The next day the work of reorganization commenced. Then and there I was invested with full power and authority, and received from Dr. McAllister assurances of entire confidence and thorough co-operation, which were accorded in the highest degree during the whole term of my service in the Buckner Hospital, and the prestige of which gave me great advantages in other fields of labor.
Aside from profoundest love of "the Cause," and (as I firmly believed) the inspiration which directed my efforts to serve it, I had nothing to offer. "With all my soul, with all my heart, with all my strength," I was ready to serve; but this would have availed little had not my right to do so been officially acknowledged, had I not acquired power to follow out the dictates of reason and heart for the benefit of my patients.
As the organization begun at Gainesville, and the rules and regulations then adopted, were fully perfected soon after we reached the next "post," and remained in full force as long as the Buckner Hospital existed, it may be as well to briefly describe them here.
Convalescents were turned over to the steward, and their meals were attended to by him and his assistants. I had only to see that their mess-room was kept in order and that their rations were cooked to the best advantage. For the sick I had my own kitchen, my own cooks and other servants, my own store-room, also liberty to send out foragers. Every morning I sent to each surgeon a list of such diet as I could command for the sick. With this in hand he was able to decide upon the proper food for each patient. Each bed was numbered. The head-nurse kept a small book, into which he copied each day's diet-list. He was also expected to have ready every morning a fresh piece of paper, upon which the surgeon wrote the numbers of the beds, and opposite, F.D., H.D., L.D., V.L.D., or S.D. (full diet, half diet, light diet, very light diet, and special diet). If special directions were needed, the surgeon brought the list to my business-room. If not, it was left with the head-nurse, and when I made my own rounds it would be my guide in consulting the tastes of the patients themselves as to the kind of food they preferred and its preparation. Of all this I made notes. I made it a point to feed the very ill patients myself. Others wore served from a distributing-room, where at regular meal-times I always presided, sitting at the end of a long table, having a pile of tin numbers before me corresponding to the numbers on the beds in the wards. There was an under-steward whose business it was to supply the plates; also two helpers. The head-nurse from Ward No. 1 having come down with his subordinates would call out, "No. 1, full diet," or as the case might be. As the plate was filled, I handed out the corresponding number, which was put upon the plate. The plates having been placed upon large wooden trays, were carried off to the ward. Then came No. 2, and so on, all the special patients having been attended to previously.
Everything relating to the bedding, clothing, and the personal belongings of the sick and wounded I found in a fearful state. In one room down-stairs perhaps two or three hundred knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, etc., were thrown upon the floor in large piles. No one knew to whom they belonged, no one seemed to care, and it appeared to me impossible to bring any degree of order out of the chaotic mass of wet, half-dry, rough-dry, in some cases mildewed clothing lying everywhere about. Prompt measures were taken with the washerwoman, which resulted, in a day or two, in a procession of darkies, each bearing a pile of clothing embracing almost every article of men's apparel. A "linen master" having been detailed, a "linen-room" set apart and shelved, the articles were placed upon large tables to be sorted and piled upon the shelves, ready for reclamation by the convalescents and others who were not too ill to identify their own. Some of these clothes were torn and buttonless. My detailed men could not sew. The demands of the sick and the duties of general supervision left me no time. Taught by my experience of the devoted women of Virginia and Alabama, I resolved to visit some of the ladies of Gainesville, and to solicit their aid. The response was hearty and immediate. Next day the linen-room was peopled by bright, energetic ladies, at whose hands the convalescents received their renovated garments with words of warm sympathy and encouragement that cheered their hearts.
The lack of clean bedding being made known, these generous, patriotic women sent in soft, clean old sheets, pillow-slips, etc., also a few old shirts,—some of them even bearing with me the horrors of the scurvy and gangrene wards to assist in making the sufferers more comfortable. Details for all purposes were made as soon as I asked for them, and as "many hands make light work," order and system began to pervade all departments. A baggage-master, with several temporary assistants, found work for several days in disposing of the knapsacks, haversacks, blankets, etc. As fast as they were claimed, they were ticketed with the number of the ward and bed of the claimant, and piled away to await his return to his regiment. Those unreclaimed and known to have belonged to the dead were labelled as far as possible with the name and date of death, company, and regiment, and stored until friends should come or write for them.
The work of organization was not nearly complete, when Dr. McAllister received orders to report with his hospital staff at Ringgold, Georgia. The sick were to be removed elsewhere,—at any rate were not to accompany us. Hospital stores would be supplied at Ringgold. The doctor and his attendants awaited transportation, which seemed difficult to obtain. Many bodies of soldiers crowded every train,—passenger, freight, and even cattle cars.
Dr. McAllister decided to send his wife and myself by private conveyance to Marion, Alabama, to remain there until we should receive final directions. Two servants belonging to Mrs. McAllister accompanied us. Our kind hostess had put up a basket of provisions.
I took a sad leave of the patients who had become so dear to me, and one bright morning we drove rapidly out of Gainesville on our way to Marion.
The ride was a perfect delight, over excellent roads, or through aisles of the forest, where the healthful odor of the pines perfumed the air, and myriads of birds made sweetest music. Stopping beside some sparkling spring to lunch and dine, chatting gayly all day, growing thoughtful and silent, as, borne upon the breeze of evening, there came to us the whispering voices of memory, renewing the sorrow of parting, awakening afresh anxious fears for the absent.
We slept at any house along the road where night overtook us, always expecting and finding a welcome. In these homes, as everywhere else over the South, sorrow and care had taken up their abode. Haggard, weary-looking women, from whose hearts and homes joy had departed with the dear ones who had gone forth to battle, plied us with eager questions. We related to them all we knew of military movements. But it was very little, and we could give them no tidings of their own.
The third day brought us to Marion, where, at the pleasant home of Mrs. McAllister, we awaited further orders.
I have very pleasant recollections of Marion, and of the elegant homes where I was so delightfully entertained. But already love for my chosen work had reached (so people told me) the height of infatuation. Between me and every offered pleasure appeared the pale, reproachful faces of the suffering soldiers. My place was beside them, and I longed for the summons.
A letter from Dr. McAllister to his wife announced the establishment of a hospital post in Ringgold, Georgia, but counselled our waiting until "things could be straightened out." I could not wait, so left the same evening, arriving in time to organize my own department, which, as the assistants had not been changed, and fell easily into their places, was not so difficult as at Gainesville. Besides, we received a fair supply of hospital stores, and were enabled to make patients very comfortable.
The hospitals established at Ringgold, Georgia, early in the fall of 1862, received the wounded and the not less serious cases of typhoid fever, typhoid pneumonia, dysentery, and scurvy resulting from almost unparalleled fatigue, exposure, and every kind of hardship incident to Bragg's retreat from Kentucky. These sick men were no shirkers, but soldiers brave and true, who, knowing their duty, had performed it faithfully, until little remained to them but the patriot hearts beating almost too feebly to keep soul and body together. The court-house, one church, warehouses, stores, and hotels were converted into hospitals. Row after row of beds filled every ward. Upon them lay wrecks of humanity, pale as the dead, with sunken eyes, hollow cheeks and temples, long, claw-like hands. Oh, those poor, weak, nerveless hands used to seem to me more pitiful than all; and when I remembered all they had achieved and how they had lost their firm, sinewy proportions, their strong grasp, my heart swelled with pity and with passionate devotion. Often I felt as if I could have held these cold hands to my heart for warmth, and given of my own warm blood to fill those flaccid veins.
Every train brought in squads of just such poor fellows as I have tried to describe. How well I remember them toiling painfully from the depot to report at the surgeon's office, then, after being relieved of their accoutrements, tottering with trembling limbs to the beds from which, perhaps, they would never more arise. This hospital-post, as nearly as I remember, comprised only two hospitals, the Bragg and the Buckner. Of the Bragg, Dr. S.M. Bemiss was surgeon in charge; assistant surgeons, Gore, of Kentucky; Hewes, of Louisville, Kentucky; Welford, of Virginia; Redwood, of Mobile, Alabama, and some others whose names I cannot now recall. Dr. W.T. McAllister was surgeon in charge of the Buckner. Of the assistant surgeons I can only remember Dr. W.S. Lee, then of Florida, now a successful practitioner and an honored citizen of Dallas, Texas; Dr. R.D. Jackson, of Selma, Alabama, who since the war has lived a well-beloved physician and druggist in Summerfield, Alabama; Dr. Reese, also of Alabama, and Dr. Yates, of Texas, now dead. For a few months Dr. Francis Thornton, of Kentucky, was surgeon of the post. He was a fiery, impetuous, manly man, a rigid disciplinarian, but always compelled to fight against the dictates of his large, warm heart when duty compelled him to execute severe justice.
