Part 4 out of 6
effort on their own part. Their dexterity in turning griddle cakes, by
shaking the pan and giving it a jerk which sent the cake up into the air
and brought it down square into the pan other side up, would have made
Biddy's head whirl to see. The "Gov. Ramsey" was the first steamboat
which ran above the falls of St. Anthony, and in the spring of '59 she
was steamed and hawsered up the Sauk Rapids, and ran two hundred miles,
until the falls of Pokegamy offered insurmountable barriers to further
progress. It was thought impossible to get her down again, there was no
business for her, and she lay useless until, the next winter, Anson
Northup took out her machinery and drew it across on sleds to the Red
River of the North, where it was built into the first steamboat which
ever ran on that river.
Before starting on his expedition, Mr. Northup came to the _Democrat_
office to leave an advertisement and ask me to appeal to the public for
aid in provisions and feed to be furnished along the route. He was in a
Buffalo suit, from his ears to his feet, and looked like a bale of furs.
On his head he wore a fox skin cap with the nose lying on the two paws
of the animal just between his eyes, the tail hanging down between his
shoulders. He was a brave, strong man, and carried out his project,
which to most people was wild.
Nothing seemed more important than the cultivation of health for the
people, and to this I gave much earnest attention, often expressed in
the form of badinage. There were so many young housekeepers that there
was much need of teachers. I tried to get the New England women to stop
feeding their families on dough--especially hot soda dough--and to
substitute well-baked bread as a steady article of diet. In trying to
wean them from cake, I told of a time when chaos reigned on earth, long
before the days of the mastodons, but even then, New England women were
up making cake, and would certainly be found at that business when the
last trump sounded. But they bore with my "crotchets" very patiently,
and even seemed to enjoy them.
The printer's case used to be one of the highways to editorial and
congressional honors; but the little fellows of the craft invented a
machine which goes over it like a "header" over a wheat-field and leaves
a dead level of stalks, all minus the heads, so that no tall fellows are
left to shame them by passing on from the "stick" to the tripod or
speaker's mallet. Their great Union rolling-pin flattens them all out
like pie-crust, and tramps are not overshadowed by the superiority of
industrious men. But the leveling process makes impassable mountains and
gorges in other walks of life--makes it necessary that a publisher with
one hundred readers must pay as much for type-setting as he with a
hundred thousand. The salary of editors and contributors may vary from
nothing to ten thousand a year; but through all mutations of this life,
the printer's wages must remain in _statu quo_. So the Union kills small
papers, prevents competition in the newspaper business, builds up
monster establishments, and keeps typos at the case forever and a day.
I knew when the _Visiter_ started that it could not live and pay for
type-setting the same price as paid by the New York _Tribune_, and the
day the office became mine, I stated that fact to the printers, who took
their hats and left. In '52, I had spent some part of every day for two
weeks in a composing room, and with the knowledge then acquired, I, in
'58 started the business of practical printer. I took a proof of my
first stick, and lo, it read from right to left. I distributed that, but
had to mark the stick that I might remember.
The first day I took two boys as apprentices. First, Wesley Miller, who
had spent two months in a Harrisburg office, and knew something of the
art, but did not like anything about it except working the press.
Second, my nephew, William B. Mitchell, who was thirteen, knew nothing
of types, but was a model of patient industry.
Our magnanimous printers hung around hotels, laughing at the absurdity
of this amateur office. We might set type, but when it came to making
and locking up a form, ha, ha, wouldn't there be sport? That handsome
new type would all be a mess of pi, then somebody would be obliged to
come to their terms or St. Cloud would be without a paper. It was their
great opportunity to display their interest in the general welfare, and
they embraced it to the full; but of the little I had learned in that
short apprenticeship six years ago, I retained a clear conception of the
principles of justification by works. I brought these to bear on those
forms, made them up, locked them, and sent for Stephen Miller to carry
them to the press, when each one lifted like a paving stone; but alas,
alas, the columns read from right to left. I unlocked them, put the
matter back in the galleys, made them up new, and we had the paper off
From that time until the first of January, '63, I carried on the
business of practical printer, issued a paper every week, did a large
amount of job work, was city and county printer for half a dozen
counties, did all the legal advertising, published the tax lists, and
issued extras during the Indian massacres.
When, after Mr. Lincoln's election, the South made the North understand
that her threats of disunion meant something more than "tin kettle
thunder," there was little spirit of compromise among the Republicans
and Douglas Democrats of Minnesota, who generally looked with impatience
on the abject servility with which Northern men in Congress begged their
Southern masters not to leave them, with no slaves to catch, no peculiar
institution to guard.
I was in favor of not only permitting the Southern States to leave the
Union, but of driving them out of it as we would drive tramps out of a
drawing room. _Put_ them out! and open every avenue for the escape of
their slaves. But from that spirit of conciliation with which the North
first met, secession, the change was sudden. The fire on Sumter lit an
actual flame of freedom, and the people were ready then to wipe slavery
from the whole face of the land. When Gen. Fremont issued his famous
order confiscating the slaves of rebels in arms, I was in receipt of a
large exchange list, and have never seen such unanimity on any subject.
I think there were but two papers which offered an objection; but this
land was not worthy to do a generous deed. So, President Lincoln
rescinded that order, and the great rushing stream of popular enthusiasm
was dammed, turned back to flow into the dismal swamp of constitutional
quibbles and statutory inventions. There it lay, and bred reptiles and
miasmas to sting and poison the guilty inhabitants of this great land;
and never since have we been permitted to reach an enthusiasm in favor
of any great principle; for history has no record of a great act so
thoroughly divested of all greatness by the meanness of the motive, as
is our "Act of Emancipation."
Long after the war was in progress, the old habit of yielding precedence
to the South manifested itself so strongly as to sour and disgust the
staunchest Republicans. The only two important military appointments
given by Mr. Lincoln's administration to St. Cloud were given to two
Southern Democrats, officeholders under Buchanan and supporters of
Breckinridge, the Southern candidate for President in '60. In the autumn
of '61, I asked a farmer to take out and post bills for a meeting to
send delegates to the county convention. He had been an active worker in
the campaign of '60, had never sought an office, and I was surprised
when he declined so small a service, but his explanation was this:
"If the Democrats win the election, the Democrats will get the offices.
If the Republicans win the election, the Democrats will get the offices,
and I don't see but we may as well let them win the election."
When I explained that the more false others were to a party or
principle, the more need there was for him to be true, he took the bills
and managed the meeting; but running a Republican ticket under a
Republican administration was not so easy as running the same ticket
under Buchanan. Then men had hope and enthusiasm, but this was killed by
a victory through which the enemy was made to triumph.
As Gov. Ramsey was the first to tender troops to President Lincoln for
the suppression of the Rebellion, so the men of Minnesota were among the
first to organize and drill. Stephen Miller raised a company in St.
Cloud, with it joined the first regiment at Ft. Snelling, and was
appointed Lieut. Col.
We went to Ft. Snelling to see our first regiment embark. It was a grand
sight to see the men in red shirts and white Havelocks march down that
rocky, winding way, going to their Southern graves, for very few of them
More troops were called for, and two companies formed in St. Cloud.
While they waited under marching orders, they and the citizens were
aroused at two o'clock one morning by the cry from the east side of the
river of, "Indians, Indians." A boat was sent over and brought a
white-lipped messenger, with the news of the Sioux massacre at Ft.
My first public speech was the revelation of a talent hidden in a
napkin, and I set about putting it to usury. I wrote a lecture--"Women
and Politics"--as a reason for my anomalous position and a justification
of those men who had endorsed my right to be a political leader, and
gave sketches of women in sacred and profane history who had been so
endorsed by brave and wise men.
The lecture gave an account of the wrongs heaped upon women by slavery,
as a reason why women were then called upon for special activity, and I
never failed to "bring down the house" by describing the scene in which
the tall Kentuckian proposed to the tall Pennsylvanian that he should
horsewhip an old woman one hundred and two times, to compel her to earn
two hundred dollars with which his mightiness might purchase Havana
cigars, gold chains, etc., or to elicit signs of shame by relating the
fact of the United States government proposing to withdraw diplomatic
relations with Austria for whipping Hungarian women for political
offenses, while woman-whipping was the principal industry of our
I stated that men had sought to divide this world into two
fields--religion and politics. In the first, they were content that
their mothers and wives should dwell with them, but in the second, no
kid slipper was ever to be set. Horace Mann had warned women to stand
back, saying: "Politics is a stygian pool." I insisted that politics
had reached this condition through the permit given to Satan to turn all
the waste water of his mills into that pool; that this grant must be
rescinded and the pool drained at all hazards. Indeed the emergency was
such that even women might handle shovels.
Chicago had once been in a swamp, but the City Fathers had lifted it six
feet. Politicians must "raise the grade," must lift their politics the
height of a man, and make them a habitation for men, not reptiles. At
this an audience would burst into uproarous applause.
As for the grand division, no surveyor could find the line; for no line
was possible between religion and politics. The attempt to divide them
is an assumption that there is some part of the universe in which the
Lord is not law-giver. The Fathers of the Republic had explored and
found a country they thought was outside the Divine jurisdiction, and
called it Politics. Because old world government had bowed to popes and
prelates, they would ignore Deity, and say to Omnipotence what Canute
did to the sea: "Thus far shalt thou go but no further, and here shall
thy proud waves be stayed." But God laughed them to scorn, and would
certainly dash them to pieces. The government which they had set up like
the golden image of Nebuchadnezzer, and demanded that all should bow
before it, this same government was bound to sustain men in scourging
women for chastity. Every man who voted a democratic ticket voted to put
down as insurrection any attempt to stand between the cradle and its
I never spoke of the St. Cloud trouble--there was too much else to talk
about. I was seldom interrupted by anything but applause; but in
Stillwater I was hissed for denouncing Buchanan's administration. I
waited a moment, then lowered my voice, and said I had raised a good
many goslings, and thought I had left them all in Pennsylvania, but
found some had followed me, and was sorry to have no corn for them.
There was no further interruption.
