Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Sketch of Rebel Hospitals

This was in the Cincinnati  Enquirer June 2 1863. The full title seems a bit inaccurate, or at least the final line does, but it is a good description of one young patient. 

A Sketch of Rebel Hospitals - The Wounded Artillerymen - What I Saw In a Hospital - Reformation of the System

From the Knoxville (Tenn.)  Whig May 11

On three long rows of narrow cots, on either side of the great hall, are sick and wounded soldiers. On that nearest cot is a mere boy. How listlessly and wearily he gazes through the open window. His hand, lying (ILLEGIBLE, perhaps “outside”) the soiled and stained coverlid, is white as a snow-flake. He raises his pale face from the pillow of straw, and his eyes grow bright when a soft voice pronounces words of sympathy and love. He can move with the utmost difficulty, since his leg, that was crushed by a cannon-ball, was amputated. He does not complain when he shows you the bandaged stump that is left, but his deep sunken eyes and little wrists so thin, with the blue veins so clearly marked, and the dropping fingers tell, with touching eloquence, what the poor soldier boy has suffered. Twice has that sunken limb been subjected to the Surgeon’s knife. It was taken off first at the ankle, just after the battle. The Surgeon hoped to save the rest of the leg, but afterward they found it must be taken off higher up, just above the knee, and the patient sufferer wen through with the agony over again. It would make a woman weep to think over it; but men become accustomed to such incidents, and the fountain of our sympathies have been exhausted by the demands made upon them since this horrible and unnatural war began. 

The Surgeon says he will get well slowly, but he is so listless and pale, and wears a look of such unutterable weariness, that life itself seems burdensome to the wounded soldier. He says he is so tired looking at the long rows of cots with a groaning sick person in each; at the rows of windows, too, down the long hall; he grows weary moving his wasted fingers round and round the figures on the coarse bed-quilt; he wearied of looking at the withered stump of a limb, and wondering how he shall learn to walk with only one leg, and he wearies lying in one position hour after hour and day after day, without turning over. I thought as I watched the pale wan sufferer, that I would like to hang some pictures on the bare wall for the poor boy to look at and think about as he lies without one word of sympathy from any human being. Now gladly would he receive a fresh bunch of flowers from a sister’s or a mother’s hand! He would smile then, and the blood would flow from his heart with something of its wonted vigor. How sad to think that, instead of this, he must lie there through all these bright days of spring-time, and sick and nervous and weak, he must see the patient in the next bed die, he must listen to his ceaseless groans, and witness the horrible agonies and writings of the wretched sufferer. He must see him struggle awhile in the grasp of death, and then borne away to the grave by rude attendants who have become as heartless as familiarity with human woes can make them. 

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