Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

The Cruel Side of War – Katherine Prescott Wormeley

“Wilson Small,” Off White House,
Friday Afternoon, June 27.

Dear Mother,—-Yesterday we went down the river, at Captain Sawtelle’s request, to clear the way, order the transports and barges quietly down, and prevent confusion. All the steamers towed all the sailing-vessels. Imagine a fleet of several hundred vessels streaming down the shining river. The Pamunky twists and turns so much that one day, after passing the “Webster” on her voyage down, we met her again, half an hour later, with only a narrow belt of land and a few trees between us.

We returned last evening and found the whole place transformed. All the trees along the- shore for half a mile had been cut down and toppled over into the river. The gunboats were drawn up ready for action, with their guns pointed to sweep the plain laid bare by the felling of the trees. Every hospital tent, two hundred and fifty of them, was down. All articles of value, commissary stores, ordnance stores, medical stores, etc., were on transports and barges, and on their way down the river. Nothing was left but the Quartermaster’s Department tents, our tent, the camp of the Ninety-third New York Regiment, and a few stores and sutlers’ quarters. Soon after, we saw the dear tent dismantled before our eyes, all her contents going on board the “Elizabeth,” — Dr. Ware rescuing for me, at the last moment, my invaluable Lund’s patent corkscrew.

The truth is, the whole thing has been preparing for days. Captain Sawtelle told us this morning that seven hundred thousand rations and a large amount of forage were sent up the James River a week ago. This is doubtless a masterly strategic movement of McClellan’s, compelled by the want of reinforcements. As for what is going on with the army to-day, it would be simple folly to attempt to give you any account of it. The wildest and most contradictory rumors are afloat. We lie at the wharf, and all around us are people eager to tell absurd and exaggerated stories. I make it a rule to believe nothing that I do not pick up from Captain Sawtelle. Yesterday there was an impression that Stonewall Jackson was coming down upon us to destroy this depot; and that has hastened the removal which was already prepared.

Stripped of all exaggeration, I suppose the truth is this: General Porter, being flanked in immense force, has wheeled round and back. He crossed the Chickahominy at four o’clock this morning. The whole army is now across that river; the enemy are in part on this side of it. We may now go into Richmond on the left, — Burnside co-operating. In that case this base of supplies will be more available up the James River. Meantime Colonel Installs and Captain Sawtelle are sending forward supplies in trains and army-wagons as fast as possible. The troops have six days’ rations in their knapsacks. The enemy evidently hope to ruin us by seizing this station, — hitherto the sole source of supply to our army. Instead of which, everything has been sent away; the few things that remain are lying on the wharves, ready to go on board a few vessels at the last moment. The “Elm City” is waiting for the Ninety-third New York Regiment, which is stationed here on guard duty. “We have had our steam up all day, ready to be off at a moment’s notice; and even as I write comes the order to start, the enemy having got the railroad. And so rapidly have we gone, that between writing the words “Elm City” and “railroad” we are off!

Such a jolly panic! Men rushing and tearing down to the wharves, —these precious civilians and sutlers and “scalawags”! The enemy are in force three miles from us; they have seized the railroad, and cut the telegraph. We privately hope to get a glimpse of them as we go down the river; it would be something to say that we had seen the Confederate army of Richmond!

We have just enjoyed the fun of seeing the last of the shore-people rushing on board schooners and steamers, —the former all yelling for “a tow.” I never laughed more than to see the “contrabands ” race down from the quarters and shovel into barges, — the men into one, the women into another. The “Canonicus” stayed behind to carry off Colonel Ingalls and Captain Sawtelle, who are highly pleased with the way the whole thing has been done,—as well they may be, for it reflects the greatest credit upon them.

All our army is now across the Chickahominy: General Porter crossed at four this morning; only General Stoneman and the cavalry are this side of the river. The order which finally moved us was in consequence of a message from General Stoneman to General Casey, which came by mounted messenger while Mr. Olmsted was with the latter. It said: “I hold the enemy in check at Tunstall’s [three miles from White House, on the railway], and shall for a short time. I shall then retreat by White House.” Then the great gun of the “Sebago” boomed out, and we all slipped our moorings. The gunboats were in line of battle; we passed between them and the shore; the men were beat to quarters, and standing at their guns, — the great ferocious guns!

We had scarcely turned the first bend of the river before we heard explosions, and saw the smoke and fire of the last things burning, — such as locomotives, cars, a few tents, whiskey, etc. Before leaving, we saw clouds of dust, and General Stoneman’s baggage-train came trotting in; and at the same moment a corral of invalid horses and mules, kept here by the Quartermaster’s Department, seven hundred of them, were let loose and driven towards Cumberland. The last I saw of the White House, General Casey was sitting on the piazza, and the signal-men on the roof were waving the pretty signals, which were being answered by the gunboats.

And now we are streaming down the winding river; the “Elm City” ahead, with two or three schooners; the little “Wissahickon” racing along as fast as she can go, like a crab, and blessing herself that she is too little to be detained for “a tow.” By and by we come, hauling slowly two big schooners; then comes the “Daniel Webster,” towing ammunition-barges; after her the “Vanderbilt,” towing something of which I can see only the masts above the trees as the river winds. At each bend there is an excitement. Somebody is sure to be within an ace of getting foul of somebody else. The smoke at White House is growing denser and denser, and we hear cannon, — which we take to mean that the gunboats are getting a chance at the enemy.

The “Spaulding” here comes quietly up the river, and asks, bewildered, for orders. Mr. Olmsted replies: “Go up for the first heavy tow you can find, and report at Yorktown.” So the Commission, having no sanitary business on hand, does its best for the service in another way.

[To this letter I venture to add the following extract from one written some months later by the Chief of the party who left White House that Friday evening, June 27, 1862: —

“All night we sat on the deck of the ‘Small,’ slowly moving away, watching the constantly increasing cloud and the fire-flashes above the trees toward White House; watching the fading out of what had been to us, through those strange weeks, a sort of home where we had worked together and been happy, — a place which is sacred to some of us now for its intense living remembrances, and for the hallowing of them all by the memory of one who, through months of death and darkness, lived and worked in self-abnegation; lived in and for the sufferings of others, and finally gave himself a sacrifice for them.”1[1]]

[1] Dr. Robert Ware, who died at his post, as surgeon of the Forty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, during the siege of Washington, N. C, March 12, 1863, aged twenty-seven.

“Wilson Small,” June 22.

Dear Mother, — Yesterday was a hard day, and not a very useful one. The result is that I am a little befogged this morning,—deaf, drowsy, and dull. Five hundred men came down last night, — the clearings-out of the regimental hospitals on the right. Our gentlemen were up all night. I was safe in my berth; but Georgy was in the tent till 3 A. M., though she had been up all the night before.

The Great Mogul, the Medical Inspector, Colonel Vollum, for whom Mr. Olmsted has been begging, has arrived. He is staying on board the “Small.” He ranks every other medical officer; therefore on him our hopes depend. The run to Yorktown on “special business” was made to give the Chief and the Inspector a chance of quietly discussing the whole matter. Mr. Olmsted has just been, full of brightness, to tell me that everything is arranged satisfactorily, and to read me the signed agreement. The Commission is to take: 1. All badly wounded men, all amputations and compound fractures of the lower extremities, and all other cases which ought not to travel at first (say five hundred, — a large estimate), and keep them, on board the “Knickerbocker” and the “St. Mark,” in the river until they can be moved. It engages to spend a sum not exceeding ten thousand dollars on the means of carrying out this first item. 2. It agrees to receive at Fortress Monroe three thousand other bad cases able to bear transportation, whenever a battle occurs; and four thousand five hundred more within twelve days of it, and transport them to New York, Washington, or elsewhere.

