Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Complete Prose Works by Walt Whitman

Part 2 out of 13

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

to look at an awful wound they were probing. He turn'd pale, and in a
moment more he had fainted away and fallen to the floor.


_June 29._--Just before sundown this evening a very large cavalry
force went by--a fine sight. The men evidently had seen service. First
came a mounted band of sixteen bugles, drums and cymbals, playing wild
martial tunes--made my heart jump. Then the principal officers, then
company after company, with their officers at their heads, making of
course the main part of the cavalcade; then a long train of men with
led horses, lots of mounted negroes with special horses--and a long
string of baggage-wagons, each drawn by four horses--and then a motley
rear guard.

It was a pronouncedly warlike and gay show; the sabres clank'd, the
men look'd young and healthy and strong; the electric tramping of so
many horses on the hard road, and the gallant bearing, fine seat, and
bright faced appearance of a thousand and more handsome young American
men, were so good to see. An hour later another troop went by,
smaller in numbers, perhaps three hundred men. They too look'd like
serviceable men, campaigners used to field and fight.

_July 3_.--This forenoon, for more than an hour, again long strings
of cavalry, several regiments, very fine men and horses, four or five
abreast. I saw them in Fourteenth street, coming in town from north.
Several hundred extra horses, some of the mares with colts, trotting
along. (Appear'd to be a number of prisoners too.) How inspiriting
always the cavalry regiments. Our men are generally well mounted, feel
good, are young, gay on the saddle, their blankets in a roll behind
them, their sabres clanking at their sides. This noise and movement
and the tramp of many horses' hoofs has a curious effect upon one. The
bugles play--presently you hear them afar off, deaden'd, mix'd with
other noises. Then just as they had all pass'd, a string of ambulances
commenc'd from the other way, moving up Fourteenth street north,
slowly wending along, bearing a large lot of wounded to the hospitals.


_July 4th_.--The weather to-day, upon the whole, is very fine, warm,
but from a smart rain last night, fresh enough, and no dust, which
is a great relief for this city. I saw the parade about noon,
Pennsylvania avenue, from Fifteenth street down toward the capitol.
There were three regiments of infantry, (I suppose the ones doing
patrol duty here,) two or three societies of Odd Fellows, a lot of
children in barouches, and a squad of policemen. (A useless imposition
upon the soldiers--they have work enough on their backs without piling
the like of this.)

As I went down the Avenue, saw a big flaring placard on the bulletin
board of a newspaper office, announcing "Glorious Victory for the
Union Army!" Meade had fought Lee at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,
yesterday and day before, and repuls'd him most signally, taken 3,000
prisoners, &c. (I afterwards saw Meade's despatch, very modest, and a
sort of order of the day from the President himself, quite religious,
giving thanks to the Supreme, and calling on the people to do the

I walk'd on to Armory hospital--took along with me several bottles
of blackberry and cherry syrup, good and strong, but innocent. Went
through several of the wards, announc'd to the soldiers the news from
Meade, and gave them all a good drink of the syrups with ice water,
quite refreshing--prepar'd it all myself, and serv'd it around.
Meanwhile the Washington bells are ringing their sun-down peals for
Fourth of July, and the usual fusilades of boys' pistols, crackers,
and guns.


I am writing this, nearly sundown, watching a cavalry company (acting
Signal service,) just come in through a shower, making their night's
camp ready on some broad, vacant ground, a sort of hill, in full view
opposite my window. There are the men in their yellow-striped jackets.
All are dismounted; the freed horses stand with drooping heads and
wet sides; they are to be led off presently in groups, to water. The
little wall-tents and shelter tents spring up quickly. I see the fires
already blazing, and pots and kettles over them. Some among the men
are driving in tent-poles, wielding their axes with strong, slow
blows. I see great huddles of horses, bundles of hay, groups of men
(some with unbuckled sabres yet on their sides,) a few officers, piles
of wood, the flames of the fires, saddles, harness, &c. The smoke
streams upward, additional men arrive and dismount--some drive in
stakes, and tie their horses to them; some go with buckets for water,
some are chopping wood, and so on.

_July 6th_.--A steady rain, dark and thick and warm. A train of
six-mule wagons has just pass'd bearing pontoons, great square-end
flatboats, and the heavy planking for overlaying them. We hear that
the Potomac above here is flooded, and are wondering whether Lee will
be able to get back across again, or whether Meade will indeed break
him to pieces. The cavalry camp on the hill is a ceaseless field of
observation for me. This forenoon there stand the horses, tether'd
together, dripping, steaming, chewing their hay. The men emerge from
their tents, dripping also. The fires are half quench'd.

_July 10th_.--Still the camp opposite--perhaps fifty or sixty tents.
Some of the men are cleaning their sabres (pleasant to-day,) some
brushing boots, some laying off, reading, writing--some cooking, some
sleeping. On long temporary cross-sticks back of the tents are cavalry
accoutrements--blankets and overcoats are hung out to air--there are
the squads of horses tether'd, feeding, continually stamping and
whisking their tails to keep off flies. I sit long in my third
story window and look at the scene--a hundred little things going
on--peculiar objects connected with the camp that could not be
described, any one of them justly, without much minute drawing and
coloring in words.


This afternoon, July 22d, I have spent a long time with Oscar F.
Wilber, company G, 154th New York, low with chronic diarrhoea, and
a bad wound also. He asked me to read him a chapter in the New
Testament. I complied, and ask'd him what I should read. He said,
"Make your own choice." I open'd at the close of one of the first
books of the evangelists, and read the chapters describing the latter
hours of Christ, and the scenes at the crucifixion. The poor, wasted
young man ask'd me to read the following chapter also, how Christ rose
again. I read very slowly, for Oscar was feeble. It pleased him
very much, yet the tears were in his eyes. He ask'd me if I enjoy'd
religion. I said, "Perhaps not, my dear, in the way you mean, and yet,
may-be, it is the same thing." He said, "It is my chief reliance." He
talk'd of death, and said he did not fear it. I said, "Why, Oscar,
don't you think you will get well?" He said, "I may, but it is not
probable." He spoke calmly of his condition. The wound was very bad,
it discharg'd much. Then the diarrhoea had prostrated him, and I felt
that he was even then the same as dying. He behaved very manly and
affectionate. The kiss I gave him as I was about leaving he return'd
fourfold. He gave me his mother's address, Mrs. Sally D. Wilber,
Alleghany pest-office, Cattaraugus county, N. Y. I had several such
interviews with him. He died a few days after the one just described.


_August 8th_.--To-night, as I was trying to keep cool, sitting by a
wounded soldier in Armory-square, I was attracted by some pleasant
singing in an adjoining ward. As my soldier was asleep, I left him,
and entering the ward where the music was, I walk'd halfway down
and took a seat by the cot of a young Brooklyn friend, S. R., badly
wounded in the hand at Chancellorsville, and who has suffer'd much,
but at that moment in the evening was wide awake and comparatively
easy. He had turn'd over on his left side to get a better view of the
singers, but the mosquito-curtains of the adjoining cots obstructed
the sight. I stept round and loop'd them all up, so that he had a
clear show, and then sat down again by him, and look'd and listen'd.
The principal singer was a young lady-nurse of one of the wards,
accompanying on a melodeon, and join'd by the lady-nurses of other
wards. They sat there, making a charming group, with their handsome,
healthy faces, and standing up a little behind them were some ten or
fifteen of the convalescent soldiers, young men, nurses, &c., with
books in their hands, singing. Of course it was not such a performance
as the great soloists at the New York opera house take a hand in, yet
I am not sure but I receiv'd as much pleasure under the circumstances,
sitting there, as I have had from the best Italian compositions,
express'd by world-famous performers. The men lying up and down the
hospital, in their cots, (some badly wounded--some never to rise
thence,) the cots themselves, with their drapery of white curtains,
and the shadows down the lower and upper parts of the ward; then the
silence of the men, and the attitudes they took--the whole was a sight
to look around upon again and again. And there sweetly rose those
voices up to the high, whitewash'd wooden roof, and pleasantly the
roof sent it all back again. They sang very well, mostly quaint old
songs and declamatory hymns, to fitting tunes. Here, for instance:

My days are swiftly gliding by, and I a pilgrim stranger,
Would not detain them as they fly, those hours of toil and danger;
For O we stand on Jordan's strand, our friends are passing over,
And just before, the shining shore we may almost discover.
We'll gird our loins my brethren dear, our distant home discerning,
Our absent Lord has left us word, let every lamp be burning,
For O we stand on Jordan's strand, our friends are passing over,
And just before, the shining shore we may almost discover.


_August 12th_.--I see the President almost every day, as I happen to
live where he passes to or from his lodgings out of town. He never
sleeps at the White House during the hot season, but has quarters at
a healthy location some three miles north of the city, the Soldiers'
home, a United States military establishment. I saw him this morning
about 8 1/2 coming in to business, riding on Vermont avenue, near L
street. He always has a company of twenty-five or thirty cavalry, with
sabres drawn and held upright over their shoulders. They say this
guard was against his personal wish, but he let his counselors have
their way. The party makes no great show in uniform or horses. Mr.
Lincoln on the saddle generally rides a good-sized, easy-going gray
horse, is dress'd in plain black, somewhat rusty and dusty, wears a
black stiff hat, and looks about as ordinary in attire, &c., as the
commonest man. A lieutenant, with yellow straps, rides at his left,
and following behind, two by two, come the cavalry men, in their
yellow-striped jackets. They are generally going at a slow trot, as
that is the pace set them by the one they wait upon. The sabres and
accoutrements clank, and the entirely unornamental _cortege_ as it
trots towards Lafayette square arouses no sensation, only some curious
stranger stops and gazes. I see very plainly ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S dark
brown face, with the deep-cut lines, the eyes, always to me with a
deep latent sadness in the expression. We have got so that we exchange
bows, and very cordial ones. Sometimes the President goes and comes in
an open barouche. The cavalry always accompany him, with drawn sabres.
Often I notice as he goes out evenings--and sometimes in the morning,
when he returns early--he turns off and halts at the large and
handsome residence of the Secretary of War, on K street, and holds
conference there. If in his barouche, I can see from my window he does
not alight, but sits in his vehicle, and Mr. Stanton comes out to
attend him. Sometimes one of his sons, a boy of ten or twelve,
accompanies him, riding at his right on a pony. Earlier in the summer
I occasionally saw the President and his wife, toward the latter part
of the afternoon, out in a barouche, on a pleasure ride through the
city. Mrs. Lincoln was dress'd in complete black, with a long crape
veil. The equipage is of the plainest kind, only two horses, and they
nothing extra. They pass'd me once very close, and I saw the President
in the face fully, as they were moving slowly, and his look, though
abstracted, happen'd to be directed steadily in my eye. He bow'd and
smiled, but far beneath his smile I noticed well the expression I
have alluded to. None of the artists or pictures has caught the deep,
though subtle and indirect expression of this man's face. There is
something else there. One of the great portrait painters of two or
three centuries ago is needed.


There has lately been much suffering here from heat; we have had it
upon us now eleven days. I go around with an umbrella and a fan. I saw
two cases of sun-stroke yesterday, one in Pennsylvania avenue, and
another in Seventh street. The City railroad company loses some horses
every day. Yet Washington is having a livelier August, and is probably
putting in a more energetic and satisfactory summer, than ever before
during its existence. There is probably more human electricity, more
population to make it, more business, more light-heartedness,
than ever before. The armies that swiftly circumambiated from
Fredericksburgh--march'd, struggled, fought, had out their mighty
clinch and hurl at Gettysburg--wheel'd, circumambiated again, return'd
to their ways, touching us not, either at their going or coming. And
Washington feels that she has pass'd the worst; perhaps feels that she
is henceforth mistress. So here she sits with her surrounding hills
spotted with guns, and is conscious of a character and identity
different from what it was five or six short weeks ago, and very
considerably pleasanter and prouder.


