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Civil War Harper's Weekly, January 16, 1864

Harper's Weekly was an illustrated newspaper published during the Civil War. The paper was distributed across the country, and was read by millions of Americans. These newspapers contained incredible illustrations and reports of the war.

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Raid

Fulton

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Archbishop Hughes

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Army of the Potomac

Army of the Potomac

 

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY 16, 1864.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

39

(Previous Page) To the front, Doctor;" and the brave fellow tried hard to stand firm and speak boldly as he saluted the surgeon.

"To the front! What! a man in your condition? Why, Sir, you can't march half a mile; you haven't the strength to carry yourself, let alone your knapsack, musket, and equipments. You must be crazy, surely."

"But, Doctor, my division are in the fight"—here he grasped the wheel of an ambulance to support himself—"and I have a young brother in my company. I must go."

"But I am your surgeon, and I forbid you. You have every symptom of typhoid fever; a little overexertion will kill you."

"Well, Doctor, if I must die, I would rather die in the field than in an ambulance."

The Doctor saw it was useless to debate the point, and the soldier went as he desired. On the evening of the next day it fell to my lot to bury him where he fell, his right arm blown off at the elbow, and his forehead pierced by a Minie ball. His name we could never learn; we only knew that he belonged to the Third Division of the Sixth Corps, and that mark we placed at the head of his grave.

Shortly after 5 o'clock the bugle sounded "Fall in." At once drivers of ambulances sprang to their seats, and the rank and file to their feet from the road-side where they had been reclining, all alike covered with dust. But little cared they for the graces of the toilet; the bugle called "Forward," and they stepped out gladly to their work. A march of something less than an hour brought us to a ravine, in which we were drawn up by brigades, about a quarter of a mile in the rear of the centre of the Federal line of battle. Here we stacked arms and at down in our places.

Here again the brave, indomitable temper of our boys found expression in a variety of ways. Some of the surgeons found it almost impossible to prevent the men in the ambulances getting out and taking their places in the ranks. Some who were in even worse condition than the soldier already mentioned insisted, in spite of the protestations of surgeons, officers, and comrades, that they would run no more risk in the field than in the hospital-train; and I saw three men whom the surgeon was obliged to place in an ambulance by force, and then put over them a guard with loaded muskets, so determined were they to go with their comrades into the fight.

Our rest in the ravine was by no means undisturbed. The enemy having observed our advance over the hill shot and shell very soon began to fly about us thick and fast, battering far and near like swiftly-driven hail. Right in the midst of the storm this exhibition of soldierly coolness met my observation. Some twenty-five feet from the right of our regimental line of muskets ran a little creek bordered on either side by large trees. A fallen tree served as a bridge or crossing. One of the drivers of the Ambulance Corps was stooping on this log washing his hands. A spent-shell came ripping through the trees behind him and buried itself just deep enough in the log to make it stick. He turned about and with the heel of his boot kicked the shell into the water, saying, "Now, old screech-owl, bust if you want to." And burst it did; but a second or two after blowing one end of the log into splinters and completely deluging the driver, upon which, dropping himself astride the remainder of the bridge, he surveyed himself coolly and exclaimed, "Well, I came here to wash my hands; but hang me if I expected a shower-bath in such an out-of-the-way place as this!"

The firing at the front continued, and the rebel compliments in the form of shells still dropped occasionally around us. At half past six the bugle sounded again "Fall in." Instantly every man grasped his weapon and took his position. The Second Division—but one division, the Third, had as yet been in the fight—moved off first. Our appearance on the hill was the signal for a terrific fire from the rebels; some of their heaviest guns were opened upon us; shell after shell came "singing its devilish song through the air;" but the column kept straight on, facing the storm with unshrinking front. Presently we came to what is called a "Virginia fence," and so known all over the North. Over this we had to climb. A sergeant in my company while getting over fell through. Picking himself up he turned to a comrade and said, "Do you know why I am like the President?" The comrade apparently had no disposition for joking; but the soldier forced the answer as he took his position: "I'll tell you," said he; "it's because I'm a rail-splitter." We laughed, and just then, not two yards behind me, a solid shot plowed its way through our ranks and the joking sergeant with three of his companions were killed almost instantly. The sergeant, with his joke lying nettlesome on his lips, was literally torn in two!