Mrs. Thornton was one of the most lovable women I ever knew; impulsive and earnest in her friendship, of a sunny, cheerful temperament seldom clouded. Her pride in her husband and her happiness in being with him was pleasant to see. While she remained in Ringgold we were warm friends. To her thoughtful kindness I owed many an indulgence in dainties not supplied by the Confederate Government. My room was in the same house where the surgeons and their wives were boarding. Often returning late from the hospital, weary and dispirited, her sweet voice would "halt" me at the foot of the stairs, a kindly arm impelling me to her cheerful room, where a cup of tea and a nice little supper was in readiness, made far more enjoyable by her loving service and pleasant talk so full of cheer. The other ladies were just as kind-hearted, but none had the sweet, winning grace that characterized Mrs. Thornton, except, perhaps, Mrs. Lee, wife of the surgeon above mentioned. She was also one of the dearest and kindest of friends. My enthusiasm in regard to Mrs. Lee was almost like that of a lover. She was a beautiful woman, tall, majestic, graceful, towards the world at large dignified and, perhaps, a little reticent; to those whom she honored with her love or friendship, irresistibly fascinating. Her eyes were—not magnificent, but just "the sweetest ever seen," and combined with a perfect mouth to make her smile a caress. In addition, rare intelligence and fine conversational powers rendered her a delightful companion. Dr. Lee was by birth a South Carolinian, a polished gentleman, and, though in general self-contained and of quiet manners, proved a warm friend and a most pleasant host. Mrs. Lee used to search for me through the wards, and, having found me, would flourish a "prescription," made out in due form, for "an hour of leisure, to be repeated twice every week before retiring." These hours spent at the pleasant quarters of Dr. and Mrs. Lee were, indeed, "a feast of reason and a flow of soul," often diversified by funny experiments in disguising the remains of the day's rations by cooking recipes familiar in ante-bellum days, but which generally failed because substitutes would never produce the same results as the real ingredients.
Dr. Lee was some months afterwards transferred to Cherokee Springs as surgeon in charge of one of the convalescent hospitals, of which Mrs. Lee volunteered to act as matron. We parted with real regret, but truly her patients gained by our loss. For she was most competent, faithful, and well-beloved by those to whom she ministered.
The autumn passed quickly, some pretty severe days giving us a foretaste of the rigor of a winter in North Georgia. By November 1 it was not only bitterly cold, but snow covered the ground to the depth of six inches, and the roads were furrowed and frozen. Terrible accounts reached us from Bragg's army, who were without shoes, blankets, or clothes, and suffering fearfully. Officers and men were alike destitute. General Patton Anderson determined to make an effort to supply his division, and for this purpose selected Lieutenant J.A. Chalaron, Fifth Company, Washington Artillery, as one in every way qualified to carry out such an undertaking, who was therefore ordered to Savannah and other places to secure the needed supplies.
He cheerfully accepted the charge, although it involved deprivation of the rest so greatly needed, and the continuance of hardship already extended almost beyond human endurance. But the young officer was every inch a soldier, and one of a company which had already won a name for itself not less for invincible courage than for soldierly bearing and devotion to duty. That so young a soldier was selected to conduct such an undertaking proved how surely he had deserved and won the confidence of his superior officers. In those days railroad travelling was far from pleasant. The train upon which Lieutenant Chalaron embarked at Knoxville was a motley affair,—perhaps a single passenger-car, rough and dilapidated (crowded with those who, though ill, made shift to sit up or recline upon the seats), box-cars and cattle-cars filled with suffering men helplessly sick. In order that these might not be crowded, Lieutenant Chalaron, with one or two others, rode on the top of a box-car for twelve hours, from Knoxville to Chattanooga, exposed to the inclement weather which he was ill prepared to meet, having shared the inexpressible hardships of the Kentucky campaign, including destitution of suitable clothing. I take pleasure in recording this noble act, because Lieutenant Chalaron was from New Orleans (also my own beloved home). The impulse of self-sacrifice, and of chivalrous devotion towards the helpless and suffering, sprung from a heart pulsating with the knightly blood of the Creole of Louisiana. Ah, that impetuous blood which stirred at the first call to arms, which was poured out in continual libations to Southern liberty, from the time it gushed from the breast of the first martyr of the war (our Charlie Dreux), until almost in the "last ditch," piled high with masses of Confederate dead, lay the gory body of Edgar Dreux, the very topmost man, proving how invincible was the courage that quailed not at the sight of that ghastly altar of sacrifice!
The large brick court-house in the centre of the town of Ringgold was especially devoted to my use. The court-room occupying the entire upper floor was fitted up for fifty patients. This was facetiously called "the nursery," and its occupants "Mrs. Beers's babies." In this ward were placed, as far as its capacity permitted, patients who needed to be visited very often, and for whose proper nourishment and the prompt administration of medicine I was responsible. For instance, if one of the fever-patients was taking veratrum, I must see it dropped and given, and note the pulse. If one was just struggling through dysentery, I must attend to his nourishment, and generally fed him myself. Down-stairs was one large room, and three of good size, but smaller. The large one was also a ward. My business-room opposite was also the linen-room of the hospital. Shelves ran from floor to ceiling, a counter in front of them. In one corner stood my desk, and beside it a large country rocking-chair; in another a rough lounge for the convenience of visiting patients. In front of the immense fireplace (where there was always a cheerful fire) stood a table and chairs for the surgeons, who came in after each round through the wards, to leave special directions and diet-lists. Through the day this room was a cheerful place. I seldom entered it without finding one or more visitors, especially in the morning, when the surgeons always met there, and their wives generally joined them. On the other side of the hall was the distributing-room in one corner, in the other a store-room, where, also, under my own lock and key, I kept the effects of dead soldiers, labelled and ready for identification by their friends. I was assisted in this work, in keeping the linen-room in order, and in various other ways, by a young German who had been detailed for that purpose. He was a well-educated young man and a fine musician,—in fact, had been a professor of music before the war, had entered the service intelligently, desiring to remain in active service, but some disability caused his detail. His position was no sinecure: he was expected to keep a full account of all stores in my department, all bedding, hospital clothing, all clothing of the patients, and a great many other things, having full charge of the laundry and the laundresses, with whom he was always in "hot water." For this reason he was dubbed by the surgeons General Blandner, and his employees were called Blandner's Brigade. He was methodical in all things. His books were exquisitely kept. I had been a good musician, and now used often to sing to Blandner's lute, which he played in a masterly manner. His improvisations were a great delight to me, and, finding me so appreciative, he composed a lovely set of waltzes, "The Hospital Waltzes," which were dedicated to me, but never published, only exquisitely written out on pieces of wall-paper by the composer. After the war, Mr. Blandner obtained through Dr. McAllister the position of professor of music at the female college at Marion, Alabama, but removed later to Philadelphia, whore he now resides, still as a professor and teacher of music.
The cold increased, and the number of patients grew larger. Snow and ice rendered it difficult for me to get to the wards, as they lay quite far apart. The boarding-house at first occupied by the surgeons' families was now vacated and fitted up for officers' wards, a room being found for me in a log house, owned by an old lady, Mrs. Evans, whose sons, except the youngest, a mere lad, were in the Confederate army.
It was nearly a quarter of a mile from the courthouse. The road thither, lying through a piece of piney woods, was almost always blocked by drifted snow or what the Georgians called "slush" (a mixture of mud and snow). I must confess that the freezing mornings chilled my patriotism a little, but just because it was so cold the sick needed closer attention. One comfort never failed me: it was the watchful devotion of a soldier whom I had nursed in Gainesville, Alabama, and who, by his own request, was now permanently attached to my special corps of "helpers." No matter how cold the morning or how stormy, I never opened my door but there was "Old Peter" waiting to attend me. When the blinding storms of winter made the roads almost impassable by night, Peter would await my departure from the hospital with his lantern, and generally on very stormy nights with an old horse which he borrowed for the occasion, savagely cutting short my remonstrances with a cross "Faith, is it now or in the mornin' ye'll be lavin'?" He would limp beside me quite to the door of my room, and with a rough "Be aisy, now," in reply to my thanks, would scramble upon the horse and ride back.
"I know not is he far or near, or that he lives, or is he dead," only this, that my dreams of the past are often haunted by the presence of this brave soldier and humble, loyal friend. I seem to see again the lined and rugged face ("harsh," others thought, wearing always for me a smile which reminded me of the sunlight brightening an old gray ruin,) and the toil-hardened hands which yet served me so tenderly. I seem to hear once more the rich Irish brogue which gave character and emphasis to all he said, a naughty character and a most unpleasant emphasis sometimes, I must admit, fully appreciated by any who chanced to displease him, but to me always as sweet and pleasant as the zephyrs blowing from "the groves of Blarney." Peter was an Alabama soldier. On the first day of my installation as matron of Buckner Hospital, located then at Gainesville, Alabama, after the battle of Shiloh, I found him lying in one of the wards badly wounded, and suffering, as were many others, from scurvy. He had been morose and fierce to all who approached him. At first I fared no better. "Sure, what wad a lady be wantin' in a place like this?" said he, crossly. "Why, comrade," I replied, "I thought you would like to have a lady to nurse you ?" "Divil a wan," growled he, and, drawing the coverlid over his face, refused to speak again. I felt disheartened for the moment, but after a consultation with Dr. McAllister, surgeon in charge,—than whom a better disciplinarian or a kinder-hearted man never lived,—it was decided that Peter should be induced or compelled to receive my ministrations. For several days, however, he remained sullen and most unwilling to be nursed, but this mood softened, and long before he was well enough to leave the ward the warm Irish heart had melted, and I had secured a friend whose unalterable devotion attended me through all the vicissitudes of the war.
Being permanently disabled, by reason of his wound, from service in the field, Peter was detailed for hospital service, and by his own request attached to my special corps of assistants. He could and did in a hundred ways help me and contribute to my comfort. No matter how many times I met him during the day, he never passed without giving me a military salute. If I was detained by the bedside of one very ill or dying, hoping to save life, or at least to receive and treasure "for the loved ones at home" some word or message, I was sure to hear Peter's limping step and his loud whisper, "Sure it's dying he is; can't ye lave him in the hands av God, an' go to your bed?" He constituted himself, in many cases, my mentor, and deeply resented any seeming disrespect towards me.