I was at that time the guest of a son of my Pittsburg friend, Judge
McMillan, who led the singing in our church, and with whom I expect to
sing "St. Thomas" in heaven. My host of that evening afterwards became
U.S. Senator from Minnesota.
A considerable portion of three winters I traveled in Minnesota and
lectured, one day riding thirty miles in an open cutter when the mercury
was frozen and the wind blew almost a gale. Have crossed houseless
prairies between midnight and morning, with only a stage driver, and I
never encountered a neglect or a rudeness: but found gentlemen in red
flannel shirts and their trowsers stuffed into the tops of their boots,
who had no knowledge of grammar, and who would, I think, have sold their
lives dearly in my defense.
Late in '60 or early in '61, I lectured in Mantorville, and was the
guest of Mr. Bancroft, editor of the _Express_, when he handed me a copy
of the New York _Tribune_, pointed to an item, and turned away. It was a
four line announcement that he who had been my husband had obtained a
divorce on the ground of desertion. I laid down the paper, looked at my
hands, and thought:
"Once more you are mine. True, the proceeds of your twenty years of
brick-making are back there in Egypt with your lost patrimony, but we
are over the Red Sea, out in the free desert; no pursuit is possible,
and if bread fails, God will send manna."
While I sat, Mrs. Bancroft came to me, caressed me, and said:
"Old things have passed away, and all things have become new."
OUT INTO THE WORLD AND HOME AGAIN.
In my first lecturing winter I spoke in the Hall of Representatives, St.
Paul, to a large audience, and succeeded past all my hopes. I spoke
there again in the winter of '61 and '62, on the anti-slavery question,
and in a public hall on "Woman's Legal Disabilities." Both were very
successful, and I was invited to give the latter lecture before the
Senate, which I did. The hall was packed and the lecture received with
profound attention, interrupted by hearty applause.
The Senate was in session, and Gen. Lowrie occupied his seat as a
member. It was a great fall for him to tumble from his dictatorship to
so small an honor. He sat and looked at me like one in a dream, and I
could not but see that he was breaking. I hoped he would come up with
others when they began to crowd around me, but he did not.
I had come to be the looked-at of all lookers; the talked-of of all
talkers; was the guest of Geo. A. Nurse, the U.S. Attorney, dined with
the Governor, and was praised by the press. I was dubbed the "Fanny
Kemble of America," and reminded critics of the then greatest Shylock of
the stage. A judge from Ohio said there was "not a man in the State who
could have presented that case (Woman's Legal Disabilities) so well."
Indeed, I was almost as popular as if I were about to be hanged!
A responsible Eastern lecture-agent offered me one hundred dollars each
for three lectures, one in Milwaukee, one in Chicago and one in
Cleveland. I wanted to accept, but was overruled by friends, who thought
me too feeble to travel alone, and that I would make more by employing
an agent. They selected a pious gentleman, whose name I have forgotten,
and we left St. Paul at four o'clock one winter morning, in a prairie
schooner on bob-sleds, to ride to La Crosse.
One of the passengers was a pompous Southerner, who kept boasting of the
"buck niggers" he had sold and the "niggers" he had caught, and his
delight in that sort of work. His talk was aimed at me, but he did not
address me, and for hours I took no notice; then, after an unusual
explosion, I said quietly:
"Can you remember, sir, just exactly how many niggers you have killed
and eaten in your day?"
He looked out on the river and seemed to begin a calculation, but must
have found the lists of his exploits too long for utterance, for he had
spoken not another word when we reached La Crosse, where we took cars
for Madison, Wisconsin.
We reached that beautiful city of lakes in time to meet news of the Ft.
Donelson fatal victory; that victory made so much worse than a hundred
defeats by the return to their masters of the slaves who remained in
the fort and claimed the protection of our flag--the victory which
converted the great loyal army of the North into a gang of
slave-catchers. Alas, my native land! All hope for the preservation of
the government died out in my heart. What could a just God want with
such a people? What could he do but destroy them?
That victory was celebrated in Madison with appropriate ceremonies. Men
got drunk and cursed "niggers and abolitionists," sat up all night in
noisy orgies drinking health and success to him who was the synonym of
The excitement and sudden revulsion against abolitionists with the total
incompetence of my agent, caused a financial failure of my lecture, but
I made pleasant friendships with Gov. Harvey, Prof. Carr and their
I started along the route we had come, and everywhere, in cars, hotels,
men were hurrahing for Grant and cursing "niggers and abolitionists."
The hero had healed the breach between the loving brothers of the North
and South, who were to rush into each others arms across the prostrate
form of Liberty. Thank God for the madness of the South; for that
sublime universal government which maketh "the wrath of man to praise
him." Even in that hour of triumph for despotism, I did not doubt but
Freedom would march on until no slave contaminated the earth; but before
that march this degraded government must share the fate of that other
Babylon, which once dealt "in slaves and souls of men."
My first small town lecture was another financial failure, and in the
hall I paid and dismissed that highly respectable incubus--my agent.
That night I slept in a hotel, and going to a bed which had not been
properly ventilated, wondered if it could be my duty to breast that
storm of popular frenzy. Could I at any time be required to drink tea
out of a coarse delf cup and sleep in such a bed? Luxuries I wanted
none; but a china cup, silver spoon and soft blankets were necessaries
of life. As I lay, uncertain always whether I slept, I seemed to sit on
a projecting rock on the side of a precipice draped with poisonous
vines. There was no spot on which I could place my feet, while out of
holes, snakes hissed at me, and on ledges panthers glared at me with
their green fiery eyes, and the tips of their tails wagging. Far below
lay a lovely green valley, walled on both sides by these haunted
precipitous banks, but stretching up and down until lost in vista. I
knew that to the right was north--the direction of home; and to the
left, south--the way out into the great unknown. If I could only reach
that lovely valley and the clear stream which ran through it; but this
was a vain longing, until there appeared in it a young man in a grey
suit and soft broad-brimmed black felt hat. He came up the precipice
toward me, and a way made itself before him, until he held up his hand,
I saw his face, and knew it was Christ. After seeing that face, all the
conceptions of all the artists are an offense. Moreover, the Christ of
to-day, in the person of his follower, has often come to me in the garb
of a working man, but never in priestly robes. He led me down the
precipice without a word, pointed northward and said:
"Walk in the valley and you will be safe." He was gone, and I became
conscious that I had been seeking popularity, money, and these were not
for me; I must go home, but first I would try to repair the loss
incurred by that agent. I lectured in a small town, a nucleus of a Seven
Day Baptist settlement, and was the guest of the proprietor, who had
built a great many concrete walls. Coming out into a heavy wind, I took
acute inflammation of the lungs. My hostess gave me every attention; but
I must go home for my symptoms were alarming, so took the train the next
morning, with my chest in wet compresses, a viol of aconite in my
pocket, and was better when by rail and schooner I reached the house of
the good Samaritan, Judge Wilson, of Winona.
Here I was made whole, lectured in Winona and other towns, and got back
to St. Paul with more money than when I left. I started for home one
morning in a schooner. At one the next morning our craft settled down
and refused to go farther. The snow was three feet deep; it had been
raining steadily for twelve hours, and when the men got out to pry out
the runners, they went down, down, far over their knees. The driver and
express agent were booted for such occasions, but the two Germans were
not. Myself, "these four and no more," were down in the book of fate for
a struggle with inertia. It was muscle and mind against matter. To the
muscle I contributed nothing, but might add something to the common
stock of mind. The agent, and driver concluded that he should take a
horse and go to the nearest house, two miles back, to get shovels to dig
us out. I asked if there were fresh horses and men at the house.
"How far is it to St. Cloud?"
"Are there fresh horses and men there?"
"If you dig us out here, how long will it be before we go in again?"
This they did not know.
"Then had not the driver better go to St. Cloud with both horses? The
horse left here would be ruined standing in that slush."
"But, madam," said the agent, "if we do that we will have to leave you
here all night."
"Well," I said, "I do not see how you are going to get rid of me."
So the driver started with the two horses on that dreadful journey; had
I known how dreadful, I should have tried to keep him till morning. As
he left, I made the Germans draw off their boots and pour out the water,
rub their chilled feet and roll them up in a buffalo robe. The agent lay
on his box, I cuddled in a corner, and we all went to sleep to the music
of the patter of the soft rain on our canvas cover. At sunrise we were
waked by a little army of men and horses and another schooner, into
which we passed by bridge. We reached St. Cloud in time for breakfast,
and were greeted by the news that General Lowrie had been sent home
insane. He was confined in his own house, and his much envied young
wife, with her two babies, had become an object of pity.
THE ARISTOCRACY OF THE WEST.
Before going to Minnesota, I had the common Cooper idea of the dignity
and glory of the noble red man of the forest; and was especially
impressed by his unexampled faithfulness to those pale-faces who had
ever been so fortunate as to eat salt with him. In planning my
hermitage, I had pictured the most amicable relations with those
unsophisticated children of nature, who should never want for salt while
there was a spoonful in my barrel. I should win them to friendships as I
had done railroad laborers, by caring for their sick children, and
aiding their wives. Indeed, I think the Indians formed a large part of
the attractions of my cabin by the lakes; and it required considerable
time and experience to bring me to any true knowledge of the situation,
which was, and is, this:
Between the Indian and white settler, rages the world-old, world-wide
war of hereditary land-ownership against those who beg their brother man
for leave to live and toil. William Penn disclaimed the right of
conquest as a land title, while he himself held an English estate based
on that title, and while every acre of land on the globe was held by it.
He could not recognize that title in English hands, but did in the hands
of Indians, and while pretending to purchase of them a conquest title,
perpetrated one of the greatest swindles on record since that by which
Jacob won the birthright of his starving brother.
