So I was decked in plumes of fictitious greatness, and might have played princess in disguise if I had had time; but I had only two deaths in the old theater—this man up stairs, and the man without clothes, who lay alone in that back room, and after the amputation of his thigh, had no covering until government gave him one of Virginia clay.
MORE VICTIMS AND A CHANGE OF BASE.
One day at noon, the air thrilled with martial music and the earth shook under the tramp of men as seven thousand splendid troops marched up Princess Ann street on their way to reinforce our army, whose rear was about eight miles from us. They were in superb order, and the forts around Washington had been stripped of their garrisons, and most of their guns, to furnish them; but the generalship which cut our army off from its base of supplies, and blundered into the battle of the Wilderness, like a blind horse into a briar patch, without shelling or burning the dry chapperal in which our dead and wounded were consumed together, after the battle, had made no arrangements for the safe arrival of its reinforcements. So they were ambushed soon after passing through Fredericksburg; and that night, before ten o’clock, all the places I had succeeded in making vacant were filled with the wounded from this reinforcement. How many of them were brought to Fredericksburg I do not know; but it must have been a good many, when some were sent to my den of horrors.
One evening, after dark, I went to the dispensary, and found a surgeon just in from the front for supplies. While they were being put up, he told us of the horrible carnage at Spottsylvania that day, when the troops had been hurled, again and again, against impregnable fortifications, under a rain of rifle balls, which cut down a solid white oak tree, eighteen inches in diameter.
The battle had ceased for the night, and it was not known whether it would be renewed in the morning.
“But if it is,” said the speaker, “it will be the bloodiest day of the war, and we must be whipped, routed. The Rebels are behind breastworks which cannot be carried. Any man but Grant would have known that this morning, but he is to fight it out on this line, and it is generally thought he will try it again in the morning. If he does, it will be a worse rout than Bull Run.”
No one was present but the surgeon in charge of the church, the dispensary clerk, and myself; so he was no alarmist, for when he had done speaking, he took his package, mounted his horse and left. People had said, through the day, that the roar of guns was heard in the higher portions of the city, but no news of the battle seemed to have reached it during all the next day.
I spent it in preparing for the worst, warned Georgie and tightened the reins on my nurses. I had had no reason to complain of any, and felt that I should hold them to duty, even through a rout. It also seemed well to know where our wounded were located, in that part of the city, so that if an attempt were made to remove them, in a hurry, there might not be any overlooked.