I recall a case in point which highly amused the whole "post." While located at Ringgold, Georgia, it was considered desirable to remove some of the convalescents to a camp hospital at Cherokee Springs, some three miles out of town. It became my duty to see these patients every evening, and I rode out on horseback attended by Peter. Riding into camp one evening, I dismounted near a tent in front of which a group of officers were standing, in conversation with Dr. ——, of Kentucky. We exchanged a few words of greeting as I passed on to attend to my patients. Returning, to mount my horse, I noticed that Peter rather rudely pushed before Lieutenant ——, who came forward to assist me. I also noticed that his face wore the old sullen look, and that his manner was decidedly unpleasant. Before we had gone far, he broke out with, "'Dade, ma'am, ye'll go there no more, if ye plaze." Amazed, I questioned why? "Sure, thim fellers was makin' game av ye an' callin' ye out av yer name." "Why, Peter," cried I, "you are crazy: who called me names, and what did they call me?" "Thim offshurs, ma'am. Sure, I couldn't make out their furrin worruds, but I belave 'tis a sinner they called ye. Faith, an' if ye're a sinner, where wad the saints be?" Of course, woman-like, I became furious, and, on our arrival at headquarters, indignantly reported the "offshurs" to the surgeon in charge, who promised to investigate.
The sequel is most amusing. It turned out that Peter had overheard a conversation between the officers above mentioned and Dr. ——. They having made some kindly remark as to my hospital service, Dr. —— as kindly replied, "Yes, she is a sine qua non." My amusement was mingled with chagrin at my hasty anger, but Peter remained unconvinced and never forgave the offenders. Upon another occasion I was compelled to interfere to protect an innocent victim of Peter's wrath. One of my "boys" about returning to his command came to take leave of me and to offer a little keepsake. This was, or appeared to be, a crochet-needle prettily carved and having one end fringed out. I took it with thanks, saying, "I hope I may use this needle to crochet a pair of mittens for you." Cried the donor, "That ain't no crochet-needle." "No? Well, what is it?" "It is a dipping-stick; don't you chaw snuff?" Upon my indignant denial, the crestfallen man exclaimed, "Well, Lor', lady, I made sure you did, you're so yaller complected" (I had shortly before recovered from an attack of jaundice). Now, it chanced that Peter, knowing my fondness for a pine-knot fire, had collected a quantity of knots, which he just then brought in, and, hearing the uncomplimentary remark of my soldier-friend, turned upon him with the utmost fury, and such a tirade of abuse as followed baffles alike my power to recall the words or to describe the rage which prompted them. I was compelled to interfere and order Peter out of the room.
"When, in the course of human events," those who for four years had shared the fortunes of war separated to seek their several homes, I lost sight of my devoted friend.
He was "Old Peter" then, and, in all probability, no longer lives, save in my memory. If he be dead, "peace to his ashes." If living, may God bless and sustain him in the days that are "full of trouble."
In the midst of this terrible winter, on one of the most bitter days, there came about noon an order from "the front" to prepare for two hundred sick, who would be down late the same night. There was not a bed to spare in either of the hospitals. Negotiations were at once opened for the only church in Ringgold not already occupied by the sick. The people declined to give it up. But, "necessity knows no law;" it was seized by Dr. Thornton, the pews being taken out and piled up in the yard. Fires were then kindled in both stoves to thoroughly warm the church. There was, however, not a single bunk,—no time to make any; all the empty ticks when filled with straw and placed upon the floor fell far short of the number required. For the rest straw was littered down as if for horses, and when the pillows gave out, head-rests were made by tearing off the backs of the pews and nailing them slantwise from the base-board to the floor, so that knapsacks, coats, etc., could be used for pillows.
The order had reached Ringgold about noon; it was ten at night before the rough preparations were completed. Meantime, such nourishment as hot soup, coffee, and tea, milk, egg-nog, and milk-punch (prepared with home-made peach or apple brandy), were kept in readiness. Near midnight I stood in the church awaiting the arrival of the train. Candles were scarce, but light-wood-fires outside gave sufficient light. The candles were not to be used until needed by the surgeons, who were now at the depot waiting to receive the sick. At last the train arrived,—departed; shortly thereafter there poured through the doors of that little church a train of human misery such as I never saw before or afterward during the war, and pray God I may never see again. Until that night the tale of the retreat from Moscow had seemed to me overdrawn; ever since I can well believe "the half has not been told." They came, each revealing some form of acute disease, some tottering, but still on their feet, others borne on stretchers. Exhausted by forced marches over interminable miles of frozen ground or jagged rocks, destitute of rations, discouraged by failure, these poor fellows had cast away one burden after another until they had not clothes sufficient to shield them from the chilling blasts of winter. Not one in twenty had saved even a haversack, many having discarded coats and jackets. One man had gained possession of an india-rubber overcoat, which, excepting his underclothing, was his only garment. Barefooted,—their feet were swollen frightfully, and seamed with fissures so large that one might lay a finger in them. These were dreadfully inflamed, and bled at the slightest touch; others were suppurating. The feet of some presented a shining, inflamed surface which seemed ready to burst at any moment. Their hands were just as bad, covered with chilblains and sores. Many were tortured with wounds which had at first seemed slight, but by neglect and exposure had become sources of exquisite torture. The gleaming eyes, matted hair and beard hanging about their cadaverous faces, gave to these men a wild, ghastly look utterly indescribable. As they came in, many sunk exhausted upon the pallets, some falling at once into a deep sleep, from which it was impossible to arouse them, others able only to assume a sitting posture on account of the racking, rattling cough which, when reclining, threatened to suffocate them. Few would stop to be undressed: food and rest were all they craved. Those who crowded to the stoves soon began to suffer from their frozen feet and hands, and even ran out into the snow to ease their pain. The surgeons worked faithfully, and the whole force was in requisition. But, alas! alas! death also was busy among these unfortunates. The very first man I essayed to feed died in my arms, two others during the night. The poor wounded feet I tried to handle so tenderly bled at every touch. The warmth of the room, while it sent some into a sound sleep which seemed death's counterpart, caused terrible agony to others, who groaned and screamed. It seemed to me just as if those men, having previously kept up with heroic fortitude under trials almost too great for human endurance, had, as soon as the terrible tension was loosened, utterly succumbed, forgetting all but the horrible pain that racked them.
Fever running riot in the veins of some found expression in delirious shouts and cries, which added to the horror. My courage almost failed me. About half-past two, Dr. Thornton, yielding to my earnest entreaties, went home and brought Mrs. Thornton to share my vigil, although, as a general thing, he was opposed to her going into the hospital wards. Together we labored through that long night. Soon after daylight next morning, passing into the church porch, we stood for a few moments silently, hand in hand, for, although both hearts were too full for speech, our labor of love had drawn us very near together.
Everywhere the snow lay white and glittering. In the church-yard, upon some of the pews arranged for the purpose, had been placed the lifeless bodies of the three men who had died during the night. There they lay, stark and stiff. Upon these cold, dead faces no mourners' tears would fall; no friends would bear with reverend tread these honored forms to their last resting-place. Rough pine boxes would soon cover the faces once the light of some far-away home, careless hands would place them in their shallow graves, without a prayer, without a tear. Only the loving hand of nature to plant flowers above them.
For months after entering the service I insisted upon attending every dead soldier to the grave and reading over him a part of the burial-service. But it had now become impossible. The dead were past help; the living always needed succor. But no soldier ever died in my presence without a whispered prayer to comfort his parting soul. Ah me! The "prayers for the sick, and those near unto death," are to this day more familiar to me than any other portion of the Prayer-Book, and at no time can I hear unmoved the sacred old hymns so often sung beside dying beds. Passing to my office along the path traversed last night by the incoming soldiers, I found the snow along the whole distance stained by their bare, bleeding feet, and the sight made my heart ache sorely. I think I never in all my life felt so keen a sense of utter dependence upon a higher Power, or understood so thoroughly how "vain is the help of man," than when, in the seclusion of my own room, the events of the night passed in review before me. With a heart aching with supreme pity, ready to make any sacrifice for the noble martyrs who, for my sake as well as for that of all Southern women, had passed unshrinking through inexpressible suffering, never faltering until laid low by the hand of disease,—I could yet do nothing. I could not save them one moment of agony, I could not stay the fleeting breath, nor might I intermit the unceasing care imperatively demanded by those whom timely ministrations might save, to give due honor to the dead.
Only an hour or two of rest (broken like the sleep of those of a household who retire from the side of beloved sufferers, leaving them to the care of others while they snatch a few moments of the repose which is needed to prepare them for fresh exertions) and I was once more on my way to the wards. At the gate of the boarding-house stood one of the nurses. Again, as often before, I was summoned to a bed of death. A soldier who had come in only two days before almost in the last stages of pneumonia was now dying. I had left him at eight o'clock the night before very ill, but sleeping under the influence of an opiate. His agony was now too terrible for any alleviation; but he had sent for me; so I stood beside him, answering by every possible expression of sympathy his imploring glances and the frantic clasp of his burning hand. Finding that my presence was a comfort, I sent for Dr. McAllister, and, requesting him to assign my duties to some one else for a while, remained at my post, yielding to the restraining grasp which to the very last arrested every movement away from the side of the sufferer. A companion of the sick man lay near. From him I learned the excellent record of this young soldier, who, during the frightful "retreat," had contracted the cold which culminated in pneumonia, but would not consent to leave his regiment until too late.
I had feared an awful struggle at the last, but the death angel was pitiful, bringing surcease of suffering; and so, peacefully sped the soul of John Grant, of the —— Mississippi Regiment, happily unconscious of the end, and murmuring with his last breath, of home and mother.