This Penn swindle has been so carefully cloaked that it has become the
basis of our whole Indian policy, the legitimate parent of a system
never equalled on earth for crime committed with the best intentions. It
intends to be especially just, by holding that the Creator made North
America for the exclusive use of savages, and that civilization can only
exist here by sufferance of the proprietors. This sufferance it tries to
purchase by engaging to support these proprietors in absolute idleness,
from the proceeds of the toil they license, even as kings and other
landed aristocrats are supported by the labor of their subjects and
As the successors of the tent-maker of Tarsus have for thirteen
centuries been found on the side of aristocrats in every contest with
plebians, so the piety of the East, controlled by men who live without
labor, was and is on the side of the royal red man, who has a most royal
contempt for plows, hoes and all other degrading implements.
The same community of interests which arrayed the mass of the clergy on
the side of Southern slaveholders, arrayed that same clergy on the side
of the Western slave holder, and against the men who seek, with plows
and hoes, to get a living out of the ground. Under this arrangement we
have the spectacle of a Christian people arrayed in open hostility to
those who plant Christian churches, schools and libraries on the lair of
the wolf; and in alliance with the savage who coolly unjoints the feet
and hands of little children, puts them in his hunting pouch as evidence
of his valor, and leaves the victim to die at leisure; of those who
thrust Christian babies into ovens, and deliberately roast them to
death; of those who bind infants, two by two, by one wrist, and throw
them across a fence to die; of those who collect little children in
groups and lock them up in a room, to wail out their little lives; of
those who commit outrages on innocent men and women who the pen must
forever refuse to record. The apology with which piety converts the
crimes of its pets into virtues, is that its own agents have failed to
carry out its own contract with its own friends.
The men and women who take their lives in their hands to lead the
westward march of civilization, are held as foes by the main body of the
army, who conspire with the enemy, and hand them over as scapegoats
whose tortures and death are to appease divine wrath for the crimes
which this same main body say it has itself committed against Indians.
No one pretends that Western settlers have injured Indians, but Eastern
philanthropists, through the government they control, have, according to
their own showing, been guilty of no end of frauds; and as they do not,
and cannot, stop the stealing, they pay their debts to the noble red man
by licensing him to outrage women, torture infants and burn homes. When
gold is scarce in the East, they substitute scalps and furnish Indians
with scalping-knives by the thousand, that they may collect their dues
at their own convenience.
This may seem to-day a bitter partisan accusation, but it must be the
calm verdict of history when this comes to be written by impartial pens.
Under the pretense that America belonged, in fee simple, and by special
divine right, to that particular hoard of savages, who, by killing off
some other hoard of savages, were in possession when Columbus first saw
the Great West, the Eastern States, which had already secured their land
by conquest, have become more implacable foes to civilization than the
The Quaker would form no alliance with Southern slave-holders. He
recoiled from the sale of women and children in South Carolina, but
covered with his gray mantle of charity the slave trade in Minnesota.
When a settler refused to exchange his wife or daughter with an Indian
for a pony, and that Indian massacred the whole family to repair his
wrongs, his Quaker lawyer justified the act on the score of extreme
provocation, and won triumphal acquittal from the jury of the world.
When the Sioux, after the Bull Run disaster, arose as the allies of the
South, and butchered one thousand men, women and children in Minnesota,
the Quakers and other good people flew to arms in their defense, and
carried public sentiment in their favor. The agents of the Eastern
people had delayed the payment of annuity three weeks, and then insulted
Mr. Lo by tendering him one-half his money in government bonds, and for
this great wrong the peaceable Quaker, the humanitarian Unitarian, the
orthodox Congregationalist and Presbyterian, the enthusiastic Methodist
and staid Baptist, felt it but right Mr. Lo should have his revenge.
Most Eastern Christians are opposed to polygamy in Utah, and Fourierism
in France, but in Minnesota among Indians these institutions are sacred.
They demanded that England should by law prohibit widow-burning and
other heathen customs in India, but nothing so rude as statutes must
interfere with the royal privileges of these Western landlords. If by
gentle means Mr. Lo can be persuaded to stop taking all the wives he can
get, extorting their labor by the cudgel, and selling them and their
children at will, all well and good! Millions are expended on the
persuading business, and prayer poured out like the rains in Noah's
flood, without any perceptible effect; but still they keep on paying and
praying, and carefully abstain from all means at all likely to
accomplish the desired result. All the property of every tribe must be
held in common, so that there can possibly be no incentive to industry
and economy; but if the Indian refuse to be civilized on that plan, he
must go on taking scalps and being excused, until extermination solve
Long before I saw an Indian on his native soil, the U.S. Government had
spent millions in carrying out this Penn policy. For long years, Indians
had sat like crows, watching the white farmers and artisans sent to
teach them industry, and had grunted their honest contempt. They watched
the potato planting, that they might pick out the seed for present use.
They pulled down fences, and turned their ponies into the growing crops,
used the rails for fire wood, burned mills and houses built for them,
rolled barrels of flour up steep acclivities, started them down and
shouted to see them leap and the flour spurt through the staves; knocked
the heads out of other barrels, and let the ponies eat the flour; poured
bags of corn on the ground when they wanted the bag, and in every way
showed their contempt for the government, whose policy they believed to
be the result of cowardice. Thousands of dollars' worth of agricultural
machinery lay "rotting in the sun" while the noble red aristocrat played
poker in the shade; his original contempt for labor intensified by his
power to extract a living from laborers, through their fear of his
Hole-in-the-day, the Chippewa chief, had been educated by Baptist
missionaries, and was a good English scholar, but would not condescend
to speak to the government except through an interpreter. For him six
hundred acres of land had been fenced, and a large frame cottage built
and painted white. In this he lived with six wives, and a United States
salary of two thousand a year and his traveling expenses. He dressed
like a white man, dined with State officers in St. Paul, went to church
with a lady on his arm, sat in a front pew, and was a highly
distinguished gentleman of the scalping school.
THE INDIAN MASSACRE OF '62.
The Indians had been ugly from the first outbreak of the Rebellion, and
Commissioner Dole, with Senator Wilkinson, had come out to pacify them.
The party passed through St. Cloud, and had camped several miles west,
when in the night there came up one of those sudden storms peculiar to
this land. Their tents were whisked away like autumn leaves, and they
left clinging to such productions of mother nature as were at hand,
well rooted in her bosom, to avoid a witches' dance in the air. But it
grew worse when the rain had covered the level ground six inches deep in
water, and they must keep their heads above the surface.
They returned to St. Cloud in the morning in sorry plight, and the delay
was one of the injuries to the poor Indians, and counted as sufficient
justification for the subsequent massacre. The delay, however, saved
their lives. The messenger who aroused the people of St. Cloud in the
small hours was traveling post after this Dole commission, for whose
safety there was much anxiety, but none for St. Cloud, since the Indians
would not attack us while there were two companies of soldiers in town.
True, they were unarmed, but surely arms would be sent and their
marching orders rescinded. The outbreak was mysterious. It was of course
in the interests of the South, and meant to prevent the troops leaving
the State; but why had not the tribes struck together?
The answer was that after the massacre had been arranged in council, two
Sioux visited a white family in which they had often been entertained,
were drunk, and could not resist the impulse to butcher their
entertainers. This precipitated the attack, for so soon as the news
reached the tribe, they went to work to execute their bloody purpose.
Johnson, a converted Chippewa, hurried to inform us that his tribe with
Hole-in-the-day in council had resolved to join the Sioux and were to
have made St. Cloud their base of operations, but the Sioux had broken
out before the arms and ammunition came, and these they were hourly
expecting. On the same day a formal message came from Hole-in-the-day
that Commissioner Dole must come to the reservation to confer with his
young braves, who would await his arrival ten days, after which time
their great chief declined to be responsible for them.
A runner arrived from Ft. Abercrombie, who had escaped by crawling
through the grass, and reported the Fort besieged by a thousand savages,
and quite unprepared for defense. There were several St. Cloud people in
the Fort, and so far from expecting aid from it it must be relieved. The
garrison at Ft. Ripley had not a man to spare for outside defense.
People began to pour into St. Cloud with tales of horror to freeze the
blood, and the worst reports were more than confirmed. The victorious
Sioux had undisputed possession of the whole country west, southwest and
northwest of us, up to within twelve miles of the city, and had left few
people to tell tales. Our troops spent their time teaching women and
children the use of firearms, and hoping for arms and orders to go to
the relief of Abercrombie. There was no telegraph, and the last mail
left no alternative but to start for Fort Snelling, with such short time
to get there that every available man and horse must go to hurry them
forward. They left in the afternoon, and that was a dreadful night. Many
of the more timid women had gone east, but of those that remained some
paced the streets, wringing their hands and sobbing out their fear and
despair and sorrow for the husbands and brothers and sons taken from
them at such a crisis.
When the troops left, we thought there were no more men in St. Cloud,
but next morning found a dozen, counting the boys, who were organized to
go out west to the rescue of settlers, and still there were some guards
and pickets, and some who did nothing but find fault with everything any
one else did.
Men and women spoke with stiffened lips and blanched faces. Families in
the outskirts gathered to more central places, and there were forty-two
women and children in my house the night after the troops left, and for
every night for weeks. We kept large kettles of boiling water as one
means of defense. I always had the watchword, and often at midnight I
would go out to see that the pickets were on duty, and report to the
women that all was well. Brother Harry was appointed General of State
troops, succeeding Gen. Lowrie, and arms were sent to him for
distribution, while women kept muskets by them and practiced daily. The
office of my democratic contemporary was closed, and he fled to New
England, while his assistant went with my only male assistant to rescue
settlers. I had two young ladies in the office, one a graduate of a New
York high school, and through all the excitement they kept at work as
coolly as at any other time. We got out the paper regularly, and
published many extras.
The history of the horrors and heroisms which reached us during the six
weeks in which Ft. Abercrombie held out until relief came, would make a
volume, and cannot he written here. The unimaginable tortures and
indecencies inflicted on brave men and good women, are something for
which the Christian supporters and excusers of the Sioux must yet
account at the bar where sentimental sympathy with criminals is itself
a crime; and where the wail of tortured infants will not be hushed by
reckoning of bad beef and a deficiency in beans.