Soldiers, soldiers, soldiers, you meet everywhere about the city,
often superb-looking men, though invalids dress'd in worn uniforms,
and carrying canes or crutches. I often have talks with them,
occasionally quite long and interesting. One, for instance, will have
been all through the peninsula under McClellan--narrates to me the
fights, the marches, the strange, quick changes of that eventful
campaign, and gives glimpses of many things untold in any official
reports or books or journals. These, indeed, are the things that are
genuine and precious. The man was there, has been out two years, has
been through a dozen fights, the superfluous flesh of talking is long
work'd off him, and he gives me little but the hard meat and sinew.
I find it refreshing, these hardy, bright, intuitive, American young
men, (experienc'd soldiers with all their youth.) The vocal play and
significance moves one more than books. Then there hangs something
majestic about a man who has borne his part in battles, especially if
he is very quiet regarding it when you desire him to unbosom. I am
continually lost at the absence of blowing and blowers among these
old-young American militaires. I have found some man or other who has
been in every battle since the war began, and have talk'd with them
about each one in every part of the United States, and many of the
engagements on the rivers and harbors too. I find men here from every
State in the Union, without exception. (There are more Southerners,
especially border State men, in the Union army than is generally
supposed. [A]) I now doubt whether one can get a fair idea of
what this war practically is, or what genuine America is, and her
character, without some such experience as this I am having.


Another characteristic scene of that dark and bloody 1863, from notes
of my visit to Armory-square hospital, one hot but pleasant summer
day. In ward H we approach the cot of a young lieutenant of one of the
Wisconsin regiments. Tread the bare board floor lightly here, for the
pain and panting of death are in this cot. I saw the lieutenant when
he was first brought here from Chancellorsville, and have been with
him occasionally from day to day and night to night. He had been
getting along pretty well till night before last, when a sudden
hemorrhage that could not be stopt came upon him, and to-day it still
continues at intervals. Notice that water-pail by the side of the bed,
with a quantity of blood and bloody pieces of muslin, nearly full;
that tells the story. The poor young man is struggling painfully for
breath, his great dark eyes with a glaze already upon them, and the
choking faint but audible in his throat. An attendant sits by him, and
will not leave him till the last; yet little or nothing can be done.
He will die here in an hour or two, without the presence of kith or
kin. Meantime the ordinary chat and business of[6] the ward a little
way off goes on indifferently. Some of the inmates are laughing and
joking, others are playing checkers or cards, others are reading, &c.

I have noticed through most of the hospitals that as long as there is
any chance for a man, no matter how bad he may be, the surgeon and
nurses work hard, sometimes with curious tenacity, for his life,
doing everything, and keeping somebody by him to execute the doctor's
orders, and minister to him every minute night and day. See that
screen there. As you advance through the dusk of early candle-light, a
nurse will step forth on tip-toe, and silently but imperiously forbid
you to make any noise, or perhaps to come near at all. Some soldier's
life is flickering there, suspended between recovery and death.
Perhaps at this moment the exhausted frame has just fallen into a
light sleep that a step might shake. You must retire. The neighboring
patients must move in their stocking feet. I have been several times
struck with such mark'd efforts--everything bent to save a life from
the very grip of the destroyer. But when that grip is once firmly
fix'd, leaving no hope or chance at all, the surgeon abandons the
patient. If it is a case where stimulus is any relief, the nurse gives
milk-punch or brandy, or whatever is wanted, _ad libitum_. There is no
fuss made. Not a bit of sentimentalism or whining have I seen about a
single death-bed in hospital or on the field, but generally impassive
indifference. All is over, as far as any efforts can avail; it is
useless to expend emotions or labors. While there is a prospect they
strive hard--at least most surgeons do; but death certain and evident,
they yield the field.


[6]MR. GARFIELD (_In the House of Representatives, April 15,'79_.) "Do
gentlemen know that (leaving out all the border States) there were
fifty regiments and seven companies of white men in our army fighting
for the Union from the States that went into rebellion? Do they know
that from the single State of Kentucky more Union soldiers fought
under our flag than Napoleon took into the battle of Waterloo? more
than Wellington took with all the allied armies against Napoleon? Do
they remember that 186,000 color'd men fought under our flag against
the rebellion and for the Union, and that of that number 90,000 were
from the States which went into rebellion?"


_Aug., Sept., and Oct., '63._--I am in the habit of going to all, and
to Fairfax seminary, Alexandria, and over Long bridge to the great
Convalescent camp. The journals publish a regular directory of them
--a long list. As a specimen of almost any one of the larger of these
hospitals, fancy to yourself a space of three to twenty acres of
ground, on which are group'd ten or twelve very large wooden barracks,
with, perhaps, a dozen or twenty, and sometimes more than that number,
small buildings, capable altogether of accommodating from five hundred
to a thousand or fifteen hundred persons. Sometimes these wooden
barracks or wards, each of them perhaps from a hundred to a hundred
and fifty feet long, are rang'd in a straight row, evenly fronting
the street; others are plann'd so as to form an immense V; and others
again are ranged around a hollow square. They make altogether a
huge cluster, with the additional tents, extra wards for contagious
diseases, guard-houses, sutler's stores, chaplain's house; in the
middle will probably be an edifice devoted to the offices of the
surgeon in charge and the ward surgeons, principal attaches, clerks,
&c. The wards are either letter'd alphabetically, ward G, ward K, or
else numerically, 1, 2, 3, &c. Each has its ward surgeon and corps
of nurses. Of course, there is, in the aggregate, quite a muster of
employes, and over all the surgeon in charge. Here in Washington,
when these army hospitals are all fill'd, (as they have been already
several times,) they contain a population more numerous in itself than
the whole of the Washington of ten or fifteen years ago. Within sight
of the capitol, as I write, are some thirty or forty such collections,
at times holding from fifty to seventy thousand men. Looking from any
eminence and studying the topography in my rambles, I use them as
landmarks. Through the rich August verdure of the trees, see that
white group of buildings off yonder in the outskirts; then another
cluster half a mile to the left of the first; then another a mile to
the right, and another a mile beyond, and still another between us
and the first. Indeed, we can hardly look in any direction but these
clusters are dotting the landscape and environs. That little town, as
you might suppose it, off there on the brow of a hill, is indeed a
town, but of wounds, sickness, and death. It is Finley hospital,
northeast of the city, on Kendall green, as it used to be call'd. That
other is Campbell hospital. Both are large establishments. I have
known these two alone to have from two thousand to twenty-five hundred
inmates. Then there is Carver hospital, larger still, a wall'd and
military city regularly laid out, and guarded by squads of sentries.
Again, off east, Lincoln hospital, a still larger one; and half a mile
further Emory hospital. Still sweeping the eye around down the river
toward Alexandria, we see, to the right, the locality where the
Convalescent camp stands, with its five, eight, or sometimes ten
thousand inmates. Even all these are but a portion. The Harewood,
Mount Pleasant, Armory-square, Judiciary hospitals, are some of the
rest, and all large collections.


_October 20th_.--To-night, after leaving the hospital at 10 o'clock,
(I had been on self-imposed duty some five hours, pretty closely
confined,) I wander'd a long time around Washington. The night was
sweet, very clear, sufficiently cool, a voluptuous halfmoon, slightly
golden, the space near it of a transparent blue-gray tinge. I walk'd
up Pennsylvania avenue, and then to Seventh street, and a long while
around the Patent-office. Somehow it look'd rebukefully strong,
majestic, there in the delicate moonlight. The sky, the planets, the
constellations all so bright, so calm, so expressively silent, so
soothing, after those hospital scenes. I wander'd to and fro till the
moist moon set, long after midnight.


Every now and then, in hospital or camp, there are beings I
meet--specimens of unworldliness, disinterestedness, and animal purity
and heroism--perhaps some unconscious Indianian, or from Ohio or
Tennessee--on whose birth the calmness of heaven seems to have
descended, and whose gradual growing up, whatever the circumstances
of work-life or change, or hardship, or small or no education that
attended it, the power of a strange spiritual sweetness, fibre and
inward health, have also attended. Something veil'd and abstracted is
often a part of the manners of these beings. I have met them, I say,
not seldom in the army, in camp, and in the hospitals. The Western
regiments contain many of them. They are often young men, obeying
the events and occasions about them, marching, soldiering, righting,
foraging, cooking, working on farms or at some trade before the
war--unaware of their own nature, (as to that, who is aware of his own
nature?) their companions only understanding that they are different
from the rest, more silent, "something odd about them," and apt to go
off and meditate and muse in solitude.


Among other sights are immense droves of cattle with their drivers,
passing through the streets of the city. Some of the men have a way
of leading the cattle by a peculiar call, a wild, pensive hoot, quite
musical, prolong'd, indescribable, sounding something between the
cooing of a pigeon and the hoot of an owl. I like to stand and look at
the sight of one of these immense droves--a little way off--(as the
dust is great.) There are always men on horseback, cracking their
whips and shouting--the cattle low--some obstinate ox or steer
attempts to escape--then a lively scene--the mounted men, always
excellent riders and on good horses, dash after the recusant, and
wheel and turn--a dozen mounted drovers, their great slouch'd,
broad-brim'd hats, very picturesque--another dozen on foot--everybody
cover'd with dust--long goads in their hands--an immense drove of
perhaps 1000 cattle--the shouting, hooting, movement, &c.


To add to other troubles, amid the confusion of this great army of
sick, it is almost impossible for a stranger to find any friend or
relative, unless he has the patient's specific address to start upon.
Besides the directory printed in the newspapers here, there are one
or two general directories of the hospitals kept at provost's
head-quarters, but they are nothing like complete; they are never up
to date, and, as things are, with the daily streams of coming and
going and changing, cannot be. I have known cases, for instance such
as a farmer coming here from northern New York to find a wounded
brother, faithfully hunting round for a week, and then compell'd to
leave and go home without getting any trace of him. When he got home
he found a letter from the brother giving the right address.


CULPEPPER, VA., _Feb. '64._--Here I am FRONT pretty well down toward
the extreme front. Three or four days ago General S., who is now in
chief command, (I believe Meade is absent, sick,) moved a strong
force southward from camp as if intending business. They went to the
Rapidan; there has since been some manoeuvering and a little fighting,
but nothing of consequence. The telegraphic accounts given Monday
morning last, make entirely too much of it, I should say. What
General S. intended we here know not, but we trust in that competent
commander. We were somewhat excited, (but not so very much either,) on
Sunday, during the day and night, as orders were sent out to pack
up and harness, and be ready to evacuate, to fall back towards
Washington. But I was very sleepy and went to bed. Some tremendous
shouts arousing me during the night, I went forth and found it was
from the men above mention'd, who were returning. I talk'd with some
of the men; as usual I found them full of gayety, endurance, and many
fine little outshows, the signs of the most excellent good manliness
of the world. It was a curious sight to see those shadowy columns
moving through the night. I stood unobserv'd in the darkness and
watch'd them long. The mud was very deep. The men had their usual
burdens, overcoats, knapsacks, guns and blankets. Along and along they
filed by me, with often a laugh, a song, a cheerful word, but never
once a murmur. It may have been odd, but I never before so realized
the majesty and reality of the American people _en masse_. It fell
upon me like a great awe. The strong ranks moved neither fast nor
slow. They had march'd seven or eight miles already through the
slipping unctuous mud. The brave First corps stopt here. The equally
brave Third corps moved on to Brandy station. The famous Brooklyn 14th
are here, guarding the town. You see their red legs actively moving
everywhere. Then they have a theatre of their own here. They give
musical performances, nearly everything done capitally. Of course
the audience is a jam. It is good sport to attend one of these
entertainments of the 14th. I like to look around at the soldiers, and
the general collection in front of the curtain, more than the scene on
the stage.


