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

Post image for Journal of Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman.

Journal of Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman.

September 18, 2012

Journal of Surgeon Alfred L Castleman.

18th—7 A. M.—All night the litter-bearers were passing by and over me where I lay on the ground They were bearing off the wounded. I had worked from daylight till 11 at night, and was exhausted. Yet I could not but reproach myself for resting whilst these men were at work among the sufferers. I could not help it. My Assistant Surgeon left me on our arrival at the battle-field. I worked without his aid, and was worn out. From the General’s promise last night, we expect to-day the great fight of the war.

9 o’clock.—No fighting yet. I have ridden over the battlefield of yesterday, and what a scene! The dead in rows—in piles—in heaps—the dead of the brute and of the human race mingled in mass. Here lies the boy of fifteen years, hugged in the death embrace of the veteran of fifty—the greasy blouse of the common soldier here pressing the starred shoulder of the Brigadier. The moans of the wounded draw me further on, and whilst I administered to their wants, the bullets of the enemy’s sharpshooters passing in unpleasant proximity admonished me that I was too far in advance. I returned, and what a comfort to be again amongst the dead! With the wounded I must speak consolation, but could feel none, at least in many instances; and whilst I was leaving dying strangers with their kisses on my hands, and their last prayers for me (because of the hopes I had revived) on their lips, I felt that I had deceived them. But I am again amongst the dead, where no moans, no death struggles, no last prayers excite in me the painful consciousness of impotence to relieve, and with a deep feeling of relief I can say of those around me, that


“After life’s fitful fever they sleep well.”


At 10 A. M. the battle is not renewed. My regiment, though in line all yesterday and till now, has taken no part in the battle. It will probably open the fight to-day, for which we are all growing impatient. I have scarcely a hope that one half of it will ever return from the attack for which it is so impatient. God preserve it. I love this regiment, and I have now good reason to believe that all my affection is reciprocated. For its sake I- am willing to bear much—risk much. I just learn that we had five Generals badly wounded in the fight yesterday—Mansfield and Richardson, mortally; Hook, Max Weber, (the other I have not. learned.)

No fight yet. Little flags of truce, which none acknowledge, but all respect, are on all parts of the field to-day, and the day is being spent in caring for the wounded, and in burying the dead.

Night has come, but the day brought no fight. The army is disappointed and impatient, and here and there can be heard a complaint at the returning tardiness of McClellan. The universal prayer of the army is that we may be permitted to end this war, now and here. At 10 o’clock at night the flags of truce still wave, and are seen by the bright twinkling of the lanterns over the battle-field. The voice of war is still hushed in the solemnities of burying the dead.

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