EIGHTH CORPS HOSPITAL,
WINCHESTER, VA., August 31, 1864.
REV. J. N. M'Jilton, D. D.:
On my return from daily distribution in Sheridan Hospital I received your kind letter, and hasten to thank you for the generous assistance and encouragement I have ever met with from you, in a task whose difficulties are known to few, and if aught from my pen can benefit the suffering, or appeal in their behalf, it shall not be wanting. Early in the spring we visited Wheeling, and collected some thirty boxes of stores and delicacies for the troops in the Valley, receiving also from Mr. Stewart a large assortment of books, leaflets, paper, &c. With these we visited General Siegel's army, near Winchester supplying the 12th West Va., the 1st Wheeling Battery, Snow's Maryland Battery, the 1st Va., the 54th Penn., 18th Conn., 34th Mass., and other regiments, with Hymn-books, papers, soldier's books, pickles, stationery, &,c. The army received marching orders before we left, and we had the satisfaction of bringing a mail of our own collection, (knapsacks and writing material having been sent to the rear) of thirteen hundred letters, some of them doubtless, the last the writers ever pen penned.
In May, by the advice of the Surgeon General, we took a large collection of stores up the James River, remaining ten weeks in the hospitals of the 10th and 18th. Corps, at Point of Rocks, on the Appomattox. After the battle of May the 20th, many of the wounded were brought here, and to not a few of these we supplied as well as others could supply, the places of mothers and sisters far away. In our little room, filled as it was with boxes, barrels, and cooking utensils, the Delegates had one delightful soldier's prayer-meeting, attended by some fifty of our patients. In the graveyard at the "Point," sleep many who were then the objects of our care. When the mine was exploded, and the disastrous charge made before Petersburg, a wide field was offered in the field hospitals of the 9th corps, within some two miles of Petersburg, and a tent being furnished us, through the kindness of the Medical Director, Dr. Prince, at General Burnside's request, we devoted ourselves more particularly to the relief of the sick and wounded of Gen. Ferrero's Division, (colored) and mostly from Maryland. The horrors of Gettysburg did not surpass those of that day-even yet I recall those woods, thickly strewn with the mangled and dying, some with arm and leg off, one with both eyes gone, some insensible, and others moaning, in an agony of pain. Only half an hour had elapsed since they had been wounded, and the war of musketry close by, sounding awfully in our ears, as halting our ambulance, Rev. Mr. Boole, of the Commission, my mother and self, made pail after pail of milk punch, and distributed it, with handkerchief's, bandages, canned peaches, wine, crackers, &c., to the sufferers. "I have not seen a lady for months," said one poor boy, who was ready to weep over the disasters of the day, "and it does seem sweet to see one in this awful place." Colored citizens of Baltimore cried to us to give them "only one cracker," and our hearts melted when the appeal was enforced by their directing our attention to the "stump" of an amputated arm, or leg. In the box there proved to be a few strap tracts, and books, and these were handed to those who could read. "Are those Testaments?" said a colored soldier, "do please give me one. I tried so hard, as I lay wounded on the field, to reach one, that had dropped from a dead soldier's pocket, but my wounds were so painful I could not crawl far enough." What a spectacle the Gospel of Peace so earnestly called for, in a spot more resembling hell than aught else on earth! As I moved in the midst of these appalling horrors, I heard many groans and prayers, one just brought from the "table" was saying with all the fervor of a departing soul, I shall never see my home again, but Lord, don't you forget me." Death reveled in their midst, and few had time to number or notice his victims. How delighted they were to know that we would bear their messages home to their native city, our much loved Baltimore.
As we hurried to and fro, a group of newly organized colored musicians, collected in the woods, and struck up, "My Maryland." We had not time then to thank them, but do it now. In this hospital we remained two weeks, ministering to their temporal wants, as well as writing letters, which most of them could not do themselves. Many of these are well worthy of publication; one with five severe wounds, wrote to his wife, "You must take things as they are. I am a soldier. Keep the faith"- and then passed away.
