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Chapter 5:

  • Cairo, Illinois, in 1861
  • -- the important Strategic Point in the West-“King cotton” -- the River steamers -- a forlorn rendezvous -- discomforts and hardships -- raw recruits the General rule -- Departures for the front -- pathetic scenes -- Sol's letter from home -- a second army composed of visitors -- sickness in the camp -- a journey North for supplies proves a great success -- Logan persuades three months men to re-enlist--“forward, march!” at last -- only a foraging expedition -- the battle of Belmont -- arrival of the dead and wounded at Cairo -- Hospital scenes -- General Grant in command.

The vast territory lying to the south, southwest, and southeast of Cairo, Illinois, prior to the Rebellion, depended upon the Mississippi River as almost the only channel through which could be conveyed to the markets the cotton, molasses, and sugar. Through the same source they passed the larger supplies of grain, flour, and other commodities. The Mississippi River and its principal tributaries bounded the shores of several States that had cast in their lot with secession. The lands of these States were owned by the few wealthy slaveholders who had colonies of slaves but very few neighbors beyond the kindred and families of the same estate.

King cotton,” as they were wont to style their chief product, brought them a rich harvest of money when shipped to -distant marts, but could not be consumed or utilized within their own State borders, destitute as they were of manufactories. Hence many thousand bales of cotton, hogsheads of tobacco, and barrels of molasses and sugar found their way to the North on the steamers plying between the Northern [102] cities of Cincinnati, Louisville, Saint Louis, Cairo, and Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez, and New Orleans, of the lower South.

Coming up the Mississippi River, the steamers touched at Cairo before going on to Saint Louis, or to Louisville and Cincinnati on the Ohio. Here they dropped that which was intended for the extreme North and East, whither it was taken by rail. It was a weird sight to see the black stevedores, clad only in turbans and trousers, rolling these bales and barrels on to the levee at Cairo by the light of pine torches planted on the shore, all the while chanting some plantation song, as they pulled and tugged at the heavy burdens, as if to lighten their loads by their own strange melodies. As soon as all was off and the steamer again “pulled out” and went puffing on her way, one could hear the boatmen still singing their plantation melodies as they lay on the piles of freight on the deck, resting from their labors.

Cairo was in those days little better than the doleful picture of it given in “Martin Chuzzlewit” under the fictitious name of “Eden.” It was as unlike one's idea of the Eden of Paradise as possible. Often it was deluged by overflows, whose waters stagnated in every depression and were soon covered by a green scum, almost cutting it off from the highlands by that dismal swamp which extended nearly across the State a few miles north of Cairo. There seemed little hope that a city of any importance could ever be built in that locality. Ague and other diseases from miasmatic influences frightened away many who came to make their homes and fortunes there. Wooden structures, standing pools of stagnant water, bilious and listless white people, shiftless and wretched negroes, were about all there was of Cairo prior to 1861, save the few enterprising men who are found everywhere.

Geographically so well situated, the “great captains” saw that from Cairo there could be moved armies that would sweep the Mississippi Valley to the Gulf, southwestward, and John A. Logan in 1861, as colonel of the Thirty-first Illinois Regiment. [103] through Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas, to the Atlantic Ocean. Driving before them the best fighting elements of the Southern Confederacy, when once on the soil of these States, they could gather subsistence from the country over which they passed. They foresaw that the cotton-fields must soon be given up, and corn and grain for their own armies and people would take the place of cotton. It was not for the “great captains” to consider the inconvenience, difficulties, and discomforts attending the mobilizing and organizing of these armies, but to conceive and issue orders, and leave it to the patriotic volunteer officers and soldiers to execute their plans. The small regular army was in the East and on the frontier.

