from The Webster Weekley Times, Dec 27,1862, (Volume IV # 42),
Hospital Scenes

We publish below the first in a series of army letters, from Mrs. M. E. Lewis, who is now spending a season with her husband at Annapolis Md.. Our home readers will be deeply interested in this correspondence. The incident related in the following letter is a sad commentary on the inefficiency which still characterizes some of the officials into whose charge are committed the important interests of our sick and wounded patriot soldiers.

For the Webster Times
Hospital Scenes

Scene first
Approach with me the main hospital tent at Camp Sangster, Annapolis Md. As we enter the door a strange feeling comes over us, for we find there are many sufferers within. But our attention is arrested by a gesture from a pale emaciated sufferer, who reaching forth his wasted hand to one of our company said, “O Sergeant!, I am so glad to see you, for I know you will get me something to eat; I’m hungry, so hungry!” 

Who could resist such an appeal? Sergeant surely could not, and consulting the nurses in that department, he went out to procure something suitable for the hungry man. O, such an eager, wistful look as that sick man bent upon the receding form of the Sergeant, and then turned to us with hand extended for a kindly clasp, saying, “Lady were you ever so hungry, so hungry that you could think of nothing else?” 

Seeing at a glance there was much I could do for his comfort, I sought to divert his mind from that subject, as his hunger of itself was enough for his weak frame, without being aggravated by such intense thought about it. I succeeded, and he conversed freely of his home, his wife, and one precious babe. Noticing a letter on his pillow, I asked if he would not like to have me write for him to his friends. “O, no” he earnestly replied, “for I could have nothing but the truth written, and the truth just now would be to much for the loving heart of poor Nellie. Precious darling wife! What would she say if she knew her husband was starving, yes, dying for want of proper nourishment?” 

I asked if the nurses did not properly discharge their duties. “O, yes,” he replied, “most of them do, but they do not do as much as they might.  It is so natural for us all to be selfish!  They, like all here, have a great deal to do, and will not often stop aside to do extras for our comfort.   But, oh! if I die, if I starve to death, don’t let Nellie know how I died!   Don’t tell her that her husband, of whom she was so fondly proud, who left an honorable profession to fight for his country died of starvation!   The blow would be hard enough, Heaven knows, without this knowledge.   And my little Willie, God bless him! may he never have such bitter experience as has been the lot of his father during the last year!”

The pale face began to change its expression; the chin and lip quivered; and after an ineffectual attempt to force back the wave of sadness which surged up from his grieved soul, he threw off restraint and wept freely. Blessed tears! They relieved the troubled mind of the sufferer and he became more calm.

Presently, hearing his friends voice outside, he asked me to raise him; and, oh! how that eager, hungry look came back to his face, as he stretched out his hands in the direction his friend would come. That friend was passing through the door with some nice oyster broth which he had himself carefully prepared, when the surgeon came along, and taking the cup and smelling the savory broth says :what ye (hic) got here? hic The man explained to him, when he deliberately threw cup and all upon the ground outside the tent! 

Oh, you should have seen the face of the dying man then! the disappointment, and above all the sense of injustice done to him expressed there. He sank back on his pillow, but rallied presently, as his friend whispered to him, ”be patient I will make another effort, if they should shoot me for it.” Such a gratified smile, a smile such as an angel might wear lighted the poor man’s features; for he appreciated his friends kindness, knowing full well, the risk he would run in so doing. “God bless you, Sergeant, for your many acts of kindness to me. But oh we must forgive him,” pointing to the door, "for he knows not what he does.” 

Another half hour passed and we had the pleasure of seeing the man fed. When we were leaving he said to his friend, “I have twenty dollars in my valise, and some other articles, (naming them) send them to Nellie when I am gone.” O how the sobs shook his frame then. “Tell her that I trusted my Savior’s promises, that I go to him willingly, yes gladly, with no regret but that she must be left alone in this cold world, with our precious babe to care for. But I must leave her, but if she will but trust implicitly in Him who has promised to be a father to the fatherless, and the widow’s God, all will be well” As we each bade him a kindly goodbye, he said, “Farewell, my friends, for you will never see me again. God bless you, yes, God bless you!” 

Oh, how sacred the place! How hallowed the memory of that pale, intellectual face! I felt that I stood in the presence of God, for he was there enthroned in the heart of that dying man; and as he thus gave us his last benediction, I felt that humble hospital tent to be a Bethel to us all. And yet what a deep solemnity pervaded our souls! The next we heard of him, he was dead. His friend hurried to the tent, to do with his property as he had requested, but found everything gone, no one knowing whither. The corpse of that talented man had been thrown into a “dead cart” a half-hour previous, and hurriedly jostled over the rough ground to the grave-yard; there buried without a prayer or the least tribute of respect to his memory.

M. E. L
Annapolis Md. Dec. 21, 1862


15th Massachusetts VI