All day that dark stream surged around that corner, and I took heart that the flight was not disorderly, since I heard of none coming by any other street. All day the work went on as usual at the old theater, and I made short excursions to other places. Up that street in one end of an engine house, up a narrow, winding stair, I found a room full of men deserted, and in most pitiable condition. They were all supposed to be fever cases, but one young man had an ankle wound, in which inflammation had appeared. I hurried to the surgeons, stationed in the far end of the building, and reported the case. They sent immediately for the man, and I knew in two hours that the amputation had been successful, and barely in time.
As I went on that errand, I met two Christian Commission men walking leisurely, admiring the light of the rising sun on the old buildings, and told them of the urgent demand for help, and chicken broth or beef broth and water up in that room. They were polite, and promised to go as soon as possible to the relief of that distress; but when I returned and up to the last knowledge I had of the case, they had not been there.
I secured a can of cooked turkey, the only one I ever saw, and a pitcher of hot water, and with these made a substitute for chicken broth; gave them all drinks of water, bathed their faces, found one of their absent nurses, made him promise to stay, and went back to the main building to have some one see that he kept his word.
Here was a large floor almost covered with wounded, and among them a woman stumbled about weeping, wailing, boo-hooing and wringing her hands; I caught her wrist, and said:
“What is the matter?” “Oh! oh! oh! Boo-hoo! boo-hoo! the poor fellow is goin’ to die an’ wants me to write to his mother.”
“Well, write to her and keep quiet! you need not kill all the rest of them because he is going to die.”
“Oh! boo-hoo! some people has no feelin’s; but I have got feelin’s!”
I led her to the surgeon in charge, who sent her and her “feelin’s” to her quarters, and told her not to come back.
She was the only one of the Dix’ nurses I saw in Fredericksburg, and her large, flat, flabby face was almost hideous with its lack of eye-brows and lashes; but this hideousness must have been her recommendation, as she could not have been more than twenty years old.
From the engine house I went to the Methodist church. Miss Hancock had been detailed to the General Hospital, just being established, and I found a house full of men in a sad condition. Nine o’clock, on a hot morning, and no wounds dressed; bandages dry and hard, men thirsty and feverish, nurses out watching that stream pouring through the city, and patients helpless and despondent.
I got a basin of water and a clean rag, never cared for sponges, and went from one to another, dripping water in behind those bandages to ease the torment of lint splints, brought drinks and talked to call their attention from the indefinite dread which filled the air, and got up considerable interest in—I do not remember what—but something which set them to talking.