Hence Cairo was designated as the place of rendezvous for the brigade which it was proposed should be recruited from southern Illinois. The Confederate troops occupied Columbus, Kentucky, and Belmont, Missouri, a point on the opposite side of the Mississippi River. Price's army was being recruited terrorizing and controlling all of southwest Missouri. The city of Cairo, occupying the peninsula point of the State at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, was subject to overflows, the levees encircling the city being its only protection from inundation. The very streets were impassable at times. These facts made the occupation of Cairo by troops almost impracticable, but commanding, as it did, the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, it was imperative that it should be fortified and manned by troops to defend the approach to the north up the Mississippi River. The fathomless mud was not the only unpleasant feature of Cairo at that time. The sudden concentration of thousands of men in the little city, with its half-dozen small hotels and overflowed surroundings, rendered existence as much a problem as that of the occupancy recently of the Canal Zone. Transportation was inadequate to the great number struggling to reach the point from which the great army was [104] eventually to move. Habitations of houses or tents were not obtainable for all these civilians and soldiers congregating there. Quartermasters and commissaries were inefficient, and without any conception of the requirements of a great army and its followers. One single-track railroad with insufficient rolling-stock was to carry all the men, all the supplies, all the horses, all the ordnance and freight necessary for the immediate organization and equipment of the Army of the Mississippi.

The river steamers were of the most primitive character, and, though busy night and day, were unequal to the prodigious emergency. A majority of the men and supplies came from the North under difficulties indescribable. The Illinois Central Railroad was almost the only means of conveying everything to the base of operations. The continuous trains going and coming kept the people along the line of the road in a state of feverish excitement, and impressed them with the stupendous nature of the preparations for the conflict.

The most extravagant imagination had never thought that the little city of wooden houses sitting behind the levees which line the shores of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers at their junction, could ever be of so much importance in the nation's weal. One could hardly realize that it was the key to the valley of the Mississippi, or that the army rendezvoused and equipped within its small limits was destined to “hew its way to the gulf.” The men of the West would not believe that the South would ever establish a blockade or fire upon the “flag of the free.” Finally the shot was heard, and the wide-mouthed cannon mounted on the river-bank at Columbus, turned toward the north, announced the establishment of the barrier. Fired by indignation and patriotism, the people rallied to their country's call like the hosts of Roderick Dhu. Accustomed to pioneering and “roughing it,” they were equal to the exigencies of the times.

The spirits that controlled in the South and Southwest [105] were so daring and so reckless that they would have undertaken any venture, no matter how mad, had they not learned of the preparations to prevent them from coming up the river. The volunteers waited not for the regulation appointments, but, with earnestness that meant success, began at once to acquire the profession of the soldier. The old Belgian muskets, with which they were first armed, served every purpose for mastering the manual of arms; many officers, studying the manual of arms themselves, practised by drilling their commands for hours each day. Cheerfulness, and a willingness to learn to do whatever was to be done, were invariably evinced by the men notwithstanding the revolting feelings that sometimes came over them before they became accustomed to receiving and cooking their own rations, and doing the police duty necessary in camp. As fast therefore as the troops were recruited at different points, they were hurried to Cairo. There they were mustered in regiments ready for organization into brigades. The 18th, 27th, 30th, and 31st-and later the 25th Infantry Volunteers, known as the Lead Mine Regiment from Galena-Swartz's and Taylor's Batteries, and some cavalry were to compose the First Brigade.

Very few of the men or officers of these regiments knew anything whatever of the art of war, except a man here and there who had served in the Mexican War. For the most part they were young men just entering manhood, who had never been away from their homes for any length of time, many of them never having been out of the State. They knew nothing of the hardships that awaited them or the full meaning of enlistment in their country's service. When the time came for them to say good-by to mothers, sisters, wives, and sweethearts, it was most pathetic. I remember once watching the face of a sentinel as he paced his beat and looked with intense disgust at the unloading with iron shovels of the loaves of bread out of a wagon-bed in front of the tent where it was to be issued to the companies. This young [106] man had left a home of comfort and plenty, where his fond and fastidious mother presided. Visions of her delicious cookery, snowy table linen, and transparent china made the loaves, thrown from the shovels to a not over-clean board table, anything but tempting. A few months afterward the forbidding loaves would have been hailed with delight in place of the “hardtack” that had not been softened or rendered more palatable by being carried in a haversack for days.

