Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Qoute: Civil War Hospitals

From Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen (pages 170, 171-172):

The Union Hotel had been hastily converted to a hospital. It was badly lit, crowded, and poorly ventilated. The windows were nailed shut, and the smashed panes had been draped with curtains to keep out the cold....[Louisa] was put in charge of a ward of forty soldiers sick with rheumatism or fever...

...the first wounded were coming from Fredericksburg...

For an unmarried woman of thirty, who may have never seen a naked man....she had not only to see the men's bodies, but to touch them intimately and with assurance. She clutched her block of brown soap and "manfully" made a "dab at the first dirty specimen" she saw, an "old withered Irishman" so delighted to have a well-meaning woman sponge him clean that he blessed her on the spot, which made her laugh. The worst was not over, but the fear of it was. For the next twelve hours she moved from bed to bed washing putrid gaping wounds, mopping foreheads, bringing water to those who could drink and food to those who could eat, and stifling tears at the sight of young boys with stumps for legs or holes blown through their peach-fuzzed cheeks as she tried to ease their misery. Her gentle touch was usually the only, and the best, offering she could make to them. After she spoon-fed a New Hampshire man, she accepted a pair of earrings intended for the wife of his dead mate because, he said, she looked so much like the man's new widow.

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