Thus, you see, the Commission gains the certainty that the worst cases and the greatest suffering shall be under its own eye and care. The rest — the slightly wounded, or those so wounded as to be able to help themselves — are the ones that are left to the Government. The country may feel assured that when the great battle occurs, provision is made for those who shall suffer most; and the Commission feels that the country will provide that it shall not fall short in its engagement. This enables us to contemplate a great battle with less of a nightmare feeling than we have had while there was nothing to expect but a repetition of past scenes. We feel that something is impending; the clearing out of the hospitals, the arrangements thus decisively made for the wounded, all seem to point to a coming emergency. Oh! can we help dreading it?

General Van Vliet has just been here,—a jolly old gentleman, with his shock of yellow-white hair, and his nice, old-fashioned politesse for “the ladies.” We fire a volley of questions at him. First, and before all else, “How is the General?” (meaning, of course, General McClellan.) “Ho! he’s well; quite got over that fever of yours,—what do you call it, typhoid?” Then we try to get out of him some information about the state of affairs. He said he dined at General Porter’s headquarters with several of the corps commanders yesterday, and it was universally agreed that General Porter’s position was not tenable any longer; that our line was far too long (I told you that our right was stretched out to touch McDowell). “Well,” says the General, “Porter is in what you may call a deadlock, — can’t get across the river; there’s a battery” (making a lunge at our best chair). “What they’ll do will be to try and turn our flank. Perhaps they’ll do it; perhaps not.” “And we?” we cried. “Oh, you!” he said, with his jolly laugh, “you’ll have to cut and run as best you can, and we’ll go into Richmond.” “Shall we go up the James River?” “How are you going into Richmond?” “Has Burnside got Fort Darling?” Here the General became impenetrable, but looked so profoundly wise that if he did not tell his secret, he at least told that he had one.

Captain Sawtelle sent me a present of mint to-day (his orderly could not restrain a smile as he gave it to me), and the Captain came just now with an eye, I fear, to that improper thing called a “mint-julep.” You may think it very vulgar, but let me tell you it is very good; and you would think so too if you had been up all night, with the thermometer at 90°. Georgy is flitting about, putting things to rights (or wrongs) with as much energy as if she had not been up two nights. She has hunted me into the smallest corner of the cabin, while she dusts and decorates the rest. Her activity is a never-ending marvel to me. I saw her today spring from the ground to the floor of a freight-car, with a can of beef-tea in one hand, her flask in the other, and a row of tin cups tied round her waist. Our precious flasks! They do us good service at every turn. We wear them slung over our shoulders by a bit of ribbon or an end of rope. If, in the “long hereafter of song,” some poet should undertake to immortalize us, he’ll do it thus, if he’s an honest man and sticks to truth: —


A lady with a flask shall stand,
Beef-tea and punch in either hand, —
Heroic mass of mud
And dirt and stains and blood!


This matter of dirt and stains is becoming very serious. My dresses are in such a state that I loathe them, and myself in them. From chin to belt they are yellow with lemon-juice, sticky with sugar, greasy with beef-tea, and pasted with milk-porridge. Farther down, I dare not inquire into them. Somebody said, the other day (a propos of what, I forget), that he wished to kiss the hem of my garment. I thought of the condition of that article, and shuddered. This state of “things” has reached its climax. “Georgy,” I said the other day, “what am I to do? I can’t put on that dress again, and the other is a great deal worse.” “I know what I shall do,” says Georgy, who is never at a loss, and suggests the wildest things in the calmest way: “Dr. Agnew has some flannel shirts; he is going back to New York, and can’t want them. I shall get him to give me one.” Accordingly, Santa Georgeanna has appeared in an easy and graceful costume, looking especially feminine. I took the hint, and have followed suit in a flannel shirt from the hospital supplies; and now, having tasted the sweets of that easy garment, we shall dread civilization if we have to part with what we call our “Agnews.”

Just as I was writing the last words, Dr. Coolidge came on board. I was delighted to see him. He has a sad story from his place of action,—as sad as ours; as sad as all that come from honest hearts and capable heads wherever they are. But let us hope for better things to come, — especially to-day.

Good-by! I have so many letters to write that sometimes I feel as if I could not write another word. I have twelve lying by me now, ready to go off, — soldiers’ letters, and answers to the friends of the dead. We receive such pathetic, noble letters from the parents and friends of those who have died in our care, and to whom it is a part of our duty to write. They will never cease to be a sad and tender memory to us. The mothers’ are the most noble and unselfish; the wives’ the most pathetic,—so painfully full of personal feeling.

[The letters of the following week are missing. The mails were stopped on account of the preparations for the “change of base,” and probably the letters were lost in them. The above is the last letter mailed from White House which came to hand; the next was brought down on the “Small,” and mailed from Fortress Monroe.]

In Our Tent, June 20.

Dear Mother, — For the first time I have neglected you, — and not from hard work either, but from a scattering sort of work, which has left us no time of absolutely needed rest in which to write. All your Newport cases have arrived; also four cases of brandy and one of beef stock, marked “F. Gordon Dexter;” four of sherry, from Mrs. J. Howland Shaw; one of lemons, marked “Mrs. Kuhn;” also a case of assorted liquors, and a box of lemon-squeezers, from the Honorable Ezra (can’t make out the name), of Walpole, Mass., who says he had seen a letter of mine somewhere, in which I told that I had squeezed eight hundred lemons on one occasion. The cases sent by the “St. Mark” are also in my possession; but for the last three days I have had no time to open them, and I won’t sacrifice my present hour of writing to do it now.

The Fourth Connecticut came down to-day for its siege-guns. We, who have seen the blackness of battles, rejoice, and trust it is a sign that there may be no more. God grant it may be so! How deluded the body of the Southern troops and people have been by their leaders! I go as much as I can among the prisoners, that I may judge for myself how they feel. I find surprise their chief emotion. “I never thought of this.” “I could change the feelings of half my county if I told them what I know now.” One man told me he had never fired his gun. They look shy, and are unwilling to meet your eye; but if you make any way with them, you are almost sure to see tears in theirs. I have written letters for several of them, which General Wool and General Dix have been very kind in forwarding from Fortress Monroe on the flag-of-truce boat. The men are eager to write, “because their friends are thinking them so badly treated, and they want to tell them how it is.” Of course there may be exceptions to this spirit; but I have, so far, met with none. Just now I asked a handsome young fellow, with a clear eye which at first he rather veiled, if he had all he wanted, — “All” he said; “more than I deserve to have.”

Wednesday, the ” Small” went down to coal, and Georgy and Dr. Ware and I spent the day in the tent, and dined with our old black aunty on the “Elizabeth,” — or the “Fiend,” as she is commonly called, from her habit of rushing up at all hours of the day and night, making unearthly noises with her steam-pipe. The usual number of men, about a hundred, came down. The process is this: I will describe it, and you can imagine it, once for all.

