Work of the Sanitary Commission

 

This Site:

Civil War

Civil War Overview

Civil War 1861

Civil War 1862

Civil War 1863

Civil War 1864

Civil War 1865

Civil War Battles

Confederate Generals

Union Generals

Confederate History

Robert E. Lee

Civil War Medicine

Lincoln Assassination

Slavery

Site Search

Civil War Links

 

Civil War Art

Mexican War

Republic of Texas

Indians

Winslow Homer

Thomas Nast

Mathew Brady

Western Art

Civil War Gifts

Robert E. Lee Portrait


Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 13, 1864

Welcome to our online collection of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. This collection presents you with a valuable source or original reports and illustrations of the War. Harper's was the prominent source of information for people during the war, and today is popular among collectors and researchers.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to the page of interest)

 

Union Flag

Union Flag

King Cotton

King Cotton Poem

Brownsville

Brownsville

Mobile Siege

Mobile Siege

Misgivings

Sanitary Commission Work

Sannitary Commission

Pictures of the Sanitary Commission

Meigs

General Meigs

Blockade

Mobile Blockade

Ads

Ads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEBRUARY 13, 1864.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

107

he is just as much addicted to it as I am. Wasn't it good? And more," she added, "he was actually so kind as to bring me in the materials by stealth. Wasn't it good of him?"

"Excellent," I said, bitterly.

"Only yesterday," she added, "such a delicate little surprise as he gave me—only think, knowing my taste, a whole case—"

"Of the materials, I suppose," I said.

"Yes," she said, "of the very newest kind. Wasn't it considerate of him? I must show them to you."

She went to a little cupboard and brought out a small chest, opened it, and took out one by one—Goodness! what a mystery was here! A light began to break in on me.

"Look," she said, "two gymnastic clubs, just my weight and size; and, look here, a set of dumb-bells, beautifully finished— ain't it charming!—a balance rope; a portable pole, jointed so as to be carried about; a patent chest-expander; a—"

I saw it all, and put forward my hand to stop her.

"I used to practice with them at night up in my room. When papa and mamma were gone to bed I would sit up till all hours. Nothing like practice. See how I twist them about!"

She flourished the club over her head, twirled it, twisted it, and then held it out in the air steadily for many moments. It was on a line with her mouth.

I saw the whole picture of that fatal night before me, with only the addition of the blind drawn up, and how the fatal shadow became projected.

BEN'S BEAR.

THIRTY years ago my father, a half-pay captain, emigrated to Lower Canada. He bought a farm in the vicinity of Stanstead, where he settled with a family of three boys and as many girls. There were too many of us for his means in England, where boys often cost more than they are worth—and possibly this is sometimes true of girls. Brother Ben was nineteen when we went into the bush: a brave boy, and a good leader for his younger brothers, and a good protector for his sisters, who were younger still.

We had a log-house, as most settlers had then, to begin with. It was quite an aristocratic edifice for that region, having three large rooms, while most log-houses had but two rooms, and many but one. It was ceiled with hemlock bark, smooth side toward the rooms, for we were to spend one winter in it. We moved to our "opening the 1st of May, and had the summer before us. We were full of spirit and hope. A new country and a new life, with all before you to conquer, and the consciousness of strength to make the conquest, is a constant inspiration.

Ben's bear was his first winning in the game which he had set himself to play with the wild nature of the woods. I was then ten years old, and that bear is the one thing that stands out most clearly in the dim distance of thirty years ago. Ben had shot the mother bear, and the same ball that killed her killed one of her cubs; the other he brought home in his bosom. "Poor little fellow!" he said, "he is too young to mourn for his mother, and I intend to be a mother to him." And he kept his word.

