit on the ground in the woods, 
leaning against a log and writing on my 
knee. I am surrounded by soldiers, bon- 
fires, and kicking horses, — but out of their 
reach, I assure you; dust is sweeping over 
me like smoke; my face is black with dirt 
and perspiration, clothes soiled and torn 
almost to pieces. I am too tired to sleej), 
too tired to stand, and should dislike to 
have you see me just now. Although we 
have been steadily banging away at each 
other for a week, neither side has gained 
much advantage. The enemy has gradu- 
ally fallen back, but each day shows a bold 
front. 

The sun is just setting, thank God! but 
it is uncertain whether we shall march all 
night, go out on picket, or lie down and 
sleep, — the thought of sleep makes me 
absolutely silly. We never know what we 
may be doing the next five minutes. 
174j 




Thf 



Corvv.v rnnovon whku n.K Bath.k o. the Wi.okun.ss 
WAS .orGHi-'A Pontoon BinnoE 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

Hello! Here come two hundred " John- 
nies " as prisoners. They look defiant. I 
would in their place. 

May 11th, 1864. 
My last writing was interrupted by 
orders to march, and fighting has been 
constant during the last three days. I 
am well, and incessantly at work over the 
wounded. I send this through a " Chris- 
tian Commission" man, who goes North 
to-day. 

May 13th, 1864. 
Fighting still, — ten days of it without 
intermission. I am so exhausted and nerv- 
ous it is difficult to express myself; am 
operating day and night. This thing can- 
not last much longer, for one side or the 
other must yield from sheer exhaustion. 

I am trying to gather together the Twen- 
tieth, but so far can find but two officers, no 
men, no colors. The only privates I have 
discovered are here in the hospital, and 
175 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

apparently there is almost nothing left of 
the dear old regiment. 

Wilderness near 
Spottsylvania Court-house, 
Division Hospital, May 17th, 1864). 

Seventeen days since I have heard a word 
from the North. Not a single mail has 
been sent us since we left winter quarters. 

We now find that six officers of the 
Twentieth are living (excluding Surgeon 
Hay ward and myself) out of twenty who 
started with us. I am at present detailed 
to run the Division Hospital with Dr. 
Divenell. 

Surgeons captured by the enemy are 
well treated and immediately paroled; in 
fact, they are scarcely noticed, much less 
disturbed. If one happens to have on a 
good pair of boots, he is generally relieved of 
them, which, under the circumstances, seems 
quite fair and proper. I have talked to 
many Confederates, and some of the offi- 
176 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

cers admit terrible losses on their side, and 
seem discouraged. They tell me that we 
never fought so determinedly, so fiercely, 
or so long at a time as in this campaign, 
and that they could not possibly stand an- 
other such siege. For ten days the battle 
raged each day, we being the assaulting 
party. We have been comparatively quiet 
the last two days, burying our dead. 



12 177 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 



CHAPTER XIII 

CAPTAIN KELLIHER's WOUNDS 

IT has rained every day for a week; the 
mud is several feet deep, and the men 
thoroughly water-logged, but, never- 
theless, they are cheerful and ready to 
begin the contest again. I dread the re- 
sults of a fight, but must confess, as it 
seems the only way of forcing the end, I 
want to go ahead. 

Banks of the Mattapony River, 

May 22nd, 1864. 

We are not allowed mail facilities in this 
campaign, and our only opportunities for 
sending letters North are by the wounded 
on their way to the rear. I have material 
enough for fifty letters, but dare not risk 
it in the hands of wounded privates. 
178 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

Our corps, the Second, is separated from 
the main army. We made a forced march 
to this place, which is called Milford, night 
before last and yesterday. We are two 
miles from Bowling Green, by the Fred- 
ericksburg and Richmond Railroad, and 
on the banks of the JNIattapony River. 
General Hancock made this move success- 
fully, but with a loss of about fifty of his 
cavalry. This is the route by which Gen- 
eral Lee sent all his wounded to Richmond. 
We are almost directly in General Lee's 
rear, — at any rate, so far in his rear that 
it is probable he will have to fall back in 
order to fight us. We have entrenched 
ourselves as securely as we can, and the 
river covers both our flanks. The Second 
corps is estimated at twenty-five thousand 
men. 

On one of the recent days of fighting, 
at early dawn the troops were in line, 
when the order was given to charge with- 
out noise. While on the run, — I f ollow- 
179 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

ing with my hospital steward about twenty 
yards in the rear of the men, — we saw in 
a clump of bushes a pair of boots with 
soles up, as if the owner had taken a head- 
long leap into the hedge. Stopping to in- 
vestigate, I pulled out Captain Kelliher 
of the Twentieth. He was hcvtribly 
mangled about the face and neck, as if 
from a shell or solid shot; yet no gun 
had been heard, and no one seen to leave 
the ranks. 

I found him bleeding freely from a 
laceration of the subclavian artery, show- 
ing that the injury could only have been 
received a moment before, else he would 
have bled to death. He was still living, 
though unconscious, and after tying the 
artery, so as to stop the hemorrhage, he 
was placed on a stretcher and carried to 
the rear. The fighting lasted but a short 
time; as the Confederates were but par- 
tially surprised, they rallied and held us in 
check. 