We have thirty-three Sibley tents along the line of the railroad on the other side of the track. On this side, and just at the head of the wharf, —an old scow and a few planks which we dignify by that name,—stands the tent, filled with stores, and the kitchen behind it. The “kitchen” is al fresco, and consists solely of two long trenches about a foot deep, with forked upright stakes at each end and a pole across, on which the camp-kettles are hooked over the fire built in the trench below. Alongside the tent we have two large wall-tents, where we put the worst cases, so as to have them close at hand; the others, which are mostly waiting for the hospital ambulances, are put in the Sibley tents. We take great pride and satisfaction in these arrangements. It is true that the tent is smoky and hot, not pleasantly odoriferous, and filled with flies; but when the smoke is very bad we make believe it kills the flies. In short, we admit nothing evil of our tent; and when Dr. Agnew, peeping round in the smoke, said in the kindness of his heart: “Oh, how uncomfortable for you!” we were seriously angry with him.[1]

A train arrives, and the principle on which we proceed is as follows: The wounded men are sent at once on board whichever transport lies at the wharf (the “Small,” the “Elizabeth,” and the “”Wicked Chicken ” always lie outside of the large vessel). As they pass our tent, we give them something refreshing or stimulating, as the case may need. The sick men are put into the tents, and we give them a meal. They ought to be moved promptly to the Shore hospital; but the surgeon-in-charge is not prompt, so they are often a day or a night in our hands. This gives us an average of a hundred men to feed and attend to daily; but they are constantly changing. Dr. Ware has the entire charge and responsibility of them and of the shipments upon our boats. As soon as a train comes in he selects the cases. Meantime we despatch, by our four orderlies, buckets of soup, or tea, or milk-porridge, and other food; then we follow Dr. Ware into the train with the inevitable brandy and beef-tea. The cars are large, double freight-cars. The worst cases lie upon the floor inside; the slight cases sit upon the roof. Dr. Ware is everything to us,—so sensible, so self-sacrificing, so prompt, so careful. We owe all the comfort of this tent to him, for he takes pains to keep it well supplied, and thus efficient. His fault is that he thinks too little of himself; and I fear it will always keep him back in life.

On Thursday we went down in the “Small” to Yorktown. Mr. Olmsted wished to inspect the “St. Mark” (it ought to be “St.Luke”),— a large clipper-ship sent down by the Sanitary Commission. The surgeons and ladies were ashore when we arrived, so we could go over the ship with an eye to her real merits. She is magnificent; but so wholly out of the pale of the necessities of our work that, though we heartily admired, we could not feel the intense pleasure and sympathy with which we hail some lesser good on the other vessels. She is not fit for transport service, drawing too much water to get up the rivers, and having no steam. She should be kept as a floating-hospital off Fortress Monroe; for that she is perfect, — giving noble accommodation for a few, say two hundred, men. Our work, on the other hand, requires us to give life and some comfort to the many.

The Quartermaster, an old friend, gave us many valuable things. Case after case rattled on to the “Small,” and tin pails almost in abundance. We dined on board. Dr. Draper is in charge, — his wife and Mrs. George T. Strong among the ladies. Soon after dinner a telegram arrived, recalling Mr. Olmsted to White House; and we had the sweetest run up the river by every light imaginable, — sunlight, sunset, twilight, moonlight.

Orders had come to send the “Webster” and the “Spaulding” to Fortress Monroe immediately, and empty the hospitals there as fast as possible. Mrs. Griffin went in the “Webster,” which sailed at eleven o’clock last night; so one of our four fingers is missing.

To-day the Chief and the “Small” have gone to Yorktown on “special business.” Mrs. H., Georgy, Dr. Ware, and I are waiting in the tent for one hundred and fifty men now due. Tomorrow, I fear, we shall have many wounded; heavy firing on our right has been going on all the afternoon, and a good deal of musketry.

This is a very rambling letter; but it is hard to keep any ideas in one’s head, being interrupted every tenth word by cooks, Zouaves, and obnoxious persons of many kinds, who persist in looking into the tent and asking questions. This afternoon, as I was attending to some men in the Sibley tents, I came upon one of the exhortative kind, who often afford us much amusement. He made a rapid survey of the history of the world, to prove that no women had ever done as we were doing, no men had ever been succored as they were succored. Whether he was out of his mind, or simply one of the irrepressible, I could not tell; but he looked so funny, declaiming in his hospital rig, that I slipped out of the tent, convulsed with laughter, — for which I felt sorry, and rather ashamed, a moment later, when I saw the tears in the eyes of a gentleman, new to the work, who was with me. But we must either laugh or cry; and this work teaches us that we had better laugh, if we mean to be good for anything. I hope I have not seemed to you heartless in the tone which I have taken; it is that which we all adopt, and, though perfectly genuine, it answers as a mental prophylactic.

Good-by! I mean to go to sleep. The train is not in, and may not be till morning. I have learned to sleep on my arm, and it is very “comfy.” As for Georgy, she curls herself up anywhere, like a little gray kitten, and is asleep in a minute.

[1] “It was not the vale of Cashmere,” as Dr. Ware wrote me in his last letter, just before his death, “but many dear associations cluster round it.”

In Our Tent, June 18.

Dear A.,—All my delightful cases and letters are received. You have just no idea of the pleasure they give. I wrote last on the 14th. Sunday was a very distressing day. Our sick men were still with us, for Mr. Olmsted could neither get permission to put them on the “Elm City,” nor induce the surgeon of the Shore hospital to send his ambulances for them. Expecting every hour to move them, we were unable to put them into hospital clothing; and as they were very restless and crazy, this made our work less satisfactory than usual. In all other respects they were well cared for.

The painfulness of the day was greatly increased by a visit from a Sunday picnic of Congressmen and ladies. One of the former went to Mr. Olmsted and complained to him of what he saw on our boat. He said the men were in “an awful state. I saw — I saw with my own eyes — flies settling on them and biting them!” This gentleman came into the ward with a rose held to his nose; and when told they were all typhoid-fever cases (“That one by you is the worst case I ever saw,” Georgy said maliciously), he went abruptly away. Had he stopped to examine the condition of things, he would have seen that every man who could not brush the flies away had a mosquito-netting over him, and all the others had fans. The thermometer is at 90°, and the flies are an Egyptian plague; but all was done that could be done to alleviate it. I could see that this affair pained Mr. Olmsted exceedingly. It was essentially unjust; but the outward circumstances of the case, as I have stated them, did not permit that ample refutation which a mere glance into one of the wards would usually afford. I think he felt it the more as it was our very own castle thus invaded by reproach. But a few hours later a thing occurred which must have wiped from his mind the sting of reproach from such a quarter. Colonel ——, who was on the “Elm City,” very ill with typhoid fever, was madly anxious to get home. He knew he must die, and he craved to see his wife. The gentlemen of the excursion-party were asked to take him back on their boat. They refused; alleging that they were “a select party,” and “not prepared to incur infection:” they made the ladies the ground of their excuse. So Mrs. Griffin went at midnight to the ladies and begged them to consent to take him; and of course they did so. I could enlarge upon this, but the subject is hateful.

Sunday evening we moved our men to the “Elm City,” where I found them all comfortably placed on Monday, when I went through the wards with a member of the New England Women’s Association, who had come down on the “Webster” to make up her mind as to whether we were doing our duty. She went back with them on the “Elm City” yesterday.

Dr. Henry J. Bigelow arrived early in the week. He came on a private mission from the Secretary of War to see and report upon the state of the Medical Department, and find out where the hitch really is. I wish he had come from the Surgeon-General instead. The Secretary of War is apt to send missions of private inquiry by which he forgets to profit; so that the best man for the work of inspection is likely to go back from here and have his observations disregarded. Mr. Olmsted has paid him all the attention in his power. Matters of importance are, however, pending at this moment between Mr. Olmsted and the Surgeon-General, and this throws some gêne into his intercourse with Dr. Bigelow. I gather that he cannot open himself freely to him. I do not know, of course, how matters are between Mr. Olmsted and the Medical Department, and if I did know I should not speak of them; but I may certainly say this: that the Department feels the greatest gratitude to Mr. Olmsted for what he has done, and would gladly give him much wider power, if that were what he is seeking. That is not his object, however; indeed, the object of the Commission itself is not sufficiently understood. Those who admire its wise and noble work naturally feel the wish that larger power should be given to it. But the object of the Commission itself is not this. It seeks to bring the Government to do what the Government should do for its sick and wounded. Until that object is accomplished, the Commission stands ready to throw itself into the breach, as it did during that dreadful battle-week, as it does more or less all the time. The thing it asks for is not the gift of power, but that the Government should take the work away from it by doing it thoroughly itself. A Medical Inspector is to be sent here immediately, at Mr. Olmsted’s earnest request, and we shall see what that will bring forth. But, after all, I fear the principle of active war is, and perhaps must be, — every marching man is precious; when he drops, he’s a dog. Ah! what would have become of him so far without the Sanitary Commission? I am not afraid to say that no enterprise ever deserved better of the people. Alive to the true state of things, ever aiming at the best thing to be done, and striving to bring everything to bear towards that, it has already fulfilled a great work, — let those who have reaped its benefits say how great and how indispensable.