Through the assistance of Mr. Caton, a Delegate from Ohio, we were enabled to do much good, and the eagerness of the 30th and 39th U. S. colored regiment, in the Fourth Division, for reading and spelling books, cannot be described. They literally hungered and thirsted after instructions. And some carried books of large size through many a weary march. When I refused them to those who could not read, they looked up pleadingly, saying, "But I wants' to learn. I'se tryin all I can." Never shall I forget the words of one, brought in sun-struck, and laid on the earth, in the midst of great discomfort. I asked where his friends were, "Lady," said he, "my wife is sornewhar, and my mother is somewhar, but whar, I don't know." He seemed to feel his condition deeply; but a moment after, Jesus was mentioned. "Oh," said the poor untutored African, his eyes beaming as he spoke, "You may have all this world, but give me JESUS." And rarely have I heard such fervent, heart-felt prayers, as the man poured forth, in behalf of our distracted and bleeding land. Would that all Christians prayed thus!
Before going to the 9th Corps, the deadly malaria, so fatal in this region during the summer months, and frequent riding without regular food, from early morning until late at night, laid me on a sick bed, and I was removed at the suggestion of Dr. Pratt, of a Maine regiment, on board the hospital boat, "Matilda," lying in James river. Dr. Pratt was the Surgeon in charge, and through his care, though certainly not by his advice, I went again to the hospitals nearer Petersburg. In the 1st Maryland Dismounted Cavalry, at Deep Bottom, I found a number of sick, who preferred remaining there to being removed to Point of Rocks. They were needy and uncomfortable, and milk, tomatoes, jelly, stationery, &c., were very acceptable. The 1st, 4th, 7th and 8th Maryland regiments, we found in the "Maryland Brigade" of the Fifth Corps, and, says one, "may you be rewarded by the deep gratitude of thankful soldiers." Here, as in other Maryland regiments, we distributed Testaments, Hymn-books, papers, books, stationery, canned and dried fruits, condensed milk, handkerchiefs, &c. The 5th Maryland received Testaments and Hymnbooks very joyfully, and many of the forms that gathered round our ambulance, on that shadowless, burning plain, were so altered by exposure and hardships, that they would scarcely have been recognized at home. We could hardly refrain from tears, when in an opening in a dense wood, frequently shelled by the enemy, and on the very spot where a soldier had been killed two days before, the small remnant of the gallant 2nd and 3rd Maryland regiments, now, as one said; "a mere handful of men" surrounded us, and expressed their satisfaction drat some one from their State was looking after their interests in an especial manner. Money could not purchase the precious letters we since have received from them. "The Hymn-book you left," writes one, "has solaced many a lonely hour." "I greatly prize the Testament, especially as it was given by your hand." "We pray for you, that God may bless you, morning and night, and we thank God who put it into your heart to come among us."
Mr. Caton and myself had a narrow escape. Hearing that many of the colored soldiers from ignorance in writing, and directing, were unable to send their money safely to their friends; I offered to carry it in person, and deliver it freely, for those whose families resided in Baltimore, Some two thousand dollars, a number of watches, letters, likenesses, &c., were thus entrusted to our care, and conveyed to their friends. Some articles belonged to the fallen, and were received in tearful grief-the distress of one poor woman, whose husband had been killed, I shall never forget. One, whose arm was gone, wrote, "The night before, when I heard we was going into a fight, I went out by myself and prayed, and the only Best Friend I thought of, was the LORD."
Whilst receiving and directing the envelopes, which enclosed their payments, the Rebels opened a new and powerful battery upon us, and shell after shell whizzed through the air. We did not imagine ourselves in danger, until all at once a death-like stillness rested on the group, we in the ambulance did not see that on the ground beneath our wagon, and even under the horses, men were crouching for shelter; but we did hear the unearthly screeching of a shell, and with mute, pale faces waited for it to explode. But it passed directly over r our heads, and we were safe. Half an hour after we left, several exploded on that very spot.