180 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

As soon as the Division Hospital tents 
were up, I had Kelliher taken to Dr. 
Hayward, who, finding him still alive, 
though yet unconscious, decided to remove 
the shattered bones and to clean and stitch 
the wounds, so as to give him all the com- 
fort possible, but with no hope of saving 
his Hfe. Under the chloroform the captain 
rallied still more, and a few hours after 
our work was finished he finally became 
conscious. Dr. Hayward had removed the 
shattered lower jaw, the whole arm, in- 
cluding a shoulder-blade, or scapula, the 
clavicle, or collar-bone, and a large part of 
the first two ribs on the same side of the 
body, as all these broken bones were lacer- 
ating the flesh, and the surfaces of the 
lung were exposed. When the operation 
was completed, the line of suture for clos- 
ing the wounds ran from the ear to within 
an inch or two of the pelvis. 

I placed the patient under my shelter 
tent, and ordered the steward to feed and 
181 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

stimulate him as directed. In the night it 
rained so hard that I dug a trench about 
him to keep him from being drenched and 
chilled. The following day we were or- 
dered to push on, and to place the wounded, 
who were unable to march, in army wagons 
destined for the " White House Landing," 
which was twenty miles away. What was 
to become of poor Kelliher? Surely he 
could never survive such a strain, even 
though at the time he was doing well. 
After much deliberation I decided to con- 
sult the captain himself, and to follow his 
decision. In presenting to him the situa- 
tion, I offered to remain with him in case 
he wished to be left, and told him that we 
must simply make up our minds to be cap- 
tured by the enemy; but his answer was 
clear and prompt: " I will go to the White 
House Landing, Doctor, and. Doctor, I 
shall live." So, doing what was possible 
to make him comfortable with the use of 
straw and grass by way of a mattress, I 
182 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

bade him good-bye, never dreaming that 
he could survive such a journey/ 

1 Captain Kelliher, after complete recovery, rejoined the 
Twentieth and was commissioned its major, and remained in 
active service with the regim.ent till the end of the war. 



183 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 



CHAPTER XIV 

OPERATING AND MARCHING 

Two Miles from Hanover Junction, 

May 24th, 1864. 

I CAN scratch only a few lines, being up 
to my elbows in blood. Oh, the fatigue 
and endless work we surgeons have! 
About one night in three to sleep in, and 
then we are so nervous and played out that 
sleep is impossible. 

The hospital is fast filling up with poor 
fellows who last night charged upon the 
enemy's works on the other side of the 
river. We are some fifteen miles nearer 
Richmond than when I last wrote, and the 
strongest works of the Confederacy are 
at this point and at the South Anna River. 
They were thrown up during the first year 
of the war. 

184 



OF THE CIVIL WAK 

It looks now as if we should still compel 
the enemy to fall back. We have had a 
deal of forced marching lately, and the heat 
has been almost intolerable. At times it 
has seemed as if the sun's rays would lay 
us out, yet we march all day, and through 
volumes upon volumes of dense dust. News 
has just come that the Confederates are 
falling back, and so I suppose we must 
pack our wounded into wagons and move 
after them with all the speed possible. 

It seems to me I am quite callous to 
death now, and that I could see my dear- 
est friend die without much feeling. This 
condition tells a long story which, under 
other circumstances, could scarcely be im- 
agined. During the last three weeks I have 
seen probably no less than two thousand 
deaths, and among them those of many 
dear friends. I have witnessed hundreds 
of men shot dead, have walked and slept 
among them, and surely I feel it possible 
to die myself as calmly as any, — but 
185 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

enough of this. The fight is now fearful, 
and, ambulances are coming in with great 
rapidity, each bearing its suffering load. 

Fifteen Miles from White House on 

York River, May 30th, 1864. 

We are now fourteen miles from Rich- 
mond, having marched pretty steadily 
southward ever since I last wrote. Oh, 
why will not the Confederacy burst up! 
True, we are drawing very near to Rich- 
mond, but the tug of war will come at the 
Chickahominy River. Although the Con- 
federates had the shortest road, we rather 
stole a march upon them this time before 
they could reach and stop us, and, by mak- 
ing a hard, forced march, we saved many 
lives. The morale of the enemy is injured 
by their falling back in retreat so far, 
while that of our army is correspondingly 
improved. They are now pretty near their 
last ditch, and the fight there will be fierce 
and strong. I work day and night, and 
186 



OF. THE CIVIL WAR 

when not busy with the sick and wounded 
am on the tedious march. 

Cold Harbor, June 4th, 1864. 

I have not had a moment to write for 
nearly a week. It has been fight, fight, 
fight. Every day there is a fight, and 
every day the hospital is again filled. For 
four days now we have been operating 
upon the men wounded in one battle, 
which lasted only about two hours; but 
the wounds were more serious than those 
from former engagements. I am heart- 
sick over it all. If the Confederates lost 
in each fight the same number as we, there 
would be more chance for us; but their 
loss is about one man to our five, from 
the fact that they never leave their earth- 
works, whereas our men are obliged to 
charge even when there is not the slight- 
est chance of taking them. Three several 
times after capturing these works our 
troops were unsupported and had to evacu- 
187 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

ate immediately, with great loss. The 
men are becoming discouraged, but there 
is plenty of fight in them yet. 