While the Sioux sat in council to determine that butchery, some
objected, on the ground that such crimes would be punished, but Little
Crow, leader of the war party, quieted their fears by saying:
"White man no like Indian! Indian catch white man, roast him, kill him!
White man catch Indian, feed him, give him blankets," and on this
assurance they acted.
One thing was clearly proven by that outbreak, viz.: that services to,
and friendship for, Indians, are the best means of incurring their
revenge. Those families who had been on most intimate terms with them,
were those who were massacred first and with the greatest atrocities.
The more frequently they had eaten salt with a pale-face, the more
insatiable was their desire for vengeance. The missionaries were
generally spared, as the source through which they expected pardon and
supplies. The Indian was much too cunning to kill the goose that laid
the golden egg. The tribe do not object to the conversion of
individuals. Saying prayers does not interfere with their ideas of their
own importance. Preachers do not labor with their hands, and Indians can
join the clerical order or get religion, without losing caste, for labor
to them is pollution.
Two wagon loads of arms and ammunition _en route_ for Hole-in-the-day,
were intercepted during the massacre, and for want of them he was
induced to keep quiet. For being such a good Indian, he had a triumphal
trip to Washington at government expense, got ten thousand dollars, and
a seventh wife.
A MISSIVE AND A MISSION.
Soon after the people had returned to such homes as were left them, I
received a letter from General Lowrie, who was then in an insane asylum
in Cincinnati. I caught his humor and answered as carefully as if he had
been a sick brother, gave an extract in the _Democrat_, accompanied by a
notice, and sent him a copy; after which he wrote frequently, and I
tried earnestly to soothe him. In one of his letters was this passage:
"Your quarrel and mine was all wrong. There was no one in that upper
country capable of understanding you but me, no one capable of
understanding me, but you. We should have been friends, and would have
been, if we had not each had a self which we were all too anxious to
After the Sioux had finished their work of horror, Minnesota men, aided
by volunteers from Iowa and Wisconsin, pursued and captured the
murderers of one thousand men, women and children; tried them, found
them guilty, and proposed to hang them just as if they had been white
murderers. But when the general government interfered and took the
prisoners out of the hands of the State authorities, and when it became
evident that Eastern people endorsed the massacre and condemned the
victims as sinners who deserved their fate, one of the State officers
proposed that I should go East, try to counteract the vicious public
sentiment, and aid our Congressional delegation in their effort to
induce the Administration either to hang the Sioux murderers, or hold
them as hostages during the war.
To me this was a providential call, for I had been planning to make a
home in the East, that our daughter, then old enough to live without me,
might spend a portion of her time with her father.
With letters from all our State officers, I left my Minnesota home at
four o'clock A.M., January 2nd, '63, leaving the _Democrat_ in charge of
my first apprentice, William B. Mitchell.
In Washington, the Minnesota delegation secured the use of Dr.
Sutherland's church, and a packed audience for my lecture on Indians. It
was enthusiastically applauded, and for a time I did hope for some
security for women and children on the frontier; but the Secretary of
the Interior assured me it was not worth while to see the President, for
"Mr. Lincoln will hang nobody!" and our Minnesota delegation agreed with
him. Indeed, there was such a _furor_ of pious pity for the poor injured
Sioux, such admiration for their long suffering patience under wrong,
and final heroic resistance, that I might about as well have tried to
row myself from the head of Goat Island up the rapids of Niagara, as
stem that current. The ring which makes money by caudling Indians, had
the ear of both President and people, and the Bureau had a paying
contract in proving Little Crow's sagacity. The Sioux never were so well
supplied with blankets and butcher-knives, as when they received their
reward for that massacre; never had so many prayers said and hymns sung
over them, and their steamboat ride down the Minnesota and Mississippi
and up the Missouri, to a point within two days' walk of the scene of
their exploits, furnished them an excursion of about two thousand miles,
and left them well prepared for future operations. They appreciated
their good fortune, have been a terror to United States troops and
Western settlers ever since, and have enjoyed their triumph to the full.
One morning Senator Wilkinson and I went to see the President, and in
the vestibule of the White House met two gentlemen whom he introduced as
Sec. Stanton and Gen. Fremont. The first said he needed no introduction,
and I said I had asked Senator Wilkinson to see him on my account. He
"Do not ask any one to see me! If you want anything from me, come
yourself. No one can have more influence."
Gen. Fremont inquired where I was staying, and said he would call on me.
This frightened me, and I felt like running away. But they were so kind
and cordial that our short chat is a pleasant memory; but Mr. Wilkinson
and I failed to see Mr. Lincoln. Next day Sec. Stanton gave me an
appointment in the Quarter Master General's office, but there was no
place for me to go to work.
Gen. Fremont called at the houses of two friends where I was visiting,
but both times I was absent. In 1850 I had also missed the calls of his
wife and sister, and so I seemed destined never to meet the people I
admired above all others.
My friends wished me to attend a Presidential reception; but it was
useless to see Mr. Lincoln on the business which brought me to
Washington, and I did not care to see him on any other. He had proved an
obstructionist instead of an abolitionist, and I felt no respect for
him; while his wife was every where spoken of as a Southern woman with
Southern sympathies--a conspirator against the Union. I wanted nothing
to do with the occupants of the White House, but was told I could go and
see the spectacle without being presented. So I went in my broadcloth
traveling dress, and lest there should be trouble about my early
leave-taking, would not trust my cloak to the servants, but walked
through the hall with it over my arm. I watched the President and Mrs.
Lincoln receive. His sad, earnest, honest face was irresistible in its
plea for confidence, and Mrs. Lincoln's manner was so simple and
motherly, so unlike that of all Southern women I had seen, that I
doubted the tales I had heard. Her head was not that of a conspirator.
She would be incapable of a successful deceit, and whatever her purposes
were, they must be known to all who knew her.
Mr. Lincoln stood going through one of those, dreadful ordeals of
hand-shaking, working like a man pumping for life on a sinking vessel,
and I was filled with indignation for the selfish people who made this
useless drain on his nervous force. I wanted to stand between him and
them, and say, "stand back, and let him live and do his work." But I
could not resist going to him with the rest of the crowd, and when he
took my hand I said:
"May the Lord have mercy on you, poor man, for the people have none."
He laughed heartily, and the men around him, joined in his merriment.
When I came to Mrs. Lincoln, she did not catch the name at first, and
asked to hear it again, then repeated it, and a sudden glow of pleasure
lit her face, as she held out her hand and said how very glad she was to
see me. I objected to giving her my hand because my black glove would
soil her white one; but she said:
"Then I shall preserve the glove to remember a great pleasure, for I
have long wished to see you."
My escort was more surprised than I by her unusual cordiality, and said
"It was no polite affectation. I cannot understand it from her."
I understood at once that I had met one with whom I was in sympathy. No
politeness could have summoned that sudden flash of pleasure. Her manner
was too simple and natural to have any art in it; and why should she
have pretended a friendship she did not feel? Abolitionists were at a
discount. They had gone like the front ranks of the French cavalry at
Waterloo, into the sunken way, to make a bridge, over which moderate men
were rushing to honors and emoluments. Gideon's army had done its work,
and given place to the camp followers, who gathered up the spoils of
victory. None wore so poor that they need do them reverence, and I
recognized Mrs. Lincoln as a loyal, liberty-loving woman, more staunch
even than her husband in opposition to the Rebellion and its cause, and
as my very dear friend for life.
NO USE FOR ME AMONG THE WOUNDED.
I had not thought, even after deciding to remain in Washington, of doing
any hospital work--knew nothing about it; and in strength was more like
a patient than a nurse; but while I waited for a summons to go to the
duties of my clerkship, I met some ladies interested in hospitals.
One of these, Mrs. Thayer, had an ambulance at her command, and took me
for a day's visiting among the forts, on a day when it was known that
our armies in Virginia were engaged with the enemy. The roads were
almost impassable, and as a skillful driver and two good horses used
their best efforts to take us from place to place, I felt like a thief;
that ambulance ought to be at the front, and us with it, or on our knees
pleading for the men whose breasts were a living wall between us and
danger, between Liberty and her deadly foes.
The men in the forts had no special need of us, and sometimes their
thanks for the tracts we brought them, gave an impulse to strike them
square in the face, but Mrs. Thayer was happy in her work, and thought
me uncivil to her friends.
We reached the last fort on our round before I saw anything interesting;
and here a sorrowful woman drew me aside to tell me of the two weeks she
had spent with her husband, now in the last stage of camp-fever, and of
her fruitless efforts to get sufficient straw for his bed, while the
bones were cutting through the skin as he lay on the slats of his cot.
She wrung her hands in a strange, suppressed agony, and exclaimed "Oh!
If they had only let me take him home when I came first; but say nothing
here, or they will not let me stay."
I verified her statement of her husband's condition, so that I could
speak from observation without compromising her, and spoke to the
surgeon, who politely regretted the scarcity of straw, and hoped to get
I returned to the sufferer, who was from New Hampshire, and a very
intelligent man; and after talking with him and his wife, concluded to
look up the commander of that fort, and put some powder and a lighted
match into his ear; but first consulted Mrs. Thayer, who begged me to
take no notice, else she would no longer be permitted to visit the fort.
She had introduced me to two fashionably dressed ladies, officers'
wifes, resident there; and when I must say or do nothing about this man,
lest I should destroy Mrs. Thayer's opportunity for doing good, I
concluded we had discovered a new variety of savage, and came away
thinking I could do something in the city.
Next morning I stated the case to Miss Dix, who was neither shocked nor
surprised. I had never before seen her, but her tall, angular person,
very red face, and totally unsympathetic manner, chilled me. The best
ambulance in the service was exclusively devoted to her use, and I
thought she would surely go or send a bed to that man before noon; but
she proposed to do nothing of the kind, had engagements for the day,
which seemed to me of small import compared to that of placing that man
on a comfortable bed; but she could do nothing that day, by reason of
these engagements, and nothing next day, it being Sunday, on which day
she attended to no business. We spoke of the great battle then in
progress, and I tendered my services, could take no regular appointment,
would want no pay, could not work long; but might be of use in an
emergency! Emergencies were things of which she had no conception.
