He explained that he was in command of a brigade of eight regiments; that in them were hundreds of his neighbors and pupils, for he had resigned a professorship in a college to enlist. Said he knew his own constitution better than any one else could know it; knew he would be stronger when he reached his post, and that the danger would be in any attempt to keep out of danger—the danger which his men must face. Turning to me he said:
“If you had eight children down there, you would go to them, if you could!”
We arranged that if he should be wounded so as to suffer a thigh amputation, he should let me know, that I might nurse him through.
At Belle Plaine, Georgie went to look for transportation, and I to the Sanitary Commission boat, where I was introduced to Mrs. Gen. Barlow and Miss Hancock, both busy furnishing hot coffee to those being embarked for Washington. Mrs. Barlow was a tall, superbly formed woman, very handsome, and full of health and spirits. She looked down on me compassionately, and said:
“Oh, you poor little thing! What ever brought you here? We have sick folks enough now! Do sit down until I get you a cup of tea!”
While I drank the tea, she stood looking at me, and said meditatively:
“Oh, you queer little thing,” and hurried off to her work.
Soon a Colonel with a badly wounded head came on board, leaned against, a post and groaned. I found a basin of water and a towel, and began bathing his head, wetting those torturing dressings and making him comparatively comfortable, when she stopped in her hurried walk, looked on an instant, and exclaimed:
“Oh, you nice little thing! Now I see what you are good for! I could not do that; but you will take care of their wounds and I will feed them! That will be grand!”
Soon Georgie came to say there was no transportation to be had, but she had found a Campbell surgeon in charge of a hospital tent, and he wanted me; said he was worn out, and had plenty of work for both of us. The doctor had a large tent, filled with wounded lying on loose hay. His patients seemed to want for nothing, but he must needs give so much time to receiving and forwarding those pouring in from the front, that he needed us. He had a little tent put up for us, and that was the only night I have ever slept in a tent.
Next morning while we were attending to a Colonel, and Lieutenant Colonel, both of the same regiment, and both badly wounded and just brought in, one said to the other: “My God, if our men in Fredericksburg could have a little of this care!” “Why?” said I, “I have heard that everything possible was being done for them?”
“Everything possible!” exclaimed one, and both together began the most terrible recital of the neglect and abuse of the wounded in that horrible place—men dying of thirst, and women spitting in their faces, kicking and spurning them. We set down our basins; Georgie started in one direction and I in another, to find transportation.