I am sitting with Georgy in the tent, waiting for the arrival of a train of sick men, due notice of which is always telegraphed to us from Savage’s Station. The “Wilson Small” has dropped down the river to coal. Mrs. Griffin is, I grieve to say, knocked up, with curious symptoms of fainting and wandering. Dr. Ware says she must go home, and she leaves on the mail-boat to-morrow, — a most serious loss to us at any time, but especially if an emergency occurs.

Yesterday we did nothing special but dress in clean clothes (I mean the cleanest we had) and go down to the “Webster,” where we were received with all honors, and had a good dinner, — Georgy and I eating an incredible number of raspberry tartlets. Dr. Grymes drank to us in his happiest manner: “Ladies, I give you a welcome where you have a right!” The ship was dressed with magnolia, honeysuckle, and the lovely white fringe blossoms, in our honor. The “Webster” is a constant satisfaction to the Chief, being thoroughly all right, — thanks to Dr. Grymes and Mrs. Trotter and her good captain.[1]

[1] Dr. Gryrnes’s health was steadily giving way. As we looked at him, so full of energy and ardor in his work, we used to think he knew he was a dying man, and chose to alleviate death and suffering in others as long as life was in him. After the campaign was over, he became surgeon of the Sanitary Commission “Home” in Washington. His residence was a few paces off, and he resolutely came to his work, until it took him half an hour, supported on each side, to get over that short distance; then he died.

“Wilson Small,” June 14.

Dear Mother,—If I can give you a clear account of what occurred last night, I shall do a clever thing; for everybody is asking everybody else if he has any positive idea as to what the fuss was all about.

We were waiting in our tent for a train of sick men which had been due more than an hour. It was nearly seven o’clock, and everything was ready; presently the train came in, and five men, bleeding from fresh wounds, were brought out. The train had been fired into, a quartermaster had been killed, and five of the sick men wounded.[1] All this had happened about three miles from White House. We did not pay much attention to the story, for we were busy giving and sending food to the rest of the men. But presently Mr. Olmsted came up with an order from Colonel Ingalls: “The ladies will return at once to their boat.” Of course we obeyed, but as slowly as we could, asking questions as we went along. A second order came: “Report the ladies on board at once.” We obeyed. Presently Mr. Olmsted followed with a third order: “The wounded will be moved from the ‘Elm City’ to the ‘Small’ instantly; the latter will run down to the ‘Spaulding.’ This arrangement is made, as the shipping may have to be burned. Put the ladies behind the iron walls of the ‘Spaulding.'” Then came another hurrying order: “Let the ‘Elm City’ go down with her wounded on board, and rendezvous with the ‘Small’ alongside the ‘Spaulding.'” So away we went.

But Mr. Olmsted was not satisfied. I believe he felt that our right place was where we might be of service ; and after seeing the order obeyed, he took a boat and rowed himself back to the landing. The result was that an order was sent down soon after to bring the “Small” back to the wharf and take on the sick men who had arrived on the train. So we took a detail and thirty mattresses from the “Spaulding,” and went back as fast as we could. Captain Sawtelle came on board at once. Nothing very definite was known. A gap had occurred in our lines somewhere near Hanover Court-House. A regiment of cavalry was supposed to have got through. A good deal of harm had been done. Our hearts beat for the railroad-bridges (two distinct fires could be seen), and for a moment we felt gloomy. It would have been a serious business to cut off even one day’s supply to the army; it would have played into the enemy’s hands, — perhaps by forcing on a general engagement. Captain Sawtelle was arming every man capable of bearing arms, — teamsters, etc., — and was preparing to burn everything, shipping and all, if necessary. Two of our party, Mr. Woolsey and Mr. Mitchell, volunteered their services, and were under arms all night. A battery of artillery was hastily got together of guns that had arrived the night before; and this morning we learn that the Bucktail Rifles, Colonel Biddle’s regiment, which had gone up two days earlier, has returned to guard the railroad-bridges. These and the track are perfectly safe. The telegraph-wires have been cut. The two fires we saw were only some shipping — two or three schooners — five miles up the river. It is said that a body of guerillas from the country between the Pamunky and the Rappahannock, hearing of the dash of their cavalry, came across the Pamunky on five scows, and did some damage. I wonder if they were looking at us the other night from behind the cranes!

This is the resume of what we have heard from Captain Sawtelle, who pays his morning and evening momentary visit or look at us. Now you know all about the affair historically, — at least, as much as anybody knows; but there’s a dark, private aspect of it to me, and though I dare say I can tell it as a joke, it is like playing with something that has not yet lost its sting. Georgy and I were highly indignant at being sent away; we thought it shirking our duty, and very inglorious. At last our tongues got loose; we said all we thought, — at least I did. I said more than I thought, because I was in a passion; and all I got for it was the sense of having hurt and wounded Mr. Olmsted. Of course he was right; I can see now that he had to take care of us, even though it seemed absurd. This happened as we were going down to the “Spaulding.” Presently Mr. Olmsted was missing. He had taken a small boat, and was rowing himself back to the landing. I saw him shoot into the darkness, and I felt like a brute; I was so sorry for what I had said; I felt I had somehow goaded him,—and I thought of him, so delicate, and now really ill, making his way into danger in a horrid little boat.

Just then Dr. Jenkins told us that if we had valuables on board, we had better secure them, as the “Small” might have to be burned. While I was getting my bags ready, I remembered that Dr. Ware and David Haight were ashore, in charge of the sick who were left in the tents, and that all their things would be burned unless somebody saved them. So, without further thought, I went into the stateroom which they shared together, and spreading a huge shawl of Robert Ware’s on the floor, I proceeded to fill it with the entire contents of the room. I had just finished, and was knotting the ends of the shawl together, when Georgy came by. She stood like a mocking fiend, gazing at that wretched blue bundle; she drew such a picture of the possible morrow, and of my shame and confusion when I should have to explain what I had been about, that I was completely beaten down and humbled; and when Mr. Olmsted’s order came, recalling us, and I perceived that the “Small” was not likely to be burned, I fell into a perfectly abject state of mind. This mollified her. “Come,” said she, relenting, “there’s time enough; let’s go to work and put the things back.” How grateful I felt to her while I quickly untied the “pack,” as she persisted in calling it. I had a general idea where the coats and trousers ought to go; but where the minor articles belonged, who could tell? But I wouldn’t show perplexity under Georgy’s eye, and I popped them here and there with a semblance of order that stateroom did not wear when I went into it. Alas! This morning, through the ventilator, came the fatal cry: “Haight, take your things out of my bed!” “Where’s my hair-brush?” Where’s mine?” “Upon my soul, I believe you’ve even got my tooth-brush!” Oh! if any one ever repented himself of philanthropy, I did then; and who shall guarantee me that Georgy will not come out and tell the whole story, and put me to open shame?