June 7th, 1864. 

For the first time, I believe, since tliis 
campaign commenced, I am lying upon 
my blankets at twelve o'clock, noon. This 
morning early we sent almost every man 
in the hospital to the " White House," to 
make room for others. Under a flag of 
truce, we asked permission of the enemy to 
take off" our wounded who were lying be- 
tween the two lines. This, of course, pre- 
vented all hostilities, and we surgeons are 
having a few hours' rest. 

June 10th, 1864. 
The front lines are within thirty yards 
of the Confederate works, — indeed,, so 
near that a biscuit could easily be tossed 
into them. On neither side do the men 
dare show their heads above the entrench- 
188 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

ments, for it is almost sure death to do 
so. The sharpshooters on both sides are 
so placed that they can pick off anything 
which appears in sight. 

We have had thirty of our division 
wounded to-day by shell which the Con- 
federates manage to throw into our pits, 
but we are successful in dropping some 
into theirs also. The heat is intolerable, 
and the roads are covered with dust six or 
eight inches deep, which every gust of 
wind sweeps up, covering everything with 
a dirty, white coating. 



189 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 



CHAPTER XV 

THE DEATH OF LIEUTENANT G OF 

THE SHARPSHOOTERS 

Hospital near Petersburg, 

June 20th, 1864. 

OUR division is relieved from duty in 
the front line, where it has fought 
ever since the campaign commenced. 
Yesterday another brave officer. Lieuten- 
ant G of the Twentieth regiment, was 

killed, and so uselessly, too. 

Lieutenant G was in command of 

the sharpshooters attached to the regiment, 
but who are not under its absolute con- 
trol. They form an independent organi- 
zation, going where they can most injure 
the enemy. We had been fighting for 
several days in the most advanced trenches 
amidst persistent firing from both sides, 
190 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

^vhich, however, did little damage, except 
to prevent all rest and sleep. Finally both 
armies saw the folly of such warfare and 
desisted. Towards noon yesterday, weary, 
I suppose, of the inaction, a Confederate 
sharpshooter mounted his earthwork and 
challenged any one of our sharpshooters to 

single combat. Lieutenant G , a fine 

fellow, standing at least six feet two in his 
stockings, accepted the challenge, and they 
commenced what to them was sport. Life 
is cheap in this campaign! Both fired, and 

the Confederate dropped. G 's great 

size was so unusual that his opponent had 
the advantage, and our men tried to make 
him give way to a smaller man. But, no! 
He would not hsten, became very excited 
as his successes multipUed, and when dark- 
ness stopped the duelling he remained un- 
scathed, while every opponent had fallen 
victim to his unerring aim. 

The lieutenant was so exhilarated that he 
claimed with much bluster a charmed Ufe; 
191 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

said nothing would kill him; that he could 
stand any amount of duelling, and this he 
would prove in the morning. When he was 
in liis tent for the night, we officers used 
every argument and entreaty to convince 
him of the foolhardiness and criminality 
of such a course, and also assured liim of 
the certainty of his death. But the man 
seemed crazed with the faith in his charmed 
life. He would not yield his determina- 
tion, and when we left him was simply 
waiting, as best he could, for daylight to 
begin the duelling again. 

As we all foretold, he was finally killed, 
but his death was due to treachery. In the 
morning, true to his mistaken conviction, 
he stood upon the works again and chal- 
lenged an opponent. Instantly one ap- 
peared, and as both were taking aim, a man 
from another part of the Confederate line 

fired and shot G through the mouth, 

the ball lodging in the spinal vertebrae, 

completely paralyzing him below the head. 

192 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

We di'agged the poor, deluded fellow to 
his tent, where, after uttering inarticu- 
lately, " I hit liini any way, Doctor," he 
died. 

We then heard a tremendous uproar out- 
side, and found that our men were claim- 
ing the murderer of their heutenant; but 
the Confederates shouted that they had 
already shot him for a cowardly villain, 
and then came praises across the line for 
Lieutenant G 's pluck and skill. 

I remember another instance of unjusti- 
fiable shooting which occurred last year, 
but under very different circumstances. 
Our division was standing idle, while the 
skirmishers of another Federal corps and 
the skirmishers of the enemy were disput- 
ing the possession of an open field. Our 
general, in watching them, saw that the 
Confederate officer in conmiand was supe- 
rior to ours, and by his skilful manoeuvres 
was gradually driving the Federal skir- 
mishers in. Turning to one of Lieutenant 
13 193 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

— 's sharpshooters, who was standing 



by his side, he said, " Can you pick off 
that man? " pointing to the officer. " I 
think so," was the answer, and raising his 
rifle, he fired, and, as we say, " di'opped 
him." 

