I Receive An Appointment.
August 1. The ward next me on the left is a colored one, and contains from 60 to 80 men, according to recruits and drafts. Until recently they have been pretty much on their own hook, no one seeming to care for them. Some days ago Doctor Sadler asked me if I would take charge of them. I said I should like to do anything where I could be of any use. He gave me my instructions and some blank reports, and set me up in business. My duties are to attend roll-calls, surgeon’s calls, keep an account of arrivals, discharges, desertions, deaths, march them up to the kitchen three times a day for rations and make my report to him every morning. Entering on the discharge of my duties the first thing I did was to set them to work cleaning and fixing up their quarters, so they would be more comfortable.
A couple of hours’ work showed a great improvement in the condition of things, and while it was being done it gave me a chance to find out who among them were the worst off and needed the most care and favors. A sick nigger is a curious institution and you can’t tell so well about him as you can about a sick mule. He can put on the sickest look of anything I ever saw and appear as though he would die in seven minutes, but a nigger is never really sick but once, and is then sure to die. There is no more help for one than there is for a sick pig. I have three that are sick and I have no more faith in their getting well than I have that Gen. Lee will drive Gen. Grant from before Petersburg. Two of them are now unable to attend the surgeon’s call in the morning and the other I expect will be in a few days. I have about 40 hobbling around with canes, spavined, ring-boned and foundered. The others arc simply a little war-worn and tired.
The kitchen is about 30 rods from the camp, and when I march them up there there are so many lame ones they straggle the whole distance. Doctor Sadler called my attention to this and said he should like to see them march in little better order. I replied: “Surgeon, come out in the morning and see the parade; you will see them marching a 28 inch step and closed up to 18 inches from stem to stern.” He promised he would. The next morning at breakfast call I formed every one of those darkies that carried canes on the right, and the very lamest I put at the head of the column, and gave them a send-off. It was a comical show, they marched at the rate of about one mile an hour, and those in the rear kept calling out to those in advance: “Why don ye goo long dar! Hurry up dar; shan’ get breakfas’ fo’ noon.” They kept closed up a good deal better than they kept the step as the rear crowded the advance to push them along. We were cheered along the route as almost everybody was out to see the fun. We marched in review before the doctor, and by the way he laughed and shook himself I thought he was well satisfied with the parade, at any rate he complimented me on my success when I carried in my morning report.
One day one of my fellows came to me for a pass to go fishing. He said he could catch as many bull-heads as would do us two for three days. I gave him a pass, but didn’t see anything of him again for four days. When I asked him where he had been so long, he looked pretty sober for a minute or two, and then rolling around the whites of his eyes and showing his teeth, said: “Yah, yah, yah! ize no idee ize don gon so long; yah, vah, yah.”