The small beast slept with Ben, always laying its nose over Ben's shoulder. He grew apace; I used to think we could see him grow. He was very fond of milk and butter, and he ate bread and milk, and mush and milk with avidity. During the first winter his was a numbed sort of half life. In the early spring he was a happy bear, going every where with his master, and only miserable if he lost sight of him. He was entirely obedient to my brother, and always woke him in the morning. As my father was about to build a frame-house, he sent Ben to buy material of a man who had a saw-mill in the next town. This was Bruin's first affliction, for he could not accompany his master. Ben stole away from him, and when the bear knew that he was gone he began a search for him. He went to my brother's bed, and, beginning at the head, inserted his nose under the sheets and blankets, and came out at the foot; then he turned, and reversed the process. This strange search he would keep up by the hour, if he were not shut out of the room. He took possession of his master's clothes and other belongings, and used them so roughly, still seeking for their owner—inserting himself into legs of trowsers and sleeves of coats—that my mother locked every thing in a wardrobe. Nothing of Ben's was left out, except a large folio Bible, which rested on the top of the wardrobe, six or seven feet from the floor. Up this the bear contrived to climb, and taking the Bible in a tender embrace, he curled himself up and dropped to the floor with it. My mother attempted to take it from him, but for the first time he showed fight. Many blows from the broomstick were administered, but the bear held fast to the book, and my mother came off second best from the contest. This was fatal to her authority, as we discovered afterward.

When Ben came back the bear's joy knew no bounds. He lost his love for the sacred volume, and had no care what became of it. He showed his disrespect for my mother by taking the butter from the tea-table and eating it before her eyes. Ben gave him a drubbing for the robbery, and he submitted to Ben's authority, but butter and honey, and sweets of all kinds, were appropriated if Ben were not at hand to enforce good behavior. My mother was very unhappy, between her love for Ben and her fear for Bruin. She grew miserably afraid of the bear, and, what was worse, the bear knew it. She complained to Ben; but he only said, "Mother, you have only to be resolute with him. Ellen can drive him away from the table, because she is not afraid of him."

"But I am afraid of him," said my mother, "and I think he will do me harm yet."

"Give him a taste of a hot poker, mother, and I'll answer for him afterward."

"I would not try it for the world," said my mother.

The bear had his own way very completely, till a circumstance occurred which resulted more favorably for the peace of the family than my mother's mild remonstrances. We had a neighbor, a Mr. Bennett, who had a very lovely daughter of seventeen. Ben fell in love with her, as in duty bound, she being the prettiest girl in the New World. He had been unable to get any clew to her sentiments toward him. She had spent a considerable portion of the past year with a married sister in Stanstead, and Ben and the brother-in-law being friends, it was there my brother had seen her. Her coolness toward him was a great torment to an impulsive lover. I believe Ben would have served seven years merely to know how she regarded him. At last he lapsed into a state so unhappy and anxious that even his bear could not comfort him. About this time Alice Bennett came home to remain, and, in neighborly kindness, she and a younger sister came to visit us. She had never seen Ben's bear, and did not even know of its existence. Ben shut Bruin into his bedroom in compliment to our guests, and the afternoon passed pleasantly to all but the prisoner. When the time came for Alice and her sister to go home, my brother and I prepared to bear them company through the woods to their opening. Ben incautiously opened his bedroom for his hat, never thinking of Bruin, and came running to catch us. The liberated bear ran after his master, and jumped for joy upon him, hugging him after the manner of bears. Alice turned and saw Ben in the (to her) terrible embrace. She shrieked as a girl with a good voice only can shriek, but instead of running away, she rushed up to my brother and tried to help him like a brave girl, crying, "Dear, dear Ben, you will be killed!"

My brother threw off the beast, and caught the fainting Alice to his glad heart, saying, "Dear Alice, he is a tame bear; do not be afraid."

The poor girl looked like a broken white lily, she was so frightened at herself and the bear. She could hardly realize that the bear was harmless, and she was ashamed of having been betrayed into an avowal of a tenderness for Ben. When she recovered her wits she said, "Oh, I'll never come here again."

"Indeed you will," said Ben. "I'll banish Bruin, or imprison him, or do any thing you wish."

It was surprising how clear-sighted Ben became regarding faults on the bear's part that he had heretofore made light of. My mother had no need to complain of stolen butter, or a highway robbery of honey on its way from the pantry to the tea-table. Ben suddenly discovered that his pet was a nuisance. "I don't see how you have borne with him so long, mother," he said, in the most considerate manner, when he had taken a plum-pudding from a plate in my mother's hands, and had made his way to the woods with it.

"I am glad you saw him take it," said my mother.

"He must have a prison," said Ben.