I remember with great distinctness his face,—suffering while he yet struggled with death,—happy and tranquil, when he stood upon the threshold of life eternal. Almost the very saddest and most trying portion of my Confederate service was just here. Only that my record must be faithful, I would fain bid memory pass with flying feet and veiled eyes over the scenes of that terrible winter at Ringgold, when my very soul was steeped in pity so painful that every night I was fain to cry out, "It is too hard! I cannot bear it!" and every morning my heart, yearning over "my boys," gave itself with renewed ardor to "the Cause" and its defenders.
Returning to my patients in the church about noon, I found a change for the better in many cases; in others it was but too evident that days, even hours, were numbered. Two soldiers in particular attracted my attention. One was an Irishman, of an Alabama regiment, the other from Arkansas. The Irishman was fast passing away, and earnestly desired to see a priest. There was none nearer than twelve miles. One of our foragers, himself a Roman Catholic, volunteered to go for him and by permission of Dr. McAllister rode off through the snow, returning after nightfall to report that Father —— had been called in another direction, and would not return home until the next day. Finding the poor fellow, though almost too far gone to articulate, constantly murmuring words of prayer, I took his prayer-book and read aloud the "Recommendation of a soul departing," also some of the preceding prayers of the "Litany for the dying." He faintly responded, and seemed to die comforted and satisfied. Afterwards I never hesitated to use the same service in like cases.
The Arkansian was a devoted soldier and a pronounced "rebel." He had preserved through all vicissitudes a small Confederate flag, made for him by his little daughter "Annie," now alas torn and shattered. When he came into the church on that terrible night, although almost destitute of clothing, he bore the flag safely pinned inside of his ragged flannel shirt. A few days afterwards I found the poor, emaciated frame propped up in bed, with a crumpled sheet of paper spread upon a piece of pine board before him, while, with unaccustomed hand and unaccustomed brain, he toiled over some verses of poetry addressed to "Annie." After a week or two, when he lay dying, I received from his hand the flag and the verses pinned together, and addressed to "Miss Annie ——," in some part of Arkansas; but as I hoped to retain, and finally to deliver safely, the articles so addressed, I did not tax my memory with it, and when afterwards, in Macon, all my belongings were taken by the raiders, I had nothing left to recall the name, and only remember one of the verses, which ran thus:
"Your father fought under this flag, This bonny flag so true, And many a time, amidst the fray, The bullets whistled through— So, Annie, keep the flag."
The verses were headed, "Annie, Keep the Flag," and each one ended with the same words.
The sad days of winter passed slowly away; with the spring came changes. Dr. Thornton was ordered to another post (I had forgotten just where), and of course Mrs. Thornton accompanied him. Everybody connected with the post regretted their departure, especially the loss of Mrs. Thornton, who was a general favorite. We had not ceased to miss her when tidings came of Dr. Thornton's death, and of the wild grief of the stricken wife, which resisted all control. A messenger had been despatched to call me to her side. I found her clinging to the body of her murdered husband, stained with his blood, yet resisting all attempts to remove her. Dr. Thornton having severely punished a case of insubordination, the culprit swore vengeance, and had fulfilled his oath in a most complete though cowardly manner. Just after dark, as the doctor was sitting at supper with his wife, a voice at the gate called his name. He answered the summons at once, followed closely by Mrs. Thornton, who, standing upon the doorsteps, saw and heard the murderous blow which laid him dead at her feet, stabbed to the heart. For many hours horror and grief dethroned the reason of the wife. After I had persuaded her to go to her room, she continually insisted upon washing her hands, which she shudderingly declared were red with his blood. Subsequently she struggled successfully for composure, pitifully saying, "He liked me to be brave; I will try," and with remarkable fortitude she bore up through the trying ordeal which followed. In my ministration to Mrs. Thornton I was assisted by a lady whose name is well known and well beloved by the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee,—Mrs. Frank Newsome. Of remarkable beauty, sweet and gentle manners, deeply religious, and carrying the true spirit of religion into her work, hers was indeed an angelic ministry. We had never met before, but in the days of my early girlhood I had known her husband, Frank Newsome, of Arkansas, who, with Randal Gibson, of Louisiana, Tom Brahan, of Alabama, and my own husband (then my lover), studied together under a tutor in preparation for the junior class of Yale College; they were room-mates at a house in the same village where my mother resided, and I had known them very well. Dr. Newsome had died some time before, but his having once been my friend proved a bond of sympathy between his widow and myself. Although our pleasant intercourse was never again renewed, I continued through the years of the war to hear accounts of Mrs. Newsome's devotion to the Confederate soldiers. Duty requiring my presence at the hospital, I was compelled to leave Mrs. Thornton, who soon after returned to Kentucky. I never met her again, but remember her with unchanged affection.
Dr. Gamble, of Tallahassee, Florida, succeeded Dr. Thornton as surgeon of the post at Ringgold. He was one of the most thorough gentlemen I ever knew, as courteous to the humblest soldier as to General Bragg, who was then and during the summer a frequent visitor. His wife lay for some months very ill at some point near Ringgold. Mrs. Gamble, who, with her lovely children, was domiciled at Cherokee Springs, three miles distant, was also a delightful addition to our little circle. She was thoroughly accomplished, of charming manners, although perfectly frank and outspoken. Her musical talent was exceptional, and her lovely voice, coined into Confederate money, was freely given in aid of all charitable objects. She was a frequent visitor at my office, walking into town in the evening to ride out with her husband. During the summer, Mrs. Bragg passed many days of convalescence at the lovely cottage-home of Dr. and Mrs. Gamble, at Cherokee Springs, but she was quite too feeble to come into town very often. Religious services were frequently held in the beautiful grove at the Springs; these I attended as often as I could be spared, Mrs. Gamble always sending for me and sending me back in the ambulance. Later a convalescent camp was established there, and then I rode out on horseback every evening to look after my "boys," until the transfer of Dr. Lee as surgeon in charge and Mrs. Lee as matron rendered my services no longer necessary. Very pleasant memories cluster about the room in the court-house at Ringgold assigned to my special use. I often seem to hear once more the sweet music of "General Blandner's lute," sometimes accompanied by the clear soprano of Mrs. Gamble, sometimes by our blended voices. I remember as distinctly as if it were only yesterday the kindly faces and cheerful voices that smiled upon and greeted me as I ran in from the wards to take a few moments' rest. I had collected and kept on the shelves in my office a great many books for the use of convalescents, who were my most constant visitors. The mantelpiece was decorated with articles of curious workmanship and miracles of beautiful carving (the gifts of my patients), variously inscribed. There were cups and saucers, with vines running over and around them, boxes which simulated books, paper-cutters, also rings made of gutta-percha buttons, with silver hearts let in like mosaic. I was as proud of them as a queen of her crown-jewels, and always kept them on exhibition with the precious notes of presentation attached. Had I retained possession of these treasures, I would have proudly bequeathed them to my children; but, alas! these, like everything else, fell into the hands of raiders. Many officers of distinction visited my little sanctum,—not only surgeons from other posts, but men of military distinction, clergymen, and others. General Bragg came frequently for a time, also Bishop Beckwith, and many others whose faces come to me while their names elude the grasp of memory. I welcomed them all alike, for I have never felt a prouder heart-throb in the presence of an officer, no matter how exalted his rank, than while viewing the shadowy forms of my convalescents or answering their earnest greetings as they passed in and out of my office, or rested awhile in my one easy-chair, or, still better, came with buoyant step and bright eyes to bid me farewell when ready to report for duty, never failing to leave with me the "God bless you!" so precious to my soul.
Some of the poor fellows who were wounded at the battle of Murfreesboro' now began to suffer from gangrene. Tents were pitched outside the hospital for such cases, and it was often my fate to stand beside these sufferers while the surgeon removed unhealthy granulation with instruments or eating acids, or in other ways tortured the poor fellows to save life.
The establishment of an officers' ward added to my cares. As in most cases they were waited upon by their own servants, I could do a great deal by proxy. If any were very ill, however, as often was the case, I attended them myself. Among those whom I nursed in Ringgold was Captain E. John Ellis, of Louisiana. If I am not mistaken, he had been slightly wounded at the battle of Murfreesboro'. At any rate, he was for a time very ill of pneumonia, and received all his nourishment from my hand. Often since the war, as I have seen him standing with majestic mien and face aglow with grand and lofty thoughts, or have listened spellbound to the thrilling utterances of "the silver-tongued orator," memory, bidding me follow, has led me back to a lowly room where, bending over a couch of pain, I saw the same lips, fevered and wan, open feebly to receive a few spoonfuls of nourishment. "Aye! and that tongue of his which now bids nation mark him and write his speeches in their books" cried faintly, "Give me some drink."
Captain Ellis recovered rapidly, but insisted on rejoining his command while yet pale and weak.
