In St. James Hospital, N. O., 1862
The 4th of July, 1862, I was one of a detail under command of Lieut. Darling to patrol the City of New Orleans to suppress any disloyal outbreak, and capture the Rebel flag wherever displayed. I had not been feeling well for several days, and the march in the hot sun did not make any improvement on the feeling. We made some captures, mostly of small paper flags worn as badges by men and women. The women had tongues and they used them freely. The men would quiet down when threatened with arrest, but on the women threats only acted as a stimulant to greater effort. We marched and countermarched the blistering pavement most of the day, and I had headache enough to supply a brigade. I did not appeal to the tender mercies of the Lieut., for from my former experience with him, should have expected it to result in extending our march. It seemed the longest day I ever knew, but the end came at last, and I crawled into my bunk feeling more dead than alive.
The next morning I was helped half conscious to the Surgeon’s quarters. My next lucid interval was in the hospital with the Dr. and a nurse bending over me. As I opened my eyes the Dr. said “He is coming round all right. He has got an eye like a hawk.” The room I was in was a small one containing two beds, the other bed occupied by a Co. D man of our Regt. in the last stages of consumption. I laid there too weak to stir, unable to keep my eyes away from him. He lay in an unconscious state, dying, for two days. He had some money in a wallet that he kept under his pillow. That seemed to be his chief care as long as he retained his senses. The breath had scarcely left his body before the nurse came and took the pocketbook and put it in his pocket. Before he left the room the Chaplain came, and his hand sought the treasure under the pillow. Not finding it, he demanded, and received it from the nurse. I do not know but the transaction was perfectly proper, but it looked a little hurried to me.
As soon as I could get to other rooms, I did what I could in the way of nursing, they being very short of nurses. One of Co. A’s men who was delirious was put in my charge. In his paroxysms he would imagine the devil and a whole army of imps were after him, and in spite of all I could do he would leave his bed and try to escape them by way of the window. I would cling to him until he exhausted himself, then drag him back to his bed. I found that the feeble broth they allowed us, and the demands this patient made upon my strength, were not improving my own condition. I was on the back-track from our balcony overlooking the backyard I could see every morning a number of rough pine boxes carried out, and I got to figuring on how long it would take them to get to me. I felt it would soon come my turn unless I could get a square meal.
I applied for a discharge from the hospital, after having been there a month. It was refused, but they did allow convalescents passes to go out on the street. I got one and it served me just as well as a discharge for I took a passing horse-car that carried me near our Camp where I arrived in time for dinner, and that dinner is still a fragrant memory with me. I do not remember anything it consisted of, only sweet potatoes, and there was enough so I had all I wanted. It must have caused quite a rise in the market, and it would have taken a pine box of unusual dimensions to accommodate me after that dinner.
I concluded I had seen enough of hospital life and did not return to it. I never knew whether I was reported on the hospital reports as a deserter or not. It was my first and last hospital experience after leaving Pittsfield.