And so it came to pass that the poor bear was chained in the centre of the space that had been cleared and leveled for our new house, with the light surveyor's chain used to measure land. The bear immediately described a circle, limited by the length of his chain, which he walked over, turning a somersault always at one point, and only stopping to eat, or pay attention to Ben if he came in his vicinity. Why he inaugurated this particular and peculiar exercise I am unable to say, but I have often noticed a tame bear keep up the circle and the somersault hour after hour, and day after day. He did not tug at his chain, nor quarrel with it, as we poor mortals do with chains, but apparently accepted it as a provision of Ben's superior wisdom. This view of the case, if he took it, was sure to be abandoned at bedtime, when he would inevitably break his chain to get into his master's bedroom. His indomitable desire to lie on the foot of Ben's bed, or to hug an old vest under it, was sure to make him break away from any breakable restraint. Therefore a prison was made for him. It was made of small logs "cobbed up;" that is, the ends notched with an axe, and the end of a log fitted into each notch. The roof was of boards destined for the new house, held in place by heavy stones. The first night the poor beast occupied his new den he raised the boards in his struggle to get out, impelled by the desire to seek his master. He got his head out, and then hung by his neck, and so was choked to death. I shed some tears for him, and my mother rejoiced. I think Ben was not very sorry. Under other circumstances he would have mourned for the loss of his sublimely-ugly pet; but he had a new and life-long pet in prospect—perhaps many other pets after that—and he had no need of, and no place for, a bear.

HOSPITAL AND CAMP INCIDENTS.

THE SANITARY COMMISSION AMONG THE SOLDIERS.

No. III.

PROBABLY in no department of the work of the Sanitary Commission have more significant results been achieved than in that of Special Relief, organized for the relief and care of discharged soldiers. By its various agencies the Commission has in this department made itself the guardian of thousands of our defenders, protecting them in their rights, providing lodging-houses and food, rescuing them from the hands of thieves and sharpers, collecting pensions and pay, correcting their defective papers, giving them medical treatment, and nursing when occasion demanded; in a word, seeing that all immediate needs growing out of their disabled condition are met by corresponding provision for temporary supply and relief.

The arrangements for this special relief are organized upon a thorough and constantly-enlarging system, having its centre at Washington, and thence radiating to every important field of the war. At Washington, a principal feature is the "Home," where food, care, and assistance are given to men who are honorably discharged, and whence they are sent by railroad in the care of special agents to their destination. At this "Home," also, relief is administered

to men from battle-fields and hospitals; as many as five hundred a day have sometimes been received and cared for; and from December, 1862, to October, 1863, 7187 persons were there entertained. Since it opened 86,986 nights' lodgings have been furnished, and 331,315 meals provided. "Homes" of the same description are maintained by the Commission at Boston, Nashville, Cairo, Memphis, Louisville, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. In and about Washington there are also "Lodges," maintained in the vicinity of railroads, all of which have rendered most important aid in improving the sanitary condition of our troops. One of these Lodges is immediately connected with the Paymaster's Department, and has in connection with it a Pension Agency, which has been in operation for nearly a year with branches in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Louisville, and Cincinnati. This latter Agency has saved to the soldiers already an aggregate expense of from eight to ten thousand dollars, while at the same time rescuing them from imposition and a "world of trouble" and anxiety.

Another service rendered to the soldier is the collection of his back pay. It was found that many men in hospital, with families sorely in need of as much as they could give them, were unable to obtain what was due them, or that at least it was so hedged about by "regulations" as to be beyond their power to collect it. An agent of the Commission entered on the work of investigation and the removal of difficulties, and, as an evidence of his success, it is stated that in one week the pay of fifty-six men thus procured amounted to over three thousand dollars, almost every dime of which was sent to the suffering families at home. Thus, far and wide, the work of the Commission bears its beneficent fruits.

Still another branch of Special Relief is the "Nurses Home," of which there is one in Washington and one in Annapolis, where sick and weary women-nurses may rest and recuperate their wasted energies. These houses have become lodges for the wives and mothers of men in hospital who flock to those points to aid in the care of wounded sons and husbands.

