The following extract from a letter, dated at Corinth, on the 6th of October, 1862, vividly portrays the fearful emotions and anxious thoughts which torture the mind of an observer during the progress of battle, and narrates but one of the many harrowing scenes of war:
“O, my friend! how can I tell you of the tortures that have nearly crazed me, for the last three days? Pen is powerless to trace, words weak to convey one tithe of the misery I have endured. I thought myself strong before. I have seen so much of suffering that I thought my nerves had grown steady, and I could bear anything; but to-day I am weak and trembling, like a frightened child.
“But do not wonder at it. My dear husband lies besides me, wounded unto death, perhaps. I have lost all hope of saving him, though I thank God for the privilege of being this moment beside him. And, besides this, all around me the sufferers lie moaning in agony. There has been little time to tend them, poor fellows. True, the surgeons are busy all the time, but all the wounded have not yet been brought in, and it seems as if the time will never come when our brave man shall have been made comfortable as circumstances may permit. It is awful to look around me. I can see every imaginable form of suffering, and yet am helpless to aid them any of consequence.
“Since night before last I have not left my husbands side for a moment, except to get such things as I required, or to hand some poor fellow a cup of water. Even as I write, my heart throbs achingly to hear the deep groans and sharp cries about me. F—– is sleeping, but I dare not close my eyes, lest he should die while I sleep. And it is to keep awake, and in a manner relieve my overburdened heart, that I am now writing you under such sad circumstances.
“On the morning of the third instant the fight began. The attack was made on Gen. McArthurs division, and we could plainly hear the roar of the artillery here, as it is about two miles and a half distant only from this place. O, the fearful agony of that awful, awful day! I had see F—– a moment early in the morning, but it was only a moment, when he bade me good-by, saying, hurriedly, as he tore himself away: Pray for me, my wife, and if I fall, God protect you! There was something in his look and tone which struck a chill to my heart, and every moment after I knew the fight had begun, I felt as if he had indeed fallen. I cannot tell how long it was before I heard that Oglesbys brigade was engaged, but it seemed an age to me. After that my agony was nearly intolerable. I never had a thought of fear for myself; I was thinking only of F—-. Then I got the word that he had been hotly pursued by the rebels, and had fallen back.
“Late in the afternoon I succeeded in gaining a little intelligible information. Poor Gen. Hackleman was shot through the neck, while giving a command, and fell mortally wounded. He died between ten and eleven oclock the same night, I have since learned. Up to the time of receiving the wound he had acted with the greatest bravery and enthusiasm, tempered by a coolness that made every action effective. When dusk at last put an end to the first days conflict, I learned that Gen. Oglesby had been dangerously wounded, but could gain no intelligence of my husband. I could not bear the suspense. Dark as it was, and hopeless as it seemed to search for him then, I started out to the battlefield.
“O, how shall I describe the search of that night? It looked like madness. It was madness. But all night long I staggered amongst bleeding corpses, over dead horses, trampled limbs, shattered artillery–everything that goes to make up the horrors of a battle-field when the conflict is over. They were removing the wounded all night. O, think how awful to stumble over the dead, and hear the cries of the wounded and dying, alone, and in the night-time. I had to start off alone, else they would not have let me go.
“As you may suppose, I could not find him, either amongst the living or the dead. But the next morning, just after sunrise, I came to a little clump of timber, where a horse had fallen–his head shot off, and his body half covering a man whom I supposed dead. His face was to the ground; but, as I stooped to look closer, I perceived a slight movement of the body, then heard a faint moan. I stooped and turned the face upward. The head and face were both covered with blood, but when I turned it to the light, I knew it in spite of its disfiguration. O God! the agony of that moment sickened me almost to suffocation. With a strength I thought impossible in me, I drew him, crushed and bleeding, from beneath the carcass of our poor old horse, whom we had both so loved and petted, and dipping my handkerchief in a little pool of water amongst the bushes, bathed his face, and pressed some moisture between his parched, swollen lips. He was utterly senseless, and there was a dreadful wound in his head. Both limbs were crushed hopelessly beneath his horse. He was utterly beyond the reach of human skill to save, but as soon as possible I had him conveyed to the hospital. I have nursed him ever since–hopelessly, and with a heart breaking with grief. O, how many wives, how many mothers, are to-day mourning the dead and dying, even as I mourn my dying. He has not opened his eyes to look at me, or spoken to me, since he fell. O, could he but speak to me once before he dies, I should give him up with more resignation. But to die thus–without a look or word! O, my heart is breaking!”—–
Originally posted 2008-06-22 13:17:54.