Doing guard and police duty with a lowering sky above them, and mud and water beneath their feet, made many a soldier sick at heart, and caused his courage to drop in the scale of heroism, when first learning the duties of a son of Mars. The discipline of walking to and fro with a gun on his shoulder in the wee small hours of a stormy night was a different thing from marching away on a gala-day to the tune of “Yankee Doodle,” or with the drums and fifes beating and whistling “The girl I left behind me.”

I witnessed the departure of many of the men of the old 31st from cottages and more pretentious homes. At the sound of the roll-call could be seen great, manly fellows, folding their loved ones in a last fond embrace, and then, with the tears streaming down their blanched cheeks, rushing out of the door, and down the street to step into line and answer “Here,” while their telltale faces betrayed the emotions of their brave hearts. The tearful eyes, pale faces, quivering lips, and sobs of those they were leaving behind; the anguish of the non-combatants who were to guard the hearthstones, care for the dependents, and send cheer to the loved ones gone to the front, told the sad story of what it cost those who volunteered and those who stayed at home.

After marching out of the towns, they found farm wagons and all kinds of vehicles drawn up in a line beside the roads. Into these the “boys” climbed, to be taken to the railroad, because they were destined to have enough of marching on Southern soil. The troops were not allowed to walk when [107] there was no necessity for their doing so. Arriving at the depot they were transferred to the cars, when the last good-bys must be said to those who had accompanied them thus far on their long journey. Reaching Cairo they were deposited on the levee, which, like a great sea-wall, then encircled the city.

Gathering together their little all, they were soon marching to camp to be assigned to tents and begin their duties as soldiers for three years, or during the war, unless sooner discharged by reason of disability. That first night in camp can never be forgotten by a soldier enlisted in time of war: the confusion of being assigned; getting accustomed to the meagre accommodations of tent life; the building of fires; hanging the camp kettle; making the coffee, drinking it out of tin cups; and cooking the rations, eating them from tin plates, without knives, forks, or spoons. To those who had left comfortable homes, presided over by loving mothers and wives, it was a trying initiation into the life they were to lead. The posting of the guard who, in reliefs, were to pace their beats through the weary hours of night, broken only by the dismal call of the hours: “-- o'clock, and all is well!” continuing through rain or shine of the morrow, and of each succeeding day and night was a great trial to men accustomed to following the Franklin maxim of “Early to bed and early to rise.” Police and guard duty, drilling in the falling rain or broiling sun, kept them busy all the time. There was no going where they pleased or declining to obey disagreeable orders; they had to become accustomed to the confinement of staying within the lines; master the manual of arms; keep their clothes and accoutrements clean; appear at dress parade at five o'clock daily; cook their meals, report for drill and guard duty; and observe other details without questioning the reason why. To men who had known no discipline or superior authority, this was very hard and left little opportunity for aught save the homesickness that every soldier experienced. [108]

In the 31st Regiment there were many men whom both Colonel Logan and I had known for years. They were splendid men, but absolutely ignorant of military discipline or the proper deference due superior officers. It took them some time to learn to address an officer by the title of his rank. They had always called Colonel Logan “John,” and me “Mary,” and often greeted us both affectionately by our names without realizing there was any impropriety in the familiarity. One day a soldier whom we shall call “Sol,” a fine specimen of man — a robust, tall, active, cheerful, willing soldier-came to the colonel's tent looking much depressed. He gave awkwardly the military salute. Colonel Logan inquired what was the matter. He said: “John, I have got to go home, but I swear I will be back in three days.” Colonel Logan replied: “What has happened?” “Sol” took out of his pocket a much-blurred and tear-stained letter and said: “Just read that, and you will not refuse to let me go.” This was the letter from his wife:

my dear Sol:
For God sake do come home. I am sick. There is nothing in the house to live on. I can't do a dam thing with the children. The cows got in, and ate up the garden, and everything has gone to the devil and you jist have to come.