Everything in her world moved by rule, and her arrangements were
complete. She had sent eight nurses to the front, and more could only be
in the way.
I inquired about hospital supplies, and she grew almost enthusiastic in
explaining the uselessness, nay, absurdity, of sending any. Government
furnished everything that could possibly be wanted. The Sanitary and
Christian Commissioners were all a mistake; Soldiers' Aid Societies a
delusion and a snare. She was burdened with stores sent to her for which
there was no use; and she hoped I would use my influence to stop the
business of sending supplies.
From her I went direct to the Sanitary Commission, and found a large
house full of salaried clerks and porters, and boxes, and bails,
although this was not their storehouse.
Here again I stated the case of the man without a bed, and found
listeners neither surprised nor shocked. Every one seemed quite familiar
with trifles of that nature, and by and by, I, too, would look upon them
I do not remember whether it was Saturday engagements, or Sunday
sanctity, or lack of jurisdiction, which barred the Commission from
interference; but think they must wait until the fort surgeon sent a
I inquired here about hospital stores, and found there was great demand
for everything, especially money. They declined my services in every
capacity save that of inducing the public to hurry forward funds and
supplies. I told them of Miss Dix's opinion on that subject, and they
agreed that it was quite useless to send anything to her, since she used
nothing she received, and would not permit any one else to use stores.
Late in the next week Mrs. Thayer came, in great tribulation, to know
how I ever could have done so foolish and useless a thing as report that
case to Miss Dix! Oh dear! Oh dear! It was so unwise!
Miss Dix had gone to the fort on Monday, taken the surgeon to task about
that bed, gave me as her authority, and for me Mrs. Thayer was
responsible, and would be excluded from that fort on account of my
indiscretion. There was another standing quarrel between the directress
of nurses and the surgeons. The bitterness engendered would all be
visited upon the patients, and it was so deplorable to think I had been
Her distress was so real, and she was so real in her desire to do good,
that I felt myself quite a culprit, especially as the man got no bed,
and died on his slats.
I was so lectured and warned about the sin of this, my first offense, in
telling that which "folk wad secret keep" in hospital management, that I
was afraid to go to another, lest I should get some one into trouble;
so stayed at home while the Washington hospitals were being filled with
wounded from the battle of Chancellorville. I think it was the afternoon
of the second Sabbath that I went with Mrs. Kelsey to visit Campbell, to
get material for a letter, and tendered my services, but their
arrangements were complete. Passing through the wards it did indeed seem
as if nothing was wanting.
As a matter of form, I asked James Bride, of Wisconsin, if there was
anything I could do for him, was surprised to see him hesitate, and
astounded to have him answer:
"Well, nothing particular, unless"--he stopped and picked at the
coverlid--"unless you could get us something to quench thirst."
"Something to quench thirst? Why, I have been told you have everything
you can possibly require!"
"Well, they are very good to us, and do all they can; but it gets very
hot in here in the afternoons, we cannot go out into the shade, and get
so thirsty. Drinking so much water makes us sick, and if we had
something a little sour!"
"But, would they let me bring you anything?"
"O yes! I see ladies bring things every day."
"Then I shall be glad to bring you something tomorrow."
That morning I wrote to the New York _Tribune,_ relating the incident of
the man asking for cooling drinks, and saying that if people furnished
the material, I would devote my time to distributing their gifts. Next
morning I got two dozen lemons, pressed the juice into a jar, put in
sugar, took a glass and spoon and, so soon as visitors were admitted,
began giving lemonade to those men who seemed to have most need. Going
to the water tank for every glass of water made it slow work, but I
improved my walks by talking to the men, hearing their wants and adding
to their stock of hope and cheerfulness, and was glad to see that the
nurses did not seem to object to my presence, even though Campbell was
the one only hospital in the city from which female nurses were
So noted had it become for the masculine pride of its management, that I
had been warned not to stay past the length of an ordinary visit, lest I
should be roughly told to go away; and my surprise was equal to my
pleasure, when a man came and said:
"Would it not be easier for you if you had a pitcher?"
I said it would, but that I lived too far away to bring one.
"Oh! I will bring you a pitcher! Why did you not ask for one?"
"I did not want to trouble you, for they told me you did not like to
have women here." He laughed, and said: "I guess we'll all be glad
enough to have you! Not many of your sort. First thing they all do is to
begin to make trouble, and it always takes two men to wait on one of
He brought the pitcher, and I felt that I was getting on in the world.
Still I was very humble and careful to win the favor of "the King's
Chamberlain"--those potencies, the nurses, who might report me to that
Royal woman-hater, Dr. Baxter, surgeon in charge, whose name was a
terror to women who intruded themselves into military hospitals.
As I passed, with my pitcher, I saw one man delerious, and
expectorating, profusely, a matter green as grass could be--knew this
was hospital gangrene, and remembered all Dr. Palmer had told me years
before, of his experience in Paris hospitals, and the antidotes to that
and scurvey poison. Indeed, the results of many conversations with
first-class physicians, and of some reading on the subject of camp
diseases, came to me; and I knew just what was wanted here, but saw no
sign that the want was likely to be supplied. For this man it was too
late, but I could not see that anything was being done to prevent the
spread of this fearful scourge.
Passing from that ward into the one adjoining, I came suddenly upon two
nurses dressing a thigh stump, while the patient filled the air with
half-suppressed shrieks and groans. I had never before seen a stump, but
remembered Dr. Jackson's lecture over the watermellon at desert, on
amputation, for the benefit of Charles Sumner; and electricity never
brought light quicker than there came to me the memory of all he had
said about the proper arrangement of the muscles over the end of the
bone; and added to this, came a perfect knowledge of the relations of
those mangled muscles to the general form of the body. I saw that the
nurse who held the stump tortured the man by disregarding natural law,
and setting down pitcher and glass on the floor, I stepped up, knelt,
slipped my hands under the remains of that strong thigh, and said to the
man who held it:
"Now, slip out your hands! easy! easy! there!" The instant it rested on
my hands the groans ceased, and I said:
"Is that better?"
"Oh, my God! yes!"
"Well, then, I will always hold it when it is dressed!"
"But you will not be here!"
"I will come!"
"That would be too much trouble!"
"I have nothing else to do, and will think it no trouble!"
The nurse, who did the dressing, was very gentle, and there was no more
pain; but I saw that the other leg was amputated below the knee, and
this was a double reason why he should be tenderly cared for. So I took
the nurse aside, and asked when the wounds were to be dressed again. He
said in the morning, and promised to wait until I came to help. Next
morning I was so much afraid of being late that I would not wait for the
street cars to begin running, but walked. The guard objected to
admitting me, as it was not time for visitors, but I explained and he
let me pass. I must not go through the wards at that hour, so went
around and came in by the door near which he lay. What was my surprise
to find that not only were his wounds dressed, but that all his clothing
and bed had been changed, and everything about him made as white and
neat and square as if he were a corpse, which he more resembled than a
living man. Oh, what a tribute of agony he had paid to the demon of
appearance! We all pay heavy taxes to other people's eyes; but on none
is the levy quite so onerous as on the patients of a model hospital! I
saw that he breathed and slept, and knew his time was short; but sought
the head nurse, and asked why he had not waited for me; he hesitated,
stammered, blushed and said:
"Why, the fact is, sister, he has another wound that it would not be
pleasant for you to see."
"Do you mean that that man has a groin wound in addition to all else?"
"Yes, sister! yes! and I thought--"
"No matter what you thought, you have tortured him to save your
mock-modesty and mine. You could have dressed that other wound, covered
him, and let me hold the stump. You saw what relief it gave him
yesterday. How could you--how dare you torture him?"
"Well, sister, I have been in hospitals with sisters a great deal, and
they never help to dress wounds. I thought you would not get leave to
come. Would not like to."
"I am not a sister, I am a mother; and that man had suffered enough. Oh,
how dared you? how dared you to do such a thing?" I wrung my hands, and
he trembled like a leaf, and said.
"It was wrong, but I did not know. I never saw a sister before--"
"I tell you I am no sister, and I cannot think whatever your sisters are
He promised to let me help him whenever it would save pain, and I
returned to the dying man. The sun shone and birds sang. He stirred,
opened his eyes, smiled to see me, and said.
"It is a lovely morning, and I will soon be gone."
I said, "Yes; the winter of your life is past; for you the reign of
sorrow is over and gone; the spring time appears on the earth, and the
time for the singing of birds has come; your immortal summer is close at
hand; Christ, who loveth us, and has suffered for us, has prepared
mansions of rest, for those who love him, and you are going soon."
"Oh, yes; I know he will take me home, and provide for my wife and
children when I am gone."
"Then all is well with you!" He told me his name and residence, in
Pittsburg, and I remembered that his parents lived our near neighbors
when I was a child. So, more than ever, I regretted that I could not
have made his passage through the dark valley one of less pain; but it
was a comfort to his wife to know I had been with him.
When he slept again, I got a slightly wounded man to sit by him and keep
away the flies, while I went to distribute some delicacies brought to
him by visitors, and which he would never need.
At the door of Ward Three, a large man stood, and seemed to be an
officer. I asked him if there were any patients in that ward who would
need wine penado. He looked down at me, pleasantly, and said:
"I think it very likely, madam, for it is a very bad ward."
It was indeed a very bad ward, for a settled gloom lay upon the faces of
the occupants, who suffered because the ward-master and entire set of
nurses had recently been discharged, and new, incompetent men appointed
in their places.
As I passed down, turning from right to left, to give to such men as
needed it the mild stimulant I had brought, I saw how sad and hopeless
they were; only one man seemed inclined to talk, and he sat near the
centre of the ward, while some one dressed his shoulder from which the
arm had been carried away by a cannon ball. A group of men stood around
him, talking of that strange amputation, and he was full of chat and
They called him Charlie; but my attention was quickly drawn to a young
man, on a cot, close by, who was suffering torture from the awkwardness
of a nurse who was dressing a large, flesh-wound on the outside of his
I set my bowl on the floor, caught the nurse's wrist, lifted his hand
away, and said:
"Oh, stop! you are hurting that man! Let me do that!"