One of the things to note here now is the arrival of the paymaster
with his strong box, and the payment of bounties to veterans
re-enlisting. Major H. is here to-day, with a small mountain of
greenbacks, rejoicing the hearts of the 2d division of the First
corps. In the midst of a rickety shanty, behind a little table, sit
the major and clerk Eldridge, with the rolls before them, and much
moneys. A re-enlisted man gets in cash about $200 down, (and heavy
instalments following, as the pay-days arrive, one after another.) The
show of the men crowding around is quite exhilarating; I like to
stand and look. They feel elated, their pockets full, and the ensuing
furlough, the visit home. It is a scene of sparkling eyes and flush'd
cheeks. The soldier has many gloomy and harsh experiences, and this
makes up for some of them. Major H. is order'd to pay first all the
re-enlisted men of the First corps their bounties and back pay, and
then the rest. You hear the peculiar sound of the rustling of the new
and crisp greenbacks by the hour, through the nimble fingers of the
major and my friend clerk E.


About the excitement of Sunday, and the orders to be ready to start,
I have heard since that the said orders came from some cautious minor
commander, and that the high principalities knew not and thought not
of any such move; which is likely. The rumor and fear here intimated a
long circuit by Lee, and flank attack on our right. But I cast my eyes
at the mud, which was then at its deepest and palmiest condition, and
retired composedly to rest. Still it is about time for Culpepper to
have a change. Authorities have chased each other here like clouds in
a stormy sky. Before the first Bull Run this was the rendezvous and
camp of instruction of the secession troops. I am stopping at the
house of a lady who has witness'd all the eventful changes of the war,
along this route of contending armies. She is a widow, with a family
of young children, and lives here with her sister in a large handsome
house. A number of army officers board with them.


Dilapidated, fenceless, and trodden with war as Virginia is, wherever
I move across her surface, I find myself rous'd to surprise and
admiration. What capacity for products, improvements, human life,
nourishment and expansion. Everywhere that I have been in the Old
Dominion, (the subtle mockery of that title now!) such thoughts
have fill'd me. The soil is yet far above the average of any of the
northern States. And how full of breadth the scenery, everywhere
distant mountains, everywhere convenient rivers. Even yet prodigal in
forest woods, and surely eligible for all the fruits, orchards, and
flowers. The skies and atmosphere most luscious, as I feel certain,
from more than a year's residence in the State, and movements hither
and yon. I should say very healthy, as a general thing. Then a rich
and elastic quality, by night and by day. The sun rejoices in his
strength, dazzling and burning, and yet, to me, never unpleasantly
weakening. It is not the panting tropical heat, but invigorates. The
north tempers it. The nights are often unsurpassable. Last evening
(Feb. 8,) I saw the first of the new moon, the outlined old moon clear
along with it; the sky and air so clear, such transparent hues of
color, it seem'd to me I had never really seen the new moon before. It
was the thinnest cut crescent possible. It hung delicate just above
the sulky shadow of the Blue mountains. Ah, if it might prove an omen
and good prophecy for this unhappy State.


I am back again in Washington, on my regular daily and nightly rounds.
Of course there are many specialties. Dotting a ward here and there
are always cases of poor fellows, long-suffering under obstinate
wounds, or weak and dishearten'd from typhoid fever, or the like;
mark'd cases, needing special and sympathetic nourishment. These I sit
down and either talk to, or silently cheer them up. They always like
it hugely, (and so do I.) Each case has its peculiarities, and needs
some new adaptation. I have learnt to thus conform--learnt a good deal
of hospital wisdom. Some of the poor young chaps, away from home for
the first time in their lives, hunger and thirst for affection; this
is sometimes the only thing that will reach their condition. The men
like to have a pencil, and something to write in. I have given them
cheap pocket-diaries, and almanacs for 1864, interleav'd with blank
paper. For reading I generally have some old pictorial magazines or
story papers--they are always acceptable. Also the morning or evening
papers of the day. The best books I do not give, but lend to read
through the wards, and then take them to others, and so on; they are
very punctual about returning the books. In these wards, or on the
field, as I thus continue to go round, I have come to adapt myself
to each emergency, after its kind or call, however trivial, however
solemn, every one justified and made real under its circumstances
--not only visits and cheering talk and little gifts--not only washing
and dressing wounds, (I have some cases where the patient is unwilling
any one should do this but me)--but passages from the Bible,
expounding them, prayer at the bedside, explanations of doctrine, &c.
(I think I see my friends smiling at this confession, but I was never
more in earnest in my life.) In camp and everywhere, I was in the
habit of reading or giving recitations to the men. They were very fond
of it, and liked declamatory poetical pieces. We would gather in a
large group by ourselves, after supper, and spend the time in such
readings, or in talking, and occasionally by an amusing game called
the game of twenty questions.


It is plain to me out of the events of the war, north and south, and
out of all considerations, that the current military theory, practice,
rules and organization, (adopted from Europe from the feudal
institutes, with, of course, the "modern improvements," largely from
the French,) though tacitly follow'd, and believ'd in by the officers
generally, are not at all consonant with the United States, nor our
people, nor our days. What it will be I know not--but I know that as
entire an abnegation of the present military system, and the naval
too, and a building up from radically different root-bases and centres
appropriate to us, must eventually result, as that our political
system has resulted and become establish'd, different from feudal
Europe, and built up on itself from original, perennial, democratic
premises. We have undoubtedly in the United States the greatest
military power--an exhaustless, intelligent, brave and reliable rank
and file--in the world, any land, perhaps all lands. The problem is to
organize this in the manner fully appropriate to it, to the principles
of the republic, and to get the best service out of it. In the present
struggle, as already seen and review'd, probably three-fourths of the
losses, men, lives, &c., have been sheer superfluity, extravagance,


I wonder if I could ever convey to another--to you, for instance,
reader dear--the tender and terrible realities of such cases, (many,
many happen'd,) as the one I am now going to mention. Stewart C.
Glover, company E, 5th Wisconsin--was wounded May 5, in one of those
fierce tussles of the Wilderness-died May 21--aged about 20. He was a
small and beardless young man--a splendid soldier--in fact almost an
ideal American, of his age. He had serv'd nearly three years, and
would have been entitled to his discharge in a few days. He was in
Hancock's corps. The fighting had about ceas'd for the day, and the
general commanding the brigade rode by and call'd for volunteers to
bring in the wounded. Glover responded among the first--went out
gayly--but while in the act of bearing in a wounded sergeant to our
lines, was shot in the knee by a rebel sharpshooter; consequence,
amputation and death. He had resided with his father, John Glover, an
aged and feeble man, in Batavia, Genesee county, N. Y., but was at
school in Wisconsin, after the war broke out, and there enlisted--soon
took to soldier-life, liked it, was very manly, was belov'd by
officers and comrades. He kept a little diary, like so many of the
soldiers. On the day of his death he wrote the following in it,
_to-day the doctor says I must die--all is over with me--ah, so young
to die_. On another blank leaf he pencill'd to his brother, _dear
brother Thomas, I have been brave but wicked--pray for me._


It is Sunday afternoon, middle of summer, hot and oppressive, and very
silent through the ward. I am taking care of a critical case, now
lying in a half lethargy. Near where I sit is a suffering rebel, from
the 8th Louisiana; his name is Irving. He has been here a long time,
badly wounded, and lately had his leg amputated; it is not doing very
well. Right opposite me is a sick soldier-boy, laid down with his
clothes on, sleeping, looking much wasted, his pallid face on his arm.
I see by the yellow trimming on his jacket that he is a cavalry boy. I
step softly over and find by his card that he is named William Cone,
of the 1st Maine cavalry, and his folks live in Skowhegan.

_Ice Cream Treat_.--One hot day toward the middle of June, I gave the
inmates of Carver hospital a general ice cream treat, purchasing a
large quantity, and, under convoy of the doctor or head nurse, going
around personally through the wards to see to its distribution. _An
Incident_.--In one of the rights before Atlanta, a rebel soldier, of
large size, evidently a young man, was mortally wounded top of the
head, so that the brains partially exuded. He lived three days, lying
on his back on the spot where he first dropt. He dug with his heel in
the ground during that time a hole big enough to put in a couple of
ordinary knapsacks. He just lay there in the open air, and with little
intermission kept his heel going night and day. Some of our soldiers
then moved him to a house, but he died in a few minutes.

_Another_.--After the battles at Columbia, Tennessee, where we
repuls'd about a score of vehement rebel charges, they left a great
many wounded on the ground, mostly within our range. Whenever any
of these wounded attempted to move away by any means, generally by
crawling off, our men without exception brought them down by a bullet.
They let none crawl away, no matter what his condition.


As I turn'd off the Avenue one cool October evening into Thirteenth
street, a soldier with knapsack and overcoat stood at the corner
inquiring his way. I found he wanted to go part of the road in my
direction, so we walk'd on together. We soon fell into conversation.
He was small and not very young, and a tough little fellow, as I
judged in the evening light, catching glimpses by the lamps we pass'd.
His answers were short, but clear. His name was Charles Carroll; he
belong'd to one of the Massachusetts regiments, and was born in or
near Lynn. His parents were living, but were very old. There were four
sons, and all had enlisted. Two had died of starvation and misery in
the prison at Andersonville, and one had been kill'd in the west.
He only was left. He was now going home, and by the way he talk'd I
inferr'd that his time was nearly out. He made great calculations on
being with his parents to comfort them the rest of their days.


Michael Stansbury, 48 years of age, a seafaring man, a southerner by
birth and raising, formerly captain of U. S. light ship Long Shoal,
station'd at Long Shoal point, Pamlico sound--though a southerner, a
firm Union man--was captur'd Feb. 17, 1863, and has been nearly two
years in the Confederate prisons; was at one time order'd releas'd by
Governor Vance, but a rebel officer re-arrested him; then sent on to
Richmond for exchange--but instead of being exchanged was sent down
(as a southern citizen, not a soldier,) to Salisbury, N. C., where he
remain'd until lately, when he escap'd among the exchang'd by assuming
the name of a dead soldier, and coming up via Wilmington with the
rest. Was about sixteen months in Salisbury.

Subsequent to October, '64, there were about 11,000 Union prisoners
in the stockade; about 100 of them southern unionists, 200 U. S.
deserters. During the past winter 1500 of the prisoners, to save their
lives, join'd the confederacy, on condition of being assign'd merely
to guard duty. Out of the 11,000 not more than 2500 came out; 500 of
these were pitiable, helpless wretches--the rest were in a condition
to travel. There were often 60 dead bodies to be buried in the
morning; the daily average would be about 40. The regular food was a
meal of corn, the cob and husk ground together, and sometimes once a
week a ration of sorghum molasses. A diminutive ration of meat might
possibly come once a month, not oftener. In the stockade, containing
the 11,000 men, there was a partial show of tents, not enough for
2000. A large proportion of the men lived in holes in the ground, in
the utmost wretchedness. Some froze to death, others had their hands
and feet frozen. The rebel guards would occasionally, and on the least
pretence, fire into the prison from mere demonism and wantonness. All
the horrors that can be named, starvation, lassitude, filth, vermin,
despair, swift loss of self-respect, idiocy, insanity, and frequent
murder, were there. Stansbury has a wife and child living in
Newbern--has written to them from here--is in the U. S. light-house
employ still--(had been home to Newbern to see his family, and on his
return to the ship was captured in his boat.) Has seen men brought
there to Salisbury as hearty as you ever see in your life--in a
few weeks completely dead gone, much of it from thinking on their
condition--hope all gone. Has himself a hard, sad, strangely deaden'd
kind of look, as of one chill' d for years in the cold and dark, where
his good manly nature had no room to exercise itself.