The incident I shall here relate is intended to illustrate and emphasize the thoroughly gentlemanly qualities of our Southern soldiers, their unvarying respect and courtesy toward women, and their entire appreciation and perfect understanding of my own position among them. I presume all will comprehend my meaning when I assure them that the occasion referred to was the only one during four years of service when even an unpleasantness occurred. In the same ward with Captain Ellis were three officers,—one, Colonel ——, of Alabama (very ill), another just able to sit up, and one, Lieutenant Cox, of Mississippi, only suffering from a bad cold which had threatened pneumonia. My constant habit was to carry into the wards a little basket containing pieces of fresh linen, sponges, and a bottle of Confederate bay-water (vinegar). Invariably I bathed the faces and hands of the fever-patients with vinegar and water, but as soon as they were well enough to dispense with it gave it up. One day, upon entering the ward above mentioned, I found Captain Ellis up and standing before the fire, his back towards it. It struck me at once that he looked worried, and at the same time appeared to be struggling between vexation and a desire to laugh. Lieutenant Cox was covered up in bed, rolling and holding his head, seemingly in dreadful agony. Approaching, I asked a question or two regarding his sudden seizure, but he only cried, "Oh, my head! my head!" at the same time shaking as if with a violent chill. Turning down the sheet, I placed my hand upon his head, which was quite cool. As soon as I caught a glimpse of his face, I saw that he was laughing, and, glancing at the others, realized that all were full of some joke. Drawing myself up haughtily, I said, "I see I have made a mistake; I came here to nurse gentlemen; I shall not again lend myself to your amusement," and out I swept, nor ever while in Ringgold entered the officers' quarters again, except to nurse very sick or dying men. It seems that Lieutenant Cox had received a box from home containing, among other dainties, a bottle of home-made wine. One day he said to the other occupants of the ward, "Mrs. Beers never bathes my head. I believe I'll get up a spell of fever, and see if I can't get nursed like you other fellows." The others declared that he could not deceive me, and he offered to bet the bottle of wine that he would have me bathe his head at my next visit. The result has been described. I had hardly reached my office, when a special patient and friend of mine, Charlie Gazzan, of Mobile, Alabama, arrived with an apology from Lieutenant Cox, a few words of explanation from Captain Ellis, signed by all the officers in the ward, and the bottle of wine, sent for my acceptance. I would not accept the wine or read the note, and in this course I was upheld by Dr. McAllister, who severely reprimanded Lieutenant Cox, and excused me from future attendance upon that ward.
I have said that Charlie Gazzan was a special patient and friend; perhaps the expression needs explanation. A few weeks before, he had been brought to me one night from the ambulance-train, a living skeleton, and seemingly at the point of death from dysentery. His family and that of my husband were residents of Mobile, Alabama, and intimate friends. He seemed almost in the agony of death, but had asked to be brought to me. There was not, after the battle of Murfreesboro', a single vacant bed. He begged hard not to be put in a crowded ward, so, until I could do better, he was placed upon the lounge in my office. One small room in the officers' ward being vacant, I asked and obtained next day the privilege of placing him there. He recovered very slowly, but surely, and during his convalescence made himself useful in a hundred ways. My sick boys owed many a comfort to his wonderful powers of invention; even the surgeons availed themselves of his skill. He often relieved me of a task I had sometimes found very wearisome, because so constantly recurring,—that of writing letters for the sick. He made his own pens and his own ink, of a deep green color, and seemingly indelible. A more gentle, kindly, generous nature never existed, and yet his soldierly instincts were strong, and almost before he could walk about well he "reported for duty," but was soon relegated to his room and to special diet.
Spring proved hardly less disagreeable in Upper Georgia than winter had been. The mud was horrible, and I could not avoid it, as the wards were detached, occupying all together a very wide space. The pony was no longer available, because he splashed mud all over me. Old Peter brought me one day an immense pair of boots large enough for me to jump into when going from one place to another, and to jump out of and leave at the entrance of the sick wards. With these, an army blanket thrown over my shoulders and pinned with a thorn, and my dress kilted up like a washerwoman's, I defied alike the liquid streets and the piercing wind. My "nursery" was at this time filled to overflowing. My mind's eye takes in every nook and corner of that large room. It is very strange, but true, that I remember the position of each bed and the faces of those who lay there at different times. As I said before, they were principally the youngest patients, or those requiring constant supervision. I seem to see them now, lying pale and worn, their hollow eyes looking up at me as I fed them or following with wistful gaze my movements about the ward. Some bear ghastly wounds, others sit upon the side of the bed, trembling with weakness, yet smiling proudly because they can do so much, and promising soon to pay me a visit downstairs, "if I can make it; but I'm powerful weak right now." I remember two brave Texas boys, brothers, both wounded at Murfreesboro', who lay side by side in this ward. One of them was only fifteen years old. When he was brought in, it was found that a minie-ball had penetrated near the eye, and remained in the wound, forcing the eye entirely from the socket, causing the greatest agony. At first it was found difficult to extract it, and it proved a most painful operation. I stood by, and his brother had his cot brought close so that he could hold his other hand. Not a groan did the brave boy utter, but when it was over, and the eye replaced and bandaged, he said, "Doctor, how soon can I go back to my regiment?" Poor boy! he did go back in time to participate in the battle of Chickamauga, where he met his death. Twenty years after, I met his brother at a reunion of Confederate soldiers, in Dallas, Texas, and he could hardly tell me for weeping that Eddie had been shot down at his side while gallantly charging with the —— Texas Cavalry. Another youth, —— Roundtree, of Alabama, lingered in that ward for many weeks, suffering from dysentery, and, I believe, was finally discharged.
Dr. Gore, of Kentucky, took the deepest interest in my nursery, and sometimes asked permission to place young friends of his own there, a compliment which I highly appreciated. Dr. Gore was one of Nature's noblemen. In his large, warm heart there seemed to be room for everybody. His interest in his patients was very keen, and his skill greatly enhanced by extreme tenderness and unfailing attention. He was an earnest Christian (a Methodist, I believe), but upon one occasion I saw him so excited and distressed that he "fell from grace," and gave vent to a fearful imprecation. He had brought to me a boy of seventeen very ill of dysentery. For days it seemed that he must die. Dr. Gore and I watched him and nursed him as if he had been very near and dear. A slight improvement showed itself at last, and of course his craving for food was insatiate. As this was a special ward, the nurses had been forbidden to admit visitors without a permit, and no stranger was ever allowed to feed the patients except when some particularly nourishing and suitable food was brought, when I used to take a great delight in the mutual pleasure of patient and visitor, hardly knowing which was more happy, the giver or receiver. Our sick boy continually craved and talked about some "apple turnovers," such as his mother used to make, but of course was denied. One day, during my absence, an old lady gained access to the ward, and when she heard the boy's desire for "turn-overs" promised him some. The next day she found an opportunity to keep her promise. At midnight, Dr. Gore and I having been hastily summoned, met at the bedside of the poor fellow, who was in a state of collapse, and died before morning. Dr. Gore was so overcome that he actually wept. The boy had been a patient of his from his infancy, and in a piteous letter, which I afterwards read, his mother had implored the doctor to watch over him in case of sickness. When, under the dead boy's pillow, was found a portion of the apple-pie, revealing the cause of his death, the doctor's anger knew no bounds, and he gave vent to the imprecation above mentioned.
As the summer waned, our commissary stores began to fail. Rations, always plain, became scant. Our foragers met with little success. But for the patriotic devotion of the families whose farms and plantations lay for miles around Ringgold (soon, alas! to fall into the ruthless hands of the enemy), even our sickest men would have been deprived of suitable food. As it was, the supply was by no means sufficient. One day I asked permission to try my fortune at foraging, and, having received it, left Ringgold at daylight next morning, returning by moonlight. Stopping at every house and home, I told everywhere my tale of woe. There was scarcely one where hearths were not lonely, hearts aching for dear ones long since gone forth to battle. They had heard mischievous and false tales of the surgeons and attendants of hospitals, and really believed that the sick were starved and neglected, while the hospital staff feasted upon dainty food. Occasionally, perhaps, they had listened to the complaint of some "hospital rat," who, at the first rumor of an approaching battle, had experienced "a powerful misery" in the place where a brave heart should have been, and, flying to the rear, doubled up with rheumatism and out-groaning all the victims of real sickness or horrible wounds, had remained huddled up in bed until danger was over. After having been deceived a few times by these cowards, I became expert at recognizing them, and paid them no attention whatever. I really believe that in some cases it was a physical impossibility for men to face the guns on a battle-field, and I have known instances of soldiers who deliberately shot off their own fingers to escape a fight. These men were conscious of their own defects, and often, smarting under a knowledge that the blistering, purging, and nauseating process pursued in such cases by the surgeons was intended as a punishment, grew ugly and mischievous, seeking revenge by maligning those in authority. I do not know what abuses may have existed in other hospitals of the Confederacy; I can, however, say with entire truth that I never saw or heard of a more self-sacrificing set of men than the surgeons I met and served under during the war. With only two exceptions, they were devoted to their patients, and as attentive as in private practice or as the immense number of sick allowed them to be. These exceptions were both men who were unwilling to get up at night, and if called were fearfully cross. At one time I had a fierce contest with a surgeon of this kind, and fought it out, coming off victorious. I was called up one night to see a patient who had required and received the closest attention, but who was, we hoped, improving. Finding him apparently dying, I sent at once for Doctor ——, meanwhile trying, with the help of the nurse, every means to bring back warmth to his body, administering stimulants, rubbing the extremities with mustard, and applying mustard-plasters. The poor fellow was conscious, and evidently very much frightened; he had insisted upon sending for me and seemed to be satisfied that I would do everything in my power. Doctor —— came in, looking black as a thunder-cloud. "What the devil is all this fuss about? what are you going to do with that mustard-plaster? Better apply it to that pine table; it would do as much good;" then to the nurse, "Don't bother that fellow any more; let him die in peace." My temper was up, and I rushed at once into battle. "Sir," said I, "if you have given the patient up, I have not and will not. No true physician would show such brutality." He was nearly bursting with rage. "I shall report you, madam." "And I, sir, will take care that the whole post shall know of this." He went out and I remained with the soldier until he was better (he eventually recovered). The next morning, bright and early, I made my report to Dr. McAllister, who had already received an account of the affair from the nurses and other patients of the ward. He reprimanded the surgeon instead of gratifying his desire to humble me.
