From the Richmond Dispatch, 8/20/1861 , p. 2

General Hospital. – We availed ourselves of the invitation of one of the city clergymen, who regularly visits the wounded prisoners at the General Hospital, to accompany him to that place on Friday evening last. It was our first visit to that magnificent building, and our impression before entering was, that it had been erected for the benevolent purposes to which it is now devoted, instead of for an Alms-House, the architect could not have been more successful in his design, nor could the city have been more generous or humane in the noble liberality of which it stands so proud a monument. The courteous Surgeons at the door kindly passed us through, and while our revered friend was engaged on his errand of mercy, we strolled promiscuously through the different wards, and conversed freely with those we found to be most seriously wounded.

The first cot we encountered was occupied by a bright-eyed, intelligent young man, about 30 years of age, who was in one of the last charges made by the Federalists, and received a ball through his left thigh. His leg was attached to cords fastened to the ceiling, and was there secured in a fixed and comfortable position. – He seemed to be unusually exhilarated, and, taking a seat by the side of his tidy and well-arranged cot, we entered into conversation with him, and soon found out the cause of his evident exultation. For three successive morning in the early part of the week, the poor fellow watched the visit of the physician as the announcement that he must prepare to submit to amputation. This operation, he said, he dreaded even more than death itself. On Friday morning he was relieved from his terrible apprehensions by the announcement, communicated to him as tenderly as if the surgeon "was my (his) own brother," that he thought he would save his leg. Poor fellow; he was in an ecstasy of delight. He then told us that he was a printer, (did we not throw the latchstring of our heart outside when we heard this,) that he worked on the Albany Evening Journal, and that he enlisted under a delusion. He desired to know if there was any chance for him to get out, and, if out, if he could obtain employment in any of the printing offices in Richmond.

We gave him our opinion on the matter; and when we spoke of the preliminaries he must submit to, he expressed himself willing then and there to take the oath of allegiance and cast his future destinies in the sunny South. There was no momentary enthusiasm about this honest fellow. He was cool, deliberate, and, we believe, honest. He is a native of New York.

The next patient we visited belonged to a Wisconsin regiment. He was shot through the breast – the bullet penetrating his left lung. He was very taciturn – poor fellow, he looked like a man in the last stage of consumption. He is hopeful, however, of his ultimate recovery, and in the few words he spoke was lavish in his praises of "those nurses with the big white bonnets," (Sisters of Charity).

We visited most of the other wards, and found each neat, clean, well-ventilated, and attended by one of the prisoners, who was ready to answer every call.

We visited one of the kitchens, where we found three Sisters of Charity, in front of two immense iron vats or boilers filled with beef, water, vegetables, &c., boiling and bubbling in their transformations to soup. This kitchen was small, the said vats and furnaces occupying more than two-thirds of the area. We found it uncomfortably hot outside the door, and left with a feeling almost of reverence for the noble-hearted Sisters who thus devote themselves to so holy a cause. God bless them.

Most of the wounded prisoners are disposed to be taciturn, and of course ordinary politeness, as well as considerations of humanity, restrained us from engaging with them in an unwilling conversation. They all, however, were profuse in their thankfulness and gratitude for the tender kindness of physicians, nurses, visitors and guards, and would not believe the reports they have heard in regard to the different treatment which our prisoners receive at the North. The strangest fact we elicited was, that all we conversed with were Democrats, and wished uncle Abe at the d__l when he was elected.

Go to top