Doc. 9.-the women of the War.
B. F. Taylor's letter.
army of the Cumberland, October 22, 1863.Before this letter reaches you, the splendid project of the women of the North-west will be blossoming in full beauty. They will have thronged to the city of the Great Lakes “like doves to their windows,” their hearts and offerings in. their hands; and art, eloquence, and song, the grand pageant, the classic tableau, the exquisite device, the glowing thought, will have been hallowed to the sweet uses of mercy. The lips of the marble images at Mecca were worn away, they say, by the kisses of the pilgrims, but how must the delicate touch of true and loving women smooth and beautify the iron fate of our glorious boys in blue! Close beside the scene that brightens your city like a carnival, garlanded with flowers and glad with sunshine, I see a shadow strange and sad. I am not sure that the laughing girls, who make a Sharon of the Soldiers' Fair, discern how heavy the borders of that night whence comes the dawn they smile in. I am not sure I can do better than to give an unstudied story of the unseen side of that golden shield of theirs — no silver side, alas! but dark, dull iron. The Ohio, at Louisville, behind you, southward across Kentucky and Tennessee, you look upon a region in the rear of the army of the Cumberland, a breadth of three hundred and eight miles to the spurs of the mountains. That area, once so lovely, is dappled with those shadows strange and sad — the hospitals of the Federal army. At Chattanooga, at Bridgeport, at Stevenson, at Cowan, at Decherd, at Murfreesboroa, at Nashville, strown all along the way, are flocks of tents sacred to mercy and the soldiers' sake. I wish I could bring you near enough to see them, that I could lift aside a fold in ward A here, or ward B there; that you may see the pale rows, each man upon his little couch, the white sheet setting close to the poor, thin limbs like the drapery of the grave. It would wonderfully magnify, I think, the work you are doing, my sisters. I would not take you to the surgeon's quarters when the battle is beginning; when he lays off the green sash and the tinselled coat, and rolls up his sleeves, and spreads wide his cases filled with glittering silver, and makes ready for work. They begin to come in, slowly at first--one man nursing a shattered arm, another borne by his comrades, three in an ambulance, one on a stretcher; then faster and faster, lying here, lying there, waiting each his terrible turn. The silver steel grows cloudy and lurid; true, right arms are lopped like slips of golden willow; feet that never turned from the foe, forever more without an owner, strew the ground. The knives are busy, the saws play; it's bloody work. Ah, the surgeon, with heart and head, with hand and eye, fit for such a place, is a prince among them! Cool and calm, quick and tender, he feels among the arteries and fingers the tendons as if they were harp-strings. But the cloud thunders and the spiteful rain patters louder and fiercer, and the poor fellows come creeping in broken ranks like corn beaten down with the flails of the storm. “My God,” cried a surgeon, as, looking up an instant from his work he saw the mutilated crowds borne in; “my God! are all my boys cut down!” And yet it thundered and rained. A poor fellow writhes, and a smothered moan escapes him. “Be patient, Jack,” says the surgeon, cheerfully; “I'll make you all right in a minute.” And what a meaning there was in that “all right!” It was a right arm to come off at the elbow, and “Jack” slipped off a ring that clasped one of the poor, useless fingers that were to blend with the earth of Alabama, and put it in his pocket! He was making ready for the “all right.” Does “Alabama” mean “here we rest” ? If so, how sad yet how glorious have our boys made it,
Who sink to rest,Another sits up while the surgeon follows the bullet that had buried itself in his side; it is the work of an instant; no solemn council here; no lingering pause; the surgeon is bathed in patriot blood to the elbows, and the work goes on. An eye lies on a ghastly cheek, and silently the sufferer bides his time. “Well, Charley,” says the doctor, .(he is dressing a wound as he talks,) “what's the matter?” “O, not much doctor; only a hand off.” Not unlike was the answer made to me by a poor fellow at Bridgeport, shattered as a tree is by lightning: “How are you now?” said I. “Bully!” was the reply. You should have heard that word as he spoke it; vulgar as it used to seem, it grew manly and noble, and I never shall hear it again without a thought of the boy on the dusty slope of the Tennessee; the boy — must I say it?--that sleeps the soldier's sleep within a hundred rods of the spot where I found him. And so it is everywhere; not a whimper, not a plaint. Only once did I hear either. An Illinois Lieutenant, as brave a fellow as ever drew a sword, had been shot through and through the thighs, fairly impaled by the bullet — the ugliest wound but one I ever saw. Eight days before he weighed one hundred and sixty pounds. Then, he could not have swung one hundred and twenty clear of the floor. He had just been brought over the mountain, and his wounds were angry with fever; they were lifting him as tender as they could; they let him slip and he fell, perhaps six inches. But it was like a dash from a precipice to him, and he wailed out like a child, tears wet his pale, thin face, and he only said, “My poor child, how will they tell her?” It was only for an instant; his spirit and his frame stiffened up together, and with a half smile he said, “Don't tell anybody, boys, that I made a fool of myself!” The Lieutenant, “sleeps well,” and, alas! for the “poor child” --how did they tell her? A soldier, fairly riddled with bullets, like one of those battle flags of Illinois, lay on a blanket gasping for breath. “Jemmy,” said a comrade, and a friend before this cruel war began, with one arm swung in a sling, and who was going home on furlough,
With all their country's wishes blest!