Friday, September 16, 2011

A Visit to the Antietam Hospitals and Battle Field, from the Youth's Companion

From the Youth's Companion of November 27, 1862.


The papers tell us much about curious visitors in search of relics on the battle field. There is little said about hundreds of sorrowing hearts hunting dead friends. These too are relic hunters, and a melancholy search it is. Some bring their coffins with them, as they could not be procured on or near the field. Here they wander o'er hill and dell, carefully reading every every board, in search of a son, a brother, a husband. We have watched with sympathizing interest, delicate-looking mothers, hunting over these bleak fields, with a sorrow that God only could fathom, because they "knew not where they had laid him."


Ar the present writing a lady from western Pennsylvania is fanning her wounded husband in one of our hospitals. Several weeks ago she heard that he and her son were in an engagement. She reached the field during Wednesday's battle. Father and son stood side by side in the fierce conflict. Again and again they loaded and fired with careful aim. The father falls from the effects of several wounds. As the son makes the effort to carry him off the field, the order is given to charge the enemy, and off he dashes to repulse the foe at the point of the bayonet. The wife rushes where shells and bullets fly thickly, and drags her husband some distance, as best she can; then prevails on some one to assist her in carrying him to a place of safety. Afterwards he was brought to our hospital.


When we saw him yesterday, he was reading his Bible aloud, while she was devoutly sitting at his bedside listening to the Word of life. Her dark dress indicates that she has recently passed though a bereavement. Day by day this heroine watches at the bedside of her husband, unconscious that many witness and praise her fearless and untiring devotion to him. Not a few ladies have come to the different hospitals of this place to nurse their friends. Their sad mission had elicited much sympathy in their behalf, and some kind families furnish them with a house during their sojourn here.


In our daily visits, we always find a pale, intelligent lady seated at the bedside of her husband, now reading a book or paper to him, then conversing in a subdued tone of voice. her manner and conversation show that she has been accustomed to move in refined circles. They are both from Philadelphia. Hearing that her husband had been killed in the late battle, she hastened to Sharpsburg. She climbed up and down all the steep hills of the battle field alone, visited every fresh mound of earth, read every grave board, and when there were no more graves to be found, she turned away from the field with an agony with which the pangs of an ordinary bereavement cannot be compared. Even the dreary satisfaction of taking her dead husband back to his Philadelphia home was denied her. her woe was such as an affectionate wife alone can feel and endure. What a conflict to force herself away from where she supposed him to be buried! She proceeded to Hagerstown, where she was advised to visit the hospitals in this place.


After such an anxious and ineffectual search for her husband's corpse, we will not attempt to describe their meeting in the corner of yonder room. Only this much can we tell - among the twenty or thirty wounded soldiers in the room, unused to tears, there was not a dry eye, when she knelt by his side and embraced him living., whom she had given up for dead and buried in an unknown grave. After such a trial, it is not surprising that she should be highly delighted with Chambersburg. As she remarked to us yesterday, "The people are so very, very kind here. They could not be more so. I would rather remain here for a while, for he is better cared for here than he possibly could be in Philadelphia.": her husband is quite a picture on contentment. Though prostrated by a sever wound, he is cheerful, and seems to pass hi time very agreeably under the care of his attentive nurse.


This afternoon we paused at the bedside of a young man wasted away under a burning fever. Large drops of sweat stood on his brow, as he vainly strove, with his bony hands. to keep the flies off his face.

"Have you any parents?:" we inquired.

"No."


"No friends any where?" 


"A sister far away, but no friends here," he replied."


Crouching down at his side, we whispered, "Then I will be a friend to you. Does your sister know that you are sick here?"


:"No. I am too weak to write to her." 


"I will write to her for you. Shall I tell her to come to see you?" 


"Oh, she is too poor!"


"Then I will ask her to write you a letter; and I will promise you that I and my friends will be to you a sister and a brother. Have you ever given your heart to the Savior?"

"No." 


"He is the best friend I have. He wants to be your friend. Pray him to give you a new heart, and make you a Christian. He is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."


The few words of kindness opened a fountain of tears - tears of mingled gratitude and silence. We left him, still sobbing out the emotions of his desolate heart. Somewhere in the beautiful. valley of Wyoming, a kind and affectionate sister has, for weeks, been suspecting the death of her youthful brother, and perhaps already despaired of ever finding his grave. In a day or two she will weep tears of joy that the dead is alive and the lost found.

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