_Oct. 24_.--Saw a large squad of our own deserters (over 300)
surrounded with a cordon of arm'd guards, marching along Pennsylvania
avenue. The most motley collection I ever saw, all sorts of rig, all
sorts of hats and caps, many fine-looking young fellows, some of them
shame-faced, some sickly, most of them dirty, shirts very dirty and
long worn, &c. They tramp'd along without order, a huge huddling mass,
not in ranks. I saw some of the spectators laughing, but I felt like
anything else but laughing. These deserters are far more numerous than
would be thought. Almost every day I see squads of them, sometimes two
or three at a time, with a small guard; sometimes ten or twelve, under
a larger one. (I hear that desertions from the army now in the field
have often averaged 10,000 a month. One of the commonest sights in
Washington is a squad of deserters.)


In one of the late movements of our troops in the valley, (near
Upperville, I think,) a strong force of Moseby's mounted guerillas
attack'd a train of wounded, and the guard of cavalry convoying them.
The ambulances contain'd about 60 wounded, quite a number of them
officers of rank. The rebels were in strength, and the capture of
the train and its partial guard after a short snap was effectually
accomplish'd. No sooner had our men surrender'd, the rebels instantly
commenced robbing the train and murdering their prisoners, even the
wounded. Here is the scene, or a sample of it, ten minutes after.
Among the wounded officers in the ambulances were one, a lieutenant of
regulars, and another of higher rank. These two were dragg'd out on
the ground on their backs, and were now surrounded by the guerillas,
a demoniac crowd, each member of which was stabbing them in different
parts of their bodies. One of the officers had his feet pinn'd firmly
to the ground by bayonets stuck through them and thrust into the
ground. These two officers, as afterwards found on examination, had
receiv'd about twenty such thrusts, some of them through the mouth,
face, &c. The wounded had all been dragg'd (to give a better chance
also for plunder,) out of their wagons; some had been effectually
dispatch'd, and their bodies were lying there lifeless and bloody.
Others, not yet dead, but horribly mutilated, were moaning or
groaning. Of our men who surrender'd, most had been thus maim'd or

At this instant a force of our cavalry, who had been following the
train at some interval, charged suddenly upon the secesh captors, who
proceeded at once to make the best escape they could. Most of them got
away, but we gobbled two officers and seventeen men, in the very acts
just described. The sight was one which admitted of little discussion,
as may be imagined. The seventeen captur'd men and two officers were
put under guard for the night, but it was decided there and then that
they should die. The next morning the two officers were taken in the
town, separate places, put in the centre of the street, and shot. The
seventeen men were taken to an open ground, a little one side. They
were placed in a hollow square, half-encompass'd by two of our cavalry
regiments, one of which regiments had three days before found the
bloody corpses of three of their men hamstrung and hung up by the
heels to limbs of trees by Moseby's guerillas, and the other had not
long before had twelve men, after surrendering, shot and then hung by
the neck to limbs of trees, and jeering inscriptions pinn'd to the
breast of one of the corpses, who had been a sergeant. Those three,
and those twelve, had been found, I say, by these environing
regiments. Now, with revolvers, they form'd the grim cordon of the
seventeen prisoners. The latter were placed in the midst of the hollow
square, unfasten'd, and the ironical remark made to them that they
were now to be given "a chance for themselves." A few ran for it. But
what use? From every side the deadly pills came. In a few minutes the
seventeen corpses strew'd the hollow square. I was curious to know
whether some of the Union soldiers, some few, (some one or two at
least of the youngsters,) did not abstain from shooting on the
helpless men. Not one. There was no exultation, very little said,
almost nothing, yet every man there contributed his shot.

Multiply the above by scores, aye hundreds--verify it in all the forms
that different circumstances, individuals, places, could afford--light
it with every lurid passion, the wolf's, the lion's lapping thirst
for blood--the passionate, boiling volcanoes of human revenge for
comrades, brothers slain--with the light of burning farms, and
heaps of smutting, smouldering black embers--and in the human heart
everywhere black, worse embers--and you have an inkling of this war.


As a very large proportion of the wounded came up from the front
without a cent of money in their pockets, I soon discover'd that it
was about the best thing I could do to raise their spirits, and show
them that somebody cared for them, and practically felt a fatherly or
brotherly interest in them, to give them small sums in such cases,
using tact and discretion about it. I am regularly supplied with funds
for this purpose by good women and men in Boston, Salem, Providence,
Brooklyn, and New York. I provide myself with a quantity of bright new
ten-cent and five-cent bills, and, when I think it incumbent, I give
25 or 30 cents, or perhaps 50 cents, and occasionally a still larger
sum to some particular case. As I have started this subject, I
take opportunity to ventilate the financial question. My supplies,
altogether voluntary, mostly confidential, often seeming quite
Providential, were numerous and varied. For instance, there were two
distant and wealthy ladies, sisters, who sent regularly, for two
years, quite heavy sums, enjoining that their names should be kept
secret. The same delicacy was indeed a frequent condition. From
several I had _carte blanche_. Many were entire strangers. From these
sources, during from two to three years, in the manner described, in
the hospitals, I bestowed, as almoner for others, many, many thousands
of dollars. I learn'd one thing conclusively--that beneath all the
ostensible greed and heartlessness of our times there is no end to the
generous benevolence of men and women in the United States, when once
sure of their object. Another thing became clear to me--while _cash_
is not amiss to bring up the rear, tact and magnetic sympathy and
unction are, and ever will be, sovereign still.


Some of the half-eras'd, and not over-legible when made, memoranda
of things wanted by one patient or another, will convey quite a fair
idea. D. S. G., bed 52, wants a good book; has a sore, weak throat;
would like some horehound candy; is from New Jersey, 28th regiment.
C. H. L., 145th Pennsylvania, lies in bed 6, with jaundice and
erysipelas; also wounded; stomach easily nauseated; bring him some
oranges, also a little tart jelly; hearty, full-blooded young
fellow--(he got better in a few days, and is now home on a furlough.)
J. H. G., bed 24, wants an undershirt, drawers, and socks; has not had
a change for quite a while; is evidently a neat, clean boy from New
England--(I supplied him; also with a comb, tooth-brush, and some
soap and towels; I noticed afterward he was the cleanest of the whole
ward.) Mrs. G., lady-nurse, ward F, wants a bottle of brandy--has
two patients imperatively requiring stimulus--low with wounds and
exhaustion. (I supplied her with a bottle of first-rate brandy from
the Christian commission rooms.)


Well, Poor John Mahay is dead. He died yesterday. His was a painful
and long-lingering case (see p. 24 _ante_.) I have been with him at
times for the past fifteen months. He belonged to company A, 101st New
York, and was shot through the lower region of the abdomen at second
Bull Run, August, '62. One scene at his bedside will suffice for the
agonies of nearly two years. The bladder had been perforated by a
bullet going entirely through him. Not long since I sat a good part of
the morning by his bedside, ward E, Armory square. The water ran out
of his eyes from the intense pain, and the muscles of his face were
distorted, but he utter'd nothing except a low groan now and then. Hot
moist cloths were applied, and reliev'd him somewhat. Poor Mahay, a
mere boy in age, but old in misfortune. He never knew the love of
parents, was placed in infancy in one of the New York charitable
institutions, and subsequently bound out to a tyrannical master in
Sullivan county, (the scars of whose cowhide and club remain'd yet on
his back.) His wound here was a most disagreeable one, for he was
a gentle, cleanly, and affectionate boy. He found friends in his
hospital life, and, indeed, was a universal favorite. He had quite a
funeral ceremony.


I must bear my most emphatic testimony to the zeal, manliness, and
professional spirit and capacity, generally prevailing among the
surgeons, many of them young men, in the hospitals and the army. I
will not say much about the exceptions, for they are few; (but I have
met some of those few, and very incompetent and airish they were.)
I never ceas'd to find the best men, and the hardest and most
disinterested workers, among the surgeons in the hospitals. They are
full of genius, too. I have seen many hundreds of them and this is my
testimony. There are, however, serious deficiencies, wastes, sad
want of system, in the commissions, contributions, and in all the
voluntary, and a great part of the governmental nursing, edibles,
medicines, stores, &c. (I do not say surgical attendance, because
the surgeons cannot do more than human endurance permits.) Whatever
puffing accounts there may be in the papers of the North, this is
the actual fact. No thorough previous preparation, no system, no
foresight, no genius. Always plenty of stores, no doubt, but never
where they are needed, and never the proper application. Of all
harrowing experiences, none is greater than that of the days following
a heavy battle. Scores, hundreds of the noblest men on earth,
uncomplaining, lie helpless, mangled, faint, alone, and so bleed to
death, or die from exhaustion, either actually untouch'd at all, or
merely the laying of them down and leaving them, when there ought to
be means provided to save them.


This city, its suburbs, the capitol, the front of the White House, the
places of amusement, the Avenue, and all the main streets, swarm with
soldiers this winter, more than ever before. Some are out from the
hospitals, some from the neighboring camps, &c. One source or another,
they pour plenteously, and make, I should say, the mark'd feature in
the human movement and costume-appearance of our national city. Their
blue pants and overcoats are everywhere. The clump of crutches
is heard up the stairs of the paymasters' offices, and there are
characteristic groups around the doors of the same, often waiting long
and wearily in the cold. Toward the latter part of the afternoon, you
see the furlough'd men, sometimes singly, sometimes in small squads,
making their way to the Baltimore depot. At all times, except early
in the morning, the patrol detachments are moving around, especially
during the earlier hours of evening, examining passes, and arresting
all soldiers without them. They do not question the one-legged, or
men badly disabled or main'd, but all others are stopt. They also go
around evenings through the auditoriums of the theatres, and make
officers and all show their passes, or other authority, for being


_Sunday, January 29th, 1865_.--Have been in Armory-square this
afternoon. The wards are very comfortable, new floors and plaster
walls, and models of neatness. I am not sure but this is a model
hospital after all, in important respects. I found several sad cases
of old lingering wounds. One Delaware soldier, William H. Millis, from
Bridgeville, whom I had been with after the battles of the Wilderness,
last May, where he receiv'd a very bad wound in the chest, with
another in the left arm, and whose case was serious (pneumonia had set
in) all last June and July, I now find well enough to do light duty.
For three weeks at the time mention'd he just hovered between life and


As I walk'd home about sunset, I saw in Fourteenth street a very young
soldier, thinly clad, standing near the house I was about to enter. I
stopt a moment in front of the door and call'd him to me. I knew
that an old Tennessee regiment, and also an Indiana regiment, were
temporarily stopping in new barracks, near Fourteenth street. This boy
I found belonged to the Tennessee regiment. But I could hardly believe
he carried a musket. He was but 15 years old, yet had been twelve
months a soldier, and had borne his part in several battles, even
historic ones. I ask'd him if he did not suffer from the cold, and
if he had no overcoat. No, he did not suffer from cold, and had no
overcoat, but could draw one whenever he wish'd. His father was dead,
and his mother living in some part of East Tennessee; all the men were
from that part of the country. The next forenoon I saw the Tennessee
and Indiana regiments marching down the Avenue. My boy was with the
former, stepping along with the rest. There were many other boys no
older. I stood and watch'd them as they tramp'd along with slow,
strong, heavy, regular steps. There did not appear to be a man over 30
years of age, and a large proportion were from 15 to perhaps 22 or 23.
They had all the look of veterans, worn, stain'd, impassive, and a
certain unbent, lounging gait, carrying in addition to their regular
arms and knapsacks, frequently a frying-pan, broom, &c. They were all
of pleasant physiognomy; no refinement, nor blanch'd with intellect,
but as my eye pick'd them, moving along, rank by rank, there did not
seem to be a single repulsive, brutal or markedly stupid face among


Here is an incident just occurr'd in one of the hospitals. A lady
named Miss or Mrs. Billings, who has long been a practical friend of
soldiers, and nurse in the army, and had become attached to it in a
way that no one can realize but him or her who has had experience, was
taken sick, early this winter, linger'd some time, and finally died in
the hospital. It was her request that she should be buried among
the soldiers, and after the military method. This request was fully
carried out. Her coffin was carried to the grave by soldiers, with the
usual escort, buried, and a salute fired over the grave. This was at
Annapolis a few days since.


