from The Webster Times, January 17, 1863 (Volume4 # 42), 
Hospital Scenes
Scene second

To the Editor of the Webster Times
As I commence this letter I find it difficult to decide upon a topic, there are so many that present themselves to my mind. Let me choose the one my own heart dictates, and which engrosses most of my time and thoughts, the hospitals. Another visit to the hospitals! I thought I knew the meaning of the word “hospital” before I came here: but it reminds me of a students ineffectual attempts to master a foreign language. There are words which in order to pronounce correctly he must catch the sound from a teachers lips. So with this little world.

A casual observer may give its meaning in a few words; but in order to analyze it perfectly and bring to light its depth of meaning, each element must be carefully studied, with thoughtful observation for a teacher, and the heart, previously occupied by religion, must obey the dictates of Christian sympathy, which presides at her portals.

The first one I conversed with gave his name as Thomas Conner, from Ohio. I found him not only intelligent, but something of a philosopher. since September last he has lain in one position, with his wounded foot elevated about two feet in a sling suspended from the hospital roof. In reply to some words of cheer which I addressed to him, he said: “O, yes; I’m always cheerful, for when I first came here I made a speech to Thomas, telling him that he must make up his mind to inhabit this bed a few months, and that he must be a very quiet occupant, consoling himself with the thought that his feet were rising in the world, and that it was a fortunate circumstance that the halter (pointing to the sling) was not around his neck”.

I remarked that he seemed well cared for, and that it was a blessing he could read and thus beguilethe weary hours. “O yes.” he replied; “but it don’t pay to get restless and uneasy, for then I just have to get up a forced march in imagination, a go a few miles double quick, and by the time I get back to ward No 1, I am all ready for a snooze!” 

I asked him if his foot pained him badly. “Not so much as at first.’ he replied. “I get along nicely with that, for when it aches hard I make up faces at it, in the meantime practicing sword exercises with my fists, and spicing the performance now and then with a word of comment: and I have the advantage of most speakers in knowing that, talk to my audience as I may, it can’t get away.”

Thus he rattled on, and would for hours, if we had remained by him. The ward master said that when the sick in the ward get a little gloomy, Thomas is sure to commence an oration to that foot, which makes them forget themselves and join in his merriment. As I looked on his pale face, I thought what a lesson there was to be learned from that cheerful spirit, which accepts all the light, and when the shadows deepen about him, hopes soon to be led out of the shadow into the sun and anticipates the coming brightness by cutting away the dead branches of gloom and discontent. I might dwell thus minutely upon conversations with others, which might perhaps be more interesting, and would give variety; for as I visited others, different thoughts were expressed, all interesting, which brought to mind that:

“There is no similitude in nature that oweth not a difference,
Yes, no two berries are alike, though twins upon one stem,
No drop in the ocean, no pebble on the beach, no leaf in the forest has its counterpart,
No mind in its dwelling of mortality, no spirit in the world unseen.”

As the matron of the hospital is something of a heroine, allow me to break the rules of etiquette, and without comment of either party, make you acquainted (by description) with Mrs. Morse, Mr. Editor. She is an intelligent, well educated woman, whose virtues are adorned by the graces of Christianity. When she first came here she found to her surprise, on Sabbath morning, as she was preparing for service, that as there was no chaplain there would be no service. She started out and in thirty minutes had fifty people gathered together in a tent, and she conducted the prayer meeting. from that beginning there has followed a revival, and large numbers have become Christians. She was in all the battles on the Peninsula, and at the battle of Malvern Hill her horse was shot beneath her.

I was introduced to Mrs. Sarlin, who was taken prisoner with her husband, and paroled at the same time he was. She has seen great suffering, and her pale young face bears the impress of grief and disappointment. At one time on the battlefield she saved her husbands life by shooting with a pistol a rebel who was in the act of shooting him. They have obtained their discharge, and expect to go home next month.

One pleasant feature at Camp Sangster is a large reading room, consisting of three tents. They might not have all the reading matter they ought to have, but are very thankful for what they do possess. One of the managers asked me if I would try and get them a few copies of some good choir music books, and I speak of it here so that anyone who feels disposed can have the opportunity of doing good.

M. E. L.
Annapolis Md.; Jan. 10, 1863.


15th Massachusetts VI