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No Senator entered more warmly into any measure that was proposed for the efficiency of our system of military hospitals, nor manifested a deeper sympathy for disabled soldiers. One evening as he was resting on his sofa from a very wearying day in the Senate, I read to him from ‘My War Note-Book,’ the following passages of scenes I had recently witnessed in the hospitals around Washington.
Heroism in the Hospital.—It was as often witnessed there, and in sublimer forms, perhaps, than in the field.——We came to the body of a non-commissioned officer, a fine, large man, who, during the last few hours, had become delirious. His thigh-bone had been shattered by a Minie-ball so high up, that amputation could not be performed. So there was nothing left for him, but to lie there and die. Watching the terrible hues of mortification coming upon his limb, feeling the poison steal up towards his vitals, seizing and deadening new tissues every hour—it proved too fearful for even his vigorous frame. He would utter no cry nor complaint, and his mind, with the suppressed torture, flew to insanity for relief. As we approached his cot, he fixed his cold, [429] despairing eyes upon us, and pointing back over his shoulder, exclaimed, ‘Do you see him? Old Death, there, sitting at the headboard and laughing? A grim army-joker, in truth! The other night I felt a cold touch, and it woke me. The moon flung in a bar of light, and I saw Old Death feeling of my wound. His icy touch benumbed it; and the next time I woke, his hand was slowly closing round my leg. So it goes! He'll be soon pulling at my heart-strings.’ The maniac then stopped, as if trying to remember. After a low, sardonic laugh, he continued: ‘I plead with him; I told him they'd be lonely at the old home in Illinois. “A wife and child are pleasanter than a tomb,” I said. He laughed at that.’ We had to leave him; and what a sight it was! The rottenness of the grave, and the vitality of a strong man, joined in a terrific grapple on a hospital bed. Life, with the full pulse of five-and-twenty years, had marshalled all its forces, and been defeated. His name was C. P. Dunster, of Illinois.

A noble young fellow in the Douglass Hospital had been injured by the passage of a shell near his head. Shortly after, a solid shot carried away his left arm. He was well treated on the field, and sent to Washington for recovery. Here, the effect of the concussion of that screaming shell, began to show itself on the brain. He became delirious. Watching by him one night, I took down some of his strange ravings:—‘No! I won't go home till the Union is safe. I'd rather die here, by the roots of this old tree, and dig my own grave, than have any croaker in Wisconsin say that I let the old flag drop! Not I! Bring it out! Let me see it once more! Now I am ready for the last charge-one more chance at the rebels!’—and springing from the bed, he plunged forward. I caught him, and laid him down gently. A quiver went through his body, a flash came from his beautiful face, and every muscle fell. The pulse had stopped.

He slept his last sleep, he had fought his last battle;
No sound could awake him to glory again.

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