The sharpshooter's rifle had a telescope 
attached, and this brought the officer, who 
was some three hundred yards away, close 
to. Nevertheless, it was a remarkable shot ; 
but I am thankful to say that every man 
who witnessed the act pronounced it con- 
temptible and cowardly. The manoeuvre 
was not against our division; we were not 
involved, but simply looking on, and later 
even the general acknowledged and deeply 
regretted his fatal impulse. 



194 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 



CHAPTER XVI 

A DELIGHTFUL EPISODE 

Hospital near Petersburg, 

June 21st, 1864. 

GENERAL GRANT has made a 
strategical movement, and here we 
find ourselves, after a very circui- 
tous but rapid march, south of the James 
River and pegging away at the side door 
of Petersburg. This movement was on 
a very extensive scale, but accomplished 
without accident or unnecessary delay. 
The day we started all surgeons were or- 
dered to join their respective commands, 
but I, being attached to the hospital, was 
obliged to remain with it. In other words, 
I had to follow the hospital wagons, look 
after the stores, and attend the sick and 
wounded in the ambulances. These wagons 
195 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

took the same route as the troops but kept 
far in their rear. The heat each day was 
intense, and the dust beyond any expres- 
sion of which I am capable; but suffice it 
to say that most of the time I could not 
even see the head of my horse. The whole 
train was fifty miles long, the roads sandy, 
and we moved with the heavy draw of great 
bodies. We marched about sixty miles in 
four days and nights, halting every six or 
eight hours to bait horse and man. Little 
opportunity was given us for sleep, and, 
separated from Hayward and ]Macy, I felt 
at times tired and restless, as the officers 
near me were disagreeable fellows, who 
often amused themselves by entering 
the houses along the route and stealing 
everything they could lay their hands 
upon. 

Some pitiable sights I saw! Although 
the officers did nothing really cruel, the 
example they set to their men was de- 
moralizing in the extreme. Such wanton 
196 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

destruction of property, such pillage and 
forage I never saw equalled. 

I stopped at a house to ask for a drink 
of water and, finding the front door open, 
knocked and stepped inside. An elderly 
lady came to the door in great distress, and 
seeing that I was an officer, exclaimed, 
" Oh, sir, if you have a heart, protect us! 
The soldiers are taking everything we have 
to live on; no food will be left our chil- 
dren; we shall starve! " She then led me 
into a room where were two ladies, two 
young girls, several small children, and an 
old gentleman, all clinging to one another 
and sobbing as though their hearts would 
break. 

I said that I would do all in my power 
to help them. I advised them immediately 
to collect from the place everything in 
the way of food that it was possible to 
scrape up, — chickens, pigs, corn, etc., — 
which they proceeded to do, and after a 
long time returned with two old hens, 
197 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

a few hams, and about a barrel of corn. 
When these were locked in a room up- 
stairs, I offered them my protection until 
the wagon train had passed, at which the 
old gentleman dropped on his knees in 
prayer; and I did not wonder, for the 
whole situation was pitiful enough, — a 
family of eight huddled together, each 
looking to the other for courage to sup- 
port life, while rude hands snatch every- 
thing, leaving starvation behind. 

My position was no sinecure, for the 
men rushed in and attempted to search the 
house upstairs, and it was only by stand- 
ing on the stairs with pistol drawn that 
I could prevent their doing so. I waited 
till long after the train had passed, and 
then managed to procure for these poor 
people from our quartermaster coffee, 
sugar, and hardtack, — articles which they 
had not seen for months. It is difficult 
to imagine the varied suffering of these 
Southerners, many of them used to great 
198 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

luxury; yet, of course, their experience 
spells war, and sometimes in my imagi- 
nation that one word is swollen till it al- 
most bursts with all it includes. 

After joining the train again, and while 
riding with one of the lieutenants in charge, 
as a great cloud of dust rolled off, we saw 
through the intervening branches of trees 
a scene so apart from our own condition 
of dirt and confusion that it seemed like 
a dream. It was a stately old-time home- 
stead, surrounded by rich lawns and cul- 
tivated fields, with an air of such calm and 
dignity, such seclusion and peace, that, al- 
though we feared to trespass and so break 
the charm which seemed to shelter it, the 
longing for its rest and refreshment proved 
irresistible. Turning our horses' heads 
towards the spot, we were quickly there, 
and then found that the freshness of this 
lovely oasis was due to a serpentine twist 
of the Chickahominy River, which almost 
completely enclosed the plantation. 
199 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

Riding up the fine old avenue of what 
we supposed a deserted house, — as the 
blinds were tightly closed and absolute 
stillness prevailed, — we reached the big 
front porch; then dismounting, we tied 
our horses, and, sitting upon the hospitable 
steps, drank in the sweetness and silence 
of the place with intense delight. Sud- 
denly we heard a click behind us, as of a 
key turned in its socket. Instinctively 
neither of us showed that we noticed the 
sound. Feeling ready for any emergency, 
we quietly awaited further developments. 