He replied, pleasantly,
"I'll be very glad to, for I'm a green hand!"
I took his place; saw the wounded flesh creep at the touch of cold
water, and said: "Cold water hurts you!"
"Yes ma'am; a little!"
"Then we must have some warm!" But nurse said there was none.
"No warm water?" I exclaimed, as I drew back and looked at him, in blank
"No, ma'am! there's no warm water!"
"How many wounded men have you in this hospital?"
"Well, about seven hundred, I believe."
"About seven hundred wounded men, and no warm water! So none of them get
anything to eat!"
"Oh, yes! they get plenty to eat."
"And how do you cook without warm water?"
"Why, there's plenty of hot water in the kitchen, but we're not allowed
to go there, and we have none in the wards."
"Where is the kitchen?"
He directed me. I covered the wound--told the patient to wait and I
would get warm water. In the kitchen a dozen cooks stopped to stare at
me, but one gave me what I came for, and on returning to the ward I said
"Now you can have some warm water, if you want it."
"But I do not want it! I like cold water best!"
"Then it is best for you, but it is not best for this man!"
I had never before seen any such wound as the one I was dressing, but I
could think of but one way--clean it thoroughly, put on clean lint and
rags and bandages, without hurting the patient, and this was very easy
to do; but while I did this, I wanted to do something more, viz.: dispel
the gloom which hung over that ward. I knew that sick folks should have
their minds occupied by pleasant thoughts, and never addressed an
audience with more care than I talked to that one man, in appearance,
while really talking to all those who lay before me and some to whom my
back was turned.
I could modulate my voice so as to be heard at quite a distance, and yet
cause no jar to very sensitive nerves close at hand; and when I told my
patient that I proposed to punish him now, while he was in my power, all
heard and wondered; then every one was stimulated to learn that it was
to keep him humble, because, having received such a wound in the charge
on Marie's Hill, he would be so proud by and by that common folks would
be afraid to speak to him. I should be quite thrown into the shade by
his laurels, and should probably take my revenge in advance by sticking
pins in him now, when he could not help himself.
This idea proved to be quite amusing, and before I had secured that
bandage, the men seemed to have forgotten their wounds, except as a
source of future pride, and were firing jokes at each other as rapidly
as they had done bullets at the enemy. When, therefore, I proposed
sticking pins into any one else who desired such punishment, there was
quite a demand for my services, and with my basin of tepid water I
started to wet the hard, dry dressings, and leave them to soften before
being removed. Before night I discovered that lint is an instrument of
incalculable torture, and should never be used, as either blood or pus
quickly converts some portion of it into splints, as irritating as a
About nine o'clock I returned to the man I had come to help, and found
that he still slept. I hoped he might rouse and have some further
message for his wife, before death had finished his work, and so
remained with him, although I was much needed in the "very bad ward."
I had sat by him but a few moments when I noticed a green shade on his
face. It darkened, and his breathing grew labored--then ceased. I think
it was not more than twenty minutes from the time I observed the green
tinge until he was gone. I called the nurse, who brought the large man I
had seen at the door of the bad ward, and now I knew he was a surgeon,
knew also, by the sudden shadow on his face when he saw the corpse, that
he was alarmed; and when he had given minute directions for the removal
of the bed and its contents, the washing of the floor and sprinkling
with chloride of lime, I went close to his side, and said in a low
"Doctor, is not this hospital gangrene?"
He looked down at me, seemed to take my measure, and answered:
"I am very sorry to say, madam, that it is."
"Then you want lemons!"
"We would be glad to have them!" "Glad to have them?" I repeated, in
profound astonishment, "why, you _must_ have them!"
He seemed surprised at my earnestness, and set about explaining:
"We sent to the Sanitary Commission last week, and got half a box."
"Sanitary Commission, and half a box of lemons? How many wounded have
"Seven hundred and fifty."
"Seven hundred and fifty wounded men! Hospital gangrene, and half a box
"Well, that was all we could get; Government provides none; but our
Chaplain is from Boston--his wife has written to friends there and
expects a box next week!"
"To Boston for a box of lemons!"
I went to the head nurse whom I had scolded in the morning, who now gave
me writing materials, and I wrote a short note to the _New York
"Hospital gangrene has broken out in Washington, and we want lemons!
_lemons!_ LEMONS! ~LEMONS!~ No man or woman in health, has a right to a
glass of lemonade until these men have all they need; send us lemons!"
I signed my name and mailed it immediately, and it appeared next
morning. That day Schuyler Colfax sent a box to my lodgings, and five
dollars in a note, bidding me send to him if more were wanting; but that
day lemons began to pour into Washington, and soon, I think, into every
hospital in the land. Gov. Andrews sent two hundred boxes to the Surgeon
General. I received so many, that at one time there were twenty ladies,
several of them with ambulances, distributing those which came to my
address, and if there was any more hospital gangrene that season I
neither saw nor heard of it.
The officers in Campbell knew of the letter, and were glad of the
supplies it brought, but some time passed before they identified the
writer as the little sister in the bad ward, who had won the reputation
of being the "best wound-dresser in Washington."
GET PERMISSION TO WORK.
Rules required me to leave Campbell at five o'clock, but the sun was
going down, and I lay on a cot, in the bad ward, feeling that going
home, or anywhere else, was impossible, when that large doctor came,
felt my pulse, laid his hand on my brow, and said:
"You must not work so hard or we will lose you! I have been hunting for
you to ask if you would like to remain with us?"
"Like to remain with you? Well, you will have to send a file of soldiers
with fixed bayonets to drive me away."
He laughed quite heartily, and said:
"We do not want you to go away. I am executive officer; Surgeon Kelley
and Dr. Baxter, surgeon in charge, has commissioned me to say that if
you wish to stay, he will have a room prepared for you. He hunted for
you to say so in person, but is gone; now I await your decision. Shall I
order you a room?"
"Surgeon Baxter! Why--what does he know about me?"
"Oh, Surgeon Baxter, two medical inspectors, and the surgeon of this
ward were present this morning when you came in and took possession."
His black eyes twinkled, and he shook with laughter when I sat up,
clasped my hands, and said:
"Oh, dear? Were they the men who were standing around Charlie? Why I
had not dreamed of them being surgeons!"
"Did you not know by their shoulders traps?"
"Shoulderstraps? Do surgeons have shoulderstraps? I thought only
officers wore them!"
"Well, surgeons are officers, and you can know by my shoulderstraps that
I am a surgeon."
"Oh, I do not mind you; but Dr. Baxter! How I did behave before him!
What must he have thought? And he does not allow women to come here!"
"Well. You passed inspection; and as you propose to stay with us, I will
have a room prepared for you."
He then went on to state that the reason Doctor Baxter would not have
female nurses, was that he would not submit to Miss Dix's interference,
did not like the women she chose, and army regulations did not permit
him to employ any other.
"But," he continued, "no one can object to his entertaining a guest, and
as his guest you can employ your time as you wish."
Ah! what a glorious boon it was, this privilege of work, and my little
barrack-room, just twice the width of my iron cot. I would not have
exchanged for any suite in Windsor palace.
FIND A NAME.
Nothing was more needed in the bad ward, than an antidote for
homesickness, and, to furnish this, I used my talking talent to the
utmost, but no subject was so interesting as myself. I was the mystery
of the hour. Charlie was commissioned to make discoveries, and the
second day came, with a long face, and said:
"Do you know what they say about you?"
"No indeed! and suspect I should never guess."
"Well, they say you're an old maid!"
I stopped work, rose from my knees, confronted him and exclaimed, with
an injured air:
"An old maid! Why Charlie! is it possible you let them talk in that
manner about me, after the nice pickles I gave you?"
The pickles had made him sick, and now there was a general laugh at his
expense, but he stuck to his purpose and said:
"Well, ain't you on old maid?"
"An old maid, Charlie? Did any one ever see such a saucy boy?"
"Oh, but tell us, good earnest, ain't you an old maid?"
"Well then, good earnest, Charlie, I expect I shall be one, if I live to
be old enough."
"Live to be old enough! How old do you call yourself?"
I set down my basin, counted on my fingers, thought it over and
"Well, if I live two months and five days longer, I shall be sixteen."
Then there was a shout at Charlie's expense, and I resumed my work,
grave as an owl. That furnished amusement until it grew stale, when
Charlie came to ask me my name, and I told him it was Mrs. Snooks.
"Mrs. Snooks?" repeated a dozen men, who looked sadly disappointed, and
Charlie most of all, as I added:
"Yes; Mrs. Timothy Snooks, of Snooksville, Minnesota."
This was worse and worse. It was evident no one liked the name, but all,
save one, were too polite to say so, and he roared out:
"I don't believe a word of it!"
I sat at some distance with my back to him, dressing a wound; and,
without turning, said,
"Why? What is the matter with you?"
"I don't believe that such a looking woman as you are ever married a
fellow by the name of Snooks:"
"That is because you are not acquainted with the Snooks' family: brother
Peter's wife is a much better looking woman than I am!"
"Good lookin'!" he sneered; "call yourself good lookin', do you?"
"Well, I think you intimated as much, did he not boys?"
They all said he had, and the laugh was turned on him; but he exclaimed
"I don't care! I'm not goin' to call you Snooks!"
"And what do you propose to call me?"
"I'll call you Mary."
"But Mary is not my name."
"I don't care! It's the name of all the nice girls I know!"
"Very good! I too shall probably be a nice girl if I live to grow up,
but just now it seems as if I should die in infancy--am too good to
"You're the greatest torment ever any man saw."
The last pin was in that bandage; I arose, turned, and the thought
flashed through my brain, "a tiger." His eyes literally blazed, and I
went to him, looking straight into them, just as I had done into Tom's
more than once. A minnie rifle ball had passed through his right ankle,
and when I saw him first the flesh around the wound was purple and the
entire limb swollen almost to bursting. The ward master told me he had
been given up three days before, and was only waiting his turn to be
carried to the dead house. Next morning the surgeon confirmed the
account, said he had been on the amputation table and sent away in hope
the foot might be saved, adding:
"I think we were influenced by the splendor of the man's form. It seemed
sacrilege to mangle such a leg then, before we knew it was too late."