There are many women in one position or another, among the hospitals,
mostly as nurses here in Washington, and among the military stations;
quite a number of them young ladies acting as volunteers. They are a
help in certain ways, and deserve to be mention'd with respect. Then
it remains to be distinctly said that few or no young ladies, under
the irresistible conventions of society, answer the practical
requirements of nurses for soldiers. Middle-aged or healthy and good
condition'd elderly women, mothers of children, are always best. Many
of the wounded must be handled. A hundred things which cannot be
gainsay'd, must occur and must be done. The presence of a good
middle-aged or elderly woman, the magnetic touch of hands, the
expressive features of the mother, the silent soothing of her
presence, her words, her knowledge and privileges arrived at only
through having had children, are precious and final qualifications.
It is a natural faculty that is required; it is not merely having a
genteel young woman at a table in a ward. One of the finest nurses I
met was a red-faced illiterate old Irish woman; I have seen her take
the poor wasted naked boys so tenderly up in her arms. There are
plenty of excellent clean old black women that would make tip-top


_Feb. 23, '65_.--I saw a large procession of young men from the rebel
army, (deserters they are call'd, but the usual meaning of the word
does not apply to them,) passing the Avenue to-day. There were nearly
200, come up yesterday by boat from James river. I stood and watch'd
them as they shuffled along, in a slow, tired, worn sort of way; a
large proportion of light-hair'd, blonde, light gray-eyed young men
among them. Their costumes had a dirt-stain'd uniformity; most had
been originally gray; some had articles of our uniform, pants on one,
vest or coat on another; I think they were mostly Georgia and North
Carolina boys. They excited little or no attention. As I stood quite
close to them, several good looking enough youths, (but O what a tale
of misery their appearance told,) nodded or just spoke to me, without
doubt divining pity and fatherliness out of my face, for my heart was
full enough of it. Several of the couples trudg'd along with their
arms about each other, some probably brothers, as if they were afraid
they might somehow get separated. They nearly all look'd what one
might call simple, yet intelligent, too. Some had pieces of old
carpet, some blankets, and others old bags around their shoulders.
Some of them here and there had fine faces, still it was a procession
of misery. The two hundred had with them about half a dozen arm'd
guards. Along this week I saw some such procession, more or less
in numbers, every day, as they were brought up by the boat. The
government does what it can for them, and sends them north and west.

_Feb. 27_.--Some three or four hundred more escapees from the
confederate army came up on the boat. As the day has been very
pleasant indeed, (after a long spell of bad weather,) I have been
wandering around a good deal, without any other object than to be
out-doors and enjoy it; have met these escaped men in all directions.
Their apparel is the same ragged, long-worn motley as before
described. I talk'd with a number of the men. Some are quite bright
and stylish, for all their poor clothes--walking with an air, wearing
their old head-coverings on one side, quite saucily. I find the old,
unquestionable proofs, as all along the past four years, of the
unscrupulous tyranny exercised by the secession government in
conscripting the common people by absolute force everywhere, and
paying no attention whatever to the men's time being up--keeping
them in military service just the same. One gigantic young fellow,
a Georgian, at least six feet three inches high, broad-sized in
proportion, attired in the dirtiest, drab, well smear'd rags, tied
with strings, his trousers at the knees all strips and streamers,
was complacently standing eating some bread and meat. He appear'd
contented enough. Then a few minutes after I saw him slowly walking
along. It was plain he did not take anything to heart.

_Feb. 28._--As I pass'd the military headquarters of the city, not far
from the President's house, I stopt to interview some of the crowd of
escapees who were lounging there. In appearance they were the same as
previously mention'd. Two of them, one about 17, and the other perhaps
25 or '6, I talk'd with some time. They were from North Carolina, born
and rais'd there, and had folks there. The elder had been in the rebel
service four years. He was first conscripted for two years. He was
then kept arbitrarily in the ranks. This is the case with a large
proportion of the secession army. There was nothing downcast in these
young men's manners; the younger had been soldiering about a year; he
was conscripted; there were six brothers (all the boys of the family)
in the army, part of them as conscripts, part as volunteers; three had
been kill'd; one had escaped about four months ago, and now this
one had got away; he was a pleasant and well-talking lad, with the
peculiar North Carolina idiom (not at all disagreeable to my ears.) He
and the elder one were of the same company, and escaped together--and
wish'd to remain together. They thought of getting transportation away
to Missouri, and working there; but were not sure it was judicious. I
advised them rather to go to some of the directly northern States, and
get farm work for the present. The younger had made six dollars on the
boat, with some tobacco he brought; he had three and a half left. The
elder had nothing; I gave him a trifle. Soon after, met John Wormley,
9th Alabama, a West Tennessee rais' d boy, parents both dead--had
the look of one for a long time on short allowance--said
very little--chew'd tobacco at a fearful rate, spitting in
proportion--large clear dark-brown eyes, very fine--didn't know what
to make of me--told me at last he wanted much to get some clean
underclothes, and a pair of decent pants. Didn't care about coat or
hat fixings. Wanted a chance to wash himself well, and put on the
underclothes. I had the very great pleasure of helping him to
accomplish all those wholesome designs.

_March 1st_.--Plenty more butternut or clay-color'd escapees every
day. About 160 came in to-day, a large portion South Carolinians. They
generally take the oath of allegiance, and are sent north, west, or
extreme south-west if they wish. Several of them told me that the
desertions in their army, of men going home, leave or no leave, are
far more numerous than their desertions to our side. I saw a very
forlorn looking squad of about a hundred, late this afternoon, on
their way to the Baltimore depot.


To-night I have been wandering awhile in the capitol, which is all lit
up. The illuminated rotunda looks fine. I like to stand aside and look
a long, long while, up at the dome; it comforts me somehow. The House
and Senate were both in session till very late. I look'd in upon
them, but only a few moments; they were hard at work on tax and
appropriation bills. I wander'd through the long and rich corridors
and apartments under the Senate; an old habit of mine, former winters,
and now more satisfaction than ever. Not many persons down there,
occasionally a flitting figure in the distance.


_March 4th._--The President very quietly rode down to the capitol in
his own carriage, by himself, on a sharp trot, about noon, either
because he wish'd to be on hand to sign bills, or to get rid of
marching in line with the absurd procession, the muslin temple of
liberty and pasteboard monitor. I saw him on his return, at three
o'clock, after the performance was over. He was in his plain two-horse
barouche, and look'd very much worn and tired; the lines, indeed, of
vast responsibilities, intricate questions, and demands of life and
death, cut deeper than ever upon his dark brown face; yet all the old
goodness, tenderness, sadness, and canny shrewdness, underneath the
furrows. (I never see that man without feeling that he is one to
become personally attach'd to, for his combination of purest,
heartiest tenderness, and native western form of manliness.) By his
side sat his little boy, of ten years. There were no soldiers, only
a lot of civilians on horseback, with huge yellow scarfs over their
shoulders, riding around the carriage. (At the inauguration four years
ago, he rode down and back again surrounded by a dense mass of arm'd
cavalrymen eight deep, with drawn sabres; and there were sharpshooters
station'd at every corner on the route.) I ought to make mention of
the closing levee of Saturday night last. Never before was such a
compact jam in front of the White House--all the grounds fill'd, and
away out to the spacious sidewalks. I was there, as I took a notion
to go--was in the rush inside with the crowd--surged along the
passage-ways, the blue and other rooms, and through the great east
room. Crowds of country people, some very funny. Fine music from the
Marine band, off in a side place. I saw Mr. Lincoln, drest all in
black, with white kid gloves and a claw-hammer coat, receiving, as in
duty bound, shaking hands, looking very disconsolate, and as if he
would give anything to be somewhere else.


Looking over my scraps, I find I wrote the following during 1864. The
happening to our America, abroad as well as at home, these years, is
indeed most strange. The democratic republic has paid her today the
terrible and resplendent compliment of the united wish of all the
nations of the world that her union should be broken, her future cut
off, and that she should be compell'd to descend to the level of
kingdoms and empires ordinarily great. There is certainly not one
government in Europe but is now watching the war in this country, with
the ardent prayer that the United States may be effectually split,
crippled, and dismember'd by it. There is not one but would help
toward that dismemberment, if it dared. I say such is the ardent
wish to-day of England and of France, as governments, and of all the
nations of Europe, as governments. I think indeed it is to-day the
real, heartfelt wish of all the nations of the world, with the single
exception of Mexico--Mexico, the only one to whom we have ever really
done wrong, and now the only one who prays for us and for our triumph,
with genuine prayer. Is it not indeed strange? America, made up of
all, cheerfully from the beginning opening her arms to all, the result
and justifier of all, of Britain, Germany, France and Spain--all
here--the accepter, the friend, hope, last resource and general house
of all--she who has harm'd none, but been bounteous to so many, to
millions, the mother of strangers and exiles, all nations--should now,
I say, be paid this dread compliment of general governmental fear and
hatred. Are we indignant? alarm'd? Do we feel jeopardized? No; help'd,
braced, concentrated, rather. We are all too prone to wander from
ourselves, to affect Europe, and watch her frowns and smiles. We need
this hot lesson of general hatred, and henceforth must never
forget it. Never again will we trust the moral sense nor abstract
friendliness of a single _government_ of the old world.


Whether the rains, the heat and cold, and what underlies them all,
are affected with what affects man in masses, and follow his play of
passionate action, strain'd stronger than usual, and on a larger scale
than usual--whether this, or no, it is certain that there is now, and
has been for twenty months or more, on this American continent north,
many a remarkable, many an unprecedented expression of the subtile
world of air above us and around us. There, since this war, and
the wide and deep national agitation, strange analogies, different
combinations, a different sunlight, or absence of it; different
products even out of the ground. After every great battle, a great
storm. Even civic events the same. On Saturday last, a forenoon like
whirling demons, dark, with slanting rain, full of rage; and then the
afternoon, so calm, so bathed with flooding splendor from heaven's
most excellent sun, with atmosphere of sweetness; so clear, it show'd
the stars, long long before they were due. As the President came out
on the capitol portico, a curious little white cloud, the only one in
that part of the sky, appear'd like a hovering bird, right over him.

Indeed, the heavens, the elements, all the meteorological influences,
have run riot for weeks past. Such caprices, abruptest alternation of
frowns and beauty, I never knew. It is a common remark that (as last
summer was different in its spells of intense heat from any preceding
it,) the winter just completed has been without parallel. It has
remain'd so down to the hour I am writing. Much of the daytime of
the past month was sulky, with leaden heaviness, fog, interstices of
bitter cold, and some insane storms. But there have been samples
of another description. Nor earth nor sky ever knew spectacles of
superber beauty than some of the nights lately here. The western star,
Venus, in the earlier hours of evening, has never been so large,
so clear; it seems as if it told something, as if it held rapport
indulgent with humanity, with us Americans. Five or six nights since,
it hung close by the moon, then a little past its first quarter. The
star was wonderful, the moon like a young mother. The sky, dark blue,
the transparent night, the planets, the moderate west wind, the
elastic temperature, the miracle of that great star, and the young and
swelling moon swimming in the west, suffused the soul. Then I heard,
slow and clear, the deliberate notes of a bugle come up out of the
silence, sounding so good through the night's mystery, no hurry, but
firm and faithful, floating along, rising, falling leisurely, with
here and there a long-drawn note; the bugle, well play'd, sounding
tattoo, in one of the army hospitals near here, where the wounded
(some of them personally so dear to me,) are lying in their cots,
and many a sick boy come down to the war from Illinois, Michigan,
Wisconsin, Iowa, and the rest.