After this we entered a thick wood, upon the other side of which we could see our line of battle. The firing had abated considerably, the cannonading almost entirely. We were halted, and the order "Rest" was given. A division—the Second of the Fifth Corps, I think—which had been all day in the field, but had been relieved by the Third Division of our corps, were going to the rear, taking many of their wounded with them. One man, who was supported by two comrades, had had his lower jaw taken off, and as he moved along held up in his hand the bloody bone, misshapen and splintered, with fine teeth still remaining in it. Another, lying upon a stretcher, had lost both feet by a solid shot. The bleeding stumps had not yet been dressed, and the stretcher was covered with the blood of the dying hero. Yet, for all this, amidst the roar of musketry, and with the pain his wounds must have caused, he was singing in a clear voice, with enough of the Irish accent to make the strain musical:

"The Star-Spangled Banner, oh long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."

While I was yet looking after the footless soldier, a little drummer-boy attracted my attention by saying, in a childish voice, as he held up his left arm from which the hand had been severed, while he held his drum with the other:

"Will you do as much as that for the Union?"

"Yes, my little fellow, if I must."

"Well, I'd do more," and he held up his right hand; "but then I would have no hands at all to work for mother, and father was killed at Antietam."

I should suppose, from the little fellow's appearance, he was not over twelve or thirteen years of age; he was a young hero, but a thorough one—a child worthy of the Republic, worthy of its inspirations, worthy of the Future in which, maybe, he shall sit crowned with honors.

Hardly had my notice been withdrawn from the drummer-boy when Corporal S— turned toward me, and exclaimed, "Look there!" I looked in the direction indicated, and beheld a sight at once so horrible and sublime that it will ever form a living picture in my memory. A strong, stalwart fellow, with the cheverons of a sergeant on his arm, ragged and torn, was limping slowly toward us. The shoe on his right foot was covered with blood, and a large rent in his pantaloons, just above the knee, from which the blood was also trickling, solved the question of the location of his wound. He was hatless, his hair was disordered, his face and hands were begrimed with smoke and powder, and he looked altogether maniac-like and exhausted. But he had his colors with him! His regiment, or the greater part of it, had been either killed or captured; he had lost his colors once, and was afterward captured himself. He watched his opportunity, killed the rebel who held his flag, and escaped with it safely into our lines. Ought not the name of one so brave as he to be chiseled in monumental marble, that the ages as they go may read it and admire?

Night came at last—the next day passed—and the evening of the fourth settled down upon us, bringing to some of us a most disagreeable duty. Shortly after dark, as I was about to lie down in my blanket for a nap, I was directed to take charge of a squad of men and report to a superior officer for orders. Obeying, I was soon after ordered to proceed to the wood immediately in our front and there commence to bury the dead—to bury indiscriminately both the enemy's and our own; to do all in my power to obtain information likely to lead to the identification of the bodies, and to remain out until midnight. We procured a lantern, armed the men with shovels and picks, and started out.

Gaining the edge of the wood after wading some distance through a deep marsh, I lighted my lantern, and its first ray fell upon the bloated face of a rebel lieutenant. Either he had died systematically or some friend had placed him in the position in which we found him, for he was lying flat on his back with his arms folded closely across his breast, and his lips tightly compressed. But, nicely as he lay, he must be buried. At the edge of the wood we found a soft strip of land—elsewhere it was a rocky soil—and here we determined the rebel should have his last resting-place. The men found a piece of candle in the dead man's haversack, lighted it, and went to work upon the grave. Meanwhile I passed into the woods to discover other bodies. I found three of our men, but, as far as I went, could see no more of the enemy's dead. I came back; the men had finished the grave. We procured two rails, placed one under the shoulders and the other under the legs, just below the knees, and thus the body of the rebel was laid away in the ground to await the day of reckoning, in whose glare all of us must stand.