It took a very short time to turn our little home into a hospital. By 2 A. M. the men were all on board, and by four o’clock they were comfortable for the night. They are very sick, — perhaps the worst set together that I ever saw; scarcely any are in their right mind, some are raving, one is screaming now for “something hot,” “lucifer-matches.” They have been much shaken by the attack on the train, which has, I think, greatly aggravated their condition. One of them died this morning, unconscious, as usual, and so quietly that it was some minutes before I believed it, though Dr. Ware said it was so. He was speechless when he came into our hands, — sent down with no indication of name or regiment; and so he dies. There is another dying man lying next to where he lay; and though his eyes are bright and intelligent, he can give no sign, and I cannot discover anything about him. So many nameless men come down to us, speechless and dying, that now we write the names and regiments of the bad cases and fasten them to their clothing, so that if they are speechless when they reach other hands, they may not die like dogs, and be buried in nameless graves, and remain forever “missing” to their friends. This was Georgy’s thought, — so like her! How I love her practical tenderness!

Mr. Olmsted is puzzled what to do with these men. There is a standing order against any but wounded going upon the boats; but they can hardly be sent to the Shore hospital until the question as to what this raid really is, settles itself. I have no time to write more. We are short-handed, and can spare but little time from the men, and they, poor souls, are so noisy and crazy that they give us unusual care and anxiety. I am now going below to the main-deck saloon, where they are, for the night-watch.

The “Daniel Webster” reported herself at 4 p. M. Dr. Grymes and Captain Bletham came on board at once. The latter was much gratified by D. and A.’s visit to the ship at Boston. My precious cases are on board; but in the present condition of the “Small” they must remain on the “Webster.”

[1]Stuart’s raid. See Colonel von Borcke’a account of this “gallant” deed in “Blackwood’s Magazine ” for September, 1865.

“Wilson Small,” June 12.

Dear A., —Yours of the 4th received, telling me you have sent some cases. How eagerly I shall look out for the “Webster!” I wish I could instruct you fully as to the late battle; but our work so fills both time and mind that I feel as if I lived out of the war now that I live in it. You have much fuller accounts in the New York papers than I can give you. The little that I know is, however, true, and that is more than can be said of all the papers tell you. The late battle was not a general engagement. The enemy attacked us on the left. Our left is composed of two corps d’armée, — General Keyes’s and General Heintzelmann’s. Each corps has two divisions, each division four or five brigades, each brigade four regiments. Our left has been for some time across the Chickahominy, although not so near Richmond as our right, which is now bridging the river and the swamps to cross higher up, and is composed of two corps, — General Franklin’s and General Fitz-John Porter’s; the latter stretching away to the right to form the desired junction with McDowell. The bed of the Chickahominy is narrow; but in wet weather it becomes nearly treble its width, making the bridges and causeways which we have built nearly impassable. The enemy, taking advantage of the great storm which flooded these bottom lands (destroying, so they hoped, our communications), attacked General Casey’s division on three sides. This division is part of General Keyes’s corps. It was clearly a surprise, some of the officers being killed at dinner in their tents. We were forced back, losing guns and ground, — which were recovered, however, when General Couch’s division (also of Keyes’s corps) came up. It is said that when General Kearny’s division (of Heintzelmann’s corps) reached the ground, the day was already redeemed. Our right was from four to seven miles distant from the scene of action, which was at a place called Seven Pines, on the line of the railroad. General McClellan, whose headquarters are on the railroad this side of the Chickahominy, and about the centre of our lines, crossed the river Saturday afternoon with General Sumner and his corps, and the next day (Sunday) defeated the enemy at all points.

This is all I know; and you won’t understand it without a map. I am sorry to say General McClellan is very unwell, if not seriously ill. I am told he has had the fever, which has left him with camp dysentery. I inclose a printed letter of Mr. Olmsted’s about the work of the Commission which we all like very much. I have made some notes to it, for I comprehend the family egotism about me enough to feel that you will read the letter with double interest if you know where I fit into it.

Last evening we made our first pleasure excursion. Mr. Olmsted begged us (“us” always means himself and staff) to take a run in the “Wheelbarrow,” “Wissahickon,” or “Wicked Chicken,” as we indiscriminately call our tug-boat, up the river beyond the burned bridge. We generally have one or two pleasant outsiders not far off. Last night it was Colonel Howland, who had ridden in from the front to spend a day with his wife. Oh, how we enjoyed our little holiday! It was sweet to run suddenly out of the noisy bustle of the wharves and the camp, out of the breath of hospitals, into the still river, shining with amber lights of sunset, where nothing broke the silence but the cranes — and we. We came home by moonlight, refreshed and happy.

To-day (very suddenly, and just at dinnertime) the Chief discovered that an ice-boat was missing; so we have dropped down to Cumberland in search of her. In other words, we have had a peaceful family dinner, safe from loafers and spongers; and now we are sitting on the after-deck, dreaming, reading, writing, and some of us, of course, smoking. I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to be with these people who go right in to a thing thoroughly. Nobody is head here (except the Chief). We all do a little of everything, and pretty much what we please. I am, if anything, at the foot. This is not humility, but truth; the others are so prompt and efficient that they often take out of my hands that which I might do.

We are just passing the charred bones of a burned rebel gunboat. Oh, this pretty river! How I wish you could be beside me now! If you were, you should occupy our best chair, which once was cane-bottomed, but now has only the frame-work of the seat, on which we poise ourselves.

I am well, and shall last, I think, till we get to Richmond. Don’t be uneasy about me; if I should be ill, I shall take the mail-boat, and be at home before you can hear of it. To-morrow I take a ride in an ambulance, which equipage the surgeon-in-charge of the Shore hospital is to send down for us, that we may go up and organize a special diet kitchen for him, where proper sick-food can be prepared under the surgeons’ orders. All good hospitals ought to be self-supporting. Government furnishes an ample ration, which can be drawn in money (“commuted” they call it) and spent in proper food for the sick, instead of the ordinary mess diet. I should like to have charge of a hospital now. I could make it march, if only I had hold of some of the administrative power.

We have little to do at the present moment. From twenty-five to seventy-five sick men come down daily. We give them a meal as they arrive, and then they are taken to the Shore hospital. When a wounded man comes down he is put on the “Elm City,” now lying alongside the wharf. We have done nothing on board of her since we last fitted her up before the battle. She has her full complement of service, and the women’s department is in the competent hands of Mrs. Balestier and Miss Bradford. At present our time is divided between the tent and the “Small,” — the dear “Small!” I wonder whether we should like her as well under any other name. We have given quite a home-look to our little cabin, which is never without its bouquet of magnolia, jessamine, and honeysuckle. Our orderlies gather the flowers as an attention to “the ladies,” and every now and then Captain Sawtelle sends a bunch.

Heavy orders for intrenching-tools were filled and sent forward last night. This looks as if a battle were not in prospect. It is all very well for political idiots and men at ease to talk about “cutting our way into Richmond.” If they want it done, why don’t they give McClellan strength enough to do it? Colonel Howland says that we must trust him; that whatever he does, be it act or wait, will be well done. When will the nation learn that it is in the hands of its greatest man, and wait calmly for his results, only taking care in the mean time to strengthen his hands?[1] I hope you keep my letters (for my own benefit). I have no recollection of where I have been or what I have done. You can form no idea of the bewilderment and doubt in which we live as to times and seasons, hours of the day and days of the Week. It is really absurd. I am told to-day is Thursday; but I certainly thought it was Tuesday.

[1] It is perhaps as well to say here that my present opinion of General McClellan is somewhat different from what it was. I still think that he was an able general, and a noble and patriotic man, who sought to heal as well as to conquer. But he was, it seems, too slow for the work he had to do. He was an accomplished and careful soldier, even a great one; but he had not the genius of War, nor the dash that sometimes takes its place. On the other hand, we must remember that no great commander was ever so trammelled and thwarted by civilian ignorance and scheming. Had the powers ultimately given to General Grant been intrusted to General McClellan, he might, perhaps, have ended the war in this campaign.