_March 6_.--I have been up to look at the dance and supper-rooms,
for the inauguration ball at the Patent office; and I could not help
thinking, what a different scene they presented to my view a while
since, fill'd with a crowded mass of the worst wounded of the war,
brought in from second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburgh.
To-night, beautiful women, perfumes, the violin's sweetness, the polka
and the waltz; then the amputation, the blue face, the groan, the
glassy eye of the dying, the clotted rag, the odor of wounds and
blood, and many a mother's son amid strangers, passing away untended
there, (for the crowd of the badly hurt was great, and much for nurse
to do, and much for surgeon.)


I must mention a strange scene at the capitol, the hall of
Representatives, the morning of Saturday last, (March 4th.) The
day just dawn'd, but in half-darkness, everything dim, leaden, and
soaking. In that dim light, the members nervous from long drawn duty,
exhausted, some asleep, and many half asleep. The gas-light, mix'd
with the dingy day-break, produced an unearthly effect. The poor
little sleepy, stumbling pages, the smell of the hall, the members
with heads leaning on their desks, the sounds of the voices speaking,
with unusual intonations--the general moral atmosphere also of the
close of this important session--the strong hope that the war is
approaching its close--the tantalizing dread lest the hope may be a
false one--the grandeur of the hall itself, with its effect of vast
shadows up toward the panels and spaces over the galleries--all made
a mark'd combination.

In the midst of this, with the suddenness of a thunderbolt, burst one
of the most angry and crashing storms of rain and hail ever heard. It
beat like a deluge on the heavy glass roof of the hall, and the wind
literally howl'd and roar'd. For a moment, (and no wonder,) the
nervous and sleeping Representatives were thrown into confusion. The
slumberers awaked with fear, some started for the doors, some look'd
up with blanch'd cheeks and lips to the roof, and the little pages
began to cry; it was a scene. But it was over almost as soon as the
drowsied men were actually awake. They recover'd themselves; the storm
raged on, beating, dashing, and with loud noises at times. But the
House went ahead with its business then, I think, as calmly and with
as much deliberation as at any time in its career. Perhaps the shock
did it good. (One is not without impression, after all, amid these
members of Congress, of both the Houses, that if the flat routine of
their duties should ever be broken in upon by some great emergency
involving real danger, and calling for first-class personal qualities,
those qualities would be found generally forthcoming, and from men not
now credited with them.)


_March 27, 1865_.--Sergeant Calvin F. Harlowe, company C, 29th
Massachusetts, 3d brigade, 1st division, Ninth corps--a mark'd sample
of heroism and death, (some may say bravado, but I say heroism, of
grandest, oldest order)--in the late attack by the rebel troops, and
temporary capture by them, of fort Steadman, at night. The fort was
surprised at dead of night. Suddenly awaken'd from their sleep, and
rushing from their tents, Harlowe, with others, found himself in the
hands of the secesh--they demanded his surrender--he answer'd, _Never
while I live_. (Of course it was useless. The others surrender'd; the
odds were too great.) Again he was ask'd to yield, this time by a
rebel captain. Though surrounded, and quite calm, he again refused,
call'd sternly to his comrades to fight on, and himself attempted to
do so. The rebel captain then shot him--but at the same instant he
shot the captain. Both fell together mortally wounded. Harlowe died
almost instantly. The rebels were driven out in a very short time. The
body was buried next day, but soon taken up and sent home, (Plymouth
county, Mass.) Harlowe was only 22 years of age--was a tall, slim,
dark-hair'd, blue-eyed young man--had come out originally with
the 29th; and that is the way he met his death, after four years'
campaign. He was in the Seven Days fight before Richmond, in second
Bull Run, Antietam, first Fredericksburgh, Vicksburgh, Jackson,
Wilderness, and the campaigns following--was as good a soldier as ever
wore the blue, and every old officer in the regiment will bear that
testimony. Though so young, and in a common rank, he had a spirit as
resolute and brave as any hero in the books, ancient or modern--It
was too great to say the words "I surrender"--and so he died. (When I
think of such things, knowing them well, all the vast and complicated
events of the war, on which history dwells and makes its volumes, fall
aside, and for the moment at any rate I see nothing but young Calvin
Harlowe's figure in the night, disdaining to surrender.)


The war is over, but the hospitals are fuller than ever, from former
and current cases. A large' majority of the wounds are in the arms and
legs. But there is every kind of wound, in every part of the body.
I should say of the sick, from my observation, that the prevailing
maladies are typhoid fever and the camp fevers generally, diarrhoea,
catarrhal affections and bronchitis, rheumatism and pneumonia. These
forms of sickness lead; all the rest follow. There are twice as many
sick as there are wounded. The deaths range from seven to ten per
cent, of those under treatment.[7]


[7] In the U. S. Surgeon-General's office since, there is a formal
record and treatment of 153, 142 cases of wounds by government
surgeons. What must have been the number unofficial, indirect--to say
nothing of the Southern armies?


_April 16, '65_.--I find in my notes of the time, this passage on
the death of Abraham Lincoln: He leaves for America's history and
biography, so far, not only its most dramatic reminiscence--he
leaves, in my opinion, the greatest, best, most characteristic,
artistic, moral personality. Not but that he had faults, and show'd
them in the Presidency; but honesty, goodness, shrewdness, conscience,
and (a new virtue, unknown to other lands, and hardly yet really known
here, but the foundation and tie of all, as the future will grandly
develop,) UNIONISM, in its truest and amplest sense, form'd the
hard-pan of his character. These he seal'd with his life. The tragic
splendor of his death, purging, illuminating all, throws round his
form, his head, an aureole that will remain and will grow brighter
through time, while history lives, and love of country lasts. By many
has this Union been help'd; but if one name, one man, must be pick'd
out, he, most of all, is the conservator of it, to the future. He was
assassinated--but the Union is not assassinated--_ca ira_! One falls
and another falls. The soldier drops, sinks like a wave--but the ranks
of the ocean eternally press on. Death does its work, obliterates a
hundred, a thousand--President, general, captain, private,--but the
Nation is immortal.


When Sherman's armies, (long after they left Atlanta,) were marching
through Southand North Carolina--after leaving Savannah, the news of
Lee's capitulation having been receiv'd--the men never mov'd a mile
without from some part of the line sending up continued, inspiriting
shouts. At intervals all day long sounded out the wild music of those
peculiar army cries. They would be commenc'd by one regiment or
brigade, immediately taken up by others, and at length whole corps and
armies would join in these wild triumphant choruses. It was one of the
characteristic expressions of the western troops, and became a habit,
serving as a relief and outlet to the men--a vent for their feelings
of victory, returning peace, &c. Morning, noon, and afternoon,
spontaneous, for occasion or without occasion, these huge, strange
cries, differing from any other, echoing through the open air for many
a mile, expressing youth, joy, wildness, irrepressible strength,
and the ideas of advance and conquest, sounded along the swamps and
uplands of the South, floating to the skies. ("There never were men
that kept in better spirits in danger or defeat--what then could they
do in victory?"--said one of the 15th corps to me, afterwards.) This
exuberance continued till the armies arrived at Raleigh. There the
news of the President's murder was receiv'd. Then no more shouts or
yells, for a week. All the marching was comparatively muffled. It
was very significant--hardly a loud word or laugh in many of the
regiments. A hush and silence pervaded all.


Probably the reader has seen physiognomies (often old farmers,
sea-captains, and such) that, behind their homeliness, or even
ugliness, held superior points so subtle, yet so palpable, making the
real life of their faces almost as impossible to depict as a wild
perfume or fruit-taste, or a passionate tone of the living voice--and
such was Lincoln's face, the peculiar color, the lines of it, the
eyes, mouth, expression. Of technical beauty it had nothing--but to
the eye of a great artist it furnished a rare study, a feast and
fascination. The current portraits are all failures--most of them


The releas'd prisoners of war are now coming up from the southern
prisons. I have seen a number of them. The sight is worse than any
sight of battle-fields, or any collection of wounded, even the
bloodiest. There was, (as a sample,) one large boat load, of several
hundreds, brought about the 25th, to Annapolis; and out of the whole
number only three individuals were able to walk from the boat. The
rest were carried ashore and laid down in one place or another. Can
those be _men_--those little livid brown, ash-streak'd, monkey-looking
dwarfs?--are they really not mummied, dwindled corpses? They lay
there, most of them, quite still, but with a horrible look in their
eyes and skinny lips (often with not enough flesh on the lips to cover
their teeth.) Probably no more appalling sight was ever seen on this
earth. (There are deeds, crimes, that may be forgiven; but this is
not among them. It steeps its perpetrators in blackest, escapeless,
endless damnation. Over 50,000 have been compell' d to die the death
of starvation--reader, did you ever try to realize what _starvation_
actually is?--in those prisons--and in a land of plenty.) An
indescribable meanness, tyranny, aggravating course of insults, almost
incredible--was evidently the rule of treatment through all the
southern military prisons. The dead there are not to be pitied as much
as some of the living that come from there--if they can be call'
d living--many of them are mentally imbecile, and will never


PRISONS," _published serially in the Toledo "Blade" in 1879, and
afterwards in book form_.

"There is a deep fascination in the subject of Andersonville--for that
Golgotha, in which lie the whitening bones of 13,000 gallant young
men, represents the dearest and costliest sacrifice of the war for the
preservation of our national unity. It is a type, too, of its class.
Its more than hundred hecatombs of dead represent several times that
number of their brethren, for whom the prison gates of Belle Isle,
Danville, Salisbury, Florence, Columbia, and Cahaba open'd only in
eternity. There are few families in the North who have not at least
one dear relative or friend among these 60,000 whose sad fortune it
was to end their service for the Union by lying down and dying for it
in a southern prison pen. The manner of their death, the horrors that
cluster'd thickly around every moment of their existence, the loyal,
unfaltering steadfastness with which they endured all that fate had
brought them, has never been adequately told. It was not with them as
with their comrades in the field, whose every act was perform'd in the
presence of those whose duty it was to observe such matters and report
them to the world. Hidden from the view of their friends in the north
by the impenetrable veil which the military operations of the rebels
drew around the so-called confederacy, the people knew next to nothing
of their career or their sufferings. Thousands died there less heeded
even than the hundreds who perish'd on the battlefield. Grant did not
lose as many men kill'd outright, in the terrible campaign from the
Wilderness to the James river--43 days of desperate fighting--as died
in July and August at Andersonville. Nearly twice as many died in that
prison as fell from the day that Grant cross'd the Rapidan, till he
settled down in the trenches before Petersburg. More than four times
as many Union dead lie under the solemn soughing pines about that
forlorn little village in southern Georgia, than mark the course of
Sherman from Chattanooga to Atlanta. The nation stands aghast at the
expenditure of life which attended the two bloody campaigns of 1864,
which virtually crush'd the confederacy, but no one remembers that
more Union soldiers died in the rear of the rebel lines than were
kill'd in the front of them. The great military events which stamp'd
out the rebellion drew attention away from the sad drama which
starvation and disease play'd in those gloomy pens in the far recesses
of sombre southern forests."