Your loving wife, Amanda.

Across the span of fifty years memory brings to mind the amused expression on Colonel Logan's face, as he read this graphic letter. After getting control of himself, he said: “Now, Sol, you know I can not grant you a leave. You know that the reasons your wife gives for wanting you to come would look badly if I sent them up to headquarters. Besides, we are likely to be ordered to the front any day, and you would hate to have it said you were absent from the regiment.” Sol replied: “Now, John, do you really think there is any chance for a fight?” Colonel Logan replied: “Yes.” “Then [109] no furlough for me,” said Sol. The proximity of their homes, the frequent communications with friends, and many other features made the volunteer service at the beginning of the war almost ludicrous.

Day after day they came, till almost every spot of dry ground around the city was covered with the white tents of the boys in blue. The novelty of camp life soon vanished; attacks of illness, unavoidable with so many together in an inhospitable climate, and the discomforts that beset them, brought on an irresistible longing to return to home and friends. But furloughs were not to be thought of with all they had to learn and to do. No law, however, could prevent friends from coming to them, and ere they had been encamped two months, a new army made its appearance. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, wives, and sweethearts came sweeping down in caravans of carriages, wagons, and every conceivable vehicle, and in every imaginable manner, pitching their tents and building their brush houses as near the regiment in which they were interested as the commanding officers would permit. Every moment off duty one could see company officers and men wending their way to the camps outside the lines, where devoted ones were waiting to greet them. Many delicacies and “treats” brought from home were enjoyed during the brief hours of a pass outside the lines.

To add to the discomfort of camp life in muddy Cairo, the measles broke out and spread rapidly. Five hundred of the 31st Regiment (Colonel Logan's) were ill with measles at one time. Medical purveyors were as little skilled as many of the officers in other branches of the service, and knew, if possible, less about providing for the sick. The exigencies of the war at that time had not driven them to a disregard of rights of property-holders in the interest of the army, and property-holders were not anxious to furnish supplies in exchange for the little slips of paper called vouchers, which they feared were of doubtful value. Surgeons and medical purveyors, [110] and, indeed, all the regimental officers, were at a loss to know what to do. Beyond the power to seize and condemn a building for hospital purposes, they could do but little. The supplies in that department had been as heavily drawn upon as any other. Requisitions remained unfilled for days, weeks, and even months. The West was so far from the seat of war that they were the last to receive consideration. Houses large enough for hospital use were hard to get, and in many instances not to be found. There were scarcely enough tents for the troops and none for hospital purposes, and there was no provision for the care of the rapidly increasing number of sick.

Deeply sympathetic, Colonel Logan, of the 31st, could not bear to see the men lying on the damp ground in their tents, so he caused a small hotel, known as the City Hotel, and owned by a Mr. Yocum, to be seized for hospital purposes. The proprietor vacated at once, but as there was no authority to take the hotel furniture for hospital use, there was nothing save the empty rooms and bare floors when the men were brought there. The purveyor's supplies had been exhausted in the establishment of the brigade hospital. The helpless regimental surgeons were in a quandary. Hundreds of the sick were lying rolled up in their blankets, and with nothing but their knapsacks under their heads. Two or three had died, and Colonel Logan was in great distress; something had to be done to render the condition of the men more comfortable.