Some of the records of the lodges about Washington, though brief and abrupt, are full of eloquence as to the good work they have performed. Thus: "A man shoeless, shirtless, and stockingless, feet frost-bitten and mind deranged, was brought to our Lodge as the only refuge for the wanderer. We kept him nine days, ascertained his regiment, and returned him for discharge." The story of a life saved, perhaps of a family reunited, lies in this short record. And here is another: "A soldier picked up—typhoid fever—flighty. With the best of care he died the next day;" yet, doubtless, some heart was cheered by knowing that the dead soldier had tender hands to minister unto him in his last hours as he journeyed home to the camping-ground beyond the river. Another case still is that of a soldier who had suffered an amputation, and who seemed dying, but who, under the care of his nurse, rallied, and the second day, looking into her eyes, said, in a voice quivering with emotion, "You have saved my life for my wife."

Such are some of the conspicuous features of the work of the Sanitary Commission among the soldiers. The enumeration of its works might be indefinitely extended; but sufficient facts have been presented to justify the reputation it enjoys, and its claim to a still more cordial appreciation at the hands of the people. It only remains to exhibit, from its records, some of the evidences it has accumulated as to the character, temperament, and habits of the soldiers among whom it has carried forward its sublime work.

And first, next to their courage, the uncomplaining temper of our troops and their cheerful acquiescence in the hardships and most serious calamities of war, are conspicuously exhibited by the testimony of these Commission records. "Well, Charley," said a surgeon at Chattanooga, dressing a wound as he talked, "what's the matter?" "Oh, not much, doctor; only a hand off!" He had hoped, maybe, with that good right hand to carve his way to some of the world's highest places, but it was gone now, lay bleeding and torn on the altar of his country, and he counted it a little thing. But had he not reached already an exalted place, higher and nobler than any, except the truly brave, with the soul of heroism burning in them, ever attain? So it was every where on that field. "Only once," reports one who passed through all its horrors, "did we hear either whimper or plaint. An Illinois lieutenant, as brave a fellow as ever drew a sword, had been shot through and through the thighs—fairly impaled by the bullet. His wounds were angry with fever; every motion was torture; the men were lifting him as tenderly as they could, but they let him slip, and he fell perhaps six inches. But it was like a dash from a precipice to him, and he wailed out like a little child; tears wet his pale, thin face, and he only said, "My poor child, how will they tell her?" It was only for a moment; his spirit and his frame stiffened up together, and, with a half smile, he said, "Don't tell any body, boys, that I made a fool of myself!"

A soldier, fairly riddled with bullets, lay on a blanket gasping for breath. ";Jemmy," said a comrade, with one arm swung up in a sling, and who was going home on a furlough—"Jemmy, what shall I tell them at home for you?" "Tell them," said he, "that there's hardly enough left of me to say 'I;' but hold down here a minute, tell Kate there is enough of me left to love her till I die."

No thought or word of complaint, only cheerful resignation and patience; content even in the face of death. And what wonder, since death comes to all who "nobly do and die" with crowns and honors, leading the tired feet over paths strewn with garlands to the summer-land lying so close to the borders of this chillier clime!

The tenderness and generosity of the soldier is another point clearly illustrated by the records of the Commission. However stern in the battle's front, in the hour of suffering he is kind, gentle, full of sympathy and compassion. The Wisconsin State agents were one day distributing relief to the

Wisconsin soldiers in a Western hospital. One of them, lying seriously wounded, received some of it, but presently said: "I didn't like it; it made me feel bad to have things given to me and not to the boy lying next to me. But I made it all right; for I divided with him."

After the battle of Perryville a Federal soldier wandering over the field found a rebel, wounded and helpless, lying exposed to a cold and pelting rain. The Federal asked the sufferer a few questions, and seeing how much he suffered, took off his coat and put it over the wounded man. Some days after the rebel was brought in a prisoner, with the Union coat in his possession, and in reply to a question as to where he got it, told the story of the Federal soldier's kindness, adding, "I shall never shoot that man, any how."

The rebels, it has been observed, do not bear up as well under disaster as our own men. There is not only more whimpering, but more fretfulness and bitterness of spirit evinced, chiefly in want of regard one for another. But there are exceptions even in this. Among the sick and wounded who were one night taken on board a Sanitary transport in the James River were several rebels. One who was near death said, gently, to the nurse: "God forgive me, honey, if it was wrong. I thought it was right, but I don't like it; that's the truth. I would rather have died for the old flag; but I thought it was right. There, let them bury that with me," showing a bracelet of hair on his arm. "It's my wife's, honey; it is. My watch you may keep;" and so the poor fellow ran on—patience mellowing all his speech and marking all his action until, at the roll-call of the Recording Angel, he answered "Here!" and was gone.