Again came a noise, a decided creak, and 
we became sure that some one was scan- 
ning us through the open door. Still we 
did not turn, for, in spite of the possibil- 
ity of danger, the relief we felt in our 
surroundings roused a spirit of fun and 
adventure. This proved too much for the 
curiosity of the party in the doorway, and 
presently a refined and gentle voice asked, 
" What do you wish, gentlemen? " 
200 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

We were instantly on our feet and bow- 
ing to an old lady who was standing in 
the open door. I answered, " Nothing, 
madam, but to be allowed to enjoy the 
quiet and beauty here for a few minutes." 

She ventured nearer. " You belong to 
the Union forces, I see. What State are 
you from? " I told her JMassachusetts. 
"From Boston?" "Yes, madam," and 
noticing in her kind face more interest, 
I asked if she had associations there. 

A long pause followed, and I saw some- 
thing was being considered, for instead of 
answering me she turned to the lieutenant, 
saying, " May I ask where your home is, 
sir? " " Pennsylvania," he answered. An- 
other pause. Finally, looking straight into 
my eyes, she said, " I had a son in Har- 
vard College." " In what class? " I asked. 
" In the class of '62." " Why, that was 
my class originally," I said; "may I ask 
his name? " 

When she gave me this and heard that 
201 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

I knew him well, in spite of the gathering 
tears and quivering lips, she looked pleased 
and helped. Laying her hand upon my 
arm, she said, " My husband and son are 
both away in the Confederate service, and 
this is our home. Here are our traditions " ; 
then drawing herself erect with old-time 
dignity, she added, " my husband and son 
are fighting for them, sir, while my daugh- 
ters and I are enduring for them." 

In spite of this quiet assertion of 
Southern principle, I was sure that my 
companionship with her boy in college 
gave to his mother a sense of protection 
in my presence, so that for the time, at 
least, she felt some relief and rest. 

*' I would like my daughters to meet a 
classmate of their brother," she said, and, 
as she called them by name in the hall, the 
lieutenant, with eyes brimful of fun, whis- 
pered to me, " By George, there are two 
of them." 

We heard the bang of a distant door, 
202 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

steps flying over the stairs, and then two 
such pretty girls burst into the room that 
to us, who had long been unused to any- 
thing but dust and dirt, their freshness and 
their dainty muslin dresses seemed but a 
part of the beautiful old place and the 
spell that held it. 

The old lady introduced us, and soon 
we were chatting away as old playmates 
might have done. They told us of their 
mother's fears for them while our troops 
were passing, and of their consequently 
being shut up in some distant attic. We 
sang college songs to their accompaniment 
on the piano; we sang and we laughed, 
as if there were no such thing as war 

about us. 

, Finally, and reluctantly, we rose to take 
our leave, saying — I fear a little lamely — 
that we were in a hurry to rejoin our regi- 
ment; but the old lady, who had left the 
room, now returned and most cordially in- 
vited us to lunch; whereupon, I must con- 
203 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

fess, all sense of hurry disappeared, and 
after some slight demur, really impossible 
to persist in, we gladly and thankfully 
accepted her hospitality. We had a fine 
lunch, which means that everything was 
dainty, fresh, and abundant, and we were 
doing full justice to the occasion, when 
terrific yells and howls interrupted us. 
Rushing to the piazza, we saw a lot of 
cavalry men sprawling and rolling on the 
ground, kicking, struggling, and scream- 
ing. They were being attacked by a per- 
fect army of bees whose hive they had 
been robbing, and were in absolute agony, 
yet their quick retribution made the scene 
almost ludicrous. 

I soon discovered that foraging was 
going on everywhere, and started to do 
what I could to stop it, when I met the 
officer in command of the cavalry and 
asked his protection for the place, telling 
him the circumstances of our presence 
there. I saw a twinkle in his eye as he 
204 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

promised to stop the foraging, and added 
that he would then call upon the ladies 
himself. Following him to see that he ful- 
filled his word, we approached the front 
porch of the house, from which a perfect 
bedlam of sounds greeted us, — squeals, 
cries, and men's coarse voices, — in the 
midst of which we could distinguish the 
heutenant's commands and the entreaties 
of the ladies. 

When we reached the door we saw two 
great cavalrymen coming downstairs, each 
bearing a pig on his shoulders. The lieu- 
tenant was uselessly ordering them to give 
up their booty, and the ladies scolding and 
protesting at this " brutal robbery." The 
cavalry officer commanded his men to 
" Halt! " which they did, still holding the 
pigs, however; then holding the parlor 
door open for the ladies to pass in, he 
ordered the men to carry back the pigs 
to the place where they had found them, 
but in such a half -authoritative way that 
205 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

oaths were his only answer. This made 
the officer so angry that he drew his sword, 
and belabored them over their heads and 
shoulders, while they rushed through the 
open door, bearing away their victims in 
triumph. 

The foraging was stopped after this, 
however, and peace restored to the old 
place. The cavalrymen rode off in one 
direction and the lieutenant and I in an- 
other, after taking leave of the ladies 
and receiving their affectionate farewell. 
Many a backward glance did we give at 
the beautiful old place; and until the view 
was obscured we saw those two pretty girls 
waving their handkerchiefs to us from the 
veranda. 