Despairing of immediate relief through the purveyor's office, I assured Colonel Logan that I could get on the train and go to Carbondale and Marion, sixty miles north of Cairo, and, by appealing to the friends I knew, in thirty-six hours I could secure supplies enough to furnish the hospital with the best of everything, and stock the larder with all the delicacies necessary to the sick. He was so anxious for relief for his men that he decided to let me carry out my suggestion. I [111] was to leave on the first train, which left Cairo at two A. M. The city was under martial law; the provost marshal was Major Kuykendall, of Logan's regiment. At six o'clock P. M. he closed the provost office and returned to the regimental headquarters. Colonel Logan was to get me a pass and send it to me by Captain Edwin S. McCook, who was to take me to the two A. M. train. When we reached the depot and I asked the captain for the pass, he said: “By George, I forgot to get it!” The headquarters were at least two miles away, and there was no time to get a pass. The captain was greatly excited as to how to get me on the train without one. Seeing an old friend come into the depot, who was evidently going on the train, the captain went to him and told him of the dilemma. He said: “Oh, that is all right. I have one for myself and wife, and my wife was ill this morning, and could not accompany me. I will take Mrs. Logan.” They came over and told me of the scheme. I said: “Oh, no, good friends as we are, I could not think of travelling with you as Mrs. Wilson. I am sure I can get on the train without a pass, if you two men will stand on the depot platform and see me try to pass the train guard. If I fail, Captain McCook can take me back to my hotel, and I will wait until to-morrow.” In those days I knew almost every one south of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad. As soon as the train pulled in I went down to the car, and seeing young Donahue standing on the platform as guard, I said: “Donahue, I want to get into that car before the crowd; will you let me in?” He replied: “Yes, you bet I will, Mrs. Logan, but where are you going by yourself these times?” I told him that I was going to Carbondale, our home at that time, and passed into the car. As soon as I was seated, seeing the captain standing on the depot platform, I knocked on the window, and nodded to him that I was all right. Mr. Wilson came into the car soon afterward, and we had a good laugh over the episode. McCook hurried back to camp to tell [112] Colonel Logan the whole story. Later the colonel expressed to me his gratification at my discretion, and told me never to allow myself to be placed in a position that might be misconstrued and bring me many regrets.

Arriving at Carbondale, it required but little time to enlist many volunteers to collect the much-needed comforts. In less than thirty-six hours I had succeeded, by the help of loyal men and women whose friends were in the regiments stationed at Cairo, in collecting car-loads of home-made blankets, pillows, homespun bed linen, jellies, marmalades, wines, fruits, and everything necessary, and more, for the hospital of Colonel Logan's regiment. These blankets were made in bright colors, not unlike the famous “Roman stripes,” and were so showy and comfortable, and attracted so much attention, that the hospital was known during its existence as “The Striped Hospital of the 31st regiment.” Pavilion and hospital tents were afterward invented and used, but in the early days of the war there was nothing of the kind in use in the West. It never occurred to the surgeons to decline anything tendered for the sick and disabled soldiers. The brigade and regimental surgeons were only too glad to accept the generosity of patriotic people, and avail themselves of everything that tended to reduce the mortality to a minimum. We were far enough away to disregard the dilatory action of “red tape” methods, which have been many times responsible for the increased death-rate among sick and wounded men. Regimental surgeons were held responsible for the sick of their respective regiments, and no other class of officers had more trying experiences on account of the inefficiency of the surgeon-general's department during the early part of the Civil War. Had the present system of brigade division and corps hospitals been then established, thousands would have died who were saved through the vigilance of regimental surgeons who knew, and had a personal interest in, every man in the regiment to which he belonged. Many monuments should [113] now mark the spot where noble, self-sacrificing army surgeons sleep that “sleep which knows no waking” until they are called to their reward in a better world.

The generals and colonels swore they would never be able to discipline the troops. They longed to move to the front, or to have the power to order the civilian army to their homes. It was no use; there they stayed till the storms and blasts of approaching winter forced them to say a last good-by and retreat. In many cases, it was literally the last farewell, for the fate of war bore many of the officers and men to that unknown land from which there is no returning.