But to return to my expedition: Fortunately, I was able to disprove the false tales which had prejudiced the country people. Their sympathy being thoroughly aroused, they resolved to make up for lost time; and after this ladies rode in town every day, arranging among themselves for different days, and bringing for the convalescents the fresh vegetables which were so valuable as a palliative, and preventive of scurvy; for the sick, chickens, eggs, fresh butter, buttermilk, and sweet milk. Country wagons also brought in small supplies for sale, but never in proportion to the demand. Many of the ladies, after one visit to a ward or two, were utterly overcome by the ghastly sight, and wept even at the thought of looking upon the misery they could not relieve. Others seemed to feel only deepest pity and a desire to "do something for the poor soldiers." As there were so many, it was difficult to distribute impartially: some must be left out. The ladies, finding so many craving buttermilk, sweet milk, home-made bread, etc., did not well know how to manage; but the soldiers themselves soon settled that. "I ain't so very bad off," one would say, "but that little fellow over yonder needs it bad; he's powerful weak, and he's been studying about buttermilk ever since he came in."
All the time his own emaciated frame was trembling from exhaustion, and, spite of his courage, his eyes greedily devoured the dainties which he denied himself. This was but one of a thousand instances of self-abnegation which go to make up a record as honorable, as brave, as true as that of the glorious deeds which such men never failed to perform whenever opportunity offered.
During this foraging trip, and once afterwards during a spell of fever which lasted a week, I was cordially received and elegantly entertained at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Russell, who lived about ten miles from Ringgold. This aged couple were eminently and most intelligently patriotic.
Their sons were in the Confederate service. Their time and their substance were literally at the disposal of all who served the cause. The silver-haired mother knitted and spun incessantly for the soldiers. The father superintended the raising of vegetables, and sent wagon-loads to the hospitals.
Miss Phemie, a lovely young girl, was a frequent visitor to the hospitals, and often herself dispensed the golden butter and rich buttermilk prepared under her own direction; she would even dispense with the carriage and ride in town on the wagon, that she might bring plenty of vegetables, fruit, etc. Convalescents were entertained royally at the old homestead; those who could not go so far were often treated to pleasant and invigorating rides.
To me Miss Phemie's friendship and kindness brought many comforts, and I remember gratefully the whole family.
Through the summer frequent skirmishes and fights were heard of, and sick and wounded men came in every day, and every few days squads of men who had "reported for duty" took their places at the front. At last, about the first of September, 1863, appeared the never-failing forerunner of a real battle near at hand,—a small brigade of "hospital rats," distorted, drawn up, with useless crippled fingers, bent legs, crooked arms, necks drawn awry, let us say by—rheumatism. A day or two later was fought the sanguinary and fiercely-contested battle of Chickamauga. I could not if I would describe this or any other battle, nor is it necessary, for historians have well accomplished this duty. The terrible results to the brave men engaged only appeared to me, and these guided me to an opinion that among the horrible, bloody, hard-fought battles of the war none could exceed that of Chickamauga, and afterwards Franklin. From the lips of my boys, however, I often gained knowledge of deeds of magnificent bravery which cannot be surpassed by any which adorn the pages of history. These jewels have lain undiscovered among the debris of the war. Would I could reclaim them all. Seen in the aggregate, they would even outshine the glory already known and visible. Finding memory a treacherous guide while searching for these hidden treasures, I have called upon my comrades to aid me in clearing away the dust and cobwebs,—the accumulation of years,—but only in a few instances have they responded. I shall here relate one incident of the battle of Chickamauga never before published, but which is true in every particular.
Austin's Battalion of Sharpshooters, composed of two companies, the Continental Guards and Cannon Guards, both from New Orleans, was as well known to the Army of Tennessee as any organization in it, and commanded the respect and admiration of all the army. The following lines from the pen of a gallant soldier in Fenner's Louisiana Battery truly portray the sentiments of their army comrades towards the famous battalion:
"In the Army of Tennessee, Austin's Battalion always occupied the post of honor in the brigade (Adams's and Gibson's Louisiana) to which it belonged. In the advance, that battalion was in the front; in the retreat, it hung upon the rear, a safeguard to the Confederates, and a cloud threatening at every step to burst in destructive fury upon the advancing enemy.
"Who is on the front?" "Austin's Battalion." "Then, boys, we can lie down and sleep." Such were the words heard a hundred times among the troops of the Army of Tennessee, to which was attached Austin's Battalion of Sharpshooters. Whose tongue could so graphically picture to the mind's eye a soldier and a hero as do these brief questions and answers interchanged between battle-scarred veterans in the gathering gloom of the night, when they knew not, until they were assured Austin's Battalion was in the front, if they could snatch a few hours of repose from the toil and danger of battle? Austin's Battalion, famous throughout the armies of the Confederacy for its discipline and fighting qualities, was formed out of the remnants of the Eleventh Louisiana Regiment, which distinguished itself at Belmont, and which was literally shot to pieces at Shiloh. The battalion is well known to all the survivors of the Army of Tennessee as a fighting organization. During the active campaign of the army, it was almost continually under fire, and Ned Austin, on his little black pony, was always in the advance, "fooling the enemy, or in the retreat fighting and holding him in check."
As the title of the battalion indicates, it was always in the front, on the advanced skirmish-line, pending a battle. It will be remembered by all the heroes of the Army of Tennessee that nearly every regiment in that army at the time of the battle of Chickamauga had on its battle-flag "cross-cannon," which signified the regiment's participation in the capture of a battery, or part thereof, at some time and place. Austin's Battalion had not won that honor when it commenced its destructive fire upon the enemy early Saturday morning, September 19, 1863. Sunday, the 20th, the battalion, on the extreme right of the army, moved forward upon the skirmish-lines of the Federals about eight o'clock in the morning, driving them rapidly back towards their main lines, leaving many dead and wounded on the ground, and many prisoners in the hands of the enthusiastic advancing Confederates. It was published in general orders after the battle that Austin's Sharpshooters captured three times as many prisoners as they had men in their whole battalion. The Continentals, on the right of the battalion, commanded by Captain W.Q. Loud, suddenly found themselves in range of and close quarters to artillery, as shells were singing through the woods directly over their heads. Still advancing as skirmishers, they saw on the road two pieces of artillery, supported by perhaps a small company of infantry, about one hundred yards from their advanced position in the woods. The command, "Rally," was given by Lieutenant William Pierce, commanding first platoon, and as the word was passed along by the sergeants all within hearing jumped to the command, and as "Forward, charge!" was given, in a minute the gallant Confederates had forced back the Federals and had possession of the guns, Lieutenant Pierce striking one of them with his sword, proclaiming the right of the battalion to have cross-cannon at last on its beloved flag. Although the battalion, as was just and correct, participated in and enjoyed the proud honors of the capture, it will cause no feeling of envy among the members of Company B living to-day to give the exclusive credit of the capture of those guns to the first platoon of the Continental Guards. The Federals, seeing how few were the numbers of the foe who had driven them from their guns, rallied, advanced, and fired a volley into the victorious Confederates, who were still surrounding the pieces. Three men were wounded by the volley, among them Lieutenant William Pierce, whose leg was so badly shattered that amputation was necessary. The boys in gray retired to the first line of trees, leaving their lieutenant under the guns, surrounded by the boys in blue. It was for a short moment only: a volley which killed three and wounded more of the Federals, a yell and a charge, and the lieutenant's comrades again had possession of the guns, and soon were carrying him and dragging the guns to the rear, making the captured Federals assist in both duties. The advancing brigade was more than a quarter of a mile from where the guns were captured. It is very doubtful whether the history of the war will record a similar capture of artillery supported by infantry, disclosed suddenly by an advance-line of skirmishers who unhesitatingly charged, took possession of, and carried to the rear the guns. One would have supposed that Lieutenant Pierce, having suffered amputation of a leg, might have rested upon laurels won so gloriously. Ah, no! his gallant soul was yet undismayed. At the earliest possible moment he returned to his command, there receiving a rich recompense for past suffering. Imagine his great pride and satisfaction when, following his comrades to the quarters of the gallant Major Ned Austin, he was shown the battalion flag with its "honored and honorable" cross-cannon liberally displayed.