I thought the inflammation might be removed. He said if that were done
they could amputate and save him, and the conversation ended in the
surgeon giving the man to me to experiment on my theory. This seemed to
be generally known, and the case was watched with great interest. No one
interfered with my treatment of him, and nurses designated him to me as
He was a cross between a Hercules and Apollo--grey-eyed, brown-haired,
the finest specimen of physical manhood I have ever seen, and now his
frail hold on life was endangered by the rage into which I had
unwittingly thrown him. So I sat bathing and soothing him, looking ever
and anon steadily into his eyes, and said:
"You had better call me mother."
"Mother!" he snarled, "You my mother!"
"Why, you're not old enough!"
"I am twice as old as you are!
"No, you 're not; and another thing, you're not big enough!" He raised
his head, surveyed me leisurely and contemptuously, his dark silky
moustache went up against his handsome nose as he sank back and said
"Still, I am large enough to take care of you and send you back to your
regiment if you are reasonable: but no one can do anything for you if
you fly into a rage in this way!"
"Yes! and you know that, and you put me in a rage going after them other
fellows. You know I've got the best right to you. I claimed you soon as
you come in the door, and called you afore you got half down the ward.
You said you'd take care of me and now you don't do it. The surgeon give
me to you too. You know I can't live if you don't save me, and you don't
care if I die!"
I was penitent and conciliatory, and promised to be good, when he said
"Yes! and I'll call you Mary!"
"Very well, Mary is a good name--it was my mother's, and I shall no
doubt come to like it."
"I guess it is a good name! It was my mother's name too, and any woman
might be glad to be called Mary. But I never did see a woman 'at had any
He soon growled himself to sleep, and from that time I called him "Ursa
Major;" but he only slept about half an hour, when a nurse in great
fright summoned me. They had lifted him and he had fainted.
I helped to put him back into bed, and bathed him until consciousness
returned, when he grasped my wrist with a vice-like hold and groaned.
"Oh God! Oh mother! Is this death?"
I heard no more of Miss Mary, or nice girls; but God and mother and
death were often on his lips.
To the great surprise of every one I quelled the inflammation and fever,
banished the swelling, and got him into good condition, when the foot
was amputated and shown to me. The ankle joint was ground into small
pieces, and these were mingled with bits of leather and woolen sock. No
wonder the inflammation had been frightful; but it was some time after
that before I knew the foot might have been saved by making a sufficient
opening from the outside, withdrawing the loose irritating matter, and
keeping an opening through which nature could have disposed of her
waste. I do not know if surgery have yet discovered this plain,
common-sense rule, but tens of thousands of men have died, and tens of
thousands of others have lost limbs because it was not known and acted
upon. All those men who died of gun-shot flesh wounds were victims to
I nursed the cross man until he went about on crutches, and his faith in
me was equal in perfection to his form, for he always held that I could
"stop this pain" if I would, and rated me soundly if I was "off in ward
Ten" when he wanted me. One day he scolded worse than usual, and soon
after an Irishman said, in an aside:
"Schure mum, an' ye mustn't be afther blamin' de rist av us fur that
fellow's impidence. Schure, an' there's some av us that 'ud kick him out
av the ward, if we could, for the way he talks to ye afther all that you
have done for 'im an' fur all av us."
"Why! why! How can you feel so? What difference is it to me how he
talks? It does him good to scold, and what is the use of a man having a
mother if he cannot scold her when he is in pain? I wish you would all
scold me! It would do you ever so much good. You quite break my heart
with your patience. Do, please be as cross as bears, all of you,
whenever you feel like it, and I will get you well in half the time."
"Schure mum, an' nobody iver saw the likes of ye!"
A man was brought from a field hospital, and laid in our ward, and one
evening his stump was giving him great pain, when the cross man advised
him to send for me, and exclaimed:
"There's mother, now; send for her."
"Oh!" groaned the sufferer, "what can she do?"
"I don't know what she can do; an' she don't know what she can do; but
just you send for her! She'll come, and go to fussin' an' hummin' about
just like an old bumble-bee, an' furst thing you know you won't know
nothin', for the pain'll be gone an' you'll be asleep."
DROP MY ALIAS.
The second or third day of my hospital work, Mrs. Gaylord, the
Chaplain's wife, came and inquired to what order I belonged, saying that
the officers of the hospital were anxious to know. I laughed, and told
her I belonged exclusively to myself, and did not know of any order
which would care to own me. Then she very politely inquired my name, and
I told her it was Mrs. Jeremiah Snooks, when she went away, apparently
doubting my statement. I had been in Campbell almost a week, when Dr.
Kelly came and said:
"Madam, I have been commissioned by the officers of this hospital to
ascertain your name. None of us know how to address you, and it is very
awkward either in speaking to you, or of you, not to be able to name
"Doctor, will not Mrs. Snooks do for a name, for all the time I shall be
"No, madam, it will not do."
I was very unwilling to give my name, which was prominently before the
public, on account of my Indian lecture and _Tribune_ letters, but I
seemed to have at least a month's work to do in Campbell. Hospital
stores were pouring in to my city address, and being sent to me at a
rate which created much wonder, and the men who had given me their
confidence had a right to know who I was.
So I gave my name, and must repeat it before the Doctor could realize
the astounding fact; even then he took off his cap and said:
"It is not possible you are _the_ Mrs. ----, the lady who lectured in
Doctor Sunderland's church!"
So I was proclaimed, with a great flourish of trumpets. For two hours my
patients seemed afraid of me, and it did seem too bad to merge that
giantess of the bean-pole and the press and the tall woman of the
platform both in poor little insignificant me! It was like blotting out
the big bear and the middle-sized bear from the old bear story, and
leaving only the one poor little bear to growl over his pot of porridge.
In Ward Five was one man who had been laid on his left side, and never
could be moved while he lived. His right arm suffered for lack of
support, and when I knelt to give him nourishment from a spoon, and pray
with him that the deliverer would soon come, he always laid that arm
over my shoulders. The first time I knelt there after I was known, he
"Ah, you are such a great lady, and do not mind a poor soldier laying
his arm over you!"
"Christ, the great Captain of our Salvation," I replied, "gathers you in
his arms and pillows your head upon his bosom. Am I greater than he?
Your good right arm has fought for liberty, and it is an honor to
support it, when you are no longer able."
But nothing else I could ever say to him, was so much comfort as the old
cry of the sufferer by the wayside, "Jesus, thou son of David, have
mercy on me."
Over and over again we said that prayer in concert, while he waited in
agony for the only relief possible--that of death; and from our last
interview I returned to the bad ward, so sad that I felt the shadow of
my face fall upon every man in it. I could not drive away death's gloom;
but I could work and talk, and both work and talk were needed.
I sat down between two young Irishmen, both with wounded heads, and
began to bathe them, and comfort them, and said:
"If you are not better in the morning, I shall amputate both those
heads; they shall not plague you in this manner another day."
Maybe my sad face made this funny, for their sense of the ridiculous was
so touched that they clasped their sore heads and shrieked with
laughter. Every man in the ward caught the infection, and I was called
upon for explanations of the art of amputating heads, and inquiries as
to Surgeon Baxter's capacity of performing the operation.
This grotesque idea proved a fruitful subject of conversation, and aided
in leading sufferers away from useless sorrow, toward hope and health;
and bad as the ward was we lost but two men in it.
In that sad ward one superior, intelligent young man, who was thought to
be doing well, suddenly burst an artery, and ropes were put up to warn
visitors and others not to come in, and we who were in, moved with bated
breath lest some motion should start the life-current. While his last
hope was on a stillness which forbade him to move a finger, two lady
visitors came to the door, were forbidden to enter, but seeing me
inside, must follow the sheep instinct of the sex, and go where any
other woman had gone. So, with pert words, they forced their way in,
made a general flutter, and, oh horror! one of them caught her hoops on
the iron cot of the dying man. He was only saved from a severe jerk by
the prompt intervention of the special nurse. They were led out as
quietly as possible, but the man had received a slight jerk and a
serious shock. The hemorrhage would probably have returned if they had
not come in, but it did return, and the young, strong life ebbed
steadily away in a crimson current which spread over the floor.
From that day until the end of my hospital work, one fact forced itself
upon my attention, and this is, that with all the patriotism of the
American women, during that war, and all their gush of sympathy for the
soldier, a vast majority were much more willing to "kiss him for his
mother" than render him any solid service, and that not one in a hundred
of the women who succeeded in getting into hospitals would dress so as
not to be an object of terror to men whose life depended on quiet.
Women were capable of any heroism save wearing a dress suitable for
hospital work. The very, very few who laid aside their hoops, those
instruments of dread and torture, generally donned bloomers, and gave
offense by airs of independence.
Good women would come long distances to see dying husbands, brothers and
sons, and fill the wards with alarm by their hoops. When any one was
hurt by them they were very sorry, but never gave up the cause of
offense, while their desire to look well, and the finery and fixings
they donned to improve their appearance, was a very broad and painful
burlesque. Women were seldom permitted to stay in a hospital over night,
even with a dying friend, and the inhabitants were generally glad when
they started for home.
It was the dress nuisance which caused nuns to have the preference in so
many cases; but I could not see or hear that they ever did anything but
make converts to the church and take care of clothing and jellies.
One thing is certain, _i.e._, that women never can do efficient and
general service in hospitals until their dress is prescribed by laws
inexorable as those of the Medes and Persians. Then, that dress should
be entirely destitute of steel, starch, whale-bone, flounces, and
ornaments of all descriptions; should rest on the shoulders, have a
skirt from the waist to the ankle, and a waist which leaves room for
breathing. I never could have done my hospital work but for the dress
which led most people to mistake me for a nun.
