July 20. Thus far I have been unable to discover any .charms in hospital life. With fair health the active camp is far preferable. This hospital is divided into three departments. The first is the officers’ ward, the second is the hospital for the wounded and very sick, and the third is the convalescent camp. The first two are in large hospital tents and are furnished with cots, mattresses and other necessary conveniences. In the third are more than 600 men, quartered under shelter tents. I am in this department. It is not supposed that there are any sick men here. They are all either dead beats or afflicted with laziness, and a draft is made from among them twice a week for the front. I had been here only four days when I was drawn, but Garland of company C, who is an attache at Doctor Sadler’s office, saw my name on the roll and scratched it off. Although there are none here supposed to be sick, there seems to be a singular fatality among them as we furnish about as large a quota every day for the little cemetery out here as they do from the sick hospital. But then in a population of 600 or more, three or four deaths a day is not surprising. I have been here three weeks and have been drafted four times, but with my friend Garland’s help I have escaped. 1 should be pleased to be back with the boys if I was only half well, but I reckon I shall not be troubled with any more drafts. Doctor Hoyt sent a man back the other day. The next morning he was sent up with a sharp note to Doctor Sadler, saying that he didn’t send men to the hospital that were lit for duty and didn’t want them sent back until they were. That roused Doctor Sadler’s ire, and he says when Hoyt wants Irishmen he can send for them.
Doctor Sadler has the whole charge of the convalescent camp, and has several young fellows, assistant surgeons so called, on his staff. Some of these fellows I should think had been nothing more than druggists’ clerks at home, but by some hook .or crook have been commissioned assistant surgeons and sent out here. Every morning all who are able in all the ten wards go up to be examined and prescribed for by these new fledged doctors, and those not able to go seldom receive any medical attendance, but it is just as well and perhaps better that they do not go, as the skill of these young doctors is exceedingly limited. Doctor Sadler is a fine man and a skilful surgeon. He comes around occasionally, visiting those who are not able to go out and prescribes for them, and for a day or two afterwards the assistants will attend to those cases. These assistants make the examinations and draft the men for the front, after which they are again examined by Doctor Sadler and frequently a number of them will not be accepted, and the assistants oftentimes need not feel very much flattered by some remarks of the doctor.
This convalescent camp holds its own in spite of all the drafts made on it. Recruits arrive daily and the drafts are made twice a week, sending back 50 or 100 at each draft. When a draft is made one of the assistants comes into a ward and orders it turned out, and every man not down sick abed turns out. The ward-master forms them in single rank and the inspection begins. They commence on the right and go through the ward, making the same examinations and asking the same questions of every man in the ward. They feel the pulse and look at the tongue, and if those are right they are booked for the front. They remind me of horse jockeys at Brighton, examining horses. Some of the boys who are well enough but are in no hurry to go back, chew wild cherry or oak bark to fur their tongues and are thus exempted until Doctor Sadler gets hold of them, when they have to go. We get some recruits from the other hospital, for as soon as a sick or wounded man there is declared convalescent he is sent here.
A good joke occurred one morning when one of them was drafted for the front. He had been slightly wounded in the leg and was getting around with a crutch. When his ward was ordered out for draft he fell in with the rest, and the doctor, not noticing the crutch, but finding his pulse and tongue all right, marked him as able-bodied. When Sadler inspected them, he said to this fellow: “What are you here for?” “Going to the front, I suppose; there is where I am ticketed for.” Sadler laughed, and said: “I’ll excuse you.” Then turning to his assistant, remarked: “We are not yet so hard up for men as to want three-legged ones.” That assistant looked as though he wished he was at home under his mother’s best bed.
This whole hospital is under the management of a Doctor Fowler, and as far as I am able to judge is well and skilfully managed. The cuisine is excellent and far better than could be expected in a place like this. The hospital fund as fast as it accrues is expended for vegetables, fruits, milk, butter, cheese, preserves and many other things which the government is not supposed to furnish. The kitchen is in two departments, one where are cooked and served out the meats, soups, vegetables and other food for the convalescent. In the other are cooked the roasts, steaks, broths, beef tea and all kinds of light diet for the officers’ ward and the sick and wounded department. The light diet is presided over by an angel of mercy in the person of a Miss Dame who is the hospital matron.