The survivors of the Continental Guards, returning to New Orleans after the war, have clung together like true brothers, retaining their military organization and the name they bore so gallantly. Of the veterans, not many remain; these are known and revered by all. Captain Pierce is fondly beloved and highly respected by his former command, as well as by the younger members of the company, who, having "fallen in" to fill up the ranks which time and death have decimated, are striving nobly to uphold the name and fame of the Continentals. Under the command of a gallant gentleman and excellent executive officer, the new Continentals have guarded and kept ever fresh the laurels won by their predecessors, adding an exceptional record of their own, both military and civic. Upon all patriotic occasions the veterans appear and march with the company. Our veteran companies are the pride and glory of New Orleans. Citizens never tire of viewing the beautiful uniform and the martial step of the Continental Guards. And who can look upon Captain Pierce, bearing his trusty sword, keeping step equally well, whether he wears a finely-formed cork leg or stumps along on his favorite wooden one,—his bearing as proud as the proudest, his heroic soul looking gloriously forth from its undimmed windows,—and fail to remember proudly the young lieutenant who fell under the enemy's gun at Chickamauga? Or who can listen unmoved to the music of the cannon which so often woke the morning echoes upon the bloodiest battle-field of the war? A parade of the Washington Artillery is, indeed, a glorious and inspiriting sight. Here they come, gayly caparisoned, perfect in every detail of military equipment, led by elegant officers who may well ride proudly, for each is a true soldier and a hero. Scarcely less distinguished, save for the plainer uniform, are the rank and file that follow. Can these be the same men whom history delights to honor,—the heroes of a hundred battlefields,—both in the army of Virginia and Tennessee, who, stripped to the waist, blackened with powder and smoke, bloody with streaming wounds, still stood to their guns, and, in answer to the enemy, thundered forth their defiant motto, "Come and take us!" And now—who more peaceful, who more public-spirited, who more kind in word and deed? Of the Virginia detachment I knew little except their splendid record. From the fifth company I frequently received patients during my service with the Army of Tennessee, for, like their comrades of Virginia, they seemed to be in every battle, and in the thick of it. In fact, New Orleans and the whole State of Louisiana, like every city and State in the South, are peopled with veterans and heroes. In comparatively few cases have military organizations been kept up. Other duties engross the late Confederates, of whom it may be truly said their record of citizenship is as excellent as their war record. If to any reader it occurs that I seem to be doing particular justice to New Orleans troops, I will say, let the feeling which arises in your own breast regarding your "very own" plead for me. Remember that my husband was one of the famous Dreux Battalion, and afterwards of Gibson's Brigade, also that Louisianians were exiles, and that love of our home, with sorrow and indignation on account of her humiliation and chains, drew us very close together. But aside from this natural feeling there was no shadow of difference in my ministration or in the affection I bore towards all "my boys."
There was not a single Southern State unrepresented among the bleeding victims of Chickamauga. From that hardly-contested field, as from many others, a rich harvest of glory has been reaped and garnered until the treasure-houses of history are full to overflowing. Glowing accounts of the splendid deeds of this or that division, brigade, regiment, company, have immortalized the names of—their officers. And what of the unfaltering followers, whose valor supported their brave leaders and helped to create many a splendid record? Here lay the shattered remnants, each ghastly wound telling its own story of personal bravery. The fiery sons of South Carolina, unsubdued by the perils they had passed, unmindful of their gaping wounds, as ready then to do and dare as when they threw down the gauntlet of defiance and stood ready to defend the sovereignty of their State. The men who followed where the gallant Forrest led, "looking the warrior in love with his work." The devoted patriots who charged with Breckenridge. The tall, soldierly Tennesseeans, of whom their commander said, when asked if he could take and hold a position of transcendent danger, "Give me my Tennesseeans, and I'll take and hold anything;" the determined, ever-ready Texans, who, under the immortal Terry, so distinguished themselves, and under other leaders in every battle of the war won undying laurels; North Carolinians, of whose courage in battle I needed no better proof than the pluck they invariably showed under the torture of fevered wounds or of the surgeon's knife; exiled Kentuckians, Arkansians, Georgians, Louisianians, Missourians, Marylanders, sternly resentful, and impatient of the wounds that kept them from the battle-field, because ever hoping to strike some blow that should sever a link in the chains which bound the homes they so loved; Alabamians, the number of whose regiments, as well as their frequent consolidation, spoke volumes for their splendid service; Georgians, who, having fought with desperate valor, now lay suffering and dying within the confines of their own State, yet unable to reach the loved ones who, unknowing what their fate might be, awaited with trembling hearts accounts of the battle, so slow in reaching them; Mississippians, of whom I have often heard it said, "their fighting and staying qualities were magnificent," I then knew hundreds of instances of individual valor, of which my remembrance is now so dim that I dare not give names or dates. I am proud, however, to record the names of four soldiers belonging to the Seventeenth Mississippi Regiment: J. Wm. Flynn, then a mere lad, but whose record will compare with the brightest; Samuel Frank, quartermaster; Maurice Bernhiem, quartermaster-sergeant, and Auerbach, the drummer of the regiment. I was proudly told by a member of Company G, Seventeenth Mississippi, that Sam Prank, although excelling in every duty of his position, was exceeding brave, often earnestly asking permission to lead the skirmishers, and would shoulder a musket sooner than stay out of the fight. Maurice Bernhiem, quartermaster-sergeant, was also brave as the bravest. Whenever it was possible he also would join the ranks and fight as desperately as any soldier. Both men were exempt from field-service. Auerbach, the drummer of the Seventeenth, was also a model soldier, always at his post. On the longest marches, in the fiercest battles, whatever signal the commanding officer wished to have transmitted by means of the drum, night or day, amid the smoke of battle or the dust of the march, Auerbach was always on hand. The members of the Seventeenth declared that they could never forget the figure of the small Jewish drummer, his little cap shining out here and there amid the thick smoke and under a rattling fire. Before taking leave of this splendid regiment, I will give an incident of the battle of Knoxville, also related to me by one of its members.
 Mr. Flynn is now pastor in charge of a Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, and is as faithful a soldier of the cross as once of the lost cause.
By some mismanagement, Longstreet's corps had no scaling-ladders, and had to cut their way up the wall of the entrenchment by bayonets, digging out step after step under a shower of hot water, stones, shot, axes, etc. Some of the men actually got to the top, and, reaching over, dragged the enemy over the walls. General Humphrey's brigade had practically taken the fort. Their flag was flying from the walls, about a hundred men having reached the top, where the color-bearer bad planted his flag, when the staff was shot off about an inch above his hand. The men were so mad at losing the flag, that they seized the shells with fuses burning and hurled them back upon the enemy. Some of the members of this gallant regiment were among the hundreds equally brave who, after the battle of Chickamauga, became my patients. Scattered all through the wards were dozens of Irishmen, whose awful wounds scarcely sufficed to keep them in bed, so impatient were they of restraint, and especially of inactivity,—so eager to be at the front. Ever since the war I have kept in my heart a place sacred to these generous exiles, who, in the very earliest days of the Confederacy, flocked by thousands to her standard, wearing the gray as if it had been the green, giving in defence of the land of their adoption the might of stalwart arms, unfaltering courage, and the earnest devotion of hearts glad thus to give expression to the love of liberty and hatred of oppression which filled them. As Confederate soldiers they made records unsurpassed by any, but they never forgot that they were Irishmen, and bound to keep up the name and fame of Old Ireland. So, company after company, composing many regiments, appeared on fields of glory bearing names dear to every Irish heart,—names which they meant to immortalize, and did.
That I should be permitted to serve all these heroes, to live among them, to minister to them, seemed to me a blessing beyond estimation. Strange to say, although my toil increased and the horror deepened, my health did not suffer. After days and nights of immeasurable fatigue, a few hours of sleep would quite restore me, and I dared to believe that the supporting rod and staff was given of God.
It now became very difficult to obtain food either suitable or sufficient. The beef was horrible. Upon two occasions rations of mule meat were issued, and eaten with the only sauce which could have rendered it possible to swallow the rank, coarse-grained meat,—i.e., the ravenous hunger of wounded and convalescent men. Meal was musty, flour impossible to be procured. All the more delicate food began to fail utterly. A few weeks after the battle, Dr. S.M. Bemiss was ordered to Newnan, Georgia, to arrange for the removal of the hospital "post." We were, therefore, expecting a change of location, but quite unprepared for the suddenness of the order, or the haste and confusion that ensued. The upsetness was so complete that it almost seemed to me an actual fulfilment of a mysterious prophecy or warning often uttered by old negroes to terrorize children into good behavior: "Better mind out dar: fust thing you knows you ain't gwine ter know nuffin'." Everything seemed to be going on at once. The ambulance-train, with a few baggage-cars attached, was even then at the depot. A hoarse, stifled whistle apprised us of the fact, and seemed to hurry our preparation. Dr. McAllister was everywhere, superintending the removal with the energy natural to him. In the court-house all was confusion. Boxes were hastily filled with bedding, clothing, etc., thrown in helter-skelter, hastily nailed up, and as hastily carted down to the train. Sick and awfully wounded men were hurriedly placed upon stretchers, and their bearers formed an endless procession to the rough cars (some of them lately used to transport cattle, and dreadfully filthy). Here they were placed upon straw mattresses, or plain straw, as it happened. No provisions were to be had except sides of rusty bacon and cold corn-bread. These were shovelled into carts and transferred to the floor of the cars in the same manner. There was no time to cook anything, and the chances were whether we would get off at all or not. Procuring a large caldron, I dumped into it remnants of the day's dinner,—a little soup, a few vegetables, and some mule meat. The stoves had all been taken down, but there was a little cold cornmeal coffee, some tea, and a small quantity of milk. This I put into buckets; then, importuning the surgeon in charge until he was glad to get rid of me by assigning me a cart, I mounted into it with my provisions and jolted off to the cars, where hundreds of tortured, groaning men wore lying. There I met Dr. Gore (for both hospitals were to be moved on the same train), who helped me to hide my treasures and to administer some weak milk punch to the sufferers. Meanwhile, the pine-wood fires kindled in the streets all around the hospitals made the town look as though it was on fire, and threw its weird light upon masses of soldiery,—cavalry, infantry, artillery,—moving in endless numbers through the town, shaking the very earth with the tramp of men and horses and the heavy rumble of wheels. The men were silent, and looked jaded and ghastly in the lurid light. Some had bloody rags tied about head and hands, their breasts were bare, the panting breath could be heard plainly, their eyes shone fiercely through the grime of powder and smoke. They had been fighting, and were now retreating; still they marched in solid column, nor broke ranks, nor lost step. The faces of the officers were grave and troubled; none seemed to observe our frantic haste, but all to look forward with unseeing eyes. I did so long to have them rest and refresh themselves. During the whole of that eventful night my cheeks were wet, my heart aching sadly. Before daylight we were off. Railroads at that time were very defective and very rough. Ah, how terrible was the suffering of those wounded men as they were jolted and shaken from side to side! for haste was necessary to escape the enemy. About noon the train came to a full stop, nor moved again for many, many hours,—hours fraught with intense suffering to the sick and wounded, as well as to all who shared the hardships of that journey. It was reported that the enemy were passing either to the right or left, I do not remember which. Not a wheel must move, not a column of smoke arise; so, with the engine fires extinguished, the train stood motionless in the midst of a barren pine forest. The small supply of cooked food was soon exhausted, the ladies on the train assisting to feed the wounded soldiers. All were parched with thirst. The only water to be procured lay in ruts and ditches by the roadside, and was filthy and fetid. So the day passed. All through the night every one was on the alert, listening intently for sounds that might mean danger. No lights, no roadside fires could be allowed; but the moon shone brightly, and by its light the surgeons moved about among the suffering men, whose groans, united with the plaintive sigh of the chill wind through the pine forest, served to make night dismal indeed. In the intervals of attending upon the sick we slept as we could, leaning up against boxes, tilted back in chairs against the side of the car, or lying down, with anything we could get for pillows. Some of the surgeons and attendants bivouacked under the trees in spite of the cold. In the morning we were hungry enough to eat the stale corn-bread, and tried to like it, but even of that there was very little, for the wounded men were ravenous. Drs. Gore and Yates set themselves to whittle some "army-forks," or forked sticks, and, cutting the bacon in thin slices, made little fires which they carefully covered with large pans to keep the smoke from arising. By these they toasted slices of bacon. Ah, how delicious was the odor, how excellent the taste! Several hands were set at this work, but it was necessarily very slow. I remained among my own patients, while my servant climbed in and out of the car, bringing as much meat as she could get, which I distributed while she returned for more. The wounded men were clamorous for it, crying out, "Give it to us raw; we can't wait." This we were soon compelled to do, as it was feared the smoke might escape and betray us. I cannot now recollect by what means we received the welcome order to move on, but it came at last, and on the morning of the third day we reached Newnan, Georgia, where, after a few days' bustle and confusion, we were pleasantly settled and had fallen into the old routine, Dr. Bemiss having arranged not only for excellent quarters but for fresh supplies of rations and hospital stores.