206 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 



CHAPTER XVII 

"field hospital near PETERSBURG 

June 24th, 1864. 

1AM up to my neck in work. It is 
slaughter, slaughter. Our brigade 
has met with a sad loss by having 
three entire regiments gobbled up as pris- 
oners. The Twentieth fortunately escaped. 
This misfortune was caused by the second 
brigade giving way before the attack of 
the enemy and exposing the flank of our 
own. The enemy, before we knew it, was 
in our rear, and resistance was absurd. 
INIajor Hooper, who commanded the bri- 
gade, was the only one of the Fifteenth 
INIassachusetts who escaped. He received a 
slight wound in the arm, however, and 
started for home yesterday. Lucky 
fellow! No time for writing more. 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

June 27th, 1864. 

When our division was withdrawn from 
the extreme front, where it has been since 
the beginning of the campaign, we sur- 
geons looked for a httle less arduous 
work; but now the artillery brigade has 
been placed under our care, and we have 
as much to do as ever. It has not rained 
for a month, and the poor wounded fel- 
lows lie all about me, suffering intensely 
from heat and flies. The atmosphere is 
almost intolerable from the immense quan- 
tity of decomposing animal and vegetable 
matter upon the ground. Many of the 
surgeons are ill, and I indulge in large 
doses of quinine. Horses and mules die 
by hundreds from continued hard labor 
and scant feed. The roads are strewn 
with them, and the decay of these, with 
that of human bodies in the trenches, 
causes malaria of the worst kind. 

War! war! war! I often think that 
208 



"^' ^^w 




OF THE CIVIL WAR 

in the future, when human character shall 
have deepened, there will be a better way 
of settling affairs than this of plunging 
into a perfect maelstrom of horror. 

Field Hospital, June 29th, 1864. 

Rumor says that the Twentieth is to be 
mustered out of service on the 18th of 
July. 

Grant is winding his forces round 
Petersburg. Our infantry is about two 
miles from the Weldon Railroad, and it 
is reported that our cavalry have cut the 
railroad lower down. The Confederates 
are close to starvation, especially the women 
and children, and yet there is no sign of 
their yielding. 

Our division has again been put in the 
front line of rifle-pits, and again the poor 
w^ounded fellows will be coming in. All 
this accumulation of experience quickly 
changes careless boys into sober and 
thoughtful men, — men who trust, and 
14 209 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

who feel that whatever happens, in the 
end it will somehow be for the best; men 
who value what has not cost them a 
thought before. I know of a little book, 
carried in breast pocket or knapsack, — in- 
deed, wherever it may seem safest, — that 
has now become a dependence amid suf- 
fering and privation. 

July 2nd, 1864<. 

For several days I have had no time to 
write. 

The report to-night is that the Second 
corps is to take transports for Maryland. 
This may be true or not. We have few 
wounded men in the hospital, but a great 
many sick. However, the army is, on the 
whole, comparatively healthy. Harry Ab- 
bott's loss still shadows my every thought; 
I cannot yet think of it with any com- 
posure. When the little monograph of his 
life was taken to General Hancock by 
Captain Paton, General Hancock said, 
" I am sorry. Captain, that my opinion 
210 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

of JNIajor Abbott is not expressed here as 
well as General Gibbon's. Every general 
in the army knew Major Abbott. He was 
the best regimental conmiander I ever saw. 
His position was such that he could not 
be promoted as we all desired to have him, 
but had he lived he would have had by 
this time a brigade, at least, to command." 

July 4th, 1864. 

Water is very scarce here; wells have 
to be dug to the depth of forty feet, and 
then the water not only runs in slowly, 
but is very muddy. Ice found in a house 
on one of the plantations has been a God- 
send to the hospital during this heat, but 
it has all gone now. 

The question of my going home with 
the regiment still absorbs me. At one 
hour I am told there will be no difficulty 
in being mustered out with the others, and 
then some order comes from the War De- 
partment, or from the surgeon-general, 
211 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

and I am left high and dry in doubt. For 

two weeks this has continued, and it wearies 

me. The medical director of the corps says 

he cannot spare me, and yet I am sorely 

needed at home. 

Somehow I felt that General Grant 

would attack all along the lines to-day 

and send North a message of victory; but 

instead of that, this has been the quietest 

day of the campaign. Now and then the 

booming of a gun is heard, but no firing 

of small arms. I think from the unusual 

calm that the general expects to gain more 

by keeping quiet and allowing starvation 

to fight for him in the Confederate ranks, 

than he could by making a general attack. 

The railroads running into Richmond have 

all been cut. 

July 8th, 1864. 

The Twentieth Massachusetts is to be 
consolidated into a battalion of seven com- 
panies, and an order just issued by the War 
Department says that officers not having 
212 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

served three years from the last muster 
will be retained, if needed. According to 
this order, not an individual officer, except 
the quartermaster, can be mustered out on 
the 18th, when the regiment is supposed 
to go home. 

It is intolerably hot, and has been for 
some time. No rain has fallen since the 
last of May. Our hospital is now in the 
woods close to the highway, and we have 
the benefit of the dust, which so inces- 
santly sweeps over us that we eat and 
breathe it until almost suffocated by it. 