So time moved on. One day word came that a company stationed at “Big muddy bridge” had completed their three months service and declined to renew their enlistment. Governor Yates urged them to re-enlist, but to no avail. A special train was ordered, and General John A. McClernand, who was in command of the First Brigade, composed of the 22d, 27th, 30th, and 31st Regiments, was directed to go up there and to take Colonel John A. Logan and see if they could not persuade the men to remain in the service. One bright morning our party set out. Arriving at the bridge sixty miles above Cairo, on the Illinois Central Railroad, we got off the train and wandered about the camp of a few tents which the men had occupied while protecting the bridge from the torch of the Southern sympathizers who lived in the vicinity, and who had hoped, by burning it, to delay transportation of troops en route for Cairo, over the Illinois Central Railroad. Mounting a box, General McClernand spoke feelingly to the men, and urged them to “stand by the flag.” Still no signs came from them as to what they should do. Colonel Logan followed McClernand with an appeal to “Come on, boys, fear not death, but dishonor.” Every man shouted: “We will go,” and before the hour had arrived for the train to take the party back to Cairo, one by one the men had re-enlisted [114] and taken the oath to serve for three years, unless sooner discharged by reason of disability or peace.

For weeks regiment after regiment arrived at Cairo, and were assigned the most available spots where tents could possibly be pitched. Every one felt that extensive movements must be contemplated to have occasioned such gigantic preparations. Officers and men were impatient at the routine duties of camp life, and longed for marching orders. At last they were gratified. Orders came that rations were to be cooked, ammunition to be issued, and everything to be made ready for a march-whither they knew not and cared but little, so they were on the move. When the hour for starting arrived they filed out of camp. Marching by companies, they were soon drawn up in a position on the levee, ready to take the transports. The boats came steaming round the point, and rounding to the wharfs all were embarked, as the soldiers imagined, for eventful fields. However, before they had settled down or taken in the situation, the boats put into the Mississippi shore, and they were landed and formed in marching order to push forward across the country.

All was expectancy, as they supposed the enemy was not far distant. They found, however, that it was foraging and not fighting that was before them. Jeff Thompson had collected together large quantities of corn, hay, bacon, etc., for his command of freebooters, which was duly reported to headquarters, and General Grant determined to send over there and press the farmers into hauling to the river all they could bring away in boats, and to destroy the rest. It was amusing to hear the soldiers talking about the expedition. Their idea then of war was that all engagements between contending forces must occur upon a field, where each army would be drawn up in a line in strict accordance with military tactics.

They freely canvassed the question of ability to keep their “courage up,” or to prevent their legs from carrying them in [115] the opposite direction when commanded to charge bayonets. Hitherto the enemy had not materialized; but as soldiering in camp had proved more real than the holiday training-day of militia service, they began to fear the enchantment of distance between them and the enemy was so rapidly shortening that they must soon face the foe, or play the coward; and while impatience had characterized their conversation, they did not exactly relish the prospect of an engagement.

When, however, they found it was nothing more serious than attacking corn-cribs and haymows, their daring impatience returned, and expressions of disgust were heard from every direction. For many days they continued the monotonous duties of camp life, with continuous rain and mud to contend with, till November 6, when again orders came for cooked rations and everything to be put in readiness for a bona-fide expedition in pursuit of the enemy. The troops were quietly informed that this time they would be initiated into the mysteries of real war. All was bustle and confusion till each regiment was in line on the levee in the order in which they were to embark. Hurrying on board the transports, they waved a good-by to the multitude of men, women, and children who had flocked to the levees for a last adieu to fathers, husbands, brothers, or sweethearts. As they sailed away the band played “We are coming, father Abraham,” and other patriotic airs.