We had previous received every kindness and assistance from Lieutenant General Grant, by whose special favor we were allowed to remain "Front" in General Burnside' Corps, and the anxiety thus shown by the Commander of our armies to have the wounded receive all the attention in his power, to our mind covers him with more honor than victories such as Vicksburg. By the way, the barrel of pickles furnished us through Mr. Bent, was taken in the midst, of a drenching rain, to some of General Sheridan's weary raiders as they were encamped at Haxall's Landing on James, river. The brave and chivalrous Col. Preston, of the 1st Vermont cavalry, tin cup in hand, dealt them out to his tired men, meeting our thanks with the reply, "No ladies, I feel that I cannot do too much for soldiers." And then he proposed; and they all gave three hearty cheers for their friends in Baltimore."
But a short time after, riding in the cars, I saw chronicled in the morning paper, the heavy loss of the 1st Vermont, and the death of the noble Colonel leading a charge at Coal Harbor.
Just before one of the battles of the Valley, we reached Winchester, and through the kindness of Dr. Manown, the Christian Surgeon of the Fourteenth Va., were furnished a room, &c., on Braddock street, near the West Va. or 8th Corps Hospitals. The afternoon of the 21st, we spent preparing pails of milk punch for the long trains of wounded corning in army wagons from the "Front."
Just about dark, they arrived, and we set to work supplying those on the street. It was a strange warlike scene--dark night settling over Virginia roads ; mud, cavalry and wagons-the last freighted with mangled, bleeding, but precious burdens. The night was raw and chilly, but we flitted to and fro, with flaming candles, and by the invaluable assistance of my faithful Brooklyn orderly, James Buckridge, supplied several hundreds. By and by we came to those containing the "Rebels," and the question was asked, " shall we supply them?" "Certainly," was my reply, "we have never made any distinctions, and as Christians, never shall." The sufferers had a night's ride of twenty-two miles to Martinsburg before diem. " But that punch did us a heap of good," said one, afterwards. Next night we supplied the wounded in forty seven wagons, though two of their agonized victims were dead when they arrived. The whole town seems to be full of hospitals, the Churches and many private dwellings being crowded, as well as the numerous tents of Sheridan, which, through the kindness of Capt. Mann, the courteous Quartermaster; we have been able to visit daily, and with constant supplies. In one ward is Isaac Price, of the Fifteenth Va., a soldier of thirty-eight years of age, with a wife and nine children, the eldest of whom, a lad of nineteen, is in the Tenth Va. But the greatest of calamities seems to have fallen upon him, for both his arms leave been amputated, yet he is cheerful and patient, always greeting us with a happy smile.
On the Church floor lay young Sergt. Smith, from N. J., shot through the lungs, and so agonized by the delirium of pain, that he vainly sought to tell us his father's name. What agony was in his tones as ire repeatedly exclaimed, "Oh I can't tell my father's name!" God grant that in the days of health he had made a loving friend of His heavenly Father, and went to be with him forever! "Thanks be unto God for that, I know and feel its truth!" exclaimed a Pennsylvania soldier named Jones, dying away from a destitute family, when I read to him of that fountain--
"Plunged beneath whose flood
Sinners lose all their guilty stains."
"What shall I read to you?" I asked Eli Davis, a member of the Fourteenth Va., mortally wounded. "I'm not much acquainted with books, and have no preference." But blessed be God, he was acquainted with Jesus, who revealed Himself to him as he lay there, wounded and without any outward agency, drew him to Himself. But the sweet prayer,
"Leave, oh leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me!"
found an echo in his heart, and when I read those lines of a favorite hymn,
"We speak of the realms of the blest,
That country so bright and so fair,
And oft are its glories confessed ;
But what must it be to be there!"
his face shone, he was very near that glory, "and," said he, "I long to go! I want to go to my Jesus." For weeks Gilbert Buchanan of the Tenth Va., has been my daily care. Earnestly he desired to live; he was so young and it was hard to die without the sight of father or mother, whom I had written to come and see their dying son. Oh what a sad case his was! how sick as he was, he counted the miles and the length of the journey, and then died without the sight of a familiar face.
Every day a little package of letters, written for the sick and dying, by my mother, goes into the mail box, and what histories they reveal!