July 18th, 1864. 

I am retained, and General Hancock 
says I must remain. 

Dr. Hayward and I have our quarters 
back of the hospital in a little nook, with 
green boughs to cover us. I visit the Twen- 
tieth about once a week, but it is almost too 
sad to go there, as so many of the old fa- 
miliar faces are gone. I still hope that I 
213 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

may be mustered out of service before very 
long, however. I know very well that Gen- 
eral. Hancock from his standpoint is right 
to retain me, but all the same it seems as if 
I could not bear it. If I remained in the 
army until September I should be made 
surgeon, but I do not care a fig for that. 

Camp on the Banks of the James, 

July 29th, 1864. 

Here we are on a so-called raid, but it 
seems to me a mighty hard, hot, tedious 
campaign. We left our camp at sundown 
on the 27th, and marched all night and part 
of the next day to this place. 

General F., who held the north bank 
of the river, was furiously attacked by the 
Confederates, and his men behaved dis- 
gracefully, — threw down their arms and 
skedaddled at the first appearance of the 
enemy, so that our whole corps, with the 
addition of twelve thousand cavalry, had to 
be sent here to recover the lost ground; 
2U 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

but It is also intended to draw the enemy's 
right wing from near Petersburg, so as to 
enable the Federal troops to blow up their 
works. We have captured several guns 
since coming here, among them four beau- 
tiful twenty-pound Parrott guns, which 
the Confederates had destined to sink our 
gunboats and so obstruct the river. We 
have driven the enemy four or five miles, 
and a prisoner tells me we have taken 
IMalvern Hill, but the truth of this I can- 
not vouch for. 

The hospitals are on the south side of 
the river and will not be moved across it 
until the troops do something decided. 
Dr. Hay ward and I are quartered on the 
bank of the stream where the breeze is de- 
lightful aad we can watch the movements 
of three gunboats and a monitor. Yester- 
day, by invitation of their commanders, I 
boarded each of them, and had the pleasure 
of being present at the firing of one of 
their hundred-pound Parrott shells into the 
215 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

enemy's earthworks, which were two miles 
distant; sighted with the most perfect ac- 
curacy, the Confederates were driven out 
each time a shell was discharged, and so 
prevented from further strengthening their 
defences. 



216 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 



CHAPTER XVIII 

CAMP NEAR PETERSBURG 

August 1st, 1864-. 

I WROTE last time from the banks of 
the James above Bermuda Hundred. 
At sunset of that same day (July 
29th) came orders to pack immediately and 
start on the march. All night we marched, 
and arrived at our old camp about eight in 
the morning. 

Immediately the Federal batteries opened 
all along the line, the train was made ready 
to blow up the enemy's works, and the negro 
troops drawn up to charge them as soon 
as a breach was made. These colored regi- 
ments were supported by the Fifth corps 
in reserve. After our batteries had blazed 
away for an hour or two, silencing many 
of the enemy's batteries and setting fire to 
217 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

buildings in Petersburg, the crucial mo- 
ment came and the train was fired. A 
low, dull boom was heard, followed by 
the cheers of the assaulting troops. On 
pressed the negroes in fine order for about 
twenty yards, when, as if struck by light- 
ning, a panic seized them, and breaking 
through the lines of the Fifth corps they 
rushed back helter-skelter, creating such 
chaos and confusion that a general mob 
prevailed. The officers even shot the ne- 
groes to stop the stampede, but it was use- 
less; the poor fellows were so frantic with 
terror that nothing produced any effect 
upon them ; and so fizzled our first attempt 
at mining. Nothing was gained by the 
terrific assaults of that day, in which we 
lost many noble lives. 

Rumor says that General Bartlett was 
taken prisoner with his entire brigade, also 
that he was ordered to the front of the 
works, where, in consequence of his usual 
bravery and skill, all his men followed liim, 
218 




MA.IDU-GENiaiAL BaUTI.KIT 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

but that when there his right and left 
flanks ran, leaving him unsupported, so 
that his whole brigade was surrounded and 
escape was out of the question. 

August 8th, 1864. 

It is very quiet here in front of Peters- 
burg, but, oh, so hot! And the combined 
efforts of flies, fleas, and black-flies make 
life almost hell. At four o'clock in the 
morning, which means dawn, I am awak- 
ened by the buzzing and humming of these 
busy insects at their pestering task, and 
this labor does not cease till we poor mor- 
tals are again lost to them in the darkness 
of the night. 

Yesterday was Sunday, and all the em- 
ploj''ees and agents of the Sanitary Com- 
mission collected together and read their 
Bibles aloud, sang psahn tunes, and recited 
prayers, for I can call it nothing else. The 
efl'ect was doleful in the extreme, and I 
never want to repeat such an experience 
219 



LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

while I am in the army. Let men pray by 
themselves as much as they please, and read 
their Bibles in solitude, but not fill every 
man's ears with their sins and offences. 