Just here Memory lays a restraining hand upon my own. Turning to meet her gaze, it pleads with me to linger a while in this sweet and pleasant spot, peopled with familiar forms, and kindly faces, well-beloved in the past, fondly greeted once again. Ah, how closely our little band clung together, how enduring were the ties that bound us! Ignoring the shadow, seeking always to stand in the sunshine, we welcomed with yet unshaken faith the heavenly guest who stood in our midst, turning upon us almost for the last time an unclouded face, and eyes undimmed by doubt or pain,—the angel of Hope.
The ladies of Newnan were truly loyal, and in spite of the fact that the whole town was converted into hospitals, and every eligible place filled with sick, murmured not, but strove in every way to add to their comfort. I wish I could place every one before my readers to receive the meed of praise she so richly deserves; only a few, very few, names now occur to me. The hospitable mansion of Judge Ray was a complete rendezvous for convalescent soldiers; also the homes of Mrs. McKinstry and Mrs. Morgan. The latter was one of the most beautiful women I ever saw. Dr. Gore used to say, "She is just plum pretty." She was a perfect blonde, with a small head "running over" with short, golden curls. The Misses Ray were brunettes, very handsome and stately. Their brothers were in the army. Judge Ray never allowed his daughters to visit the hospitals, but atoned for that by unbounded hospitality. Mrs. McKinstry was a constant visitor to the hospitals, and had her house full of sick soldiers. Only one church in the town was left vacant in which to hold services. Rev. R.A. Holland, then a young, enthusiastic Methodist minister, and a chaplain in the army, remained for some time in Newnan, holding meetings which were largely attended. Dr. Holland was long after the war converted to the Episcopal faith, and called to Trinity Church, New Orleans. The bishops and ministers of the Protestant Episcopal Church also held frequent services, and often Catholic priests came among the sick, who greatly valued their holy ministration. Through the kindness of a friend, an ownerless piano found in one of the stores was moved to my room, and, although not a good one, contributed largely to the pleasure of the soldiers, also serving for sacred music when needed. Mr. Blandner's lute, my piano, and Mrs. Gamble's soprano voice, joined to that of a Confederate tenor or bass, or my own contralto, made delicious music. Concerts, tableaux, plays, etc., were also given for the benefit of refugees or to raise money to send boxes to the front: at all these I assisted, but had no time for rehearsals, etc. I could only run over and sing my song or songs and then run back to my patients. Some money was realized, but the entertainments were never a great financial success, because all soldiers were invited guests. Still, some good was always accomplished. These amusements were greatly encouraged by physicians and others, as safety-valves to relieve the high-pressure of excitement, uncertainty, and dread which were characteristic of the time. I was always counted in, but seldom, very seldom, accepted an invitation, for it seemed to me like unfaithfulness to the memory of the gallant dead, and a mockery of the suffering in our midst. I could not rid myself of this feeling, and can truly say that during those fateful years, from the time when in Richmond the "starvation parties" were organized, until the end, I never found a suitable time to dance or a time to laugh or a time to make merry.
My own special kitchen (an immense wareroom at the back of the store, which was used for a distributing-room) was in Newnan well fitted up. A cavernous fireplace, well supplied with big pots, little pots, bake-ovens, and stew-pans, was supplemented by a cooking-stove of good size. A large brick oven was built in the yard close by, and two professional bakers, with their assistants, were kept busy baking for the whole post. There happened to be a back entrance to this kitchen, and although the convalescents were not allowed inside, many were the interviews held at said door upon subjects of vital importance to the poor fellows who had walked far into the country to obtain coveted dainties which they wanted to have cooked "like my folks at home fix it up." They were never refused, and sometimes a dozen different "messes" were set off to await claimants,—potato-pones, cracklin bread, apple-pies, blackberry-pies, squirrels, birds, and often chickens. For a long time the amount of chickens brought in by "the boys" puzzled me. They had little or no money, and chickens were always high-priced. I had often noticed that the men in the wards were busy preparing fish-hooks, and yet, though they often "went fishing," they brought no fish to be cooked. One day the mystery was fully solved. An irate old lady called upon Dr. McAllister, holding at the end of a string a fine, large chicken, and vociferously proclaiming her wrongs. "I knowed I'd ketch 'em: I knowed it. Jes' look a-here," and she drew up the chicken, opened its mouth, and showed the butt of a fish-hook it had swallowed. Upon further examination, it was found that the hook had been baited with a kernel of corn. "I've been noticin' a powerful disturbance among my fowls, an' every onct in while one of 'em would go over the fence like litenin' and I couldn't see what went with it. This mornin' I jes' sot down under the fence an' watched, and the fust thing I seed was a line flyin' over the fence right peert, an' as soon as it struck the ground the chickens all went for it, an' this yer fool chicken up and swallered it. Now, I'm a lone woman, an' my chickens an' my truck-patch is my livin', and I ain't gwine to stan' no sich!" The convalescents, attracted by the shrill, angry voice, gathered around. Their innocent surprise, and the wonder with which they examined the baited fish-hook and sympathized with the old lady, almost upset the gravity of the "sturgeons," as the old body called the doctors.
There was one dry-goods store still kept open in Newnan, but few ladies had the inclination or the means to go shopping. The cotton lying idle all over the South was then to a certain extent utilized. Everything the men wore was dyed and woven at home: pants were either butternut, blue, or light purple, occasionally light yellow; shirts, coarse, but snowy white, or what would now be called cream. Everybody knitted socks. Ladies, negro women, girls, and even little boys, learned to knit. Each tried to get ahead as to number and quality. Ladies' stockings were also knitted of all grades from stout and thick to gossamer or open-work, etc. Homespun dresses were proudly worn, and it became a matter of constant experiment and great pride to improve the quality and vary colors. Warp and woof were finely spun, and beautiful combinations of colors ventured upon, although older heads eschewed them, and in consequence complacently wore their clean, smoothly-ironed gray, "pepper-and-salt," or brown homespuns long after the gayer ones had been faded by sun or water and had to be "dipped." Hats and bonnets of all sorts and sizes were made of straw or palmetto, and trimmed with the same. Most of them bore cockades of bright red and white (the "red, white, and red"), fashioned of strips knitted to resemble ribbons. Some used emblems denoting the State or city of the wearer, others a small Confederate battle-flag. Young faces framed in these pretty hats, or looking out from under a broad-brim, appeared doubly bewitching. Ladies worked early and late, first upon the fabric, and then upon beautifully-stitched homespun shirts, intended as gifts to favorite heroes returning to the front. During the winter nights the light of pine-knot fires had sufficed, but now Confederate candles were used. It did seem as if the bees were Southern sympathizers, and more faithfully than usual "improved each shining hour." The wax thus obtained was melted in large kettles, and yards of rags torn into strips and sewn together, then twisted to the size of lamp-wicks, were dipped into the liquid wax, cooled, and dipped again and again until of the right size. These yards of waxed rags were wound around a corncob or a bottle, then clipped, leaving about two yards "closely wound" to each candle. One end was left loose to light, and—here you have the recipe for Confederate candles.