|5, A visit to Hospital No. 8 in Nashville by Elvira J. Powers |
The Masonic Hall and First Presbyterian Church constitute Hospital, [sic] No. 8. We visited that on Tuesday [April 5, 1864].
As we enter the Hall, past the guard, we find a broad flight of stairs before us, and while ascending, perceive this caution inscribed upon the wall in evergreen.
"Remember you are in a hospital and make no noise." Up this flight, and other cautions meet us, such as "No smoking here"—"Keep away from the wall," &c. We here pause at a door, and are introduced to the matron who is fortunately just now going through the wards. It is Miss J—tt, [sic] of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Ascending another broad flight, and asking in the meantime of her duties, she throws open the door of the linen-room where are two clerks, and says:
"This department comprises all the work assigned to m -- whatever else I do is Voluntary and gratuitous. But today," she adds laughingly, "it would be difficult to define my duties. I think I might properly be called 'Commandant of the Black Squad," or 'Chief of the Dirty Brigade;" and she explained by saying that she had seven negro women and two men, subject to her orders, who were cleaning the building. She next throws open the door of a ward which contains but a few patients, and has a smoky appearance. She tells us, they are fumigating it, having had some cases of small pox, most of which have been sent to the proper Hospital.
We pass to another, where she tell us, previous to entering, is one very sick boy. He is of a slight form, only fifteen, and with delicate girlish features. His disease is typhoid fever, from the effects of which he is now quite deaf. As we approach, he says to her faintly, [sic]
"Sit down here, mother, on the side of my bed."
She does so, when he asks her to "bend her head down so he can tell her something." This she does, when he says, quite loud, but with difficulty' –"There's some money under my pillow, I want you to get it, and buy me some dried peaches."
"I don't want your money," she says, "but you shall have the poachers if I can get them," and she writes a not and dispatches to the sanitary rooms for them. This boy always calls me mother," she says, "and the first day he was brought here, he sent his nurse to ask if I would come up and kiss him. He has always been his mother's pet, and I now correspond with her on his account."
His fever is very high, and we pass our cold hand soothingly over his forehead and essay to speak words of cheer, and we turn to leave, he looks up leadingly and says:
"Can you [sic] kiss me?"
"Yes, indeed, I can -- am glad to do so," and we press our own to his burning lips and receive his feverish, unpleasant breath, not a disagreeable task though, for all, when we remember that he is the pt of his mother, who misses him so very much, and who may never look on her boys again.
Of one -- a middle-age, despondent looking man we ask cheerily how he is to-day.
"About the same," he replies coldly, but with a look which is the index of a though like this:
Oh, you don't care for us or our comfort,--you are well, and have friends, and home, probably near you, and you cannot appreciated our suffering, and only come here to satisfy an idle curiosity."
He does not say this, but he thinks it, and we read the thought into the voice, manner, and countenance. We determine to convince him of his mistake, if possible, not withstanding he looks as he prefers we should walk along and leave him alone.
"Were you wounded?" we ask.
"No -- sick," was his short gruff answer.
"Your disease was fever was'nt [sic] it?" we persist,-- "your countenance looks like it,"
"Yes, fever and pneumonia," he replies in the same cold, but despairing tone.
"Ah -- but you're getting better now."
"Don't know about it -- reckon not."
"Well, how is about getting letters from home?"
His countenance, voice and manner undergo a sudden change now, and his eyes overrun with tears, as the simple words "Letters from home."
And he raises his hand to his mouth, to conceal its quivering, he tells us with tremulous voice that he has sent three letter to his wife and can get no answer. She has left the place where they used to live, and he does not know certainly where to direct. We ask who we can write to, to find out. and learn that a sister would know. We take the probable address of the wife, and that of the sister, and after some farther conversation leave him looking quite like another man as we promise to write to each in the evening. (Subsequently, we learned that he received a reply to both, and was comparatively cheerful and very grateful.)
Down stairs, and we enter a ward on the first floor. Here is a thing sallow visage, the owner of which piteously asks if we "have any oranges." "No," but we provide means, [sic] by which he can purchase.
I'm from North Carolina," he says, "I hid in the woods and mountains and lived on roots and berries for weeks, before I could get away."
In reply to our query as to whether he would like a letter written home, he informs us that his wife and after arrived in town only a few days ago.
"Then you have seen them," we say.
"Yes, they both visit me, but my wife comes oftenest."
Just now, his nurse, a young man who should know better, interrupts him by telling us that "it isn't so, and his family are all in North Carolina."
"That's just the way," said the sick man, turning to me with a flushed and angry look, "that they're talking to me all the time, and trying to make everybody think I'm crazy. I reckon I [sic] know whether I've seem my wife or not!"
"Of course you do," we say quietingly; "does she bring you anything nice to eat?" and we add that we wish she would come while we were there, so we could see her.
"Well, she don't bring me much to eat," he says in a weak, hollow voice, but earnestly, "she don't understand fixin' up things nice for sick folks, and then she's weakly like, but she does all she can, for she's a right smart gude [sic] heart. She doesn't fix up, and look like you folks do, you know," he added, "for she sort o' torn to pieces like by this war."
"Yes, we can understand it."
Upon inquiring about this man a few moments after of the Ward-Master, we find that his is really a monomaniac upon the subject, persisting in the declaration that his wife and father visit him often though no one sees them.
"He can't live," said the Ward-Master, "he has lost all heart and is worn out. The chance of a Southerner to live after going to a hospital is not over a fourth as good as for one of our Northern boys. They can do more fighting with less food while in the field, but when the excitement is over they lose heard and die."
We find upon several subsequent visits that is growing weaker, and at the last when his countenance indicates that deaf is near, we are thankful that he is still comforted by these imaginary visits from father and wife.
We crossed the street and entered the First Presbyterian Church, which constitutes a good part of the hospital. This place is notable for the promulgation of secession sentiments from its pulpit in other days. A specimen of the style was given here a short time before the entrance of our troops, by Profr. Elliot of the Seminary, who in a prayer besought the Almighty that he would do so "prosper the arms of the Confederates and bring to naught the plans of the Federals, that very hill-top, plain and valley around Nashville should be white with the bones of the hated Yankees! [sic]"
After hearing that is doubly a pleasure, in company of Miss J., another "Northern vandal,' to make the walls of the old church echo to the words of "The Star Spangled Banner," with an accompaniment from the organ; and it would have done any loyal heard good to see how much pleasure it gave to the sick and wounded soldiers.
Powers, Pencillings, pp 14-19.