I told the men to dig a grave a little farther on for three. They went at it, while I proceeded to examine the bodies I had discovered. The first was that of a corporal belonging to the First Division of the Fifth Corps. His right hand was placed close to his mouth, and tightly clenched; a torn cartridge lay at his side, the end which he had bitten off so tightly held in his teeth that it was impossible to withdraw it. His pocket had been cut out, his shoes and stockings stripped off, and nothing whatever was to be found on his person by which to identify him except the corps mark on his cap.

About two feet from him lay a private, hatless, and stripped of shoes and stockings also. His pockets had not been removed. I examined them, and found in his pantaloons a golden locket, with the picture of a fair young woman therein, and in his breast coat-pocket a daguerreotype of the same person, with a card on which was a lady's address. I have since ascertained it was that of his wife.

The third body was that of a first lieutenant of artillery; and how he came there in the woods was a mystery we could not solve. No battery was placed within five hundred yards of that position, either right or left. But be that as it may, there the body was, stripped of every thing in the shape of insignia except one shoulder-strap, which hung by one end only. His little finger had evidently been cut off, as the print of a large seal-ring could yet be seen upon it; and it is certain the wound was not caused either by a Minie ball or a fragment of shell.

At length the grave was ready, the three were buried, and again we passed on. As best we could we were making our way in the dim light of the lantern, when suddenly I tripped, and extending my arms in self-protection, my left hand came in contact with the cold forehead of a corpse. My feet rested on another body, and my lantern was out. I felt for a match. I had none. But presently some of the men came up; the lantern was relighted, and the glare revealed a sight which I pray God my eyes may never look upon again. The body upon which my hand had fallen was that of a corporal; both legs were blown completely off. That over which I had stumbled was the body of a private with one arm severed, not entirely off, at the shoulder. Two trees of perhaps four inches diameter had been splintered, one about eight feet the other five feet from the ground, and had fallen right where the bodies lay. Within a circle of twenty feet from these trees I counted seventeen bodies, all, alas! with blue jackets on. I had hoped among so many to find some of the gray-backed ones.

How we buried these seventeen bodies you would

not care to know. The lantern gone out, the candle which the men had procured lasted but a little time; but the moon had risen and the pale rays it cast through the trees aided us in our task, though they added much to the ghostliness of the terrible scene over which they fell.

We found one body, that of a young, light-haired boy, not over nineteen at the furthest, whose forehead was pierced by a ball; in his left hand he firmly grasped his rammer; his right hand or its forefinger was in the watch-pocket of his pantaloons. We examined this pocket and found in it a small silver shield with his name, company, and regiment engraved upon it. We took possession of this memento, and fortunately finding a fragment of a cracker-box, marked upon it in pencil, by moonlight, the inscription found on the shield. We buried him with two of his comrades, one of whom belonged to the Fifth Corps, and placed the rude board at the head of his grave in the hope that it would some day enable some pilgrim-friend to find the body. Since that day the shield has been sent to the soldier's father; its inscription was, "S. L. Caldwell, Company D, 118th Pennsylvania Volunteers."

It was half an hour after midnight when we came into camp, and half an hour after that, lying with our faces to the stars, dreams enfolded us, and we were as though no battle horrors had ever pained and no battle dangers had ever menaced us.

THE FALSE LOVE.

 

IN sight of the starry sky,

In sound of the rushing sea,

With a beating heart and a tender smile,

Did my own true love kiss me.

 

Under the solemn sky,

Close to the throbbing sea,

With words of love, and vows of faith,

Did my own true love kiss me.

 

I gaze on the same bright sky,

I hear the same rippling sea,

But never again on earth, or in heaven,

Will my own true love kiss me.

