Our cooking was done in the churchyard, with that of the church patients. A shed had been put up; but our cooking was an “uncovenanted mercy,” and when our beef came there was a question as to how it could be cooked—how that additional work could be done.
I wrote to the Provost-Marshal, stating our trouble, and the extremity of one hundred and eighty-two men. Asked that we might take a cook-stove out of a vacant house near; promised to take good care of it and have it returned; and he wrote, for answer:
“I am not a thief! If you want a stove send to the Sanitary Commission!”
He must have known that the Commission was as pressed as the Government to conform its arrangements to the movements of an army cut off from its base of supplies, and that it had no stoves, so the plain English of his answer was:
“Let your wounded die of hunger, in welcome! I am here to guard the property of the citizens of Fredericksburg!”
I had already written to the Commission for blankets and a broom, but there were none to be had. It soon however sent a man, who cut branches off trees, and with them swept the floors.
AM PLACED IN AUTHORITY.
On Monday morning I sent for Dr. Porter, and stated the trouble about nurses shirking. He had them all summoned in the front end of the large room, and in presence of the patients, said to them:
“You see this lady? Well, you are to report to her for duty; and if she has any fault to find with you she will report you to the Provost-Marshal!”
I have never seen a set of men look more thoroughly subdued. There were eleven of them, and they all gave me the military salute. The doctor went off, and I set them to work. One middle-aged Irishman had had some experience as a nurse; could dress wounds—slowly, but very well—was faithful and kind; and him I made head-nurse up stairs, where there were fifty-four patients, and gave him three assistants, for whom he was to be responsible. After Patrick’s note, I calculated my resources, and got ready for a close siege. As I sat on that little stationary bench, making an inventory, I heard shrieks, groans and curses, at the far end of the room; ran to the place, and got there in time to see the surgeon of the blankets tearing the dry dressings off a thigh stump! Coming up behind him, I caught him by both ears, and had my hands full, ordered him to stop, and said:
“You had better go back to your room and smoke.”
Again I sent for Surgeon Porter, and in less than two hours that little wretch, with his orderly, packed up his blankets and I saw him or them no more. I had never dressed a thigh stump, but must dress a good many now; I rolled that one in a wet cloth, and covered it carefully, to let the man get time to rest, while I got rid of his horrid tormentor. When there was so much to be done, I would do the most needful