“Wilson Small,” June 10.

Dear Mother, — Being the happy possessor of a pen-holder (pilfered from the “Elm City”), and having nothing to do, I shall write you a long letter. We are all collected, shivering and idle, under piles of blanket-shawls. All the wounded have come down and gone, and we have nothing to do, at least for to-day. If the weather were but mild, we could be comfortable and enjoy our rest; but never in the depth of winter did I feel the cold as I do today. I am chilled to the heart.

Keep my letters; they will remind me to tell you many things now forgotten. I wish it had been possible to keep a journal, so much that is interesting and droll in men and things occurs every minute; such armies of queer people turn up! Quartermasters are among the queerest. “We have our own chief dragon on the “Elizabeth,” with whom I am supposed to get along better than the others, therefore I conduct all difficult negotiations. I rush to him for something important a dozen times a day. He is resolute not to give it to me till I write and sign a requisition. Of course I am wanting it for something pressing, so after a slight blandishment I get it under promise of sending the requisition, — which is never sent. Then we have squads of comical “contrabands” (who like us very much until it becomes a question of work), and a detail of kind, nimble, tender Zouaves. I have become a convert to them after a long struggle,—-their efficiency, their good sense, their gentleness are so marked. Even their dress, which I once hated, seems to take them in some sort out of the usual manners and ways of men. They have none of the dull, obstinate ways of that sex, — they are unexceptionable human beings of no sex, with the virtues of both.

Then we have every style of arrogant army surgeon and presuming volunteer surgeon, no end of army officers, and some few naval officers: all of whom come trooping on board the “Small” after Mr. Olmsted, — chiefly, I observe, about dinner-time. The Commission is sadly imposed on in this way; it is used as a hotel. Last night four ladies arrived on the mail-boat, and instantly transferred themselves to the “Small” They have no business here, and nowhere to go. If such women are given a duty to do, they leave it, after a while, on the general principle that they are “wanted at the front.” When they get there, the surgeons will have nothing to do with them; and, finally, this morning two, who are thought to be of doubtful character, have been returned whence they came. The wonder is how they get the passes to come at all. No lady should attempt to come here unless accepted or appointed by the Government or the Commission. Ardent women with a mission should not come in any other way, if they value their own respectability.

Our dear Mr. Knapp has broken down, as I knew he would, and is gone home with typhoid fever. I think I told you that a new surgeon-in-charge had been appointed to the Shore hospital, with superintendence of the ship-transportation. He seems a kind man, and desirous to keep on good terms with the Commission and work with it. He is very cordial to us women, and begs us to come and do what we can at the hospital. Mr. Olmsted, however, frowns upon the idea, — frowns? No; but he remains impenetrably silent, — which is worse, for we can’t rebel at it.

I often feel the pleasantness of our footing among all these persons, — official, military, naval, and medical. They clearly respect our work, and rightly appreciate it; they make no foolish speeches, but are direct and sensible in their words and acts; and when work is over, they do not feel towards us as “women with a mission,” but as ladies, to be with whom is a grateful relaxation.

Dr. McClellan, on the General’s staff, came in from the front, and stayed with us last night, on his way to Fortress Monroe. He thinks there will be a gigantic battle before Richmond, and speaks of twenty thousand wounded. It is overwhelming to think of it. The nation must send us more sheets, shirts, drawers, and money — Money.

The “Elm City ” is lying alongside, between the “Small” and the shore. There is little for her to do at present. A dozen or so of wounded come down occasionally and go on board of her. A standing order now exists that none but wounded shall be put on the boats; all the sick are to go to the shore hospital. Our tent is at the head of the wharf, just where the railway ends abruptly at the burned bridge. Dr. Ware selects the cases from the freight-cars, on the bare floor of which they are jolted down from Savage’s Station, — the terminus of the road at the front. The worst cases are put inside the covered cars,—close, windowless boxes,—sometimes with a little straw or a blanket to lie on, oftener without. They arrive a festering mass of dead and living together, — or did, during the battle-week. Now they are sent down more comfortably; the bad cases have plenty of straw and plenty of room within, and the slight cases are perched upon the roof, or come down on long trains of trucks. Meantime we have ready in the tent proper food and stimulants, and administer them to all after their hard journey, and before they go either on board the boats, or are taken in ambulances to the Shore hospital.

I shall send this letter by Monsieur de Trobriand, who goes home to-night, having had a severe attack of typhoid fever, from which he is not recovered; ill as he is, he is delightfully amusing, though I suspect him of being slightly out of his head. I think sometimes, when I am idle, of the happiness of getting home again. Oh! I never, never will grumble at anything again. But also I will never eat beef when once I escape from army rations; and I will never again own a carpet-bag. The misery those carpet-bags have cost me! I rush up for something that is wanted in a hurry; it is at the bottom of the bag, — things that are wanted always are. I tip it over into the berth, seize what I want, and am gone again. But then comes midnight! I creep up tired and sleepy, and find a mound of books, boots, cologne-bottles, and other brittle and angular things which must be cleared away before I can fling myself down. Amelia, our black servant, says: “Laws me! I do wonder if you sleep on all dat muss!”

Reinforcements are arriving daily. I suppose from eight to ten thousand of McCall’s division (a small portion of McDowell’s corps) have arrived within a week. At first I scarcely noticed their coming. I heard their gay bands, and the loud cheering of the men as the transports rounded the last bend of the river and came in sight of the landing; but such sounds of the dreadful other side of war filled my ears that if I heard I heeded not. For the last night or two the arrivals by moonlight, the cheers and the gay music have been really enlivening. We see the dark side of all. You must not, however, gather only gloomy ideas from me. I see the worst, short of the actual battle-field, that there is to see. You must not allow yourself to think there is no brightness because I do not speak of it.

“Wilson Small,” June 9.

Dear Mother, — I can’t retain the least recollection of when I write, or what I write, or to whom it is written. I only know that I do write to somebody nearly every day. You owe the multitude of my letters partly to the fact that they are written here and there at odd moments, and partly to the other fact that when we go off duty we go utterly off, and come up to our little haven of rest, the “Small.” When we get here we can’t sit and do nothing, we can’t think, we can’t read; what can we do but write? Sometimes the intense excitement of our lives finds vent and ease in writing; but at other times, when we have nothing pressing to do, we feel so inert that the effort to collect our thoughts to write even a line is too great. We have so many letters to scribble for the poor fellows that materials must always be handy. I go about with my notepaper rolled up in a magazine and stuck, with pens and ink, into an apron-pocket; and so it sometimes happens that a letter to you is begun, continued, or ended while on duty. Beside the letters we write and send off for the men, we have many from friends inquiring after husbands, sons, and brothers who are reported wounded. Such letters will never cease to be a sad and tender memory to us. One came last week from a wife inquiring after her husband, but none of us could attend to it until to-day. “Give him back to me dead,” she says, “if he is dead, for I must see him.” Mrs. Griffin remembered the name; he was one of the men whose funeral she attended ashore one Sunday evening. So to-day I went up and found him under the feathery elm-tree. I made a little sketch of the place and sent it to her, — all I could send, poor soul!

I am sitting now on a barrel in the tent, waiting for a train of sick men who were telegraphed to arrive an hour ago. A million of flies are buzzing and whirling and settling about me. If you doubt the number, “Count them, sir, count them,” as the waiter at Vauxhall said to the man who asked if there were really five millions of lamps, as advertised. Flies are much harder to count than lamps, so I let you off four millions.

