“You must know that Mrs. Barlow and Mrs. Ingersol and you are not fair representatives of your sex,” and went on to explain the embarrassment of the Surgeon-General from the thousands of women pressing their services upon the Government, and the various political influences brought to bear on behalf of applicants, and of the well grounded opposition of surgeons to the presence of women in hospitals, on account of their general unfitness. Gen. Scott, as a personal friend of Miss Dix, had appointed her to the place she held, and it was so convenient and respectful to refer people to her, that the War Department would not interfere with the arrangement. In other words, she was a break-water against which feminine sympathies could dash and splash without submerging the hospital service.
After what I had seen among the women who had succeeded in getting in, I had not much to say. A society might prescribe a dress, but might be no more successful than Miss Dix in making selections of those who should wear it.
I asked the Secretary how it came that no better provision had been made for our wounded after the battle of the Wilderness, and tears sprang to his eyes as he replied:
“We did not know where they were. We had made every arrangement at the points designated by Gen. Grant, but he changed his plans and did not notify us. The whole army was cut off from its base of supplies and must be sustained. As soon as we knew the emergency, we did everything in our power; but all our preparations were lost. Everything had to be done over again. You cannot regret the suffering more than I, but it was impossible for me to prevent it.”
I never saw him so earnest, so sorrowful, so deeply moved.
That effort seemed to be the straw which broke the camel’s back, and I was so ill as to demand medical attendance. For this I sent to Campbell. Dr. Kelly came, but his forte was surgery, and my case was left with Dr. True, who had had longer practice in medicine. They both decided that I had been inoculated with gangrene while dressing wounds, and for some weeks I continued to sink. I began to think my illness fatal, and asked the doctor, who said:
“I have been thinking I ought to tell you that if you have any unsettled business you should attend to it.”
I had a feeling of being generally distributed over the bed, of being a mass of pulp without any central force, but I had had a letter that day from my daughter, who was with her father and grandmother in Swissvale, and wanted to come to me, and the thought came: “Does God mean to make my child an orphan, that others may receive their children by my death?” Then I had a strange sensation of a muster, a gathering of scattered life-force, and when it all came together it made a protest; I signed to the doctor, who put his ear to my lips, and I said:
“Doctor True, I shall live to be an hundred and twenty years old!”