In a moment he had picked me up and was making off. The jolt of his step seemed to be breaking my arms at the shoulder. As I groaned he ran. I could see nothing in the darkness, but he went ahead, never stopping, save for a moment, now and then, to rest I wondered where he was taking me and what it all meant. I called again, ‘Who are you?’ but he seemed not to hear me. ‘My God!’ I whispered to myself, ’this is no man — this is Death severing the soul from the body. The voice was that of the good God.’ Then I heard a man hailing near by.
‘Help, Help!’ I shouted faintly.
‘Where are you?’ came the answer, now further away. ’Can’t see you.’ My mysterious bearer was now running. My heels were dragging upon the ground; my hands were brushing the grass tops. I groaned with pain.
‘Halt! Who comes there?’ a picket called. Then I could hear voices.
‘Did you hear that noise?’ said one. ’Somebody passed me. So dark can’t see my hand before me.
‘Darker than hell!’ said another voice.
It must be a giant, I thought, who can pick me up and carry me as if I were no bigger than a house cat. That was what I was thinking when I swooned.
From then till I came to myself in the little church at Centreville I remember nothing. Groaning men lay all about me; others stood between them with lanterns. A woman was bending over me. I felt the gentle touch of her hand upon my face and heard her speak to me so tenderly I cannot think of it, even now, without thanking God for good women. I clung to her hand, clung with the energy of one drowning, while I suffered the merciful torture of the probe, the knife and the needle. And when it was all over and the lantern lights grew pale in the dawn I fell asleep.
But enough of blood and horror. War is no holiday, my merry people, who know not the mighty blessing of peace. Counting the cost, let us have war, if necessary, but peace, peace if possible.
But now I have better things to write of things that have some relish of good in them. I was very weak and low from loss of blood for days, and, suddenly, the tide turned. I had won recognition for distinguished gallantry they told me — that day they took me to Washington. I lay three weeks there in the hospital. As soon as they heard of my misfortune at home Uncle Eb wrote he was coming to see me. I stopped him by a telegram, assuring him that I was nearly well and would be home shortly.
My term of enlistment had expired when they let me out a fine day in mid August. I was going home for a visit as sound as any man but, in the horse talk of Faraway, I had a little ’blemish’on the left shoulder. Uncle Eb was to meet me at the jersey City depot. Before going I, with others who had been complimented for bravery, went to see the president. There were some twenty of us summoned to meet him that day. It was warm and the great Lincoln sat in his shirt-sleeves at a desk in the middle of his big office. He wore a pair of brown carpet slippers, the rolling collar and black stock now made so familiar in print. His hair was tumbled. He was writing hurriedly when we came in. He laid his pen away and turned to us without speaking. There was a careworn look upon his solemn face.