All the next day, the 7th of November, 1861, the sound of cannonading told sadly and painfully that the battle of Belmont was on. The streets and levees of Cairo were thronged with anxious people trembling for the morrow, knowing only that some loved one was in the fight. Silently we trod the levees, trying to look beyond the “river bend,” hoping to catch a glimpse of the returning transports. They knew from the direction of the sound of the firing that the troops were on the Missouri side, and that the gaping guns stationed on the shore at Columbus would prevent the frail wooden [116] crafts, or even the gunboats, from going below that point. They were sure the boats would return. Hour after hour rolled slowly away, and still no tidings save the continuous knell of the cannon's roar. Darkness cut off every hope of seeing anything save the lights on the vessels, should they appear. Nothing daunted, still we lingered and watched. Finally, toward the early dawn a light like a meteor was seen to dart round the bend, another and still another came, until at last the outline of the fleet could be seen. The nearer they approached, the more intense the agony of the anxious watchers on shore. Slowly rounding in, the vessels soon touched the wharf, and the weary and depleted regiments solemnly disembarked and marched to the tented quarters they had quitted thirty-six hours before.

Eagerly the anxious people, myself among them, gazed at every officer and man as he walked the gangway from the boat to the wharf, each looking for some friend. Exclamations of joy rang out as they were recognized among the safe and sound as they passed. Again, cries of distress were heard as first one and then another was missed from their places in the lines. Then came the first prisoners of war I ever saw, and they were so forlorn, so thinly clad, so pitiful-looking, as they stood shivering on the hurricane deck, that my heart went out to them in the deepest sympathy. After the prisoners were all off, the civilians who failed to see their friends in the lines were allowed to go on board the boats, to find them among the wounded, dying, or dead, as they lay stretched in the cabins and on the decks of the vessels.

With tear-dimmed eyes, blanched faces, and quivering lips the friends moved cautiously from one to another in search of some loved one among the unfortunate. All the pomp and circumstance of chivalry and military display had vanished; naught but the agony of pain and terror of death remained.

Tenderly covering the faces of the dead with anything we [117] could get, and trying to soothe the suffering of the wounded, brave men and women worked unceasingly until ambulances and wagons came and took the unfortunate ones away to the hospitals which had been hastily prepared for the sick and disabled so suddenly assigned to them. Hotels and private houses had been seized, and the inefficient purveyors and quartermasters had put them in as good condition as the meagre and ill-assorted supplies would permit. For days and weeks physicians, surgeons, and volunteer nurses kept their constant vigil, trying to save as many as possible from the roll of the dead. After the battle of Belmont the wounded were brought to the “Striped Hospital,” and the casualties of their first battle were evident in the wounded, who were destined to submit to amputations of arms and legs, Illinois soldiers beginning their painful experiences in real war before they left Cairo. It was a sad sight to see strong men pleading with tears in their eyes for a foot or an arm that must be taken off. Many flinched not under fire on the field, but when told they must part with a member of their bodies by the surgeon's knife and saw they wept like children, more than one refusing to lose a limb, preferring, as many expressed it, to lose their lives and be “buried all at once.” Inexperienced surgeons were too hasty in making amputations, and needlessly sacrificed limbs which might have been saved. The men were all so cheerful after the battle, and tried so hard to encourage each other, that it was a pleasure to minister to their wants as volunteer nurses.

Captain Looney, of Company A of the 31st, Colonel Logan's regiment, was taken to our rooms in a private house, he having been severely wounded in the shoulder. After weeks of suffering he was sent to his home, where for many months he hovered between life and death; though he lived many years afterward, he was never again fit for duty, the service thereby losing one of the most gallant of men.

One day, in the brigade hospital, I saw a captain of an [118] Iowa regiment who had been wounded through the left breast sitting up on his cot writing to his wife. He was as bright and happy as could be. Mother Bickerdike, a volunteer nurse who followed the Army of the West from Cairo to the grand review, came in with a bowl of broth for him, which he took and drank with relish, after which I assisted him in getting into a comfortable position to resume his writing on a pad. He suddenly turned very pale and we laid him on his pillow. He looked up with a smile on his face and breathed his last. We were horrified and ran for the surgeon, who came, but too late; all was over with the brave man. Upon examination the surgeon found the minie ball had lodged just above the lung, and in moving it had dropped in such a way as to produce instant death. Other pathetic scenes of those days can never be erased from my memory.