Mining" operations still continue, and the 
Confederates are mining our works now. 
They attempted last Friday to blow up Dne 
of the forts, but made a miscalculation and 
did not dig sufficiently far to reach it. 
On springing the mine their troops made 
a furious charge, and, before the smoke 
had blown away to show them their mis- 
take, our lines fell back a little so that 
the Confederates might enter the works; 
then we surrounded and gobbled them up. 
After this they will not laugh so loudly 
at our failure of last week. 

The flies bite so I cannot manage my 
thoughts and must therefore stop scrib- 
bhng. 



220 



OF. THE CIVIL WAR 

August 12th, 1864. 
We are ordered to pack and march im- 
mediately. I only know that the dust is 
two feet deep. 

August 13th, 1864. 
Last night we lay on our arms without 
tents, sleeping as we could. 

Here the journal abruptly ends. Owing 
to my extreme ill health, influential letters 
had for some time been sent to the Secre- 
tary of War, asking that under the press- 
ing circumstances my husband should be 
relieved from duty. These urgent appeals 
were finally acceded to, and although it was 
hard for him to leave his regiment just as 
the end of the war was at hand, regrets 
were silenced by the feeling that he would 
soon be relieved from the intense anxiety 
which my illness had caused him. 

As to when the Twentieth Massachusetts 
was mustered out is not included in this 
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journal — only the older members, those 
who had fallen and the very few then 
remaining, made a deep and distinct im- 
pression. The Doctor and I were safely 
together, he launched in his professional 
career; and these facts formed the para- 
mount interest of the world we then lived, 
in. Our youth was strong in those days, 
and all else mattered not. We stood in 
our present, facing the future, — hopeful, 
fearless, and determined. Self-absorbed 
it may have been, but I think this is not 
rare in the '' heyday " of life. The past 
had flown, leaving much in its wake, — 
much which at the time was unperceived by 
us; but our life's experience has cleared our 
vision and helped us to know that the ups 
and downs of this world always mean the 
onward move toward a future near but 
inexpressible. 

Now many years have passed since this 
sad time, and yet to call it sad alone seems 
more than trivial, so slightly was it sug- 
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OF THE CIVIL WAR 

gestive of all which pertained to civil war. 
Only upon the hearts of those who suf- 
fered loss is written its true and deeply felt 
history. Deeds of heroism known and un- 
known, man's greater nature stirred to its 
depths by the intense conditions, burst 
forth to the cry of every need. The potent 
influence of these is above all else the legacy 
left us, and its proportions, its beauty, its 
tenderness, whether consciously or uncon- 
sciously felt, is somewhere within our 
depths. We who lived then, and are still 
here to-day, bear its reflection in many vital 
paths, which will be felt not only in the 
lives of our children, but in those of our 
children's children. 

The following is an extract from a 
Boston daily, found as a chpping among 
the letters: 

" A great deal has been recently said in some 
of the newspapers of the duty of wealthy and 
educated young men [or those whose parents are 
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LETTERS FROM A SURGEON 

such] to enter the army. Disparaging remarks 
have been made against this class, and their 
parents, who are supposed to keep them at home. 
Certain recruiting officers have taunted them with 
want of patriotism, saying that when these ' sons 
of affluence ' shall come forward, the poor and the 
uninfluential will follow. For what purpose do 
these men endeavor to excite one class in our com- 
munity against another.? Is it wise.'' Is it patri- 
otic? They must be ignorant of the facts. Have 
they forgotten the four Dwights, or the three 
sons of Judge Abbott, the Reveres, the Stephen- 
sons, the two Lowells, one of whom, James, died 
so nobly in a terrible conflict before Richmond.? 
Have they forgotten the five or six Curtises, the 
four Masons, the three Crowninshields, the Per- 
kinses, the Bowditches, the Cabots, Jarvises, 
Amorys, Barstows, Sargeants, Palfreys, from 
each of whose families two or three have gone 
into the army ? Have they forgotten the long list 
among whose names are: Quincy, Adams, Choate, 
Bladgen, D'Hauteville, Savage, Russell and Gary, 
Higginson, Motley and Stackpole, Holmes, Weld 
and Pratt, Appleton, Ropes, Perry, Dehon, 
Hayes, Bangs, Shaw, Mudge, Horton, Morse, 

2U 



OF THE CIVIL WAR 

Robeson, Forbes, Rand, Clapp, Clark, Grafton, 
Shelton, ShurtlefF, Dalton, Barnard, Haven, 
Johnson, Hayden, Rea, Loring, Swan, Lovett, 
Parker, Fisher, and Paine? Have they for- 
gotten the wounds of Bartlett, Horton, Putnam, 
Merriam, Stevenson? Have they forgotten how 
bravely young Putnam gave up his life at Ball's 
Bluff, and Major Howe died in the fight before 
Richmond ; Foster Hodges, who was with the 5th 
regiment at Bull Run, and Horace Dunn, who 
left college for the war, both struck down by 
malignant fever in camp on Hall's Hill? Let 
those who thoughtlessly traduce Young Boston 
call to mind what they had done. If any men of 
the country have made sacrifices, and undergone 
suffering, these have done it. The few who are 
left are ready to follow, as the sequel will show.'* 



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