One other characteristic of the Northern soldier must be mentioned, as unmistakably attested by the experience of the Commission agents. He is a believer in God, understands his own accountability, and is not ashamed to stand up for the honor of His name. In hundreds of camps prayer-meetings are held daily; and thousands of stern, determined veterans, who have gone through the battle's tempest time and time again, are found weeping before the altar, lifting their hearts to Him who is over all, the Great Captain of our salvation. Surely there is encouragement in a fact like this; and whatever agency tends to develop and sustain this religious feeling deserves the support of all right-thinking men.

Providence—it is no irreverence to say—works with and blesses this Commission. In many cases results have sustained such marked relations to their causes; gifts have found their way by such wonderful chances to the precise objects which the givers would have chosen above all others to benefit; difficulties that seemed insurmountable have so melted away; and embarrassments that threatened irremediable disasters have been so overcome, that the blindest eye could not fail to discern, and the coldest heart to acknowledge, the presence of an enlightened controlling Influence, whose sympathies and energies were altogether in co-operation with this great patriotic charity. There is consolation for the future in this thought. It helps us to look beyond the fogs that lie on the lowlands of our selfishness and unbelief, and to see the shining heights where God is, and victory awaits the True and Just. Especially does this thought stimulate continued effort in behalf of this Commission. We are workers with the Infinite One in every endeavor expended in this cause.

Sometimes, dear Madam, you wonder what becomes of your gifts; whether they are wisely and faithfully appropriated; whether, in hospital or field, the pillow you have made rests any tired head, the dressing-gown your fingers embroidered wraps any wasted, fading form; whether the slippers your needle worked ease any weary, blistered foot? Go to the records of this Commission and you have your answer. On every field your labor bears precious fruit. It is as if you had planted trees of Paradise, under which all weary, suffering ones might find shelter and rest. In every tent, lodge, and hospital you will find blossoms from those trees of yours lying, fragrant and beautiful, in their pale hands, on peaceful, pulseless breasts. The soldiers, women of the North, are blessed by your work, and they appreciate it as true men should. Be encouraged: the Father takes care of your gifts, and sends them where you would have them go. "What do the women say about us boys at home?" slowly asked a poor wreck of a lad of one who sat at his side. That brow of his ached for the ouch of a loving hand. He had walked through rough, stony places; temptation, sin, folly had beset him on the right hand and the left; but he felt still a mother's influence on his soul, leading him into the June paths of old. At the very moment he asked the question "What do the women say of us at home?" he was turning over a little silken needle-book that some laughing girl had some day made and sent to the Sanitary Commission, working on its cover the words, playfully perhaps, "My bold soldier-boy." The friend sitting by simply pointed to that legend. The reply struck home to his heart, and he burst into tears. They were not bitter tears, but tears of joy. His question was answered; the evidence of woman's interest was before his eyes, and he was content. His eyelids closed down, his breathing grew calm, and soon sleep touched him, and he was dreaming. It was your hand that touched him and brought that benign peace to his soul.

After the battle of Hanover Court House there was great suffering among the wounded for want of blankets and medical stores. Even the necessaries of life were scarcely to be had. Finally, however, an army surgeon forced his way to White House. There he found the Sanitary Commission and told them the story of the soldiers' sufferings. At once clean sheets, blankets, bedsacks, and pillows, were packed, and, with boxes of condensed milk, farina, tea, coffee, sugar, oranges, and lemons, were sent off to the hospitals. "When I departed," says the surgeon, "there was not a State represented in my hospital but found some article bearing the marks of home. As I led one poor fellow from Pennsylvania to his bed, and he saw (Next Page)


 

 

  

Site Copyright 2003-2014 Son of the South.  For Questions or comments about this collection, contact paul@sonofthesouth.net

Privacy Policy

Are you Scared and Confused? Read My Snake Story, a story of hope and encouragement, to help you face your fears.