 

True are the holy stars,

True is the restless sea,

True are the thoughts of my heart to him,

But my love is false to me!

 

Hear it, O changeful sky!

Hear it, O moving sea!

Ye are true to your own eternal laws,

But my love is false to me.

 

Why should the moonlit sky,

Why should the moaning sea,

Recall the empty dream of the past,

When my love is false to me?

 

Pierce to his soul, O stars!

Thrill to his heart, O sea!

It may be, smit with a sudden pang,

My love will come back to me!

BRAIN SPECTRES.

THE brain makes ghosts both sleeping and waking. A man was lying in troubled sleep when a phantom, with the cold hand of a corpse, seized his right arm. Awaking in horror, he found upon his arm still the impression of the cold hand of the corpse, and it was only after reflecting that he found the terrible apparition to be due to the deadening of his own left hand in a frosty night, which had subsequently grasped his right arm. This was a real ghost of the brain, which the awakening of the senses and the understanding explained. M. Gratiolet narrates a dream of his own which is singularly illustrative of how the brain makes ghosts in sleep. Many years ago, when occupied in studying the organization of the brain, he prepared a great number both of human and animal brains. He carefully stripped off the membranes, and placed the brains in alcohol. Such were his daily occupations, when one night he thought that he had taken out his own brain from his own skull. He stripped it of its membranes. He put it into alcohol, and then he fancied he took his brain out of the alcohol and replaced it in his skull. But, contracted by the action of the spirit, it was much reduced in size, and did not at all fill up the skull. He felt it shuffling about in his head. This feeling threw him into such a great perplexity that he awoke with a start, as if from nightmare.

M. Gratiolet, every time he prepared the brain of a man, must have felt that his own brain resembled it. This impression awakening in a brain imperfectly asleep, while neither the senses nor the judgment were active, the physiologist carried on an operation in his sleep which probably had often occurred to his fancy when at his work, and which had then been summarily dismissed very frequently. A pursuit which had at last become one of routine, and the association of himself with his study, explain the bizarre and ghastly dream of M. Gratiolet. A sensation from the gripe of a cold hand, misinterpreted by the imagination acting without the aid of the discerning faculties, accounts for the ghastly vision of the other sleeper.

Every one is conscious of a perpetual series of pictures, sometimes stationary, sometimes fleeting, generally shifting; yet occasionally fixed in his mind. Sleep is the period in which the nerves derive their nourishment from the blood. The picturing nerves, like those of the senses, are generally inactive in their functions at feeding times; and thoroughly healthy nervous systems dream very little or not at all. Dreams betoken troubled brains. The brain of a woman who had lost a portion of her cranium used to swell up and protrude when she was dreaming, and then contract and become tranquil again when she was sleeping soundly.

The wakeful senses, the active judgment, and the will even of the strongest and soundest minds, are not always able to control the false and perverse

impressions of the nerves. I knew once a commander in the navy whose left eye was shot clean out by a bullet in a naval action in the beginning of this century, and whom, forty years afterward, it was impossible to convince that he did not see all sorts of strange objects with his lost eye. "It is not impossible," he would quietly say; "I know it too well." Every body has known men who suffered rheumatism in legs long lost and replaced by wooden ones.

A nervous, dreamy, imaginative lad was walking one day with some comrades among rank grass. The place was noted for adders, and the youths talked about them. Instantly this lad felt something enter the leg of his pantaloons and twist itself with the swiftness of lightning round his thigh. He stopped terrified, and a careful examination proved that the adder was a creature of his imagination. The vividness of the fancy of this youth made his waking senses and his discerning faculties of no more use to him for the moment than if they had been asleep.

This condition of the brain is called by the savans hallucination. Mueller, the physiologist, and Goethe, the poet, have both described hallucinations to which they were subject, and which they compared in conversation together. The rarest case, says Mueller, is that of an individual who, while perfectly healthy in body and mind, has the faculty, on closing his eyes, of seeing really the objects he wishes to see. History cites only a very few instances of this phenomenon. Carden and Goethe were examples of it.

