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 with, indifference.
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 requisition.
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.