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

Post image for A Soldier’s Diary — David Lane.

A Soldier’s Diary — David Lane.

December 21, 2013

A Soldier's Diary, The Story of a Volunteer, David Lane, (17th Mich. Vol. Infantry)

Knoxville, Tenn., December 21st, 1863.

I have been three weeks “head nurse” in the first ward of the First Brigade hospital. Dr. Crosby is with the regiment at Blains Cross Roads, about eighteen miles from here. Most of my patients are from my own regiment, and were wounded at Campbell’s Station or during the siege of Knoxville. The building we occupy was once a court house. The room is about thirty feet by forty. There are two large fireplaces, one on each side of the room. There are now thirty-three patients. All but six of the wounded can walk about the room with or without the aid of crutches. Around each fireplace is a group of men, eagerly discussing the probability of being sent to Washington or Baltimore. At one end of the room, resting one arm on the railing that surrounds the “judgment seat,” stands the “ward boss,” trying to write to the loved ones at home.

I am not on duty, but my patients ignore the fact, and frequently interrupt me with: “Mr. Lane, please step here a minute;” or, “Please give me a drink of water.” I return and try to shut out all sights, all sounds, all thoughts but those of home. Vain effort. The voice of my favorite, Fred Byron, faintly strikes my ear: “Davie; oh, Davie!” Involuntarily I drop my pen and hasten to his side. “What is it, Fred? What can I do for you, my boy?” “Oh, I’m so tired, and nobody cares but you. That man with black whiskers handles me as though I am made of wood.” I tum him gently over, adjust his bed and pillow, moisten his hot, feverish brow, and give him a sup of cool water. “There, Fred, now go to sleep, and when you wake you will feel better.” As I turn to leave him, after bidding him good-night, he grasps my hand in both of his. “Oh, Davie, you are so kind; nobody can do for me as you can.”

He is a German, from Massachusetts, nineteen years old, fair as Adonis—brave as a hero—which he is.

I have many strong attachments here, and cannot well forsake them to return to the regiment .

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