Goethe says: "When I close my eyes and stoop my head, I figure to myself and see a flower in the middle of my visual organ. This flower preserves only for an instant its first form. It soon decomposes itself, and out of it issues other flowers, with colored and sometimes green petals. They were not natural but fantastic flowers, yet regular as the roses of the sculptor. I could not look fixedly at that creation, but it remained as long as I liked without increasing or diminishing. In the same way when I imagined a disk full of various colors, I saw continually issue from the centre to the circumference new forms like those of the kaleidoscope."

Mueller talked this subject over with Goethe in 1828. It was interesting to them both. "Knowing," says Mueller, "that when I was calmly lying on my bed with my eyes shut, although not asleep, I often saw figures which I could observe very well, he was very curious to learn what I then felt. I told him that my will had no influence either upon the production or upon the changes of these figures, and that I had never seen any thing symmetrical or of the character of vegetation." Goethe could at will, on the contrary, choose his theme, which transformed itself forthwith in a manner apparently involuntary, but always obeying the laws of symmetry and harmony. Mueller used to get rid of the figures which haunted him by turning his face to the wall. Although he did not see them change place, they were still before him, but they soon began to fade. Jean Paul recommended the observation of these phantoms as a good plan for falling asleep.

These are hallucinations of sane minds. The delusive sensations of flying and falling are known to many persons. Young girls lying in bed between sleeping and waking, at the epoch of life when their girlhood is passing into womanhood, are especially apt, like the religious ecstatics, to fancy they are flying. And nearly every body is familiar with the hallucinations of falling from personal experience. When lying in bed trying in vain to fall asleep, or to warm the cold sheets, the patient feels as if sinking through the floor, and stretches out his arms suddenly to save himself: yet nothing has happened except the coincidence of a cold shiver with a complete expiration.

Physiologists and philosophers of authority say we are all mad in our dreams; and, if the absence of the control of reason is a true definition of insanity, there is no gainsaying the proposition. But madness means something more. In dreams the faculties which control the picturing or imagining powers are simply inactive; they are neither absent nor incapable. Far from identifying sleeping dreams with madness, I feel disposed to contend that voluntary and momentary hallucinations—seeing by the blind, hearing by the deaf, sensations of smelling, touching, tasting things which do not exist—are only signs of insanity when the faculties needful for correcting the errors of sensation are diseased. Persons unaccustomed to railway traveling are not insane, although for many minutes they often believe the train is going backward, because they retain the power of correcting the hallucination by watching the objects they are passing.

The senses are seeing, bearing, smelling, touching, and tasting instruments. There are between these and the seat of intelligence nerves performing the functions of carriers. Even after the instruments have ceased to exist the carriers often continue to carry messages—false messages. When a man has lost an eye, during the inflammatory period of recovery the carriers convey horrible images of fiery figures. It is the carriers who convey the pain of rheumatism from the lost limb.

A man who was recovering from typhus fever believed he had two bodies, one of which was tossing in pain on an uneasy bed, and the other lying sweetly on a delicious couch. I am not disposed to ascribe this hallucination to the duality of the brain, but to a conflict between the recollection of his sufferings and the experience of his recovery. If the patient should have been permanently unable to overpower memory by reality he would have been insane, like the maniacs who believe their legs to be stalks of straw, or their bodies fragile as glass.

Pictures have produced hallucinations. Leaving aside the eyes of Madonnas, cases in which the power of religious ideas come into play, I may mention another instance of their effects on a mind keenly sensitive to the beauties of the fine arts. A French physiologist, while studying intensely an English engraving of Landseer's Horse-shoeing, smelt horn burning, and fixed the idea in his mind for the moment that the smell came from the foot of the horse in the engraving.


 

 

  

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