Fortunately the ludicrous and the melancholy go hand in hand or we should not be able to endure the sadness of life. It was very hard for many of the young men to brook the restraint and the monotony of camp life and a soldier's duty, so they used to invent all sorts of excuses to get down into the city of Cairo. One evening I was sitting in Colonel Logan's tent when a young soldier whom we had known before his enlistment came to the door and said that his sister was coming to Cairo on a night train, and as she was unaccustomed to travelling he wished to go down to the city to await her arrival and desired permission for himself and comrade to go. It was an unusual request and should have been made through his captain. Colonel Logan was suspicious that it was not quite a straight story, but he ordered a pass to be given them. He then sent his adjutant to the soldier's captain with a request that he send Colonel Logan a corporal and a soldier. These he ordered to follow the first two, see where they went, and what they did, and if found in any improper place to arrest and bring the soldiers back to the guardhouse of the camp, and leave them there till ten o'clock on [119] the following morning. It was discovered that they were not expecting friends on the train and that they were in for a “high old time,” as the corporal reported. The corporal waited until they were both quite drunk, then he arrested them and brought them to the guard-house as ordered. The next morning, when they were marched to the colonel's tent, they were the worst-looking culprits that could be imagined, and when Colonel Logan, with a serious face, inquired if the sister had arrived, where she was, and such questions, the poor fellow looked as if he were under sentence of death. He acknowledged the fraud he had practised and said he was willing to suffer any punishment the colonel might inflict; that he had forfeited all respect by lying and had nothing to say in extenuation of his conduct. The colonel looked at him sternly, administered a lecture on lying and his detestation of liars, and then ordered that the offenders should dig up by the roots an enormous stump which was in the rear of his tent, where he could see them while they worked. They saluted and were marched off to obtain the tools to begin their work, which it took them some days to finish. They said they did not mind the work, but to be obliged to do it under the eye of the colonel whom they had deceived was a bitter trial, but a lesson that served them through the war, and both were as gallant men as ever faced a cannon. They used often to laugh over this escapade after having won their shoulder-straps for gallantry on the field.

Before another expedition was to be undertaken a new commander was ordered to Cairo. The new commander flew from regiment to regiment. He had relieved General Oglesby and put him in command of Bird's Point on the opposite side of the river. He was no other than the hitherto unknown General U. S. Grant. It was announced that he would at once inspect every regiment in and around Cairo, to inform himself of their efficiency and the full strength of his forces. Hurriedly, company and regimental officers began [120] preparing for his visit. Soldiers polished up their muskets and accoutrements, brushed their shoddy uniforms, and were speedily ready to be “ordered out.” Expecting every moment that General Grant and staff would appear in full uniform and much military display, they waited impatiently. Imagine their surprise when informed that the unpretending, sturdy gentleman in citizen's dress who had just ridden by on a very ordinary clay-bank horse, attended by one officer and one or two of the officers on duty at general headquarters, was General Grant. Going directly to the colonel's headquarters, he introduced himself, and signified his desire to go through the quarters of the regiment and see the men of his command. Leaving their horses at each colonel's tent, and accompanied by that officer, they walked through the company aisles and personally inspected everything and every man in camp. By this businesslike procedure, void of all display and pageantry, General Grant won the confidence and admiration of officers and men. He afterward said that they were as fine a body of men as he had ever seen; that he would trust them anywhere to meet any equal number in any engagement.

Almost continual drilling and maneuvering filled up every hour for many days subsequent. The soldiers had little time for “larks” or homesickness. The malarious climate, however, began to tell upon the troops, and many became seriously sick.

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