When you give a package of stationery to the Commission, dear reader, do you ever think what messages will be written upon each page? Some parent will hear of the death of the first or youngest born; some stricken wife learn that strangers cared for and closed the eyes of a dying husband, while to others tidings of safety will be gladly sent. Do not then withhold your offering.
One more incident from the many, and I close. I want to show bow a little girl's gift was bestowed, and to whom. Among some articles received by me from the Baltimore Commission, was a handsome Needle Bag, of soft red, white, and blue material, enclosing a few pieces of candy and a Carte de Visite of the giver. A note dated Gettysburg Pa., February 25th, accompanied it and read as follows
DEAR SOLDIER :-I can't do much for you, as I am a very little girl, but I think about you and pray for you too. I hope you are good and pray for yourself. When we had the battle here, I saw how you had to suffer, and I pity you. I carried things to the sick soldiers, and, if you were here, would do it for you. I send my picture that you may see how small I am. Good bye.
LITTLE CARRIE FAHNESTOCK.
Perhaps Carrie thought she would never hear of her offering again. We shall see. On the Church floor lay a bright black eyed boy, named George Hill, a clear little fellow whom our good Dr. Manown carried in his arms from the wagon, the night the wounded came in. "It's a child's weight," said the Dr., as he tenderly guarded the maimed hero, " And I'm only a child," answered the clear treble voice. Where could Carrie have found a fitter recipient for her present. This is Georgie's reply:
WARD T, SHERIDAN HOSPITAL,
November 5th, 1864.
DEAR LITTLE CARRIE: -- I am quite a little boy, and my name is Georgie Hill, Co. K, 13th West Virginia. I have been a soldier boy fourteen months, and was wounded in the leg with a minnie ball on the 19th of October, near Cedar creek, Va. I was carried to Newtown, and lay in a tent, and on the 20th, the Dr. took my right leg off. My father is dead, but I have a mother, three brothers and one sister in Mason Co., Va. Three of my brothers are dead, all soldiers, one died in the Mexican War, one at the siege of Vicksburg and one in the hospital at Gallapolis. Ohio. Mrs. and Miss Moore, who were at Gettysburg after the battle, are here taking care of us, and Miss Moore gave me your dear little present. She told me I must keep it as long as I live, to remember the time I lay wounded on the Church floor in Winchester, and I will. Yesterday they brought me to this hospital where the sick are all in tents, and I find mine very cold this windy day. I don't like it half so well as a house, and if I could, would not have left the warm Church. I was afraid Miss Moore would not know what tent I was in here, and so I should miss the nice things she brings round, but she found me to-day right in her ward. She got me a little puzzle box with seven pieces of wood, and if you know how, you can make squares, triangles, and funny figures. At first I could not put them all back into the box. I shall play with it when I go home, before I get my wooden lea, and am able to run round. We do suffer a great deal. One poor boy died next to me in the Church. He was in so mach pain, he could not tell where he lived nor his father's name. He was shot through the lungs and could hardly breathe. I heard him cry, "Oh I Lord help me! I can't tell my father's name! " I have not been home for fourteen months, and don't know when I shall get there. I have not heard from my mother for two months. Either she does not get my letters or I don't get hers, I don't know which. I am going to eat the candy after dinner--(I had some difficulty in convincing him of the propriety of waiting.) A lady brought me some pudding but it has lemon in it, and I don't like lemon, so I keep looking at the candy. Miss Moore asks if there is anything else I want to say. But I never wrote to you before, so you must excuse me, good bye Carrie.
Your little friend,
I hope Carrie will do more for the soldiers. I cannot close without acknowledging the kind assistance of Mr. Brackett, the Delegate from Maine, in charge of the station, who has furnished us with such articles as were at the Commission room. To Dr. Brock, also, I am indebted, as well as the suffering soldiers. May the time so soon come when we shall no more need to perform such acts of mercy! That the blessing of God may rest indeed and in truth, upon all who have aided us in our labor of Christian love, is my most earnest prayer, and upon none more than yourself.
I remain dear Sir, yours very truly,
JANE BOSWELL MOORE.