“Who is that young girl?”
“Miss Georgie Willets, of Jersey City,” I replied.
“And where is she going?”
“By whose authority?” she demanded.
“By authority of the Surgeon-General,” I replied.
“The Surgeon-General has no authority to send a young girl down there alone.”
“She is not going alone.”
“Who is going with her?” she asked, tartly.
“Who are you?”
I told her, and she ceased to be insulting long enough to expostulate on the great impropriety of the proceeding, as well as to explain the total lack of any need of help in Fredericksburg. She had just returned from that city, where she had arranged everything in the most satisfactory manner. Hospitals had been established, with surgeons and nurses. There was therefore not the slightest occasion for our going further; but she was about to organize relief for the men while waiting at the Washington wharf to be taken to hospitals. Here I might be useful, and here she would be glad to have me work; but as for that handsome young girl, she wondered at me for bringing her into such a place.
Georgie was not merely handsome. She was grand, queenly; and I told Miss Dix that I differed with her about the kind of women who should go into such places. We wanted young, vigorous women—women whose self-respect and social position would command the respect of those to whom they ministered. She grew angry again, and said:
“She shall not go to Fredericksburg; I will have her arrested!”
I was kneeling beside a man whose wounds I was bathing; for I had not suspended my work to talk with her, who stood, straight as a telegraph pole, holding a bottle which she ever and anon applied to her nose; but when she reached this climax, I raised my head, looked into her face, and said:
“I shall not be sorry Miss Dix, if you do; for then I shall apply to my friends, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln and Secretary Stanton, and have your authority tested.”
I went on with my work; she growled something and left the boat, but did not disturb us further.
Going down the river I grew worse, and thought I might be obliged to return with the boat, and stay at home; but consulted a surgeon on his way to the front, who talked with another, and said:
“There is no immediate danger in your case. It is only secondary hemorrhage; and with care you may go on, but must not attempt to do anything. You can, however, be of incalculable service, simply by being in Fredericksburg; can sit down and see that people do their duty. What our wounded need most, is people who have an interest in their welfare—friends. You can do a great deal toward supplying this want, this great need; but be careful and do not try to work.”
After some time this surgeon brought, and introduced Col. Chamberlain, of Maine, evidently an invalid, and a man of the purely intellectual type. Two other surgeons were with him, and all three endeavored to persuade him to return to Washington, as his lack of health made it very dangerous, if not quite useless, for him to go to the front. I thought the surgeons right; and told him I feared he was throwing away his life, in an effort to do the impossible.