In the wilderness of work I must choose, and began to select men who had
been given up by the surgeons, and whom I thought might be saved by
special care. Surgeon Kelly soon entered into my plan, and made his ward
my headquarters. To it my special patients were brought, until there was
no more room for them. That intuitive perception of the natural position
of muscles, and the importance of keeping them in it, which came to me
on first seeing a wound dressed, gave me such control over pain that I
used to go through the wards between midnight and morning and put
amputation cases to sleep at the rate of one in fifteen minutes.
In these morning walks I saw that the nurses were on duty and had
substantial refreshments, saw those changes for the worse, sure to come,
if they came at all, in those chill hours. Seeing them soon was
important to meeting them successfully, and I succeeded in breaking up
many a chill before it did serious damage, which must have proved fatal
if left until the morning visit of the Surgeon. Also, in those walks I
chose special cases; have more than once sat down by a man and
calculated in this way:
"You may have twenty, forty years of useful life, if I can save you; I
shall certainly die one year sooner for the labor I expend on you, but
there will be a large gain in the average of life and usefulness; and
when you risked all of your life for the country as much mine as yours,
it is but just that I should give a small part of mine to save you."
Every man lived whom I elected to life, and Dr. Kelly, who knew more
than any one else about my plans, and on whom I most counted for aid,
has said that I saved enough to the government in bounty money, by
returning men to duty who would otherwise have died, to warrant it in
supporting me the balance of my life; but his statements could not
always be relied upon, for he insisted that I never slept, had not been
asleep during the seven weeks spent in Campbell, was a witch and would
float like a cork, if thrown from the Long Bridge into the Potomac.
In selecting a man in desperate case to be saved, I always took his
temperament and previous life into consideration. A man of pure life and
sanguine temperament was hard to kill. Give him the excuse of good
nursing and he would live through injuries which must be fatal to a
bilious, suspicious man, or one who had been guilty of any excess. A
tobacco chewer or smoker died on small provocation. A drunkard or
debauchee was killed by a scratch.
There were two ward surgeons who disapproved of the innovation of a
woman in Campbell, and especially of one held amenable to no rules. They
were both in favor of heroic treatment, which I did not care to witness,
and I spent little time in their wards. One of them kept a man, with two
bricks tied to his foot and hanging over the foot of the bed, until he
died, after ten days of a sleepless agony such as could not well have
been excelled in an Inquisition; while his wife tried to comfort him
under a torture she begged in vain to have remitted. The night after
she started home with his body, I was passing through the ward, when I
came upon a young Philadelphia Zouave in a perfect paroxysm of anguish.
Three nurses stood around him, and to my inquiry "What _is_ the matter?"
replied by dumb show that coming death was the matter, and that soon all
would be over; while in words they told me he had not slept for
I had one place a chair for me, sat down, and with my long, thin hands
grasped the thigh stump, which was making all the trouble, drew and
pressed the muscle into a natural, easy position, cooed and talked and
comforted the sufferer, as I should have done a sick baby, and in ten
minutes he was asleep.
Then I whispered the nurses to bring cotton and oakum, and little
cushions; made them put the cotton and oakum, in small tufts, to my
index fingers; and while I crooned my directions in a sing-song lullaby
air, I worked in this support, gradually and imperceptibly withdrawing
my hands, until I could substitute the little cushions for the force by
which they held the muscle in proper position. This done, my boy-soldier
slept as sweetly as ever he had done in his crib.
Next morning a nurse came running for me to hurry to him. He had slept
six hours, waked, had his breakfast, and had his wound dressed, and now
the pain was back bad as ever. I went, fixed the mangled muscle with
reference to his change of position, made a half-mould to hold it there,
and before I had finished he began an eight-hour sleep. Ten days after
he was sent home to his mother, and I saw or heard of him no more.
HEROIC AND ANTI-HEROIC TREATMENT.
The other ward in which I was not welcome, adjoined that one in which my
room was situated, and to reach it I must go out of doors or pass
through one-half the length of that ward. In these passages I had an
opportunity for studying Piemia and its ordinary treatment, and could
give the men lemonade when they wanted it.
In this ward lay a young German with a wounded ankle. He had a broad,
square forehead, skin white as wax, large blue eyes and yellow hair,
inclined to curl. His whole appearance indicated high culture, and an
organization peculiarly sensitive to pleasure or pain; but no one seemed
to understand that he suffered more than others from a like cause.
Surgeon and nurses scoffed at his moans, and thought it babyish, for a
muscular man over six feet to show so many signs of pain. I think that
from some cause, the surgeon felt vindictive toward him, and that his
subordinates took their cue from him. When I went to give him lemonade,
he would clutch my hand or dress, look up in my face, and plead:
"Oh, mutter! mutter!"
But if I sat down to soothe and comfort him, a nurse always came to
remind me of the surgeon's orders, and I used to go around on the
outside, that he might not see and call me. When he was in the
amputation room I heard his shrieks and groans, and carried a glass of
wine to the door for him.
He heard my voice, and called "Mutter! mutter!"
I pushed past the orderly, ran to him, and his pleading eyes seemed to
devour me as he fastened his gaze on my face. I cannot think to this day
why be should have been nude for the amputation of a foot; but he was,
and some one threw a towel across his loins as I approached.
Dr. Baxter said:
"No sympathy! no sympathy!"
So I stood by him, placed a hand on each side of his corrugated brow,
steadied my voice and said:
"Be a man and a soldier!"
He had asked me for bread; I gave him a stone, and no wonder he dashed
it back in my face. With a fierce cry he said:
"I hev been a man and a sojer long enough!"
Ah! verily had he, and much too long. Days before that he should have
been "a boy again;" aye, a baby, a very infant--should have been soothed
and softened and comforted with all the tenderness of mother-love; but
even now, in this cruel extremity, every sign of sympathy was denied
him. Some one put a hand gently but firmly on each of my shoulders,
turned my back to him, took me out of the room, and I hurried away,
while the air shuddered with his shrieks and groans. After he had been
brought back to his place in the ward I could often hear him as I passed
to and from my room, and even while I occupied it.
Once he saw me through the open door, and called, "Mutter! mutter!"
I went, knelt by him, took his hands, which were stretched appealingly
to me, and spoke comforting words, while his blue eyes seemed ready to
start from their sockets, as he clung to my hands with the old familiar
"Oh, Mutter! Mutter!"
He was strapped down to his iron cot, about as closely as he had been to
the amputation table, and the cot fastened to the floor. I had not been
five minutes at his side when his special nurse hurried up and warned me
to leave, saying:
"It's surgeon's orders. He's not going to have any babyin'!"
I drew my hands from the frantic grasp, took away that last hold on
human sympathy, and hurried oat, while his cry of "Oh, mutter! mutter!"
rung in my ears as I turned and looked on his pure high brow for the
Next morning I heard he had lock-jaw, and that the surgeon was to leave.
The night after that victim of some frightful, fiendish experiment had
been carried to the dead-house, I was passing through the ward, when
attracted by sounds of convulsive weeping, and I found a young man in an
agony of grief, in one of those sobbing fits sure to come to the
bravest. He was in a high fever, and while I bathed his face and hands,
I asked the cause of his outbreak, and he sobbed:
"Oh, the pain in my wound! This is the third night I have not slept, and
my God! I can bear it no longer!"
It was a flesh-wound in the thigh, such an one as usually proved fatal,
and while I set him to talking I began patching scraps of observation
into a theory. He was from Pennsylvania, and bitterly charged his State
with having done nothing for her wounded, and when I asked why he had
not sent for me, he said:
"Oh, I thought you were from Massachusetts, like all the rest of them;
and if my own State would do nothing for me, I would not beg. People
come here every day looking for Massachusetts soldiers. Since I have
been frantic here, ladies have come and stood and looked at me, and said
'Poor fellow!' as if I had been a dog. I was as well raised as any of
them, even if I am a common soldier."
I thought his recovery very doubtful, and talked to draw his thoughts to
the better land. To his charges against his native land, I said: "I am a
Pennsylvanian; and more than that, the Governor of Pennsylvania sent me
to you; bade me come to-night, that you might know he had not forgotten
"He did? Why, how did he know anything about it?"
"He just knows all about it, and has been caring for you all this time.
I do not mean Andy Curtin. He is nothing but a subaltern; but the dear
Lord, our Father in Heaven, who never forgets us, though he often
afflicts us. He sent me to you now, that you might know he loves you. It
was he who made me love you and care to help you. All the love and care
that come to you are a part of his love."
"He wept afresh but less bitterly, and said:
"Oh you will think I am a baby!"
"Well! That is just what you ought to be. Your past life is sufficient
certificate of manhood; and now has come your time to be a baby, while
I am mother. You have been lying here like an engine, under a high
pressure of steam, and the safety-value fastened down with a billet of
wood, until there has been almost an explosion. Now just take away that
stick of wood--your manhood and pride, and let out all the groans and
tears you have pent in your heart. Cry all you can! This is your time
When I had talked him into a mood to let me feel if his feet were warm,
I found that wounded limb dreadfully swollen, cold almost as death,
stretched out as he lay on his back, and a cushion right under the heel.
Had there been no wound the position must have been unendurable. Without
letting him know, I drew that cushion up until it filled the hollow
between the heel and calf of the leg, and supported the strained muscle,
tucked a handful of oakum under the knee, moved the toes, brushed and
rubbed the foot, until circulation started, sponged it, rolled it in
flannel, of which I had a supply in my basket, washed the well foot, and
put a warm woolen sock on it, arranged the cover so that it would not
rest on the toes of the sore leg; told him to get the new surgeon next
morning to make a large opening on the lower side of his thigh, where
the bullet had gone out--to ask him to cut lengthwise of the muscle; get
out everything he could, that ought not to be in there; keep that
opening open with a roll of bandage, so that old Mother Nature should
have a trap-door through which she could throw her chips out of that
work-shop in his thigh; to be sure and not hint to the surgeon that I
had said anything about it, and not fail to have it done.
I left him asleep, and the next day he told me the surgeon had taken a
quart of pus and several pieces of woolen cloth out of his wound, and
his recovery was rapid.