_From a letter of "Johnny Bouquet," in N. Y. "Tribune," March 27,

"I visited at Salisbury, N. C., the prison pen or the site of it, from
which nearly 11,000 victims of southern politicians were buried, being
confined in a pen without shelter, exposed to all the elements could
do, to all the disease herding animals together could create, and to
all the starvation and cruelty an incompetent and intense caitiff
government could accomplish. From the conversation and almost from the
recollection of the northern people this place has dropp' d, but not
so in the gossip of the Salisbury people, nearly all of whom say that
the half was never told; that such was the nature of habitual outrage
here that when Federal prisoners escaped the townspeople harbor'd them
in their barns, afraid the vengeance of God would fall on them, to
deliver even their enemies back to such cruelty. Said one old man at
the Boyden House, who join'd in the conversation one evening: 'There
were often men buried out of that prison pen still alive. I have the
testimony of a surgeon that he had seen them pull'd out of the dead
cart with their eyes open and taking notice, but too weak to lift a
finger. There was not the least excuse for such treatment, as the
confederate government had seized every sawmill in the region, and
could just as well have put up shelter for these prisoners as not,
wood being plentiful here. It will be hard to make any honest man
in Salisbury say that there was the slightest necessity for those
prisoners having to live in old tents, caves and holes half-full of
water. Representations were made to the Davis government against the
officers in charge of it, but no attention was paid to them. Promotion
was the punishment for cruelty there. The inmates were skeletons. Hell
could have no terrors for any man who died there, except the inhuman


_Frank H. Irwin, company E, 93rd Pennsylvania--died May 1, '65--My
letter to his mother_--Dear madam: No doubt you and Frank's friends
have heard the sad fact of his death in hospital here, through his
uncle, or the lady from Baltimore, who took his things. (I have not
seen them, only heard of them visiting Frank.) I will write you a
few lines--as a casual friend that sat by his death-bed. Your son,
corporal Frank H. Irwin, was wounded near fort Fisher, Virginia, March
25th, 1865--the wound was in the left knee, pretty bad. He was sent up
to Washington, was receiv'd in ward C, Armory-square hospital, March
28th--the wound became worse, and on the 4th of April the leg was
amputated a little above the knee--the operation was perform' d by
Dr. Bliss, one of the best surgeons in the army--he did the whole
operation himself--there was a good deal of bad matter gather'd--the
bullet was found in the knee. For a couple of weeks afterwards he was
doing pretty well. I visited and sat by him frequently, as he was fond
of having me. The last ten or twelve days of April I saw that his case
was critical. He previously had some fever, with cold spells. The last
week in April he was much of the time flighty--but always mild and
gentle. He died first of May. The actual cause of death was pyaemia,
(the absorption of the matter in the system instead of its discharge.)
Frank, as far as I saw, had everything requisite in surgical
treatment, nursing, &c. He had watches much of the time. He was so
good and well-behaved and affectionate, I myself liked him very much.
I was in the habit of coming in afternoons and sitting by him, and
soothing him, and he liked to have me--liked to put his arm out and
lay his hand on my knee--would keep it so a long while. Toward the
last he was more restless and flighty at night--often fancied himself
with his regiment--by his talk sometimes seem'd as if his feelings
were hurt by being blamed by his officers for something he was
entirely innocent of--said, "I never in my life was thought capable of
such a thing, and never was." At other times he would fancy himself
talking as it seem'd to children or such like, his relatives I
suppose, and giving them good advice; would talk to them a long while.
All the time he was out of his head not one single bad word or idea
escaped him. It was remark'd that many a man's conversation in his
senses was not half as good as Frank's delirium. He seem'd quite
willing to die--he had become very weak and had suffer'd a good deal,
and was perfectly resign'd, poor boy. I do not know his past life, but
I feel as if it must have been good. At any rate what I saw of him
here, under the most trying circumstances, with a painful wound, and
among strangers, I can say that he behaved so brave, so composed, and
so sweet and affectionate, it could not be surpass'd. And now like
many other noble and good men, after serving his country as a soldier,
he has yielded up his young life at the very outset in her service.
Such things are gloomy--yet there is a text, "God doeth all things
well"--the meaning of which, after due time, appears to the soul.

I thought perhaps a few words, though from a stranger, about your son,
from one who was with him at the last, might be worth while--for I
loved the young man, though I but saw him immediately to lose him. I
am merely a friend visiting the hospitals occasionally to cheer the
wounded and sick.

W. W.


_May 7_.--Sunday.--To-day as I was walking a mile or two south of
Alexandria, I fell in with several large squads of the returning
Western army, (Sherman's men as they call'd themselves) about
a thousand in all, the largest portion of them half sick, some
convalescents, on their way to a hospital camp. These fragmentary
excerpts, with the unmistakable Western physiognomy and idioms,
crawling along slowly--after a great campaign, blown this way, as it
were, out of their latitude--I mark'd with curiosity, and talk'd with
off and on for over an hour. Here and there was one very sick; but all
were able to walk, except some of the last, who had given out, and
were seated on the ground, faint and despondent. These I tried to
cheer, told them the camp they were to reach was only a little way
further over the hill, and so got them up and started, accompanying
some of the worst a little way, and helping them, or putting them
under the support of stronger comrades.

_May 21_.--Saw General Sheridan and his cavalry to-day; a strong,
attractive sight; the men were mostly young, (a few middle-aged,)
superb-looking fellows, brown, spare, keen, with well-worn clothing,
many with pieces of water-proof cloth around their shoulders, hanging
down. They dash'd along pretty fast, in wide close ranks, all
spatter'd with mud; no holiday soldiers; brigade after brigade. I
could have watch'd for a week. Sheridan stood on a balcony, under a
big tree, coolly smoking a cigar. His looks and manner impress'd me

_May 22_.--Have been taking a walk along Pennsylvania avenue and
Seventh street north. The city is full of soldiers, running around
loose. Officers everywhere, of all grades. All have the weatherbeaten
look of practical service. It is a sight I never tire of. All the
armies are now here (or portions of them,) for to-morrow's review. You
see them swarming like bees everywhere.


For two days now the broad spaces of Pennsylvania avenue along to
Treasury hill, and so by detour around to the President's house, and
so up to Georgetown, and across the aqueduct bridge, have been alive
with a magnificent sight, the returning armies. In their wide ranks
stretching clear across the Avenue, I watch them march or ride
along, at a brisk pace, through two whole days--infantry, cavalry,
artillery--some 200,000 men. Some days afterwards one or two other
corps; and then, still afterwards, a good part of Sherman's immense
army, brought up from Charleston, Savannah, &c.


_May 26-7_.--The streets, the public buildings and grounds of
Washington, still swarm with soldiers from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio,
Missouri, Iowa, and all the Western States. I am continually meeting
and talking with them. They often speak to me first, and always show
great sociability, and glad to have a good interchange of chat. These
Western soldiers are more slow in their movements, and in their
intellectual quality also; have no extreme alertness. They are larger
in size, have a more serious physiognomy, are continually looking
at you as they pass in the street. They are largely animal, and
handsomely so. During the war I have been at times with the
Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Twentieth Corps. I always feel
drawn toward the men, and like their personal contact when we are
crowded close together, as frequently these days in the street-cars.
They all think the world of General Sherman; call him "old Bill," or
sometimes "uncle Billy."


_May 28_.--As I sat by the bedside of a sick Michigan soldier in
hospital to-day, a convalescent from the adjoining bed rose and came
to me, and presently we began talking. He was a middleaged man,
belonged to the 2d Virginia regiment, but lived in Racine, Ohio, and
had a family there. He spoke of President Lincoln, and said: "The
war is over, and many are lost. And now we have lost the best, the
fairest, the truest man in America. Take him altogether, he was the
best man this country ever produced. It was quite a while I thought
very different; but some time before the murder, that's the way I have
seen it." There was deep earnestness in the soldier. (I found upon
further talk he had known Mr. Lincoln personally, and quite closely,
years before.) He was a veteran; was now in the fifth year of his
service; was a cavalry man, and had been in a good deal of hard


_May 28-9_.--I staid to-night a long time by the bedside of a new
patient, a young Baltimorean, aged about 19 years, W. S. P., (2d
Maryland, southern,) very feeble, right leg amputated, can't sleep
hardly at all--has taken a great deal of morphine, which, as usual,
is costing more than it comes to. Evidently very intelligent and well
bred--very affectionate--held on to my hand, and put it by his face,
not willing to let me leave. As I was lingering, soothing him in his
pain, he says to me suddenly, "I hardly think you know who I am--I
don't wish to impose upon you--I am a rebel soldier." I said I did not
know that, but it made no difference. Visiting him daily for about two
weeks after that, while he lived, (death had mark'd him, and he was
quite alone,) I loved him much, always kiss'd him, and he did me. In
an adjoining ward I found his brother, an officer of rank, a Union
soldier, a brave and religious man, (Col. Clifton K. Prentiss, sixth
Maryland infantry, Sixth corps, wounded in one of the engagements at
Petersburgh, April 2--linger'd, suffer'd much, died in Brooklyn, Aug.
20, '65). It was in the same battle both were hit. One was a strong
Unionist, the other Secesh; both fought on their respective sides,
both badly wounded, and both brought together here after a separation
of four years. Each died for his cause.


_May 31_.--James H. Williams, aged 21, 3d Virginia cavalry.-About
as mark'd a case of a strong man brought low by a complication of
diseases, (laryngitis, fever, debility and diarrhoea,) as I have ever
seen--has superb physique, remains swarthy yet, and flushed and red
with fever-is altogether flighty--flesh of his great breast and arms
tremulous, and pulse pounding away with treble quickness--lies a
good deal of the time in a partial sleep, but with low muttering and
groans--a sleep in which there is no rest. Powerful as he is, and so
young, he will not be able to stand many more days of the strain and
sapping heat of yesterday and to-day. His throat is in a bad way,
tongue and lips parch'd. When I ask him how he feels, he is able just
to articulate, "I feel pretty bad yet, old man," and looks at me with
his great bright eyes. Father, John Williams, Millensport, Ohio.

_June 9-10_.--I have been sitting late to-night by the bedside of
a wounded captain, a special friend of mine, lying with a painful
fracture of left leg in one of the hospitals, in a large ward
partially vacant. The lights were put out, all but a little candle,
far from where I sat. The full moon shone in through the windows,
making long, slanting silvery patches on the floor. All was still, my
friend too was silent, but could not sleep; so I sat there by him,
slowly wafting the fan, and occupied with the musings that arose out
of the scene, the long shadowy ward, the beautiful ghostly moonlight
on the floor, the white beds, here and there an occupant with huddled
form, the bed-clothes thrown off. The hospitals have a number of cases
of sun-stroke and exhaustion by heat, from the late reviews. There
are many such from the Sixth corps, from the hot parade of day before
yesterday. (Some of these shows cost the lives of scores of men.)

_Sunday, Sep. 10_.--Visited Douglas and Stanton hospitals. They are
quite full. Many of the cases are bad ones, lingering wounds, and
old sickness. There is a more than usual look of despair on the
countenances of many of the men; hope has left them. I went through
the wards, talking as usual. There are several here from the
confederate army whom I had seen in other hospitals, and they
recognized me. Two were in a dying condition.


In one of the hospital tents for special cases, as I sat to-day
tending a new amputation, I heard a couple of neighboring soldiers
talking to each other from their cots. One down with fever, but
improving, had come up belated from Charleston not long before.
The other was what we now call an "old veteran," (_i.e._, he was a
Connecticut youth, probably of less than the age of twenty-five years,
the four last of which he had spent in active service in the war in
all parts of the country.) The two were chatting of one thing and
another. The fever soldier spoke of John C. Calhoun's monument, which
he had seen, and was describing it. The veteran said: "I have seen
Calhoun's monument. That you saw is not the real monument. But I
have seen it. It is the desolated, ruined south; nearly the whole
generation of young men between seventeen and thirty destroyed or
maim'd; all the old families used up--the rich impoverish'd, the
plantations cover'd with weeds, the slaves unloos'd and become the
masters, and the name of southerner blacken'd with every shame--all
that is Calhoun's real monument."


October 3_.--There are two army hospitals now remaining. I went to the
largest of these (Douglas) and spent the afternoon and evening. There
are many sad cases, old wounds, incurable sickness, and some of the
wounded from the March and April battles before Richmond. Few realize
how sharp and bloody those closing battles were. Our men exposed
themselves more than usual; press'd ahead without urging. Then the
southerners fought with extra desperation. Both sides knew that with
the successful chasing of the rebel cabal from Richmond, and the
occupation of that city by the national troops, the game was up.
The dead and wounded were unusually many. Of the wounded the last
lingering driblets have been brought to hospital here. I find many
rebel wounded here, and have been extra busy to-day 'tending to the
worst cases of them with the rest.

