|from The Webster Times,
“Hospital Scenes and Experiences.”
For the Times
Mrs. M. E. Lewis
I wish to say that I directed Mr. Stuart, of Philadelphia, to send to our agent a box of stores and one bag of dried apples, to be distributed by him and yourself among the sick and wounded soldiers. Have been sick since, or should have apprised you before. Please call upon our agent, and state to him that the box and bag are from Mrs. J. P. Knight of Dudley, Mass., and that her request was for you to distribute then in conjunction with him. I enclose a note to him.
Yours in behalf of our suffering soldiers
Mr. Editor, Another perusal of the letter mentioned in last week’s paper, from Mr. Rowland to their agent in Annapolis, urges me to the conclusion that it is needless to publish it, as this covers all the ground, proving that the Commission did with the box precisely as they were requested to do. It will be seen from the date of this letter that it was not written until after the box arrived at its destination. From its description I think it arrived some days before I left Md., and I helped unpack it, remarking to the agent, that I thought it was from Dudley, and designed for me.
I had no proof however, as no letter came, but I had the privilege of giving to any needy soldier from that box of stores, or anything in the sanitary department. That they were needed there you will readily believe when I inform you that there have been sent to that camp five hundred soldiers from Murfresboro, Tenn., all either sick or wounded, and in a destitute condition. Oh, could you see the poor soldiers, as I saw them, right from the battlefield, brought from the transports on stretcher, the sidewalks in the navy yards literally covered with them waiting for a place to be found for them in those already crowded hospitals, the wounds of many of them would bleed afresh from the jar of being brought there, you would not think the picture could be overdrawn. those patient, uncomplaining faces! Shall I ever forget them? Never.
As I was going to the chapel the last Sabbath of my stay there, I had to crowd between the stretchers in order to pass; and as I conversed with them not a murmur escaped their lips, but now and them a patient, pleasant request for a glass of water, a cracker, or some lint to stop a bleeding wound. The last one in that long line of sufferers was a noble intellectual looking man, who had an ugly wound on the side of his head. his sufferings were intense, and oath after oath passed his pale lips. As I paused and knelt by his side, that I might wipe the blood from his face, after a silent prayer that the right words might be given me, I remarked to him, “Those are horrid prayers!” No answer, but such a startled earnest look. “God is a prayer hearing, a prayer answering God. Are those words, spoken so earnestly, the sincere desires of your heart?” No answer. “I love to hear people pray; I love to see a wounded soldier trusting in the loving care of God; and my brother, will you not promise me to change the tenor of your prayers?” Still that startled anxious look, as though he had never looked upon it in that light before. “You have a mother?” “yes” “A wife?’ “No” “A sister?” “Yes.” The pale lips trembled, the earnest eyes moistened; he was at home, was with those dear ones in imagination, and I waited awhile silently, while he was being drawn closer in the embrace of those hallowed influences.
“Are those the prayers ….ed in infancy, the prayers you learned at you mothers knee?” “Oh ! no, no! my mother, my blessed mother!” and the sufferer wept. As I rose to leave him I asked, “must I go without that promise?” “God bless you! you have touched the right cord in my heart! I will pray, with Gods help I’ll breath again the innocent prayers of my childhood!” A cloud came over the pale face, and in answer to my look of inquiry he said “But will He hear me? will he not remember against me all the wicked prayers of the past ten years? Something tells me I am near death; will he receive me in this the eleventh hour?”
“Just as surely as you plead for pardon through the merits of him who died on the cross to save you, yes, to save you, as truly as if you were the only sinner that ever lived. You were wounded for your countries sake, he for yours; and as you contrast your wounds with those he received on Calvary, amid a heartless throng, try to be patient and trust yourself wholly to Him. Then as you wade through the waters of suffering, which may possibly lead through the deep dark river of death. He will be your pilot , and welcome you to the other shore!” “I will try and trust Him; try to imitate His patience and resignation!”
I passed on to the chapel, my heart so full that I could scarcely sustain my part in the choir, there to see the weak and weary convalescents take their accustomed seats, some with one arm gone, others with but one leg, all sufferers, for there are none but sick and convalescent in the Navy Yard. There are fifty soldiers in that choir; average attendance, twenty-five; with six lady singers. I was there every Sabbath of my stay in Maryland, and shall never forget the kind friends I found there.
But that organ is hushed now; and the doors of the orchestry are nailed. Why? Pulpit and seats have been removed to make room for wounded soldiers; and it is for the present not a chapel, but a hospital.
M. E. L.
Webster, Mass February 9, 1863