I hear. that inquiries are being made as to how the Sanitary Commission uses its supplies. If they are made of you, say that so far as I have seen (and it is not too much to say that more than half of what is used on our boats passes under the women’s knowledge), there is no waste, but the most careful use. The Commission is not only doing in the best manner its own work, but it has supplied stores of hospital food, stimulants, and every thread of clothing, lint, bandages, sheets, articles and utensils of hospital use, and much else of a miscellaneous character, to the Government boats, besides the daily, I might almost say hourly, requisitions from the regimental hospitals. If people ask whether more can be wanted, let them consider this. Let them reflect that four times a week our own boats have to be fitted out. To be sure, the same things are to some extent used again; but, without waste, much must be lost. For instance, washing cannot be done here or on the boats; on the latter it would be dangerous. Much that is used has to be thrown overboard; it would be a risk to life to do otherwise. Large cases of soiled clothing, sheets, etc., are nailed up and sent North on the ships. Perhaps each of them carries two or three thousand of such articles. Of course the supplies diminish; though from time to time the washed articles come back.

Oh! if those at home could see all that I see, no trouble, no expense, no sacrifice would be thought too great to strengthen the hands of this Commission so that its work may not fail. I know of my own knowledge how the articles supplied by the women of the country go; and I know there is no waste. When hour by hour some direful necessity is brought to sight, much has to be given which never comes back into our hands; all given to the Government boats is, of course, never returned, — nor could that be expected. On our own boats, however, economy is practised just so far as not to interfere with the success of the work. Oh, how pressed we are for some things! Tin pails, lanterns, and things of that kind we are always begging for, and “annexing” where we can.

I ought to say that I believe the confusion and neglect on the part of the Medical Department which occurred last week was exceptional, and not likely to occur again. At least the authorities have now been warned, and I believe they will profit by the warning. Probably no army in the world ever advanced with so much to alleviate its hardships. Notwithstanding the suffering I see, I feel this; and when I reflect that I see all, or nearly all, there is of misery, I am ready to say that this war is not as dreadful as war once was. The men are well clothed and shod and fed; the ration (on which we live also) is excellent; the beef, rice, flour, and coffee as good as need be.1[1]

[1] I found this to be the case when I became, later, superintendent of a large United States Army General Hospital, where the articles composing the ration came directly under my observation. I never saw one of inferior quality. The ration of the United States soldier is: ¾ lb. of pork or bacon, or 1¼ lbs. of fresh or salt beef; 22 ounces of bread or flour, or 1¼ lbs. of corn-meal; to every hundred rations, 10 lbs. coffee, 1½ lbs. tea, 15 lbs. sugar, 1 lb. sperm candles, or 1½ lbs. tallow ditto, 4 lbs. soap, 2 quarts salt, 8 quarts beans or peas, 10 lbs. rice or hominy, 4 quarts vinegar, 1 gallon molasses (twice a week), 100 lbs. of fresh potatoes or 100 ounces dessicated vegetables (three times a week). Bacon means ham or middlings.

“Wilson Small,” June 8.

Dear Friend, — This is the first quiet Sunday since we have been here. How long it will stay quiet, no one can tell for an hour together. The past week is wholly indescribable. Our own boats filled up calmly and comfortably on Sunday and Monday with the wounded of Saturday. Then the Government boats began to fill; and such fearful scenes as we have passed through since then until noon of yesterday, I would not tell you if I could. From five to eight hundred wounded men have been sent down daily: no authorized officials to receive them; no arrangements made of any kind. The boats which have been lying here idle for weeks, waiting for “surgical cases,” wholly unprepared, and their surgeons off to the battlefield. No stores, no-beds, no hospital stewards, no food, no stimulants. Then it is that the medical authorities fling themselves on the Sanitary Commission, and the Commission gives everything with a generous hand. It has done all that has been done on three fourths of the Government boats, and that at the last moment, without notice, and when its supplies were heavily taxed in fitting out its own boats,— which, happily, were all, except the “Spaulding,” here, and ready to ship the first wounded that came down. Never did men work as ours have worked. It would be hard to say who did best where all did so well. No description can give you a full idea of the pressure upon them, of the necessities they strove to meet; and all to be done out of their regular system, hurried and confused by the hurry and excitement of the one medical officer who appeared to have any authority upon the ground.

As for us women, all we could do was to give drink, stimulants, and food to the poor fellows, and what other little ease we could. We take great comfort in a tent-kitchen provided for us by Captain Sawtelle, from whom we receive much thoughtful, kind attention. From it we have fed four thousand men this week; on Thursday we served twelve hundred meals. We also receive kindness from other officers. Far from meeting with any of the usual army opposition, our help is claimed and warmly acknowledged.

To-day things look brighter. The “Elm City” and “Knickerbocker” are back and in perfect order. A new medical officer has been placed in charge of the transportation from this point. He began his duties yesterday after the departure of the “Louisiana.” She was fifty per cent better than any of the other Government boats, and yet this officer said to me to-day, when I took him through the wards of the “Knickerbocker” (she filled up at midnight): “Oh, what happiness to look at this boat after that accursed thing of yesterday!” I find I can bear anything with calmness and, in one sense, indifference so long as I am beside it and engaged with it. To feel acutely at such times is merely selfish. But no tongue can tell what I suffered yesterday afternoon when I was obliged to stay on board here for a little rest, and listen to the groans of men undergoing operations on the gangway of the “Louisiana,” to which we were moored. No trial of nerves ever equalled that. But why speak of such things? I beg you to offer the Prayer for the Sick, and that for the Afflicted, every Sunday in the Chapel. Can you not change and add something to them, to fill out and express all that we feel? It would be a great satisfaction to me to think that this were done.

I trust the worst is over. How little you all realize the magnitude of our necessities at your distance from them! Think of a handful of us here to keep order for the wounded of this great army,—I might almost say to keep life in them. I cannot adequately tell you of the work these Commission men have done. The lives saved are theirs. “Day” and “night” are words of no meaning to Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Knapp. I think they must break down under the pressure of care and physical effort. The young men of the Commission are most praiseworthy. Nothing is too hard, or too humble, or too constant for them to do, and do gladly, as if they rejoiced to do it. Dr. Robert Ware has more upon him than any one but Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Knapp; he is all that is sensible, energetic, and successful.

I have seen many men die, but never one to whom such a word as one might wish to say could be spoken. Our work is not like regular hospital work. It is succoring men just off the battle-field, and making them easy, clean, and comfortable before we turn them over into other hands. Those who die are too low when they come to us to know much; and when you think that four thousand men have passed through our hands this week, you will understand that we can do little beyond the mere snatching from physical death.

Good-by! I hope you may be happy this summer, — it would be something to be able to think of happiness as existing somewhere.

I send you a little poem addressed to Mrs. Howland, by a private soldier who had been in her care on one of our boats. If you knew her you would see that there is a poet’s insight in what he says of her: —


From old Saint Paul till now,
Of honorable women not a few
Have left their golden ease, in love to do
The saintly work which Christlike hearts pursue.


And such an one art thou, — God’s fair apostle,
Rearing his Love in war’s horrific train;
Thy blessed feet follow its ghastly pain
And misery and death, without disdain.


To one borne from the sullen battle’s roar,
Dearer the greeting of thy gentle eyes
When he aweary, torn, and bleeding lies,
Than all the glory that the victors prize.


When peace shall come, and homes shall smile again,
A thousand soldier-hearts in Northern climes
Shall tell their little children in their rhymes
Of the sweet saint who blessed the old war-times.

“Wilson Small,” June 5.

Dear Mother, — I finished my last letter (to A., I believe) on the afternoon of the day when we took eighty men on the “Small,” and transferred them to the “Webster.”

“We had just washed and dressed, and were writing letters, when Captain Sawtelle came on board to say that several hundred wounded men were lying at the landing; that the “Daniel Webster No. 2” had been taken possession of by the medical officers, and was already half full of men, and that the surplus was being carried across her to the “Vanderbilt;” that the confusion was terrible; that there were no stores on board the “Daniel Webster No. 2” (she having been seized the moment she reached the landing on her return from Yorktown, without communicating with the Commission), nor were there any stores or preparations, not even mattresses, on board the “Vanderbilt.”