_Oct., Nov. and Dec., '65--Sundays_--Every Sunday of these months
visited Harewood hospital out in the woods, pleasant and recluse, some
two and a half or three miles north of the capitol. The situation is
healthy, with broken ground, grassy slopes and patches of oak woods,
the trees large and fine. It was one of the most extensive of the
hospitals, now reduced to four or five partially occupied wards,
the numerous others being vacant. In November, this became the last
military hospital kept up by the government, all the others being
closed. Cases of the worst and most incurable wounds, obstinate
illness, and of poor fellows who have no homes to go to, are found

_Dec. 10--Sunday_--Again spending a good part of the day at Harewood.
I write this about an hour before sundown. I have walk'd out for a few
minutes to the edge of the woods to soothe myself with the hour and
scene. It is a glorious, warm, golden-sunny, still afternoon. The only
noise is from a crowd of cawing crows, on some trees three hundred
yards distant. Clusters of gnats swimming and dancing in the air in
all directions. The oak leaves are thick under the bare trees, and
give a strong and delicious perfume. Inside the wards everything is
gloomy. Death is there. As I enter'd, I was confronted by it the first
thing; a corpse of a poor soldier, just dead, of typhoid fever. The
attendants had just straighten'd the limbs, put coppers on the eyes,
and were laying it out.

_The roads_--A great recreation, the past three years, has been in
taking long walks out from Washington, five, seven, perhaps ten miles
and back; generally with my friend Peter Doyle, who is as fond of it
as I am. Fine moonlight nights, over the perfect military roads, hard
and smooth--or Sundays--we had these delightful walks, never to be
forgotten. The roads connecting Washington and the numerous forts
around the city, made one useful result, at any rate, out of the war.


Even the typical soldiers I have been personally intimate with,--it
seems to me if I were to make a list of them it would be like a city
directory. Some few only have I mention'd in the foregoing pages--most
are dead--a few yet living. There is Reuben Farwell, of Michigan,
(little "Mitch;") Benton H. Wilson, color-bearer, 185th New York; Wm.
Stansberry; Manvill Winterstein, Ohio; Bethuel Smith; Capt. Simms,
of 51st New York, (kill'd at Petersburgh mine explosion,) Capt. Sam.
Pooley and Lieut. Fred. McReady, same reg't. Also, same reg't., my
brother, George W. Whitman--in active service all through, four
years, re-enlisting twice--was promoted, step by step, (several times
immediately after battles,) lieutenant, captain, major and lieut.
colonel--was in the actions at Roanoke, Newbern, 2d Bull Run,
Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburgh, Vicksburgh,
Jackson, the bloody conflicts of the Wilderness, and at Spottsylvania,
Cold Harbor, and afterwards around Petersburgh; at one of these latter
was taken prisoner, and pass'd four or five months in secesh military
prisons, narrowly escaping with life, from a severe fever, from
starvation and half-nakedness in the winter. (What a history that
51st New York had! Went out early--march'd, fought everywhere--was in
storms at sea, nearly wreck'd--storm'd forts--tramp'd hither and yon
in Virginia, night and day, summer of '62--afterwards Kentucky and
Mississippi--re-enlisted--was in all the engagements and campaigns, as
above.) I strengthen and comfort myself much with the certainty that
the capacity for just such regiments, (hundreds, thousands of them) is
inexhaustible in the United States, and that there isn't a county nor
a township in the republic--nor a street in any city--but could turn
out, and, on occasion, would turn out, lots of just such typical
soldiers, whenever wanted.


As I have look'd over the proof-sheets of the preceding pages, I have
once or twice fear'd that my diary would prove, at best, but a batch
of convulsively written reminiscences. Well, be it so.

They are but parts of the actual distraction, heat, smoke and
excitement of those times. The war itself, with the temper of
society preceding it, can indeed be best described by that very word


During those three years in hospital, camp or field, I made over six
hundred visits or tours, and went, as I estimate, counting all, among
from eighty thousand to a hundred thousand of the wounded and sick, as
sustainer of spirit and body in some degree, in time of need. These
visits varied from an hour or two, to all day or night; for with dear
or critical cases I generally watch'd all night. Sometimes I took up
my quarters in the hospital, and slept or watch'd there several nights
in succession. Those three years I consider the greatest privilege
and satisfaction, (with all their feverish excitements and physical
deprivations and lamentable sights,) and, of course, the most profound
lesson of my life. I can say that in my ministerings I comprehended
all, whoever came in my way, northern or southern, and slighted none.
It arous'd and brought out and decided undream'd-of depths of emotion.
It has given me my most fervent views of the true _ensemble_ and
extent of the States. While I was with wounded and sick in thousands
of cases from the New England States, and from New York, New Jersey,
and Pennsylvania, and from Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana,
Illinois, and all the Western States, I was with more or less from all
the States, North and South, without exception. I was with many from
the border States, especially from Maryland and Virginia, and found,
during those lurid years 1862-63, far more Union southerners,
especially Tennesseans, than is supposed. I was with many rebel
officers and men among our wounded, and gave them always what I
had, and tried to cheer them the same as any. I was among the army
teamsters considerably, and, indeed, always found myself drawn to
them. Among the black soldiers, wounded or sick, and in the contraband
camps, I also took my way whenever in their neighborhood, and did what
I could for them.


The dead in this war--there they lie, strewing the fields and
woods and valleys and battle-fields of the south--Virginia,
the Peninsula--Malvern hill and Fair Oaks--the banks of the
Chickahominy--the terraces of Fredericksburgh--Antietam
bridge--the grisly ravines of Manassas--the bloody promenade of the
Wilderness--the varieties of the _strayed_ dead, (the estimate of the
War department is 25,000 national soldiers kill'd in battle and never
buried at all, 5,000 drown'd--15,000 inhumed by strangers, or on the
march in haste, in hitherto unfound localities--2,000 graves cover'd
by sand and mud by Mississippi freshets, 3,000 carried away
by caving-in of banks, &c.,)--Gettysburgh, the West, Southwest
--Vicksburgh--Chattanooga--the trenches of Petersburgh--the
numberless battles, camps, hospitals everywhere--the crop reap'd by
the mighty reapers, typhoid, dysentery, inflammations--and blackest
and loathesomest of all, the dead and living burial-pits, the
prison-pens of Andersonville, Salisbury, Belle-Isle, &c., (not Dante's
pictured hell and all its woes, its degradations, filthy torments,
excell'd those prisons)--the dead, the dead, the dead--_our_ dead--or
South or North, ours all, (all, all, all, finally dear to me)--or East
or West--Atlantic coast or Mississippi valley--somewhere they
crawl'd to die, alone, in bushes, low gullies, or on the sides of
hills--(there, in secluded spots, their skeletons, bleach'd bones,
tufts of hair, buttons, fragments of clothing, are occasionally found
yet)--our young men once so handsome and so joyous, taken from us--the
son from the mother, the husband from the wife, the dear friend
from the dear friend--the clusters of camp graves, in Georgia, the
Carolinas, and in Tennessee--the single graves left in the woods or by
the roadside, (hundreds, thousands, obliterated)--the corpses floated
down the rivers, and caught and lodged, (dozens, scores, floated down
the upper Potomac, after the cavalry engagements, the pursuit of Lee,
following Gettysburgh)--some lie at the bottom of the sea--the general
million, and the special cemeteries in almost all the States--the
infinite dead--(the land entire saturated, perfumed with their
impalpable ashes' exhalation in Nature's chemistry distill'd, and
shall be so forever, in every future grain of wheat and ear of corn,
and every flower that grows, and every breath we draw)--not only
Northern dead leavening Southern soil--thousands, aye tens of
thousands, of Southerners, crumble to-day in Northern earth.

And everywhere among these countless graves--everywhere in the many
soldier Cemeteries of the Nation, (there are now, I believe,
over seventy of them)--as at the time in the vast trenches, the
depositories of slain, Northern and Southern, after the great
battles--not only where the scathing trail passed those years, but
radiating since in all the peaceful quarters of the land--we see, and
ages yet may see, on monuments and gravestones, singly or in masses,
to thousands or tens of thousands, the significant word UNKNOWN.

(In some of the cemeteries nearly all the dead are unknown. At
Salisbury, N. C., for instance, the known are only 85, while the
unknown are 12,027, and 11,700 of these are buried in trenches. A
national monument has been put up here, by order of Congress, to mark
the spot--but what visible, material monument can ever fittingly
commemorate that spot?)


And so good-bye to the war. I know not how it may have been, or
may be, to others--to me the main interest I found, (and still, on
recollection, find,) in the rank and file of the armies, both sides,
and in those specimens amid the hospitals, and even the dead on the
field. To me the points illustrating the latent personal character
and eligibilities of these States, in the two or three millions of
American young and middle-aged men, North and South, embodied in those
armies--and especially the one-third or one-fourth of their number,
stricken by wounds or disease at some time in the course of the
contest--were of more significance even than the political interests
involved. (As so much of a race depends on how it faces death, and how
it stands personal anguish and sickness. As, in the glints of emotions
under emergencies, and the indirect traits and asides in Plutarch, we
get far profounder clues to the antique world than all its more formal

Future years will never know the seething hell and the black infernal
background of countless minor scenes and interiors, (not the official
surface-courteousness of the Generals, not the few great battles) of
the Secession war; and it is best they should not--the real war will
never get in the books. In the mushy influences of current times, too,
the fervid atmosphere and typical events of those years are in danger
of being totally forgotten. I have at night watch'd by the side of a
sick man in the hospital, one who could not live many hours. I have
seen his eyes flash and burn as he raised himself and recurr'd to the
cruelties on his surrender'd brother, and mutilations of the
corpse afterward. (See in the preceding pages, the incident at
Upperville--the seventeen kill'd as in the description, were left
there on the ground. After they dropt dead, no one touch'd them--all
were made sure of, however. The carcasses were left for the citizens
to bury or not, as they chose.)

Such was the war. It was not a quadrille in a ball-room. Its interior
history will not only never be written--its practicality, minutia; of
deeds and passions, will never be even suggested. The actual soldier
of 1862-'65, North and South, with all his ways, his incredible
dauntlessness, habits, practices, tastes, language, his fierce
friendship, his appetite, rankness, his superb strength and animality,
lawless gait, and a hundred unnamed lights and shades of camp, I say,
will never be written--perhaps must not and should not be.

The preceding notes may furnish a few stray glimpses into that life,
and into those lurid interiors, never to be fully convey'd to the
future. The hospital part of the drama from '61 to '65, deserves
indeed to be recorded. Of that many-threaded drama, with its sudden
and strange surprises, its confounding of prophecies, its moments
of despair, the dread of foreign interference, the interminable
campaigns, the bloody battles, the mighty and cumbrous and green
armies, the drafts and bounties--the immense money expenditure, like a
heavy-pouring constant rain--with, over the whole land, the last three
years of the struggle, an unending, universal mourning-wail of women,
parents, orphans--the marrow of the tragedy concentrated in those Army
Hospitals--(it seem'd sometimes as if the whole interest of the land,
North and South, was one vast central hospital, and all the rest of
the affair but flanges)--those forming the untold and unwritten history
of the war--infinitely greater (like life's) than the few scraps and
distortions that are ever told or written. Think how much, and of
importance, will be--how much, civic and military, has already been
--buried in the grave, in eternal darkness.


Several years now elapse before I resume my diary. I continued at
Washington working in the Attorney-General's department through '66
and '67, and some time afterward. In February '73 I was stricken down
by paralysis, gave up my desk, and migrated to Camden, New Jersey,

Book of the day: