Sunday, August 28, 1864.
My Dear Sister L.:—
I have passed the week mostly on my bed—been out of the house but once. That was yesterday, when I went down to the fort (in the cars) and that little exertion was almost too much for me. I am very comfortably sick— have no pain except an occasional headache, but spend most of my time quietly, feeling a great aversion to the least exertion.
My bed is a little iron cot with a mattress on it, my table a light stand. I draw it up beside the bed and write my letters and then lie back and read or sleep. Three times a day my tormentor comes with quinine and whisky disguised as “tonic solution,” and soon after come preparations for a meal from the “low diet kitchen.” This is managed in a way called in military parlance “by detail,” e. g., first installment for dinner (after the “tonic solution”) 10 a. m., nurse with cup and saucer. Then at intervals of half an hour the following articles—10:30, knife, fork and spoon; 11, milk, cup and mug, with one spoonful of sugar; 11:30, teapot and plate of corn starch (good); 12 m., plate with leathery toast, dab of butter, boiled beef and a slice of beet or dried sweet potato. Regularity and system are indispensable in hospitals, so this routine is never departed from, and it is just two hours every time from the arrival of the cup and saucer to “Ready. Sir,” the signal to fall to. I assure you there is no waste of food among the low diet patients. I always take all the sugar to make out. I do not seem to gain strength at all. In fact, I lose strength every day, but I hope to improve soon.
We have a new surgeon—came this morning. The one that left yesterday was a very nice man, and this one seems a good man too, as well as I could judge by ten minutes’ talk.
I used to say that if I ever got in a hospital I should want to get home. So I do now, and I expect—to want. No use in trying that here. But as soon as I am able to travel, I mean to apply to be sent to Annapolis on light duty and from there I think I can get home. I have lost twenty pounds of flesh and I do not intend to go to the field again till I regain that and my full strength. It would be useless and might result in a more serious fit of sickness.
E. had not got home when Father wrote, and I have not heard a word from him since he passed me on his way north. I am not uneasy about him though.
I had a letter from D. F. a day or two since. He said nothing about Etta, but Lizzie and the baby had gone to Maine, so I have strong doubts about your seeing anything of Etta this summer. I wrote to D. to send you “Very Hard Cash” as my birthday present. If you have read it, it will be rather mal apropos, won’t it? I do not think you have, as it has not been out long and novelties don’t find their way out there very fast. You will, if I am not mistaken, find it one of the most absorbing stories you ever read. It is made up almost wholly of impossibles. For instance, his heroine, Julia, is one never seen except in a novel, but she is only an exaggeration of many sweet and lovely women. His best character, I think, is David Dodd, the nearest approach to a possible. Dr. Sampson is well drawn and an original person. I could not succeed in appreciating the saintliness with which he finished Jane Hardie. Her brother’s comments on her diary seemed to me too just, and his motto for the diary might as well apply to her life; “Ego et Deus meus,” or I and my God.
But the lesson of the story is a good one, and the consummate skill with which it is wrought out makes one jealous of the author for being an Englishman. Why have we no one on this side the water to write an American story like that? In one thing he fails. In impossibles he is better than Dickens, but when he caricatures Yankees and negroes, he shows an ignorance of the originals. Vespasian is his poorest impossible, and Fullalove is not much better. But enough of this. When you have read it, tell me how you like it and how you like my comments.
From the front the news is always encouraging. Lee has been making desperate efforts to regain the Weldon railroad and so far without success, and every day lessens his prospects of success. He is reported to have said he must have it if it took every rebel soldier. He is welcome to it at that price. Sherman is waiting for Farragut to take Mobile or draw off a part of Hood’s force to defend it, and things seem to be almost at a deadlock all round.