Of course the best in our power had to be done. Mrs. Howland and I begged Mr. Olmsted not to refrain from sending us, merely because we had been up all night. He said he would n’t send us, but if we chose to offer our services to .the United States surgeon, he thought it would be merciful. Our offer was seized. We went on board; and such a scene as we entered and lived in for two days I trust never to see again. Men in every condition of horror, shattered and shrieking, were being brought in on stretchers borne by “contrabands,” who dumped them anywhere, banged the stretchers against pillars and posts, and walked over the men without compassion. There was no one to direct what ward or what bed they were to go into. Men shattered in the thigh, and even cases of amputation, were shovelled into top berths without thought or mercy. The men had mostly been without food for three days, but there was nothing on board either boat for them; and if there had been, the cooks were only engaged to cook for the ship, and not for the hospital.

We began to do what we could. The first thing wanted by wounded men is something to drink (with the sick, stimulants are the first thing). Fortunately we had plenty of lemons, ice, and sherry on board the “Small,” and these were available at once. Dr. Ware discovered a barrel of molasses, which, with vinegar, ice, and water, made a most refreshing drink. After that we gave them crackers and milk, or tea and bread. It was hopeless to try to get them into bed; indeed, there were no mattresses on the “Vanderbilt.” All we could do at first was to try to calm the confusion, to stop some agony, to revive the fainting lives, to snatch, if possible, from immediate death with food and stimulants. Imagine a great river or Sound steamer filled on every deck,—every berth and every square inch of room covered with wounded men; even the stairs and gangways and guards filled with those who are less badly wounded; and then imagine fifty well men, on every kind of errand, rushing to and fro over them, every touch bringing agony to the poor fellows, while stretcher after stretcher came along, hoping to find an empty place; and then imagine what it was to keep calm ourselves, and make sure that every man on both those boats was properly refreshed and fed. We got through about 1 A. M., Mrs. Howland and Georgy having come off other duty and reinforced us.

We were sitting for a few moments, resting and talking it over, and bitterly asking why a Government so lavish and perfect in its other arrangements should leave its wounded almost literally to take care of themselves, when a message came that one hundred and fifty men were just arriving by the cars. It was raining in torrents, and both boats were full. We went on shore again: the same scene repeated. The wretched “Vanderbilt” was slipped out, the “Kennebec” brought up, and the hundred and fifty men carried across the “Daniel Webster No. 2” to her, with the exception of some fearfully wounded ones, who could not be touched in the darkness and rain, and were therefore made as comfortable as they could be in the cars. We gave refreshment and food to all; Miss Whetten and a detail of young men from the “Spaulding” coming up in time to assist, and the officers of the “Sebago,” who had seen how hard pressed we were in the afternoon, volunteering for the night-watch. Add to this sundry Members of Congress, who, if they talked much, at least worked well. One of them, the Hon. Moses F. Odell, proposed to Mr. Olmsted that on his return to Washington he should move that the thanks of Congress be returned to us! Mr. Olmsted, mindful of our feelings, promptly declined.

We went to bed at daylight with breakfast on our minds, and at six o’clock we were all on board the “Daniel Webster No. 2,” and the breakfast of six hundred men was got through with in good time. Captain Sawtelle kindly sent us a large wall-tent, twelve caldrons and camp-kettles, two cooks, and a detail of six men. The tent was put up at once; Dr. Ware giving to its preparation the only hour when he might have rested during that long nightmare. We began to use it that (Tuesday) morning. It is filled with our stores; there we have cooked not only the sick-food, but all the food needed on the Government boats. It was hard to get it in sufficient quantity; but when everything else gave out, we broke up “hard-tack” into buckets full of hot milk and water a little sweetened, — “bread and milk” the men called it. Oh, that precious condensed milk, more precious to us at that moment than beef essence!

Tuesday was very much a repetition of Monday night. The men were cleared from the main-deck and gangways of the “Daniel Webster No. 2” on to the “Kennebec.” The feeding business was almost as hard to manage as before. But still it was done, and we got to bed at 1 A. M. Mrs. M. and I were to attend to the breakfast at six next morning. By some accident Mrs. Howland, who was ready quite as soon as I was, was carried off by the “Small,” which started suddenly to run down to the “Spaulding.” I had, therefore, to get the breakfast alone. I accomplished it, and then went ashore and fed some men who were just arriving in the cars, and others who were in tents near the landing. The horrors of that morning are too great to speak of. The men in the cars were brought on board the “Daniel Webster No. 2” and laid about the vacant main-deck and guards and on the deck of a scow that lay alongside. I must not, I ought not to tell you of the horrors of that morning. One of the least was that I saw a “contraband ” step on the amputated stump of a wretched man. I took him by the arm and walked him into the tent, where I ordered them to give him other work, and forbade that he should come upon the ships again. I felt white with anger, and dared not trust myself to speak to him. While those awful sights pass before me I have comparatively no feeling, except the anxiety to alleviate as much as possible. I do not suffer under the sights; but oh! the sounds, the screams of men. It is when I think of it afterwards that it is so dreadful.

All yesterday (Wednesday), after the early morning, things went better. Our tent-kitchen worked to a charm. Dinner was well through by 2 P. M., and we had time to look after the men individually, and to make preparations for two hundred more, who were expected by the railway at 4 P. M. They did not come, however, till 1 A. M. While my letter has been in progress (with countless interruptions) Mrs. Griffin and Mr. Woolsey have come in to report that the two Government boats, the “Louisiana” and “State of Maine ” (which have taken the place at the landing of the “Vanderbilt” and the “Daniel Webster No. 2”), are in good order, have excellent hospital stewards; that the Commission has supplied them with ample stores; and that the two hundred men who came down this morning have gone quietly on board the “State of Maine” and are comfortable. I hope, I pray, the worst is over.

About nine hundred wounded remain to be brought down. Mr. Olmsted says our boats have transported one thousand seven hundred and fifty-six since Sunday; the Government and Pennsylvanian boats together about three thousand. Mr. Clement Barclay was with us on Monday night on the “Vanderbilt.” I believe he went with her to Fortress Monroe. He was working hard, with the deepest interest and skill. I went with him to attend to a little “Secesh” boy, wounded in the thigh; also to a Southern colonel, a splendid-looking man, who died, saying to Mr. Barclay, with raised hand: “Write to my wife and tell her I die penitent for the part I have taken in this war.” I try to be just and kind to the Southern men. One of our men stopped me, saying: “He’s a rebel; give that to me.” I said, “But a wounded man is our brother!” (rather an obvious sentiment, if there is anything in Christianity); and they both touched their caps. The Southerners are constantly expressing surprise at one thing or another, and they are shy, but not surly, at receiving kindness. Our men are a noble set of fellows, so cheerful, uncomplaining, and generous.

Remember that in all that I have written, I have told you only about ourselves, — the women. What the gentlemen have been, those of our party, those of the “Spaulding” and of the other vessels, is beyond my power to relate. Some of them fainted from time to time.

Several regiments have come up yesterday and to-day as reinforcements. Their bands are gay, and the trim look of the men almost amusing. The Southerners wear no uniforms, and are the shabbiest set of fellows. Short gray spencers, and trousers of any color or no color, are the nearest approach to regimentals that I have seen.

Last night, shining over blood and agony, I saw a lunar rainbow; and in the afternoon a peculiarly beautiful effect of rainbow and stormy sunset, — it flashed upon my eyes as I passed an operating-table, and raised them to avoid seeing anything as I passed.